It really is comedy that, right when I sat down to pen this piece, the music that played in my head came from a song that I literally haven't heard in at least 10 years. Tell me something—where were you back in 1999 when Ludacris featuring Shawnna's song "What's Your Fantasy?" came out? Wow, y'all. That was—count 'em—21 freakin' years ago. I get why it played in my psyche, though. If you pay close attention to it, it's basically a sex bucket list. Luda was talking about going from jets to cars, having sex in kitchens and jacuzzis, making home movies and laying on a bedful of cash—the list went on and on until the song faded out. Basically, he was rapping about his sexual fantasies. And that's something that all of us have.
In a nutshell, a fantasy is what transpires when our imagination is totally uninhibited. And just where do our fantasies come from? Good question. From what I've read and researched, it can be anything from our imagination to something we've read in a book or discussed with friend. Or, it could be tied to something deeper like a childhood experience, some porn that we've watched or a sexual opportunity that we felt we let get away. Or, it could even be about wanting to relive—or add onto—a really great experience that we've already had. What you can know for sure is fantasies don't come out of nowhere; there is indeed a source. That's why it's a good idea to reflect on that fact before you actually put your sexual bucket list together. That way, you can know what you are picking out of possible trauma, habit or pure eroticism. That way, you can also know what fantasies should actually be explored and, which ones should be filed away in the back of your own mind.
Once you are clear on what belongs where, you can put together an I-want-to-do-this-before-my-libido-dies list that will bring you pleasure, will only benefit your relationship, and will cause very little drama once your fantasy becomes an actual reality. Here's how to make all of this happen for you and yours.
The Fantasizing That You Should Do Alone
Reflect on every sexual fantasy you've ever had. We all know what a bucket list is; it's a list of things that we want to accomplish either before a certain time or season in our lives, or before we take our final breath on this earth. A sex bucket list would be all of the sexual things that fall under this definition. Clearly, I'm all about creating sex bucket lists or I wouldn't be writing this article. However, what I will also say is, just because you have a fantasy of some sort, that doesn't automatically mean that you and your partner should make it come true. Because we are all individuals with unique imaginations, it really is best to take out some time to do your own sexual journaling where, not only do you write down what your sexual fantasies are but where you think they came from. Not to get super deep here, but it bears mentioning that if you've always wanted to have sex with an older man while someone is watching, you might want to ponder if something similar happened to you in your childhood or adolescence. Or, if you want to do some of the things that you and an ex did, is it about the sex itself or more about you wanting to use your current partner to relive what you haven't let go in your past?
It's a poor assumption that every sexual fantasy should be fulfilled or that all of them come from a pure and healthy space. Some are tied to unresolved past issues. Some are cool, but you really should keep them to yourself. The only way to know for sure is to jot down all of your sexual fantasies and try and find the source of where they came from (if you can). After that, you're ready for the next step.
Then think about the ones that will—and won't—benefit your relationship. When it comes to healthy decision-making, hands down, one of my favorite words to apply to the decision-making process is "beneficial". When something is beneficial, it is both advantageous and good. Another great definition of the word is "make improvement". You get what this means, right? Before embarking on making a sexual fantasy come true, it's important to ask yourself if and how it will be advantageous for your relationship beyond merely scratching some itch. Also ask yourself if it will be good for the both of you to partake in it. And finally, will it ultimately improve the relationship on any level?
There's someone I know whose husband wants to check a threesome off of his sex bucket list. He doesn't pressure his wife to have one, but he does bring it up, at least a couple of times a year. Whenever his wife brings it up to me and I ask her how she feels about it, she's like, "I have no interest in being with another woman, he is absolutely against being with another man and, I feel like after it would be over, I'd be totally mortified." Yeah, sex and mortified are not like peanut butter and jelly; they are absolutely not supposed to go together.
Only a selfish lover would expect their partner to do something that might satisfy them but won't benefit the relationship overall. It really is important to ask yourself what, on your sex bucket list, would really only make you happy as opposed to help the relationship that you are in overall.
(By the way, when it comes to both of these points, it's a good idea to recommend that your partner do these two steps before the two of you put a list together too.)
The Fantasizing You Should Do with Your Partner
Figure out which sexual fantasies will actually take your relationship to the next level. Once you've got what should, and shouldn't, actually go onto your couple's bucket list, the next thing you need to decide is which fantasies will push your sex life—and ultimately, your relationship—forward. Like, if you've always wanted to have sex in an elevator, is that because you both are natural risk-takers and you want to bring more spontaneity into the relationship? Or, if you want to read erotica to one another, is that a way of making quality time extra sexy?
Something that both of you may have always wanted to do is go on a date at a strip or swinger's club, but have you really thought that through? It's one thing to look at hot women or men alone or to watch people having sex on a monitor, but when things are up close and personal and you're watching your partner's reaction to who and what they are only a few feet away from, that can trigger the green-eyed monster or cause you to activate feelings that you might not have known were there before.
Having sex in your childhood bed. Engaging in oral sex in a public place. Getting it in at your offices after hours. Making your own sex tape. Having sex in the rain. Creating your own multiple orgasms competition to see who can give the other more of 'em. Whatever your sex fantasies are, before putting them down on your actual sex bucket list, it's a good idea for both of you to discuss which ones would be great for the relationship and why. (Trust me, you'll thank me later if you do.)
Prioritize the desire and timing of each one. Once you've got a random list together, another good idea is to rank, on a scale of 1-5, which fantasies take top priority. There's a simple reason for this recommendation—tomorrow is not promised and so, if the goal is to check off as many fantasies as possible, you need to figure out which ones are the most important to you. Like, if you've never had sex in a parking lot, what are you waiting on? You could pretty much knock that one down today (relatively-speaking). On the other hand, if you've always wanted to have sex in a particular ocean or in a certain country, it's time to pull your sex jar out and do some planning. By putting your sex list in the order of what you want to do ASAP vs. what is worth waiting for, not only can it spice up your sex life in the present, but it can also give you and yours something to look forward to in the future. Both can keep sexual boredom down to a minimum, and that's always a good thing where your relationship is concerned.
Finally, Set the Right Ambiance for Creating Your Sex Bucket List
Get a fresh journal for your bucket list. Sex is important. So, don't just scribble your sex bucket list on some random sheet of paper and toss it into a drawer. Pick up a fresh journal, one that you will devote solely to it and it alone. Then put it in one of your nightstands so that the two of you can refer back to it often. Or, if you're super bold and daring, design your list and have it framed to hang up somewhere in your bedroom. Make it a literal piece of art (because it is).
Create a sexy atmosphere while making it. Whenever you and yours decide to put your sex bucket list together, avoid doing it while you're watching a show on television or as you're both scrolling through your Instagram accounts before going to sleep. Create an atmosphere that will put both of you in a sensual mood. Dim the lights. Light some scented candles. Throw on a sex-inducing streaming playlist. Make clothing optional. Nothing about what you're about to do should feel like work. It's needs to be as erotic, intriguing and fun as possible.
Have some aphrodisiacs on deck. Something else that can be cool is you can turn your sex bucket list time into a bit of an indoor picnic; one that has nothing but aphrodisiacs on the menu. As you agree to what should go on the list, celebrate with some chocolate-flavored strawberries or honey-coated almonds. As your sex bucket list is feeding your sense of hearing, let some aphrodisiac foods feed your sense of taste.
Agree to check something off of the list, after making your list, ASAP. Whether you've got 25 or 150 things on your sex bucket list (remember, this can always be a build-as-you-go sort of thing), once you're done and you both review it, I'm sure that there is something that you can make happen sooner than later. Make the effort of putting the list together totally worth your while by checking something off, just as soon as you can. You'll both feel a sense of achievement…and what a way to reward yourselves for putting the list together in the first place. Feel me? Somehow, I know that you do. #wink
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (email@example.com) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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Queen Latifah On Her Journey To Self-Acceptance: 'I've Been Trying To Maintain My Freedom To Be Me'
Actress and rapper Dana "Queen Latifah" Owens is defying societal standards by refusing to be confined in a box regarding her personal and professional life.
Owens, who has been a part of the entertainment industry for over three decades, is widely recognized for her empowering songs and the variety of acting roles she has obtained throughout her career, among other things. The list includes Living Single, Set It Off, Chicago --with which she earned an Oscar nomination-- Just Wright, Girls Trip, and most recently, The Equalizer series on CBS.
Owens is also very tight-lipped about her personal life. However, in 2021, The Last Holiday actress showed appreciation to Eboni Nichols, who is reportedly her partner, and their son Rebel after receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award.Since then, Owens has revealed why she doesn't want to be defined as anything but herself and how she maintains her sense of freedom. In a resurfaced video from theGrio Awards, Owens opened up about those topics when she accepted the Television Icon Award for her past contributions
In a clip uploaded on theGrio's Instagram account last week, Owens explained that she often had to fight to be herself because "the world" kept trying to put her in a box based on what society thought a woman should be.
"My whole life, I feel like I've been trying to maintain my freedom to be me. And the world is trying to put these things on me to stop me from being who I am," she said.
Further into the speech, Owens explained that although many would have their own opinion about her from what the media spews out, she would continue to be herself by wearing "beautiful gowns and dresses," playing in the dirt, participating in basketball games with men and loving who she loves because that's what makes her happy.
The Beauty Shop star also added that despite her celebrity status, she would continue to show respect for others because that's who she is as a person and how she was raised.
"So I wear these beautiful gowns and dresses because I want to because that's part of me. I play in the dirt. I play basketball with the boys because that's me,” she stated. "I love who I love because that's me. I love all of you who have supported me. I give you your respect. I don't have to be above you because that's me. I know me."
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