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Amber Riley Is Tired Of People Telling Her How To Feel, Especially About Her Body

And she's using Big Girl Energy to set the record straight.

Celebrity News

Amber Riley is hell-bent on making sure that you remember her name and her story as she continues to find her voice. We were introduced to her as the character Mercedes Jones, and fell in love with her after six seasons on Fox comedy Glee. Little did we know the starlet was dazzling us on-screen with her beauty and talent all while battling obstacles with self-love, acceptance, depression, and anxiety. Now at 34, she is ready to show us how much she's grown into her Big Girl Energy. Recently, she sat with Hello Beautifulto give a candid account of her experiences:

"It got to the point where I didn't know who I was because I didn't accept myself wholly. I accepted myself as a talent, that's where I found my value, but I didn't accept myself and where I was in my body. Although I thought I was beautiful and I did get attention, that wasn't the issue; it was an inner issue. It didn't have anything to do with guys. It had more to do with me being able to look in the mirror and mean it when I say that I'm beautiful."

Now, why on Earth would this bombshell struggle with knowing without a doubt that she is beautiful you ask? Well...because she did not fit the standard of beauty in America at the time, and still does not, but she's deciding to say: "F*ck that, I'm beautiful." She's beautiful, and if ever she decides to lose weight she will still be beautiful. Her size doesn't define her ability to be beautiful in any capacity. That precisely is why she is steering clear of labels such as "body positive" and moving in the direction of body acceptance. Amber explains:

"My body is mine. I don't need a community telling me what to do with it. I always have to be 100 percent real with myself...Honestly, if your confidence is predicated on the way that I look, it's not confidence. I'm not anybody's idol. Don't worship me. Don't get used to me being any size. I can get bigger, I can get smaller. I'm going to love myself either way, but I'm not asking for permission."

TUH… It appears as though Amber does not give a damn if her body or how she decides to present it makes you uncomfortable. She wants to make sure that we understand she is pretty as a woman periodt, not just pretty for a big girl, and does not want to feel guilt or be described as abandoning a whole community if she so chooses to alter her appearance. This realization likely came after time in therapy processing the trauma she endured as a result of her body developing womanly curves while she was still very much a child. Amber shares:

"Part of my anxiety had to do with my size...I was overly sexualized when I was young so I'd always dress in big t-shirts and shapeless stuff my whole entire life. I didn't like that I had hips already. I didn't like that I had boobs. I hated it because I didn't like that kind of attention. Being young, I didn't know that people oversexualized Black girls in general."

Now that she is channeling both her prosperity and pain into her music, she is able to both heal and give us a glimpse into her soul and alter-ego Riley. This has proven to be beneficial for the artist as she encounters several losses in 2020 of Naya Rivera and Jas Waters, two powerhouses gone entirely too soon. Though navigating through the pain of losing loved ones is a life-long journey, she is committed to living her life authentically and unapologetically moving forward:

"Many people often think that grieving is a destination. Some days I think of her and I laugh and some days I think of her and I cry. I also lost an incredible friend to suicide this year who is an incredible writer and I was looking forward to working with her, Jas Waters. So that was really difficult. She committed suicide and she died a couple of weeks before Naya so it was like a double blow."

As far as the future, Amber is taking it day by day like the rest of us, making sure to give thanks for what she already has and empowering others to know what they want and go get it.

Be sure to check out Amber's New Single BGE.

Featured image by Ron Adar / Shutterstock.com

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When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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