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 it comes to sexuality, there have always been societal limitations centered on what is "acceptable." However, with more honest conversations about how fluid sexuality and sexual expression can be, now there are so many more opportunities for self-exploration and taking back ownership of our identities again. One couple that is living their truth and being sexual beings unapologetically while living and loving their lives are Jasmine Johnson and King Noire.
For some background, this husband and wife have been in a relationship for 10 years. Jasmine Johnson, aka Jet Setting Jasmine, is a psychotherapist and a Master Fetish Trainer, along with her husband, King Noire. Jasmine has over 20 years of experience in the industry. King Noire is an accomplished writer, artist, MC and global activist. As a couple in love and in business, Jasmine and King are owners of their award-winning adult entertainment company, Royal Fetish Films. Through their work, Jasmine and King have combined their talents and passions to produce erotica that stimulates audiences to explore their sexual boundaries.
In this installment of xoNecole's How We Met, Jasmine and King shares how their love continues to grow through intentionality, selflessness, and finding strength in baring it all.
How They Met
Jasmine Johnson: King and I met on a radio show. I was interviewing him on a podcast and the focus was porn and relationships. It was mainly about how people in the porn industry find relationships. We connected outside of the podcast and, when we did, we shared our personal bios to each other. We let each other know, 'This is what I've been through, this is where I'm at, and this is where I'm trying to go.'
King Noire: Yes, so we met on the podcast and I was very interested in getting to know Jasmine more. Jasmine was super straightforward and direct with her questions. I liked that. So I slid into her DMs and asked if we could work on our 'talents' together. At the time, Jasmine was teaching pole dancing and I was doing erotic touch massages. We both were very intentional about getting involved with each other.
King: After connecting outside of the podcast, Jasmine booked a session with me [for an erotic touch massage]. For me, that let me know that she respects what I do. When I saw her in person, I thought she looked better than her pictures. The first thing I noticed is that she has a very vibrant, illuminating smile. Jasmine's smile makes me want to smile.
Jasmine: Wow. How am I supposed to follow that? Before I met King in person, what attracted me to him was that he is a multi-dimensional man. The way that he is very in tune with who he is. I liked how he was not trying to shut off any of those dimensions. At the time, I was learning about all the dimensions of myself. So I thought, 'Well, here is a man who is educated, cares about his people, and likes to have a good time.' I also liked that he had a business pleasing women. I enjoyed my time with him, the conversation that we had, and the experience overall. He did not disappoint at all.
"What attracted me to him was that he is a multi-dimensional man. The way that he is very in tune with who he is. I liked how he was not trying to shut off any of those dimensions. I also liked that he had a business pleasing women. I enjoyed my time with him, the conversation that we had, and the experience overall. He did not disappoint at all."
Courtesy of King Noire and Jasmine Johnson
Making It Official
Jasmine: There wasn't exactly a clear moment for me. Our relationship grew gradually and the shift had a nice slow incline. We talked about each step along the way, so it was very thoughtful. For example, one of us would say, "I'm thinking about you all day long and I wish you were here with me." Instead of saying, "I wish you here with me and I want you all to myself."
King: It has been gradually growing and I think that is the best way to put it. We continue to grow together and how we express our interests and admiration in each other.
Dismantling Myths Around Polyamory
King: The biggest myth about polyamorous relationships is that people think it is always sexual. It is so much more than that. My expression for love is just different and it is not solely about having sex with people. When it comes to Jasmine, how we connect and share with one another makes us stronger. So being honest about how we may like to do certain things differently or we have separate interests is important. With polyamory, it's recognizing that you can't be everything to anybody.
For example, Jasmine wants to go to a certain event and the event is not really my thing. If I'm there, I am not going to have as much fun as she will have. To me, I would be taking away from her enjoying it if I told her that I didn't want her going with someone else. When you truly love a person, you want them to experience all of the things that they enjoy. So I want her to enjoy herself, do her thing, and tell me how it went when she comes back home.
Jasmine: I completely agree with King about the sex part. I know a question I get asked a lot is, "Oh, do you get jealous when your husband sleeps with other people?" Truly, when I think about King and I's relationship, it is about the quality time we spend with each other. Also, when people think about polyamory, people assume that both of the individuals have to be polyamorous. There can be mixed styles of orientation in one relationship.
We both tried different relationship styles and chose what worked for us. I was oriented towards monogamy when I met King. Now I am not saying I just threw in my monogamy card, because I didn't. I just became more open to the possibility and explored what other ways of being together would look like. For years, we have been able to have a sustainable and beautiful relationship in love.
"The biggest myth about polyamorous relationships is that people think it is always sexual. It is so much more than that. My expression for love is just different and it is not solely about having sex with people. When it comes to Jasmine, how we connect and share with one another makes us stronger. With polyamory, it's recognizing that you can't be everything to anybody."
The Fears Around Different Relationship Styles
Jasmine: King was really certain about who he was and his relationship style. For me, the fear was if I reject this, then I miss the opportunity to experience life with this man. I also had a fear of "failing" at being good at being poly or exploring what our relationship could look like. I questioned if it would possibly jeopardize the bond we had. Both of these fears, either way, the outcome was not going to be him and I. So I leaned into those fears and I'm glad we figured it out.
King: I didn't have any fears from her specifically, but in general. I only had one experience before Jasmine where I felt I was able to fully be polyamorous. But it still felt limiting because I was still learning myself. I think the fear was as we got down the road, is she (Jasmine) going to change up on me? That fear of her not trusting me. This happens whether you are in a monogamous relationship or a polyamorous relationship. People were trying to tell me what my love was for my partner and I felt boxed in. But Jasmine was that person I wanted to dive into, get to know, and share all of myself with her. At the same time, I don't want to compromise who I am because of a relationship. I want to enhance myself because of the relationship.
King: I don't know how cliche this will sound, but Jasmine really helped me express and find myself. With Jasmine, she is very confident in who she is and how she defines herself. She confirms that I also have the space to do that for myself. Those fears that I just spoke about were fears from past relationships and she made me realize that that is not a part of who she is. People say everyone comes with baggage and that shit is real. You realize you have to check your luggage somewhere else, because this is a new trip right here.
Jasmine: To love yourself is to take a hard look at a lot of aspects of yourself. You have to love the parts of yourself that you are not quite finished with yet. So much of King and I's relationship is helping others, but more importantly helping ourselves. A lot of the trauma work [I've done], King has been front and center.
Really doing that healing and processing it all, we really did it together and figured out how to make it pretty for y'all. How to express our sexuality to the world was really digging into the why's and meanings of who we are individually. From being in a relationship with King, I have also learned how to love myself differently. I don't have to do everything by myself anymore. When you have a partner to really appreciate the moments when life slows down, it's beautiful.
"From being in a relationship with King, I have also learned how to love myself differently. I don't have to do everything by myself anymore. When you have a partner to really appreciate the moments when life slows down, it's beautiful."
Courtesy of King Noire and Jasmine Johnson
Blended In Family, Love & Legacy
Jasmine: We have a blended family. We started co-parenting two to three years into our relationship. I think there is a huge stigma around blended families, where people think that when you have a blended family, it is going to be lacking something. I used to think this and it honestly took a while for me to believe that King could father all of my children. It wasn't necessarily about him expressing himself as a man and a father. It was really these preconceived notions and judgements of, 'No one is going to love your kids like you.'
The idea that someone in a blended family is not going to love your kids as much as if they were the biological parent is the furthest thing from the truth. My children have a full and complete family. Black families work hard and we continue to work while also through the expression of love. Black love does not have to look like that traditional Eurocentric idea. Black love can look like whatever it needs to look like for people as long as values are respected and aligned.
King: Building off of that, when you think about it, African-American family units don't just make lemonade out of lemons. We make everything with lemons]! History has shown us that the Black family has been broken up since we got here. People try to create this negative narrative around the Black family to make us feel bad. But I look at how we have created our definition of what family looks like, blood or not. We have always said it takes a village to raise a child. Family is more about who you love, how you love, and the responsibility of how you show up for your loved ones.
King: I think just finding more ways to love each other. What I mean by that is, how can I show you that I love you more within moments that we share? Within the Black love story, I believe we are afraid to expose the bareness of our souls. The more you expose yourself to somebody, we call it vulnerability. But I think of it as more of a strength. When you have a partner, if there is an area that you lack, your partner always has your back. They fill that space for you. So when we are able to show the totality of who we are, we are also able to fill in each other's blank spaces.
Jasmine: King has this motto for his music, which is, "Freedom, Justice, and Equality." I feel these three principles really cover every aspect of our lives. They make a really easy formula for our love. There is freedom in our love and I am not talking about sex and relationships. Freedom to respect our interests and support each other through them. The second one is Justice. There's a lot of accountability in our love. No one just gets away with anything around here. In terms of Equality, I have been able to see it as we come as equals to the table. We may not agree on everything, but we show up as humans and no one is inferior to the other.
If one wins, we all win.
For more of Jasmine and King, follow them on Instagram @jetsetjasmine and @therealkingnoire.
Featured image courtesy of Jasmine Johnson and King Noire
'K' is a multi-hyphenated free spirit from Chicago. She is a lover of stories and the people who tell them. As a writer, 9-5er, and Safe Space Curator, she values creating the life she wants and enjoying the journey along the way. You can follow her on Instagram @theletter__k_.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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Janelle Monáe's Reveals The Real Reason Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Tuxedos
Singer and actress Janelle Monáe exemplifies how change can be a powerful catalyst for growth and transformation.
Monáe, who rose to fame in 2010 following the release of her debut album, The ArchAndroid, captivated fans' hearts with her powerful vocals, catchy tunes, and style. Around that time period, when various female artists were known to wear provocative ensembles on stage, the "Tightrope" songstress set herself apart by wearing her signature black and white suits and continued to do so for almost a decade.
In the later years of her career, after the release of her studio albums The Electric Lady in 2013 and 2018's Dirty Computer, many began to notice the shift in Monáe's artistry and fashion, which some widely praised.
Although the now 37-year-old rarely addressed the reason behind the transformation over the years, that would all change when Monáe sat down with radio personality Angie Martinez on her IRL podcast earlier this month.
During the interview, Monáe --who was promoting her latest album, "The Age of Pleasure"-- opened up about her mental health struggles, how she would cope, and why she chose to live in freedom.
Janelle On Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Suits All the Time
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
In the May discussion, the "I Like That" vocalist revealed she suffers from anxiety, which she claimed would occur around "winter to spring."
Monáe added that when she has her bouts with anxiety, she tends to turn to food as a coping mechanism. Further in the interview, the "Lipstick Lover" singer disclosed that her emotional eating habits caused a weight fluctuation and that she could no longer fit into the suits she once wore earlier in her career.
Monáe explained that even though she tried to diet and exercise to return to her smaller figure, she ultimately stopped and made peace with herself with the help of therapy because she acknowledged that she isn't the same person she was nearly a decade ago and shouldn't try to be even if it was a highly "celebrated" version.
"I'm petite, but it can get thick... When I couldn't fit them suits anymore, and I was like, 'Oh my God, what is going on?' I would be dieting, running, or exercising, trying to fit into [it]. I'm just like, 'No. No, we're here. This is where we are.' We [are] not about to be utilizing life trying to be an old version of ourselves. No matter how celebrated that version of me was. I'm here. I'm here," she said.
Janelle On Freedom
As the topic shifted to freedom and what that meant to Monáe, the "Primetime" vocalist shared that in this new era of her life, she enjoys it because she can boldly express herself however she wants and honor who she is as a person right now.
Monáe also revealed that she had found ways to become a better artist and the best version of herself because of her freedom.
"What is the new version of freedom? What does that feel like? That's usually when I feel the most free is when artistically, I can honor exactly who I am right now," she stated. "I feel most free as a human when I can honor exactly who I am right now."
Monáe's fourth studio album, The Age of Pleasure, is set to be released on June 9.
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