When you hear Amerie’s name, you think of her smash hits responsible for some of the most notable R&B lyrics of the early 2000s, like “Why Don’t We Fall In Love” and “1 Thing” - including the Eve remix. But there’s one more thing about Amerie that we can add to her resume in addition to being the sound of 2006, and that’s being an author.
The “Gotta Work” singer released her debut children’s picture book,You Will Do Great Things, inspired by her son River. With the development of her then-future son’s mind at the top of her mind, Amerie would read to River while he was in the womb in an effort to not only hear the sound of his mother’s voice but to relay sweet and meaningful messages as his organs and subconscious began to form simultaneously. “Maybe there would be that kind of cadence and that kind of feel he would be familiar with when he was born,” Amerie told me retrospectively during our phone interview.
Once River was born, she continued to read to him as regularly scheduled programming when he was inside of her, but it wasn’t until she held him in the natural world that Amerie realized how much she really wanted to share with this new life. Between 14 and 16 weeks old, Amerie noticed how her son began to turn the pages of books by himself because he was already so familiar with the cadence of his mother’s reading voice - even down to the indication of when a line was done on a page. While she realized that her son was able to recognize the action of reading, something clicked in the “Why R U” singer’s head that it was just as important for her son to see himself represented in the books that she was sharing with him.
“We would have books that feature kids from all different backgrounds, but I wanted more books in which he could see himself,” Amerie told xoNecole. “I really wanted to create a very special universal message book that was also very specific to how I was feeling. I knew that I was feeling pretty much how most parents feel, but that would have that beautiful and strong message about life, and all the things that he can do, and all the great things that I am certain he's going to do, and all the love that surrounds him from the past and the present. All of those things were in a book that featured a child who looked like him. That was extremely important to me.”
Following the release of her children’s book, I caught up with the Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter about prioritizing self-love as a mother and wife, demystifying the notion that women can’t have it all, and addressing the fears of being a mother raising a Black son in America.
It’s This One Thing…About Reading
For as long as she could remember, Amerie turned to reading and the world of literature as a form of self-care and escapism from the physical beings around her. Whenever someone would ask her about her favorite hobbies, she would not hesitate to point to either the art of writing or the wonder of reading. She sees reading as a way to continue to expand her mind as an adult, to learn more about the world around her, and to "develop empathy" for new cultural backgrounds and walks of life.
In fact, she loves reading so much that she has a wall in her home dedicated to her collection of books in addition to all of the books located in her personal library, River's room, the guest room, and throughout her house. As a new author, she recognizes that the amount of vulnerability that she experiences as a writer is not equivalent to the feeling when she's writing a book.
While as a fictional author, people who may or may not like your work are not necessarily connected to you as a human being, Amerie acknowledges the powers that lie within her pen game as an author to convey messages of both society's shortcomings and beautiful beings in a children's book. "On one hand, I feel like there's safety because people could either not like the story or they will. It's no indictment on you, necessarily," Amerie explained. "However, when you write something, you really are letting people into your head. When you create these characters, because all these characters represent some part of yourself, it's really like laying yourself bare. In that way, you allow people to see a lot."
"When you create these characters, because all these characters represent some part of yourself, it's really like laying yourself bare. In that way, you allow people to see a lot.”
The “Pretty Brown Eyes” singer believes in the power of commitment to a book, especially when you have the reader’s eyes and ears for hours to the point in which they become the character. “It's that whole holding up the mirror to society and allowing people to see it in a way that's a little bit more subliminal than someone just having an outright conversation with someone who may or may not want to have that conversation,” Amerie said. “I think you’re able to tackle more regarding life in that way.”
In comparison to her music career, Amerie notes that you can impact someone in a shorter time span than a book because a song only lasts between 3-5 minutes on average. She leans on songs as a way to curate a vibe and evoke an immediate feeling as opposed to encouraging lingering thoughts about the state of the culture and the world around us.
“You can uplift, make them melancholy, make them kind of feel sad, make them reflect, make them want to dance. You really can control. It's almost like you're hijacking a person's emotions when you're creating music,” Amerie noted excitedly as she realized the power she possessed as a Grammy award-winning singer and songwriter.
Amerie continued, “Even though you're not letting them in your head, and you do have much more of a buffer between yourself and your art, as far as people may know how you're feeling, they don't necessarily know what you're thinking about any given thing. They may, depending on what you write, but it's not necessarily a given, unlike a book, where you have all these characters running around that are all these different parts of yourselves, but they will know what you're about to a certain extent when they're listening to the music.”
Nothing Like Loving Mommy
In addition to being a singer, songwriter, and author, there are two more roles that Amerie would always put above all - and that's being a mother and wife. But how does she do it all and take time to take care of herself?
"I actually don't put myself first. That's something I'm working on," she admittedly laughed.
While she acknowledges that she doesn't make herself a priority in her life, Amerie doesn't feel the need to check herself to do so. In fact, she's become so accustomed to how things are that she's begun to accept such is life. "I'm kind of fine with that, but I do realize that I do have to make time for myself too. I certainly don't put myself first. That's not what I do at all," she told xoNecole.
When she does have a moment, Amerie pours into herself through creation and writing, whether that be literary or musical. She even noted how her son is aware of when it's time to be creative and practice solitude, but River still enjoys being around his mother and being involved in all of her activities. "My son knows mommy's writing time. That's when mommy's doing the thing that I love to do," Amerie said. While she usually doesn't record her music while River is home, she does her best to incorporate her son into whenever "mommy's creating" because "it's fun for him."
Like anyone else who may be a full-time parent, career-driven woman, or an overall on-the-go human being, alone time is essential to recharge her battery, but Amerie practices an open-door policy with her son as an exception for interruption.
"He's the most important thing. He knows that I could be writing, but if it's really important like you really need to give me kisses or you need to tell me something, you can come in. It's an open door," Amerie told xoNecole. "That's important to me that he knows that because I never want him to grow up thinking that this one thing was more important than him, and I don't think he would think that because that's not how I present things."
Retrospectively, Amerie realized that she's only had about three or four massages since the birth of her four-year-old son, which her own husband encourages her to do more of. "The thing is, the way I handle my time is I have a lot to do, [but] I'm never going to sacrifice time from my child," she said adamantly.
Amerie continued, "Whatever I need to do, I can fit it in. We'll make it work. I'll stay up late or whatever it is, but those times are very important, like going with him to school, picking him up, family meals. Sometimes though, Mommy might have to miss dinner, and I don't like that, but [I'm] never missing bedtime because there's other certain things that for myself are important to me. "As she buckled down on her non-negotiables, she added that every parent has theirs, but she stands ten-toes down on hers, no matter how tough achieving the balance is.
"You always feel like there's a ball dropping somewhere, but my own personal thing is, I refuse to let the ball drop in the mom zone. I'm not going to do that," Amerie said powerfully. She thought back to her own parents, who she said were present in her life and encouraged her to do the best she can and always put her child first. However, she knew that it didn't mean to put herself on the back burner and not care for herself at all, but to know that child care and raising a human being is more than just cute Instagram moments and first words."It's such a beautiful gift, being a parent, and it's one that I take really seriously and that I love."
Why Don’t We Let Women Do It All?
Amerie has always been a proud multihyphenate, and she's not the first woman to do so by balancing motherhood, personal time, her professional life, and all while looking good doing it. We've seen Rihanna run her beauty empire with Baby Fenty No. 1 and No. 2 on the way, and we've seen Beyoncé be a mother of three while planning a world tour and dropping one of the best albums of the decade with Renaissance.
But why is it that we still don't have total faith that women can truly have it all? We asked Amerie, and she said that we certainly can - but with some caveats.
"I've always been a big believer in any person, and we're talking specifically about women, can have it all, but not necessarily at the same time. Because there will be concessions you have to make," Amerie explained. She continued to express that you can make sure with every fiber of your being that nothing goes wrong while you're in mommy mode. You may slow up or backlog in other areas of your life because you're not giving it that same energy or attention.
Amerie added, "Let's just say you are 'hashtag mommy-ing,' and you are able to balance your work as well because maybe you're staying up later. You're tired, but maybe you are not seeing your friends as much as you wanted to, so it's been harder to maintain more of your friendship. I do think that these things all come at a cost, and maybe you're just balancing it all, but that can be very, very difficult."
She fully acknowledged that women routinely carry a lot of the weight of parenting, both physically and emotionally, in addition to the weight of keeping their marriage alive, having friends, and keeping food on the table. In the same breath, Amerie wants women who empathize with her to know that they're doing the best they can with what they have - and it's okay to give yourself time and grace.
"I've always been a big believer in any person, and we're talking specifically about women, can have it all, but not necessarily at the same time. Because there will be concessions you have to make."
"It's important, I think, for moms to know and women to know that you're not failing. It's very easy to see people doing things and [seeing] they're doing it well, and they're making it look so effortless, and it's just like, Well, why can't I get this right? Why am I struggling? Why am I not able to be on top of everything? And no one's on top of it," Amerie reassured. "You can't compare because you don't really know what's going on in everyone's life."
As a suggestion, the singer noted that instead of focusing on how life can be in disarray and escaping for a few moments in between, one would be better off establishing balance by picking two areas to excel in and putting them at the top of the priority list.
"Everyone has those fears. Everyone wonders if they could do it. You can do a lot more than you think. You can handle a lot more than you think, but it's not something that you have to do just because you feel like everyone does it," she encouraged first-time moms about entering the journey of motherhood. "If it's something that you feel called to do or you feel excited about, absolutely, but if you're feeling like you don't want to, then there's no need to do that. You don't have to follow anyone else's path."
Amerie added, "It is a very amazing thing, and it is a very life-changing thing. It is a very miraculous thing. Even though there are 8 billion people on this planet, the birth of a child, bringing another human being into this world, shepherding in another soul, that is a miracle every time."
For more of Amerie, follow her on Instagram @amerie. Her book, You Will Do Great Things, is out now.
Featured image courtesy of Amerie
Black women are not a monolith. We all are deserving of healing and wholeness despite what we've been through, how much money we have in the bank, or what we look like. Most importantly, we are enough—even when we are not working, earning, or serving.
Welcome to Black Girl Whole, your space to find the wellness routine that aligns with you! This brand-new marketplace by xoNecole is a safe space for Black women to activate their healing, find the inspiration to rest, and receive reassurance that we are one small act away from finding our happiness.
Want to discover where you are on your wellness journey? You don't have to look far. In partnership with European Wax Center, we're bringing you a customized wellness quiz to help you up your wellness game. Answer our short series of questions to figure out which type of wellness lover you are, what you need to bring more balance into your life, and then go deeper by shopping products geared towards clearing your mind, healing your body, and soothing your spirit.
Ready to get whole? Take our quiz now!
The couple, who live a relatively private life aside from occasionally attending some red-carpet events, have been together for over two decades and share four sons, Miles, Zander, and Zion Tate. The identity of Larenz and Tomasina's fourth son hasn’t been publicly released.
In an interview with Buzzfeed's Cocoa Butter, the 47-year-old shared that he met Tomasina in 2000 when Jamie was throwing a party in Oakland, California, for NBA All-Star Weekend. During the June discussion, Larenz disclosed that at the event, Jamie was set to link up with a woman he invited to the party and needed a wingman because she brought a friend, which happened to be Tomasina.
Although the Love Jones star was initially apprehensive, he decided to speak to Tomasina. The pair got along so well that they exchanged numbers at the end of the night, and the rest is history.
"Jamie had a party, there was someone he was going to meet that he invited, and she had a friend. Foxx was like, 'Look, I need you to be a wingman and entertain her.' I was like, 'Bro, I ain't your wingman knock it off,'" he said. "That friend would ultimately become the person that I spend my life journey with as my wife. Twenty-three years ago."
In honor of Larenz and Tomasina's love story and 23-year romance, xoNecole looks back at the important events that occurred in their lives since they met that fateful day at Jamie's party and how they have maintained their loving bond over the years.
In 2000, Larenz and Tomasina met at Jamie Foxx's All-Star Party in Oakland, California. The couple began dating shortly after exchanging information and frequently seeing each other whenever Tomasina was in town.
After six years of dating, the couple welcomed their first son Miles Tate in July 2006. Four months later, Larenz and Tomasina officially tied the knot on November 30, 2006.
In 2008, the Tates expanded their family once again following the birth of their second son Zander Tate in June 2008.
Larenz and Tomasina welcomed their third son Zion Tate in 2013. Although there are limited details regarding Zion's official date of birth, many outlets report that he was allegedly born in November of that year.
In 2016, the couple reached a milestone in their relationship as they commemorated their tenth wedding anniversary.
Nearly two years following the joyous occasion, Larenz and Tomasina's love appears to be still going strong because in August 2018, their close friend Kristen Bellamy, wife to comedian Bill Bellamy, shared that the pair were expecting their fourth son. So far, Larenz and Tomasina's son's name and date of birth have yet to be released to the public.
Larenz On Maintaining His 23-Year Union With Tomasina
Although, for the most part, Larenz and Tomasina's relationship has been away from the spotlight to maintain their privacy, the Power star did share that showing affection is the secret to keeping their love alive after more than two decades.
In the same interview with Buzzfeed's Cocoa Butter, Larenz revealed one of the ways he expresses his love to Tomasina while talking to his sons about the importance of healthy relationships and how to implement them.
"I always talk to my kids about that. I say, 'Who's the most affectionate between me and mommy?' They're like, 'Ugh, dad,'" he stated.
"Because what I want them to see is that's something that's genuine. But I think it's important for them to see a man express hisself to a woman with emotion, love, and affection. So, you got to be affectionate to your lady. We're driving in the car, and we taking our kids to school. I might just tell her she's the sunshine no matter what."
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Feature image by Gonzalo Marroquin/Getty Images for MACRO