I'm a writer. It's what God called me to be. But if there are two things that I had a "quiet passion" for while I was in college, it was video directing and acting. I think that's why visuals can hold my attention so intensely to this day and, whenever an actor truly strikes me, I instantly become a fan. So is the case when it comes to Bianca Lawson. Although she's been in the game for 23 years now, I've gotta be honest—when it comes to her craft, I only really know her as Darla (interestingly enough, Darla doesn't appear to have a last name; I checked the cast list). And boy, is Bianca, as Darla, something. Truly something.
As I was checking her out on AOL's Build series from earlier this summer, something that the host Brittany Jones-Cooper said about Queen Sugar really resonated; that it is constantly written with so much intention. Indeed. Not just intention, but realism. Even the sugar farm that the entire show is built around is based in modern-day fact, not fiction. If you don't believe me, check out recently published pieces like "How Did African-American Farmers Lose 90 Percent of Their Land?", "The Great Land Robbery", "So Much of Our National History Is Lost to Guilty Amnesia" and "How Southern Black Farmers Were Forced from Their Land, and Their Heritage".
Not only that, but when it comes to this season's storylines, as an author who penned an autobiography that had a lot of my family (and church members) shook, I could relate to some of what Nova has been going through (although I shared galleys ahead of time; Nova showed out, even to me). As someone who has ran into my molester more times than I would ever like to, I can also empathize with Aunt Vi's paralyzing anger and fear at the return of her abusive ex-husband (you played that, David Alan Grier). But perhaps, more than anything else, the ebb and flow of Darla and that fine (really…does it get any more fine?!) Ralph Angel's love is what has moved me most of all. The writing. The chemistry. The way the love story is constantly unfolding is so… "relatable" is a word that doesn't do those two enough justice, but it's the first one that comes to mind.
"Kofi and I had never met before and he came in and I didn't wanted to run the scene before he came in the room because I like the element of surprise and to see what happens in the moment. You can never get that first moment back. We did the scene and it was good, but after we did the scene, we [improvised.] That was the moment where it just felt that we were on the same wavelength."
When actors have onscreen chemistry, it's palpable and the audience roots for them, even when, as Lawson and Siriboe have seen, if the relationship is tumultuous. According to a funny post on her Instagram page, Lawson is "obsessed" with astrology (she laughs at this description) but can tell you that the two sun sign Pisceans both have Leo rising signs. So even the stars must have aligned to bring these two together.
"[Kofi] likes to say it's because we're both Pisces and we have that deeply intuitive, telepathic thing, which could be true. We can deeply connect depending on the other person's energy."
Personally, I'm not even gonna try to challenge the theory because, last week, when Ralph Angel told his almost-girlfriend that 1) he hadn't been spending quality time with her because he had been supporting Darla through her relapse and 2) he couldn't commit to her because, when it came to Darla, "I can just see now that, when she hurtin', I'm hurtin'. When she bleed, I bleed. I ain't even sure it's much of a choice at this point but, I'm still in love with Darla"—chills. It literally felt like I was eavesdropping on a conversation in someone's house. Real acting is when you forget that that is what someone is doing. The characters on Queen Sugar pull that art form off so well.
When it comes to Darla and Ralph Angel specifically, unless you've been watching their story unfold, pretty much since season one, it's hard to understand how loving them love each other is far more impacting and significant than checking out a rom-com or fairy tale for fun. These two have such a raw and real story that, as a marriage life coach, I'm tempted to make it required viewing for some of my clients. Not the dating ones, the married ones. Because man, if there are two television characters that take "for better or for worse" to new heights, Darla and Ralph Angel would most certainly be it.
There's not nearly enough time or space to get into all of their nuances, but if there are three solid reasons why I think, if you are in a relationship, checking out this season On Demand is must-see TV, they are as follows:
Sometimes I'll sit in a premarital counseling session and, although I know that the two people sitting in front of me care a lot about each other, what I also know is they are not remotely prepared enough for something that marriage requires, on some level and to a certain extent, every single day—forgiveness. Yeah, I promise you, with everything in me, that if you're not good at forgiving others (or yourself, for that matter), marriage is going to be really hard, if not close to impossible, for you. The reason why is because love doesn't work without forgiveness. It's not designed to. In fact, a part of what makes love so beautiful is its uncanny capability to "pardon offenses" and "cease to feel resentment against". Even the Bible says so—"Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]. Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end]." (I Corinthians 13:7-8—AMPC)
Ralph Angel displayed this oh so well when, after Darla found out from her "friend" Jordan that she had been with two men on the night that Blue was conceived, that information devastated her to the point of relapsing and she shared all of this with him, Ralph Angel said, four times on loop, "You ain't got to be sorry." He then followed that up with, "You ain't got nothin' to apologize for. We gonna get through it. You hear me?...Whatever it take Darla, I'm right here with you. You know that? I'm right here."
This man found out last season, that after years of thinking that Blue was his biological son, he actually wasn't. The news caused him and Darla to end things. But now knowing that Darla had been too inebriated to give her consent to the sex that ultimately created her son—the one that Ralph Angel chose to continue to raise as his own—his heart has softened.
Ralph Angel felt betrayed. Understandably so. But his profound love for Darla helped him to see that she had been as well. Because he is a walking example of "love never fails", Ralph Angel is able to look past his fear, his pride and probably even mass confusion and love Darla anyway. Because true love forgives. And endures.
I was just having a conversation with a couple about how, it is my belief, that one of the hardest things about staying married is figuring out how to grow as an individual while remaining intact as one part of a union; especially when one person may be developing light-years ahead of their spouse.
When I was watching Ralph Angel share with Darla that he still had feelings for her in last week's episode, a part of what he said was, "Just because we ain't together, don't mean I don't care about you no more. I have to. My own peace of mind, really…I ain't felt like that since, since we first got together. When we had Blue, I spent so much time, just worrying about you. Did she make it to her dorm OK? She had a good breakfast? Stupid stuff like that…thing is, nobody tells you that loving somebody could hurt so much." In response, Darla asks Ralph Angel if he could forgive her enough for them to go back to how they once used to be. I guess we'll have to see what happens next tomorrow night (September 4).
The roller coaster that is Darla and Ralph Angel. They get together, they break up. She grows, so does he. They get back together again, they break up. She grows some more, so does he. Sometimes, when you're only on the outside looking in, when a couple is in this kind of cycle, you're tempted to call it counterproductive or maybe even toxic. But when you're on the inside looking out, oftentimes what you realize is that the love came before the maturity—now the maturity needs some time to catch up.
Darla and Ralph Angel's journey, to me, is a poetic example of this very thing. Their love is big…HUGE even. But they've needed time to evolve into it. The show is letting them. Sometimes, in real life, we should follow suit.
Love Gives Both People Room to Learn How to Love…More
Something that is really unfortunate about certain break-ups is they come from one of the individuals believing that they've got love mastered.
Listen, as long as you're living and breathing, you will be a student of love. It is too powerful, too perfect, too supernatural for any human being short of Christ himself to be able to do it flawlessly. And for those of us who are paying close attention, every person who crosses our path, they teach us how to love…more. Better too.
There was something about Darla dating someone else this season that showed her the importance of establishing boundaries for the sake of self-care. There was something about who Ralph Angel was seeing (I really dug her too) that taught him the importance of being in something healthy; that relationships should be healthy. When the light bulb went on for both of them, when the lesson was learned from the people they were seeing, they "somehow" ended back together. Love has a way of doing that.
I don't have any idea what the writers have in store for Darla and Ralph Angel moving forward; that includes tomorrow night. What I do know is that what I've seen, thus far, has been a wonderful ode to love and healing. Darla and Ralph Angel's love story is deep, painful, rich, relatable and truly beautiful. Just like love tends to be in the real world. Sometimes we need to be reminded of that. If it has to be on a television screen, every Wednesday night, so be it. And thank you. Especially to you Bianca and Kofi. Well done. Salute.
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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Feature image by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
Kerry Washington and Nnamdi Asomugha are one of Hollywood’s notoriously private couples, but since the release of her memoir, Thicker Than Water, the Scandal actress has been more open about their union. The mother of two stopped by The Drew Barrymore Show and shared details about how they met. The beautiful couple met at Drew’s family theater, The Barrymore Theater, in 2009, where Kerry made her Broadway debut. She played Susan in David Mamet’s Race.
"I was doing my Broadway debut. It’s such a storied, important theater," the Emmy award-winning actress shared. "It was my first time on Broadway, and now I write about it in my book, so it has another fun legend to fill all the beautiful things that have happened at that theater."
Kerry and Nnamdi met backstage, and the author revealed whether it was love at first sight or a slow burn. Here’s a hint: it was “a little bit of both.”
"You talk to people like my parents who’ve been married for as long as they’ve been married. I think both are important. I think that first sight thing for me was really important and undeniable, but I think the slow burn is what keeps you going," she said. "We’ve been married 10 years now, so it's like an immediate with a great slow burn that I hope will keep burning."
We couldn’t agree more. In a past interview, the UnPrisioned star explained why they kept their relationship private for so long, and while talking to Drew, she revealed they even used code names when they were getting married.
"We had some fun with code names, so Jason Wu made my wedding gown, and I adore him,” she said. “He’s the person who made Michelle Obama’s Inaugural gown. He was secretly custom-making this wedding gown for me, but we used to say that it was for the Moroccan premiere of Scandal.”
Kerry Washington Reveals How She Met Her Husband | The Drew Barrymore Show
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Feature image by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Bronx Children's Museum