Amanda Seales on speaking out against injustice and the importance of Black women prioritizing wellness: 'It’s imperative'

Megan Sims
·9-min read
Amanda Seales opens up about self-care, speaking out against injustice and her new clothing line. (Photo: Getty Images; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
Amanda Seales opens up about self-care, speaking out against injustice and her new clothing line. (Photo: Getty Images; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

The Unwind is Yahoo Life’s well-being series in which experts, influencers and celebrities share their approaches to wellness and mental health, from self-care rituals to setting healthy boundaries to the mantras that keep them afloat.

Comedian and actress Amanda Seales is aforce to be reckoned with. Just like her character Tiffany DuBois on the hit HBO comedy Insecure, Seales is not afraid to speak her mind. In real life, that means using her platform to bring awareness to important issues around social justice.

"I think it's important that when we get into these positions where we have bigger platforms, we understand that we are a part of a level of privilege that we need to use responsibly," she tells Yahoo Life. "I think some people don't feel that way, you know, but I absolutely do and I've made it my business to use my platform in as much of a responsible and informative fashion as possible."

Seales has taken her passion for this principle to create her first fashion line, Illustrious League, which she hopes will inspire Black women to prioritize wellness. The star even creates the line's unique artwork herself, proving this endeavor to truly be a labor of love.

"It was important to show folks that you can create something in this capital space [and] ableist space that also still has ethics around it, but also still has artistic value around it. And I feel like I never want to look like someone who was just doing something to make money. I always want to make things that not only gain profit, but then also give purpose," Seales explains.

What inspired you to create Illustrious League? What inspires the designs and messages?

I have always wanted to do an apparel line and it finally felt like I had enough time. Everyone knows me for my tracksuits and my sweatsuits, and I really wanted to be in that space. Because of the pandemic, so many people were just in the house and I wanted people to feel good about what they were wearing at home, but also feel good about themselves. So that's where the messaging and the art comes in, because I didn't want to just make a line to make a line. I wanted it to have, like with anything I do, purpose behind it. Self-care has become so much of the conversation, and it needs to exist in an abundance of ways. So when we're wearing our clothes, they're physically touching our bodies, [but] what better way to have a messaging of self-care than having it right there in front of you when you look in the mirror and when you feel it on your skin.

Your clothing line is about "art and empowerment." What makes you feel empowered?

Options. I love having options. I feel empowered when I can make a choice and that's why I love honesty. And I love people really keeping things direct with me because it allows me to really be able to make an honest, informed choice about my next step and about my path. When people have asked me, “Amanda, what do you see for yourself? What's your goal in life? To have your own TV show?” I said, “No, it's to have options, [to] be able to create options for more Black creators.” For so long, we have had such a sliver of space that we're able to work in and able to see ourselves in. So creating more space, more room for us to take up space like that, to me is very empowering and being able to see that for us is empowering.

Why should Black women prioritize wellness?

Black women are consistently considered the saviors of the world, but are rarely ever taken care of and protected in the way that we take care of protecting everybody else. So it's imperative that we also take care and protect ourselves while we are putting our cap on to save the universe.

Video: Amanda Seales on self care and wellness

What stresses you out?

Inefficiency. When things are just not efficient and they are all over the place and there's no order, that stresses me out.

What are your go-to techniques for fighting stress and anxiety?

I really enjoy the moment. I really try to just get my deep breathing going. I try to find the funny in the situation and in general, I do go to therapy and I do like to go in nature and be outside. I create, [which] is a really great source of peacefulness for me.

Do you have any small self-care rituals that you use to brighten your day?

I love watching TV and playing Candy Crush at the same time. I consider that to be self-care. I feel like there's also just a practice of taking time to do nothing, and I never really gave myself permission to do that, but it really is important to just take a moment to just kind of not be in practice. Like, it's just taking time to just let my brain relax, which is a form of meditation. It's about what's OK for you, what works for you. You have to be able to identify that. It's the work that requires me to have a clear mind and a calm heart, and so if doing nothing sometimes achieves that, then I need to do that. There's a difference between laziness and self-care.

What brings you joy?

I love animal videos of basically any kind of animal just living his best life. I love travel. I love water. So the beach, the pool, the hot tub, the river, the lake, I really love being by the water and close to it. Candy. And I really love performing. I really love being able to see joy on people's faces by me utilizing the gifts that have been given to me. I watched a video the other day of a show that I created and I was like, “We haven't been in front of people performing in so long.” I really felt like that's what I love about stand-up, you know, being able to watch people laugh. It feels like a superpower to be able to bring joy to people in that way.

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As someone who is outspoken on social media, what helps you set boundaries to protect your mental and emotional health?

You have to be able to really know how much you can take. And I think sometimes we like to tell ourselves that we're supposed to be able to handle a certain amount of something, we're supposed to be able to put up with people, talking to them a certain way with the post to be able to accept a certain type of treatment and that is somehow an indicator of our strength. At the end of the day you have to know what you can handle. And I have come to not only be able to identify that, but be OK with that. I turned off my comments at one point because I was just like, "I don't want people feeling comfortable saying whatever they want to say to me." And because I can't mediate that with every individual I had to mediate the space.

At this point now, I do feel like I can manage that better and that's why I opened up the space. But I also know that if it were to go back to that feeling again, I would have no problem cutting off that one more time. For instance, being a public figure, people tell you, "Well, you knew what comes along with that." And it's like that type of blanket statement assumes that because someone is in a certain position that they are able to deal with every element of that position and for what it's worth, nobody should be expected to have to deal with toxicity that they're not putting out.

I'm not a shock jock. I am not somebody who's made a career out of being toxic contrary to what some people may think. I have not made it my business to present myself in a fashion that says like, "I'm a fighter come fight me." That's not the goal. So anytime I have been put in that position, I have removed myself from that because that's not what I want. That's not the message I want to set. So I came into this business to be a creative and an artist, and unfortunately, but fortunately, when you do good work, you get more eyes on you, you get more visibility. And unfortunately all of that visibility doesn't necessarily translate into positive responses, but that doesn't mean that you have to accept that. And I don't.

You have such a devoted following on social media. But who inspires you? What accounts do you follow?

[I follow] pages like the Free Roots Project, which is run by my homeboy, Mike in St. Louis. Jemele Hill and Angela Rye, Tamika Mallory, they're always sharing content that is informative, that I want to know about and understand. I make a point of following sites like NowThis News and Al Jazeera English because I want to make sure that I'm getting information from places that feel like they're still practicing journalism, looking for him versus for opinions. I feel like I just be scrolling, but I will say that I am actively right now making it my business to kind of go into my social media and seek out other sources and expand because from being in the house all the time, I just lose the opportunity to meet new people and to get greater opportunities for a conversation. So, that's one of the ways I've been trying to use social media in a positive way, by letting it be a resource for me to learn about other folks that are doing great work and then bringing them on my podcast, and amplifying their work and their voices.

What mantra do you live by?

The same mantra that goes along with our first drop for Illustrious League: Trust everyone, but never sell your sword. I really feel like a lot of us are taught to just be paranoid and kind of be standoffish and self-protective in ways that prevent us from creating new connections with folks and expanding ourselves. But we need to be able to understand that there's strength in vulnerability, but also be able to identify when it's time to cut something because it's not serving you. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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