[HER VOICE] An In-Depth Girl Chat with ABC News Writer & Author Joi-Marie McKenzie

Relationships can be complicated…really, really complicated. Knowing who you are and what you want out of them is imperative in having successful ones. But who defines what relationship success is? Is a romantic relationship only successful if it ends in marriage? Maybe you just want a companion without the legalities. Often times we let society and those around us dictate what we should be doing or not doing; especially is relationships. As women particularly, we are made to feel less “womanly” if we don’t have a husband and children by a certain age. Joi-Marie McKenzie has been there. She’s a writer for ABCNews.com and creator of The Fab Empire, an award-winning website that covers society, celebrities and local events in various cities. She’s a successful business women in her own right but found herself jumping through a few hoops in an effort to “get the ring”. Her experience led to her writing her period memoir, The Engagement Game. I had an in-depth girl chat with the now critically-acclaimed author about self-awareness, relationships and society’s impact on how we perceive womanhood. Dive in to our discussion below.

Keyauna: I saw that your book actually started with just you jotting down what started to be notes and thoughts, and it turned into 20 pages to start. Is that how it all came about?

Joi-Marie: Right. I keep a journal. I’ve kept one since I was a little girl, since I was 8 years old. I’ve always sort of used writing for cathartic purposes; if I was frustrated, if I was excited about something. I would just sort of turn to my diary. I was literally at home on a Friday night and frustrated with my five year relationship that wasn’t moving to the next level. I just sort of got up and started writing in my diary. When I came up for air, it was like 20 pages later. I was like, “Wow, this could be a book.” I sent it to my mom, who is a published author. She came out with her sixth book actually this month. She obviously is an expert, so I turned to her and I said, “What do you think? Do you think this could be a book?” She was like, “Yeah, let me see if an old editor will give you feedback.” That editor just so happened to be at Hachette Publishing House and was like, “We would like to buy it.” It really happened by the grace of God, because I was not planning this nor expecting it.

Keyauna: That’s really interesting. One thing that I thought about when I read about the book was when you think about engagement and relationships and all that stuff, and you said this in the past, when you think about how we approach relationships and how we bag the person that we want or the kind of person that we want, we do so much and jump through so many hoops. What that night made you say, “You know what? I’m going to just start writing this. This is how I feel, and I’m sick of the game?”

Joi-Marie: Playing the game?

Keyauna: Yeah.

Joi-Marie: I don’t know. I tend to write only when I have something to say. It was really just a knee-jerk reaction. Some people may go to their best friends and vent about their man, or some people may go to their mom or their sister. I do all those things too, but the first thing that I do usually is write in a journal because it doesn’t judge me. It won’t talk. It won’t give me a side eye. I can just go there and just be my most authentic self. I just think I was doing what I normally do. I wasn’t even playing the game when I began writing the book. I think the first pages that I wrote of the book were me just being frustrated. There’s a chapter where I talk about me looking at Facebook and watching Say Yes to the Dress and going on Instagram and scrolling and seeing all these girls with rings, and me wishing that it was me. That was sort of the first thing that I wrote, and that was what the publisher saw and liked, just me sort of complaining about the burden – why is the burden of marriage placed on women when we’re not the ones who are tasked with proposing? People will look at you crazy if you’re like, “You know what? I’m going to propose to my boyfriend.” It’s really nonsensical that the pressure is on us, when we’re not the ones getting down on one knee.

Keyauna: We don’t make the decision.

Joi-Marie: Right, exactly. That’s what I wrote. Then because it got sold so quickly, everything else was written in real time, really. I was literally trying to get my guy to propose to me. I was going to my older sister, asking her for advice. Me playing the engagement game, I wrote all of that in real time. I was having those conversations with her, documenting those conversations, and then trying to really figure it out for myself. I started writing the book when he and I were happy and in a relationship. You couldn’t tell me he wasn’t going to be my husband. I knew he was going to be my husband. Then midway through the book when we break up, I’m like, “Oh crap. Now I have to write about this part because this is what happens a lot of times in relationships. You break up when you’re really trying to take it to the next level.” I was just really writing what was happening, documenting my life.

Keyauna: What do you think about the timeline and timing aspect of it? I think we put so much emphasis on if we’re dating, I’ve heard, beyond a year. You know, it only takes you a year to really know someone or whether you want to be them. You also have those who say I want to know them for a year, I want to live together, I want to go through all these things to make sure. When you start to think about how much time, like you said five years was how long you were with him when you felt the pressure so to speak to move things on to the next level. What do you think about timelines and just the whole “it’s been long enough” that sometimes us as women put out there, when it comes to our relationships?

Joi-Marie: It really depends on who you are. I was actually shocked. My day job, I’m a writer for abcnews.com. My job knew I was coming out with a book and said, “Hey, we want you to find another couple who was dating for five years and then got engaged and do a story on it for the website.” Which I did. I go to Facebook because it’s the easiest way to find people these days, and I say, “Who was dating someone for five years and is now engaged?” I was shock at the amount. Hundreds of people, hundreds of couples liked or commented and said “this is me, this is me.” Here I am thinking it’s unusual for it to be that long because that to me was enough. There’s a lot of people out there who were like, “I waited seven years, I waited 11 years.” I think it really depends on the type of person that you are, where you are in your life, where you are emotionally, spiritually, financially.

For me, I thought I was ready. Now eventually I discovered that I wasn’t as ready as I thought I was, but for me, I thought I was ready. I think it depends on you and who your partner and where you guys are in your lives, really. I will say my mom always says you should see someone through all the seasons, for a year. Quite frankly, she got engaged after eight months, so whatever. They’ll be celebrating their 50 year anniversary later this year. It really depends on you.

Keyauna: Oh wow, congratulations on that big year! 50 years?

Joi-Marie: They’ve been at it for a long time, yeah.

Keyauna: I got married after five years. It wasn’t the waiting of five years, but it was five years from the time. We were high school sweethearts, and we got back together at 21. We got married at 26. Even then, I remember – that’s why the whole thing is so interesting to me – the timing and everything. I remember being 23, and people were like, “Oh you guys aren’t getting married yet?” I’m like, we’ve been together for four years. Well being together for four years, like you just said, when you’re only 23 is different than being together for four years when you’re 35 or 40. Just saying four years doesn’t mean, like you said, it depends on where you are in your life. If you’re really young, to get married at 23 is a whole different-

Joi-Marie: It’s sounds crazy.

Keyauna: That’s crazy, right? You don’t know who you are. I agree that it has a lot to do with where you are in your life, as opposed to how long you’ve been together. You could be very young. You could have been high school sweethearts. Also it could be a second marriage and you’re like, “I’m not jumping right into it.” It just depends on I think where you are in your life. That’s a big part of it. One thing I wanted to touch on with you, too, is career. You work for ABC and you’re doing amazing things.

Joi-Marie: Thank you.

Keyauna: You’re welcome. There are also women who are like, “I’m too busy for that myself.” The pressure that comes with being a businesswoman or a career woman and everyone saying, “When are you going to have these kids? When are you going to get married?” You’ve been with the guy and so everyone is just kind of waiting for that. They’re asking you that all the time or putting that on you, when it’s not even what you want, but you feel compelled to keep up with the Joneses in that aspect. What would you tell the career woman who is really not ready in her own mind and heart and soul but feels the pressure from the world to conform?

Joi-Marie: I’ve been there. I guess at year two or maybe year three in our relationship, my now ex-boyfriend was like, “Do you want me to go get your ring today? Let’s go get your ring.” I was still in graduate school, and I was like, “Let’s just wait until after I graduate.” I think a lot of career women do think like that. I have a friend right now, she is debating going for a promotion that she really, really wants, but on the other hand, her and her boyfriend are also thinking about having a child. She’s like, “Is it fair to the child, my future child, if I go for this promotion? I’m going to be at work all the time.” I think these are the issues, unfortunately, that women alone have to make for themselves because of the way our society is set up right now, with childcare, with maternity leave and paternity leave, all of these issues that are very sociopolitical. They really have a lot to do with the decisions that we make in our personal lives, unfortunately. For those women that are feeling that pressure, they should find the courage to have those tough conversations so that they can reject it. It really is hard when your mom, and my mom has done this to me, is saying, “When am I going to have grandkids?” That is tough because you do want your mom to be happy, but do you want your mom to be happy at the expense of your own happiness? Absolutely not. You just have to remember that no journey is alike. I’m a firm believer that your path is your path. Even if all the other conditions are the same for you and someone else, your experience through this life will be drastically different. If you remind yourself of that and be gentle with yourself, try not to judge yourself too much. This is your own, unique, individual journey, and you’re entitled to do whatever you want in your entire life. I will say, however, if you are a career woman and very busy but you still do want children and you want a marriage and all those things, you need to be cognizant of that. The issues that I see with a lot of career women is that they expect love to just happen, the way that it does in a movie. You’re at a coffee shop, and you bump into your long lost love. I don’t know if that actually happens in real life. I think we sort of romanticize that, especially for professional black women. We’re sort of taught to excel but on the other hand, our parents and our support systems don’t necessarily push us toward finding a love, finding a husband, and setting that part of our lives up equally. They don’t talk to us about that as much. They just don’t because they want better for us than they had, those opportunities. That’s understandable, but it does put a lot of women at a disservice when they’re thinking about their love lives. I would just encourage them to also put that same amount of energy, if you do want that in a timely fashion, as you did in finding a job into finding your man or your woman, if that’s what you want. It does take work.

Keyauna: It does. It makes me think about the movie with Taraji, when she was so busy working. I don’t remember which movie it was. You remember that movie?

Joi-Marie: Yes, Think Like a Man.

Keyauna: She ended up with Michael Ealy, I think.

Joi-Marie: Yes.

Keyauna: I remember she worked so hard and wanted a man, but she didn’t put herself in the right environments. It’s tough and hard, even being a little sensitive. Sometimes someone’s insensitive, but maybe some feminists, it’s like adding that softness. We can walk around like a real woman in our business suits and our briefcases, and sometimes it’s a turn off. You have to, like you said, be cognizant. If that’s what you want, your aura and your vibe should also speak to that. We can’t walk around, like you said, just waiting for Mr. Right to drop in our laps without doing the work. We work really hard in our careers. We should have the same energy, if that is what we want, when it comes to romance.

Joi-Marie: If that’s what you desire, exactly.

Keyauna: How do you, Joi-Marie, balance it all now, now that you kind of know what it is you want? You kind of crossed that path where you were a bit confused and not sure or having to choose yourself. Are you still in that place now, where you’re still choosing you? Where are you, for those who want the kind of extended version of the book?

Joi-Marie: Yes, I am. I didn’t write a lot about this because it’s sort of hard to write “hey, I’m working on myself.” At the very end of the book, I sort of realized that, although I thought I was ready, I wasn’t ready for what I thought I deserved. That’s what I write. For me, it was sort of an eye-opening experience. I was so focused on him not being ready, him not proposing, him not choosing me, that I forgot to choose myself first. I was placing my values based on that he seemed to be marriage material. That was sort of a dangerous place to be. I sort of realized that I did have a lot, although I was fabulous and doing well and all these other things, that there were a lot of things in my personal life that I did need to work on. Because I was so frustrated about my relationship, I began to curse a lot more than I ever have in my entire life. It was coming out that way. I wasn’t being as kind as I used to be. I stopped smiling. I had lost my smiles. All of these things. I had to look back and be like, “Dad, would I want to marry that person? No, I wouldn’t.” I sort of began the task of truly working on myself and being a better person, being a better sister, a better daughter, and hopefully a better woman to my future husband.

I began that task of writing a list of what I wanted to be as a wife, listing those qualities that I thought would help me be a better helpmate to someone. I began to work on that actively. Meaning, I would wake up and remember, “Okay, you’re going to be kind today. You’re going to treat people how you want to be treated. You’re going to smile more.” When you are in that frustrated state and in that heart-broken state, it is sort of hard to get up and smile sometimes. I began to work on myself actively. That also meant turning back to God, deepening my spiritual practice. I truly believe that you can’t really love someone in an unconditional way unless you’re connected to a source that loves you unconditionally. Whether that’s God or Allah or whomever you believe in, even Mother Nature, you need to be connected to a spiritual source that shows you that unconditional love. For me, that’s God, and so I began deepening my spiritual practice.

At the end of that, but with the goal in mind that I’m doing this so that I can be a better wife in the future … Of course the universe really does want to give you what you want. I believe that, if you’re earnest with your intent. I probably was doing this for about a year I want to say and really, really doing it for six months in a really earnest way. Some months it was like “I don’t want to do this,” but in earnest like six months. Then of course I meet a guy, and he’s talking marriage in the first conversation like “when we get married.” I was like, “Wait, what? Are you serious?” I always say it felt like a cosmic joke, like of course he’s going to send me this handsome man talking about marriage in the first conversation.

Even when I met him, I’m like, “I really can’t date you right now. I’m working on myself. I have a list of things.” I’m showing him the list, and we was like, “Well, you know what? I’m working on myself, too.” He pulls out his own list. I was like, “Oh shoot. I can’t get away from him.” Yeah, so we’ve been together it’ll be two years in August. I’m still not engaged. I’m still hopeful that will happen for me, but I do feel that I am with a person who is more compatible for me, who loves me in the way that I want to be loved. We have a more open and honest relationship. Whereas before I would be scared to bring up conversations about marriage and children, because I’m like, “I don’t know if that’s what he wants, etc.” He and I, we talk about it openly. We strive to create a plan that works for both of us.

I think a lot of times women especially can get frustrated in relationships because they don’t know the timing of their lives. I have to practice what I preach, which is encouraging us to have those tough conversations. I have no problem asking him, “Okay, so when do you plan to propose? When would you prefer to have children?” And telling him those answers as well, so that I’m not sitting at home biting my nails trying to figure out when this is going to happen for me. We’ve sort of come up with a plan together, and God willing that plan will come into fruition. Even if it doesn’t, I know that I will be okay regardless. He knows that for him in his life as well. It’s just a much more mature and open relationship that I am very happy to be involved in.

Keyauna: Well congratulations on finding love again.

Joi-Marie: Thank you.

Keyauna: What you just said is really important. So many times we just sit and wait and expect the person to be psychic friends network and know what it is that we want and not have the conversations, like you just said. It’s really crazy because when you talk about the women who do feel the pressure, a lot of times they’re over 30. You are over 30. People are saying, “Why aren’t you married?” You think if you’re over 30, you’d be mature enough to say what it is you want, to ask the tough questions, but I find that that’s not even the case. You’re a 35-year-old woman and you’re sitting around waiting, as you just said, for a guy to propose. Not even making your intentions clear, not having the conversations, not being assertive about what it is that you want. Not only that, a guy will tell you what it is he wants – what he’s not going to do, what he is going to do – and you’re going to be persistent about not the conversation but pushing him to do things that he’s made it clear he’s not. Being mature in the relationship, as far as communication and expressing the desires and wants and needs from both sides, is very important. Guys will be real honest and say, “I’m not even looking for that.” We’ll sit there and be like “I’ll make him.”

Joi-Marie: I’ll change him, yeah.

Keyauna: That’s right. Then wonder why you look up and it’s been 10 years and he hasn’t proposed, because he never had any intention on doing that. A big part of it too is the honesty aspect with ourselves, after it’s very clear. If it’s not going to happen, if he says it’s going to happen, or if his actions show that it’s not. We have to be honest with ourselves, too, as women.

Joi-Marie: I got some really great advice from Mara Brock Akil. She’s the creator of Girlfriends. 

Keyauna: I love her.

Joi-Marie: Okay, yes, so you know who I’m talking about. She came into work (ABC News), and so I selfishly asked her a whole bunch of questions about writing and her relationship. Then afterwards, I sort of followed her career. In this one article that I read that she did, I think it was with Complex … I’ll never forget, she was talking about her relationship with her husband Salim, who’s also a director and writer. She was like, “The reason why we work is because I’m not afraid to tell him exactly what I want, and I trust that he loves me enough to give it to me.” I was like, “Wow.” For so long, I was very scared to tell the person that I’m claiming that I love and he loves me, but I’m so afraid to have those conversations about “this is what I want, can you give it to me or not?” I think a lot of women especially don’t have those conversations because we already know the answer. You know the answer is going to be no, and we don’t want to interrupt our fairytale. Now I’m very empowered to just have those conversations and be like, “If the answer is no, if you can’t give me what I want, that’s okay. God bless you, be on your way.” That piece of advice that I read really just changed the way that I thought about how I interact in my relationship.

Keyauna: That’s great advice, and it’s so true. What you said is very important, not wanting to interrupt the fairytale. We know. My grandma always used to tell me. I would say, “Yeah, you know the person.” You know who you’re with for the most part, after a year. It’s up to you guys whether you decide you want to be together or if you like what you see.” You know who you’re getting with. The representative is most of the time gone, and you’ve met the real person. At that point, you know, he knows, and a lot of times there have been – if not straight out “I don’t want or I do want” – some actions that have been indicative of what they want. We just make decisions to waste our own time, and then look up in 10 years and wonder why we wasted what they say, five good years. You wasted your good years on a guy who made it very clear to you that he did not want what you wanted. That’s our mistake. We can’t point the finger at the guys for that.  On the other hand, being straight forward can intimidate some men. Do you find that that happens with the career woman who knows exactly what she wants, comes flat out and asks you, tells you what it is that she expects from you, and the guy runs for the hills? Is that the coward in the man perspective, or is it-?

Joi-Marie: That’s clearly not the one for you, yeah. I think if any woman, and it doesn’t matter if she’s successful or not, if that man is not the cure and runs away, that ain’t the man. That is not the man for you. I think that can happen whether you’re a school teacher, working at McDonald’s, or this high-powered person. Obviously, yes, a lot of high-powered women do find it difficult to date a lot of men because they want to be macho and in control. At the end of the day, I know so many women who are in high positions, who have wonderful guys by their side, who may not have the save position or power that they have, but they’re secure in their manhood that they’re not intimidated by her position. That goes both ways. Even if that was reversed. Well, let me not say that because who knows. I don’t know what men want sometimes. Yeah, if that guy’s intimidated, that’s just not the person for you. You wouldn’t even want to be with that person. You wouldn’t want to be with a yes person, or a person who you’re saying “hey, we have to go to this galla tonight and impress my partners” and they can’t come or they feel like they’re not valuable sitting next to you. You want a person who believes in themselves just as much as you believe in them. Obviously if you like them, you see something in them. If they don’t see that for themselves, then they need to work on themselves, and they ain’t the person for you.

Keyauna: Agreed. I think a lot of women dumb down at the pleasure of a man, to make them feel bigger, when – as you say – if he loves you, if he cares about you, he’ll want what you want. If you want to be successful, he’ll want you to be successful. He’ll support you along the way. You should never feel the need to dumb yourself down or try to play down your achievements or the thing you accomplished in your life or the things you want to accomplish in your life, to benefit a man or make him stay or be there with you and to feel more manly.

Joi-Marie: I’ve definitely dated guys like that, who they were attracted to the light. They saw the light inside of you and they were like a moth to a flame. “I just gotta get close to that.” Not all men, but a lot of men who are insecure, they don’t have the light in themselves. They don’t know how to manufacture that for themselves, so they seek women with the light. They are attracted to that, but when they get too close, they get burned because, again, they don’t have that light inside of them. They don’t know how it feels. “Oh, this is getting too hot.” They’re uncomfortable. They’re insecure because they can’t manufacture that specialness, that light within themselves, even though they really, truly desire it. For men like that, you got to stay away from them. They’re fake. They’re trying to get that light that’s inside of you, that specialness, that God thing that you have, that thing that’s divine, that makes you special, that makes you valuable in your community, in your job, with your friends circle. They want that, but those men, they can’t last because they don’t have it within themselves. They feel insecure, and they get burned. Good riddance to them, really.

Keyauna: So many women end up blaming themselves after that. You’re like, “Well what happened? What did I do?” No, he just realized he couldn’t take the heat. He couldn’t keep up. Like you say, he didn’t have his own light. A lot of times they are attracted to the women like that, and they end up not living up to the expectation. Then the women are left looking like, “What did I do? What happened?” Those types, as you say, are the ones you really got to stay away from, because they’ll have you making yourself feel crazy at the end of the day. I’m going to ask you one more question on an entertainment note just because it’s something that before I spoke to you it’s been a big story, and I wanted to know what you thought about it. T.I. and Tiny. I was a huge T.I. fan, musically. I don’t watch a lot of TV, so I don’t watch the reality show, but I know enough about it. You hear and you see stuff. Generally I was like, “Okay, they’re dope.” Generally, before I saw the whole family unit. Then now you’re seeing a whole lot more behind the scenes about their issues and their difficulties, infidelity. Also, Tiny, which looks to be – my own opinion – one of those women who has taken the back burner a lot of times for him. One clip I just saw the other day was her ready to rekindle with Xscape, the group that she’s been a part of for years, and go on tour. He’s kind of like, “Well, no, you can’t take the baby or you need to stay home. One or the other.” I was really upset when I saw it because it was like, “Well, he’s been touring forever.” What do you think about the double standard that comes with career women and that whole stigma? If you have to sit down and let your man be a man and take care of the kids and not continue to pursue your career. Some women, like you said, they’re the person who you were talking about earlier, who is trying to decide between having that career or the kid and maybe the sacrifice. You can do both. There’s nothing wrong with that. Why are we, as women, expected to sit down while being a wife and having a family, when the guys are just kind of doing their own thing? It’s actually made to be okay. He expected her to sit down and chill, and she was like, “Why can’t I take the baby with me?” It’s a whole big deal. What do you think about that whole dynamic, with trying to have it all and people saying it’s not possible?

Joi-Marie: Yeah, I mean it’s not. The reality is it’s not. It goes back to what I was saying before, about how our structures are put in place with our work system and childcare system. Childcare is hella expensive. I know this from my niece, listening to my sister and my niece. I’m like, “Why does it cost so much?” You see a lot of times one parent decides to just stay home because it’s cheaper for the parent to stay home. I think paternity leave is messed up. Maternity leave is messed up. These are all things that are political in nature, that affect how we live and decide our lives. I think the way our society is set up now, no, women cannot have it all.  In T.I. and Tiny’s case, I think, yeah, he is being a hypocrite in the fact that he expects her to dim her light or put her career on hold, when it’s clear that she’s really passionate. I think you want a partner who sees the passion. I look at her and watch her talk about Escape, and you see this really lights her up. This is something she’s passionate about. If I was just her friend, you want to be there to support her. You want her to fulfill her dreams just as much as she supported you when you wanted to fulfill yours. That’s a good friend, not even a good lover or mate or whatever, boyfriend, husband. That’s just being a good friend. I think when you start your relationship based on friendship, you get that respect. You see that respect. You see that mutual admiration. Yeah, it’s a huge double standard. T.I. is not alone. I’m not saying that his mind can’t be change, but on the other hand, we’ve seen it time and time again. Men are able to make choices for themselves that women just don’t have the luxury to do. He can say, “I don’t want a woman that works.” I’m sure T.I. could find a woman that doesn’t work and would be happy to stay home and take care of his kids. He’s T.I. He has every right to. I can’t judge. I’m not in his shoes. I don’t do what he does, and so no. The reality is being on the road is very tough, and it is very hard to do when you have a newborn. On the other hand, people do it. It’s able to be done. I do hope that she lives out her dreams, and she will be able to continue to raise her kids. I’ve seen it. I really hate when people say, “You have to make a choice. You have to choose your career or choose your family.” It doesn’t work like that. It doesn’t have to be an either/or or a binary system. I’ve seen it happen in real life. My mom was a career woman and a mom of three. My dad also worked. She was able to do it seamlessly. They both didn’t do it at the same time. When my parents were starting off, my dad, he played in the NBA. He was the star of the family. He was the star of the show. The family revolved around his schedule and what he did. Then he retired, and then of course my mom has this sort of star career, and it revolves around her. I feel like if you have balance with anything, everything can work out. You have to have that balance. You have to have two people who are willing to change with each other, who are willing to say, “Okay, it’s your turn to go be great. I’ll be holding down the fort. Okay, now it’s my turn to go be great.” Hopefully, you’ll find a person that can move with you in those paces of life.

Keyauna: I think that is exactly what’s missing in the T.I./Tiny situation. I think that from the outside – like you said, we don’t know and no one lives behind their walls. From what you can tell and what you can see, they do have a reality show that gives a little bit of insight, it seems like what happened was just that Tiny was the superstar and she took a big back seat when they started to have children and got married and everything. T.I. blew up, and a lot of it was based on Tiny’s support as well. Now she’s like, “Okay, well, can I have some time to do my thing?” He’s like, “No.” I think a big part of it has to do with what you just said, like your parents. They balance. Your dad was the big star at first, and then he gave your mom the ability to do her own thing as well and allow her dreams. I think having a partner who is willing to, like you said, share that with you so we’re both happy and fulfilled in our journey together, is a very, very important thing. You have to know that the person you’re with … I’m pretty sure Tiny didn’t think she’d look up and not be able to do what she wanted, that T.I. would be the one stopping her from doing that or attempting to stop her from doing that. Like you said, it’s about picking a mate who wants to see you shine as much as they want to shine.

Joi-Marie: Exactly, yeah. I think it’s essential.

Keyauna: I think I’m all done with the questions that I have for you. Is there anything you want to share with the readers that we haven’t touched on?

Joi-Marie: I think you’ve pretty much covered it. If I could add anything it would just be just to piggyback on something I said earlier. A lot of times women, in order to get what we want, which is the “happily ever after” ending, we’ll shape-shift and we’ll compromise a lot of ourselves, sometimes the most special part of ourselves, in order to get a man or a woman, whatever you prefer. That is the issue. I feel like whomever you end up with, they will appreciate all of you – the good parts, the bad parts, if you want to stay home, if you want to pursue your career, all of those things. I tell women all the time now, really have the courage to become the authority on yourself. Meaning, have the courage to tell people exactly who you are. Don’t shape-shift, don’t change, because the person that you’re supposed to be with, that’s supposed to love you unconditionally, will be that person that really loves all of you. Even the bad parts, flaws and all, as Beyonce likes to say. Just be the authority on yourself. Have that courage. It does take courage at times. We all want to be loved. It’s going to take a little bit of courage, but if you do it I swear you won’t ever regret that decision.

Keyauna: Agreed. That’s a great way to cap it all off.

You can read the first chapter of Joi-Marie’s book here.