I'm pretty much assuming that we all can agree on the fact that this isn't the most pleasant topic on the planet. But when I factor in the fact that I know what it's like to choose to remove myself from toxic family members and then I add to that, an article I read that said between 12-17 percent of folks are estranged from at least one family member (personally, based on a lot of stories I've been told, that stat seems really low to be honest with you), I knew that it would be necessary to get this done; especially during a year when a lot of us have spent more time away from loved ones, just with the pandemic alone.
If you're like me and holidays aren't really your thing anyway, figuring out how to make it through the next several weeks may not be that big of a deal. But if Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Eve are typically the time when you see your family the most and yet, for whatever the reason, this year, you're not speaking to some or all of your folks, take a deep breath, get yourself a warm cup of tea or cocoa and let's figure out how you can get to January 1, 2021 with your heart as intact as possible, OK?
Remember Why the Boundaries Exist in the First Place
I say it often because it's the truth—boundaries are limits and yes, limits oftentimes have to be applied to family members, just like anyone else; shoot, sometimes even more. It's clear that many of us either weren't taught what boundaries are as well as we should've been or we had people in our lives who constantly violated our boundaries, whether that's physically, emotionally, mentally or even spiritually (you know, people who use religion to justify all of their foolish, destructive and erratic behavior). And so, sometimes, a season of estrangement is so we can get away from the people who clearly have a lot to learn in the area of boundaries so that we can establish the ones that are best for us and the kind of life that we choose to live.
While it's perfectly normal (and understandable) to miss your family around this time of year, it's important to make sure that you do your best to separate your nostalgia and sentimentality from the truth, facts, and reality of why you are maintaining a distance from them to begin with. Make no mistake about it—if you're currently estranged because say, you've got family members who are controlling or manipulative, they will definitely try and use that to their advantage between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. That said, if you choose to engage, let it be because you're ready, not simply because it's the holiday season because, at the end of the day, a holiday is just a day and you'll still have to pick up the pieces of whatever "extra else" your family brought into your life, once the festivities are over. Boundaries are designed to protect us. The violation of boundaries is abusive. Set boundaries first. Honor them. Then make whatever other decisions are best for you, based on that.
Be Honest with Yourself About What You’re Currently Feeling
As I've done a lot of my own healing as it relates to toxic family members, if I had to put together a top five list of things that made me be like, "Yeah, we need some distance", something that would probably go into the third or fourth slot, is the fact that I was never really given the space to feel what I wanted and needed to feel when it came to the abuse that I endured or the abusers who caused it. I was always cut off or emotionally manipulated and told that whatever thoughts or emotions I had weren't "pleasing to God" or valid to them. THAT. IS. POISON. And when you're constantly around people like that, it can cause you to have a bit of an identity crisis as you try and figure out who the heck you are and what your real feelings are vs. what they tried to guilt you into feeling—or not feeling.
While estrangement can be hard, if there is a bona fide benefit to it, it's that you now have the space to figure out how you feel when it comes to why you pulled yourself away, what you would need in order to reconcile and how you feel in this very moment. It's important to factor all of this in because between Hallmark movies, holiday music and your friends constantly bringing their own families up, it can be easy to question if you should totally forget your boundaries and at least act like you and your family are close; healthy even.
Please try and avoid doing that. I know a lot of media says that the holidays are a time for burying the hatchet 'n all, yet the reality is, if you didn't feel great about connecting back in June, December 25 shouldn't automatically change anything. Honor your feelings and make decisions from there because, remember—if your family had done the same, there would be no need to read this article…right?
Watch Your Triggers
On the heels of what I just said, there's a really good chance that someone from your family is gonna hit you up, saying that it's in the spirit of the holiday season. No one can really fault them for that; however, if you do choose to answer their DM, email, text, or phone call, just make sure that you know what your triggers are beforehand. For instance, something that I've learned is a sho 'nuf trigger for me are people who claim that they are reaching out to apologize, only to really call to justify foul behavior, hoping that by the time they are done, I will excuse what they've done—perhaps even feel sorry for them for hurting me in the first place (a true narcissism trait, by the way). For years, I would fall for that BS, only to hang up and feel like they opened up my wound all over again.
Why? Because when you've been harmed by someone, it's important for them to validate that pain; they can do that by taking full ownership for their actions. That said, whenever folks find a way to skirt around this fact, all they're doing is injuring you more. And when you keep getting hurt, either it makes you angry or turns you numb. So yeah, I had to stop dealing with the ones who did that to me because they've been like that since, shoot...for as long as I can remember. This means that they've been wounding me and causing me grief for as long as I can remember as well. I had to get some space so that the wounds could heal. Fully.
I don't know what sets you off and by no means am I saying that it's a given that once you get to the root of your triggers that you also shouldn't speak or deal with whoever triggers you. What I am saying is unsafe/toxic people seem to live to push triggers, so the way to deal with them is to know yours and then set up safeguards. If your controlling mama makes you a basket case with her religious deflecting, accept that. If your sister drives you up the wall with her constantly asking for things without ever offering something in return, own that. If you've got some other family member who puts you in the foulest of moods, just 10 minutes into a conversation, admit that too. Then make two decisions. First, decide if there is a way to deactivate that trigger within yourself (because expecting them to not trigger you is, 8 times out of 10, gonna disappoint you every time). Second, if you can't deactivate it, be real with yourself about whether total avoidance is still the best route to take. After the holidays, you've still got a life to live. It would be a shame to spend months into next year trying to heal from a few short weeks of the holiday season and that family of yours, simply because you let them trigger you in a way that you know you're not fully prepared to handle. Yet.
Create Your Own Traditions
While I was growing up, my mother was pretty big on Christmas. I remember getting a fresh evergreen Christmas tree, stringing popcorn, watching The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and listening to gospel Christmas music while she baked. It was also pretty common for folks to come over as she made us—yes, made us—go caroling in the neighborhood. Christmas was cool. As Christmas goes, I guess. However, as an adult, I don't observe Christmas or really any holiday. No, I'm not a Jehovah's Witness; I'm just the kind of person who, once I know the backstory on something and decide I don't want to be a part of it, I tend to dip out. Anyway, that's so not the point. Once I started fading out of Christmas, for years, I would get pushback. And if there's a truth about adulthood, it's that you now have the complete freedom to live your life as you see fit, without the need for anyone's permission or approval.
While being estranged means that you won't be a part of your family's holiday-themed customs, never forget that the flip to that is you can happily create some of your own. So yeah, take this time and ask yourself what you do and don't like about the holiday season. Then make plans for observing them—or not observing them—just as you see fit. Finally.
Spend Time with Some of Your “Love Family”
Friendships have layers and levels. I will be the very first person to agree with that resolve. I liken it to Christ and his 12 disciples. One was a devil (it's Scriptural—John 6:70). Eight were his homies. And then there was Peter, James and John—the three he asked to pray with him as he was preparing to make the ultimate sacrifice (Matthew 26, John 3:16); those were his top-tier, inner circle friends—the ones he probably saw as being like brothers to him. I've got people like that in my life. Individuals who are emotionally safe, who love me like we're blood and who have my back no matter what. While the family I was born into is my "blood family", I choose to call my dearest friends my "love family".
Even if you aren't close to and/or engaging your blood family this year, if you've got people in your world who you consider to be your own love family, I am willing to be my next paycheck that they will be more than willing to embrace you with open arms and a seat at their dinner table (so long as you show no signs of sickness and bring your mask). And because you are so at peace with them, you can easily avoid all of the discomfort and drama that might arise if you try and force yourself to be in an environment where you don't really want to be…just because it's "the holidays". Trust me, love family can be a wonderful alternative to blood family, if you want to be around people yet you want to not risk conflict and issues in the process.
Understand What True Reconciliation Requires
I can't tell you, just how many Christmas movies I've seen over the course of my lifetime, where the overall message is it's this time of year when all faults need to be wiped clean, so that we can start the year anew. There's A LOT I could say to that, yet I'll leave it where I typically do when I just wanna give the Reader's Digest version of my thoughts on the matter. If you feel like you want to connect back with the family who you're not currently interacting with, do that. Just make sure that you know who and what you're dealing with and that you are clear on what reconciliation is all about.
What reconciliation is not is what a lot of republicans are trying to shove down democrats' throats right through here; it's not about enduring constant abuse and then having the burden be placed on you, the one who had to endure it all, to set things right. While yes, restoring a broken relationship does require some forgiving on the "victim's" part, don't let anyone make you feel bad for expecting some full-on repenting on the "victimizer's" part as well. Repenting requires taking responsibility. Repentance requires wanting to make amends. Repentance requires seeking what you need in order for the estrangement to cease. Repentance also requires humility.
So, if a family member chooses to reach out, stating that reconciliation is what they truly desire, keep in mind what it looks like. Don't let anyone make you feel like being flippant or dismissive is good enough. It's not. Not by a long shot.
Again, I know this wasn't the warm-and-cozy-wrapped-up-in-a-big-red-bow kind of message. Still, I hope it offered up a little bit of clarity and confirmation for those who may not be with their family this year. Being estranged doesn't make you a bad person. It makes you someone who simply wants better for yourself. Feel good about that. Even if that means experiencing a different kind of holiday season this year. One that brings peace and goodwill your way—just differently.
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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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xoMan: Mack Wilds Reflects On When He Knew His Wife Was 'The One' & The Importance Of Being A Supportive Husband
Tristan Mack Wilds is one of those rare artists we’ve watched since childhood and continue to follow today. He was hands-down one of my favorite characters on the beloved fifth season of HBO’s The Wire and continues to grace our screen on projects like Peacocks’ Praise This and the upcoming season of AppleTV+’s Swagger.
Whether he’s giving us the perfect R&B vibe to add to “the playlist” or showing off his acting chops, it’s safe to say he has a place in many millennial women’s hearts. But it’s not just his artistry that makes him xoMan-worthy. Recently, he appeared on The Tamron Hall Show with his family and spoke beautifully about marriage and fatherhood. With a quick listen to the interview and a social media scroll, it’s clear to anyone that he loves his queen out loud, and we had to get into it.
Now, I’ll be honest. One of the first elements that drew me into their story is that they met on the set of The Wire. As a major fan of the series, the timing appealed to me; he was pretty young when the show aired, so I was curious about their journey to marriage. Wilds responded by telling xoNecole, “I think in any successful relationship, you go through ups and downs. It’s just like life or career choices. Before you can consider yourself a solidified success, God is gonna put you through tumultuous downs and super-high beautiful ups so that you can feel the emotions and ride it out until you guys understand each other’s flow.”
He went on to say that while he was filming 90210, she was in college, and they were in a long-distance relationship. Later, they split up but continued to figure each other out as they went on their separate life journeys. It took time, but eventually, they understood each other and self enough to have a child. Through this journey to marriage, they continued to discover more about life and their faults but always remained present for each other. However, he knew since the day he put his jacket on her shoulders on the set of The Wire that she was the one.
"Before you can consider yourself a solidified success, God is gonna put you through tumultuous downs and super-high beautiful ups so that you can feel the emotions and ride it out until you guys understand each other’s flow.”
That one is Christina Wilds, an author, mother, and entrepreneur in her own right, and while the two are very busy, they still make time for themselves, romance, and date nights. He just finished Snowfall (which he loved), and the couple has been super tapped intoQueen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story. When he speaks about their lifestyle and fatherhood, it sounds very healthy and fulfilling. “Being a two-time girl dad has taught me to be a lot softer, not only with women but with people and myself. I'm trying every day to make a more concerted effort to be softer with my team, my wife, my family, and myself,” he explains. “Sometimes unbeknownst or intentionally, we can come off [as] abrasive. I don’t think abrasiveness solves problems, and I’m a problem-solver. I like to get things done.”
Mack Wilds Photo by Benjamin O’Dea
But the fast-paced entertainment industry has a way of not showcasing marriage and monogamy in the most positive light. There’s this narrative out there that men don’t want to pursue marriage. So I asked if he could share some advice for the fellas on commitment and settling down. Wilds says, “Well, this is not just for men, it’s for women too – especially with the summer coming in. Phones are gonna start going silent, this is the time (laughs). But I think the biggest advice I’d say for knowing when it’s time to settle down is to figure out yourself. I think a lot of people settle down too fast or slow, and it’s all due to experiences you’ve had in your prior relationships. First, figure out what you like, love, the things you like to do, and how you like to be touched. Know yourself so when you come in, you're able to give someone an instruction manual.” I thought that alone was a gem, but it didn’t take him long to drop more.
A piece of advice my father gave me years ago is to: know your friends. There are loved ones you can talk to about what you discovered in therapy, and there are friends you can talk to about the best place to grab a drink, but they’re not always the same people – and that’s okay. Apparently, this applies to marriage too. I’ve heard many individuals say that when they get into relationships, they notice they stop hanging out with their single friends. I have mixed views about this, but I was curious about Wilds' thoughts, especially since if you listen to the actor’s podcast Guys’ Next Door, you know his friends have very varied perspectives.
He responds with a chuckle saying, “There is some validity to that, but I don’t think it’s so black and white. You hang with people of similar situations, people who have been through what you’ve been through. You want to have someone that you can speak to and have different conversations. Whether it’s about children, being in a relationship, etc. You want to speak to someone who's been through it so it doesn’t fall on deaf ears. So whether my friends are single, there’s always gonna be a shift to the people that I ask for certain advice. It’s all about being around individuals that can provide the things you need. It just so happens that a lot of my single friends happen to be in this business.”
He seems to have a nice balance of it all, which must get difficult as busy as he is. But when he speaks of his recent role on Praise This, it sounds more exciting than trying. He describes it as genuinely fun. “It was amazing, we were always joking, and the music was plentiful. Everyone was cracking jokes and singing. I was glad that I could put an update to an idea of what a pastor or religion could or should be.”
Mack WildsPhoto by Benjamin O’Dea
Now he’s gearing up for the return of Swagger on Apple TV + where he plays the complicated character Alonzo. “Alonzo has come up behind the scenes. He finds his way behind the puppets to pull the strings. He makes things happen. He’s not the easiest or nicest guy. He’s the anti-hero we all need,” he says about his character.
I can appreciate the way Mack Wilds shines in his craft, but I also respect how he uses his platform to show a career in the spotlight and Black love. Both are possible.
“No one in the world doesn’t like feeling [invalidated], especially by their partner. I want to make sure my wife understands that not only am I her biggest fan, but I’m supporting her in any way I can. It’s less about my career and more about her feeling [supported] in everything that she does and that we do,” he shares.
"I want to make sure my wife understands that not only am I her biggest fan, but I’m supporting her in any way I can. It’s less about my career and more about her feeling [supported] in everything that she does and that we do."
He closed with the best piece of general and relationship advice he’s ever been given, saying, “For regular advice, invest your money. Remember it’s about assets over liabilities,” he adds a shoutout to Nipsey Hussle, Earn Your Leisure, and homies who inspired him.
He continues saying, “For relationship advice, I’d say, when it feels like you’re about to have an argument with your partner. Be quiet longer than you think you should be. Let [him] or her get their thoughts out and then respond. I promise you will have a way better conversation if you take time and don’t worry about jumping over each other. Take time, let your partner talk, repeat how you heard it, and then respond.”
You can catch Tristan “Mack” Wilds in the season 2 premiere of Swagger on June 23rd on AppleTV+.
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Feature image by Benjamin O’Dea