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Life-Changing Decisions + A Woman's Worth

Actress and model Melyssa Ford will be serving up a four-part series on the state and importance of black sexual health, delving into the topics AIDS/HIV. Be informed, be safe and protect your worth.

Here is a proposed statistic for you: it’s said that no less than 60% of African American women are single in this country, and they say that’s the low end of the statistic. It’s safe to assume quite a lot of us are currently in some stage of the dating game. With all of our social networking activities, we’ve increased the amount of perspective partners we have access to 10 fold.

Now, we all have our checklist of things we look for in a man (provided you aren’t looking for the second coming of Jesus in the form of Adonis, like Chilli was!), but I wonder where do health and all communication on things related fall on your list of priorities? It goes without saying, right? It’s top priority, but the statistics on the spread of HIV in the African American community don’t really support this notion.

African American women are still disproportionately affected by the spread of HIV. They are 15-20 times more likely to contract it than their white counterparts and three times more likely than Latina women--the third largest cause of death amongst African American women. That basically says that a large portion of us are a) not getting tested, b) not practicing safe sex and, c) not carrying around our negative test results and demanding that our partner show us proof of the same or the cookies STAY in the jar!

But what about those women who contracted HIV from an unscrupulous partner while in--or what they thought was--a monogamous relationship? Were they expected to ask for their partner’s status report every six months? Aren’t relationships built on trust? Yes, they are, but… Consider the situation faced by Marvelyn Brown, a beautiful chocolate sister who’s an enthusiastic advocate in raising awareness about HIV/AIDS and co-author of the book The Naked Truth: Young, Beautiful and (HIV) Positive. She’s been living with the disease for eight years; she contracted it while in a monogamous relationship when she was 19 years old.

Like many of us, she grew up watching Disney fairy tales, always believing that her prince would come along one day. And from the day she laid eyes on David (not his real name), she believed that day had come. She loved everything about him: his walk, his talk… his scent. Prior to meeting this man, Marvelyn had never before been tested for HIV and was largely ignorant about the virus itself. Her discovery that she had the virus came while she was at the hospital for non-HIV related pneumonia. Upon being told by the doctor that she was HIV positive, she describes herself as feeling empty, simply because she didn’t know what it was or what the total life changing ramifications of this diagnosis would create. Marvelyn didn’t care to listen to any information provided about HIV prevention because she didn’t feel it applied to her. Because of her lack of understanding of the virus or the stigma attached to it, she told her family and friends and her boyfriend.

David broke up with her because he didn’t want anyone to know his positive status, and word spread about her positive status through her community and her church. At home she was forced to eat off paper plates and use plastic utensils; at church, she found judgment and scorn. Experiencing complete ostracism from her friends, she eventually dropped out of school.

What do you think, as women, we value most about life? The support and love of our families, socializing with our friends and the feeling of connectedness with our communities, correct? Have you ever asked yourself, if you were robbed of these three critical components of our identities, would life even be worth living? Who would care about the new Christian Louboutin’s we just copped, or the law degree we’d achieved or that we’d just lost our job due to downsizing? How would your faith hold up, knowing that your church--an institution that is supposed to embody the notion of the importance of social cohesion and that we are all equal under the eyes of God--has branded you an outsider and created a perceptible wall of dismissiveness between you and everyone else?

These circumstances became Marvelyn’s reality. And although she has turned a negative, life-changing experience into her own positive circumstances, what she’s had to endure is nothing she would wish on anyone. The eight pills with the nauseating side affects that she has to take every night in order to sustain her health is something she hopes you don’t have to deal with.

So the next time the “unsexy” subject of comparing sexual health status between you and a perspective partner arises, ask yourself the following questions: How much does your life mean to you? Does the concept of trust in your mate outweigh your sense of personal responsibility and self-government?

Traversing through relationships and dating these days is already like a mine field without the slippery slope of hasty or poor decision-making becoming complete self-compromise in response to another’s discomfort or objection. As women, we are the givers and nurturer’s of life, and we’re succumbing to illnesses and diseases brought on by poor choices and lazy attitudes. As it relates to our health and well-being, the only constant is this: the choice is yours.

For more information about b condoms, HIV/AIDS or World AIDS Day, please check out @bcondoms,, or

Please check out The Naked Truth: Young Beautiful and (HIV) Positive By Marvelyn Brown with Courtney E. Martin.

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Kush & Splendor: 5 CBD Beauty Products That’ll Take Your Self-Care Routine From 0 To 100

Lotions, creams, and salves—oh my! With cannabidiol (CBD) popping up in just about every product you can imagine, the cannabis-infused beauty industry is clearly on the come-up. In fact, analysts predict that the “wellness” movement—as well as the legalization of Mary Jane across the world—will help rake in $25 billion globally in the next 10 years, according to Business Insider. That’s 15 percent of the $167 billion skincare market.

And what better way to up the ante on one’s wellness routine than with all-natural CBD? Just ask Dr. Lana Butner, naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist at NYC’s Modrn Sanctuary, who incorporates CBD in her treatments.

“CBD is a fantastic addition to acupuncture sessions for both its relaxation and anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving effects,” Butner shares with Vixen. “The calming effects of CBD allows for patients to deeply relax into the treatment and really tap into the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for rest, digestion and muscle repair/regeneration.”

She adds that CBD’s pain-relieving effects are “far-reaching,” from muscular and joint pains to migraines and arthritis—and even IBS and indigestion.

The magic lies in CBD’s ability to impact endocannabinoid receptor activity in our bodies. Without getting too wordy, our bodies come equipped with a system called the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is the HBIC over our sleep, appetite, pain and immune system response. Also known as cannabidiol, CBD teams up with this system to help reduce inflammation and interact with neurotransmitters. According to Healthline, CBD has also been scientifically shown to impact the brain’s receptors for serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for regulating our mood and social behavior.

All that said, it’s important to note that not all CBD products are created equal. Many brands cashing in on the green beauty wave use hemp seed oil, sometimes referred to as cannabis sativa seed oil, in place of CBD... which doesn’t make them any less great! Hemp seed oil is actually high in antioxidants, amino acids, and omega-3 and -6 fatty acids—all of which are for your skin.

“It’s generally viewed as a superfood and is great for adding nutritional value to your diet,” Ashley Lewis, co-founder of Fleur Marché, told Well and Good last month. “In terms of skin care, it’s known as a powerful moisturizer and skin softener that doesn’t clog pores or contribute to oily skin.”

However, when companies start marketing CBD and hemp oil as one-in-the-same, that’s when things get a bit tricky.

“The biggest issue is that hemp seed oil and CBD are two totally different compounds that come from different parts of the hemp plant, have different makeups, and different benefits,” Lewis added. “Marketing them as the same thing just isn’t accurate and does a disservice to consumers who are expecting certain benefits that they won’t get from hemp seed oil and who are often paying more for what they think is CBD.”

So if you’re looking to benefit from the perks specifically attributed to CBD, make sure you’re reading labels before buying, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Hell, ask for a product’s test results, while you’re at it. It never hurts to be sure.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, are you ready to see what all the hype is about? For this 4/20, we rounded up a few CBD (and hemp!)-infused products to help give your self-care routine a bit of a boost. Looks like your holiday just got that much kushier. You’re welcome!

Note: Data and regulations surrounding CBD and its use are still in development. That said, please don’t take anything written in this post as medical or legal advice, and definitely double check the laws in your state. Also, please do your body a favor and hit up your doctor before trying any new supplements. We’re just tryna look out for you. Okay? Okay. Read on.

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Vivica A. Fox Explains Past Hesitance Behind 'Two Can Play That Game' Script

In a new interview with Essence, actress Vivica A. Fox discussed how she initially turned down her role in Two Can Play That Game based on the script. The established entertainer said it's her mission to ensure that black people are positively portrayed onscreen, and noticed the aforementioned film's prose didn't live up to those standards.

"I think the reason why—no I know the reason why—I've been doing this for such a long time is that I fight," Fox said. "When we did Two Can Play That Game, I fought for the way we talked, walked, the way we loved each other." The Set It Off actress continued to state that she consistently declined Two Can Play That Game before signing on to play the lead role. "Because the script, when I first got it, I turned it down three times because it just wasn't a good representation of African-Americans, so I fought them on everything," she noted. "I want to make sure that the images of African-Americans are as positive and as true as they can possibly be."

In 2001, the romantic comedy debuted to fanfare, boasting an all-star cast of Morris Chestnut, Mo'Nique, Anthony Anderson, Bobby Brown, Gabrielle Union, Wendy Raquel Robinson, and more. Directed by Mark Brown (Barbershop, Iverson, How To Be A Player), Fox plays a career driven person named Shante Smith who navigates a curveball when her boyfriend Keith Fenton (Chestnut) cheats on her with a co-worker.

After its release, Two Can Play That Game raked in over $22 million at the box office.

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Actress Gabrielle Union attends the Being Mary Jane premiere, screening, and party on January 9, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET)
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BET To Unveil Edible Billboard For 'Being Mary Jane' Wedding Finale

As Being Mary Jane comes to an end, BET is willing to offer fans a taste of what's to come in the series finale.

The network has enlisted the help of Ayesha Curry, celebrity cook and cookbook author, to create an edible billboard that also doubles as a wedding cake. The sweet treat will commemorate Mary Jane's (played by Gabrielle Union) nuptials in the two-hour series finale.

On April 20 from 1:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. at Brooklyn's Atlantic Terminal in New York, fans will be presented with the edible billboard. At the intersection of Ashland Place and Hanson Place, the closer Being Mary Jane enthusiasts get to the billboard the quicker they'll notice that the four-tiered wedding cake is created from individual boxes, each containing a slice of Curry's prized wedding cake.

All fans have to do is pull a box from the billboard, snap a picture for the 'Gram, take a bite and enjoy. Although lovers of the show won't be able to celebrate with Mary Jane herself, biting into a slice of her wedding cake, for free, is the next best thing.

Don't forget to tune into the series finale of Being Mary Jane on Tues. (April 23) at 8/7 c.

Also, check out what's to come on the series of Being Mary Jane below.

Save the date! 👰🏾It'll be worth the wait. Join us for the series finale of #BeingMaryJane TUES APR 23 8/7c only on @BET!

— #BeingMaryJane (@beingmaryjane) March 29, 2019

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