If you read enough of my content on this platform, you already know that 1) fall is my absolutely favorite season and 2) I'm all about a good pampering. Which brings me to this question — when is the last time that you pampered yourself? I don't mean what I generally consider to be maintenance moves like scheduling a mani/pedi appointment or even getting a massage; no, I mean, when's the last time you did something that falls into the category of indulgence? Pure, sheer and totally unapologetic self-indulgence.
If you're a bit stumped in finding the correct answer, perhaps these 12 "nudges" will inspire you to do something that will make you feel a little "self-spoiled" over the next couple of days. As a bonus, they're all fall-themed too. How dope is that?
1. Put Some Fall-Themed Flowers (or a Wreath) in Your Home Office and Bedroom
While some people get fresh flowers for their home for purely aesthetic reasons, the reality is there are a lot of health benefits that come with doing it too. Fresh flowers can help to get you into a better mood. Fresh flowers can inspire creativity. Fresh flowers can reduce stress. Fresh flowers can even help you to physically heal at a quicker pace and sleep more soundly. So, in the spirit of all things fall, why not get some blooms that are at their peak right now? Some of those include chrysanthemums, pansies, and anthers.
Or, if flowers aren't really your thing, how about hanging up a wreath? I've got a couple that is made out of nothing but twigs; yet, surprisingly, they feel very "autumn" and make my living room and bedroom feel extra cozy because they are on my walls. You can usually find them at a local arts and crafts store; especially around this time of the year.
2. Get a Humidifier That Comes with a Diffuser
Something that I've been saying, on loop, to anyone who will listen, is in this season of COVID that we're in, it's an absolute must that you bless your space with a humidifier. The main reason why is because viruses like COVID, colds, and the flu struggle in low humidity (however, if you check out "10 Really Good Reasons To Get Yourself A Humidifier This Fall," you'll see that it comes with some other benefits as well). Although the humidifier that I have doesn't have this particular feature, I have owned one that comes with a diffuser so that essential oils are able to "run" along with the mist that comes out. The result is whatever room a humidifier is in, it smells absolutely divine. If this piques your interest, oh so Spotless is a site that offers up some reviews on a few humidifiers that have diffusers. You can check them out here.
3. Create a Simmer Pot
Another way to make your home smell amazing is to create your own simmer pot. It's basically when you put a whole bunch of fruits, herbs, and spices together into a pot, then you let them simmer on your stove for a few hours. Something that I really like about this suggestion is you can combine certain ingredients in a way where you can sip them as a delightfully warm or cool drink once you're done. So, for two hours, a mixture of apples, oranges, and cinnamon sticks can appeal to your nose, and then you can drink it while watching a holiday film — wonderful. Tipnut offers up 15 simmer pot recipes. If you want to check them all out, you can do so by going here.
4. Add Some Fairy Lights
Personally, I'm someone who likes to sleep in pitch-black darkness. Still, whenever I go to someone's house and they have tiny fairy lights hanging up in their bedroom, I always think it looks really… "enchanted" is the word that first comes to mind. And since we're in "fall back" season, as far as time goes, a little more light (even if it's in your office or kids' room) certainly can't hurt. Just a thought.
5. Pick Up a Couple of Pairs of Moisturizing Socks
Switching gears a bit, how about giving your feet some extra tender loving care? Something that one of my goddaughters is a huge fan of is what she calls "lotion socks" although they are technically referred to as being moisturizing socks. Long story short, they are super comfy socks that have lotion "built into them" (although some, you've got to apply the lotion yourself). Not only does this help to make your feet feel unbelievably soothed and stress-free, but it can also keep your feet moisturized too. If you wanna cop a pair, Mom Junction reviewed over 10 of 'em. The ones with five toes for each sock certainly caught my attention. Check that list out here.
6. Make a Fall-Inspired Body Scrub
If you want to pamper your skin by unclogging its pores, removing dead skin, and brightening your complexion, exfoliation is the way to go. Making your own body scrub is one of the best ways to do it. In the spirit of autumn, how about making a scrub that smells like the fall season? A vanilla body scrub (recipe here) is good for you because vanilla is rich in the kind of antioxidants that fight aging and free radicals. A pumpkin body scrub (recipe here) is great because it's filled with Vitamin C and beta-carotene; both are able to stimulate the production of collagen. And finally, an apple scrub (recipe here) will do your body good because the properties in apples help to hydrate your skin, protect it from UV damage (which yes, also can happen in the fall and winter), reduce the appearance of dark circles underneath your eyes, tone your skin and even out your complexion.
7. Invest in a Brown Matte Lip Color
When the temps are cold and the wind is blowing, you definitely want to make sure that your lips are well-moisturized. Do that by first exfoliating them (like with a DIY lip scrub), applying a "base" like shea butter (I sleep with shea butter on my lips at night), and then applying lip color. This season, a hue that is really big is a deep shade of brown (which looks absolutely amazing on us!). Make sure it's one that has a bit of a matte finish. Yeah, I know you're probably still wearing your mask (damn COVID!), but you've got to take it off at some point and your lips will look amazing once you do if they are covered in a beautiful brown color.
8. Get Accessories in Classic Fall Colors
Remember how I said in the intro that pampering is ALL ABOUT indulgence. I don't care if you've already got a good purse and some cute boots from last year — treat yourself to a few more accessories that are in signature fall colors including grey, brown, blue, orange, green, and red. One of my favorite things about accessories is they bring so much detail to an outfit. Plus, they're a great way to "switch up" a look if you don't have a lot of money to ball out on a new wardrobe this year.
9. Buy a Cable Knit Blanket
Personally, I'm of the belief that no matter how many blankets you already have, you really can't own enough of them — especially during the fall and winter seasons. So, if you don't already have a cable knit one, what are you waiting for? Something that's especially cool about this particular kind of blanket is it can keep you warm when you're cold yet it also has the ability to adapt to other temperatures which means that a cable knit blanket can pamper you all year-round…if you let it.
10. Use Hurricane Lanterns for Your Fall Soy-Scented Candles
Is there anything more romantic, seductive, or fall-invoking than a bedroom that is lit up with nothing but candles? Whether you're sleeping alone or with someone, to me, the answer is "no". Still, this ain't the movies, so you need to be careful lighting some up and then falling asleep. Something that can significantly decrease the risk of something catching on fire is putting your candles inside of a hurricane lantern or glass terrarium boxes. Just make sure that the candles are soy (they are cleaner and burn longer) and they have a fall scent to them. Some that fall into that category include apple, pomegranate, vanilla, pine, cinnamon, pumpkin, butterscotch, pecan, amber, and musk.
11. Bake (or Order) the Hell Outta Some Sweets
Although comfort food is pretty much bomb any season of the year, is there anything better than a hot bowl of soup or some soul food when it's freezing cold outside? While you probably don't want to go crazy out in these streets, why would you deny yourself the joy of a homemade baked good or even ordering some autumn-themed desserts right about now? Apple crisp (recipe here). Pumpkin spice cupcakes (recipe here). Pumpkin brownies (recipe here). Cranberry apple cobbler (recipe here). Vegan butternut squash pudding (recipe here). All sweet. All comforting. All autumn-themed.
12. Learn How to Make Mulled Wine and Herb Infusion
Pampering isn't truly pampering if you're not setting aside some time to sip on something that makes you feel good from head to toe, right? As we close this out, two drinks that have "fall" written all over them are mulled wine (which is red wine with spices added to it) and herb infusion (which is basically making tea except you are adding a lot more herbs and allowing them to steep for a much longer period of time). Since a lot of mulled wine recipes feature cinnamon (which is full of antioxidants) and/or nutmeg (which is a powerful detoxifier) and the herbs in teas can be super ideal for your immune system (check out "10 'Uncommon' Teas You Should Add To Your Stash (& Why)"), these two options are absolutely perfect for this time of the year.
A delicious mulled wine recipe is here and if you want to learn how to DIY an herb infusion, click here. How can all of these tips not make you feel pampered as you embrace even more of what fall has to offer, chile? Enjoy!
For more inspiration, self-care, and healing tips, check out xoNecole's Wellness section here.
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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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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Janelle Monáe's Reveals The Real Reason Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Tuxedos
Singer and actress Janelle Monáe exemplifies how change can be a powerful catalyst for growth and transformation.
Monáe, who rose to fame in 2010 following the release of her debut album, The ArchAndroid, captivated fans' hearts with her powerful vocals, catchy tunes, and style. Around that time period, when various female artists were known to wear provocative ensembles on stage, the "Tightrope" songstress set herself apart by wearing her signature black and white suits and continued to do so for almost a decade.
In the later years of her career, after the release of her studio albums The Electric Lady in 2013 and 2018's Dirty Computer, many began to notice the shift in Monáe's artistry and fashion, which some widely praised.
Although the now 37-year-old rarely addressed the reason behind the transformation over the years, that would all change when Monáe sat down with radio personality Angie Martinez on her IRL podcast earlier this month.
During the interview, Monáe --who was promoting her latest album, "The Age of Pleasure"-- opened up about her mental health struggles, how she would cope, and why she chose to live in freedom.
Janelle On Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Suits All the Time
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
In the May discussion, the "I Like That" vocalist revealed she suffers from anxiety, which she claimed would occur around "winter to spring."
Monáe added that when she has her bouts with anxiety, she tends to turn to food as a coping mechanism. Further in the interview, the "Lipstick Lover" singer disclosed that her emotional eating habits caused a weight fluctuation and that she could no longer fit into the suits she once wore earlier in her career.
Monáe explained that even though she tried to diet and exercise to return to her smaller figure, she ultimately stopped and made peace with herself with the help of therapy because she acknowledged that she isn't the same person she was nearly a decade ago and shouldn't try to be even if it was a highly "celebrated" version.
"I'm petite, but it can get thick... When I couldn't fit them suits anymore, and I was like, 'Oh my God, what is going on?' I would be dieting, running, or exercising, trying to fit into [it]. I'm just like, 'No. No, we're here. This is where we are.' We [are] not about to be utilizing life trying to be an old version of ourselves. No matter how celebrated that version of me was. I'm here. I'm here," she said.
Janelle On Freedom
As the topic shifted to freedom and what that meant to Monáe, the "Primetime" vocalist shared that in this new era of her life, she enjoys it because she can boldly express herself however she wants and honor who she is as a person right now.
Monáe also revealed that she had found ways to become a better artist and the best version of herself because of her freedom.
"What is the new version of freedom? What does that feel like? That's usually when I feel the most free is when artistically, I can honor exactly who I am right now," she stated. "I feel most free as a human when I can honor exactly who I am right now."
Monáe's fourth studio album, The Age of Pleasure, is set to be released on June 9.
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