If you read enough of my content on here, you'll know that I'm good for throwing in some stats. It's not that I think everyone reflects what every study reveals; still, oftentimes, research and data are a good way to get an idea of where a lot of folks are coming from, on any given topic. Take what men find to be sexy, for instance. A few years ago,Maxim published a study revealing that 46 percent of men find a woman's face to be her sexiest feature (followed by her butt which got 13 percent of the vote). When I asked some of my male friends if they agreed, they did. They did make sure to add to it by saying that the best feature on a lady's face was a toss-up between her eyes and her lips.
Shoot, I'm a heterosexual woman and even I will co-sign on that; although I think that a woman's—especially a Black woman's—lips are what get my top vote. There is something about a full set of lips with a bold color and a thin layer of gloss that's on them that makes me find Black women to be the best thing the Creator ever made. Whew.
So, in honor of his divine masterpiece and the lips that are on each and everyone of us, I wanted to share some things that you can do to make your lips even sexier than they already are (if that is even possible). Let's hit it.
1. Brush ‘Em
There are all sorts of things that can cause us to have chapped lips—licking our lips too much, a lot of sun exposure, dry air, spicy foods, vitamin deficiencies (low zinc and iron, especially) and, of course, not getting enough water. And there's nothing worse than trying to put on your favorite color lipstick when your lips are feathering because of it (ugh). Something that you can do to combat this kind of madness is to use your toothbrush to exfoliate your lips. I recommend wetting your lips and putting a thin layer of baking soda on them first. Then wet your toothbrush and gently brush your lips in small circles until the dead skin is gone. Oh, and since ingredients like lanolin, menthol and salicylic acid can actually contribute to chapped lips, avoid putting anything with those ingredients on them. Personally, I follow up exfoliating with sweet almond oil and it's absolutely divine.
2. Make Your Own Lip Mask
Lips can stand to be pampered sometimes too. A quick and easy way to soothe them is to make a lip mask. All you need is to mix a tablespoon of milk with a drop of rose essential oil.
The lactic acid in milk will gently exfoliate your lips. Rose oil is an anti-inflammatory oil that can reduce any irritation that you might have.
If you'd prefer to make a more sophisticated overnight lip mask, you can check out a step-by-step walkthrough here.
3. Apply Some Cinnamon Oil
If you want your lips to appear a little bit fuller or you wish to create a bit more of a "pout", cinnamon oil can totally make that happen for you. It works so well because it is made from cassia oil which, when applied to your lips, it will immediately increase blood circulation and make them appear a little bit bigger. You can make this happen by mixing a teaspoon of grapeseed oil and a couple of drops of cinnamon oil (careful, it's pretty potent) together and apply the solution to your lips for five minutes. Or, you can mix one-half teaspoon of ground cinnamon powder with an open Vitamin E capsule; mix both of those together and leave them on for 10 minutes. Either way you decide to go, once the time is up, rinse thoroughly with warm water. You should instantly see some subtle-yet-effective effects.
4. Try Shea Butter As a Base
Shea butter is one of my favorite natural beauty go-tos. When it comes to my lips, I put it on at night so they will remain moisturized while I sleep. During the day, a thin layer of shea butter can serve as a wonderful base or foundation for my lipstick. That's because, thanks to the fatty acids and antioxidants that are in shea butter, it is able to work as a "primer" so that my lips (and lip color) look nice and smooth all day long.
5. Save Money by Turning Your Shiny Lipstick into a Matte One
Do you have some days when you want to rock a matte lip color instead of a shiny one? You don't need to buy a new tube. All you have to do is apply your lipstick, put a piece of tissue between your lips to blot off the shininess and then apply a little bit of translucent powder. Oh, and if you want your matte lips to look as "crisp" as possible along your lip lines, apply a teeny bit of concealer with a lip brush around the perimeter of your lips. It will help to bring out the definition of them even more.
6. Add a Little Concealer to Alter the Hue
No matter how many lip shades there are out here, sometimes it can still be hard to find the perfect hue. If you like nude but you can't seem to find a color that perfectly complements your skin tone, something you can do is add a little concealer to a lipstick that you already have. It will make the lipstick lighter and, the best thing is, you can adjust to it the shade that you like based on how much or little concealer you add into the mix. (By the way, most of us sistahs naturally have a darker tone to our lips, so when you're shopping for a nude lipstick in general, make sure it has a peachy undertone to it. That will soften the dark pigment and make the nude shade more even in appearance.)
7. Use Highlighter Mixed with Gloss
Do you have a hot date coming up? If so, something that you can do to make a man think about nothing but kissing you is to add a little highlighter to your lip color, along with lip gloss. While gloss will make your mouth appear wetter, if you put a little highlighter on top, right in the middle, the light that bounces off of it while further define your lips while giving them even more of a sexy pout. (Or, if you hate the feel of lip gloss, apply the highlighter without it; you'll basically end up with the same results.)
8. Get a Humidifier for Your Bedroom
It's common for our bodily tissues and mucus membranes to become dry while we sleep.
Something that can prevent this from happening is using a humidifier at night. It can reduce snoring, soften skin, relieve allergy symptoms, stop airborne viruses in their tracks and yes, moisturize your lips too.
If you don't already own one, check out "10 Best Humidifiers to Buy in 2020, According to Home Care Experts" to figure out which humidifier will work best for you.
9. DIY a Lip Balm for Nighttime Coverage
If you're wondering why you seem to go to bed with moisturized lips but wake up to them being as chapped as you don't know what, it could be because you are licking them all throughout the night, without even knowing it. To combat that, aside from the humidifier that we just talked about, try making a lip balm that can serve as a protective barrier for your lips while you sleep. I already shared that shea butter is my, pardon the pun, lick. Another cool option is to mix a capsule of Vitamin E and a half teaspoon of honey (honey is a powerful humectant). But there are all other kinds of options too. You can get 20 DIY lip balm recipes by clicking here.
10. Drink Some Pomegranate Juice
There are all kinds of great reasons why you should make pomegranate juice a part of your regular healthcare routine. Thanks to the vitamins C, E and K, along with antioxidants, folate and potassium, pomegranate juice is able to reduce bodily inflammation, lower your blood pressure, fight off infections, reduce oxidative stress (which, in turn, can make it easier to get pregnant) and, it can help to lower blood sugar levels too. The reason why I'm closing out with this juice for your lips is because it's also been proven that the Vitamin C, along with the antioxidants flavonoids and proanthocyanidins will not only cleanse and nourish your lips, they can help to even out the color of them too. All you need to do is mix a teaspoon of pomegranate juice with a teaspoon of carrot juice. Apply it to your lips after exfoliating them, let the solution sit for 5-7 minutes and then rinse. If you do this once a day, you should notice visible results within two weeks. It's a delicious way to make your lips super sexy. Pucker up and enjoy!
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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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Janelle Monáe's Reveals The Real Reason Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Tuxedos
Singer and actress Janelle Monáe exemplifies how change can be a powerful catalyst for growth and transformation.
Monáe, who rose to fame in 2010 following the release of her debut album, The ArchAndroid, captivated fans' hearts with her powerful vocals, catchy tunes, and style. Around that time period, when various female artists were known to wear provocative ensembles on stage, the "Tightrope" songstress set herself apart by wearing her signature black and white suits and continued to do so for almost a decade.
In the later years of her career, after the release of her studio albums The Electric Lady in 2013 and 2018's Dirty Computer, many began to notice the shift in Monáe's artistry and fashion, which some widely praised.
Although the now 37-year-old rarely addressed the reason behind the transformation over the years, that would all change when Monáe sat down with radio personality Angie Martinez on her IRL podcast earlier this month.
During the interview, Monáe --who was promoting her latest album, "The Age of Pleasure"-- opened up about her mental health struggles, how she would cope, and why she chose to live in freedom.
Janelle On Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Suits All the Time
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
In the May discussion, the "I Like That" vocalist revealed she suffers from anxiety, which she claimed would occur around "winter to spring."
Monáe added that when she has her bouts with anxiety, she tends to turn to food as a coping mechanism. Further in the interview, the "Lipstick Lover" singer disclosed that her emotional eating habits caused a weight fluctuation and that she could no longer fit into the suits she once wore earlier in her career.
Monáe explained that even though she tried to diet and exercise to return to her smaller figure, she ultimately stopped and made peace with herself with the help of therapy because she acknowledged that she isn't the same person she was nearly a decade ago and shouldn't try to be even if it was a highly "celebrated" version.
"I'm petite, but it can get thick... When I couldn't fit them suits anymore, and I was like, 'Oh my God, what is going on?' I would be dieting, running, or exercising, trying to fit into [it]. I'm just like, 'No. No, we're here. This is where we are.' We [are] not about to be utilizing life trying to be an old version of ourselves. No matter how celebrated that version of me was. I'm here. I'm here," she said.
Janelle On Freedom
As the topic shifted to freedom and what that meant to Monáe, the "Primetime" vocalist shared that in this new era of her life, she enjoys it because she can boldly express herself however she wants and honor who she is as a person right now.
Monáe also revealed that she had found ways to become a better artist and the best version of herself because of her freedom.
"What is the new version of freedom? What does that feel like? That's usually when I feel the most free is when artistically, I can honor exactly who I am right now," she stated. "I feel most free as a human when I can honor exactly who I am right now."
Monáe's fourth studio album, The Age of Pleasure, is set to be released on June 9.
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