Back when I was in my 20s, I used to hear women my age (mid-40s) say that if you are fortunate to have one true friend, consider yourself blessed. At the time, I was like "One? Just one?" but, on this side of wisdom, I totally get where they were coming from—now. It's one thing to know a lot of folks or to even enjoy several different people's company.
But when you're heartbroken and someone sits with you on the phone throughout the entire night or you lose a job and someone financially sacrifices in order to help you get through the following month of bills—yeah, if you find one person who is willing to have your back in that way, that is who is truly a friend. And that is the ultimate kind of blessing.
A couple of months ago, I wrote a piece on 10 things you should expect from friends. What separates your best friend from them is the fact that not only is your BFF loyal, honest, and supportive, but they also do it better than anyone else that you know.
I don't know about you, but after a lot of blood, sweat, tears (and even a little bit of drama), if someone were to ask me who my best friend was, I wouldn't have to hesitate. I immediately know who's shown up and out in my life. If you can totally relate, celebrate National Best Friends Day and let your best friend know just how much you love, respect, and appreciate them by doing one (or a few) of the following things.
1.Have a BFF Movies Night
A really popular friendship quote is by author C.S. Lewis—"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, 'What? You too? I thought I was the only one!'" From music to food to movies, chances are, there are things that you and your bestie thoroughly enjoy, even if no one else does. In celebration of some of the things you both love, pick a night to watch some of your favorite flicks together. To make it even better, hit up Postmates to order some of the food you both like to eat too. It's like a sleepover…only, for grown folks.
2.Make a Photo Album of the Two of You
If you've been besties for a while now, there are probably a ton of pics that you've both accumulated over the years. Why not turn them into prints, print doubles and make a photo album for each of you? One way you can do this is downloading the Walgreens app; that way, you can send your pic files over, they can print them off for you and you can pick them up when they are ready. Another option is to use photo sites and apps like Canvas, Shutterfly, PrintStudio, Free Prints and HP Sprocket (it lets you turn your pics into stickers).
3.Handwrite Them a Letter
One of my girlfriends has some sort of VIP card at Hallmark. Every time she tells me that, the first thing that comes to my mind is "Hallmark still exists?!" The last time I saw one of those was basically the last time I saw a Borders bookstore (which is kind of sad when I really stop to think about it). The next thing that comes to mind is the reminder that making the time to handwrite notes is still a really sweet thing to do. In fact, Lifehack once published an article stating that we should pen letters more because it's a classy move, it speaks to the importance of the relationship and research proves that they make us, the writer, happy too (among other things).
Why not bring a smile to you and your BFF's face by handwriting her a letter of appreciation? I can't think of one reason why they wouldn't love you to the moon and back for making the time to do it.
4.Treat Her to a Mani/Pedi
If you want to observe National Best Friends Day by taking your BFF on a date, there's no way you can go wrong by surprising them with a mani/pedi date. If money is tight, a few hacks that can save you money is to ask the salon what mani/pedi deals they have available, removing gel polish at home, bringing your own polish along or, expanding that movie night suggestion I made and doing each other's hands and feet while you're watching Love Jones or Brown Sugar—for the billionth time.
5.Get Something Customized on Etsy
If you want to get your friend something nice, but you want to avoid anything that says "mall shopping" all over it, do what I do about 7.5 times out of 10—get them something on Etsy. You can customize just about anything you can think of, from T-shirts and body products to jewelry and art.
Case in point—one of my closest friends, emailed me not too long ago to tell me that she would be sending me a Harriet Tubman stamp; that way, while we're waiting for the hater president to get out of office, we can still see Harriet's face on our $20 bill if want to. (Gotta love that Etsy!)
6.Bring the Friendship Bracelet Back
From what I've read, friendship bracelets have been around, almost since the beginning of time. Indians in Central and South America, along with Asians in China, are who initially made them popular. According to tradition, once you tie this kind of bracelet on to your wrist, you should make a wish and it will come true. This kind of bracelet is also something that's supposed to remain on your wrist until it is too worn to stay on, making it a symbol of all of the love and work you put into your friendship.
Sites like Amazon have a variety of friendship bracelets that you can buy. Or, add an extra special touch by making one for you and your friend instead (one style that looks great at any age is here).
7.Invent a Specialized Drink (then Certify It)
Here's one of the coolest ideas I've heard of in a really long time. You might've attended a wedding before where they couple featured a signature drink. Well, why not invent a drink—cocktail or mocktail—that's either in honor of your friend or your friendship overall? Then, after you do it, make the drink "official" by getting it certified?
If you go to Bartender's website, they've got a way for you to print out the recipe (along with your name) so that you can have the "cocktail right" to your creation. Then you can frame it so that your friend can always remember that there is a drink that is theirs—or y'all's—and no one else's.
8.Write Their Attributes. Blow It Up and Frame It.
Several years ago, I decided to do something extra-special for a friend of mine. She really wanted to be married at the time, but she kept choosing guys who went totally against the grain of what she claimed she was looking for. We had discussed her dream attributes so much that one day, I put them all down on a piece of paper, in a special font, had it blown up (it was huge) and mounted. The moment that I handed it to her, she was in tears. My motive in making it wasn't so she could have another piece of art to put on her walls; it was so she could remember what she was deserving of, the next time she considered settling.
If you've got someone in your life who personally or professionally settles more than they should or you simply want to personally remind them of how awesome they are, take out a moment to write their attributes, desires or goals down and turn them into a poster. It's one of the best shots to their self-esteem they could get. It's one of the best displays of love that you could offer them as well.
9.Get Them a Few of Their Favorite Things
My confidant is the ultimate girlie-girl. My godchildren's mom takes Bohemian to an entirely different level (speaking of Bohemian, bless your life and watch this video about the day in the life of Lenny Kravitz when you get a chance). One of my favorite people has Ann Taylor written all over her. And then, there's me—graphic tees, Pumas and silver jewelry. What this all boils down to is none of my friends even remotely have the same taste in…just about anything. But, I kind of like it that way.
A part of what comes with being a good friend is paying attention to a friend's likes/dislikes/tastes. It's not about getting them what we want to have but being in tune with what will put a smile on their face; what they will truly adore. Retaining what that is and then handing them a couple of those items on National Best Friends Day is how you can make it super special as well as memorable for them. It's a great way to be a good friend to your best friend!
10.Take a Best Friends Trip
At this stage in my life, I'm pretty much the only single woman out of my circle of close friends. And since most of them are not only married but mothers, a trip generally consists of me going to see them and having play time with children as much as Netflix binge-watching with their parents. But if you and your BFF are not married and/or don't have kids (it's easier to do a trip with your friends when you're married and without children), another thing that you can do is take a trip together.
Now that you know that 6/8 is National Best Friends Day, each and every year, you can both download an electronic vision board so that you can plan for something 12 months from now, or you can take a weekend-long road trip, or the two of you can spend the night in a hotel up the street, just to get a change of scenery. Whatever it is that you come up with, just like a vacation is a great way for couples to reconnect, it's also a cool way for friends to do the same.
(If you need some travel ideas, we've got an entire section devoted to being out-and-about right here.)
Featured image by Getty Images
Originally June 8, 2019
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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.
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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Janelle Monáe's Reveals The Real Reason Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Tuxedos
Singer and actress Janelle Monáe exemplifies how change can be a powerful catalyst for growth and transformation.
Monáe, who rose to fame in 2010 following the release of her debut album, The ArchAndroid, captivated fans' hearts with her powerful vocals, catchy tunes, and style. Around that time period, when various female artists were known to wear provocative ensembles on stage, the "Tightrope" songstress set herself apart by wearing her signature black and white suits and continued to do so for almost a decade.
In the later years of her career, after the release of her studio albums The Electric Lady in 2013 and 2018's Dirty Computer, many began to notice the shift in Monáe's artistry and fashion, which some widely praised.
Although the now 37-year-old rarely addressed the reason behind the transformation over the years, that would all change when Monáe sat down with radio personality Angie Martinez on her IRL podcast earlier this month.
During the interview, Monáe --who was promoting her latest album, "The Age of Pleasure"-- opened up about her mental health struggles, how she would cope, and why she chose to live in freedom.
Janelle On Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Suits All the Time
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
In the May discussion, the "I Like That" vocalist revealed she suffers from anxiety, which she claimed would occur around "winter to spring."
Monáe added that when she has her bouts with anxiety, she tends to turn to food as a coping mechanism. Further in the interview, the "Lipstick Lover" singer disclosed that her emotional eating habits caused a weight fluctuation and that she could no longer fit into the suits she once wore earlier in her career.
Monáe explained that even though she tried to diet and exercise to return to her smaller figure, she ultimately stopped and made peace with herself with the help of therapy because she acknowledged that she isn't the same person she was nearly a decade ago and shouldn't try to be even if it was a highly "celebrated" version.
"I'm petite, but it can get thick... When I couldn't fit them suits anymore, and I was like, 'Oh my God, what is going on?' I would be dieting, running, or exercising, trying to fit into [it]. I'm just like, 'No. No, we're here. This is where we are.' We [are] not about to be utilizing life trying to be an old version of ourselves. No matter how celebrated that version of me was. I'm here. I'm here," she said.
Janelle On Freedom
As the topic shifted to freedom and what that meant to Monáe, the "Primetime" vocalist shared that in this new era of her life, she enjoys it because she can boldly express herself however she wants and honor who she is as a person right now.
Monáe also revealed that she had found ways to become a better artist and the best version of herself because of her freedom.
"What is the new version of freedom? What does that feel like? That's usually when I feel the most free is when artistically, I can honor exactly who I am right now," she stated. "I feel most free as a human when I can honor exactly who I am right now."
Monáe's fourth studio album, The Age of Pleasure, is set to be released on June 9.
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