T.J. Maxx Launches "The Maxx You Project" in NYC T.J. Maxx Launches "The Maxx You Project" in NYC
Ilya Savenok/Getty Images for T.J.Maxx

Laila Ali And TJ Maxx Introduce 'The Maxx You Project' To Encourage Women To Overcome Stereotypes

The four-time undefested boxing world champion sat down with VIBE to discuss the upcoming workshop and her own expeience with "traditonal" gender roles

Laila Ali is the epitome of a bada** woman. She is not only a world-renowned, undefeated boxing champion, but also a mother, wellness expert, TV host, author and so much more. This wife and mother of two is no stranger to adversity, and the ever-changing landscape of her career is a testament to her perseverance. It is no wonder that TJ Maxx invited her to spearhead their latest endeavor: The Maxx You Project.

After surveying nearly 500 women in their stores across the country, TJ Maxx found that 80 percent of women feel held back by the stereotypes that society places on them. The Maxx You Project was created to provide a learning environment for women to shatter stereotypes and traditional gender molds so that they can achieve their unique aspirations.

The “main event” of The Maxx You Project will occur in the form of a workshop led by Laila Ali and Barbara Corcoran in Los Angeles this summer. The project launched Tuesday morning (April 25), and women are encouraged to share their life goals and answer the question “How will you Maxx you?” online or in select stores until May 21 at noon. Eighty women will be selected to join Ali and Corcoran for the workshop.

“We’re going to mentor these young women and share our stories with them and really connect with them,” Ali tells VIBE. The curriculum of the workshop won’t be developed until the women are selected to ensure that they receive a truly customized experience.

A majority of the women who participated in the department store’s survey -- 94 percent to be exact -- felt that the stories of everyday women deserve more spotlight, as opposed to the over-saturation of celebrities in the media. Ali agrees and admits that she has personally always been inspired by the strength of “regular, working moms.”

“Single moms who worked hard jobs, but they still picked their kids up from school, were there for them, put food on the table—those are the women that I really appreciate and look up to because I saw them as being so strong and that’s the kind of mother that I want to be,” Ali says. “I want to be able to work. I want to be able to go after my dreams and my goals, but still be hands on with my children.”

On the topic of her little ones Sydney and Curtis Jr., the daughter of global boxing icon Muhammad Ali shared with us how she confronts “traditional” gender roles in her home. Specifically, in reference to a photo she posted on Instagram of her young son and daughter getting pedicures, Ali expressed that exposing her children to things at a young age is key to making sure they don’t fall victim to gender-based stereotyping. She also notes that her son loves a good massage, so the pedicure was right up his ally.

Treating my kids to pedi's! Keeping our feet right and pampering ourselves! #FirstPedicure 👣 #healthylifestyle

A post shared by Laila Ali (@thereallailaali) on

“It’s really about self care, and not caring about what other people think,” she says. “If you don’t want to get a pedicure, fine. But, I don’t think you should not do it because you’re afraid or embarrassed about what people think. That’s what I don’t like. I want everyone to do what’s in their heart to do, and it may not be the same thing that’s in my heart to do, but don’t let other people’s opinions and their thoughts stop you. Otherwise you’re never going to get to where you wanna get in life.”

And this lifestyle brand CEO is no stranger to tuning out naysayers. Especially as an outspoken woman of color, Ali has been forced to break down barriers not only as an athlete, but also as a businesswoman.

“I’m always a black woman, no matter where I go,” she says. “I don’t have my ‘Corporate Laila’ and my ‘With My Friends Laila.’ I don’t. I’m just the same. So you’re gonna have to accept me as I am…I know what works for me, I know what doesn’t, and sometimes what happens is people will paint you as someone who’s hard to deal with because they can’t get you to do the things that they want you to do. A man can do it, and it’s not a problem. But I do it, and it turns into something else.”

Although the women who are selected to participate in The Maxx You Project will be strangers to each other, they will share a common plight. Each woman feels that she is not reaching her potential in life because of the box or label society has assigned her. Through the mentorship of Ali and Corcoran, this program aims to provide them with the support and guidance they’ve been seeking.

“Sometimes when you get the door slammed in your face, you feel down, there’s other women in my life that kind of given me strength to keep going and kept me positive, so I believe in the power of us [women] connecting and kind of being there for one another for the good and the bad times.”

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Don Cheadle as Mo in 'Black Monday,' Episode 4 ("295")
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'Black Monday' Recap: Mo Feels The Weight Of Playing God

Another week, another dive into Black Monday. In this week's episode, “295,” Mo tries to salvage his plan to get the Georgina company’s shares after Blair and Tiffany Georgina’s surprise breakup in the previous episode threw a wrench in that plan. By the end of this week’s episode, Mo gets what he wants but it doesn’t go as planned. Don Cheadle told VIBE that Black Monday was “insane...in a good way,” and this episode shows just that, starting with Mo’s God complex.

Stop Trying To Be God

You need a certain cocktail of self-aggrandization and delusions of grandeur to walk around with a God complex. Mo has that cocktail coursing through his veins. The entire episode revolves around Mo’s attempt to control the actions of humans by placing them in certain situations he is sure will yield his desired results. Only someone blinded by their obsession with being right wouldn’t see having to fix a “foolproof” plan makes him a fool.

The writing expertly showed that when you play God your creation is your reflection, especially in the tense scene at Mo’s dining room table with Blair and Dawn. He turned Blair into a cocaine-addicted party animal to show him how empty life is without having someone you love. Then, in one scene, Dawn exposed how all Mo did was build Blair in his image without realizing that part of his plan was to inadvertently show Blair just how miserable Mo really lives.

Even ostensibly innocuous details carry a huge emotional weight thanks to Black Monday’s writing and Cheadle’s consistently engaging performance. The writers literally had Mo on the outside looking in at forces out of his control at the end of the episode when he’s looking into the bar. It’s at this climactic moment of the show that Mo realizes his own mortality by getting what he wants but missing out on what he knows he needs.

It’s also at this moment that the show’s most boring lead character grew into someone worth watching.

Blair Is Here

For the first three episodes, Blair was as interesting as paint on the wall; always in front of your face but in the back of your mind. Before a single character utters a word in this episode, Blair is chain-smoking cigarettes, snorting coke and dressed like a Saturday Night Fever extra. He died “for a song and a half” and was electroshocked back to life, all in the first minute of the new episode. Blair has finally joined the Black Monday party and the show is better for it.

Mo molding Blair into his image allowed Blair to tap into a new level of confidence.  Blair’s exchange with Dawn about the implicit racism and sexism in 1980s films like Teen Wolf was rewind-worthy hilarious and ends with Blair remarking, “My favorite line from the movie is, ‘I’m not a f*g, I’m a werewolf. Oh, Michael J,” easily one of the funniest 1980s critiques on a show full of them.

The episode also entangled Blair in the show’s first love triangle, ensuring that Blair’s character growth is probably not done. With Blair now being compelling, following Dawn and Keith’s character-defining performances in the previous episode, Black Monday has set up its four most accomplished actors to be able to carry entire story arcs without relying on each other. But, the Black Monday world got bigger than those four in this week’s episode.

The Wall Street Mythology

There’s not enough time in a 30-minute episode to flesh out every character’s backstory and fully formed personality. The most surprisingly funny part of episode “295” was the story arc of Jammer Group traders Keith and Yassir (Yassir Lester) trying to stop Wayne (Horatio Sanz) from completing a “The LaGuardia Spread”. The arc showed that Black Monday has an ingenious way of speeding up character development: mythologize Wall Street.

On Black Monday, “The LaGuardia Spread” is when a trader takes a huge position on a stock, goes to LaGuardia Airport and waits to see if they made a huge profit or debilitating loss. If you guess right, you come home. If you guess wrong, “you don’t come home ever. You get on a plane and you f**king disappear,” according to a frantic Keith. Wayne was nothing more than a bumbling joke punchline of a trader before this episode. In only a few minutes of screentime we find out Wayne slept with his wife’s sister, has some weird dislike for The Howard Stern Show’s weekly guest Jackie Martling, and is so money hungry that he’d be giddy at the news of a mad cows disease epidemic and it’s positive effect on his “LaGuardia Spread” trade.

A similar result happened before on Black Monday. In the series premiere, the Lehman twins (Ken Marino) laid out the Georgina Play, the foundation of Mo’s plans to get all the shares from the Georgina company from Blair after he marries Tiffany. That Wall Street myth led to their grandfather setting himself on fire. That myth also showed that at any moment any person you see on screen become valuable because of what they about know how this fictionalized world works. As long as Black Monday continues to use the inherent absurdity of Wall Street as a machine for character development, this show could begin entering the conversation for one of the best ensemble casts on television.

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Cardi B Says Jussie Smollett May Have "F**ked Up Black History Month"

Many people are split on the alleged attack on Jussie Smollett. The Empire actor claims he was attacked by two MAGA supporters in late-January, who doused him in an unidentified liquid while shouting racial and homophobic slurs at him.

Cardi B, who is often vocal about issues in society on her social media platforms, spoke out against the reports that Smollett potentially orchestrated the attack.

"I'm really disappointed in him," she said in an Instagram Live video. "I feel like he f**ked up Black History Month, bro. Like, damn. I'm not gonna say, yet. Until he say it out his mouth that it was fake and the sh*t was staged, I don't want to completely blame him, because somebody I was talking to they said police in Chicago are racists..."

She continues by stating that there's a possibility that the police may be trying to frame the actor, who maintains his innocence amidst damning reports. However, she said that it's "f**ked up" if he is indeed lying to the public.

"Then you gave Donald Trump immunity to f**kin' laugh at n***as and sh*t. Make mothaf**kas look bad," she concluded.

Watch her comments.

Cardi B gave her opinion on the Jussie Smollett case on Instagram live. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/6AYU7cT5nL

— Pop Crave (@PopCrave) February 18, 2019

Cardi B gave her opinion on the Jussie Smollett case on Instagram live. (2/2) pic.twitter.com/c9CdhEB3sN

— Pop Crave (@PopCrave) February 18, 2019

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Reports Emerge Claiming Jussie Smollett "Rehearsed" Alleged Attack

TMZ reports that Empire actor Jussie Smollett, who claimed in late-January that he was attacked by MAGA supporters, reportedly rehearsed the alleged assault with the two men involved. According to prosecutors, his alleged racial and homophobic attack will be headed to a grand jury next week.

Per the site, "Abel and Ola Osundairo told cops they got in a car with Jussie and scouted a location, settling on the one right outside the actor's apartment. The brothers said Jussie chose the spot because he believed a camera would have captured the action."

The sources close the the situation said that Jussie reportedly wanted to make the attack a "physical thing," but did not want to be seriously injured. While Jussie left the scene with just a scratch, the brothers- who are Nigerian, and not white- did not know they left a mark on him, as that's not what they had rehearsed.

"On the night Jussie says he was attacked, the brothers claim they showed up at the scene but were extremely nervous because, just as they played out the scene, a car drove by and they were worried they'd be ID'd," the site continues.

Smollett released a statement through representatives vehemently denying the allegations that he orchestrated the attack, maintaining his original story.


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