While I’m not the biggest fan of New Year’s Resolutions (who needs the extra pressure and stress of telling yourself what you’re going to totally give up or never do again?), something that I do think is a good idea to do, in the final weeks of the year, as you’ve hopefully got a little downtime, is to sit and think of what you need to do in order “restart” or “reset” in your life — you know, things that you can — and should — put on your to-do list that will help you to put your best foot forward into a brand spanking new year.
The following eight items are merely suggestions. What I will say, though, is I came to the conclusion that these are essential after years of working with clients who seemed to struggle the most when these things were not in place. Oh, and while I definitely recommend booking these appointments, this is not something that you have to “check off” before January 1. I’m just saying that you should get these things on the books before December 31, so that you can know how to prioritize your time and invest your money…into something that is so deserving, chile. YOURSELF.
1. A Massage Appointment
I’m weird because while I thoroughly enjoy reflexology, a full-body massage sometimes makes me a bit squeamish. I mean, you’ve really got to trust your massage therapist in order to get all of the benefits of it, right? That doesn’t mean I’m not aware of the many things that come with getting one, though. Massages are able to de-stress you, make you more flexible, detox your system, reduce PMS-related symptoms, improve your quality of sleep, decrease pain-related issues, boost your immunity, and oh so much more.
As far as how often you should get one, believe it or not, a lot of health experts recommend that you do it on a bi-weekly basis. Whether that fits into your budget and schedule or not, if you’ve never gotten a massage before or you can’t recall the last time you’ve gotten on a massage table, book an appointment for the top of the year. It’s one of those things that your mind, body, and spirit will ultimately thank you for. (If you need a little help with figuring out which kind of massage you should get, check out “12 Different Massage Types. How To Know Which Is Right For You.” It can help to point you in the right direction.)
2. A Hairstylist Appointment
One thing that the lockdown of 2020 did was teach us how to “fend for ourselves” when it came to daily beauty maintenance, right? And while, on some levels, learning new hacks was beneficial, what a lot of women have shared with me is that it kind of put them in a bit of a rut in 2021 in the sense that they didn’t really make, what used to be standing appointments, a top priority like they did before the pandemic. Listen, it doesn’t look like COVID is going away any time soon, so if that’s what you’re waiting for before stepping into a salon, you’re probably going to be waiting a really LONG time.
Besides, one of the best things about the coming of a new year is you can feel extra motivated to take a fresh approach to things. So yeah, schedule a professional hair appointment. Whether it’s to get a cut and color, learn how to install a wig or weave, or to get a trendy protective style, it’s always worth it to relax in a chair and let a trained person hook you up from time to time.
3. A Life Coach Appointment
While this might seem like a shameless plug, it’s not. Although I am a marriage life coach, what I’m speaking of, more specifically here, is getting a life coach who can help you to organize your time, goals, and plans better, whether you’re in a relationship or not. There is plenty of data to support the fact that a reputable life coach can help to bring clarity, boost self-confidence, heighten self-awareness, manifest your purpose, get you to better understand your strengths and weaknesses, and significantly increase your communication skills too.
A really cool thing about life coaching is sometimes you can get the answers that you seek after a couple of sessions or, if you realize you need more assistance and accountability, you can go for as long as you need to. That said, if there is one thing that I really think that everyone should try, at least once, it’s talking to a life coach. Even just an hour chat can provide some light bulb moments like a mug.
If you need help with how to even begin searching for one,Life Coach Spotter is a pretty good resource. You can also hit up my friend who was featured in one of my articles earlier this year, “A Male Relationship Coach Shares 7 Questions Women Should Ask Men On The Third Date.” He can help to point you in the right direction too. For general coaching, email him at email@example.com.
4. A Nutritionist Appointment
To this day, one of the most common New Year’s Resolutions is to lose weight; it’s also a top one that people break within the first month. And yes, while a licensed nutritionist can certainly assist with weight loss (or weight management) goals, that is not the only thing that they are good for. Nutritionists are beneficial because they can help you to figure out if you have any food sensitivities or allergies; why you may have ongoing fatigue issues; if certain foods are causing underlying health issues to make things worse; what you can do, diet-wise, to increase your chances of fertility and what you can do to eat healthier and have a better relationship with food, in general.
People who have been to a nutritionist (or dietician) oftentimes sing their praises because it has gotten them off of an emotional roller coaster ride when it comes to how they should approach food. If what I just said resonates with you, then you definitely should book an appointment with a nutritionist — sooner than later. NoBidan.org is the site for the National Organization of Black Dietetics and Nutrition. If you need some assistance in looking for a Black nutritionist, they should be able to help you out.
5. A Financial Consultant Appointment
We know that this country is rigged to make things more difficult for us (SMDH). That’s a part of the reason why it’s really important to be vigilant when it comes to getting — and keeping — your finances in order. Shoot, the mere fact that Black women are 22 percent more in debt when it comes to their education than white women are and it’s been cited that we will make around one million dollars less than white men over the course of our lifetime, having a financially savvy person who can help you to budget, plan for retirement, avoid paying more in taxes than you should, learn about investments, prepare for big purchases and save money — there is no “con” when it comes to setting aside some cash to have someone help you out as far as your finances are concerned. The Association of African American Financial Advisors is a good resource. Check it out here.
6. A Travel Agent Appointment
If 2022 is the year that you’re all about earning some miles and getting stamps on your passport, while I know that Google makes us think that we don’t need to hire people for much of anything anymore, that is simply not the truth. If you can get your hands on a really good travel agent, aside from the fact that they can get you some pretty good deals, they’re also able to handle all of the details of your trips and get you access to perks that you probably wouldn’t know about otherwise.
Plus, going with a travel agent is super convenient because they can plan your vacations while you focus on other things. Travel + Leisure published an article last year entitled, “8 Amazing Black-owned Travel Companies to Know and Support”. If they can’t hook you up, they can probably locate someone who can.
7. A Matchmaking Appointment
Are you ready to meet your onethis year? Hey, roll your eyes if you want to, but I actually used to write for a professional matchmaking company and their success rate was close to being off the charts. It’s because the good ones are really serious about properly vetting their clients so that no one is wasting their time (which is a huge risk when it comes to randomly meeting people on your own or trying to online date). As far as costs go, it’s pretty affordable to pay to get your profile into their database. Or, you can pay a few thousand for dates to be scheduled throughout the year.
If you’re down to at least have a conversation with a professional matchmaker, there’s a list of some of the most popular Black ones in the country that you can check out here. I mean, if nothing else has seemed to pan out, what can it hurt to give matchmaking a shot? Plus, you can keep it all pretty private which is more than what you can say for that friend of yours who keeps trying to set you on blind dates with guys whose Instagram profiles are less than impressive.
8. A Bestie Appointment
I’m big on taking relationship inventory (check out “10 Questions To Ask Your Close Friends Before The New Year Begins”); it has proven to work well for me. What I mean by “inventory” is, about once a year, my tribe and I (these are one-on-one chats, by the way) will discuss where we’re at personally and what we need from each other, friendship-wise, as a direct result. Then we’ll touch on some of our favorite things about each other and where we could stand to hold each other accountable a little bit more, moving forward.
Booking a “formal” appointment to have lunch or drinks with your closest friend, just to do this and this alone can help both of you to hear each other out so that you know how to be each other’s best support system in the new year. I’m telling you, when it comes to gearing up, mentally and emotionally for the new year, setting up a bestie appointment is always time well spent. Guaranteed.
Now, where’s your Google Calendar at? You’ve got some work to do, sis.
Featured image by Getty Images
After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (firstname.lastname@example.org) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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Here Are The Best Plus-Size Resort Wear Pieces For The Season
Your destination getaway is right around the corner. Everything is nearly together – travel excursions planned, hairstyles selected, and you have found the perfect plus-size swimsuit thanks to Gabi Fresh, but what about your outfits, specifically plus-size resort wear? And no, ladies, we are not living in chaos this summer and relying on rush shipping to provide pieces that may or may not work. So, if you need options, we got you covered.
First, researching current summer trends is a great way to select resort wear options. Some of our favorite travel girlies gave us the scoop on resort trends to look out for this summer. This includes sheer, crochet, and of course, the classic all-white pieces.
Next, look for interchangeable pieces. I love to mix and match to create a look, and I want to wear items that can carry into other seasons. Luckily, finding trendy plus-size resort wear that matches these criteria is easy. So, whether you are searching for something flowy or more revealing, you won’t be disappointed because we have curated a list of this year’s best plus-size resort wear.
Lissette Sheer Tropical Print Wide Leg Pant W. Pockets ($39.90)
Rebdolls will always be a favorite due to their sizes, ranging from 0 to 32. Therefore, we are starting this list with the Lissette Sheer Tropical Print Wide Leg Pant W. Pockets These are the perfect sheer pants to add to your vacation wardrobe. It is a part of the “Intro to Summer” Collection and can be dressed up or down. These wide-leg pants are ideal for rectangle and triangle body shapes.
Lisette Sheer Tropical Print Button-Up Shirt ($39.90)
Of course, we needed the matching button-up top to match the pants. The Lisette Sheer Tropical Print Button-Up Shirt is the perfect combo with its wide-leg companion above. Whether you wear it over matching pants or as a twist-tie top with a pair of jean shorts, this shirt will not disappoint.
Plus Crochet Ruched Beach Dress ($24.00)
Boohoo is a hot spot for summer options and consistent sales, making them extremely affordable. Their Plus Crochet Ruched Beach Dress is great for relaxing at the pool or beach. The material is lightweight, and the ruched detail is flattering for all body shapes.
Plus Rust Linen Look Ruched Side Split Midi Dress ($34.00)
(Via Pretty Little Thing)
This is for the girlies who love a high slit. The Plus Rust Linen Look Ruched Side Split Midi Dress from PLT is a must-have glam piece for your getaway. Heads will turn as you walk through any resort or new destination, and it’s flattering for all body types.
Curve & Plus Satin Floral V-Neck Ruffle Hem Dress ($30.00)
Asymmetrical is in this summer! And adding the Curve & Plus Satin Floral V-Neck Ruffle Hem Dress from Cider is the statement piece to add to your plus-size resort wardrobe. In addition, an asymmetrical dress is flattering for rectangular body shapes.
Satin Duster | Orange Mix ($62.95)
(Via Divno jé)
There’s something about a duster that makes you feel like you’re gliding while you walk. The Satin Duster (Orange Mix) from Divno jé is a showstopping piece that will compliment your tank dresses, shirt, and jeans. This long duster is flattering for all body shapes.
MakeMeChic Women's Plus Size Casual 2 Piece ($40.99)
The MakeMeChic is a cute, casual addition every girl needs. You can add a cropped or regular tank or nothing underneath. The fabric is comfortable and perfect for a beach day or island excursion. Depending on how you choose to style, this set is excellent for all body types.
Gabi Fresh Swim x ELOQUII Ring Front Cutout Coverup Maxi Dress with High Slit ($119.95)
Gabi Fresh has done it again with her latest collection at Eloquii. This Ring Front Cutout Coverup Maxi Dress with High Slit is a relaxed fit, and the cinched-waist maxi dress is gorgeous. It has cut-outs and a high slit. This dress would work well with an hourglass body shape.
Mini Challis Off Shoulder Hi-Low Skirt Set ($47.95)
This dazzling set is ideal for any cruise, beach day, or stroll through a seaside town. The Mini Challis Off Shoulder Hi-Low Skirt Set gives “main character” vibes. Another two-piece set that can be worn together or separately.
Plus Khaki Twill Cargo Midaxi Skirt ($24.00)
Two fashion trends that are in this season are cargo pants and maxi skirts. And Pretty Little Things gives us both with their Plus Khaki Twill Cargo Midaxi Skirt. Style with a combat boot or heel. This is another piece that suits all body shapes.
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