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'Ready To Love' Fan Favorite Ashlee Akins Spills The Tea On Reality, Love & Alexx

Culture & Entertainment

Many of us have been oh-so-good at chasing the bag and killing it in the professional and business games but have been not so successful at reaching our dream bae goals. OWN's Ready To Love is a sexy new series, co-hosted by Thomas "Nephew Tommy" Miles, that follows a group of Atlanta's most successful Black men and women in their 30s and 40s, as they try to get through past hurt, find ways to let go of baggage, and put focus on finding someone to share their lives –– and their coins –– with.


Ashlee Akins, a Jackson, Tennessee native, speech therapist, and aspiring entertainer, is among them, letting cameras follow her as she moves through the ups and downs of pursuing a successful relationship in a city where recent findings show there are 80,000 more single women than single men. (Talk about a dating gap!)

On the show, there's a focus on the men and their perspective in finding the right woman, and Akins has made it as one of the final few women remaining on the show. She doesn't sweat the statistics, nor the stigmas and pressures associated with dating after 30, deciding instead to take it all in stride and turn the tables to do what works for her.

Ashlee Akins/AA Dimensions

"I'm a ball of fun and a breath of fresh air, " the 31-year-old said during an exclusive interview with xoNecole. "Being on the show, I was put in a room with a bunch of different people who are all awesome. I've never been around so many people who have their lives together, and all they were lacking were [love] relationships. I knew that [they] took the proper steps [professionally] in life but just forgot about their own [personal] wants and needs."

It can get a bit tough avoiding the formulaic, picky, or super-calculated route toward landing a long-time bae while in your 30s and 40s –– hey, who has time and money to waste? –– but Akins likes to let things flow while enjoying the adventure of exploring her options.

"From episode one to now, [dating] was more [about] interrogating than laughing. You see people mingle and it's more about, 'Well, what do you think about this or that?'"

Akins likes to take a more relaxed approach, choosing a good time over a more serious vibe when relating with a potential beau. "This is not a debate. It's not politics. It's love. Smile. Everybody's so rigid about finding that one that they forget about their own personal happiness and having fun in the journey."

Ashlee Akins/AA Dimensions

"Everybody's so rigid about finding that one that they forget about their own personal happiness and having fun in the journey."

She's had some hot and heavy dances with love on the show –– particularly with a tall, chocolate entrepreneurial brother named Alexx –– and she brings spunk and sassiness in personality, demeanor, and style. She rocks a super-cute, spikey 'do that's The Cut Life-worthy, embellished stiletto nails in bold colors, and a honest, tell-it-like-it is candor. On a recent date with Alexx, a trucking company owner who was the last man in the house left with two women to choose from, she said, "I know you noticed that I don't kiss. I'm just the type of woman where I feel I shouldn't rush anything. When I feel the bag is secure –– when my man is my man –– that's when I'm open to that."

She hasn't always had such confidence in matters of the heart. In college, she met the man she thought she would marry, but he wasn't hearing the same wedding bells, and they ended up going their separate ways. After college, Akins moved to Atlanta, where she rode an emotional roller coaster of relationships that often went from good to bad. "I was dealing with men who were untrue, loved to lie, or had multiple women. After having a good one, then a failed relationship, then a good one, then another failed relationship, I had to say, 'OK Ashlee, this is a pattern. It's you.' I felt it was time to stop accepting things that didn't sound good from the start. I didn't understand my worth at the time."

She decided to stop dating, shift focus on her career, and work toward self-love and self-investment. "I engulfed myself in my career, wholeheartedly. I had to boost myself up and get men out of my head. Sometimes we can get lost in the sauce and think that we need a man, and we forget to boost ourselves up. I became a hot commodity to myself, and then, I knew, I could present myself to someone else. I definitely had to do some soul-searching and stop settling."

Ashlee Akins/AA Dimensions

"I had to boost myself up and get men out of my head. Sometimes we can get lost in the sauce and think that we need a man, and we forget to boost ourselves up."

Beyond finding love, Akins has always had her sights set on a career in entertainment, and she's a woman who's not shy about making the right boss moves to become an actress and TV host. Before joining the show, Akins juggled her day job, helping youth in the Georgia school system, with going on auditions to get gigs that would allow her to satisfy her acting bug.

Akins shared that her career as a speech therapist has allowed her to make a difference, and she wants to be able to use her communications skills in entertainment, representing for women who want to motivate the masses and have a damn good time while doing it. She has a budding lifestyle and empowerment brand called AA Dimensions, which she launched with her mother, Angela Bond.

"I'm all about positivity. I like to keep it real and happy. If I can put a smile on most people's faces through a platform, and I can give something I know I live by to someone else, I know my job is done."

If it's up to Akins, Ready To Love won't be the last time you'll see her on any screen. "I plan to get into movies, commercials and hosting. I want to keep going as far and as long as I can. I see myself, professionally, with a business that is growing and doing well. As far as love, I'd like to see myself married –– to a particular someone –– planning our lives together. And hey, his name might be Alexx," she added with a laugh. "Just stay tuned."

To keep up with Ashlee, follow her on Twitter. The finale airs this Saturday, only on OWN.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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