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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Feature image by Queen Sugar/OWN
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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 email@example.com. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
In xoNecole's series Dope Abodes, we tour the living spaces of millennial women, where they dwell, how they live, and the things they choose to adorn and share their spaces with.
Annisa LiMara has called this space her home for two years. Her Atlanta sanctuary, which she aimed to give the look and feel of something you'd see in the glossy pages of Architectural Digest, embodies her vision of "stunning, yet functional and cozy."
"My home is a reflection of my brand, The Creative Peach Studios, and I am the 'Creative Peach,'" Annisa explains. "It was so easy to reflect who I am and my personal story in my space. When you walk into my home, you know that it is Annisa’s home. I’m so proud of that. So grateful."
On the journey to becoming a homeowner, Annisa looks back on her experience as a "rough one," detailing that she officially started house hunting in March 2020. It had become so expensive to rent, and the 30-something lifestyle influencer decided she would rather invest the money she spent renting into owning a home. However, nine days into house hunting, her search was put on hold for a year. The following year, in 2021, the process of finding the right home and going under contract took a total of four months.
"The resell route didn’t work out, so my realtor suggested a new construction home, which turned out to be the better option," she tells xoNecole of her experience. "Although it requires more patience, it turned out to be a much easier process and a lot easier to maintain since it’s brand new."
As it turns out, the open floor plan three-bedroom two-and-half-bath would prove to be a blank canvas for Annisa to flex her creativity and design skills.
As a new construction, she watched the townhome get built from the ground up, and due to the "cookie-cutter" nature of new builds, Annisa knew immediately that she would change everything about it. The best part about it? All of her updates were cosmetic, so transformation could occur without having to do major renovations to achieve the look and feel she desired.
"The first things I updated were all the lighting, adding built-ins around my fireplace, and installing wallpaper in my bedroom, office, and dining room! I also had board and batten installed in the upstairs loft to make a statement and the kitchen island," Annisa details.
"Lastly, we painted the loft a soft blush pink, the kitchen island is a gorgeous terracotta, and added contrast with black on the doors, fireplace, and stairwell banisters."
In total, she spent $15K in renovations (plus the cost of furniture and decor). And although she says the second level of her home is a "work-in-progress," two years in, she considers the transformation nearly done.
Annisa defines her decor style as "organic modern meets midcentury modern with a touch of boho," and with thoughtfully placed touches like plants, warm tones, and organic textures, her perspective can be felt throughout. "I found my point of view as a designer in my work and as I worked on my home, so it all came together organically based on what I was naturally drawn to."
"The organic modern meets midcentury modern with a touch of boho' is definitely my signature style. You’ll always see greenery, warm tones, brass, and rattan or wicker in just about every room. My color story is based on my brand [The Creative Peach Studios] colors: blush pink, ivory, olive and sage green, terracotta, and nudes," she adds.
It was her brand colors that would be the jumping-off point for her approach to decorating and styling her space. That, and a picture she had of what would become her sofa from Albany Park. She recalled her decor decisions, "It was their olive Park Sectional Sofa, and I knew instantly I wanted it, and it aligned with my brand colors naturally, so it was a no-brainer."
By drawing inspiration from Pinterest, favorite design brands like CB2, Arhaus, and Souk Bohemian, and through her work, Annisa allowed herself to be guided by her signature style as well as her instincts when making decor and color choices for her own home. "Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason; it just feels right."
Some of the aspects of her home that she regards as her favorites include her bedroom and its little nook where her bed is positioned, the open upstairs loft, and the open concept because "it really allows you to see all of the details I put into the design all at once." Another of her favorite finds is a purchase she copped from the thrift store years ago.
"I have this little brown and gold chair that I picked up for $6 at a thrift store in Jersey six years ago. I couldn’t afford much in my little studio, but the chair was beautiful and unlike anything I had ever seen."
In addition to accent walls featuring blush pink and terracotta tones throughout the space, her gallery wall is another element that immediately draws the eye of any guest who enters. Annisa recalled a fond memory of a fine art piece she purchased from a Black woman artist when she first moved to Atlanta that she now prominently features in her living room. "It was a Black villager from her travels in Africa, and I fell in love with it because it felt like an ancestor I never met. I later found out that she was the sister of one of my very first design clients two years later," she shares. "Talk about a full-circle moment!"
Cultivating a space takes time and patience, and that is a sentiment Annisa echoes when advising people who are looking to infuse more of themselves into their own dope abodes through design. "It is not a race, and you’ll spend more money if you rush into designing without really being intentional about the vision for your space," Annisa concludes. "You just need creativity and patience to do it! And most of all, make sure you feel like it’s an oasis for you!"
For more of Annisa, follow her on Instagram @annisalimara.
Tour Interior Designer Annisa LiMara's Modern Meets Midcentury ATL Home | Dope Abodes
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Featured image by Kanobi Pollard/xoNecole
If you followed Beyoncé’s career, then you know how hair has played an important role in her journey. Her mom, Ms. Tina Knowles, owned a hair salon when the multi-Grammy award-winning artist was growing up, and she has shared on several occasions how it impacted her life. We’ve also witnessed her many hair transformations throughout her career, from braids to her signature long, straight honey blonde tresses. However, it was her pixie cut in 2013 that had everyone talking.
Beyoncé and Tina launched Cécred (pronounced sacred), a hair care line that includes a clarifying shampoo and scalp scrub, a hydrating shampoo, a nourishing hair oil, and much more. The mother-daughter duo opened up about their latest business venture together to Essence in its March/April issue, and the “Alien Superstar” revisited her haircut and how it reflected a life change.
“It did. That’s right. I love how we associate a certain hairstyle with moments in our lives, like that short-hair moment. I remember the day I decided to just cut all my hair off. I didn’t have a particular style in mind,” she explained.
“It wasn’t an aesthetic choice, but it was a very big emotional transformation and metamorphosis that I was going through. So much of my identity as a performer has been connected to flowing hair. Cutting my hair off was me rebelling against being this woman that society thinks I’m supposed to be.”
Beyonc\u00e9 to ESSENCE Magazine on her 2013 pixie cut:\n\n"I remember the day I decided to just cut all my hair off. I didn\u2019t have a particular style in mind. It wasn\u2019t an aesthetic choice, but it was a very big emotional transformation and metamorphosis that I was going through."\ud83d\ude2d\ud83e\udd79— (@)
She continued, “I was a new mother, and something about the liberation of becoming a mother made me want to just shed all of that. It was a physical representation of me shedding the expectations put upon me. I just wanted it off.
Neal Farinah, my hairstylist and friend, was freaking out because it was really long, really thick and really healthy. I just got the scissors and chopped it off. It was very intentional. And it was what I needed to do. And after that, I became super brave. It was the first step to many more audacious decisions I made in my life and my career that have led to who I am now.”
Throughout the interview, Beyoncé shared how her new hair line is her “legacy” and how she wants to use her line to highlight the versatility of textured hair.
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Feature image by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy