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Host Jason Rosario Walks Us Through The Minds Of Men

A long-term accountability mentor to his fellow brothas also has a message for the ladies.

#xoMan

Tall, dark, handsome, and passionate about his community, Jason Rosario of The Lives of Men advocates for taking accountability into his own hands, even when it goes against the popular opinion. Jason is well known for his men's empowerment movement and the use of his platform where he creates safe spaces for men of color to address manhood and wellness.

Jason's impact is so powerful that it landed him a position hosting his own original series on Yahoo News called Dear Men. Dear Men serves as a more intimate extension of his larger support for helping black and Latino men navigate masculinity in today's world. As a man of distinction, a father, and a partner, he is in the most ideal position to share insight on how shaping the lives of men also helps to empower women.

In the most comfortable setting, outdoors on a warm summer evening, it was a joy to interview Jason and get his perspective on some key points that directly impact the opposite population from which he normally services. This was a challenge of versatile guidance and he caught every curveball effortlessly like the professional he carries himself to be.

As a Black man, minority man, in today’s society, how have you made it to the point where you ignored the status quo and decided to uplift other men?

"Something real happened. [In 2016], I was just coming out of business school, the police shootings were occurring, so like every week it felt like black men were under siege for a while. And then where I was in my life, I was going through some stuff--just went through a break up, started a new job, and [was] just fed up… I was like, what do I want to do with my life? Like how do I want to move forward? So I started to conceive this idea for The Lives of Men which was the second iteration of something I had done before--years before. [It was] a platform that served as a resource for men as we go through different things in our lives.

"Since 2017, I've just been doing this, dedicating my life's work to helping men identify and embrace healthy frameworks of what manhood looks like, all the while being inclusive not just of the female voice but the female voices in our lives."

"I recently connected with Yahoo to executive produce and host the Dear Men show which is just an extension of and an offshoot of the conversations we've been having. The show was an effort to sit down with men from different backgrounds… The goal was to have a conversation and show that regardless of where you are in life, whether you're a celebrity or not, we all struggle with the same things."

Courtesy of Jason Rosario

How has your upbringing molded you to be prepared for one day becoming a good father and partner?

"For me, I think it's my values. Though I was raised by a single mom, I do see the value of having and building a partnership and building a family. Watching my mom struggle, and her instilling certain values in me in terms of respecting women, respecting relationships. I think all of that has helped prepare me."

What are your thoughts on balancing career and relationships? Do you believe that people have to choose between the two?

"I don't believe that you have to choose between the two. Part of [the reason] why I left my job is because it was getting to that point where I was having to choose between the two. There were times within that last year that I was in the office on a Friday until 9:30pm… I couldn't commit to dinners because I didn't know what my job scenario would be like or what situations I had to react to last minute, so that started to happen and I was like this is not the life I want to choose. I believe in integration, I believe everything should harmoniously be working together to help you get to where you want to be. As far as relationships, yes we still have to make time to build relationships. I'm a dad, I have a partner, I have my family, I have my friends and I think all of those require a certain level of dedication and attention."

Courtesy of Jason Rosario

"I believe in integration, I believe everything should harmoniously be working together to help you get to where you want to be. As far as relationships, yes we still have to make time to build relationships. I'm a dad, I have a partner, I have my family, I have my friends and I think all of those require a certain level of dedication and attention."

How can men be more open to utilizing the five love languages?

"I think it goes way deeper than that. I'm going to take you back to a young man's childhood and adolescence and the way that we're taught to emote, and the way that we're taught not to emote. If you're telling a young boy from as early as he can remember that boys don't cry, 'you need to man up', 'you need to be strong' -- what you're doing is you're essentially preventing him from developing the capacity to articulate his emotions and his feelings. So if you're doing that from an early age, and as he grows into adolescence and young adulthood and then adulthood, you're getting a man that's emotionally repressed. So when you're asking someone to identify love languages and be able to articulate them, by the time he's a grown man, he hasn't had that practice… he doesn't have a language to be able to articulate that."

What is the barrier between some millennial men and commitment?

"First, in a city like New York or LA or these major metropolitan, cosmopolitan cities, there are a lot more you's than there are us… There are a lot more quality women that are educated, career-focused and -oriented, and doing positive things, [and that are] more progressive than there are men of color in the same age group that have as much going on for them. Then you have mass incarceration, you have drugs, you have crime, you have all these things, and I think…women have always been ahead in terms of getting advanced degrees, so there's slim pickings. So you're competing not just against each other for that same crop, but then you're competing with the other part of it which is the men that know the numbers are in their favor and don't want to commit. So you have that group of men that might be the perfect guy but he knows that if you're not down for it, then the next woman will."

What are your thoughts on the “me ethic” that exists in this generation?

"We have been fed through the media that the traditional nuclear family -- you don't need that to succeed. I can speak from my personal experience. I'm a product of a single-parent home. I've seen my mom do it on her own… and I know that's flawed thinking but men think with better education, I can do it all myself, I don't necessarily need to be married. I think it's just what we've been taught and how generations have shifted."

Courtesy of Jason Rosario

"We have been fed through the media that the traditional nuclear family -- you don't need that to succeed. And I know that's flawed thinking but men think with better education, I can do it all myself, I don't necessarily need to be married. I think it's just what we've been taught and how generations have shifted."

What’s your opinion on WYD texts?

"So this is a thing? Wow... See you're talking to someone that speaks in full paragraphs in texts so it's hard for me to grasp why that's a thing. I think it just speaks to two things, laziness [and] it speaks to the lower barrier that there is in terms of men communicating with women and the lack of value that they place in the traditional building of a relationship. The tradition of dating and courting, all of that has gone away. Swipe left and right culture, social media, instant gratification, all of these things contribute to that. Yet, ladies you have to be willing and open to receiving a man who's going to come and be expressive and be all of the things that you're asking for. Too many women unfortunately when they receive that, they don't know what to do with it. By the way, I hate all the acronyms. Don't text me for my birthday 'HBD'."

How do you feel about timelines?

"You're talking to someone who in the last two years has made most of his decisions based on creating the freedom for myself, so I don't believe in timelines. At one point of my life, I did. My mom used to tell me that by age 35 you should be like whatever it is you're going to be. First of all, I would encourage people that feel the pressure of a timeline, whether it's to be married by a certain time [or] have kids by a certain time, to analyze where that comes from, almost 100% of it is not coming from you. It's external."

What kind of guidance do you give your daughter on navigating her life and relationships in today’s society?

"The approach that I've taken is just one of openness and vulnerability. She knows everything there is to know about me. I don't want her to grow up with this false sense of dad was this superhuman that did no wrong. And as far as relationships and boys, again just being open with her. Hormones are a thing your hormones are raging, their hormones are raging so understand that you are going to fall in and out of love with the next guy, but more often than not, they just want to do one thing. I try to let her know that. But I'm not here to tell her what to do and what not to do. I try to give her as much information as I can so that she can make as many informed decisions that she can."

How would you encourage more men to find interest in marriage and commitment?

"I think a lot of us, especially in communities of color, and I'm going to count myself, we don't have a lot of examples and models of what a healthy marriage looks like so we grow up with this fear of the unknown. I think for men who have all of these options, marriage sounds like a death sentence… Marriage isn't placed in the holiest of lights in our community. It's actually the exception, whereas in other communities, it's the norm. I would say that the conversation with men has to be what is the definition of marriage? How do you define marriage and what values do you attribute to it?"

"A lot of people confuse love for marriage…so this is for both men and women: if we focus more of our time building and cultivating and nurturing love, and less time focused on 'I need to be married by a certain age'. If we focus less on that then we will successfully take the fear of the unknown out of the institution of marriage."

For more information, follow Jason on Instagram @jason_rosario and @thelivesofmen.

*Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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