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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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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 Release 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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The North Face

Ella Mai On The North Face's 'Explore Mode' Campaign, New Music And Living In The Moment

Ella Mai is in her own age of exploration. Her eponymous debut album scored her a platinum plaque with her breakout hit, "Boo'd Up" earning her a Grammy for Best R&B Song. But the accolades aren't driving her creative path. The arc in her compass is all about the places she's traveled, the people she's met and the lessons learned along the way.

"To be honest, personally, exploration is like growth. I feel like if you don't explore new things, whether it's going outside, meeting people or trying new food, you won't ever grow because you're just stuck in your little comfort zone which can be super scary to come out of," she tells VIBE at The North Face's Explore Mode event in New York on Monday (April 15). The singer is one of three women (including model-activist Gabrielle Richardson and chef Angela Dimayuga) who teamed up with the brand to share a message of enjoying the outside world without digital confinement and the global initiative to make Earth Day a national holiday.

The London native's urge to explore came in handy over the weekend when she performed in the brisk desert of Coachella. Inspired by artists like Rihanna and Ms. Lauryn Hill, Mai helped fans enjoy the hazy sunset as she performed hits like "Trip" and her latest No. 1 song, "Shot Clock."

"It's such a good feeling, especially when it comes to radio," she shared about her track reaching No. 1 on the airplay chart. "I wasn't even sure if people listened to the radio because people have so much access to streaming platforms, but obviously having all three of my singles from my debut album, go number one on urban radio is incredible."

That energy was brought to the Coachella stage with the festival being her biggest artistic exploration so far.

"My favorite part of the performance would have to be when I performed "Naked" and because it was dark, and I performed when the sun went down, I couldn't see how far the crowd actually went back. But during "Naked," it was such an intimate moment I asked everyone to put their lights up (phones) and when I saw how far it went back I was like, "Woah." That moment sealed it for me."

"Even there were two people in the audience, I still would've done my best," she added. "But just to see the crowd be so engaged, even if they didn't know the music, was a really good feeling. I had so much fun."

As the festival energy in Indio, Calif. continued to thrive, another rested on the streets of Los Angeles following the loss of Nipsey Hussle. With the singer having ties to those close to the rapper like DJ Mustard, she says the shift in the city was hard to ignore.

"As weird as it sounds, you felt it," she said. "Even in the weather, it was super hot and then everyone got the news and it started raining. Just a weird energy shift." As a new L.A. resident, the singer says Nipsey's influence cannot be denied.

"I feel like the energy shift went both ways; everyone was really sad, grieving and mourning but everyone feels more inspired by what he was doing that they want to go out and do something and change in their community. It's still a very touchy subject in L.A., especially the people that I'm around since they were very close to him. I think everyone is super inspired to do better and try to be more like him, which is great to see. YG's whole set at Coachella was dedicated to him, I know Khalid had a dedication to Mac Miller. Everyone is super aware of what Nipsey was trying to do and how he wanted to change the world."

Engaging in The North Face's mission to explore seemed to be in the cards for Mai. Like many of us, Mai was familiar with the brand's effective coolness factor. "I remember running home and telling my mom that I needed a Jester Backpack because my cousin had one as well, and it's similar to the other stories, I wanted to be like my older cousin (laughs) so my mom ended up getting me one." But there's also the incentive to showcase the importance of stepping away from the phone screens and into leafy green forests.

"I'm such a live-in-the-moment person," she says of her lack of identity on social media. While she might share a thought or two on social media, Mai is interested in appreciating the world around her. "I feel like everyone is so consumed about documenting the day, you don't really get to live the day. You just watch it back but I like to have the memories in my head. Of course, sometimes, I'll take out my phone but I try to live in the moment as much as possible."

Part of that mission is ensuring Earth Day is celebrated the right way. With the support of Mai, Richardson, and Dimayuga, The North Face officially launched a petition to make Earth Day a national holiday.

“The North Face is no stranger to exploration and this Earth Day we are proud to join our partners and fellow explorers in a global effort to make Earth Day a national holiday,” said Global General Manager of Lifestyle at The North Face, Tim Bantle. “We believe that when people take time to appreciate the Earth, they feel more connected to it and are more likely to protect it. Explore Mode urges us to unplug from our digital lives to connect in real life to the world, each other, and ourselves in the effort to move the world forward.”

Mai hasn't hit her all of her exploration goals just yet. "I really want to go to Indonesia or Bali," she said. "That's one of my Bucket List places I really, really, really wanna go." For her essentials, the singer knows she has to bring along a windbreaker set and of course, a jester backpack. "I think the backpack is the most important thing."

In addition to a few trips around the globe, one destination includes the studio for new music. While she hasn't had time to lock down a moment to record, the inspiration is sizzling.

"When I work in the studio, I like to be like there for a good amount of time," she explains. "I like to block off two to three weeks at a time, I don't like to go to different studios and different places, it's just a comfort thing but I'm very excited to get back cause I have a lot of talk about. I've seen so many different places and met so many new people and a lot that I didn't get to experience last year."

Learn more about The North Face's petition for Earth Day here.

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