There are some places that make us want to fall in love. Whether it is a colorful sunset, casting an alluring glow upon your love, or just the addition of live trumpets and horns while dining in the South; regardless, feeling moonstruck is something we all look forward to.
So, whether you wish to spark a flame with a new lover, rekindle a flame with a longtime love, travel with your beloved for a short romantic break, or go on the quintessential honeymoon after your wedding, here are the most romantic travel destinations, worldwide, to set the right mood.
1.Hawaii (Maui, Kauai)
Best Time to Visit Hawaii: Spring to Fall
Kauai is notorious for its enchanting sunsets, postcard-perfect coastlines, laid-back surfer towns, and fewer tourist crowds than other Hawaiian isles; it is the idyllic choice for the outdoorsy couple looking to embrace the Aloha spirit. Kauai is a favorite for couples who want to get away from the crowds and enjoy secluded, natural beaches.
Make sure to check out: The food trucks and bohemian boutiques. Enjoy a picnic on Hanakapi'ai Beach and a couple's massage at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa or the St. Regis Princeville Resort. In addition, get your heart racing with a hike along the Kalalau Trail and have your breath taken away by the views of the Na Pali Coast's inspiring green cliffs.
2.Quebec City, Canada
Best Time to Visit Quebec City, Canada: Winter to Fall
For the overly warm-blooded couples, visiting Quebec City in the Winter could be the ideal place for a cozy winter getaway. A charming French-Canadian city, Quebec is full of snow-covered streets, romantic restaurants, and plenty of fireplaces to cuddle up to. Nevertheless, if you cannot take the cold, fear not, Quebec City is still a romantic destination for you. In the Spring, visit Quebec to enjoy the jazz bars, trendy shops, and kayaking/canoeing tours.
Make sure to check out: The music and drinks at the local jazz bars. Visit the Musee de la civilisation, Montmorency Falls, Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Quebec, and the St. Lawrence River. Also, make sure to go to the ice skating rinks and take kayaking and canoeing tours.
3.Charleston, South Carolina
Best Time to Visit Charleston, South Carolina: Spring to Fall
With Spanish-moss draped strolls, horse-drawn carriage rides, antebellum char, and a thriving culinary scene, there are more than a few draws for romantics to Charleston, South Carolina. Take your partner to have a memorable barbeque meal and enjoy the historically rich architecture. Once you're done, don't forget to stop by the local places for a bubbly evening filled with wine, cheese, and soulful, live jazz.
Make sure to check out: The much talked-about Husk restaurant in Charleston. Linger over an intimate meal at Peninsula Grill and take a low country walking tour to appreciate the city's history-steeped beauty.
4.Buenos Aires, Argentina
Radiating passion, Buenos Aires is a beautiful, multicultural city that is the birthplace of the tango: the dance of lovers. Perfect for a romantic vacation, Buenos Aires' historic architecture, beautiful gardens, and boulevards lined with trees for a romantic stroll are great ways to show your romantic partner a good time.
Make sure to check out: The Puerto Madero for an evening stroll. Take a helicopter ride over the city, enjoy a picnic in the La Costanera Ecological Park or a tango lesson or two, dine al fresco in the Palermo Viejo neighborhood, and watch a Tango show or opera.
Best Time to Travel to Bruges, Belgium: Spring to Fall
Bruges is a city consisting of magnificent medieval buildings, pretty canals, and picturesque streets that look straight out of your childhood fairy tale books. Cobblestone streets are lined with scenic buildings housing boutiques, chocolate shops, and eateries offering exquisite fare. Through its amazing food, vast history, rich cultural heritage, warm people, and "magical" villages, Bruges makes for a romantic escape.
Make sure to check out: The Old Town and cycle around with your boo to explore the parks and cafes surrounded by a canal. Share some world-renowned Belgian Waffles. Visit the Basilica, Salvador Dali Exhibition, Windmills, Groeninge Museum, Ice Sculpture Festival, the River in Antwerp, and the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Best Time to Visit to Paris, France: Spring and Fall (cheapest in Winter)
Paris is an exquisitely beautiful city to discover on your own; though, it is even better when you're accompanied by your significant other, mainly because the city exudes romance. From sidewalk cafes perfect for getting cozy to some of the world's most passionate art, Paris is synonymous with romance and you'd be remiss if you left it out.
Make sure to check out: The neighborhood of Montmartre, with its cobblestone streets, is a charming place to explore and witness breathtaking views of the city below. Naturally, there is the Eiffel Tower, which is even more awe-inspiring at night, when it sparkles. Also, check out the renowned art at both the Musee du Louvre, and the Musee d'Orsday and take a nightly stroll along the Seine or the striking Pont Alexandre III.
Best Time to Visit to Santorini, Greece: Spring to Late Fall
With its iconic blue-domed churches, whitewashed buildings, and magnificent cliff-side vistas, there is no wonder why Santorini draws tourists from across the globe. The romantic charm and serene vibes of the striking island of Santorini has made it a popular choice for a romantic getaway. While here, take your love to admire the magical sunsets, marvel at beautiful Grecian buildings, and enjoy tastings at top-notch wineries.
Make sure to check out: The Venetian Castle in Akrotiri, along with the La Ponta Tower. Hold hands and, together, experience the thrill of cliff jumping at Amoudi Bay. Spend a relaxing day on Kamari Beach, hike the active volcano in Nea Kameni, escape to the Red Beach, explore the Atlantis Books in Oia, party like the Greeks at Enigma, and travel above the beautiful island from a helicopter. In Santorini, your romantic options are never-ending.
Best Time to Visit to Venice, Italy: Mid-Spring and Early to Mid-Fall
Venice is an Italian city perfect for lovers. Whether on a honeymoon trip or simply a romantic getaway to express your love, Venice is undoubtedly the perfect romantic destination. From a dinner date with a beautiful view of the Grand Canal to experiencing the popular gondola ride, there are a limitless amount of adventures you and your romantic partner can endure.
Make sure to check out: The Teatro La Fenice and watch Opera like you never have before. Enjoy a cuddlesome gondola ride and Vaporetto ride. Visit the Dorsoduro shop, the Doge's Palace, the Rialto Bridge, the San Giorgio Maggiore, the Alberoni Beach, and the Restaurant Terrazza Danieli.
Best Time to Visit Rome, Italy: Fall to Spring
Brimming with old-world charm, Rome stands as one of the most romantic cities to travel in the world. Hand in hand, take your romantic partner wandering along the streets to take in all the beautiful architecture. In Rome, you have art, history, food, and win culture at your fingertips; all you have to do is reach out and grab it.
Make sure to check out: The Eternal City offers a cinematic backdrop with its instantly recognizable landmarks, from the Pantheon to the Colosseum to the Roman Forum to the Trevi Fountain. Also, leave some time to thoroughly explore the Borghese Gallery, Borghese Gardens, Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona, and the rendezvous restaurant "The Library" with your loved one.
10. Kyoto, Japan
Best Time to Visit to Kyoto, Japan: Spring
Kyoto is one of the most romantic destinations to explore with your special someone. Have a romantic boat ride along Kyoto's cherry blossom-lined along the Okazaki Canal. With tranquil destinations brimming with astonishing beauty around every corner, it's hard to pass up this romantic city.
Make sure to check out: The Gardens are often some of the loveliest areas to experience such as the Kyoto Botanical Gardens. The Kyoto Botanical Gardens feature cherry blossom trees — ideal viewing time is in the Spring — flowers, opens spaces great for having a relaxing picnic, a greenhouse, incredible temples, and relaxing public baths. Afterwards, make your way to Gion, which houses willow-flanked roads and gorgeous stories tea houses. Check into the Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto and you'll have the ideal accommodations, framed by the Higashiyama mountain range.
11.Koh Tao, Thailand
Best Time to Visit Koh Tao, Thailand: Winter
Koh Tao is a tranquil place for nature-loving couples who are looking for a relaxed romantic vacation on a stunning island. The rich and diverse marine life of Koh Tao has been one of the leading factors for drawing beach lovers from across the world. This tiny island in Thailand is known for its world-class scuba diving opportunities and spectacular sunsets.
Make sure to check out: The remarkable sunsets from lantern-lit restaurants that line the beach. Go sunset swimming at Sairee beach and island hopping to neighboring islands like Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. Watch the sunset at Mango Bay Viewpoint. Enjoy a romantic dinner at Thaita Italian Restaurant, Blue Heaven, The Gallery Restaurant, and Eagle View; plus, be sure to check out their many romantic resorts.
12. Srinagar, India
Best Time to Visit to Srinagar, India: Spring to Late Fall
Known as "Paradise on Earth," Srinagar is stunningly beautiful and downright romantic. From the arc of green mountains with snow caps to the placid water bodies, to the colorful floating gardens, to the array of houseboats and shikaras in Dal Lake in Srinagar, Srinagar makes for a surreal scenery that every couple would want to enjoy.
Make sure to check out: The houseboats in Srinagar. Plus, take a shikara ride in Dal Lake, meander through the royal Mughal gardens — Nishat Bagh, Chashme Shahi, and Shalimar Bagh — with your beloved.
13.Cape Town, South Africa
Best Time to Visit Cape Town, South Africa: Fall to Spring
Cape Town is one of the most beautiful and most romantic cities in the world. Having stunning scenery, endless small adventures, gorgeous beaches, and cosmopolitan culture, Cape Town makes the perfect place for a romantic destination.
Make sure to check out: The hiking trails on Table Mountain. Enjoy romantic strolls on the white sandy beaches and vintages cars at Franschhoek Motor Museum, taste the finest wines at Cape Winelands, and take a cable-car ride over to the neighboring cities.
Best Time to Visit to Marrakech, Morocco: Spring and Fall
With vast stretches of the Sahara Desert on one side and the mighty Atlas Mountain peaks on the other, Marrakech is a city that provides a unique setting for a romantic vacation. From exploring the markets to watching snake charmers to taking refuge in charming boutique hotels, known as riads, Marrakech is wonderful for lovers to travel together. The breathtaking landscape has palm trees, and the aforementioned view of the Sahara Desert and Atlas Mountains.
Make sure to check out: The Majorelle Garden. In addition, make sure to visit Jemaa el-Fnaa public square, intricately designed Bahia Palace, Koutoubia Mosque, Saadian Tombs, and take a horse or camel ride through the dunes of Palmeraie.
Featured image by Shutterstock
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here to receive our latest articles and news straight to your inbox.
Originally published on February 5, 2019
- 15 Most Romantic Getaways Around the World – Fodors Travel Guide ›
- The 14 Most Romantic Holiday Destinations for Couples | Travel + ... ›
- 12 fantastically romantic destinations around the world | Times of ... ›
- 9 of the World's Most Romantic Winter Wonderlands ›
- The Top Romantic Getaways Around the World ›
- Top 10 Most Romantic Places in the World ›
- 10 Romantic Honeymoon Destinations Around the World | Two ... ›
- Romantic Destinations and Countries from Around the World ›
- World's Most Romantic Destinations : Romance and Honeymoons ... ›
- 50 Top Romantic Destinations Around the World | Travel | US News ›
Taysha Robinson is a writer and high school English teacher, based in metro-Atlanta. A self described philomath, you can find her reading books and articles of every genre, attending educational conferences, and hiking wherever the terrain will allow.
Chief Mom Officer: 23 Quotes From Working Moms Finding Their Balance
The truth is, Black moms create magic every single day. Whether we're juggling motherhood with a busy 9-5, a thriving business, or staying at home to run a household, no day is short of amazing when you're managing life as a mommy. This Mother's Day, xoNecole is giving flowers to CMOs (Chief Mom Officers) in business who exemplify the strength it takes to balance work with motherhood.
We've commissioned these ladies, who are pillars in their respective industries, for tidbits of advice to get you through the best and worst days of mothering. Here, they share their "secret sauce" and advice for other moms trying to find their rhythm.
Emmelie De La Cruz, Chief Strategist at One Day CMO
"My mom friends and I all laugh and agree: Motherhood is the ghettoest thing you will ever do. It's beautiful and hard all at the same time, but one day you will wake up and feel like 'I got this' and you will get the hang of it. After 4 months, I finally felt like I found my footing to keep my kid and myself alive, but it took vulnerability to take off the cape and be honest about the areas that I didn't have it all together. The healing (physically and emotionally) truly does happen in community - whatever and whoever that looks like for you."
Alizè V. Garcia, Director Of Social & Community Impact at Nike
"I would tell a new mom or a prospective mother that they must give themselves grace, understand and remember there is no right way to do this thing and have fun! When I had my daughter three and a half years ago, I was petrified! I truly had no clue about what to do and how I was going to do it. But with time, my confidence grew and I realized quickly that I have all the tools I need to be the mother I want to be."
Nikki Osei-Barrett, Publicist + Co-Founder of The Momference
"There's no balance. I'm dropping sh*t everywhere! However, my secret sauce is pursuing interests and hobbies outside of what's required of me and finding time to workout. Stronger body equals = stronger mind."
Lauren Grove, Chief Experience Architect, The Grant Access, LLC
"I try to give myself grace. That’s my mantra for this phase of motherhood…grace. I won’t be able to get everything done. To have a spotless house. To not lose my cool after an exhausting day. Those things can’t happen all of the time. But I can take a deep breath and know tomorrow is another day and my blessings are more plentiful than my pitfalls."
Rachel Nicks, Founder & CEO of Birth Queen
"You have the answers within you. Don’t compare yourself to others. Curate your life to work for you. Ask for help."
Tanisha Colon-Bibb, Founder + CEO Rebelle Agency + Rebelle Management
"I know love doesn't pay bills but when I am overwhelmed with work or client demands I take a moment to play with my baby and be reminded of the love, energy, science, and Godliness that went into his birth. I am brightened by his smile and laugh. I remember I am someone's parent and not just a work horse. That at the end of the day everything will work out for the good of my sanity and the love within my life."
Christina Brown, Founder of LoveBrownSugar & BabyBrownSugar
"Learning your rhythm as a mom takes time and can be uncomfortable when you’re in a season of overwhelm. Constantly check in with yourself and assess what’s working and what’s not. Get the help you need without feeling guilty or ashamed of needing it."
Mecca Tartt, Executive Director of Startup Runway Foundation
"I want to be the best for myself, my husband, children and company. However, the reality is you can have it all but not at the same time. My secret sauce is outsourcing and realizing that it’s okay to have help in order for me to perform at the highest level."
Jen Hayes Lee, Head Of Marketing at The Bump (The Knot Worldwide)
"My secret sauce is being direct and honest with everyone around me about what I need to be successful in all of my various "jobs". Setting boundaries is one thing, but if you're the only one who knows they exist, your partners at home and on the job can't help you maintain them. I also talk to my kids like adults and let them know why mommy needs to go to this conference or get this massage...they need to build an appreciation for my needs too!"
Whitney Gayle-Benta, Chief Music Officer JKBX
"What helps me push through each day is the motivation to continue by thinking about my son. All my efforts, though exhausting, are to create a wonderful life for him."
Ezinne Okoro, Global Chief Inclusion, Equity, & Diversity Officer at Wunderman Thompson,
"The advice I received that I’ll pass on is, you will continue to figure it out and find your rhythm as your child grows into new stages. Trust your nurturing intuition, parent on your terms, and listen to your child."
Jovian Zayne, CEO of The OnPurpose Movement
"I live by the personal mantra: 'You can’t be your best self by yourself.' My life feels more balanced when I offer the help I can give and ask for the help I need. This might mean outsourcing housecleaning for my home, or hiring additional project management support for my business."
Simona Noce Wright, Co-Founder of District Motherhued and The Momference
"Each season of motherhood (depending on age, grade, workload) requires a different rhythm. With that said, be open to learning, to change, and understand that what worked for one season may not work the other...and that's okay."
Janaye Ingram, Director of Community Partner Programs and Engagement at Airbnb
"My daughter's smile and sweet spirit help me to feel gratitude when I'm overwhelmed. I want her to see a woman who doesn't quit when things get hard."
Codie Elaine Oliver, CEO & Founder of Black Love
"I try to listen to my body and simply take a break. With 3 kids and a business with 10+ team members, I often feel overwhelmed. I remind myself that I deserve grace for everything I'm juggling, I take a walk or have a snack or even head home to see my kids, and then I get back to whatever I need to get done."
Jewel Burks Solomon, Managing Partner at Collab Capital
"Get comfortable with the word ‘no’. Be very clear about your non-negotiables and communicate them to those around you."
Bridget Bogee, Marketing Lead At Meta
"Ask for help and always prioritize making time for you."
Julee Wilson, Executive Director at BeautyUnited and Beauty Editor-at-Large at Cosmopolitan
"Understand you can’t do it alone — and that’s ok. Relinquish the need to control everything. Create a village and lean on them."
Salwa Benyaich, Director Of Pricing and Planning at Premion
"Most days I really try to shut my computer off by 6 pm; there are always exceptions of course when it comes to big deals or larger projects but having this as a baseline allows me to be much more present with my kids. I love the fact that I can either help with homework or be the designated driver to at least one afterschool activity. Work can be draining but there is nothing more emotionally draining than when you feel as though you are missing out on moments with your kids."
Brooke Ellis, Head of Global Marketing & Product Launches at Amazon Music
My calendar, prayer, pilates class at Forma, a good playlist, and oatmilk lattes all help get me through any day.
Courtney Beauzile, Global Director of Client and Business Development at Shearman & Sterling
My husband is a partner who steps in when I just can’t. My mom and my MIL come through whenever and however I need. My kids have many uncles and aunts and they will lend an ear, go over homework, teach life lessons, be a presence or a prayer warrior depending on the day.
Robin Snipes, Chief of Staff at Meta
"Enjoy the time you have to yourself because once kids come those times will be few and far between."
Monique Bivens, CEO & Founder at Brazilian Babes LLC.
"For new moms, it is very important that you get back into a habit or routine of something you use to do before you were pregnant. Consider the actives and things that give you the most joy and make the time to do them."
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Featured image by Westend61/Getty Images
- 20 Inspirational Quotes That'll Motivate TF Out Of You ›
- Tracee Ellis Ross Breaks Down What ‘Wander, Ponder, And Be’ Means To Her ›
- 20 Quotes About Black Love That Will Make You A True Love Believer ›
- 14 Quotes From Black Feminists To Inspire You To Boss Up ›
- 10 Inspirational Issa Rae Quotes For When You Need Them Most ›
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.”
Director of Content: Jasmine Grant
Campaign Manager: Chantal Gainous
Managing Editor: Sheriden Garrett
Creative Director/Executive Producer: Tracey Woods
Cover Designer: Tierra Taylor
Photographer: Ally Green
Photo Assistant: Avery Mulally
Digital Tech: Kim Tran
Video by Third and Sunset
DP & Editor: Sam Akinyele
2nd Camera: Skylar Smith
Camera Assistant: Charles Belcher
Stylist: Casey Billingsley
Hairstylist: DaVonte Blanton
Makeup Artist: Drini Marie
Production Assistants: Gade De Santana, Apu Gomes
Powered by: European Wax Center