If you don’t know actress Lauren “Lolo” Spencer, it’s time to get to know her.
The breakout star of Mindy Kaling’s new HBO comedy series The Sex Lives of College Girls, Lolo plays Jocelyn, a fiery scene-stealer whose unapologetic nature and uncanny ability to make the audience laugh whenever she appears makes her one of the show’s most memorable characters in a cast of college freshman characters. The series itself is being praised by fans and critics alike for being inclusive, relatable, and real.
“Jocelyn is a lot of who I was in college,” Lolo tells xoNecole of Jocelyn’s seemingly effortless appeal. “She's just very free-spirited and fun, which is also a lot of who I am today. But, she is a little bit more of an asshole than I am. She’s a little shady, which I like!”
It’s hard to believe this is only Lolo’s second role as an actress. In 2019, she starred in the independent film Give Me Liberty, earning a Spirit Awards nomination for the role and competing with Octavia Spencer and Jennifer Lopez for Best Supporting Actress.
Courtesy of Lauren "Lolo" Spencer
But Lolo’s road to award-nominated actress and premium TV series regular wasn’t easy.
At 14, she was diagnosed with ALS, a progressive disease with a survival rate averaging around five years. The star went on to graduate high school, earn a bachelor’s degree in video editing and begin a career in marketing and distribution before she turned to Hollywood.
But Lolo, now 30-something, never felt comfortable knowing her career was in someone else’s hands. “As a person with a disability, employment is incredibly hard to find. If I’m not mistaken, less than two percent of the job market are people on record saying that they have disabilities," she says. "I just didn’t like the feeling of someone being in control of my livelihood because I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to find another job.” She decided to launch her own YouTube channel and lifestyle brand, Sitting Pretty, where she shared her journey with ALS as well as her work, friendships, and dating life.
Courtesy of Lauren "Lolo" Spencer
“I’ve always been positive but creating content helped,” she says. “Talking about it meant no one could use it against me. It meant being OK in my vulnerability. Owning my vulnerability and knowing that I’m constantly supported by my loved ones helps with my confidence, but I still have insecurities.”
Sharing her truth has been impacting generations. “I get a lot of comments from parents who have children with disabilities who thank me for the content and hope that their children have that amount of confidence.”
One of the things Lolo makes crystal clear is that she hates when others see just her physical disability and not her humanity. She shares that she was at a party getting a little turnt with her friends when a guy came over to “applaud her for being brave" when she was simply living her best life. Talk about a buzz kill. “The underlying tone of all of it is, ‘you’re not worthy of existence and if I do recognize it, I don’t recognize you as a human. I recognize you as a person who is under a circumstance.’”
Courtesy of Lauren "Lolo" Spencer
Through her film and TV roles, Lolo brings humanity and nuance to her characters that an ableist world often tries to strip away.
"I want roles that are going to be effective and representative of the culture in the ways that I’ve been advocating for,” she shares about her process. She even told her agent that she didn't want roles in medical shows that are going to feel ableist, or content that is rooted in disabled people providing inspiration for non-disabled people as a way to feel better about themselves.
“It’s challenging because when you do that, you shrink the auditions you could get, but because I’m strategic, I’ve had a lot of success."
When we move to the topic of dating, Lolo keeps it very real, talking about the challenges. She had a “pandemic boo” who stressed her out way too much, and she admits that dating's been difficult since.
“People are revering me so much that they’re neglecting that I’m a woman. It’s almost this superhero admiration. You don’t have to take me to Nobu on our first date. Like, I’m still a chill girl.” She also admits wishing guys would be more open to a healthy conversation. “Like, what if I just wanted to have fun?”
Courtesy of Lauren "Lolo" Spencer
Today, Lolo is much more aware of who she gives her time to, and though she admits to staying off the dating apps, she gives a few helpful pieces of advice for creating online profiles, especially for people with disabilities.
“One of my biggest tips is: If you are a person with a visible disability, show your device or body in your profile photo. That will immediately cut out the people who are just so shallow to not even consider that this is an actual human being that you might actually get along with!” She also advised being funny and fun in your profile caption, showing a variety of photos, and beginning every conversation solely with the goal of getting to know someone.
One day soon, Lolo hopes to star in a rom-com and change the way disabled people in love are portrayed on the big screen. “I love, love, love comedy. With rom-coms, they usually cast leads as people who are to be desired or sought after. We haven't seen that with characters with disabilities. So, I would love for that to be represented, while still being fun and funny.”
Lolo Spencer is just getting started.
To keep up with Lauren "Lolo" Spencer, follow her on Instagram @itslololove, and don’t forget to watch season one ofThe Sex Lives of College Girls, now streaming on HBO Max.
Featured image courtesy of Lauren "Lolo" Spencer
Kirby Carroll grew up in VA but now calls Atlanta, GA home. She has a passion for creating content and helping brands grow through storytelling and public relations. When not immersed in work, you can find her sipping a mimosa at brunch or bingeing a new TV drama on Netflix. Keep up with her on social media at @askKirbyCarroll.
How Content Creators Hey Fran Hey And Shameless Maya Embraced The Pivot
This article is in partnership with Meta Elevate.
If you’ve been on the internet at all within the past decade, chances are the names Hey Fran Hey and Shameless Maya (aka Maya Washington) have come across your screen. These content creators have touched every platform on the web, spreading joy to help women everywhere live their best lives. From Fran’s healing natural remedies to Maya’s words of wisdom, both of these content creators have built a loyal following by sharing honest, useful, and vulnerable content. But in search of a life that lends to more creativity, freedom, and space, these digital mavens have moved from their bustling big cities (New York City and Los Angeles respectively) to more remote locations, taking their popular digital brands with them.
Content Creators Hey Fran Hey and Maya Washington Talk "Embracing The Pivot"www.youtube.com
In partnership with Meta Elevate — an online learning platform that provides Black, Hispanic, and Latinx-owned businesses access to 1:1 mentoring, digital skills training, and community — xoNecole teamed up with Franscheska Medina and Maya Washington on IG live recently for a candid conversation about how they’ve embraced the pivot by changing their surroundings to ultimately bring out the best in themselves and their work. Fran, a New York City native, moved from the Big Apple to Portland, Oregon a year ago. Feeling overstimulated by the hustle and bustle of city life, Fran headed to the Pacific Northwest in search of a more easeful life.
Her cross-country move is the backdrop for her new campaign with Meta Elevate— a perfectly-timed commercial that shows how you can level up from wherever you land with the support of free resources like Meta Elevate. Similarly, Maya packed up her life in Los Angeles and moved to Sweden, where she now resides with her husband and adorable daughter. Maya’s life is much more rural and farm-like than it had been in California, but she is thriving in this peaceful new setting while finding her groove as a new mom.
While Maya is steadily building and growing her digital brand as a self-proclaimed “mom coming out of early retirement,” Fran is redefining her own professional grind. “It’s been a year since I moved from New York City to Portland, Oregon,” says Fran. “I think the season I’m in is figuring out how to stay successful while also slowing down.” A slower-paced life has unlocked so many creative possibilities and opportunities for these ladies, and our conversation with them is a well-needed reminder that your success is not tied to your location…especially with the internet at your fingertips. Tapping into a community like Meta Elevate can help Black, Hispanic, and Latinx entrepreneurs and content creators stay connected to like minds and educated on new digital skills and tools that can help scale their businesses.
During a beautiful moment in the conversation, Fran gives Maya her flowers for being an innovator in the digital space. Back when “influencing” was in its infancy and creators were just trying to find their way, Fran says Maya was way ahead of her time. “I give Maya credit for being one of the pioneers in the digital space,” Fran said. “Maya is a one-person machine, and I always tell her she really changed the game on what ads, campaigns, and videos, in general, should look like.”
When asked what advice she’d give content creators, Maya says the key is having faith even when you don’t see the results just yet. “It’s so easy to look at what is, despite you pouring your heart into this thing that may not be giving you the returns that you thought,” she says. “Still operate from a place of love and authenticity. Have faith and do the work. A lot of people are positive thinkers, but that’s the thinking part. You also have to put your faith into work and do the work.”
Fran ultimately encourages content creators and budding entrepreneurs to take full advantage of Meta Elevate’s vast offerings to educate themselves on how to build and grow their businesses online. “It took me ten years to get to the point where I’m making ads at this level,” she says. “I didn’t have those resources in 2010. I love the partnership with Meta Elevate because they’re providing these resources for free. I just think of the people that wouldn’t be able to afford that education and information otherwise. So to amplify a company like this just feels right.”
Watch the full conversation with the link above, and join the Meta Elevate community to connect with fellow businesses and creatives that are #OnTheRiseTogether.
Featured image courtesy of Shameless Maya and Hey Fran Hey
Learning My Desire Type Helped Remove The Shame Around Having Low Sexual Desire
I came up into my sexuality with what I thought was a perfect understanding of how desire worked. It’s only now that I’m in my 30s that I finally understand how desire actually works—and not just desire in general, but my desire personally. And my understanding of desire came after I disentangled myself from a lot of the myths that are embedded in desire.
Like most people, I grew up thinking that sexual desire was an untamable and mysterious force that lives inside your body, its purpose being to jumpstart and facilitate erotic longing deep in your loins. As I understood and witnessed it, desire was very important; no romantic relationship could survive without it, and if yours lacked it, your relationship needed an intervention. It was stressed that you had to find a partner whose desire matched yours because, try as you might, mismatched desires cannot be reconciled.
Some other desire “facts” that shaped my experience: Desire is spontaneous and involuntary—it happens to us rather than it happening with our control. Everyone is said to both have this internal mechanism of longing somewhere inside of them and experience it in the same way. If you don’t have desire (or don’t have enough of it), there is something wrong with you, as desire is a natural part of being human, a biological imperative to mate and fall in love. Therefore, those who don’t desire in the “right” way are disordered, diseased, and missing an essential part of their humanness.
I held those stories in my mind and my body about desire, many of which came from the pages of Cosmopolitan, bestselling love and relationships books, therapists, films, and well-meaning friends. And upon getting this information, I waited with bated breath for desire to hit me like it seemed to influence others.
I waited for the sparks, the unbridled passion, the fanny flutters. I waited for desire to awaken and possess me, for it to turn me into a nymphomaniac. I waited and waited, and when it still hadn’t arrived to the degree I was promised, when my desire stayed elusive, finicky, and sometimes nonexistent, especially when compared to my others’ desire, I diagnosed myself with having a desire disorder. Shortly after that, I had a mild breakdown.
I was all too quick to pathologize my low sexual desire because that’s what I was taught to do, and that’s what everybody else was doing to me. I spent much of my 20s trying to solve my desire like a mathematical equation, adding what I thought I lacked (confidence, courage, sex positivity) and becoming people that I wasn’t (Beyoncé, Rihanna, Dita von Teese) in order to overcome this hardship, thinking that there was something I was missing, something that I needed to do, or think, or heal within myself that would unlock my desire.
It felt proactive, like I was working hard to correct something that was broken inside of me, not realizing that in my attempts to “fix” myself, I was actually harming myself.
Troubleshooting my desire looked like doing multiple sets of kegels daily because someone mentioned that there might be a correlation between a strong pelvic floor and strong sexual desire; watching porn when I didn’t want to because I thought that maybe if I was exposed to sex more often, I could train my brain/body to want more sex naturally; and following advice on the internet that said that if I didn’t want to have sex, have sex anyway because it was my wifely duty to do so.
The amount of times I decided to override my wants, violate my boundaries, and interrupt a visceral no in my body to try to create a sexual desire that wasn't there, all to contort myself into being a kind of desire that I just didn't have, is evident in the way that when sex is on the table today, sometimes I still have trouble discerning if my "yes" is really a yes or if it's a "yes" I feel I should offer.
This conditioning around desire is carved deep in my body after decades of repeated messaging from a sex-obsessed culture that has told me that there is only one way to desire which is for it to be high, reliable, and never-changing.
In my work as a sexuality doula, I've heard from clients and students (usually women and nonbinary folks) who have received the same pressures to be who they're not sexually, to do whatever it takes to raise their desire levels to be a worthy partner, to coax the sex out of them with medications and violation of self.
They've jumped through similar hoops, harmed their bodies in similar ways, and carried the weight of their sexual relationship on their shoulders because those with low sexual desire are always responsible for the lack of sex. They're tired. They want freedom, intimacy, and loving relationships that aren't at the expense of their authentic sexual selves.
In my work, I act as a guide for them as they explore alternate avenues of sexual liberation that hold the nuances of their desire and create more room for them to be as they are sexually without pathologizing them. How I hold space for them through this is similar to the way I held space for myself as I found peace with my own sexuality and unshamed my low desire, which started with educating myself about how desire works and creating new stories I could embody when it comes to my desire personally.
1. There is not just one way to experience sexual desire.
Despite having been told that it’s pretty straightforward and immutable, what I’ve learned is that sexual desire, like most things under the sun, is on a spectrum for most people. And not only is desire on a spectrum, but it can also (and likely will) fluctuate based on many different factors: a person’s mental health, their age, the relationship they’re in, their physical health, where they’re at in their menstrual cycle, their emotional state, medications they’re taking, etc.
When I realized that desire is not a fixed experience, it allowed me a lot more room to move along that spectrum without judging myself for it. Essentially, it allowed me to include my humanity and nuances within my desire.
2. Learn your desire type.
Following this thread that not everybody desires the same way led me to learn about two common desire types that people can have: spontaneous and responsive.
Spontaneous desire vs. Responsive desire
If you’re someone with spontaneous desire, your desire for sex tends to come out of thin air. If sex is spontaneously on the table and they feel safe and able to enjoy it, people with spontaneous desire can get turned on pretty quickly. This is the type of desire that we usually see depicted in movies and is often upheld as the desire we’re meant to have, and if we don’t have it, we must strive for it.
Some of us do have it. It just depends on the circumstances. For example, a lot of people experience spontaneous desire at the beginning of a relationship. Then, their desire changes, maybe into responsive desire.
With responsive desire, your desire for sex doesn't come out of nowhere. Instead, it arises in response to sex-related things that are already happening. Often, folks with responsive desire experience their desire emerging as or even before they feel physically turned on. In my work as a sexuality doula, most of the people I've worked with have had responsive desire.
Obviously, there are more than two ways to experience desire, and it's also possible that you can be both responsive and spontaneous. What I've found, though, is that having language that can better describe the nuances of desire can help put things into a new perspective, one that can celebrate our desire variances rather than pathologize them.
For me, figuring out that I was responsive helped me stop feeling shame that my desire wasn't "on" all the time.
3. Desire lives between the ears, not the legs.
I lived for years thinking that desire came from my genitals, and when I was in the thick of it, trying to fix my fluctuating desire, I contemplated going on Viagra to help raise my libido. When I think back to those times, I’m struck both by my desperation and how absurd it was for me to think that a pill that’s meant to target the blood flow in genital tissues is equivalent to creating more sexual desire.
It wouldn’t have worked anyway. Desire lives between our ears, not between our legs. This is one of the reasons “female Viagra” hasn’t been effective. In a lot of ways, we can’t choose the way our sexual desire works and presents itself. As I mentioned earlier, desire for a lot of folks isn’t so cut and dry. It varies depending on the circumstances.
That said, it’s important to also name that our ideas of sexual desire have been deeply shaped by a culture and society that has placed and continues to place men’s sexuality on a pedestal as the end all, be all expression of sexual desire, as something we’re all supposed to strive for (which, the expectations we put on men to be hypersexual and ready to go is harmful in itself, but that’s a whole other article).The moment I asked myself, “To whose standards am I measuring my supposed ‘low’ desire against?” and read about the rich history of female hysteria, frigidity, acephobia, and our culture’s obsession with sex, it helped me stop harming myself and accept who I am: someone who desires differently.
. . .
Having a deeper understanding of the myriad of possibilities that desire can be expressed has helped release a lot of the pressure I’ve put on myself and had put on me by previous lovers, doctors, and the culture at large. Rather than trying to control the flow, timing, and pacing of my desire, rather than constantly looking at the ways it doesn’t measure up against the rigid standards set before me and others, I’ve learned to celebrate my desire—even when it’s low, fluctuating, or nonexistent. I’ve learned to accept myself as who I am sexually.
I no longer see my desire as a mathematical equation to solve but as a continually evolving question that I get to live into.
- Refusing Compulsory Sexuality: A Black Asexual Lens on Our Sex-Obsessed Culture, by Sherronda J Brown
- Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex, by Angela Chen
- Episode 56 of the Sensual Self podcast: “I’m Not Broken, I’m Asexual”
- Episode 72 of the Sensual Self podcast: “Refusing Compulsory Sexuality”
- Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life, by Dr. Emily Nagoski
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