[Exclusive] Justine Skye On How She's Taken Her Journey To Self-Love By The Reins

The newly independent artist is paving her own way in the music industry with her latest album, Bare With Me.

Exclusive Interviews

Some of you know Justine Skye for the groundbreaking artist she is today and for guest appearances on Nick Cannon's Wild N' Out and BET's Tales with Romeo Miller, but I remember the OG Justine Skye. That's right - 14-year-old Tumblr famous, chocolate queen with dark purple tresses and an incomparable swag. From the gate, the "Build" singer has successfully stood out in the music industry for all the right reasons including undeniable talent, effervescent beauty and unconquerable strength.

She's always been a force to be reckoned with, no doubt about that. However, the ULTRAVIOLET artist has demonstrated impeccable growth as an artist and a woman since her Skye High debut mixtape release back in 2012. Now, Justine Skye is ready to "build" her career moving forward as an independent artist who is taking complete control of the creative execution of her vision.

Courtesy of Justine Skye

When the call first connected, Justine sounded chill and relaxed, as one would expect with her cool, calm and collected demeanor. As we exchanged introductions, the conversation that was initially scheduled to be an interview propelled into an intimate, candid discussion between two 24-year-old Black women about the importance of self-love, praising yourself and the bad habit of apologizing when unnecessary. Honestly, the entire time I felt like I was catching up with a homegirl that I hadn't heard from since high school. She truly is a genuine one-of-a-kind spirit.

I had the chance to catch up with my fellow New York native about her latest project Bare With Me, The Album, her growth as an artist from start to finish and remaining creative amidst the current state of the culture within the Black community.

xoNecole: How’s your mental health? I like to ask everybody how their spirit is doing before I proceed with any interview, especially during these times.

Justine Skye: Thank you, I appreciate that. I guess I'm doing a lot better than I once was when it all started, but I'm trying to take a step back from looking at all the things on social media right now and kind of clear my head.

That’s real, especially as a creative and as someone who’s always expected to post and let people know how they’re doing, it can be a bit pressuring, so I appreciate your transparency.

Of course, thank you for even asking.

Jumping right into it, I’m from Brooklyn as well - Brooklyn born and bred just like you, right in Sumner Projects off the J train. You and I know that there’s so much culture in that one borough alone. How has Brooklyn made you the artist and the fashionista that you are today?

Aye! I guess being from Brooklyn, there's so many different types of cultures there surrounding it. Whether it's Caribbean culture or African culture, or even Italian culture too, New York period is such a melting pot and I feel like it just played a lot into my personality. I would say that New York is very - well, not me - most people are like, "New York is kind of grimey." Well, I don't think "grimey" is the word, but I feel like it's just "real". I'm very thankful every day that that's where I'm from because I guess being an artist and traveling the world, you can sort out the real from the fake. I wouldn't want to be from anywhere else.

What about your Caribbean roots? You’re Jamaican, right?


How has that influenced your upbringing and your music?

It's something that I just grew up around, [it's] kind of embedded into me. I love dancehall and I love reggae, so any chance that I get when I hear the beat, it inspires me. I just try to tap into it.

Going back to young Justine, when did you know that music was for you and what spoke to you specifically about music that made you realize this was your life’s calling?

I always knew that I wanted to be a singer from the moment I probably opened my mouth, and my grandfather always inspired me to do so. I was very shy when I was younger, so when someone would ask me to sing, I would just ball up and want to run away (laughs). But one day, I guess I kind of got peer pressured into singing on a platform in front of a bunch of people on a panel. After that moment, my mom's friend was like, "This is it and if you don't do this now, no one's ever gonna take you seriously." For some reason, at the small age of fourteen, that kicked in for me and I was like, "I can't be scared to sing. This is something that God gave me and something I enjoy doing, so why am I hiding this?" I kind of just had to get over that fear and go for it.

Out of all of the things that you’ve done from 14 years old to now, what would you say has been one of - or some of - your biggest accomplishments in your career to date?

(Pauses) Damn, I should probably sit there and write a list down. I'm probably gonna do that today (laughs). I guess, off the top of my head, during these times of quarantine and everything that's happening in the world, I've been talking a lot more to my friends and sometimes we forget all that we've done. I've kind of just been reminding my friends, "I know right now is a rough time, but acknowledge all of the things that you've done in the world and be proud of yourself."

I kind of was thinking about, "Hmm, what am I proud of that I've done in my career?" And it's kind of like backtracking on the things that I have put in because I still feel like I'm in the beginning of my career. I mean, I'm only 24 and I have so much more left to go, but [something] I can say that I'm most proud of [is] being able to sing a Janet Jackson song to Janet Jackson. That was probably a huge - not probably, it was a huge moment for me. Being able to be independent, too. It's definitely not easy, but it's extremely revelating. I am thankful for the label experiences, but now I know this is something that I can do with a strong team around me. For some reason, I can't think of one off the top of my head.

I definitely feel that as women, especially as Black women, I feel like we don’t praise ourselves enough. I was just saying to one of my mentees yesterday that we do two things wrong: we apologize too much and we don’t give ourselves enough praise. You and I being the same age, we’re both 24, there are moments where we really have to look back on what we’ve done with our platform and how many lives we’ve touched because even though we may feel like something we’ve done may not be that big of a deal because we’re just so used to being that badass, know that what we did could’ve possibly changed - or saved - somebody’s life. Just by saying “hello” is impactful in itself. Thank yourself for doing the seemingly microcosmic things because you don’t know how that may have affected somebody. Always praise yourself because no one’s gonna reward you like you reward you. 

Thank you - wow, I needed that today.

I just like to be honest with people because I’m a firm believer in mental health and I feel that you are in charge of how you talk to yourself. You’re the first voice that you hear in the morning and you’re the last voice you hear at night. You can be your own best friend or your own worst enemy; I would like to be my best friend because I’ve talked to myself horribly sometimes and I know how nasty I can get. 

Same. I one million percent believe in that. Sometimes when I was younger and I would go to shows, I didn't really truly understand the impact that I had on other people. I think that's the most beautiful thing about being an artist is that we feel alone, but then when you make music and other people listen to it, you're touching so many people around the world that you literally don't even know. Whenever I would go on tours and do shows, beautiful brown girls would come up to me and say, "Thank you for just being you, living up there, being brave, getting on stage and speaking your truth," and I didn't really realize the impact it had until I went into the world and people told me.

"I think that's the most beautiful thing about being an artist is that we feel alone, but then when you make music and other people listen to it, you're touching so many people around the world that you literally don't even know."

Your gift is something that a lot of people can’t say that they have. You have the power of influence through your talents and your artistry. Your music has even touched me as someone who has been in toxic relationships and someone who has been that Black girl from the projects of Brooklyn and didn’t feel like she was gonna make it out. Your influence is powerful and always remember that. I will never let anyone, especially someone as young and talented as you, ever doubt their ability to touch people. That’s just not gonna happen in my book.

Thank you, I really appreciate that. I love this phone call (laughs)!

No problem, and it really makes me sad because one day I was listening to one of your interviews on HYPEBEAST Radio about a time where you nearly wanted to quit music. What was going through your mind and what kept you going?

I guess it was just a moment of self-doubt. You kind of get confused because I've been doing this since I was signed professionally at 17 and I'm 24 now, so I guess I was in a place where I was like, "What am I doing? Why hasn't this gone anywhere yet?" Those are the moments where I had to sit back and realize [that] I have accomplished so many things and it doesn't just end here - there's so much left to go.

If SZA said, "Alright, well what's going on?" and just quit, she wouldn't be the huge star she is today. There's so many artists today that have the same story. [Where would they be] if they just let their self-doubt get in the way of who they are today? With the pressure that we now receive from social media and all that stuff, it's just so in-your-face and you see it. It's easier said than done to be like, "Oh, don't look at it," and it kind of just eats at you. In that moment, I felt like I was having a little bit of a breakdown as to what I was doing with my life and what I was doing wrong, but then, I had to sit there and think about all of the things I've done right and keep moving forward.

"In that moment, I felt like I was having a little bit of a breakdown as to what I was doing with my life and what I was doing wrong, but then, I had to sit there and think about all of the things I've done right and keep moving forward."

Obviously, you’ve grown a lot as an artist, but I can only imagine because I’ve never been in the public eye, and you are someone that everybody recognizes. As such a beautiful, talented, down-to-earth, vibrant Black woman, I’m sure even you have your days where you, as you mentioned, doubt yourself. When was the moment when you started to love yourself for who you are and how do you practice self-love?

I'm not gonna lie, it probably was about two years ago - maybe about a year and a half. I'm still practicing self-love and learning how to love me, every part of me and I think that the first step is acknowledging your flaws and ending with the great parts of you, you know? Just wanting to be a better person every single day when you wake up.

It's not that complicated, but it is complicated because of all of the other elements in the world. It's just tuning out that part out and surrounding yourself with people who believe in you [and] encourage you. I feel like that was a big issue for me too that I didn't really have that strong of a team, and now I have such great people around me that support me and encourage me to believe in myself.

"I'm still practicing self-love and learning how to love me, every part of me and I think that the first step is acknowledging your flaws and ending with the great parts of you, you know? Just wanting to be a better person every single day when you wake up.It's not that complicated, but it is complicated because of all of the other elements in the world."

What advice do you have for any creative who’s currently struggling to manage their mental health and practice self-love?

It's not easy at all (laughs). I don't know if I even have the best advice, but nothing great in life and nothing that you value in life is going to be easy. I feel like I just said that to someone the other day, but once you go through those hardships and those obstacles and you do what you've wanted, you feel so much better.

Speaking of obstacles, there’s a lot happening in our community in a time during COVID-19, the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and a countless list of names that have been transformed from hashtags to movements. How have you utilized your platform in the music industry to uplift the Black agenda, Black people, brown girls, and raise awareness about current events in the Black community?

As this is going on, I'm also educating myself on the situations that have been happening that I may not have been aware of myself. It's just completely and utterly disgusting and devastating. What I've been doing is protesting, I've been with the people, I've been donating, [and] even talking to my wealthy friends to see what we can do, how we can donate, how we can make a change. I had a meeting with about 40 people the other day where we just discussed, "Alright cool, we can march, we can do this and do that, but how are we gonna make real change to something so close [to] even the people we hang around?"

We just sat down, told our stories and why we were there, and came up with a list of what we can do and the first step was creating a union where the first question was, "Have we experienced racism or white privilege, or [have] been witness to it?," so we had an open discussion about that especially with a lot of people being in the industry.

[Second], we made a promise to each other that we'd be there to support speaking out against that in the industry because that's where it starts. If you're in a meeting with a brand and they're like, "We don't want to use [that] Black person because they're too Black," it's just [about] speaking up because a lot of people admitted they were scared to do so because they'd lose their jobs. If we are here and know we have this foundation that will support us whenever we see something going on, that's just one step closer to ending this racism within our industry.

On top of that, we’re also in a quarantine and COVID-19 has impacted so much for Black people and people of color because of unemployment, lack of healthcare opportunities that already weren’t there, and being turned away from hospitals and facilities for testing. How has COVID-19 stifled your creativity or your creative process, or has being in social isolation actually helped you?

Honestly, it has helped and it has hurt because I'm the type of person that needs adventures and we've been kind of locked away, so not much has been happening in order to write about [it], but I have been tapping into emotions and other feelings that I've felt before in the past, but it might not necessarily be new stories. Some of them are new stories, but it's been strange for me creatively, good because I've been working on my writing and I feel like I've been getting better and better each time.

A dream of mine has, also, been to work with Timbaland and that's been happening, too, to the point where we're just consistently on the phone talking about new beats, new sounds, and I'm just learning so much. I haven't even met him in person yet; we just literally go on FaceTime and work remotely. It's so crazy that this came out of that.

It’s funny because I was just about to ask you about the collaboration you two have been doing, Space and Time Sessions. Timbaland is such a powerhouse in music and production, to say the least. How did that come about and what has your relationship with him been like?

He saw a video of "Recover" that I did with my friend and he's known about me - it's been in talks, but he saw the video on my Instagram and he DM'd me and was like, "Hey, I wanna do one." I was like, "What? What do you mean?" (laughs) and he just started sending me beats and I started writing to them.

Then, we created something with my management team who is also very good friends with [Timbaland] as well - Space and Time Sessions. There's gonna be another one this Friday, but we kind of put a halt to it as many artists during this time out of respect for what's going on in the world. It just doesn't feel right.

Switching gears a bit, I want to talk to you about 'Bare With Me'. Super excited about that - how is that a reflection of your growth as an artist since your Tumblr days, the release of 'Skye High', and dropping YouTube covers?

I wrote a lot more on this project, and it's been more personal than any of my other music. It was my first project that I released independently, so that was a huge milestone for me and - well, I don't want to say risk because I feel like it was the best thing that I've ever done so far. It's definitely my favorite project that I've ever put out and I feel like every time I get into the studio, I'm consistently evolving. That's what music is really about for me: beating the last thing that you did.

"I feel like every time I get into the studio, I'm consistently evolving. That's what music is really about for me: beating the last thing that you did."

Amen to that. What was the primary inspiration behind 'Bare With Me' and the title?

Basically, it was a double entendre - kind of like bear with me while I work on the album because it was the Bare With Me EP. Then, as I was recording and working on my next project, I came across some songs that were still tied to the emotions that I had while I was working on the Bare With Me EP. I just wanted to repackage it with those new songs and finish that cycle of emotions that I don't feel anymore.

Without giving away too much, what’re some of your favorite songs and what can we expect?

My favorite song is definitely "Million Days" which is one of the new songs that you'll hear on the project, because it's super personal. I don't know if everyone else will love it as much as I will, but for me, it's just very cinematic. Every time I hear it, it's like a movie playing out of that exact moment and point in time in my life where I felt that vulnerable.

What advice do you have for anyone that’s looking to break into the music industry, or is already in the music industry and looking to grow, but they’re also in their own way?

I would say that there's a lot of people who are gonna try to tell you what they think you should do and there's a point that I hit in my life when I was just trying to listen to everyone else instead of myself. I kind of lost who I was in that process and in the past year and a half, two years, I've gotten out of that and been whole again with me and on this journey of figuring out exactly who Justine Skye is and what her sound is. Really listen to yourself (laughs) and I know it sounds super cliche, but if you feel strongly about not doing something or strongly about doing something, then definitely follow your instincts because 90% of the time, you're right.

For more of Justine, follow her on Instagram. Bare With Me, The Album is out now, stream it on Spotify and Apple Music.

Featured image courtesy of Justine Skye

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You know, love is a funny, funny thing. I once read that 90 percent of it is based on the friendship developed by the two of you, and only 10 percent is actually based on love. And oftentimes, your marriage will boil down to the work put into maintaining and nurturing that 90 percent. Ain't that sumthin?

That's why when I see couples who have been married for many years, especially those in the public eye, I take every opportunity to celebrate their union with them. After all, love fades, and it can even vary from day-to-day. Friendship is the basis of all of this, it's the foundation.

And one duo who certainly understands this assignment is our dear faves, Boris Kodjoe and Nicole Ari Parker. They have spent much of their marriage genuinely loving on each other and helping other couples along the way just by being themselves. From revealing the infamous "prayer", to showing the importance of the little things; things like date nights, or complimenting your partner openly and unapologetically.

Most recently, Boris took to Instagram to swoon over his wife in the cutest way. Shared with a screenshot from FaceTime, he asks:

"Hey Babe, can I ask you something? Can you please keep shining your light on me? Like 20,30,40 more years maybe? Feels really good. Thank you. I love you."

To which Parker responded:

"I'm gonna shave my legs. to. night. #yourenotreadyyyy"

It's the hashtags fa me.

Then there was that time that he was checking her out, and complimenting her fitness, which, *swoon*:

There's the time he surprised her on a boat and copped a few feels:


When she celebrated his latest venture as his number one fan:

When they celebrated their anniversary with a few locals and dance in the city:

All while jamming to some, which is always a vibe.

And when Boris showed her infinite love on International Women's Day:

The lovers and friends pair have said before that their relationship is not different from anyone else's and that that they have simply taken the time to do what works for them, which is having fun. Nicole even addressed it directly, offering advice by saying:

"You become better people on the other side. Everyone wants to run if you have one argument, one misstep or one mistake. But if you commit to going through the desert, so to speak, it's so good on the other side. And Number 2: treat him like your boyfriend. Because in marriage, you get into a practical rut. It's nothing new. Don't panic. You're going to get in a practical rut about who is doing what, paying bills, sharing the house, two different jobs, then the children. You become roommates."

She continues:

"But if you remember that this person is your boo [laughs], you keep it fun. You can't wait to get home, even if 10 years have gone by. You can't wait to buy him a gift for no reason on your way home from work. He gets you flowers for no reason. So, I always say, the minute you find your husband, make him your boyfriend."

Are you a member of our insiders squad? Join us in the xoTribe Members Community today!

Featured image via Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage

The daily empowerment fix you need.
Make things inbox official.

In a move that makes us so happy, the ever-so-stunning Ryan Destiny has been making her rounds lately, showing off her subtle but enamoring vibe in recent appearances with Vogue, HelloBeautiful, and even Doja Cat's new "Need to Know" music video. The former Star actress and singer also took a moment to join Harper Baazar for their 'Go to Bed With Me' segment, a video series where various celebs show off their nighttime skincare routines.

This appearance was our absolute fave because to see her demonstrating how to maintain her beautifully radiant skin is something we all want to know, right?! Right. So, sis...we gotchu just in time for summer!

Here a guide on how to achieve Ryan Destiny's poppin and oh so melanated skin:

What you'll need:

La Mer The Cleansing Oil ($95)

Black Opal Blemish Control Bar ($6.50)

Black Opal Lip Oil ($6.25)

CosMedix Clarity Serum ($42, or $35 with subscription)

Black Opal Brightening and Plumping Serum ($14.95)

​Harper’s Bazaar/YouTube

Rocking a blow-out for the gawds, after a cute intro, Ryan opens with this one simple, but loud, tip:

"Wash your hands. Wash your hands before you start anything."

She then proceeds to use the La Mer Cleansing oil and thoroughly massages the product all over her face and neck. Get in there good ladies, this step is important!

"Rub it all over my face, get down on my neck. And once I feel that it's all broken down, I am going to rinse."

Harper's Bazaar/YouTube

Next up, Ryan focuses on a problem area that many of us have: hyperpigmentation. To combat this, she uses the Black Opal Blemish Control Bar, a brand she has used since she was 16 years old. She is also the face of the brand, which is Black woman-owned.

"What's really really great for the hyperpigmentation that I sort of have a lot of right now, is the . It's like extra, extra important to me to take of all of the makeup before you go to bed. It just makes such a difference. It's the worst when you go to sleep with your makeup still on, and you just know it just sets you back like a whole week."

Harper's Bazaar/YouTube

Destiny then moves on to hydrating her lips with the Black Opal Lip Oil.

"I kinda sorta sorta kinda kinda have chapped lips. But not anymore becuase I did a lot of trial and error, and I found something that works for me. It works with my makeup as well. It nourishes and hydrates my lips, it's not there to just look pretty, you know."

Harper's Bazaar/YouTube

As a final step, she moves on to her serums for pigmented skin and dark spots. Here she uses the CosMedix Clarity Serum and Black Opal Brightening and Plumping Serum.

"This is also really great for prepping your makeup. I use this serum right before I start doing my makeup. It like, glides right on and helps my makeup look better and apply on my skin better."

We stan a simple but effective routine, sis!

Watch the full video below:

Are you a member of our insiders squad? Join us in the xoTribe Members Community today!

Featured image by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET

How We Met is a series where xoNecole talks about love and relationships with real-life couples. We learn how they met, how like turned into love, and how they make their love work.

When the pandemic hit, it really changed the way we connected with one another. While yes, social media has always been around, it has never been relied on as much as it is now. Especially within the last year. Social media became instrumental in building relationships as it continues to be a main source in making new friends, business partners, and, of course love interests. I mean, when it comes to love interests we are all familiar with the swipe left, swipe right, and the DM slide. But it is much more special when social media is actually the motivator for you to fly out and meet the woman of your dreams, who lives almost 1,000 miles away.

A simple scroll and a nice charming smile is what caught Andrea Fernandes' eye to really see what Jibre Hordges was all about. The 25- and 27-year-old were able to connect and after a couple of weeks of text messages and phone calls, the now-couple decided that distance or a pandemic was not going to hold them back. Andrea mentions, "I felt like time flew by when we were together. When we met in-person, we were able to talk for hours and hours."

The couple made it official in June 2020. Since their initial meeting online, Andrea and Jibre have been positive influences in each other's lives. They have been complementing each other's strengths and challenging each other's areas of improvement. They support each other through their own individual journeys of growth and never losing sight of faith. While Andrea and Jibre are still in a long-distance relationship, they are dedicated to spending that quality time together. For these two, they are only one call and a flight away.

In this installment of xoNecole's How We Met, the publicist and actor shares how their love continues to grow by honest communication, speaking each other's love languages, and keeping God as a shared value.

How We Met

Andrea: I was scrolling through Instagram one day and I came across Jibre's page. I saw that one of my friends followed him too. So I sent his photo to my friend and asked, "Who is this man?" (laughs) I will say that if it wasn't for my friend also following him, I probably wouldn't have tried to connect with him. After some time, I decided to reply to one of his IG stories. This is something I have never done to a guy, I honestly don't know. But I liked his teeth, so I decided to give it a shot (laughs).

Jibre: After our mutual friend told Andrea who I was, we started following each other. We followed each other for about two weeks before we even said anything to each other. I lowkey had my eye on her, but it's all about timing. Since she reached out to me when I was already planning to reach out to her, I thought, Say less, let's do it (laughs). When we started following each other, I already noticed that she stayed in New York. But I work for an airline. So I was willing to fly out to see her, no problem. We talked for a couple weeks before we decided to finally meet in-person. We worked with each other's schedules and I flew out to see her.

"When we started following each other, I already noticed that she stayed in New York. But I work for an airline. So I was willing to fly out to see her, no problem. We talked for a couple weeks before we decided to finally meet in-person. We worked with each other's schedules and I flew out to see her."

Courtesy of Andrea Fernandes

First Impressions

Jibre: From talking those few weeks, I already knew that I liked her. But when I met her in-person, I immediately thought she was beautiful. We talked to each other for hours and just picked each other's brain. Her brain is definitely a reflection of her beauty.

Andrea: I thought he was very nice. Overall, he exceeded my expectations. I felt like time just flew by when we were together. We actually had dinner reservations that night, but ended up skipping it because we continued to just talk and get to know each other more. The chemistry between us was there from the start.


Jibre: So after we met, I flew out a couple of more times to hang out with her. But after the second time we hung out, Andrea was honestly a little skeptical about moving forward with us. Initially, I was down for it. I was thinking about her all the time. I was calling her, texting her, and telling my friends about her. But she was trying to ghost me the whole time (laughs).

Andrea: I know I am in the hot seat now (laughs). But yes, I was definitely second-guessing myself. I felt that I was moving kind of fast with him and it honestly scared me. I was coming into the year where I was focusing on myself and self-love. So even though I did like him, I thought maybe I like him a little too much (laughs). So I tried to distance myself from him. My thinking behind it was, I would rather save myself now before I fall too deep and there's no turning back. But it wasn't until one day I was with my mom and she saw me ignoring his calls. She was the one who told me to answer and I listened (laughs).

Jibre: I didn't know that was how she felt. It really caught me by surprise because I thought things were going well. But thankfully, I was persistent.

Courtesy of Andrea Fernandes

Making Things Official

Andrea: So a month later, I invited him on a group trip with my friends. That was when I could picture myself being with him. The way he put in the effort to actually make it to the trip meant a lot. It was a little challenging, but he was dedicated to making it happen. My friends also loved him, so that was a plus (smiles).

Jibre: It was around the same time for me too. When we met, she mentioned that she mainly focuses on herself and self-love. So when I started seeing changes where she was including me in her life, it made me feel like she was choosing me to stick around. At first, I was thinking about making things official on Valentine's Day. But even though it didn't happen right then, the weekend with her friends was a huge weekend for the both of us.

The "L" Word

Jibre: We were having a lot of difficulties starting out. For one thing, I am a Gemini and she is a Taurus. And if you know about astrology, Tauruses can be some tough cookies. I was getting that stubborn side of her and we clashed a lot. Some people would agree that when you keep clashing, it's easier to walk away. But as time went on, any time I felt I wanted to walk away, I just couldn't. My heart would keep telling me to stay and make it work. It had been years since I had been in love. So I knew this had to be real love because I didn't want to be with anyone else.

Andrea: We did conflict quite a bit in the beginning. I always told him that we would clash over our differences and our similarities. It was tough. I am usually the person that can walk away from things easily, but I couldn't with him. So I knew it was different. My heart was truly in this and he was honestly everything I ever wanted. There's this song that says, "I would rather have bad times with you than good times with someone else." It's so true with him and I just love him.

"I am usually the person that can walk away from things easily, but I couldn't with him. So I knew it was different. My heart was truly in this and he was honestly everything I ever wanted. There's this song that says, 'I would rather have bad times with you than good times with someone else.' It's so true with him and I just love him."

Courtesy of Andrea Fernandes

Favorite Things

Andrea: My favorite thing about him is also the main thing I complain about the most (laughs). Jibre is kind of a neat freak. I jokingly make fun of him all the time for it. But his organization actually pushes me to be more organized in my life. So I don't think he knows how much of a positive influence that has been for me.

Jibre: My favorite thing about Andrea is that she genuinely wants me to be a better person. She is willing to tell me the things that other people won't tell me. Like the things that I don't want to hear, but I need to hear. I can really appreciate that because it just means she wants me to be the best version of myself.

Early Challenges

Andrea: I grew up an only child. So I was always focused on myself, even if I was in a relationship. When Jibre and I got together, I struggled a little with providing what he needed from me. I am a huge advocate for self-love. But I am learning now that I can balance loving myself and prioritizing him as well in my life. Jibre and I worked together on what I could do more of to show that I am still considering him, while I still work towards my personal goals.

Jibre: In conflict, I have noticed that when I get angry or emotional, I tend to just react and not think things through. I have learned that sometimes in a relationship, you have to look at yourself and give yourself grace. You have to know yourself enough to be honest and hold yourself accountable when you may be wrong. We have strengths and weaknesses. So learning what your weaknesses are and then working on them, is a good way that has helped us be better together as a couple.

"We have strengths and weaknesses. So learning what your weaknesses are and then working on them, is a good way that has helped us be better together as a couple."

Courtesy of Andrea Fernandes

Love Languages

Andrea: I still tell Jibre that I think he changed my love language. At first, when I took the test, all the areas were even (laughs). So I figured, I guess I need all of them (laughs). But when you truly love someone, you want to be loved in a different way by that person. So when I took the test again, it showed I value physical touch and words of affirmation more than the other areas.

Jibre: My number one is physical touch. Growing up, my mom was very affectionate with me. So that stuck with me as I got older and now I am a very affectionate person. My number two was quality time, but while being with Andrea, it has grown into acts of service. At the end of the day, we make sure we give each other the entire spectrum.

Love Lessons

Jibre: Man, love is so complex. But true love wins every time. Being in a relationship has definitely taught me that you have to be patient with your partner. It's important that we are still learning from each other and with that you have to have patience through each other's growth. God is also the center in everything we do. So keeping him as a foundation in our relationship is very important to us.

Andrea: Keeping our faith is definitely something we share. I think another thing that has been an important lesson is a sense of understanding who your partner is. To really get out of your head sometimes and put yourself in your partner's shoes. Like how something I do may make him feel and vice versa. People can be really set in their own ways. But if you make it a point to understand your partner's point of view on things, it is really essential.

For more of Andrea and Jibre, follow them on Instagram @drea.lisanna, @jibrehordges, and @jibreandrea.

Featured image courtesy of Andrea Fernandes

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A year before my dad died (which was seven years ago), he and I had a series of conversations about my relatives on his side—and his marriage to my mother. Some things I already knew. Some things I was waiting to connect some dots on. Some things flat-out surprised me—and totally disgusted me. I would give some details; however, while I am certainly an open book, I still want to be careful with how much I share about all three points because 1) a lot of people in my family aren't even close to being as candid (or shoot even honest); 2) I'm not writing this in order to "put people on blast"; and 3) interestingly enough, choosing to separate myself from certain family members is what's helped me to be less pissed and more gracious. Gracious about what? How I'm going to address why I don't involve myself with certain family members anymore. On both sides of my DNA.

I know that family estrangement is still a really radical concept to some people. Still, I totally mean it when I say that you oftentimes don't realize just how much you are only further traumatizing yourself and hindering your growth as an individual by still intimately involving yourself with your relatives…only for the simple fact that they are your relatives. After all, you know what they say—all skinfolk ain't kinfolk and chile, when it comes to healing and thriving as an individual, I sometimes believe that no truer words have been spoken.

On the open tip, what I will say is I'm a survivor of almost every type of abuse you can imagine, including neglect. Neglect from many members of my family too. At the same time, I think it's important to state that it wasn't the kind of abuse that happened every day. In fact, the running statement I make in interviews is what my family did well, it was "A level." Problem is, there really wasn't anything between an "A" and an "F". Either what they did was really great or it sucked and was the lowest of the low. BIG TIME. And because I really believe that I am a generational curse breaker, in order to truly break so many of the patterns and cycles, I had to get away from the classic definition of insanity—doing the same thing while expecting a different result. And yes, that included leaving certain relatives behind. Definitely for now. Possibly forever.

That's what we're going to tackle today. Whether you are currently estranged from a relative—or like a close friend of mine, an entire side of your family—or you're contemplating if that's something you should do for your overall ultimate health and well-being, I'm going to share with you, from very personal experience, why that is absolutely nothing to feel shame, guilt or embarrassment about. Now take a deep breath. You ready?

If ANYONE Should Be Your Safe Place, It’s Your Family

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It might sound crazy to say that there are benefits from estrangement yet, there are. Trust me. When it comes to mine, one of the things that a lot of my tribe says is, although I'm "Shellie" and gonna always be "Shellie" (LOL), removing myself from toxic family members has caused me to be a lot calmer overall. I agree. Back when I was still involving myself in the cyclic BS, I used to feel so out of control and somewhat intimidated by certain relatives. Leaving them alone caused me to feel more in control which caused me to not want to control everyone and everything else. And I definitely wouldn't have discovered that without fully separating myself.

This brings me to my first point. There is a particular toxic relative who I realize caused me to pick female friends who were very similar to them—beautiful, talented, manipulative, selfish and emotionally unstable. I would pick these kinds of women over and over and over again because that relative had a strong influence in my life. Once I unraveled myself from that person, though, I realized I kept choosing unhealthy friends because I didn't know what healthy looked like. And one thing that healthy is? It's safe.

Safe is a big deal to me (check out "Why You Should Be Unapologetic About Setting Boundaries With Toxic Family Members"). It means that I'm protected. It means that I'm not subject to being hurt or harmed. It means that I'm in an environment or dynamic that is at little risk for pain or drama. Y'all, for some of us, the most unsafe individuals are our family members. That's why I'm the kind of person who actually gets pretty pissed off when people say that you shouldn't distance yourself from family members just because they're related to you.

What the hell are y'all talking about? If you've got relatives who are constantly putting you in harm's way—do you get that the last people who should be doing that are them? So, if they are the ones who are unsafe for you, at the very least, take a season to take care of yourself, because all they will keep doing is taking advantage of your vulnerability and, if you've got any (which isn't uncommon), even your feelings of fear.

Only Boundary-Violators Have a Problem with Boundaries

When I first decided to remove myself from all of the familiar crap, there was one person in particular who confirmed, LOUD AND CLEAR, exactly why I needed to do it in the first place. They showed up at my house unannounced (and uninvited; after I made it clear to them that they weren't welcome). They tried to dictate how I should conduct myself within my own space (remember y'all, I'm in my 40s). They sent other boundary-violators my way; people who had hurt me tremendously while growing up. WTF? Oh, I was pissed. I'm still a little triggered just thinking about it.

After getting still and reflecting, I realized that they were doing what they had always done—not respected my space. Or feelings. Or needs. They weren't going to change. I had to. This is actually one of the reasons why I am so "pro-estrangement"—again, at least for a season—if you've got toxic relatives in your life. It's so you can get quiet and still enough to ponder and process what the hell is actually going on, because sometimes stuff is so chaotic that you can't get a grasp of what is truly causing or triggering it.

Oh, but when you step out from this ish, I promise you that a part of what you'll realize is that the people who really and truly love you, they are going to honor your boundaries. They won't demand that you break them for their benefit. They won't dismiss them as if they are irrelevant. They won't try and talk you out of them. Even if they don't fully understand what is going on, they are going to respect your limits because what healthy people know is love and respect work hand in hand. Sis, no one truly loves you—family or not—if they don't respect you. And respect means accepting your boundaries. Simply because you set them.

Sometimes Forgiveness Means Removing Yourself from Being Tempted to Not Forgive

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I strive to be a Bible follower. And so, I am well aware of the fact that the Bible says that in order for God to forgive us, we must forgive others (Matthew 6:14-15). This is why I don't cosign with people who think that you shouldn't forgive others. NO ONE is worth me being in an unstable place with my Creator. At the same time, again, the Bible says that in order to be right with the Lord, we must forgive. It does not say that when people abuse/mistreat/constantly offend us that we need to act like those things never happened or that we should remain in their hamster wheel of drama.

That's why, it is truly my belief that, in order for reconciliation to transpire (something else that the Bible also speaks of—2 Corinthians 5:17-19), not only does the victim need to forgive, the victimizer needs to repent as well. For the record, repentance isn't just about saying "I'm sorry." It's about making an amends too. It's about being proactive and intentional about righting the wrongs. Yeah, that sermon isn't preached nearly enough.

That's why this point is phrased in the way that it is. There are some people in my family who, whether it's intentional or unintentional, they just constantly cause harm and pain. Will they apologize? Sometimes. Well, they do that justification-not-taking-full-responsibility kind of apologizing (which isn't much of one). Yet my issue is they will do that, only to commit the same offense, on some level, not soon after.

Again, I know that the Bible says that I must forgive which is another reason why there is distance. It's because, since you're gonna keep "slapping me" (so to speak) and it's getting harder and harder to forgive you for it, how about I acknowledge just how broken you really are in that area and 1) give you nothing to slap and 2) pull myself out of the position where it's getting harder and harder to forgive you when you do it? It's not a common way of thinking yet it's been a very freeing one for me. Straight up.

When People Didn’t Love You Well, Please Make Sure That You Do

The last guy that I loved? It's funny that the moment that I removed myself from certain family members, the less appealing he became. In hindsight, I realized that he was just as smart, funny, creative, charming and interesting as they were. He was also just as unstable, manipulative, gaslighting, narcissistic and selfish as they were too. On some levels, I loved him because "thanks" to those relatives' example of love, I thought that is what love looked like. Ugh. I'm not saying all of this to demonize ole' boy. I know a lot about his own family dynamic and he honestly could stand to take some time off them from them too. Yet that's not my issue or problem.

What estrangement has done for me is driven home the point that, rather than spending (or is it wasting?) time trying to get toxic family members (or toxic men) to love me in the way that I deserve to be loved, it's better to distance myself and discover how to redefine love and then love myself better. That way, I can cultivate a new standard and therefore prevent myself from getting into relationships/friendships with individuals who do nothing more than mirror the family drama and dysfunction that I had gotten so accustomed to for so many years.

Another benefit of estrangement is you're not imprisoned by what you thought love looked like. You can get the time and space to free yourself up enough to understand just how warm, comforting, beneficial, encouraging and consistent real love actually is.

Guilt Is Typically Placed on Us. By Toxic People.

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OK, so let me hit on the guilt that you might be feeling regarding being estranged right now. Honestly, this could be a book all unto itself because a lot of people who struggle with guilt? It's oftentimes because they were surrounded by manipulative people some/most/all of their lives. Manipulative folks 1) don't like to take accountability for their actions; 2) get off on using puppet strings to try and control people's thoughts, actions and emotions, and 3) they are the kings and queens of deflection; if they can make you feel bad for what they've done, they will do it. Every time.

As a direct result, when you make the decision to distance yourself from them, you already know what they're gonna do, right? Guilt trip you (or send someone your way to do their dirty work for them). Before you know it, you find yourself having a hard time sleeping; you're feeling anxious; you're not trusting your own judgment; you're being indecisive; you're feeling like you have to defend/explain/apologize for everything—I could go on and on about what guilt looks like. My main point in bringing this up is, as you're reading this, I hope you can see how a lot of the guilt you may feel now is because, when it comes to the people you are distancing yourself from, you've probably always felt it. Take it up a notch and it's also why you've always stayed in the toxic pattern with them. Guilt has been overpowering you. It's time to let it go.

Listen, while I'm all about feeling remorseful when necessary, guilt is not the same thing. Not only that but very rarely does guilt do any of us any good. All it does is give us distressful feelings. Ones that, more times than not, cause us to either make poor decisions or ones that don't really make us a priority in the long run.

If you're tempted to feel guilty about the decision you've made to let some family members go (check out "Why I Don't 'Cut People Off' Anymore, I Release Them Instead"), do some self-love journaling so that you can remind yourself why you made the decision in the first place. Then jot down some areas where you've improved since making the shift. Some of us constantly feel guilty for choosing us because we've never done it before. Loving on you, healing you, figuring out who and what are truly best for you? That is NOTHING to feel guilty about. Remove yourself from anyone who tries to tell you otherwise. Straight up.

Let (Internal) Peace Be Your Guide

Listen, the older—and hopefully wiser and more mature—that you get, the more you want peace in your life. LAWD. Yeah, something that my mother used to say is I was violent about my own peace and development. Looking back, that's one of the best things she's ever said to me because when you are at peace—I mean the Hebrew word for peace is shalom which means things like whole and complete—there is nothing like it. Once you achieve it, you get to a point and place that any person, place, thing or idea that hinders it (especially on a constant basis) is something that you need to keep your distance from.

Life comes with so many challenges, simply because that is how life is. Yet if yours seems to be in constant upheavals, step back and think about if your family has anything to do with it. If you can name at least five reasons why the answer is "yes"—at the very least, establish firm and unapologetic boundaries. Or, if like in my case, either things are so unhealthy and/or they keep violating your limits, removing them from your life, as a consequence of their destructive behavior, is nothing to feel bad about.

Miss them? I get it. Wish things were different? I totally understand. Sacrifice your peace just to stay in chaos and drama? It's really not worth it. No one said that estrangement had to be forever. It really kind of depends on how well you heal and how much the people who hurt/harmed you have changed during the time apart. Yet if you know your family is infecting your life, please take care of you.

That way, you can spend less time in their drama and more time living the life you never thought was possible…until you removed yourself from their mess. Again, I am a living testimony of this. Peace personified. Finally.

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