We love a man who isn't afraid to speak his mind and keep it all the way real, and when it comes to love and relationships, Jean Elie certainly doesn't hold back. It's no surprise that Elie caught our attention on HBO's Insecure as Ahmal Dee—Issa's smart-mouthed little brother who appears on the last few episodes of Season 2.
But while we certainly appreciate having a little eye candy on the show, we have our eye on Elie for other reasons. Beyond the humor, the Haitian-American is proving himself to be one to watch, snagging credits on ABC's American Crime and visually directing music videos for Timbaland co-signed artist Brandon Tory. Not bad for someone who just a few years ago decided to quit his day job and hopped on a one-way flight to Los Angeles with only $1,000 in his pocket to pursue his acting and directing career.
That kind of ambition alone makes us just a bit curious about the actor after the cameras stop rolling, so we sat down with Elie for some real talk about his insecurities, his thoughts on cheating and why he prefers tomboys over supermodel types.
What was it like when you found out that you landed the role of Ahmal Dee on Insecure?
I was shocked! (laughs) It literally took two weeks before I heard anything back. And usually if I don't hear anything back within a week, it's out of my head. Then, I got a phone call at the most random time of the day and they were like, “Hey, Insecure called and said they want you to play Ahmal." Then my boys were like, “Yo, what's wrong?" And I was like, they called and said I got the role for Ahmal, to play Issa's brother. I was like, this is crazy. Like that's nuts. What does this even mean? What happens next?!
What are you most excited about with playing Issa's brother? Where would you like to see this role go?
I would love to see him extend into a third season. I'd like to get more back story on his character, to see what he gets himself into-what his MOUTH gets him into because he has a smart mouth. I'd also like to see what his life is like outside of Issa and his beef with Kelli. Like, what's going on with that?
Insecure deals with a lot of the modern complexities of dating. Molly and Dro, in particular, have blurred the lines of their friendship and have become lovers. Do you think it's ever okay to blur the lines or do you prefer to just keep friends as friends?
It's cool to blur the lines, but it's more important to have a conversation. As awkward as it may be, have that conversation to know that this is what it is and this is what we're doing. Being with your friend can make it the best experience in the world, you know? Because it doesn't have to be about sex, you're actually enjoying each other's company. You're able to be honest and open with one another. Communication is key in any relationship – as long as you have an open channel to talk to one another it'll always work out. But you also have to accept the fact that someone's going to end up hurt in this situation if you guys don't make it an official thing some time down the line. Especially if that conversation isn't had.
Molly's professional life is flourishing. But her personal life and her love life is kind of trash – especially with her making the decision to hook up with a married man. Is there something to be said about ambitious and successful people and their dating life? Do you think it's hard to balance being successful while also trying to date successfully?
Yeah, I think anything is possible. It's not impossible, but it's hard. Molly is a strong, black, independent queen who does her own thing but she's also flawed like everybody else. I think once she gets rid of expectations, which is what we all should do, we'll all do better.
Expectations on relationships, on careers, on anything that we have – it usually ruins things. We have an idea of what things should be instead of really accepting what it is. I try to get rid of my “should." Everybody has their own time. Everybody has their own process. Things will happen when they're supposed to happen, not when you want it to happen. Especially in relationships. I try my best not to look for something. I let things come to me.
"We have an idea of what things should be instead of really accepting what it is. I try to get rid of my 'should.'"
So, you're not sliding in any DMs?
Nah, I'm not sliding in any DMs. But I am liking the 100th picture though. I will scroll down your whole timeline (laughs).
How do you navigate dating and finding a genuine person to spend your time with?
My friends, they help hook me up. I don't like those dating app situations. I've tried a couple of them before and I always end up with some type of weird person (laughs). Like you really have to read people's bios and some people don't have them. I went on a couple of dates with this one girl and she was talking a mile a minute – she was looking for a sponsor. So, my homegirls usually try to hook me up. Sometimes the relationship works, sometimes it doesn't. Usually my relationships start off as just friends, which is great, so it's like alright, I know you're not crazy. I know you're actually doing the things you said you're doing. But again, sometimes things just don't pan out.
Are you dating right now?
Yeah, I'm dating, but I haven't found anything serious yet. I'm still out here mixing and mingling (laughs). I have to feel like we're best friends and I can really talk to her about anything. I don't believe in cheating, so once I get in a relationship, that's the relationship I'm in. Nothing can come between me and the person I'm with, which is why we have to be super honest with each other. A lot of the time relationships fall to the wayside because people don't communicate properly or they start talking in circles and they end up breaking up. I try to be as honest as I possibly can with whoever I'm talking to.
"I don't believe in cheating. Once I get in a relationship, that's the relationship I'm in."
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
One of the songs on Insecure's soundtrack this season is called “Supermodel" by SZA. SZA also has a song on her album CTRL called “Normal Girl" and those two are arguably juxtapositions. What kind of woman attracts you more? Are you more drawn to the Supermodel IG Famous types or the girl-next-door Normal Girls?
I like the normal girls, the girl next door. I like them a little tomboy-ish. I'd like a girl that's nice, cool, pretty, cool with her family even if she still has to work some stuff out, likes the outdoors, and someone that can joan around with me (laughs).
What would make a woman stand out to you?
I love when a woman doesn't feel like she needs somebody to make her complete. If she doesn't feel like she needs me, then that makes me want to be there for her. If a girl is doing her own thing, that's attractive too. I don't want her to need a man in her life, I want her to want one. Because if the want is mutual, then everything will work out.
The name of the show is called Insecure and for good reasons. What's one insecurity or fear you have when it comes to relationships?
My fear is that I might leave a person in fear of my heart. Or that I might get scared and feel like this is it. I don't believe in cheating, but I've seen a lot of cheaters. If I get married, it's a wrap for me and her and I don't want that to happen. So, in fear of that actually being something that happens to me, that keeps me from locking stuff down.
There was a meme floating around Instagram that read: “If the love doesn't feel like 90's R&B, I don't want it." But what does Jean say?
90's R&B is cool. It's amazing (laughs). If the love doesn't feel organic, if it feels like we're forcing it – then I don't want it. If it doesn't feel like a natural thing, like we grew into it, I don't want it.
"If the love doesn't feel organic, if it feels like we're forcing it – then I don't want it."
Now Listening: Brandon Tory, Chance the Rapper, SZA, DRAM, Childish Gambino
Best Impersonation: Barack Obama
Favorite Food Places in LA: Comfort LA, Wurstkusche, The Federal
Favorite Food: French fries
Currently Binge-ing: Narcos, Viking, Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones
Neo-Soul or Trap Music: Neo-Soul
Team Lawrence or Team Issa: Team Lawrence (his reasons were kind of legit ladies, cut him a break)
Featured image by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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A dead bedroom can kill any relationship. In all long-term, committed relationships, couples experience various phases, from the initial passion to a more complex and enduring connection. Yet, as time passes, sex may decrease, which introduces an issue often referred to as "bed death."
According to Advance Psychology Partners, 'bed death' occurs when individuals in a committed relationship experience a decline in the frequency of sexual activity and fall short of the desires of both or either partner. It is sometimes labeled a "sexless relationship" due to the infrequency of sex. In the U.S., an estimated 20 million people find themselves in such relationships.
This shift is a significant change for couples. Let’s face it: no one wants to be in a sexless marriage or relationship. But how can couples effectively confront the impact of fading physical intimacy on the overall health of their enduring partnership?
"I have found that many factors influence one's desire to dive, and it is often not a majority of just one thing. Most people assume that if they don't desire [sex], they are no longer physically attracted, but in my experience, that has little to do with it most of the time," explained Brittanni Young, LMFT, CST.
"Some of the heavy contributors that I see most often include excessive goal orientation towards orgasm, people not prioritizing their own sexuality, and the landfill of ‘should’s’ that develop from toxic sexual scripts created long ago in upbringing," she added.
Furthermore, these issues are not exclusive to any particular orientation, but it does manifest differently.
Young is a licensed marriage and family therapist, sexologist, and board-certified sex therapist who practices in Georgia and Florida. She has worked in the sexology field for over a decade. Young helps couples and individuals looking to get through challenges of all facets facing sexuality and intimacy, such as desire mismatch, over-compulsion, and dysfunctions. She recently launched a deck of intimacy connection cards called "Show Me Your Cards." Young is working on another product that helps teach children to consent and negotiate appropriate touch. She sat down with xoNecole to discuss what causes the decline in the bedroom, the myth of 'lesbian bed death,' and recommendations on overcoming "bed death."
The Decline In Intimacy
Intimacy often dwindles within relationships, a phenomenon triggered by various factors such as stress, the insidious monotony of routine, and the toxicity of unresolved conflicts, to name a few. While couples manage daily life, exchanging intimate desires and concerns may take a backseat. Sadly, this gradually erodes the closeness once shared in the relationship.
"Typically, the first thing I do when working with a couple on desire challenges is rule out medical causes by referring them to their primary care physician or other provider they are working with," Young shared. "There are times when unmanaged or mismanaged conditions factor into low desire levels. Also, many medications can wreak havoc on keeping desire levels up, such as antidepressants, SSRIs, anti-anxiety, and blood pressure medications, to name a few."
Jeff Bergen/ Getty Images
"Next, I look at the state of the relationship. If there is dissatisfaction in the relationship, then it definitely affects how close and intimate one wants to be to another. There are also plenty of individual factors one can bring into the equation, such as low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, feelings of shame or guilt around one's own sexuality, and external life stressors that can get in the way. I find that life stressors can be a big one for folks, as once you get in the habit of not prioritizing sex, it tends to stick," she added.
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent "bed death." It can involve prioritizing your wants and open communication about sexual needs.
"What tends to be effective for all couples is taking an inventory of how satisfied they are with their sexual behaviors and engagement. Being truthful in this vein can be the start of unlocking inhibitions that can keep you from seeking out and being genuinely vulnerable in intimate spaces," Young explained. "Next, I suggest opening up lines of communication around these truths. When people assume that nothing can be done, hope is lost."
The Myth Of 'Lesbian Bed Death'
The notion of "lesbian bed death" perpetuates a simplistic and inaccurate stereotype about the sexual dynamics within lesbian relationships. Contrary to the myth, the experience of a decline in intimacy is not universal among lesbian couples. The diverse spectrum of relationships among women challenges this oversimplified narrative, emphasizing that the complexities of sexual dynamics extend beyond stereotypical assumptions.
"The notion of 'lesbian bed death' is based on a research study done by Pepper Schwartz in 1983 that found that lesbian couplings fell behind in sexual frequency compared to heterosexual and gay male couplings," Young revealed.
"Several other studies [after] have replicated these findings but give very little information about sexual satisfaction. Despite there being more research needed overall in the sexuality field, more recent research did find that when it comes to the length of sexual encounters, lesbian couples had the longest duration of encounters. To that end, sexual quality over quantity is a better marker of satisfaction, and that is what I pay most attention to in my work. With that said, dissatisfaction can happen in all couplings over time," the sexologist continued.
Factors influencing reduced intimacy among lesbian couples may include communication challenges, societal pressures, and individual variations in libido. Menstruation can also play a role, with some couples navigating discomfort or hormonal changes during this period.
"There are certainly some nuances that come into play with lesbian couples that differ from heterosexual or other-oriented couples. As I stated earlier, physiological factors can factor into the rise and fall of libido. The hormone fluctuations that come from menstruation and menopause can impact desire levels, and it is double present in lesbian couples. Another nuance is the lack of a sexual script from society on lesbian sexual behavior. There are patriarchal roots to sexual research, which have created our societal norms that tend to leave out anyone who isn't heterosexual," Young stated.
Overcoming The Challenges
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While 'bed death' challenges couples, solutions are within reach. By identifying and addressing the underlying causes, couples can rekindle the flame of intimacy and ensure a healthier, more fulfilling relationship.
"In the words of Esther Perel, another sexual professional in the field, 'love enjoys knowing everything about you; desire needs mystery.' I recommend keeping it in the front of your mind, prioritizing, and keeping it interesting. Be open to learning more about your own sexuality every day, as well as your partner. You are always growing; what worked for you 20 years ago may not be the same today. Stay curious with one another and be open to exploring new ways to pleasure. You deserve it," Young said.
For instance, Young advised that couples should "keep sexual encounters light and playful." And not be afraid to introduce new elements, such as toys.
"Touch often in ways that are consensual and feel safe! I made 'Show Me Your Cards' to serve this purpose specifically. Just because you do not feel in the mood to go all the way does not mean you aren't in the mood to hold hands, exchange body massages, or dance together. Connecting often in any physical form, as long as it feels pleasurable, still counts as 'being in the mood,'" she said.
Overcoming the hurdles of "bed death" and debunking myths surrounding 'lesbian bed death' offers a unique perspective for couples grappling with the difficulties of sustaining a connection. Learning the proper ways to work through a sexless relationship can help foster a healthier, more fulfilling relationship.
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