Upon first glance of Raye Raye's Instagram, one might mistakenly conclude the obvious--that she's just another pretty face who also happens to be really good at doing makeup, and that those two popular facts alone are the foundation of her Insta-fame. And then, more than likely, you'd find yourself scrolling down as far as 16 weeks deep into flawless selfies and product promos before dismissing Raye as “just another beauty blogger" whose 800K followers helped land herself at the heart of your Explorer page.
But trust us, you'd be wrong. Well, not about the pretty and popular part.
Raye Raye is not just another MUA. Take away the makeup and she'd still more than likely be able to sell you off her heart and humor alone. Which in all honestly, has probably helped with branding herself in a now saturated industry as “beauty blogging."
“It's funny and probably no one believes me, but before all this Youtube stuff, or before people knew my name, I didn't like to be the forefront. I'm shy."
I believe it. The humble ones usually are. When I had the pleasure of speaking with 25-year-old makeup maven Raye Boyce, I'd already did my research. Between her Instagram clips of infectious laughter and cutesy pranks on her husband and manager Eric, to her 500,000+ viewed video decoding the secrets behind a “flawless selfie" (hint: it takes like 50 filters and five apps), I knew Raye was different from her fellow beauty peers. She was refreshingly personable and unapologetically honest.
"My first time dabbling in makeup was when I was a junior [in high school]. I always played with it but never wore it out. It wasn't until senior year of high school that I started wearing a little bit of mascara, eye shadow and lip gloss.
I was always a tomboy. And it's funny because growing up, I don't know if my mom wanted a boy and that just never happened, but she used to give me cornrows like Queen Latifah in Set it Off and I'd have sneakers on. It was crazy. I didn't start becoming a girly-girl until senior year."
That might explain a few things. But Raye, real name Raytifa — “My father's name is Ray. My mothers's name is Tiffany. They like to make up names!"— doesn't just have another “ugly ducking" story to tell or sell (although ironically, she admits she was made fun of for her "duck lips" growing up).
Nope. She actually confessed that her success in the beauty industry, which has now afforded Raye the luxury of self-employment by way of huge advertising bucks, sponsorships, and even features in ElleMagazine, didn't come without tons of doubt and was indeed by way of accident. The Boston native, who moved to New York in an attempt to find herself while most of her friends were off to college, admits that her bad anxiety kept her indoors most of the time and, as a result, on social media.
"I would post pictures [on Facebook] like, 'Hey I got this $1 lipstick from the beauty supply store in New York,' etc. So another YouTuber- she was already in the game and she's an OG- she approached me like, 'Have you ever been interested in doing Youtube?' And I was like, 'Well, that sounds kind of stupid!' Why would I sit there and be all into myself on camera, putting make up on?' She was like, 'Just give it a try. Just do one video and if you don't like it, whatever!'
So I gave it a try and posted it. It was my 'Everyday Makeup' video and people liked it. And it got a lot of views for how small my following was. Then from there, it just blew up and people kept watching and I just kept posting. I didn't intend on becoming a [beauty] 'YouTuber,' I didn't even know what the heck that was.
And as the followers continued to amass, Raye would continue to post videos in her free time, steadily picking up traffic as she found herself flourishing in the online beauty industry. However, with the mini-fame also came the price to pay for it- the negative comments. Which was almost enough to drive a zen-like, carefree Raye Raye to call to log off for good! The biggest obstacle for me was putting myself out there.
"When I first got my little group of negative comments, I wanted to quit. I was like, 'I don't have to deal with this. This [doing make up] is a choice that I have. I don't have to put up with crap like this when I can be around people who love me and respect me and not deal with negativity from people that I don't even know.'
But at the end of the day, that's what [naysayers] want you to do. They want you to quit. And it's just not going to happen. (Mimics Mary J. Blige) 'Don't need your hateration and holleration' over here."
And thank God she didn't stop. Raye-Raye, who admits that she got into the online beauty business while it was still transitioning into the lucrative industry that it is today, has now moved to L.A. and lives entirely off her profession as a makeup guru. She also humbly broke down how one is able to bank off beauty.
"I realized I could do this full time like a year and a half ago because I started getting sponsors. It's funny because now and days, the girls that are coming into the YouTube game and blowing up, they are getting sponsors immediately. So like me, I wasn't part of the beginning era, but I was somewhere in the middle, and I didn't start really getting big sponsors that I could actually make a living off of until I had about 300,000 subscribers. So it had to get to that point for me to actually be full-time and make a living and be able to take care of myself.
At first, you would bank off of your "Ad Sense." Google allows companies to buy ad space on your videos so when you click it, you're able to make money, but (the pay) can vary in range depending on your followers. It can range anywhere from a few dollars to $100,000 [in ads] and that's if you have like, a million subscribers. And then comes the sponsorships from the brands. Makeup brands, if they have a new lipstick or palette coming out, they'll contact you, they will give you 'X' amount of money for YouTube placement in your videos. So that is where most of the money comes from too!"
So to put it humbly, she's living. With a combined social media following that ranges in the millions, as well as over an impressive 40,000,000+ YouTube views, the young makeup maven has not only been sponsored by some of the top beauty brands (Makeup Forever, MAC and Smashbox just to name a few), she has also been featured in a Pantene Pro-V hair commercial for her luscious curly locks as well. All of this thanks to makeup and of course, her fanbase of loyalists who Raye-Raye affectionately refers to as her "Bay-Bays" (Babies!), who she is 110% loyal right back to. So loyal that the makeup expert recently decided to get deeper than skin-deep when she revealed she had anxiety, in hopes of helping others deal with it.
“I would bring it up in my previous videos but it would be more like a joking matter. Like I'd say, 'Oh, I could never do that, with my anxiety, I'd go nuts…' But people actually caught on to it. They were tweeting me and emailing me like, 'I have anxiety and I have depression too- can you talk about it?'
Raye admits that the pressures of keeping up with social media, a huge following and a demanding posting schedule can be the source of her anxiety and spurts of depression, and it times she feels guilty for letting her 'blessings' get her down:
[Being in the public can] trigger it. And that's why anxiety, it's like a funny little thing. Because sometimes you'll think you're fine, until months and months pass, and time passed, and then you realize you were suppressing your feelings. And that whole time you thought you were fine, you were actually ignoring [depression] while still dealing with it.
It was like, every time I got a break from [anxiety] it was like, 'Nope! Here is another trigger!' And it was getting worse. But then I thought, 'I have some nerve to be complaining when I have all these things. I could be on the street right now in the rain, sleeping on the concrete and not have any food…I have health, I have a roof over my head, I have a husband, I have food and my family.' But it gets to the point where you keep suppressing it and you keep ignoring it and you help other people with their issues while ignoring yours, until you get to your breaking point. And that's what happened!
Luckily though, Raye admits that she has sought some self-help through plenty of prayer, self-awareness and the advice from trusted loved ones, which just so happens to be her mother in law as well as that of her boyfriend of eight years and husband of three years, Eric Boyce --“He was my first real boyfriend." After meeting on Myspace, the two decided to do the long distance thing for a while (Eric lived in New York while Raye was still in Boston), before finally meeting in person and as the fairytales go, "it was love at first sight."
“When we finally first met, there were a lot of laughs… I am such an awkward person! I'm that person that leans in to give you a hug and they head-butt you. That's me! But there was no awkwardness. We just had a lot of laughs and we ate a lot. I just knew from there he was the one.
[Tweet "We just had a lot of laughs and ate a lot. I knew from there he was the one."]
Raye humorously refers to Eric as the "Martin" to her "Gina," and it's clear to see why. All over her Instagram and YouTube, when the two aren't cracking jokes on one another, the adventurists are riding four-wheelers, helicopters and even recently, sky-diving.
So what could possibly be next for the girl who at 18 felt hopeless but by 25, managed to seemingly figure it all out?
"In 5 years, speaking it into existence as a business woman, I will have my own make up brand and it will be sold in stores and it will be successful. As well as other brands. And I also hope to get into real estate so hopefully I'll own some property.And as far as my personal life, probably some little kiddies running around. Some little Raye-Raye's playing in makeup, just a good future with my husband, with [our little] family. Me and my husband have spoken about moving out of the country. We really like Thailand… Maybe Japan or Hong Kong. We'll see!"
She came. She saw. She contoured!
A modest goddess who keeps it humble between mumbles. I'm a journalism graduate with a HERstory in digital media, print and radio. Roll the credits: Power 96, VH1, xoNecole, EBONY, SOHH. Deemed "Top 20 Women in Media" by Power 105. Bronx made me, Broward raised me.
Whether it was your group chat, social media feed, or your favorite media outlet covering the spectacle, I’m pretty sure you’ve come across the viral Black wedding between actress KJ Smith (Sistas, Raising Kanan) and actor Skyh Black (All the Queen’s Men, Sistas). From their grand entrance to Jay-Z, Kayne West, and Beyoncé’s song “Lift Off” to KJ’s standout dance routine and the endless celebrity appearances, it’s an addictive TikTok scroll you can’t help but delve into.
But what many people would be surprised to know is that the couple’s original wedding plan was nothing like what it grew to be. What started as her simply scrolling through posts to get ideas eventually transformed into what the internet knows now as #TheBlackExperience. In an exclusive conversation with xoNecole, KJ walked us through her planning process, the morning of her wedding, and what she thinks of the online response.
Some women have their whole wedding planned out, from the bridal gown and venue to the bridal party and playlist. However, KJ was not one of those people. “I didn’t foresee a wedding in my future,” she reveals. “I was just gonna be the boss chick, rich auntie. I didn’t force love in my life until recently. I never had an idea of what a dream wedding would look like, it was easier for me to elope.”
Photo by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
And to many people’s surprise, that was their original plan – until Skyh brought up a valid concern. He was raised by his grandmother and thought she should be at the wedding, and naturally, that led to KJ wanting her grandmother to be there as well – then her mom – and later her sister – and, you’ve gotta invite the besties too, right? From there, the guest list continued to blossom. Much like the updo and pop of color bold red lip, she wore on her special day, which was initially on her Pinterest board as a soft glam look with her hair hanging on her shoulders, KJ is okay with changing her plan if it brings her and her loved ones happiness.
So let’s get into the wedding, which took place in Malibu, CA. The first thing you should know about the celebrity couple is that they’re non-traditional. They know, and they don’t care. So, in true unconventional fashion, they shared the morning of the wedding together.
“I woke up with Skyh, we walked our dog, had black coffee, and said good morning to the people who stayed at the venue with us,” she says.
Now, it was time for hair and makeup. While she was getting glammed up, she had Black-owned McBride Sisters wine and champagne (which ties into The Black Experience theme) on deck with her mom and friends, had her besties help rework her vows, retried on every outfit (sis is very Type-A), took photos, and ended the early-celebration with prayer and meditation. It seems very non-Bridezilla, I said.
“Yeah, I was the most unbothered bride ever. Everyone was just so supportive. As entertainers, we go on red carpets all the time. We actually have a production company,” she explains. “The get-ready process was like a day at work, but with people we love the most. Being entertainers, we didn’t feel stressed at all, but my excitement was so high.”
Things moved quickly, and before she knew it, it was time to line up to walk down the aisle.
“Yeah, I was the most unbothered bride ever. Everyone was just so supportive. As entertainers, we go on red carpets all the time. We actually have a production company. The get-ready process was like a day at work, but with people we love the most. Being entertainers, we didn’t feel stressed at all, but my excitement was so high.”
KJ Smith and her bridal party
Photo by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
Since everything started with their grandmothers, the couple wanted to ensure they honored them and planned to keep an element of their wedding traditional. Although we’ve all seen the reception videos and photos online, you may have noticed visuals from the wedding itself are harder to find.
“We planned for it to be traditional, but we’re not like that, so we tried to create those moments. We jumped the broom and had a salt ceremony (where the bride and groom individually pour salt into a glass container, symbolizing their lives becoming one.) But honestly, still, nothing was traditional about it.”
She goes on to explain that her mom caught the holy ghost coming down the aisle, her glam team was on deck, and she became so nervous with excitement that she had an anxiety attack – something she struggled with for years, she explains tearfully. Her friends had to literally cheer her down the aisle because of how overwhelmed she felt until she eventually calmed down.
“Skyh was standing there with his hand on his heart; we have our own little language, and I could feel the support,” she shares.
It was surprising to hear all these emotional moments happened before the party we saw online. That is until she once again got into the backstory.
“As a Black woman actress, for so long, it was popular to be mysterious and secretive, but that’s not who I am or what I like. Plus, we both wanted to create an experience for everyone there. We are the people who always host family and friends,” she says. “Like for me, the first order of business was getting sandals for the women so they can dance all night long. We had oxtail, D'ussé, and a coffee and sativa lounge – which is part of Skyh and I’s lifestyle and routine. We wanted to bring them into our world.”
Skyh Black (L) and KJ Smith (R)
Photo by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
She went on to discuss the dance routine she did for her husband at the reception, which has taken over the internet. Apparently, that’s another thing that didn’t go according to plan. According to KJ, she had promised a performance at their joint bachelor/ bachelorette party, but her outfit got stolen from her car. So, Skyh ended up performing for her – complete with a strip tease. Still, she never forgot her promise to dance for him.
So, she hired her friend as a choreographer, learned the routine, made friends and family watch it endless times, and attended Beyoncé’s Renaissance show a few days before for a confidence boost. It ended up being a show to remember. But that wasn’t all the night offered. Lil Mo performed, and the guests received special goody bags featuring their favorite Black-owned products like journals, hair care, and more.
“We made sure everyone was taken care of all night. That kind of stuff makes us happy. I wanted everyone there to experience the joy and love I have for myself, my partner, and for them. I wanted them to feel full and whole, and they had the time of their lives,” she says.
But naturally, the internet is going to internet, and while there were countless people praising the event and applauding the newlyweds, some thought it was too over the top. I was curious to know her thoughts on some of the criticism.
“It’s cool. We did what we wanted to do. I’ve decided to share my world with people. Just how I went on social media platforms and found inspiration, I want people to do the same,” she explains. “I don’t think it's fair to my supporters not to give that out. There’s so much I wanna share with brides, specifically Black brides. I love that people are adding it to their Pinterest boards."
"I wanted everyone there to experience the joy and love I have for myself, my partner, and for them. I wanted them to feel full and whole, and they had the time of their lives."
Photo by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
“I’m happy with it because we did what we wanted to do. They can do what they wanna do. Don’t be cruel, though, because you will get blocked,” she said, laughing.
The more I spoke with her, the more her sense of freedom shined through. People are always going to have their opinions, but at the end of the day, it’s you who has to live your life, and it seems like the couple realizes that and embraces that power. She also stressed the importance of not living for others and the lessons life has taught her.
“I’ve been to countless weddings, and I’ve been in countless weddings. I’m a generally older bride. So when women in my demographic get married, and you and your husband are busy working people like us, you deserve to have the one you want to have,” she shares.
“This is what we wanted to do. Our loved ones love and support us. We did so much to honor them, but we also wanted to start our own tradition, legacy, and creation. I'm not going to be pulled back into ideas of the past when I’m trying to create a future with my partner. “
If you’d like to see more of the couple, you probably won’t have to wait long. Although no content is planned yet, she admits to being an oversharer. “Me being open and transparent about my experiences lets people know it’s okay to have flaws; it makes you human, and for many years, I didn’t believe that was okay. I had pressure to be perfect, and I’d crumble every time,” she explains to xoNecole.
Now, she owns her flaws and uses them as a superpower to connect with her community and feel and express her love.
“Some people give us [Skyh and KJ] a hard time because they say we just seem too perfect. I’m like, why is that a bad thing? I love the people I love. From my man to my mama, to my friends - unabashedly. We move through time and space how we want to move. If we did it another way, we’d let ourselves and our union down.”
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Feature image by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
It seems reasonable to assume that new music will slow down in tempo to coincide with the fall season that quickly approaches. However, musicians, ever the unreasonable, are constantly showing us that they have different ideas. They have chosen to keep releasing club hits rather than slow tunes to get us ready for cuffing season, letting people know that while summer may be coming to an end, it may last as long as they want it to.
We are waving goodbye to summer with the new music from last week, but we might also be welcoming another week of tunes designed only for dancing. And honestly, who can complain about that? Here's this week's new music to make you move at every tempo.
"Another One of Me" - Diddy ft. The Weeknd, 21 Savage, & French Montana
Since its original recording in 2016, this song has undergone a great deal of alterations. The Weeknd previewed the new version of the song on his recent European tour, though it was originally scheduled to be released in 2020 and again in 2022. Nevertheless, with the release of this song, The Weeknd also declared that this would be his final "guest" appearance for some time, if ever. Therefore, the Weeknd sings about how there will "never be another one of [him]" again in this unique, enticing, and bold farewell. Thus, we must value him and the rest of his crew--French Montana and 21 Savage--while we still have the chance.
The musicians deliver vocal bars and complimentary rhymes on the song, which is accompanied by a drum sample from what seems like Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight," as they consider their timeliness and what Diddy has done for the hip-hop/R&B community over the past few decades and on newly released The Love Album.
"Slime You Out" - Drake ft. SZA
On my first listen, it took everything I had in me not to abruptly end this song. However, by the time Drake begins to sing—heavily using auto-tune—and the beat begins to drop, there is enough of an allure to keep me listening. "Slime You Out" which features SZA is the lead single to Drake's highly anticipated eighth studio album, For All The Dogs. In the song, both musicians talk about being exploited by their ex-lovers and share their own emotional experiences.
They also disclose their malice towards their exes, as "sliming" someone out refers to using them for sex. The single and its meaning works perfectly for the duo, especially after it was revealed on Twitter (RIP) that Drake and SZA used to date back in '08--or was it '09? Regardless, this song allows the exes to focus on past relationships, even their own, as they take turns talking about ex-lovers and finally putting their years of subtle back and forth to rest.
"Lexicon" - Vagabon
Vagabon, also known as Laetitia Tamko, debuted her new album Sorry I Haven't Called on Friday, September 15, as well as her most recent single "Lexicon." Sorry I Haven't Called is a loving and tenacious album about enjoying the exhilarating moments wherever you can by understanding how you love and grieve. The album was formed out of sadness when her closest friend passed away in 2021.
It's an LP that draws inspiration from both group dance floor revelations and the enlightening calm of isolation; it represents both a creative and emotional resurrection. She claims that the record was made to include every feeling she had at the time, even when there was none. In "Lexicon," Vagabon invites the listener to let go of words and the meaning of things, as she repeatedly sings atop a bed of rhythmic noises in "Lexicon" to communicate her longing for oblivion.
"You Wish" - Flyana Boss
Last week, I had the pleasure of watching Flyana Boss open for Janelle Monáe. During their introduction, they discussed being best friends and explained that this foundation allowed them to become the artists that they desired to be. Within moments, the chemistry between the duo was fathomable as they easily played off one another and allowed room for each other to easily shine.
Though it's not a new single, the official video for the song dropped last week. In it, Flyana Boss mocks those who refer to them as "industry plants," while the song brings attention to their infamous "Hello Christ, I am about to sin again," challenge that TikTok sparked to life these last couple of months. They are strange, but in the coolest of ways, mainly because they don't wish to be like anyone else. However, it is clear that with their success others might.
"SKED" - Denzel Curry
Denzel Curry starts his song, which is almost an interlude, by outlining the reasons why he does not feel the need to trust others. He then goes on to tell people that because of their treatment and actions, he is unwilling to find a reason to comprehend those in positions of power and how they utilize their influence. He comes to the conclusion that these actions are the result of fear, and he merely declares that his adversaries are afraid before leaving it at just that. This brand-new song and its accompanying video leave the audience wanting more in less than two minutes. However, as he has stated, he's said all that he has needed to say.
"FAN" - Offset
This song is not long, and if you aren't paying attention, you won't be sure that the first minute is the same as the first 0:00 to 0:50 seconds. Regardless, when it kicks off, boy does it run and it takes off with Offset's insistence on shouting "f**k everybody" kicks in. Offset creates an entertaining video that draws inspiration from his admiration for Michael Jackson and his showmanship to demonstrate the necessity to destroy every bridge he has built since everyone is deserving of a sharp and clear "FU."
This video definitely shows how he has grown as an artist over the last couple of years, and after the grief he has faced from his cousin Takeoff's death, it only makes sense why he doesn't give a damn or two about turning his back on everyone.
"Balut" - Doja Cat
I've said it before and I'll say it again: I hate how much I love Doja Cat's music. I don't want to, I've actively been resisting it. However, I must say that since her "MOO[ing]" days, she has developed into a dynamic artist, and this has only led to the creation of vibes, bops, and songs that are worth listening to. Consider her most recent song, "Balut." It is a total vibe. She boasts about her ability to create hits and her distinctive artistic range in her most recent song.
In fact, she thinks that her artistic ability is as simple as "taking candy from a baby." She is correct that it is that simple; or at least for her it is. It is difficult to believe otherwise while listening to her mid-tempo, brag-tinged tune with its smooth flow. Her newest LP Scarlet drops this Friday, and like a moth to a flame, Doja knows we will all be anxiously awaiting its arrival.
"Snooze (Acoustic)" - SZA ft. Justin Bieber
I would not have wagered a single penny that this collaboration would truly take place. But now that it has, many question whether it ought to have. Lyrically, there is nothing fresh to concentrate on. SZA continues to explain why she would be prepared to break the law and compromise her values for the person she loves, but they are still hesitant to meet her halfway. The only thing that has changed is that we now have Justin Beiber's face to place her pleas upon. When Justin Beiber and SZA join in on the acoustic version of "Snooze," they produce a silky, smooth duet that is harmonized flawlessly with daunting echoes and heavenly vocals that coo over one another smoothly.
"Peaches & Eggplants" - Young Nudy ft. Latto & Sexyy Red (Remix)
I'll give you a second to consider what the song "Peaches and Eggplants" by Young Nudy feat. Latto & Sexxy Red could be about. Yes, now that you've experienced that moment. You are correct, that is what it is about. It is all about sex—and more sex—and, well, you get the idea. Even though the song's basic structure is straightforward, it nonetheless provides a fun finish to the summer. The song's production features synthesizers, "pounding" percussion, and Young Nudy's gunshot emulation in the background.
However, the remix now has a more feminine, more confident (if that could have been possible) edge to it thanks to Latto and Sexyy Redd. No one holds back on this song, but then again, the title never implied that they would.
"Swing" - EARTHGANG ft. Benji
And when we ask them when they been at, EARTHGANG will simply say they've been over here. On the right side of things, where they have always belonged. Fresh on the release track of their newest single "Swing" for Marvel's Spider-Man 2 video game soundtrack, EARTHGANG has returned to make us move like they always have. Joined by Benji, the song is loud, with a guitar rift that sounds like Imagine Dragons' "I'm So Sorry," and simultaneously lowers the tempo to make the perfect illustration of a song fusing several genres.
The song shouldn't make sense, much as when Imagine Dragons and Kendrick Lamar collaborated at the VMAs, yet the seamless genre-hopping makes the song engaging and ideal for the video game platform it advertises.
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Featured image via SZA "Snooze"/YouTube