Let's face it, when it comes to a television show or movie centered around Black women, there will likely be a few hybrids of the "normals" in the friend group. The "saddity" or high-maintenance one that all the guys find their noses wide open over; the free-spirited one that's just kind of floating on this rock called Earth; the super Type-A friend who has a banging wardrobe and a not-so-banging love life; and, if we're lucky, you'll have the plus-size friend. You know her; she's typically the comedic relief who always has advice but who we rarely get to peek at behind the curtain of her (romantic and/or sex) life. Yeah, you know her.
Don't get me wrong, I love seeing the representation of women over the size 14. Still, the love is fleeting when the layers of who plus-size women genuinely are in the real world don't fully translate onto any screen I see them on. (P.S. Technically, "plus size" is sometimes considered a size 10/12. However, I'm specifically talking about the women who have always had to head to the dimly lit back of the store to find one rack of often unfashionable clothes to choose from. Yeah, her.)
First things first: nearly 68% of American women identify as plus-size, making us the average size in the country. More plus-size women are living fly, whole lives than not. So why are we made to feel like supporting characters with dimensions as shallow as kiddie pools?
Think back to any of your favorite "old school" to "new school" shows or movies where plus-size women are included, and you'll see what I mean. From Kelli on Insecure to Kim on Moesha and even Nikki Parker on The Parkers, the vision of the plus-size Black woman is often one-dimensional. Chances are she's loud, hypersexual, always the comedian, the one who chases men, and, oh, did I mention she's often seen as more "Mom jeans" than "MILF”?
We see that trope even in one of the most brilliant series, Insecure by Issa Rae. Early on, I was invested in the character Kelli (played by Natasha Rothwell) because she looked like me; she was armed with sarcasm and comedic timing that made me proud. She was just unapologetically and confidently fly. Kelli was the one everyone in her crew turned to for advice and words of reality and wisdom, and sis always had an excellent sex recommendation to try out, too.
Merie W. Wallace/HBO
Simply put: she was everyone's best friend. Kelli was always there. Always the life of the party. Always real. Still, in all the beauty of her character, during the five seasons of Insecure, Kelli was the friend you loved but felt like you never truly got a chance to get to know.
Compared to all her girls, she was the only character we never saw in a consistent relationship or even being pursued. Did Kelli participate in online dating? Had a man broken her heart? We could have explored so many unknowns and areas to give Kelli as much depth as the other girls. Kelli was flourishing and beautiful, yet, we never saw her being pursued in the ways the other friends were…only her aggressively chasing. Paired with other depictions of plus-size women, it's easy to believe the truth is that all plus-size women have this as a reality. Also, unlike all the other characters on Insecure, we never saw the inside of Kelli's bedroom or even her home, or her dating (being fingered under the table is a good time, but it isn't a date, y'all…).
The searies finale aired late last year and I've watched it no less than ten times. Spoiler alert: It wasn't until the last 30 minutes of the finale that we were finally able to see Kelli fall in love, get pregnant and reveal the layers of herself. I loved watching her exist in her evolved vision. I also felt cheated. I'd had five seasons seeing the other girls grow romantically and had only a sped-up glimpse of seeing someone who looks like me be loved and in love.
I felt like she deserved more…like we deserved more. Not only for the representation of plus-size women but because ALL of us deserve to see the reality of how we're flawed and living, celebrated.
Let's be very clear, the dimensions of plus-size women go beyond the boxes we're often placed in under the guise of being inclusive. That plus-size woman's desirability doesn't diminish because she has rolls, or because she has a FUPA, or because she's thicker in the waist or thighs. Even in reality shows, a plus-size woman is often solely seen as the back-up for the thinner friend. If they are shown in relationships, it's as if the world is amazed at the thought of someone loving a bigger woman. Despite what you've heard, plus-size women aren't out here begging and chasing as an everyday means of finding a partner.
Nikki Parker may have chased Professor Oglevee on The Parkers, but that level of unapologetic desperation for a man (who doesn't want you) is not the norm; I don't want anyone - plus size or not - to think it is. I love to be the bearer of great news: plus-size women are being loved, having sex and incredible orgasms, raising their babies, dressing fly, and keeping it hella sexy while thriving in all the areas of their lives.
A plus-size woman isn't her crew's savior, whether comedic or therapeutic. A plus-size friend is an additive to the crew that gives it a vibe to show that, regardless of how different we are, as Black women, we are all collectively magic.
But first, we have to get out of all the boxes we've placed each other in and then dismantle the boxes we've settled being put into by others. How we see ourselves is more important than how others see us; but, a resounding trend of only showing plus-size Black women as desperate, loud, and only as valuable as the laughs she can provide is more harmful than helpful. I'm hopeful for the day that the vulnerability and diversity of who we are leads to the introductions of how others see us.
Shows like Grand Crew (with Nicole Byers) and Good Girls (starring Retta) normalize the various dimensions and desirabilities of Black plus-size women. I can't wait for others to follow suit. We can make you laugh, but we're not your laugh track. We can give great advice, but we're not your therapist. We can be sassy, but we can also be sensitive. We are desirable, worthy of unveiling our layers, and beautiful enough to stand next to our girls and be seen as an equal and not just a support for their narratives.
Just as we've fought over the years to have a seat at the table, being satisfied with just having a seat is half the battle. Now that we have a seat at the table, it's on us to make sure we're all seen. Regardless of whether we're plus-size, thin, tall, short, dark-skinned, light-skinned, have natural hair, and/or have relaxed hair - we are more than a single dimension.
Just as important as it is for that young teenage girl to see a plus-size woman on the screen, it's equally as crucial for her to proudly stand in the truth of who she is as a whole: beautiful, flawed, funny, desirable, loved and fly as hell.
We deserve to be seen through the whole, flourishing, transparent lens that proudly shows that off.
Featured image by Raymond Liu/HBO
There are two words that Rachel Lindsay keeps returning to over and over again: Rest and renew.
The ambitious, self-described “type A” media personality just left one of her more prominent roles after three years, and instead of being anxious about the downtime, she’s finally learning to take a few moments for herself.
When we talk via Zoom in late August, Lindsay, 38, has just returned from a lunch date with a friend, the type of midday social outing she’d never had time for previously. In a week, she’ll be heading to Europe for an Eat, Pray, Love trip. It’s the first time she’s had time to go to Europe in five years.
“You ask me what I have time to do? Take care of me,” she says, beaming.
In the past six years, Lindsay has made a lot of changes. After becoming the first Black woman to lead ABC’s Bachelorette dating series in 2017, she fell in love with Bryan Abasolo, the man she chose on the show, and married him. Enamored with the world of entertainment but also accustomed to the stability that being an attorney provided her, she returned to practicing law in her native Dallas, Texas, while pursuing media opportunities on the side.
For a time, Lindsay would fly herself to Connecticut to co-host ESPN’s Football Frenzy radio show. The role was perfect for the Dallas Cowboys fan and sports fanatic who majored in sports management and once dreamed of becoming an agent. In 2019, when she finally felt she’d saved enough money and made enough connections, she made the leap and left the legal profession behind, determined to bet on her entertainment dreams.
Working as an on-air correspondent for Extra was one of Lindsay’s first big roles as a full-time media personality. In this job, she interviewed celebrities such as Halle Bailey and Anthony Anderson. She also notably conducted the controversial interview with Bachelor host Chris Harrison that subsequently led to his departure from the franchise. After Harrison told Lindsay he felt people needed to have “grace” for a contestant who had attended an “Old South” party, Lindsay publicly announced her plans to distance herself from the series.
Today, she cites changes in Extra’s leadership and her responsibilities as the reason for her recent departure after three years. “I just didn’t fit within the new regime,” she reveals to xoNecole.
Lindsay is currently focusing her energy work-wise on her two podcasts with The Ringer Podcast Network, the Higher Learningshow with Van Lathan, and Morally Corrupt. Despite the extremely different subjects – Higher Learning touches on race and politics while Morally Corrupt finds Lindsay commenting on her favorite Bravo reality shows – she gushes when speaking about both, calling podcasting “the most liberating thing you can do.”
On Higher Learning, she’s challenged by her co-host, Lathan, to think in new ways. She’s regularly in conversation with prominent figures such as Tracee Ellis Ross and Billy Porter.
Lindsay, a “Bravoholic” whose favorite Real Housewives franchise is Potomac and whose favorite Housewife is Nene Leakes, is no less passionate about Morally Corrupt, even if the subject matter is much lighter. “I’ve always loved reality TV because it was such an escape from my real world. Part of me admired people who could put themselves out there in a way that I believed I never could, until I went on reality TV,” Lindsay says.
Courtesy of Rachel Lindsay
The podcast host says she never intended to find love when she went on The Bachelor, and she was surprised when she was asked to lead season 13 of The Bachelorette. Going from viewer to reality TV star quickly opened her eyes to the demands of being a public figure. After receiving initial criticism from viewers about choosing and marrying Bryan Abasolo, she realized she wanted to become more protective of certain aspects of her personal life.
“I quickly learned that we had to protect what we had, and stop trying to prove it to other people and convince people to know what we knew to be true,” she says. “I wish I could share more of my relationship. But the moment you do that, you have to continue to provide more and you have to continue to answer.”
In many ways, Lindsay benefited from being on a show like The Bachelorette, where the contestants are confined to a limited environment over a temporary amount of time. She says she doesn’t think she could ever be on a reality show where she’s expected to reveal all aspects of her life constantly. In fact, she says if she ever had pregnancy news or updates about her relationship with Abasolo, she wouldn’t make a big public announcement.
Since walking away from The Bachelor franchise, the former Bachelor Happy Hour host says she’s been approached to participate in recent seasons, specifically this year’s season with Black lead, Charity Lawson. Lindsay says she ultimately declined to participate. “I just started thinking I can have a relationship with Charity – whose number I do have and I have talked to – outside of the show. I don’t need to come on television to put that out there for other people,” she says.
Reflecting on her life today, Lindsay is trying to learn the benefits of being still. She’s not planning to do any on-air correspondent booked for the time being, and she’s not planning to release another book, the followup to the collection of essays Miss Me with That or the fictional Real Love.
As her 40th birthday approaches in a couple of years, she’s been thinking a lot about the popular quote, “You are, right now, as young as you'll ever be again” from the FX drama Fleishman Is in Trouble. If she does start on a new creative project, it might delve into this notion, she says. “I think I could do something in that space about adulthood and getting older and maybe questioning things in life because I think we all do it,” she tells xoNecole.
Lindsay is not rushing the process, though. For now, she’s remembering to rest and renew.
“We'll see what comes out of this state that I'm in.”
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Featured image courtesy of Rachel Lindsay
Before the music business calms down as the summer draws to a close, musicians are releasing the last of their dance songs from their archives. And shouldn't we be grateful for it? This week's new music offered tracks for every aspect of the season, whether it be for the club ("Bongos"), a last-minute relaxing retreat ("My Love"), a scary movie ("Demons"), or an introduction to an autumn wind ("Uh Huh"), this week had a song for everyone. Heading into the new week, here are the latest songs in our rotation.
1.Tinashe - "Uh Huh"
The fourth single from Tinashe's studio album, BB/ANG3L, is "Uh Huh," and what a sweet offering it is. Sung in a whimsical falsetto, Tinashe portrays the ballad as an intimate confession shared with a partner during an intimate moment. In the song, she wonders if the guy she is seeing is ready for a relationship, even though it feels like they are already in one. The question isn't posed in the accusatory manner that we are all accustomed to hearing. Instead, she presents the query as a shooting, consoling lullaby. By the end, she has successfully lulled both her lover and the audience in her lovely proposition of loving another for simply being.
2.Busta Rhymes - "Luxury Life" ft. Coi Leray
Timbaland and Nelly Furtado's "Promiscuous" in the summer of 2006 completely dominated the airwaves with its witty and occasionally playfully cringe-inducing one-liners. Busta Rhymes and Coi Leray performed what I can only compare to the more direct rap equivalent in the summer of 2023. With its distinctive funky flow and catchy, throbbing beat that only Swizz Beatz can provide. Busta Rhymes and Coi Leray's second collaboration demonstrates remarkable chemistry between the two emcees as they bounce ideas off one another. With often finishing each other's sentences, this song generates an energetic vibe that is worth playing repeatedly.
3.Tkay Maidza - "WUACV"
You know those scary movies where a repetitive, slower-paced children's song plays in the background and gives you the impression that you're only one "based on a true story" label away from leaving the theater? As I listened to this song's start, I experienced the same sensation. So much so that when Tkay Maidza started the song, I almost didn't listen to listen. However, as I tuned in, I couldn't help but bounce my shoulders and make a stank face at Tkay's constantly shifting flow. As she quickly sped through the lines, she genuinely "woke up and chose violence." A harmony that can only be characterized as the ambulance arriving to pick up the victims of her talented smooth shifting flow screams over the hazardous matter-of-fact repetition of the chorus. This music is strong, lucid, and deserving of a download.
4.Cardi B. - "Bongos" ft. Megan Thee Stallion
After "WAP," I knew Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion would reunite, but I didn't anticipate their arduous reunion. I stopped this music at the 12-second mark when I originally started it. Why? Because I knew I would need to take a breather in that little amount of time. I didn't take notes after that since I was so engrossed in the video's pure amusement. But after concentrating, I've come to the conclusion that this was just so damn entertaining. The fact that it isn't "WAP" isn't always a negative thing. Even if the song continues to discuss sex and butts, it has its own charm and is entertaining thanks to the choreo in the video and the beach-themed elements for the final getaway of the summer.
5.A Boogie Wit da Hoodie - "Her Birthday"
Contrary to its fun title, A Boogie Wit da Hoodie's song "Her Birthday" is about heartbreak and difficult realizations. ABWDH is irritated when he meets a lady who insists on having a relationship with a gold digger after realizing he is in yet another unsuccessful relationship. However, as the song progresses, it becomes apparent that he shares some blame for the relationship's--if you can call it that--end because he knew their first hookup wasn't anything significant. And it only makes sense for them to leave things as they are after some of his dubious behaviors, including sleeping with her "best friend" out of retaliation, occur. They intentionally aim to harm one another, and they only seem to be on this rollercoaster because the long nights happen to be good.
6.Leigh-Anne - "My Love" ft. Ayra Starr
For this one, you must view the song's music video while listening to it. "My Love" is an upbeat summer bop with Caribbean-Afro beats that serve as a love letter to one's love and self-confidence. I've listened to this song so many times that I wish it had been released earlier in the summer and that more people had heard of it. I do, however, hope that it continues to catch on with its alluring, scenic, and dance-filled sensations. The English singer draws on her Caribbean heritage as she asks how much of her love can be taken with Nigerian singer Ayra Starr. They check in with their respective partners and muse on how much they ought to be prepared to invest in their relationships.
7.Tee Grizzley - "IDGAF" ft. Chris Brown and Mariah The Scientist
When a person feels fulfilled in a relationship, there is always someone else who offers to break their relationship off—usually unsolicited. They don't care and just want to spend the night without any strings attached, making it obvious that they would keep it quiet. Chris Brown and Tee Grizzley play that role in the song "IDGAF." Although Tee Grizzley is aware that the lady is dedicated to her relationship, he is still optimistic that his enticement would be strong enough to get his ex back for the night. Mariah The Scientist, on the other hand, isn't having that and scoffs at his arrogance for even phoning her. She is happy and doesn't intend to ruin either of their relationships anytime soon.
8.Nicki Minaj - "Last Time I Saw You"
I must say that I didn't anticipate Nicki Minaj to release this song. Not that she hasn't already recorded an excellent slow song in the ballad style. However, they have never been this...refreshing, so that is a positive. This song is the sensation of taking a deep breath after smelling something pleasant or after going for a while without air. It was like going for a walk in the park. When she brokenly confessed that she pushed her love away because she thought she bored her love, it also gave off a faint heartbreak-like feeling. Minaj starts rapping over a stanza, remembering the times with her former love and the end of their relationship as barriers rise to protect her somewhat in her vulnerability.
9.Doja Cat - "Demons"
Even though it's September, Halloween waits for no one. Doja Cat wonders in this song how her "demons look now that her pockets are full." She challenges the haters and lets them know that she is spending the money she has made from her achievements while ignoring their hateful glances. She wants them to know that she recognizes their envy and that she is reveling in it rather than telling them to get over it. She frequently makes fun of them, letting her "enemies" know that as long as she is successful, she will always be the demonic villain in their nightmares. Since she doesn't plan on going anywhere anytime soon, she figures she might as well play the part.
10.Citizen Queen - "Whatchu Want"
With everyone playing games, it's easy to become weary of the same old song and dance. To the point that you start doubting the intentions of your newest suitor right away. Annoyed that they might waste your time. In their newest single, Cora, Kaedi, Kaylah, and Nina question someone's motives in Citizen Queen's "Whatchu Want" and distinctly state what they want. They challenge the person to continue moving if all they want to do is screw about. The girls caution against messing with their feelings in a catchy chorus that has elements of Danity Kane's "Showstopper," allowing for a nice dance break.
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Featured image by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images