Pulling up in a lime green Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Fhonia Ellis, all of 5'7", jumps out of the driver's side. She walks around to the back seat of the passenger side and pulls out a pair of white boots and slips them over black distressed jeans paired with a white "Queens Get SHIT Done" tee. She doesn't even curse— much.
"She Has Incredible Tenacity," she explains. "It's my t-shirt line. It's inspired by powerful women that I encounter and I'm inspired by every day. All of the shirts are centered around empowerment, freedom, and confidence."
I offer my help as she pulls out a garment bag, and I'm instructed to carry what I later find out is her sewing kit as we make our way inside a beautiful white bungalow-style home with black trim. Downstairs it's tastefully decorated with modern furniture— chic, but cozy. We clomp up wooden stairs that lead to a den and through a door that opens to a massive closet that would please even Carrie Bradshaw. Ellis drops off her kit and warmly greets her client, Dr. Jarrett ("Doc"), like an old friend.
"Some people when they get to a certain level you would think they'd move on," Doc says. "But she's very down to earth."
Ellis certainly has a roster to boast about. Her list of tailoring clientele includes the likes of Diddy, Missy Elliott, Cardi B, and Marsai Martin, just to name a few. An impressive Rolodex considering that she's only in her third year of full-time self-employment.
But not all success stories sing the same tune. Some start off in a low hum that, with each and every obstacle overcome, grows into a steady crescendo. For grit always comes before glory, and Ellis' story is one with a promising ending.
Becoming a Designer
Growing up Ellis didn't have visions of grandeur as a tailor. "I used to say in high school all the time, I'm going to be a designer," she says. "I didn't even know what a designer was, but I just knew that that's who I was going to be."
A first-generation designer and tailor, Ellis picked up a needle and thread at the age of 15, at first to add some flavor to her "Mom" jeans, which she'd cut up and cut out to reflect her unique style. As her passion for fashion evolved, so did her skill sets. Inspired by the bold and daring details of clothing designers like Betsy Johnson and the late Alexander McQueen, Ellis' own threads never failed to impress. Her custom creations caught the attention of NBA player Derek Anderson, who owned a clothing store and sought Ellis to design a line of jersey dresses for his clientele. "That's how I made money in high school. I was making jersey dresses for people and costumes. I made my prom dress. I would wear all of it."
As word got around town about her hand-stitched designs, the requests started flowing in and her waitlist grew a few months out. But there was one caveat— she didn't know how to use the sewing machine that her stepmom had gifted her. But as she would later learn, there was no problem that she couldn't stitch.
"I called [my friend] and was like, 'Hey, I think my machine is broke.' I didn't want to tell them I didn't know how to sew because at this point everybody thinks I know how to sew on a machine. So I was like, 'Hey girl, I think my needle broke but I don't know how to fix it. Do you think you can come and show me how to fix it?' And she was like, 'Oh girl, don't worry about it. I'll fix it for you.'"
A self-proclaimed visual learner, Ellis watched as her friend threaded the needle and worked the machine, which was all she needed to see to take over the reins. "As soon as she started out, I was like, 'Bingo! I got it.' And I took a Sharpie marker and highlighted it on my sewing machine— the way to thread it like one, two, three, four. Then I started [machine] sewing everything."
As a local socialite, Ellis hit the ground running— showing off her designs to anyone who would pay attention and often hosting pop-up fashion shows at nightclubs and bars around the city. "I always had a mentality of even if you don't let me in the door, you're going to have to see me eventually, and once you see me, you're going to come to me," she says. "You may not give me your money now, but eventually, you are going to want me because I'm going to make myself so marketable that it's going to be hard for you not to want to know who I am."
With a taste of success under her belt, Ellis' dream of being a world-renowned designer could no longer be confined to her small town in Louisville, Kentucky. She had a bigger vision for herself, which required a big move and bigger faith. With her eyes set on New York City, she cold-called the wardrobe department at BET and requested to send over her design portfolio for review. They didn't have opportunities for her at the time, but she kept in contact with the supervisor of the wardrobe department.
Nearly a year later, she landed an unpaid internship in the wardrobe department, which meant moving to a city where she had little money and no friends. "I remember my brother called and he was like, 'You need to figure it out because if you don't get out of here now, you're never going to leave.'"
"I always had a mentality of even if you don't let me in the door, you're going to have to see me eventually, and once you see me, you're going to come to me. You may not give me your money now, but eventually, you are going to want me because I'm going to make myself so marketable that it's going to be hard for you not to want to know who I am."
A Fearless Move
A girl from a small town with big dreams, New York City greeted Ellis with open arms and its infamous struggles. During the day she worked at BET as a fashion assistant, and after leaving work she'd transition to Starbucks to put in a few more hours of work on her designs, taking advantage of their free internet since she didn't have it at home. Eight months in, she felt that she was no longer growing at the media company, and knew soon she'd have to find something else. "It was a good position, but not a great position," she says in an interview with Blog Talk Radio.
Shortly into her time there, she got a call from her brother with devastating news. Her mother— who was battling cancer— wasn't doing well. Reluctantly, Ellis packed up her belongings and moved back to Kentucky. A few months later her mother passed, but not before leaving her a message. "She was like, 'I want you to know something. I want you to know that I'm proud of the woman that you became, not for everything that you've done.' And I know now that she was speaking to my future self, where I am now."
Her mother also predicted who her next celebrity client would be. "My mother used to watch BET Awards and she would be like, 'Oh, you're going to be there one year. My daughter's going to be a designer for Mary Mary.' And when my mother passed away, the next person I designed for was Erica Campbell."
Ellis continued building her design business in Louisville, despite dealing with the grief of losing her mother. During this time she would be a guest on 106 & Park showcasing the 2013 spring and summer collection of Rebirth, her clothing line launched in 2007 that caught the attention of celebrities like Trina and Diamond. She'd also lead sewing classes and host a motivational workshop entitled "The Life You Want To Live." Nearly three years later, she heard a voice nudging her to move again. "God told me that you have to get out of here because somebody's going to try to do something to you because they think that you have more than what you have. So you're going to have to go to a place that I'm going to show you."
With $1,200 to her name, she left home and traveled down the road to Atlanta. With no job lined up, she began visualizing what her next position would look like at the advice of a spiritual advisor. Wanting a break from the designer's life, she desired something without the stress and with more stability. "Literally Macy's came out of nowhere; they didn't even have my resume. [The manager] was like, 'Somebody's watching out for you.' And he hired me."
For the next three years, Ellis worked in visual merchandising while taking on new clients on the side. Though she had the urge to leave and pursue design full-time again, she felt in her spirit that she wasn't ready to take the leap into entrepreneurship due to her history of depression, PTSD and suicidal attempts. "God was basically saying mentally you're not strong enough to handle the highs and lows of entrepreneurship right now," she says. "I knew God was trying to protect my peace, and He was saying that you're not strong enough for the industry. You're still too emotional or very offended with things. You're going to shut down and this will break you."
Thanks to therapy and an invitation to the gym, she was able to start the process of healing. "I just was so tired of my own shit. I was so tired of being depressed and broken. I was like, I've got to try to save my life because if I don't, I'm afraid I'm not going to have one. The gym has kind of been my saving grace."
"I just was so tired of my own shit. I was so tired of being depressed and broken. I was like, I've got to try to save my life because if I don't, I'm afraid I'm not going to have one. The gym has kind of been my saving grace."
Finding Her Purpose
India Arie plays softly through the iPhone speaker as Ellis flips through her red alteration cards, reading the notes from her session with Doc, who's currently changing into another outfit. Thus far the client has decided to have a pair of plaid pants taken out ("they're a little too tight around the rear") and pair of floral pants taken in and hemmed up half an inch. She reappears in red sweatpants, awkwardly grabbing at the crotch that's been cut out and takes her position in front of the full-length mirror. Ellis crouches into position and does a duck-like walk around her legs, expertly pinning and outlining areas with fabric chalk for sewing later.
"You can tell she's very passionate about what she does, and I'm all about hanging around passionate people," Doc says. "I feed off of energy and she has a really great spirit, and you can just tell that she loves what she does."
Later in a Starbucks coffee shop, Ellis admits to me that having the right attitude was something she had to develop over time. "People don't like being around people they don't like, so if you want to keep the money rolling in you have to learn how to have a certain type of energy and a vibe."
She also admits that she's still getting used to accolades from clients, in part because this wasn't the career path she imagined for herself when she was designing clothes at 15.
While at Macy's, Ellis quickly learned that she didn't want to pursue a career in visual merchandising, and felt a strong calling towards alterations. There was only one problem— she had no desire to be a seamstress. "As designers sometimes we may look at people who say oh you're a seamstress as de-valuing in some way. So I felt like I'm not a seamstress, I'm a whole designer out here!"
Despite her disbelief, the cards were saying otherwise. There was the confirmation from her client Karleen Roy, who encouraged her to pursue alterations as a career. Then there were the angel numbers that began to appear, and that when researched indicated that she was about to walk into something new. And after driving by multiple alteration shops on her ride home one day, she could no longer ignore the signs. She finally surrendered to her calling. Shortly after, she landed her first major client, NBA player Kevin Garnett. "I had never made that much money even as a designer. Here I am trying to reject something God is telling me to do, but it actually blessed my life."
After two seasons of working with Garnett, Ellis knew it was time to take another leap of faith and leave her job at Macy's. She turned in a 60-day notice feeling confident about her future job stability, but just two days shy of leaving, she learned that her client was being moved to Los Angeles, and that her services were no longer needed. Thankfully, she had nearly $10,000 saved to help cushion the blow of losing a major client.
"I sat there and I was like, God, you've got to give me a bigger client to let me know that this is still what you're calling me to do," she says. "Because at this point I'm confused."
A few days after leaving her job, she landed Diddy as a new client. "I knew that was God telling me that was my confirmation."
"It's funny because [Diddy] circled back around this year," she continues. "His stylist hit me up one day and was like, 'Oh, I got your number from the Ritz Carlton.' And I was like I've never been to the Ritz Carlton. I don't know who has my number here, but again, it's not for me to know, I didn't even question it. And [Diddy] was also saying, 'I think you really should do this. There's not an African American woman that is on the forefront that really has a tailoring agency. You could be big with this.' He was the second person that put out that feeling of you could be the black Martha Stewart. You could have a whole situation going on here if you do this the right way."
The confirmations didn't end there. In fact, Ellis has an arsenal of stories that indicate that there's a divine calling over her life. There was the trip to ESSENCE Festival, in which she only agreed to go if the stars aligned— a few days later she was in New Orleans tailoring for Marsai Martin ("when you're supposed to go somewhere God will line all of that up."). There was also the BET Awards, in which she took a leap of faith by flying to Los Angeles a couple of weeks before the show with no jobs lined up, only to end up the lead person over one of the wardrobe trailers for the show. And shortly upon her return, she picked up a gig with Cardi B for her baby shower. If life was a movie, Ellis' story would be filled with plot twists.
Yet despite her success, she still finds it hard to embrace that she's working the job of her dreams. As an entrepreneur, a steady paycheck isn't always guaranteed, and when the flashy lights turn off, reality shines bright. "The world sees that you're doing all of these wonderful things, but your money still hasn't changed that much. But I can't not go do my job because the money is not all there; I've still got to keep moving forward. And I think for me it was hard to understand not attaching money to success because again, just from my own trauma that I had experienced, money made me feel validated, and so if I didn't have it, I didn't feel successful."
Trauma is often associated with physical experiences, but sometimes it's the words that are said— or unsaid— that dig the deepest roots. For Ellis, it started over two decades ago, when she was told her dream wouldn't pay the bills.
"I have a very loving family, but I didn't grow up in an environment that was encouraging," she says. "I didn't have the blueprint of you can be anything you want to be. It was like, 'You just need to get a job; that's not a real job.' So that was instilled in me practically my whole life. I feel like it's also crippled me a lot in my life now because I'm constantly trying to prove to myself that this is a job."
It's part of what has led to her idea of opening an alterations shop and starting a temporary agency under the Touched by Fhi umbrella in an effort to help other women of color gain exposure and opportunities in an industry that didn't easily open the doors for her to walk into. After all, she wouldn't be a legend if her legacy stopped with herself.
"The world sees that you're doing all of these wonderful things, but your money still hasn't changed that much. But I can't not go do my job because the money is not all there; I've still got to keep moving forward. And I think for me it was hard to understand not attaching money to success because again, just from my own trauma that I had experienced, money made me feel validated, and so if I didn't have it, I didn't feel successful."
Building a Legacy
As a high school graduate who was unable to afford the tuition at American International University in Atlanta, Ellis had picked up the curriculum from the Art Institute of Indianapolis, found a local sewing teacher, and alongside her godmother who was also a seamstress, taught herself how to sew. Where she lacked in formal education, she gained in experience, even if it meant taking unpaid gigs at different levels of success in her life, just to learn a new skill.
It's those same skills that she's hoping to pass down to generations after her. While she doesn't believe that everybody should know how to sew, she does believe that everyone should have the opportunity to learn. In the meantime, for those interested in getting into the industry, she recommends studying your craft, developing your knowledge on everything from sewing patterns to body types, and always looking for ways to improve your skills.
"You really need to go invest in yourself and really want to be the best at what you do," she says. "I don't even feel like you should touch it if you don't want to craft it in such a way that you operate in nothing but excellence."
One thing's for sure, we're witnessing the making of an icon living. The Elizabeth Keckley, Zelda Wynn Valdes, or maybe even Ann Lowe of this generation— true pioneers that altered and redefined what it means to be successful in fashion.
"Where I'm at now in my life is that I really just understand trusting the process. Everything that God has given you is not in vain. It's still a part of your story, but it might be a different chapter. You know what I mean?"
Featured image courtesy of Fhonia Ellis
Kiah McBride writes technical content by day and uses storytelling to pen real and raw personal development pieces on her blog Write On Kiah. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @writeonkiah.
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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Your June 2023 Horoscopes Are All About Intuition & Love Leading You Forward
June is all about following your inner compass. Life is coming full circle, and both culminations and new beginnings are occurring. This month is a time of showing up for yourself, for others, and for your life- and about seeing things with more clarity. Gemini Season is underway in June, and Gemini is a wildcard. You never know what is going to happen when the Sun is in Gemini, and it's best to go with the flow right now. Check in to your inner compass for guidance on the path ahead of you, and feel the excitement of what is possible for you this month.
June 2023 Overview
There is a Full Moon in Sagittarius on June 3rd, and this is the Full Strawberry Moon of the year. Being that the Full Moon will be in a fire sign, this is overall a time of activation and empowerment. This is the time to overcome fears, gain the bigger picture, and experience a breakthrough in your life. A few days later, on June 5th, Venus moves into Leo, and even love is heating up. Venus in Leo loves loud. She loves being in this self-expressive and bold sign, and love takes on a more exciting, charming, creative, and dramatic tone over the next few months. Venus will be in Leo until October 8th, and there will be a lot happening when it comes to love, relationships, and finances over that time.
Saturn and Neptune are both in Pisces, and they both go retrograde this month. With Saturn going retrograde on the 17th and Neptune on the 30th, although there is a lot of growth taking place in June, there is also a need to take a step back and process. Saturn retrograde makes sure your plans are sustainable, and Neptune retrograde helps you take off the blinders. Both of these signs in retrograde motion facilitate a reality check, and as Retrograde Season begins, it’s better to learn lessons as they come rather than having to repeat them later.
Saturn will humble, and Neptune will inspire.
On June 18th, there is a New Moon in Gemini as Gemini Season comes to a close, and there are some surprises in store during this time. Since Gemini is all about the mind, some important revelations are happening now, and connecting with others on many different layers is what this time is facilitating. Look out for new opportunities that are appearing this month, and back your intentions with excitement. Cancer Season begins on June 21st, and after a mentally active month, the heart takes more focus again. Overall, June is a time of the skies clearing, perspective entering, and love leading you forward.
What's In Store for Each Zodiac Sign in June 2023
ARIESAriesKyra Jay for xoNecole
In June, you are working on letting the past go, Aries. This is a month to choose your battles wisely, focus on more sustainability, and on putting your attention on what’s going to work for you in the long run. There is no easy fix to what is presenting itself to you this month, and it’s about standing your ground and not giving up on yourself in the meantime. You are more powerful than you know, and you will overcome any tests thrown your way this month.
Venus enters your 5th house of love on June 5th, and this is putting a positive tone on romance for you. You are attracted to confidence, emotional vulnerability, and joy in others more so than anything right now, and things are getting interesting for you in love this month. Saturn goes retrograde on the 17th, and with Saturn currently in your 12th house of endings and closure, you are preparing for some big transformations this summer, and they start appearing for you now.
TAURUSTaurusKyra Jay for xoNecole
This month is all about overcoming fears, Taurus. June is the time to take off the blindfold that has kept you safe and comfortable out of fear so that you can understand where true safety and power come from. You are releasing limitations from your life that have been self-imposed and are ready to let go of the people that keep you in this state of limbo as well. The Full Moon happening this month on the 3rd is when you gain the clarity and self-understanding needed to transform from these power struggles and reach your true potential in life.
Moving forward into June, your ruling planet, Venus, enters Leo and moves into an area of your birth chart having to do with home, family, inner well-being, and your foundations. You are getting some type of reality check in June, but it’s helping you build more solid and stable ground for yourself to thrive on. Home is where you feel the love, especially so this month, and you are creating some new safe spaces for yourself in June and sprucing up your surroundings.
GEMINIGeminiKyra Jay for xoNecole
In June, your patience and persistence are needed, Gemini. This is a month where you will see blessings bloom, but when you also need to put more effort into watering your intentions. This doesn’t always mean taking more action. Sometimes it means believing in yourself more and looking at your situation in a more positive and nurturing light. You have worked hard to plant your seeds and build a life that makes you happy, and the universe is nudging you to see that you are almost there.
The Sun is in Gemini until June 21st, and most of the month is about gaining self-confidence, being the leader of your life, and honoring your right to happiness. On June 11th, Mercury, your ruling planet, enters your sign, and your mind is thriving right now. Communication is your strength more so than ever in June, and this is an excellent month to connect, engage, and keep an open mind. Before the month ends, there is a New Moon in your sign on the 18th, and it’s time to believe in a miracle.
CANCERCancerKyra Jay for xoNecole
Gather your strength, and find your ground this month, Cancer. The Sun is in the sign just before yours for most of the month, and you are tying up loose ends in June. You often keep space for the past, present, and future all to reside in your heart, but this month you are taking a good look at how much you can really carry and how much you really should be. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for support this month. You are always there for others, and sometimes it’s your turn for someone to be there for you.
Saturn goes retrograde this month on the 17th, and over the next few months will be helping you gain a new perspective. Saturn will be retrograde in an area of your chart having to do with travel as well, and extra patience and planning will be needed when it comes to travel plans this summer. On June 21st, Cancer Season officially begins, and you are feeling more freedom and excitement after somewhat of a heavy month. A few days later, on the 26th, Mercury enters Cancer, and the spotlight is really on you now.
LEOLeoKyra Jay for xoNecole
June is a month of emotional renewal for you, Leo. You are beginning anew in many ways this month, and you are feeling the love and support. There is something exciting about what is presenting itself to you in June, and you can’t help but feel passionate about it all. There is a Full Moon in Sagittarius happening on the 3rd at the beginning of the month, and this Full Moon is bringing things full circle when it comes to love. Your intentions have been heard, and you are seeing the benefit of going after what you want in life. You are protected and worthy, and it is safe for you to love, Leo.
Speaking of love, Venus, the planet of romance, love, and pleasure, enters your sign on June 5th and will remain here for an unusually long amount of time until October. When Venus is in your sign, love takes on a bold, proud, and more charismatic charm. Venus in Leo has a dramatic flair to her, so things will definitely be interesting for you over the next few months, but there won’t be a lack of love in your life, that is for sure. Overall, June is an emotionally exciting month for you.
VIRGOVirgoKyra Jay for xoNecole
Your heart is free, Virgo. June is about feeling the love in your life from within to without and feeling like things are in synergy. You believe in the power of manifestation, and this month you are seeing some of your manifestations appear, especially regarding the relationships in your life. You have moved through a lot of growth this year, and you are ready to have some more fun and see what other exciting and heartfelt experiences are in store for you.
Neptune and Saturn both go retrograde this month, and they are going to be retrograde in your 7th house of one-on-one relationships, love, finances, and enemies. Thankfully, the love you have been giving yourself will triumph over any hater that may come your way, and the community of support you have built around you will facilitate that. These retrogrades for you are more about being a better advocate for yourself and learning more about certain patterning and emotional experiences in love that play out for you so that you can recharge and renew.
LIBRALibraKyra Jay for xoNecole
Celebrations are in store for you this month, Libra. June is all about good times and good vibes. You have the support around you that you need to feel the emotional fulfillment you look for in life, and there are a lot of healing experiences to be had this month. It’s about letting go of what keeps you apart from others and focusing more on what keeps you together. You are finding your balance, having fun, and honoring your heart this month, Libra.
Your ruling planet, Venus, moves into your house of friendships at the beginning of the month on the 5th, and you are feeling new beginnings within your community, friendships, and your soulmates. Others are more willing to share the love right now, and you are feeling more seen and heard. With Saturn going retrograde before the month ends on the 17th, you will need to take a look at your current routine and see what benefits and what overwhelms you, however. Taking care of your health should be more of a priority over the next few months, but overall, June has a lot to offer you.
SCORPIOScorpioKyra Jay for xoNecole
Trust your intuition, Scorpio. This is a month of tuning into the universe and paying attention to the signs. You are inspiring those around you with your sound wisdom and advice, and you are stepping into your power this month. June is your time to get creative, tap into the divine, and create more beauty in your life. Venus moves into your 10th house of career on June 5th and will be shining the spotlight on you over the next few months. It’s all about showing up and allowing others to admire and appreciate who you are.
There is a New Moon in Gemini occurring on the 18th, and this New Moon is a transformative one for you. You are letting go of self-doubt and pain and moving forward into self-empowerment and healing. You are learning more about self-mastery right now and how to be the leader of your life rather than someone who’s the result of their circumstances. June is an empowering month for you overall, and this is a game-changing time.
SAGITTARIUSSagittariusKyra Jay for xoNecole
June is all about letting go, Sagittarius. It’s about honoring your health, letting go of control, and focusing on what aligns with your well-being rather than hindering it. You are learning some important lessons on allowing rather than forcing right now and are getting the opportunity to put yourself on a new path in life. There is a Full Moon happening at the beginning of the month on the 3rd, and this Full Moon is signaling to you where to let go and where to dive in.
You are closing some chapters in your life this month. With Venus moving into fellow fire sign Leo on the 5th and entering your house of adventure, you are not in the mood to be tied down to anything that feels forced or smothering. You are overcoming some addictions and mental hurdles to feel more freedom in your life right now. Saturn goes retrograde on the 17th and will be in retrograde in your 4th house of home and family until November, and you will be defining and refinding what family means to you right now.
CAPRICORNCapricornKyra Jay for xoNecole
June is all about baby steps, Capricorn. You are putting one foot in front of the other and paving a new path for yourself this month. Your finances, income, and synergy here are in focus for most of the month, and you are looking for new ways to see growth in this area of your life. You are putting the feelers out there, taking on new opportunities and responsibilities, and you are seeing the results of your resourcefulness. With the Full Moon happening at the beginning of the month, you are letting go of what has been weighing you down from fulfilling your dreams.
Pluto has been in retrograde since May 1st, and on June 11th, it moves into your sign. Pluto will be retrograde in Capricorn until October, and during this time, you will be finding your power and owning your voice. You deserve to take up space, and you do make the great leader that you aspire to be. Your ruling planet Saturn goes retrograde a few days later on the 17th, and you will be experiencing growth when it comes to communication, neighbors, siblings, transportation, and connection.
AQUARIUSAquariusKyra Jay for xoNecole
You have the Midas Touch this month, Aquarius. This is an impactful and abundant month for you, and you are happy with the spaces you are finding yourself in right now. You have found the key to your success and are creating and living the life you dream of. With Venus moving into your house of love as the month begins, there is so much to be grateful for right now, and you have it all right beside you. Remember to appreciate the gifts of today and not get so lost in the details that you miss the moment.
Saturn goes retrograde on the 17th and will be retrograde in your house of income until November. Create a strategic plan for your financial world, and focus on stability here. You have made some essential gains here recently, and Saturn will be serving lessons on how to maintain that. Saturn is one of your ruling planets, and you especially feel its influence. Over the next few months, take an honest look at your financial world, and create a long-term plan here.
PISCESPiscesKyra Jay for xoNecole
June is a new beginning for you, Pisces. You are in high spirits this month and are feeling the hope that you align so well with in life. New communication is coming to the forefront, and you are getting the answers you have been looking for. You are seeing things clearly right now, and your heart is leading the way. The Full Moon on June 3rd will be happening in your house of success and achievements, and you are spending the beginning of the month honoring how far you have come and celebrating where you are now.
Saturn and Neptune are both in your sign right now, and they both go retrograde this month. Saturn first, on June 17th, and you may be feeling more restless than usual over the next few months. You could be feeling a little more anxious and pressured right now, and more compassion for yourself and your life path is needed. Neptune goes retrograde in Pisces on the 30th, and you are getting lost in the mystery of it all. Divine intervention will be at play for you over the next few months, and perspectives are shaking for you to see some new truths. Overall, this is a very creative and life-changing time for you.
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Featured image by Kyra Jay for xoNecole