Something that we all know is aging is a natural part of life. It's nothing to get mad about. It's nothing to be afraid of. Matter of fact, it's a blessing to be able to say that you're getting older. That said, the key to aging gracefully is preparation, and if there's one part of us that gets overlooked a lot when it comes to this, it's our teeth. Here's the thing, though. When we're babies we get a set, then lose them. Then we gain another set and that's supposed to last us for the rest of our entire lives. Between the constant eating, sometimes grinding, the kinds of foods that we eat and not always taking care of our teeth as well (or consistently) as we should, the enamel (the main layer that protects your teeth from decay) on them can start to get thinner which can make our teeth more fragile and, quite frankly, dingy looking. That's why a lot of people can look pretty good in their 50s and 60s, then smile and instantly appear 10 years older. It's because they didn't take good care of their teeth.
There's no time like the present to learn a few ways to dodge this particular bullet. Since your teeth are going to get older over time, here are 12 proven ways to help them to stay young-looking, so that you can appear more youthful, with time, as well.
1. Stay Hydrated
Have you ever really stopped to think about what's in your saliva? It's actually a combination of water, minerals, proteins, mucus and amylase (an enzyme that helps you to properly digest your food). Saliva is great at helping to prevent oral decay because it helps to remove food particles from your mouth, wash away bacteria that can lead to cavities and neutralize acids that can eventually lead to cavities and a breakdown of tooth enamel. Something that saliva needs in order to produce itself on a regular basis is water. That's why, when it comes to taking care of your teeth long-term, it's important that you drink at least 6-8 glasses of water a day. Every single day.
2. Brush with Baking Soda. Rinse with Hydrogen Peroxide.
If you don't want to go the professional whitening route, a great natural whitening alternative is to brush your teeth with a combo of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. Baking soda (also known as sodium bicarbonate) is effective because it contains tiny crystals that create a texture that's able to basically "exfoliate" your teeth, so that you can safely and effectively remove plaque from them. Hydrogen peroxide is cool because it serves as a natural bleaching agent that can help to whiten your teeth while killing bad bacteria that may be lurking around in your mouth too. I've been going with this combo since I was a child and I can definitely tell a difference, every time I use it. Just make sure to rinse your mouth really well when you're done. Both things are safe. Still, they can be pretty potent too. (If you want to learn about some other natural whitening remedies, check out "10 All-Natural Ways To Strengthen Your Teeth & Whiten Your Smile").
3. Go Easy on the Brushing
There can be too much of a good thing, even when it comes to brushing your teeth. In other words, if you ever wondered if you could brush them too hard or too often, the answer is yes. What's a trip about this particular point is even that can result in tender gums and worn out enamel. Yes, you need to brush (and floss) after every meal. Just make sure that you go with a soft-bristled brush, that you stroke at a 45-degree angle to your gums and that you do it for no more than 2-2 ½ minutes. Oh, make sure that you replace your toothbrush every three months as well. Going above and beyond this could result in tooth sensitivity. You don't want that.
4. Reduce Your Acidic Intake
This one kinda sucks because I'm willing to bet that some of your favorite foods and drinks are acidic. The reason why you should reduce the amount of them that you consume is because they've got the ability to erode your tooth enamel over time which makes it easier for the pigment of foods that stain your teeth and provide that less-than-appealing yellowish look. Acidic stuff can also cause your teeth to become pretty sensitive too. If you're not exactly sure which foods and drinks fit this bill, the list includes orange juice, soda, fish, processed foods, lemonade, pineapple juice, starchy foods, grape juice, apple juice and corned beef.
So, what foods are able to make your mouth more alkaline? Good question. Some of those include zucchini, spinach, kale, pumpkin, white cabbage, arugula and artichokes. Eat more of those and less of the acidic stuff and your mouth will be much healthier.
5. Consume Calcium and Vitamin D-Rich Foods Instead
Although your teeth aren't technically bones (teeth are made up of dentin, enamel, cementum and pulp), they do need some of the same nutrients that bones do in order to remain nice and strong. One that tops the list is calcium because it's able to harden your teeth's enamel. This is why it's so important to eat foods that are rich in calcium like cheese, dark leafy greens, yogurt, canned salmon, whey protein, milk (or milk alternatives) and chia seeds.
Another nutrient that's important is Vitamin D. That's because it helps your body to process and absorb calcium. Without calcium, your teeth can start to become pretty brittle which is problematic on all kinds of levels. Foods that are loaded with Vitamin D include fortified cereals, eggs, canned tuna, shiitake mushrooms and orange juice.
6. Eat Cheese at the End of Each Meal
If cheese is something that you love to eat, you're gonna be thrilled with this tip. Remember how I mentioned a list of foods that are acidic? Well, something that you might not know about cheese is that it's naturally alkali. This means that, when you eat it, cheese can help to neutralize the acids that you may have just consumed from other foods. As a bonus, cheese also contains a good amount of calcium.
As far as the kinds of cheeses that are best, some dental experts are all about ones like Monterey jack, cheddar, Brie and Camembert due to all of the nutrients that are in them.
7. Do Some Oil Pulling
The brief history on oil pulling is it's an Ayurvedic practice that actually originated in India. The purpose of it is to use oils to literally purify your teeth and gums. While a lot of Indians prefer to go with sunflower or sesame oil for pulling, the people I personally know who oil pull typically use coconut oil since it has so many properties (such as lauric acid which reduces inflammation and Vitamin E which helps to heal tissues) in it. Anyway, all you've gotta do is put around a teaspoon of the oil of your choosing into your mouth and swish it around for about 10-15 minutes. Then spit the oil out and brush your teeth like usual. If you do this 2-3 times a week, you should notice that your teeth will feel cleaner, your teeth will appear whitener and your breath will even smell fresher.
As a special note, it can be hard to keep all of that oil and spit in your mouth when you're just sitting around and doing nothing. That's why it's usually best to oil pull while you're in the shower or super preoccupied with something that keeps you busy yet doesn't require you to talk.
8. Take a Multivitamin
One of the reasons why your teeth can start to weaken as you age is you may not be receiving all of the nutrients that they need on a regular basis. In fact, it's estimated that a whopping 92 percent of Americans have some sort of vitamin deficiency (what in the world?!). Since your teeth need calcium (again, it helps to harden your teeth's enamel); Vitamin D (it aids in boosting bone mineral density); potassium (it helps to keep your blood from becoming too acidic); phosphorus (it helps to build healthy teeth); Vitamin K (it improves bone strength); Vitamin C (it fights gingivitis), and Vitamin A (it helps to promote oral healing), you can never go wrong with 1) eating foods that have these nutrients in them and 2) taking a multivitamin on a daily basis. As far as multivitamins go, it's an easy way to make sure that you compensate for any vitamins or minerals that you might've missed due to your diet.
9. Drink Some Tea
Yeah, before you get all giddy in your soul, when I say "tea", I don't mean some good ole' southern sweet tea. What I'm referring to is green tea. Aside from the fact that green tea contains bioactive compounds that are able to improve your brain function while helping to keep you from getting type 2 diabetes and also antioxidants that can help to boost your immunity and reduce the risk of you getting certain cancers, the catechins (a specific type of antioxidant) in this kind of tea are also able to fight gum disease, tooth decay and bad breath. One of the best ways to take care of green tea's oral benefits by making your own mouthwash. A cool recipe is located here.
10. Get a Night Guard
If you've heard of the word "bruxism" before yet you're not exactly sure what it means, it's a medical term for people who grind their teeth or clench their jaws (which is around 10-15 percent of the population).
Several things can cause this including stress, internalized anger, insomnia, heavy caffeine and/or alcohol consumption and ADHD. The reason why this is an issue when it comes to the topic of aging teeth is because teeth grinding can damage the enamel of your teeth—and the weaker your enamel gets, the much more vulnerable to damage your teeth can become. How? Well, chewing your teeth can put between 20-40 pounds of pressure on them. Grinding? A whopping 250 pounds!Geeze.
A solution is to invest in a night guard (or bite splint). It's very similar to the trays that your dentist may use to whiten your teeth. You put them on at night and it helps to both shield and cushion your teeth so that you're not putting so much pressure on them while you sleep. Since night guards can also help to prevent headaches and neck pain, it definitely can't hurt to talk to your dentist about getting one either to fix any grinding issues that you have now or to use as a preventative measure.
11. Keep Metal Out of Your Mouth
I've had a root canal before. My dentist was cool. Still, it was no walk in the park by any stretch of the imagination. Anyway, if you end up needing some sort of treatment for a cavity that you might have, make sure that you avoid getting metal amalgam fillings or crowns. Those can definitely cause your mouth to look 20-plus years older than it should. Instead, ask your dentist about fillings that are the same color as your natural teeth and crowns that are ceramic. These options tend to look so much better. Younger too.
12. See Your Dentist Annually
Unfortunately, only half of Americans go to see their dentist every six months (which is actually how much we're supposed to do it). Around 15 percent go annually and over 20 percent said they haven't gone in the past few years. That's not good because your dentist is able to see signs of wear and tear, damage and even aging that you cannot. Plus, they can provide tips on how to keep your teeth in great shape for many years to come. I can't think of too many things that I dislike more than going to the dentist. Still, it's something that's crucial if you want your teeth to look great and, well, age gracefully. Make your next appointment, ASAP, OK? Excellent.
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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
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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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