I've shared before that I don't do social media. No regrets either. Adding to that, I can't tell you the last time that I Googled myself and I rarely read comments posted under anything that I've written. See, I remember the days before the world wide web (amazing). I imagine that life was so much more peaceful for professional writers back then because you basically said what you wanted to say and was done with it. There were no distractions from trollers or haters or folks who just like to trigger you for a living (when they actually could and should be focused on their own life's work). Limiting how much I engage online offers up a similar kind of tranquility.
And what in the world does this possibly have to do with what I'm gonna touch on today? Well, since I don't have social media accounts, another bonus is I'm not as tempted to do what a lot of people in my world tend to do — check up on exes. Lawd. Folks post so many details of their daily lives online that it can be really easy to get caught up in the past, in your present, if you're not careful. That's why I wish that I had totally ignored a friend who decided to give me an update on an ex, one that was from many years ago, a couple of months. Because while I'm not gonna lie and act like I don't think about him from time to time, I honestly hadn't interacted with him since I went on my heart pieces tour (check out "Why Every Woman Should Go On A 'Get Your Heart Pieces Back' Tour").
I hadn't looked him up in a few years either. Yet when I heard what I heard, I went a lookin' and boy…what I saw. I won't lie, it sent me back down memory's lane for a hot minute. And it definitely had me wondering if I was simply missing what once was or if I was low-key craving him a bit. The conclusion that I came to, I'm hoping can set some of y'all free, if you are currently in a similar emotional predicament…cause whew, chile.
What Does It Mean to Crave Someone?
OK, although the title has "miss" before "crave", consider that to be a little bit of clickbait because honestly, I think it makes more sense to break down what it means to crave someone first. And yes, I'll use my semi-recent incident as the example. The interesting thing about a craving is, from a dietary standpoint, it oftentimes means that we are either lacking a nutrient or that our hormones are imbalanced in some way (which explains why many of us have cravings when we're on our cycle or pregnant). However, there can also be psychological reasons for cravings too. A memory, an emotion, a longing can cause us to want to eat something that will bring some sense of comfort to us.
Let's expand this to a craving for a person. Definitions for the word include "to long for; want greatly; desire eagerly", "to require; need" and "to ask earnestly for (something); beg for". As you process these definitions, think about what I said about your body and swap it out for your heart. Then exchange food for "him".
When you feel like something is lacking within you, you may crave someone. When you're emotionally all over the place on some level, you may crave someone. Feeding into a memory, the way a person made you feel or a desire that you possibly have been suppressing, that too can cause you to crave someone. And if you don't really take the time to ponder all of this, the craving could manifest into a longing, possibly begging (asking earnestly) or even gassing yourself up to think that you need or even require them to be (back) in your life.
My ex? The chemistry was strong. The sex was good. The battle of wits was bar none. Not just when we were together but many years later when we caught back up. I won't lie —I literally had to convince myself to not get off ofmy abstinence wheel and take another spin with him (if you know what I mean). Yet in 2015, when we reconnected by phone, while I was still sexually attracted to him, I realized that I missed him — or rather, missed what we had — more than anything else (more on that in a second). And still earlier this year? Chile, that was a craving. See, I have been so focused on fulfilling my purpose and counseling other people that, although I'm a place of wholeness when it comes to my relational status (perhaps more than I've ever been before), seeing him married, a parent and thriving got to me a bit.
It was a mixture of being happy for him, wondering if we would've been like that had we made more responsible choices in the past and also admitting to myself that sometimes I desire companionship. Then I had to remind myself that wanting that and yet refusing to settle — those two things can co-exist. Not only that, but it's OK to feel that way. All of this brought me to the conclusion that the craving I was experiencing really wasn't about him. The craving was seeing what had manifested in his life and desiring it. A bit.
Another example of a craving. There is someone in my world who had an emotional affair with an ex because 1) her marriage was getting on her last nerve in that season and 2) she was missing the sexual connection she had with this particular person (a person who she found online so, again, be careful on there). That is a brutal combo yet between his looks, his charm and taking a walk down sexual memory lane, she was definitely craving him. And while she eventually realized that he was someone that she really just needed to leave alone for the rest of her days, after coming clean with her man and going through some couple's therapy, she also saw that the craving existed because there was a disconnect with her husband. While the sex with her ex was bomb, she was also satisfied with her man. It's just that because something was lacking between them, she "blew up" the experiences that she shared with her ex in her mind.
Cravings will do that to you. They'll have you out here thinking that you'll damn near die if you don't have a pint of Rocky Road or one more round with a blast from the past. It'll do that until you get to the root of what's triggering the craving in the first place. Once you do, usually you end up realizing that you're just fine without it or him…that you might miss him but that's about it.
Which brings me to the next point.
What Does It Mean to Miss Someone?
Miss. Miss is an interesting word. It means "to fail to reach, hit, meet, find, or attain (some specified or implied aim, goal, target, etc.)", "to fail to attend or be present for", "to fail to see, hear, understand, or perceive" and "to lose, overlook, or fail to take advantage of".
When you take all of this in, it's easy to see how "I miss him" can include all of these definitions. You may miss that you aren't present for a season in "his" life. You may miss that you are unable to see or understand what's currently going on in his world. You may miss that you didn't take advantage of the opportunity that you had to build with him once upon a time. You may miss that you've lost him. Perhaps for a season. Maybe for good.
For me, "my miss" was knowing that being present in his life would be totally inappropriate (considering our history). I also "miss" him in the sense he has to be chalked up to a missed opportunity. That's why it's so important that when we're making decisions that we factor in the fact that decisions now have a ripple effect in our future — not "every once in a while", at least 85 percent of the time. Back when he and I were involved, our passion was reckless, our privacy was sneaky and our thought process was only in present tense. We had a lot of the characteristics to be an awesome match while making totally irresponsible decisions. And so, when I saw what his life looked like I now, I realized that I missed taking better advantage of the potential of what we could've been more than I craved anything about him, if that makes sense.
Another example. Last year, another ex hit me up to tell me that he missed me. What he missed, more than anything, was our friendship. So much damage had been done and so much time had now passed that it's pretty close to impossible to become anything more than two people who are at peace with one another while living separate lives — yet, he missed discussing politics, watching movies and listening to music together. He missed our inside jokes. He missed our way of just…knowing each other — when we knew each other. Nothing is lacking in his world now. In fact, in many ways, he's thriving. So no, I'm not a craving. He just misses parts of me. And us. I totally get that because, again, a craving tends to reveal to us something that we're lacking in some way while missing something (or one) can happen, even if we are fine and whole.
Why Is All of This So Relevant? And Beneficial?
The reason why it's so important to know the difference between the two is because craving and missing warrant different responses. If you're craving someone, I recommend that you do some real soul-searching to see where you feel like there are places of lack — not so much as it relates to him but as it relates to your mind, body and spirit. What kind of voids would distracting yourself with him fill? On the other hand, if you're missing someone, well, that happens. When we share our worlds, intimately, with someone else — it's kind of like what I heard someone in a movie once say. They asked, "If you love someone and it all comes to an end, where does the love go?" Indeed.
If you just miss them, miss them. It's not an automatic sign to make it any more than that. Honor your heart and the journey by being still in feeling what you feel…knowing that the feeling will pass.
Back to food. You know, sometimes I miss McDonald's French fries. However, I don't really crave them. My overall health and diet are at a place where I don't feel like that kind of food will fill any voids for me. That doesn't mean that I don't remember how good they used to be at a certain time in my life. I think about all of this sometimes when I drive by a pair of golden arches. Then I come home and make myself something better.
Processing men can be the same way. If you long for someone, what's that about? Is it really about him or is it loneliness, horniness, regret, fear or something even far more complex speaking up? On the flip, if you just find yourself reflecting and nothing more, do that and move on.
I'm telling you, knowing the difference between these two things can change your life and save you a lot of time. Clearly, I'm speaking from very personal experience. Craving vs. missing is all about clarity. The clearer you are, the easier it is to do what you need to do. For yourself. Irrespective of him.
Feel me? Somehow, I believe that you do.
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (email@example.com) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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Queen Latifah On Her Journey To Self-Acceptance: 'I've Been Trying To Maintain My Freedom To Be Me'
Actress and rapper Dana "Queen Latifah" Owens is defying societal standards by refusing to be confined in a box regarding her personal and professional life.
Owens, who has been a part of the entertainment industry for over three decades, is widely recognized for her empowering songs and the variety of acting roles she has obtained throughout her career, among other things. The list includes Living Single, Set It Off, Chicago --with which she earned an Oscar nomination-- Just Wright, Girls Trip, and most recently, The Equalizer series on CBS.
Owens is also very tight-lipped about her personal life. However, in 2021, The Last Holiday actress showed appreciation to Eboni Nichols, who is reportedly her partner, and their son Rebel after receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award.Since then, Owens has revealed why she doesn't want to be defined as anything but herself and how she maintains her sense of freedom. In a resurfaced video from theGrio Awards, Owens opened up about those topics when she accepted the Television Icon Award for her past contributions
In a clip uploaded on theGrio's Instagram account last week, Owens explained that she often had to fight to be herself because "the world" kept trying to put her in a box based on what society thought a woman should be.
"My whole life, I feel like I've been trying to maintain my freedom to be me. And the world is trying to put these things on me to stop me from being who I am," she said.
Further into the speech, Owens explained that although many would have their own opinion about her from what the media spews out, she would continue to be herself by wearing "beautiful gowns and dresses," playing in the dirt, participating in basketball games with men and loving who she loves because that's what makes her happy.
The Beauty Shop star also added that despite her celebrity status, she would continue to show respect for others because that's who she is as a person and how she was raised.
"So I wear these beautiful gowns and dresses because I want to because that's part of me. I play in the dirt. I play basketball with the boys because that's me,” she stated. "I love who I love because that's me. I love all of you who have supported me. I give you your respect. I don't have to be above you because that's me. I know me."
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