Sevyn Streeter's voice filled my living room through my laptop speakers as she joined the conference call for our interview. Like her smooth and sultry vocals, Sevyn speaks warmly and with the familiar comfort of an old friend.
"Happy New Year! What's going on with you?" she asked me casually from her hometown in Haines City, Florida where she was enjoying the last days of the holiday season with her family.
Despite an impressive musical resume that includes songwriting credits for pop and R&B chart-toppers like Chris Brown, Ariana Grande, and Alicia Keys, a repertoire of radio hits in her own discography, and a quiet but undeniable sex appeal to complement her fiery R&B tracks, Streeter is no diva. The songstress has an inviting, down-to-earth demeanor and an endearing personality that makes it impossible not to like her.
That, by no means, makes her a pushover, and she certainly doesn't take any crap.
She proves that with her latest release, "Whatchusay", a sharp-tongued takedown of an ex-lover who takes her support and love for granted. In the visual, which has amassed nearly 1.5 million views since its release in November 2019, Sevyn confronts her lover in between Aaliyah- and Janet Jackson-inspired dance sequences and flashbacks to tender moments.
Sevyn notes that the song and video represent her growth as a woman and an artist who has learned to be unapologetic in her truth.
"I don't feel the need to bite my tongue. I don't feel the need to seek approval at all. I'm not in a space where I get hung up on things I used to in the past. Whatever I do with my art, whatever space I'm in, it's gonna be truthful to how I feel and where I am. Listen," Streeter added with calm confidence, "I am a Cancer, and I am an artist, and I'm emotional, and I'm sensitive, and I'm very in tune with how I feel. This period in my life, it's gonna be what you see is what you get."
Courtesy of the artist
"I am a Cancer, and I am an artist, and I'm emotional, and I'm sensitive, and I'm very in tune with how I feel. This period in my life, it's gonna be what you see is what you get."
As we spoke, I could hear Sevyn flipping through the pages of her notebook. She told me she was looking for a thought she'd scribbled down a few days prior. I waited as she searched. She apologized for the delay, but when she finally found it, I was happy she'd taken the time to look.
"'Don't abandon yourself to make others comfortable,'" she read out loud from her notes.
It was a simple phrase but a profound reminder to those of us who get stuck in a cycle of people-pleasing.
"There's no need to abandon your own thoughts and feelings and ideas just so that someone can sit there comfortably, and at the end of the day, you're left holding all this stuff that wears and tears on you in so many different ways. I'm never nasty or rude. It just means I want to get a good night's rest like everybody else. It's growth, and it's beautiful, and it feels really fucking good," she declared.
Honesty and growth were recurring themes in our conversation, and are at the foundation of Sevyn's upcoming album, Drunken Words, Sober Thoughts, which is on track to be released this year. The album's title is a play on the adage that says, "Drunken words speak sober thoughts," as we often find the courage to say our innermost feelings under the influence of a drink or two.
The title also hints at a part of Sevyn's creative process—a gathering of her guy friends and girlfriends in the studio with a few drinks on hand to get the conversation flowing. For Sevyn, who prefers for her songs to reflect real-life experiences, whether they're her own or those of the people around her, these studio chats are great songwriting material.
Courtesy of the artist
"When we get in a room and guys and girls get to talking, we might pour up a little something. When that happens, it makes for very truthful conversation, to say the least. We may talk about love and relationships. We may talk about cheating," Sevyn said.
Sevyn hopes that the songs these conversations inspired might help to break down some of the barriers between men and women, and she's being very intentional about writing songs that will speak to anyone, regardless of gender.
"It may hurt a couple people's feelings. It may inspire people. Just know it's gonna speak to any and everybody who has these emotions day in and day out, how we all deal with life, love, and relationships," she said.
But while Sevyn is eager to please her fans with her new album and deliver on the familiar themes of love and relationships she's covered in hits like "It Won't Stop", "Before I Do", and "B.A.N.S.", she explained that this album is also about honoring her journey in music and life and exploring other kinds of relationships as well.
"I feel like I owe it to myself to just dig a little deeper and bring my musical self up to speed with where my spiritual self is. Writing a record people will like is like a science for me. I know what melodies, hooks and beats work, but it's deeper than that for me now. I gotta make sure I do right by who I am and where I am now," Sevyn said.
Part of doing right by herself has been making sure she balances writing songs for other artists and creating for herself. It's a familiar juggling act for many women trying to pour into others in their professional and personal lives without leaving themselves empty. Sevyn strikes the balance with 'artist dates', a concept she borrowed from the book The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.
Sevyn periodically drives herself down to the California coast from her Woodland Hills home and sets up on the beach with a bottle of wine, a good book, a notepad, and an umbrella. She'll spend hours reading, writing, and simply allowing herself space to be with and pour into herself.
"At the beginning of my career," she confessed, "I would sacrifice my own self and my own creativity for other people, and a lot of days, it just left me frustrated."
Courtesy of the artist
"At the beginning of my career, I would sacrifice my own self and my own creativity for other people, and a lot of days, it just left me frustrated."
Today, she ensures she makes the time to separate which parts of herself and her work are strictly her own, and she encourages us all to do the same. "Even if it's just 30 minutes, 45 minutes, an hour. Find something that works for you. Find that time for yourself. Because, at the end of the day, you're not gonna be any good for anybody else if you don't allow yourself to be in a good space," she cautioned.
Sevyn also warns us to be careful of overworking to the point of burnout. A go-getter who often spends long hours in the studio and driving home under the rising sun, she has worked herself to exhaustion trying to push past creative blocks. She's found that walking away and immersing herself in things she loves, like sermons and solo movie and dinner outings, are the recharge she needs to get unstuck.
"When I get burnt out, I stop. I'll do everything outside of the thing I just rammed my head against the wall on for days and days. And I come back laughing at myself like, 'Bitch, see. All you needed to do was to walk away for a second,'" she said with a laugh.
If Sevyn experiences any burnout during the production of Drunken Words, Sober Thoughts, it won't be because she's rushing. She's taking her time with this one, determined to give people music that's worth the wait.
While her album is in the works, Sevyn promises that her fans will be getting to know her more intimately this year. In addition to the album, her team is sorting out tour details, and she's also working with Anthony Anderson on a reality show about balancing her life as an LA-dwelling R&B star and a small-town Florida girl.
"It's insane," she said, "How I balance the two, God only knows. But it's going to be absolutely hilarious, and I'm looking forward to my fans learning that side of me."
Challenging as it may be, Sevyn makes balancing it all—the small town roots, the big city life, the writing behind the scenes, and the crooning in the spotlight—look easy, but her vulnerability and candidness reveal a comforting and universal truth: we're growing as we go and finding ourselves along the way, and that's just fine.
For more of Sevyn, follow her on Instagram.
Talia Leacock-Campbell is a self-care enthusiast, soca baby, and hopeless romantic whose longest love affair has been with the written word. She's spun that last passion into a full-time career as founder and chief creative wordsmith of Word Count Creative, a boutique content agency that helps small businesses and entrepreneurs speak right to the hearts of their audiences. Find her online @talialeacock.
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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A dead bedroom can kill any relationship. In all long-term, committed relationships, couples experience various phases, from the initial passion to a more complex and enduring connection. Yet, as time passes, sex may decrease, which introduces an issue often referred to as "bed death."
According to Advance Psychology Partners, 'bed death' occurs when individuals in a committed relationship experience a decline in the frequency of sexual activity and fall short of the desires of both or either partner. It is sometimes labeled a "sexless relationship" due to the infrequency of sex. In the U.S., an estimated 20 million people find themselves in such relationships.
This shift is a significant change for couples. Let’s face it: no one wants to be in a sexless marriage or relationship. But how can couples effectively confront the impact of fading physical intimacy on the overall health of their enduring partnership?
"I have found that many factors influence one's desire to dive, and it is often not a majority of just one thing. Most people assume that if they don't desire [sex], they are no longer physically attracted, but in my experience, that has little to do with it most of the time," explained Brittanni Young, LMFT, CST.
"Some of the heavy contributors that I see most often include excessive goal orientation towards orgasm, people not prioritizing their own sexuality, and the landfill of ‘should’s’ that develop from toxic sexual scripts created long ago in upbringing," she added.
Furthermore, these issues are not exclusive to any particular orientation, but it does manifest differently.
Young is a licensed marriage and family therapist, sexologist, and board-certified sex therapist who practices in Georgia and Florida. She has worked in the sexology field for over a decade. Young helps couples and individuals looking to get through challenges of all facets facing sexuality and intimacy, such as desire mismatch, over-compulsion, and dysfunctions. She recently launched a deck of intimacy connection cards called "Show Me Your Cards." Young is working on another product that helps teach children to consent and negotiate appropriate touch. She sat down with xoNecole to discuss what causes the decline in the bedroom, the myth of 'lesbian bed death,' and recommendations on overcoming "bed death."
The Decline In Intimacy
Intimacy often dwindles within relationships, a phenomenon triggered by various factors such as stress, the insidious monotony of routine, and the toxicity of unresolved conflicts, to name a few. While couples manage daily life, exchanging intimate desires and concerns may take a backseat. Sadly, this gradually erodes the closeness once shared in the relationship.
"Typically, the first thing I do when working with a couple on desire challenges is rule out medical causes by referring them to their primary care physician or other provider they are working with," Young shared. "There are times when unmanaged or mismanaged conditions factor into low desire levels. Also, many medications can wreak havoc on keeping desire levels up, such as antidepressants, SSRIs, anti-anxiety, and blood pressure medications, to name a few."
Jeff Bergen/ Getty Images
"Next, I look at the state of the relationship. If there is dissatisfaction in the relationship, then it definitely affects how close and intimate one wants to be to another. There are also plenty of individual factors one can bring into the equation, such as low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, feelings of shame or guilt around one's own sexuality, and external life stressors that can get in the way. I find that life stressors can be a big one for folks, as once you get in the habit of not prioritizing sex, it tends to stick," she added.
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent "bed death." It can involve prioritizing your wants and open communication about sexual needs.
"What tends to be effective for all couples is taking an inventory of how satisfied they are with their sexual behaviors and engagement. Being truthful in this vein can be the start of unlocking inhibitions that can keep you from seeking out and being genuinely vulnerable in intimate spaces," Young explained. "Next, I suggest opening up lines of communication around these truths. When people assume that nothing can be done, hope is lost."
The Myth Of 'Lesbian Bed Death'
The notion of "lesbian bed death" perpetuates a simplistic and inaccurate stereotype about the sexual dynamics within lesbian relationships. Contrary to the myth, the experience of a decline in intimacy is not universal among lesbian couples. The diverse spectrum of relationships among women challenges this oversimplified narrative, emphasizing that the complexities of sexual dynamics extend beyond stereotypical assumptions.
"The notion of 'lesbian bed death' is based on a research study done by Pepper Schwartz in 1983 that found that lesbian couplings fell behind in sexual frequency compared to heterosexual and gay male couplings," Young revealed.
"Several other studies [after] have replicated these findings but give very little information about sexual satisfaction. Despite there being more research needed overall in the sexuality field, more recent research did find that when it comes to the length of sexual encounters, lesbian couples had the longest duration of encounters. To that end, sexual quality over quantity is a better marker of satisfaction, and that is what I pay most attention to in my work. With that said, dissatisfaction can happen in all couplings over time," the sexologist continued.
Factors influencing reduced intimacy among lesbian couples may include communication challenges, societal pressures, and individual variations in libido. Menstruation can also play a role, with some couples navigating discomfort or hormonal changes during this period.
"There are certainly some nuances that come into play with lesbian couples that differ from heterosexual or other-oriented couples. As I stated earlier, physiological factors can factor into the rise and fall of libido. The hormone fluctuations that come from menstruation and menopause can impact desire levels, and it is double present in lesbian couples. Another nuance is the lack of a sexual script from society on lesbian sexual behavior. There are patriarchal roots to sexual research, which have created our societal norms that tend to leave out anyone who isn't heterosexual," Young stated.
Overcoming The Challenges
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While 'bed death' challenges couples, solutions are within reach. By identifying and addressing the underlying causes, couples can rekindle the flame of intimacy and ensure a healthier, more fulfilling relationship.
"In the words of Esther Perel, another sexual professional in the field, 'love enjoys knowing everything about you; desire needs mystery.' I recommend keeping it in the front of your mind, prioritizing, and keeping it interesting. Be open to learning more about your own sexuality every day, as well as your partner. You are always growing; what worked for you 20 years ago may not be the same today. Stay curious with one another and be open to exploring new ways to pleasure. You deserve it," Young said.
For instance, Young advised that couples should "keep sexual encounters light and playful." And not be afraid to introduce new elements, such as toys.
"Touch often in ways that are consensual and feel safe! I made 'Show Me Your Cards' to serve this purpose specifically. Just because you do not feel in the mood to go all the way does not mean you aren't in the mood to hold hands, exchange body massages, or dance together. Connecting often in any physical form, as long as it feels pleasurable, still counts as 'being in the mood,'" she said.
Overcoming the hurdles of "bed death" and debunking myths surrounding 'lesbian bed death' offers a unique perspective for couples grappling with the difficulties of sustaining a connection. Learning the proper ways to work through a sexless relationship can help foster a healthier, more fulfilling relationship.
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