7 Reasons To Love Where You Are—Right At This Very Moment
Two things that I made a concerted effort to do last year were make peace with a lot of areas of my life and to study more of what it means to be a minimalist (you can read a great article that breaks down what it means to be a minimalist here). In order to reach both of those goals, I had to let go of a lot of things—not just tangible ones either. I had to release some people, some perspectives and certain expectations as it directly related to those people and perspectives. I won't lie—doing some of that kicked my butt; altered me in some ways too. But if someone were to walk up to me right now and ask what pursuing peace and becoming more of a minimalist ultimately resulted in, I'd have to say that they both taught me to live in the moment.
How? It's fascinating, really. When you're not out here trying to buy a ton of stuff, maintain a billion relationships or define success based on other people's standards instead of your own, it's amazing how you're not so anxious or stressed about the future. It's not that you don't care about it (that's irresponsible); but it's like you take on the words that Christ himself once said—and instructed: "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." (Matthew 6:34—NKJV) You realize that all you really should concern yourself with is doing your best, right here and right now. Everything else is either karma (the result of past "in the moment" choices that you made) or something that is totally out of your control. And acknowledging this reality? It creates a kind of woosah that releases a lot of overthinking, burdens and stress. And that makes life so much easier, across the board.
If you get where I'm coming from in theory, but you are still trying to master how to actually get into the present more often, I've got some reasons, via personal experience, that can (hopefully) get you to stop worrying so much about the past or obsessing over the future. Because really—why do that when the present is where it's at? Literally.
REASON #1: No Matter What, Now Is a Teachable Moment
A poet by the name of X.J. Kennedy once said, "The purpose of time is to prevent everything from happening all at once." Another way to look at that quote is, "The purpose of time is to keep you from becoming totally overwhelmed"—or more overwhelmed than you already are. Whether this very moment is showing you how to be more patient, how to focus solely on the matters at hand, how to stop worrying so much or how to stop pushing yourself so hard—if you get really quiet, breathe deeply and embrace living in the present, every single moment that you're in can teach you something; especially about yourself.
The more you learn, the more you grow. The more you grow, the more prepared you are for what the next moment has in store.
That's one of the best things about time—it instructs us how to pace ourselves, to not rush and to accept how every moment flows in our lives. It took me a long time—too long—to learn that if time thought I was ready for more than what is right in front of me, I would have it. Embracing this fact has totally altered how I choose to live my life for the better. (More on this in a bit.)
REASON #2: You’ve Got All That You Need to Handle the Present
A signature quote that I have posted as a signature in one of my email accounts is this—"You have everything you need, right now, at this very moment, to accomplish what YHVH wants you to do—right now, at this very moment." YHWH is "Yahweh" which is a Hebrew title for God. When you're a freelancer like I am, life can sometimes be mad unpredictable. There have been times when, without any warning at all, I have gone from being able to handle all of my bills to finding out that "my services are no longer needed" and immediately having to figure out what's next. Back when I tried to run ahead of time, it would totally freak me out. But as I worked more and more on only controlling what I could control while also realizing that even if my mind wanted me to imagine myself on the street and starving, neither of those things were happening in the moment, my anxiety subsided.
I still had my crib, the lights were still on, and food was in the fridge. The news that I got in the present was just alerting me to make a different kind of plan for my future. But in the now, I was fine. And, God willing, with the right plan in place, I would remain fine next week and the weeks to follow. Every time that way of thinking proved to be right. Did I always have what I wanted in the present? Nope. But what I needed was always provided—"For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him." (Matthew 6:8—NKJV) Most times, that is exactly the case.
REASON #3: Living in the Moment Keeps Us Calm, Stable and Centered
Calm, stable and centered. Unfortunately, I don't think a lot of people realize just how powerful it is to live in this kind of energy space. When you're calm, you're free from disturbance. When you're stable, you're firm, steady and, as one of my favorite dictionary definitions puts it, "not wavering or changeable, as in character or purpose". When you're centered, you're able to do something that many human beings have yet to comprehend, let alone master—you can find balance between emotion and logic.
A couple of years ago, when I had one of the most devastating heartbreaks of my life, for a second time (long story, chile), as I was grieving it all out, I realized that a big part of what had me so shook was the fact that the life I thought I was going to have didn't appear to be panning out that way. You know what that means, right? It wasn't just that I loved someone who didn't love me the same way; it was that my feelings caused me to make all sorts of future plans rather than simply love in the moment. Looking back, I honestly was probably more disappointed in how I thought my future life was going to be more than anything else.
Fast forward to now and I love differently. I have standards and expectations, no doubt (we all should). But my emotions (what I want to happen) are not running so far ahead that logic (what is actually transpiring) is going by the wayside. And that? That has me in a state of tranquility that I've never really had before. And trust me, when you are approaching life and love from a calm, stable and centered head and heart space, nothing can touch you like it can when you're…not.
REASON #4: Living in the Moment also Encourages Gratitude
There's a Scripture in the Bible that says, "So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; It takes away the life of its owners." (Proverbs 1:19—NKJV) I know that a lot of people think of the word "greedy" from the perspective of folks wanting monetary gain but, personally, I believe that you can be greedy when it comes to how you process time too. Being greedy is about being eager. You're preoccupied with being married? Greedy. You're obsessed over your biological clock? Greedy. You can't seem to finish anything you start because you don't like waiting for its manifestation? That is also being greedy because, again, being greedy is about being eager and, when you're eager, you don't really know how to enjoy the moment you're in. As a direct result, you're focused more on getting than being grateful for what you already have.
If you hate being single so much, ask some of your married friends what they miss about living the single life. If all you can think about is becoming a mommy, check out articles on our site like "I Am A 27-Year-Old Struggling Mom & I Regret Having My Child" and "For The Women Racing To Have Children Before It's 'Too Late'", just so you can get a bit of a reality check. If your eagerness has you procrastinating or quitting projects, use this time to create shorter term goals on a weekly basis that you can complete so that you can actually get things done.
The more you remove eagerness from your life, the more space you'll have for gratitude to come in. Gratitude is about recognizing what you already have and giving thanks for it.
You know, a novelist by the name of Cynthia Ozick once said, "We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude." It's pretty easy to take what you already have for granted…until you lose it. Maintaining a spirit of gratitude keeps this kind of reality check, ever in the forefront of our minds. That way, we're not so obsessed with wanting what we don't have that we're not thankful for what we do.
REASON #5: This Moment Will NEVER Come Again. Cherish It.
I get it. The moment that you might be in right now could very possibly suck in every imaginable way possible. But here's the thing about that—if you reflect on your past, there have been other times when you probably felt the same way (or very similar). But now that those moments have come and gone, if you're really honest with yourself, they probably strengthened you, matured you, or prepared you for something in the way that nothing else quite possibly could. Same goes for where you are in this moment.
My greatest disappointments in people taught me how to not treat others. My biggest financial blows taught me to respect my money and resources more. My greatest heartbreaks showed me how to love myself better. Bottom line, whether the moment you are in is good or not so good, if you choose to let it evolve you into an even greater person, it is something to cherish. In spite of whatever is happening right now, this moment will never come quite this way ever again. Take it in. Grow from it. One day, you'll look back and be glad that you did.
6. This “Dot” Is Connecting You to a Much Bigger Picture
Definitely one of my favorite quotes on the planet is the one by a pastor by the name of John Piper—"God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them." Yeah, I think that one of the hardest things for us to do is accept that whatever is happening (or not happening) today, this week or even this year is simply a "dot" or a part of the puzzle piece to a much greater picture. You may not to be able to fully comprehend why something is happening (or not happening) in this moment but it's important to remain humble enough to remember that you are not the only one who plays a role in your life story. Other people need to come in and out. Things need to transpire behind the scenes.
Timing needs to cause some things to come together and fall apart in order for the ultimate masterpiece to reveal itself.
So, no matter how you may be feeling about right now, try and keep your emotions in check. This moment is connected to something in your past and will also connect to something else in your future. If you're open to seeing things from this perspective, it will all make sense. One day.
REASON #7: Things Tend to Come to Us Once We’re Ready for Them
I kind of already touched on this, but I want to go a little deeper because, if you're someone who really struggles with living in the moment, I think grasping this final point can help you to do it better. Whenever I'm talking to a single woman who desires to be married and she goes on and on about how "ready" she is, I tend to say something along the lines of, "So, you're 'completely prepared or in fit condition for immediate action or use'? How do you know that?" If there's one thing that, shoot, I'd say 95 percent of married folks will admit about marriage it's that, although some went in believing they were ready, they realized they had absolutely no clue what they were getting themselves into.
Personally, I think it's pretty arrogant to assume that you are "completely prepared" for marriage and so the hold up must be your future spouse. And boy, to go into that kind of relationship without humility and self-awareness is only setting you up to have your ego knocked down a peg or two—or 20. When I wrote articles like "If Your Man Is Missing These Things, Wait Before Marrying Him" and "Ask These Sex-Related Questions BEFORE You Marry Him", by no means was I implying that we shouldn't look within to see where we stand on these points too. For instance, one thing that I desire in my husband is financial stability and responsibility but guess who is just now really getting her past taxes together? Now what I look like demanding my partner be what I am not? That is the epitome of hypocrisy.
One of the best things about living in the moment is it gives you the opportunity to get ready for what is to come. Time is wise and loving enough to slow things down and gift us with the present so we can do so.
So, even if you do struggle with embracing the present, I hope all of these reasons have offered some insight into just how important it is to love where you are. The moment is here because you need it. When you don't, it will pass. Once time deems that you are ready for it to.
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:
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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 (email@example.com) 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.
Chief Mom Officer: 23 Quotes From Working Moms Finding Their Balance
The truth is, Black moms create magic every single day. Whether we're juggling motherhood with a busy 9-5, a thriving business, or staying at home to run a household, no day is short of amazing when you're managing life as a mommy. This Mother's Day, xoNecole is giving flowers to CMOs (Chief Mom Officers) in business who exemplify the strength it takes to balance work with motherhood.
We've commissioned these ladies, who are pillars in their respective industries, for tidbits of advice to get you through the best and worst days of mothering. Here, they share their "secret sauce" and advice for other moms trying to find their rhythm.
Emmelie De La Cruz, Chief Strategist at One Day CMO
"My mom friends and I all laugh and agree: Motherhood is the ghettoest thing you will ever do. It's beautiful and hard all at the same time, but one day you will wake up and feel like 'I got this' and you will get the hang of it. After 4 months, I finally felt like I found my footing to keep my kid and myself alive, but it took vulnerability to take off the cape and be honest about the areas that I didn't have it all together. The healing (physically and emotionally) truly does happen in community - whatever and whoever that looks like for you."
Alizè V. Garcia, Director Of Social & Community Impact at Nike
"I would tell a new mom or a prospective mother that they must give themselves grace, understand and remember there is no right way to do this thing and have fun! When I had my daughter three and a half years ago, I was petrified! I truly had no clue about what to do and how I was going to do it. But with time, my confidence grew and I realized quickly that I have all the tools I need to be the mother I want to be."
Nikki Osei-Barrett, Publicist + Co-Founder of The Momference
"There's no balance. I'm dropping sh*t everywhere! However, my secret sauce is pursuing interests and hobbies outside of what's required of me and finding time to workout. Stronger body equals = stronger mind."
Lauren Grove, Chief Experience Architect, The Grant Access, LLC
"I try to give myself grace. That’s my mantra for this phase of motherhood…grace. I won’t be able to get everything done. To have a spotless house. To not lose my cool after an exhausting day. Those things can’t happen all of the time. But I can take a deep breath and know tomorrow is another day and my blessings are more plentiful than my pitfalls."
Rachel Nicks, Founder & CEO of Birth Queen
"You have the answers within you. Don’t compare yourself to others. Curate your life to work for you. Ask for help."
Tanisha Colon-Bibb, Founder + CEO Rebelle Agency + Rebelle Management
"I know love doesn't pay bills but when I am overwhelmed with work or client demands I take a moment to play with my baby and be reminded of the love, energy, science, and Godliness that went into his birth. I am brightened by his smile and laugh. I remember I am someone's parent and not just a work horse. That at the end of the day everything will work out for the good of my sanity and the love within my life."
Christina Brown, Founder of LoveBrownSugar & BabyBrownSugar
"Learning your rhythm as a mom takes time and can be uncomfortable when you’re in a season of overwhelm. Constantly check in with yourself and assess what’s working and what’s not. Get the help you need without feeling guilty or ashamed of needing it."
Mecca Tartt, Executive Director of Startup Runway Foundation
"I want to be the best for myself, my husband, children and company. However, the reality is you can have it all but not at the same time. My secret sauce is outsourcing and realizing that it’s okay to have help in order for me to perform at the highest level."
Jen Hayes Lee, Head Of Marketing at The Bump (The Knot Worldwide)
"My secret sauce is being direct and honest with everyone around me about what I need to be successful in all of my various "jobs". Setting boundaries is one thing, but if you're the only one who knows they exist, your partners at home and on the job can't help you maintain them. I also talk to my kids like adults and let them know why mommy needs to go to this conference or get this massage...they need to build an appreciation for my needs too!"
Whitney Gayle-Benta, Chief Music Officer JKBX
"What helps me push through each day is the motivation to continue by thinking about my son. All my efforts, though exhausting, are to create a wonderful life for him."
Ezinne Okoro, Global Chief Inclusion, Equity, & Diversity Officer at Wunderman Thompson,
"The advice I received that I’ll pass on is, you will continue to figure it out and find your rhythm as your child grows into new stages. Trust your nurturing intuition, parent on your terms, and listen to your child."
Jovian Zayne, CEO of The OnPurpose Movement
"I live by the personal mantra: 'You can’t be your best self by yourself.' My life feels more balanced when I offer the help I can give and ask for the help I need. This might mean outsourcing housecleaning for my home, or hiring additional project management support for my business."
Simona Noce Wright, Co-Founder of District Motherhued and The Momference
"Each season of motherhood (depending on age, grade, workload) requires a different rhythm. With that said, be open to learning, to change, and understand that what worked for one season may not work the other...and that's okay."
Janaye Ingram, Director of Community Partner Programs and Engagement at Airbnb
"My daughter's smile and sweet spirit help me to feel gratitude when I'm overwhelmed. I want her to see a woman who doesn't quit when things get hard."
Codie Elaine Oliver, CEO & Founder of Black Love
"I try to listen to my body and simply take a break. With 3 kids and a business with 10+ team members, I often feel overwhelmed. I remind myself that I deserve grace for everything I'm juggling, I take a walk or have a snack or even head home to see my kids, and then I get back to whatever I need to get done."
Jewel Burks Solomon, Managing Partner at Collab Capital
"Get comfortable with the word ‘no’. Be very clear about your non-negotiables and communicate them to those around you."
Bridget Bogee, Marketing Lead At Meta
"Ask for help and always prioritize making time for you."
Julee Wilson, Executive Director at BeautyUnited and Beauty Editor-at-Large at Cosmopolitan
"Understand you can’t do it alone — and that’s ok. Relinquish the need to control everything. Create a village and lean on them."
Salwa Benyaich, Director Of Pricing and Planning at Premion
"Most days I really try to shut my computer off by 6 pm; there are always exceptions of course when it comes to big deals or larger projects but having this as a baseline allows me to be much more present with my kids. I love the fact that I can either help with homework or be the designated driver to at least one afterschool activity. Work can be draining but there is nothing more emotionally draining than when you feel as though you are missing out on moments with your kids."
Brooke Ellis, Head of Global Marketing & Product Launches at Amazon Music
My calendar, prayer, pilates class at Forma, a good playlist, and oatmilk lattes all help get me through any day.
Courtney Beauzile, Global Director of Client and Business Development at Shearman & Sterling
My husband is a partner who steps in when I just can’t. My mom and my MIL come through whenever and however I need. My kids have many uncles and aunts and they will lend an ear, go over homework, teach life lessons, be a presence or a prayer warrior depending on the day.
Robin Snipes, Chief of Staff at Meta
"Enjoy the time you have to yourself because once kids come those times will be few and far between."
Monique Bivens, CEO & Founder at Brazilian Babes LLC.
"For new moms, it is very important that you get back into a habit or routine of something you use to do before you were pregnant. Consider the actives and things that give you the most joy and make the time to do them."
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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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