For me, a great first date question is, "What sign are you?" I have dodged many a bullet by asking this question. I would say that I am 99 percent on the dot when it comes to predicting potential relationship drama just by assessing someone's sign and paying attention to their actions. However, I do realize I may have missed a few things and that has caused me to look a little deeper. I am notorious for asking my potential date what their time of birth is and where they were born. Why? Well, it is simple, I need to know what's in that birth chart.
Are we truly compatible or is this just a brief moment of coincidence? Most people, especially men, don't normally have this information on hand. To that, I reply, "Text your mom and see if she remembers." It may seem, and it probably is, a bit invasive but the way dating is set up these days, I need to collect as much information upfront.
Apps like Co-Star and The Pattern App have made it simple and easy to have this information at your fingertips. It allows you to see, astrologically, how you match up with friends, co-workers, family, and yes, potential boos, just by entering in a few details. Many people swear by these apps because of their uncanny ability to give you daily predictions that are spot-on.
Birth charts and zodiac signs are not new tools that have been used in the dating arena, on the recent popular Netflix series, Indian Matchmaker, we got a chance to see how big of a role in Indian cultures astrology played in picking a spouse. Honestly, it was very eye-opening. But this is all to say that birth charts can lend a lot of guidance to you and be useful in a self-discovery kind of way.
In order to delve in deeper into the topic of astrology charts, we spoke with Angelica Ray, an Intuitive, Healer, and Coach to shed light on all things there are to know about birth charts.
What Is A Birth Chart & What Does A Birth Chart Mean?
Natal charts, commonly known as birth charts, are a chart that explains where the planets were in the sky at the date and time you were born. "A birth chart or a natal chart is essentially a snapshot of the sky, the cosmos, the planets at the exact moment you were born. So as the Earth turns, and depending upon where you were born and the time you were born, the space around Earth looks a particular way," Angelica explained to xoNecole.
"The planets, stars, moons are in particular positions based on those factors. And that position and that snapshot in time are what is known as our birth chart."
Every planet has a significant meaning as it applies to you and how you show up in the world. Your birth chart helps to highlight where the planets were located at your birth and the significance in that particular placement. Our complete personalities are made up of several personality traits of different zodiac signs that represent different areas of our lives. Each birth chart is fairly unique to the individual unless there was another person born at the same time, on the same date, in the same location as you. According to a Nylon.com article:
"Your personal planets — such as the moon, Venus, rising, Mercury, and Mars — can change signs every few hours to days, which is why your chart would look very different from someone born just a few days later."
Planets such as Pluto, Uranus, and Neptune on the other hand are very slow-changing signs that change every few years or so. These planets reflect things like generational shifts and traits that will be similar to people in the same age brackets.
How Do I Find My Birth Chart?
There are many different ways you can access your birth chart. Angelica says before you access your birth chart, you need to make sure you have a few things for accuracy. "You can get access to your birth chart through several different websites. There is one called Astro Dienst which in my opinion is the best astrology website for getting birth charts. While the chart itself is very helpful, it is also a great idea to get your birth chart from an astrologer who has a full understanding of the chart itself the placements, the transitions, and transits, so that you can have as much information as possible."
It is suggested with the time of birth to get it as close as possible to the minute you were born. You can still access your birth chart without it, but it is critical to have the exact time. The apps Co-Star, The Pattern, Astrology Zone, and Time Nomads are highly recommended for getting your birth chart.
How To Read Your Birth Chart
Reading your birth chart can be a little tedious. There are specific intricacies that the different planets create by playing off each other in certain positions. It may serve you best to find someone who knows how to read your birth chart for you and interpret all the relationships and meanings. Angelica advised, "The field is obviously not regulated, there are a lot of people claiming to be astrologers. Of course, there are people with less deep knowledge of astrology who can still provide you with information that can be helpful. If you want a really deep dive and to know all of the intricacies, then you would want to look for someone who has that specialization and who has been studying astrology for a long time and who makes it a priority and focus in their profession."
How To Interpret & Understand Your Birth Chart For Yourself
Now that we know what the birth chart is and how to access one, let's discuss how it can help you understand yourself. A lot of the conversation around what people know about astrology and the zodiac is very one-dimensional. The birth chart gives you a deeper understanding of how people perceive you, how you navigate deeper emotions, how you love, how you communicate, etc. Angelica explained, "I always say the birth chart can tell you the skeleton of a person. The flesh of a person is all the experiences they've had. It's their values, their morals, etc. But your birth chart really does tell you the skeleton of a person. It is the structure of how you are made up and what energy has created you."
Once you understand the fundamentals through the birth chart, you can start to explore the more nuanced aspects of yourself. "It's really helpful to know because it can provide a lot of confirmation and affirmation of things you maybe sensed about yourself but didn't have anything, in particular, to point to. A lot of us are aware of our sun sign but that's like saying you know a face just by its nose. But you need to see the entirety of the faces just to have some sort of recognition to have some sort of familiarity and some understanding."
Angelica continued, "While the sun sign does provide you with a little bit of information, it's really how it works in tandem and conjunction with all of the other intricacies of the chart that make the information usable in your everyday life."
Understanding The Primal Triad: The Sun, The Moon, & The Rising Signs
The primal triad to me is the meat and potatoes for where everyone should begin with birth charts. The primal triad includes your sun sign, moon sign, and rising or ascendant sign. "These three elements really help you to understand the primal nature of the soul of a person," Angelica said.
However, let's look at the breakdown of each of the signs making up the primal triad from, as told by Angelica Ray:
- "The sun sign is typically the way a person shines their light in the world. It is their essence, it is how they 'do' the world most naturally.
- "The rising sign is sometimes called the ascendant sign. The ascendant sign typically represents how other people experience you in the world. So it is that first layer, that aura or experience they have with you. Imagine if your sun sign is the light, then your ascendant sign is the window through which that light shines. If it is a blue window, you might have a different tint of light on it than you would if it was a purple window. So your sun is the light that is shining and your ascendent is the light coming through the window and represents how people experience you.
- "Your moon sign is the deepest part of you emotionally, psychically and that is all the stuff you bury and you carry deep inside. It is how you 'do' your emotional world."
Birth charts are an interesting way to compare and contrast how you interact with yourself and others. But it is extremely important to gain as much insight as possible when starting this research to be accurate. Angelica offered this sage advice, "A birth chart is a tool. Fate and free will are constantly in interplay with one another. So while astrology might point to the lesson you are here to learn and things you should come here to do in this lifetime, you still have free will to choose how you are going to do those things and how that might play out."
She concluded, "It just tells you what energy you are made of and it is the choices that you make that allow you the opportunity to work in harmony or in disharmony with that energy."
If you would like to know more about birth charts or to book an appointment for services with Angelica Ray, please visit her website. She also can be found @angelicaray on Instagram.
Featured image by Shutterstock
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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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