Your December monthly horoscopes have arrived! The first part of the month invites us to embrace our individuality and release stagnant beliefs that inhibit our self-expression. When Chiron goes direct, we'll be feeling more confident in who we are, what makes us unique, and the gifts that we are called to share with the world. After spending time in Capricorn, both Saturn and Jupiter shift into Aquarius, requiring us to take an innovative approach to the way we connect with others in this ever-changing world.
Towards the end of the month, Mercury and the Sun help us get grounded, making this a great time to plan for the year ahead. 2020 wraps up with a beautiful Full Moon in Cancer reminding us to take care of home (and self) first. Check out the horoscopes below to learn what's in store for your zodiac sign in December 2020:
AriesLaci Jordan for xoNecole
Sagittarius season is stirring up your wanderlust and when Mercury enters this adventurous zodiac sign, you're ready to buck Rona and book that week-long vacay in the Cayman Islands. The New Moon Solar Eclipse on the 14th clears out those false beliefs of yours that you adopted from people you've deemed wiser than you. It's time to be your own guru, babe!
When Venus shifts into this part of your sky, it's time to fall in love with your own experiences and the gems you've gained from bumping your head into a wall one too many times.
On the 15th, Chiron goes direct, snapping you back into your bold and confident self. Saturn and Jupiter both shift into Aquarius this month which has the potential to bring a lot of growth through your social network but not without hard work. It's time to crack that Instagram algorithm so the world can benefit from what you have to share. Towards the end of the month, Mercury and the Sun shift into Capricorn, encouraging you to make some long-term plans to achieve success in your career. December winds down with a cozy Full Moon in Cancer inviting you to enjoy a quiet night at home for some much-needed TLC.
TaurusTaurusLaci Jordan for xoNecole
The month kicks off with Mercury entering Sagittarius, helping you gain a deeper understanding of a painful experience you've gone through. The New Moon Solar Eclipse serves to sweep away the old stories of victimhood in exchange for something more triumphant. When Venus enters this part of the sky, be mindful of overspending especially with the credit card. I get it—it's holiday season but that doesn't mean you have to go into even more debt. On the 15th, Chiron goes direct, encouraging you to come out of hermit mode.
You've been in a space of deep reflection over the past few months and now it's time to embody the lessons you've been learning.
On the 17th, Saturn enters Aquarius and you're feeling the pressure to get ahead in your career. When Jupiter joins Saturn on the 19th, you'll likely feel a push-pull effect in the year ahead. One minute you're gaining traction and the next minute you're doubting why you're even trying. That's the test of Saturn so keep it moving, boo. Slow motion is better than no motion. On the 20th, Mercury enters Capricorn then the Sun joins up the next day, encouraging you to position yourself for success by sharpening up your skills, making this a good time to go back to school. The month comes to a close with a sweet Full Moon in Cancer encouraging you to be a little kinder to yourself. Nurture your healing and growth with more positive self-talk.
GeminiGeminiLaci Jordan for xoNecole
Your relationships take front and center stage this month. When Mercury enters Sagittarius, don't be surprised if you or someone else is initiating the "we need to talk" convo. On the 14th, the New Moon Solar Eclipse takes the trash out for you—whether it's that one-sided relationship or that dead-end business partnership. It's time to let it go, Gemmie. When Venus enters this part of your sky, you're more interested in your freedom than being tied down to anyone or anything. On the 15th, Chiron goes direct, helping you gain a better footing in your approach to friends and social networking.
Let your individuality shine forth boldly to attract a tribe that is the perfect fit for you.
When Saturn and Jupiter shift into Aquarius, it's time to buckle down a bit. You're notorious for knowing a little bit about a lot of things but these transits are going to require you to dive deeper into a topic so you can become more of an expert. I'm sure this sounds boring to the Jack of All Trades but Saturn will make your discipline and hard work well worth the effort. If you've been thinking about going back to school, enrolling in that workshop, or even becoming a teacher yourself, now is the time to go for it. Towards the end of the month, Mercury and the Sun link up in Capricorn which could have you receiving some good news about a loan, grant, or debt that you owe. December wraps up with a Full Moon in Cancer encouraging you to raise your prices and add tax. You're worth it, boo!
CancerCancerLaci Jordan for xoNecole
December begins with Mercury entering Sagittarius on the 1st
encouraging you to get your annual health screening. The New Moon Solar Eclipse on the 14th offers you the clarity you need to break a bad habit that's affecting you mentally or physically. When Venus moves into this part of your sky, it's time to fall (back) in love with your body. As tempting as it will be to indulge in the holiday treats, practice moderation to get an early start on your 2021 fitness resolution. On the 15th, Chiron goes direct, motivating you to forge your way ahead in pursuit of success.
Stop trying to live up to other people's definition of a boss and figure out what this standard means to you.
Both Saturn and Jupiter shift gears into Aquarius after spending an arduous stint in Capricorn. Over the next couple of years, your expansion takes place by—believe it or not—going within. These transits invite you to get curious about yourself, why you are the way you are, why you attract certain people in your life, why patterns keep repeating. Your subconscious will go through quite the transformation but this is ultimately liberating you to reach greater heights in life. On the 20th, Mercury enters Capricorn and the Sun follows behind the next day. Important conversations in your key relationships are likely to take place. This is also a favorable time to sign or renegotiate contracts. The month comes to a close with a Full Moon in your sign reminding you to prioritize you in your constant state of giving. Treat yo' self to a makeover or a new wardrobe to set the tone for the new year ahead.
LeoLeoLaci Jordan for xoNecole
Can you feel the love in the air? Well, when Mercury enters Sag on the 1st, you'll def be feeling it whether you're falling head over heels this month or someone is revealing their feelings for you. The New Moon Solar Eclipse encourages you to resolve any disappointments in romance. Leave the past where it belongs so you can create a new and better cycle for yourself moving into the future. When Venus enters this part of your sky, you could be attracting more of the intellectual, worldly type that will stay up with you late at night to pick your brain. On the 15th, Chiron goes direct and you're feeling more confident about your personal truth and the beliefs that come with it.
There's no need to look outside of yourself for a guru when you have direct access to the Universe and all its wisdom.
After spending the past couple of years in Capricorn, Saturn shifts into Aquarius which has you getting more serious about your dating prospects. Who has the potential to be your lifelong partner? When Jupiter joins up with Saturn, you've got some big dreams about your ideal relationship which may seem a little out-of-the-box to some but as long as you're happy, that's all that matters. Mercury shifts gears on the 20th encouraging you to create more structure in your daily routines. We all have the same amount of time in each day. How are you spending yours? When the Sun enters Capricorn, you can no longer hide behind your procrastination. The month winds down with a cozy Full Moon in Cancer inviting you to reflect on the past year and rejuvenate yourself for a new year ahead.
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Family matters take center stage when Mercury enters Sagittarius on the 1st. The New Moon Solar Eclipse is a powerful time for squashing any family drama or resolving a generational pattern that's been wreaking havoc on you and your kinfolk. When Venus enters this part of your chart, you could be feeling a little restless and in need of a vacation. You may consider relocating for the winter or permanently if you've outgrown your current residence. On the 15th, Chiron goes direct which has you feeling more confident in who you are as an individual.
As much as you love your tribe, it's important to establish a strong sense of your own personal identity to stay in alignment with your destiny.
When Saturn and Jupiter shift into Aquarius, your daily routines and habits may become increasingly boring, inviting you to get innovative in creating new ways to remain engaged with the work you do on a daily basis. We spend a lot of our time on social media these days making this a good opportunity to cultivate a healthier relationship with the use of these platforms. Towards the end of the month, Mercury and the Sun link up in encouraging you to get creative and have some fun. Adulting is a priority but so is nurturing your inner child. December wraps up with a sentimental Full Moon in Cancer which could have you wrapping up a cycle or friendships that aren't as nurturing as you need them to be. Release them with love and remain open for the blessings to come.
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Mercury enters Sagittarius on the 1st, infusing you with the holiday spirit. You're feeling bold and expressive during this transit, making it an auspicious time if you work in communications, education, or social media. The New Moon Solar Eclipse on the 14th helps you tie up loose ends on any creative projects you've been working on. This is also a powerful reset in regards to your own inner-dialogue. When Venus enters this part of your sky, you're attracting more passionate, enthusiastic folks that have you inspired to aim higher when it comes to your vision for 2021. On the 15th, Chiron goes direct, giving you the confidence to assert yourself in your relationships.
If someone isn't willing to try to meet your needs, then what's the point of having them around?
On the 17th, Saturn shifts into Aquarius, encouraging you to take your creative ideas more seriously over the next couple of years, making this a great time to dust off those old childhood dreams. When Jupiter meets up with Aquarius, there are many blessings to be gained through your consistent efforts and your commitment to expressing yourself more authentically. On the 20th, Mercury enters Capricorn shortly followed by the Sun. You may feel the desire to lay some more solid roots down. Investing in property or family planning may be at the top of your to-do list over the next few weeks. December culminates with a Full Moon in Cancer which could have you celebrating a milestone or completion within your career.
ScorpioScorpioLaci Jordan for xoNecole
December kicks off with Mercury shifting into Sagittarius, reminding you to reel it in when it comes to the retail therapy. The New Moon Solar Eclipse on the 14th likely has you in your feels and you'll be tempted to make some purchases in hopes of comforting yourself. This is fine as long as you're not going into debt or putting other priorities to the back burner for the sake of a new Birkin bag. When Venus enters this part of your chart, you could be attracting a passionate, worldly person into your life that has some wisdom to share from their own personal experiences that can help with what you're currently dealing with.
On the 15th, Chiron goes direct, helping you feel more empowered about your health. Channel your rage and frustrations into a kickboxing class or some cardio.
When Saturn and Jupiter shift into Aquarius, you're invited to lay a solid foundation for yourself. This is a time in which you are reconnecting with your sense of home and family—which everyone defines differently. Investing in property may be at the top of your to-do list in the next couple of years. On the 20th, Mercury shifts gears into Capricorn and is shortly followed behind by the Sun. Sit down and create a strategy for how you want to proceed into 2021. What legacy are you building and what are the next steps in fulfilling that? The month comes to a close with a sweet Full Moon in Cancer, reinforcing your intuitive gifts in a way that can be shared with others to heal and nurture them.
SagittariusSagittariusLaci Jordan for xoNecole
You're the star of the show for the first part of the month as the Sun continues to transit through your sign. When Mercury teams up with the Sun on the 1st, you're ready to spread the gift of the holiday spirit with anyone in sight. The New Moon Solar Eclipse marks the beginning of a period of significant change for you over the next year. Your world as you know it will look completely different whether you're starting a new career, moving across the country, or getting married. When Venus enters this part of your sky, the birthday blessings are coming in full force.
Ask and ye shall receive. On the 15th, Chiron finally goes direct to silence your inner critic so you can get back to what you do best—create.
A few days later, Saturn and Jupiter are linking up in Aquarius. These transits will require you to restructure the way that you communicate and interact with others. With social distancing being a huge factor this year, you could be thinking of some creative ways to cultivate a sense of community and connection with other like-minded folks. On the 20th, Mercury enters Capricorn, revolving your conversations around money and business. When the Sun meets up with Mercury, you're ready to make some boss moves which could have you signing your name on the dotted line to start that new job, work with that new client, or launch a new product or service. By the end of the month, we're winding down with a sensitive Full Moon in Cancer encouraging you to have a good cry or therapy session to release the heavy emotions many felt this year. You're on to bigger and better things in 2021. Chin up, queen!
CapricornCapricornLaci Jordan for xoNecole
In the first part of the month, you're invited to disconnect from the grind and reconnect with your peace. When Mercury enters Saggie on the 1st, it's time to dream a little. Every accomplishment starts with a vision and the New Moon Solar Eclipse is helping you clear out anything that is blocking your creative potential. On the 15th, Venus moves into this part of your sky inviting you to fall in love with the Divine. You've got a direct connection to an infinite well of wisdom, creativity, and passion that can definitely take you to the next level when the time is right. Once Chiron goes direct, you're more clear about who you are as an individual. Your family may have certain expectations of you but you're not living your life to please them.
Serve your soul first and let the rest fall into place.
You finally get the much-awaited break from Saturn being in your sign these past couple of years. Now that your ruling planet shifts into Aquarius, most of the heat is off of your back and you can breathe a sigh of relief. Over the next couple of years, you're invited to restructure your finances and get creative when it comes to new ways of making money. Your discipline will be rewarded, especially when Jupiter wraps up its transit in Aquarius this time next year. If anyone knows that hard work pays off, it's you. Commit to the vision to secure your success. On the 20th, Mercury moves into your sign shortly followed by the Sun. It's time to come out of your solitude to celebrate your birthday! What better way to end the year than with a Full Moon in your opposite sign helping you close out a cycle in the way that you do relationships. Reassess the connections that truly nurture and support you and release those that don't with love.
AquariusAquariusLaci Jordan for xoNecole
December kicks off with Mercury entering Sagittarius on the 1st, making this the perfect time to do what you do best—socialize. The New Moon Solar Eclipse on the 14th could have you reevaluating some people in your inner circle. Don't be surprised if someone exits your life during this time. Trust that the two of you have outgrown the connection and are on the road to new friendships that are more in alignment with your truth. When Venus enters this part of your sky, you'll have no problem meeting new people that inspire you to dream bigger and live your life boldly. On the 15th, Chiron goes direct, reminding you of the importance of embracing your unique qualities and gifts that only you can offer to the world.
Don't be shy, now. Share those gems. You never know who needs to hear your story.
On the 17th, Saturn shifts into your sign which will bring some major changes to how you show up in the world. Your identity as you know it is being redefined throughout this transit. When Jupiter enters Aquarius, you're encouraged to make the right connections—not just for the sake of getting ahead but also as a means of support as you embark on this journey over the next couple of years. Towards the end of the month, Mercury and the Sun meet up in Capricorn, inviting you to slow down, reflect, and rest. Your birthday season is right around the corner and you'll need all the rest you can get to celebrate. The month comes to a close with a Full Moon in Cancer illuminating ways that you can improve your health through better self-care practices. If you don't take care of yourself, who else will?
PiscesPiscesLaci Jordan for xoNecole
The first part of the month has you feeling restless when Mercury enters Sagittarius. Your mind is racing with ideas that you want to execute in your career in 2021. The New Moon Solar Eclipse on the 14th could have you making some changes in your career. Even if you're working a 9-5, you have bigger dreams and now is the time to start pursuing them. You don't necessarily have to quit your corporate gig (although some of you will), so you may have to make the extra effort to juggle two things at once—your responsibility and your passion. When Venus enters this part of your sky, you're attracting just the right people to get you out of a rut.
On the 15th, Chiron goes direct, boosting your self-esteem and giving you the courage to share some of those hidden gifts you've been depriving the world of.
When Saturn and Jupiter link up in Aquarius, your subconscious will undergo a transformation that you can help catalyze by getting more serious about your spiritual practices. As "go with the flow" as you are, it's time for a little structure in whether that be joining a spiritual community, developing a ritual, or meditating more regularly. On the 20th, Mercury enters Capricorn with the Sun following behind on the 21st. It's time to buckle down when it comes to long-term dreams that you'd like to accomplish. Connecting with other power players will help hold you accountable and ensure your success. Let your heart sing with joy and gratitude for all of the love in your life!
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Featured image by Laci Jordan for xoNecole
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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How Black Women Can Get Out Of Survival Mode At Work
We've heard this same song replayed over and over again: Women are stressed and overworked, underpaid, and overlooked in the workplace. Research and everyday experiences back up this claim. And Black women face the added stress of discrimination, even lower pay, and being head of household for a large percentage of homes.
So, how can we get out of survival mode? How can we take deliberate steps to thrive? I'm a huge fan of looking at things from a balanced point of view. I refuse to wear those woe-is-me-it's-hard-being-a-Black-woman tinted glasses often sold to us by propaganda and fear mongers. Here are a few tips that helped me to finally step out of survival mode and into thrive mode:
1. Own your career choices with a mindset shift from lack to optimistic focus and discipline.
It can seem tough to radically approach your career moves as a journey filled with empowering choices, especially when bills have to be paid, and there's stress related to finances. Oftentimes, when I feel the pressure of financial responsibilities, what empowers me is a change in my outlook. I dislike feeling boxed in or forced into anything, including a job or professional role, simply out of financial need. So my mindset has to shift.
I've had to take jobs that I didn't necessarily like. I've also been underemployed before. The key was to think about the goal and focus solely on that. Whether it was to pay off a debt, tide me over while I was in a time of self-employment slump, or save up for a large purchase, focusing on the goal vs. my dislike of the actual job, helped me push through and be more strategic about my career moves.
Once I was able to meet certain goals, I found the freedom to be a bit more picky with the organizations I work with, the companies I work for, and the salary I was willing to accept. It might take a bit of time, but you can set yourself up for this freedom with strategy and focus.
The optimistic piece is key here because it's easy to fall into a cycle of thinking about the negatives of a job or career. It's also easy to fall into shame about mistakes made or about what you perceive you lack, but when you shift focus to what you can control, what you can change, what you do have, and your end goal, you're better able to really be strategic about going for the professional life and quality of work you'd like to have.
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2. Get to know what really motivates your fulfillment or happiness at work.
Do you just generally like helping people? Do you like challenging yourself intellectually? Do you love working with children or being a person of authority? Do you like being outdoors or doing work activities in nature? Do you enjoy solo work where you really don't have to interact with too many people all the time? Is your work purpose-driven or more about making lots of money? (It's totally fine to be motivated by the pursuit of financial freedom and wealth, but you must keep it real with yourself in this regard. We all play various roles in this world, and the money-makers among us are vital as well, so there's no shame in that.)
Sit down and think about these things. Write them down. If your current job or career doesn't align with what motivates you to get up and take action every day or it doesn't involve tasks that will guide you to your ultimate goal in life, consider looking for other work, going back to school to get training in something else you might be interested in doing for a living, volunteering, or taking on other projects at your current job in order to really tap into what you enjoy doing.
3. Find other fulfilling activities that fill in the gaps of dissatisfaction.
Some of us can't afford to just quit a job or give up on the years we've dedicated to a company. That's fine. If there are things about your job that are stressors or that are simply just a norm in the work you do, find other activities outside of work that allows you to have some sense of release and balance. It could be sports, spa dates, exercise, church, family time, or solo do-nothing days.
It could be starting a side business, a nonprofit, or a group for other people who have similar interests. It could be therapy or other spiritual practices. If you find you've made your job your whole life, it's a good idea to figure out a better balance so that you aren't consumed by it.
It's great to be an achiever and to do well at work, but there are other human needs that are important, too. Deliberately schedule other activities on your calendar and make them a priority so that you can start to really enjoy your career by having a balanced outlook on your role in it.
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4. Use your voice---especially if you're in a leadership position---and ask for help.
Oftentimes, it can be hard for us to simply as for the help we need. We don't want to seem inadequate, inexperienced, or, dare I say, weak. We want to seem strong, powerful, and resilient all the time. And that desire is a valid one, especially due to the discrimination and toxic systemic issues we face in the workplace.
I challenge you, though, to ask for help, anyway. If you need an assistant, ask for one. If you need time off, ask for it. If you need more time to complete a task, ask for it. Build your tribe at work and get support. Even if you feel your manager or supervisor will say no, speak up anyway.
We have to get into a practice of speaking up because the more all of us do this, the more we empower ourselves and help to shift company cultures. It's really annoying and sometimes insulting to have to justify a reasonable request for assistance, but sometimes, it must be done.
I once had to create a whole pitch just to get an intern to help with the work I had in managing projects that probably should have been split between three people, not one. I ended up getting the intern, but just having to create this whole pitch for something a leader could have used common sense to approve was a lesson in humility for sure. It was as if I had to prove I deserved an intern or help at all.
If you're a manager, delegate. Trust others to do tasks. Empower them by giving them the tools they need to fulfill certain obligations that are really distracting you from the more vital deadlines that you need to meet. Being a superwoman is just not realistic, and to be honest, it's a farce. A true leader serves and is able to give others a chance to be leaders within their own right. You can let someone else shine without dimming your own light.
And managers, speak up for more efficient work processes, better ways to communicate, equal pay, and better protocols that put workers who offer amazing talent and time first. If you have to take baby steps to do this, do it, even if you must align yourself with a privileged ally or seek legal counsel. Again, change in terms of the fight to survive in a career or thrive in one can be sparked with one action from many of us.
5. Quit. Yes, just let that job go.
Burnout is nothing to play with, and it can literally affect your physical health. If you find that you're always mentally exhausted, are oftentimes depressed or angry, or you're coping with work-related stress through overeating or over-indulging in other ways, it's time to take a full stop. If you're literally at your wit's end and you have the family or other support to resign, do it. Talk to your family, a counselor, or a mentor, and take the steps to prep for an exit.
I'd had a point in my life where professional burnout literally led to a mental breakdown. I was in my early 30s at the time. I was overweight, drinking a lot, angry all the time, and wasn't sleeping well. I was working all the time as well, and I was not enjoying my life anymore. I called my mom. "There's something wrong. I cannot function. Ma, it's getting bad. I cannot do this anymore." She simply replied, "Come home."
I felt ashamed and like a failure, but looking back, several years later, it was the best decision of my life. My mom, stepfather, and grandmother really helped me during a tough time. I cashed out my 401K, got on unemployment, and rebuilt. I found love, bought a car (in cash, sis!), went to therapy, moved into my dream home, traveled, and made more money than I had when I was at that previous job where I'd experienced burnout. (I found balance again, both emotionally and mentally, and I felt like myself again.)
If you have the support, tap into it. Use all resources afforded to you to be able to take some time off to get out of survival mode. Change your environment.
And maybe your "letting go" doesn't even include quitting outright. Focusing on the positive outcomes, explain to your HR department or manager, and ask to take a sabbatical. During the break---where your job would still be waiting for you upon your return---map out what you want out of your career, what gives you joy, and what it will take to get your finances in order. Let go of the shame and get the help you need.
As Black women, we deserve all the best life has to offer, and while we must work hard and continue to challenge ourselves, we must also find fulfillment and joy within our career journeys. I hope these tips will help many of you take back your life and thrive.
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Featured image by Katleho Seisa/Getty Images