The honeymoon’s officially over, and not every couple made it out of paradise with their engagements intact. However, for the Love Is Blind Season 4 hopefuls that did, episodes 6-8 are about cultivating a love that stands the test of time and reentering the real world as husbands- and wives-to-be. In shared apartments provided by the show, the couples will learn to navigate cohabitation, work routines, finances, family and friend dynamics, and most importantly, putting in the work to eventually make the commitment of a lifetime to someone in a matter of three weeks.
In case you missed our first recaps, you can find those here and here. Keep reading for a recap of everything you missed on episodes 6-8 of Love Is Blind.
Spoilers are most definitely ahead!
Kwame + Chelsea
Kwame is doing his best to get back into my good graces, and it’s somewhat working. In episode 6, after the real-ass conversation, he and Chelsea had in Mexico, where she urged him to let the Micah ish go, Kwame seems to be walking the talk of the man that said he was where he was supposed to be in regards to his engagement with Chelsea. As he basks in the glory of doing adulting to the highest level, he seems in awe and at ease and even tells Chelsea that walking into their place together makes him feel “at home in it.”
As they are enjoying their first takeout meal in their spot together, the two begin to talk about cleaning duties and how they should go about dividing chores. Chelsea expresses that she prefers going to bed with a clean kitchen, but Kwame is more 80/30 when it comes to clean dishes. Surprisingly, he notes that he would like for Chelsea to flush the toilet after she uses the bathroom every time. Chelsea makes excuses but eventually agrees. Come on, boo. We can’t be pressed about clean dishes 100% of the time and then leave pee in the toilet for our fiancé to flush for us.
Later on in the episode, the two explore each other’s apartments in real life. I loved the backstory of the healing nature of Chelsea’s decorating decisions and how her space was one of self-expression and fulfillment of her being her full self in ways she couldn’t be in a previous relationship.
Chelsea shares with the camera that things got really real for her that day because, during her single days, she was met with a lot of loneliness. She reveals being on FaceTime calls constantly to feel some kind of connection. “Everything’s different now,” she ends tearfully. “I get to come home to Kwame. And that’s a whole new feeling for me. I’ve wanted it for so long.”
In the episode’s cliffhanger, Kwame and Chelsea learn that they both have dads named Charles, but Chelsea is nervous about how her dad Charlie will receive the news of this very unique circumstance of falling in love, getting engaged, and married in a matter of weeks. While doing her best to combat her nerves, Kwame and Chelsea have a semi-passive-aggressive back and forth about who lectures who the most before Kwame waves his white flag to share why he should be on edge more than she should be on edge.
Despite some of his anxiety around the situation, he does his best to try to assuage Chelsea in her stressful moment, but Chelsea ain’t trying to hear none of that.
Courtesy of Netflix
As revealed at the top of episode 7, all the conversation leading up to meeting Chelsea’s dad was for naught because Charlie barely needed an explanation to get with the program. He embraced Kwame and Chelsea’s relationship with him with literal arms wide open! Later in the episode, Chelsea and Kwame head to Portland, where Kwame actually resides (not Seattle like the majority of the other cast members of the season), to visit his apartment and take some things of his to the shared apartment in order to really coexist.
It’s interesting to note that Kwame would have to uproot the life he leads in Portland to make the relationship and could-be marriage work with Chelsea. He tells the camera he has no friends in Seattle. He has things about Portland that are routines for him. Chelsea is dead set on having a life in Seattle. Kwame notes that he sometimes feels he compromises a lot, maybe too much even.
Later in the episode, when Kwame has the phone conversation with his mom about doing the experiment and moving forward with an engagement with Chelsea, the news is not received well. He tells Chelsea that his mom is a big part of his life and that it is tough to hear that she isn’t happy for him. It’s a stark contrast to the unyielding acceptance we felt from Chelsea’s dad.
Kwame seems to take things in stride, giving his super emotionally intelligent recap of the events to Chelsea, but I can’t help but think that it must be hard to always swallow your emotions and filter them in a way where you have to apply so much reason to the things you have every right to feel. He was hurt and disappointed but does his best to smile through everything. I thought that said a lot about who he strives to be in life.
Courtesy of Netflix
In episode 8, Kwame is making major life adjustments, from moving to Seattle for Chelsea to taking care of her dog, Rocky. When they have a conversation about having a family after bathing Rocky, I appreciate the seriousness of such a topic. It seems like it’s been broached before because Chelsea leads with reminding Kwame that he said three years into being married would be a good time to start a family. The pressure is on, and you can tell as Kwame seems uneasy while Chelsea is speaking her piece about always seeing herself as a mom.
He emphasizes wanting to have time to “enjoy each other.” He notes that Rocky infringes upon their ability to be flexible as it is, even if he sees himself and his future wife traveling the world together. Kids would add another difficult layer to that desire. When she notices that it seems Kwame is grieving a past version of his life, Chelsea asks a fair and important question, “Do you want to settle down?” Thank you, someone who remembers the point of this show.
Kwame tells her that he is compromising a lot. There goes that word again. I have a feeling that is more so what it is about than having kids versus not having kids. He ends the conversation by explaining that he just wants his feelings to be considered. “Considered,” Chelsea replies.
Courtesy of Netflix
As he opens up to Tiffany at Chelsea’s birthday party later in the episode, his issues with compromise and the potential of being too compromising are something that comes up again. In another inappropriate sidebar conversation with Micah, Kwame asks her if she feels she’s made the right choice. As usual, with their conversations, it feels like they are applying feelers to the situation to see if there’s smoke where there’s fire. I have my eye on these two.
He tells the camera that he will always have feelings for Micah, and he likes that their connection is “seamless,” and there’s no pressure to it. I rolled my eyes because he's not engaged to her and there are no ties, and that’s why there’s no pressure. You’re having to make these life-changing decisions about your partner in a matter of weeks. Of course, you’ll feel some pressure with Chelsea that you won’t feel with another woman not directly involved in that relationship.
The fantasy of what could be doesn’t always tell the story of what is and blatant acts of disrespect like this after the conversation he had with Chelsea about letting it go makes me feel for his fiancée. She deserves better than that.
Brett + Tiffany
The hygiene Olympics continue as Tiffany and Brett come onto the scene heading into their nighttime routine. They are sharing the bathroom while Brett brushes his teeth, shirtless, might I add (there was no need, but I felt like context would be a great addition here). Tiffany reveals to the camera that cleanliness might be an issue for them because she likes things clean, emphasis, and Brett is the type to exit the shower and leave water everywhere, which she says is a big pet peeve of hers. When she brought it up to him, he dismissed it as just being water. I mean, it does dry.
When they exit the bathroom, Tiffany tells Brett that a TV in the bedroom would be great to have. Brett disagrees and lets her know that the only thing that should have her attention in the bedroom is sleep or him. She takes that as an invitation and coquettishly replies, “My attention is on you now,” before joining him in bed. “I’m really happy here. And I really mean that,” he expresses to her as she smiles.
Later in the episode, Tiffany introduces Brett to her chosen family of friends for food and drinks. And they started with some tough questions right out the gate, feeling him out for their friend. It was also cool to learn about Tiffany being an easy sleeper from her friends because it provided some context about that infamous night sis fell asleep on Brett in the Pods. Apparently, sir passed their “tests” with flying colors.
Feeling the love from her friends and how much they wanted to see that love epitomized in her partner and how much Brett seemed to exemplify that made for a very endearing scene.
Courtesy of Netflix
In episode 7, Brett takes Tiffany to check out his apartment because if they make it to the altar, it’s where they will be living. It is there that Brett gets coined the nickname “Bougie Brett” by Tiffany, who, despite going on about how clean she is, seemed super impressed with the look and feel of Brett’s uber-neat apartment.
Space, though, quickly becomes an issue as the couple tries to figure out where will things like Tiffany’s clothes fit or even a workspace for her to work. Brett reminds her that he is willing to upgrade to a bigger apartment in the same building if she likes the apartment. “I can see myself living here,” she says to Brett eventually.
As the episode continues, Tiffany is cooking a meal for the pair, and they embark on a conversation about their approach to finances and what their lifestyle will be like after their lives have effectively merged. It was refreshing to hear these types of conversations had between a couple on this show, as I don’t think it’s shown amongst the other couples if they are having these types of convos.
Tiffany references Brett’s expensive taste as something she doesn’t necessarily want to infringe upon, but she does want the bills to be taken care of without having to monitor how much he is spending and on what. Brett adds to that by saying that he is comfortable with doing a 75-25 split or a 60-40 split on some bills. I’m like, okay here. Love to see it. Brett and Tiffany are a beautiful example of what emotional maturity looks like and being on your grown man/grown woman ish. I think this show could definitely use a lot more of that. Cast more Bretts and Tiffanys, please!
Courtesy of Netflix
Nothing of real consequence happens between the couple in episode 8, just Brett and Tiffany being adorable and expressing gratitude about having found each other to be able to do life together. That’s the thing about being a pretty solid couple on the show. There’s no need to do extensive recaps on this couple because conflict doesn’t tend to occur unhealthily.
And that's also why they are my Unproblematic Faves.
Marshall + Jackie
Marshall is a grower, not a shower, it seems, because I felt his love for Jackie beaming through the screen as he talked about the joy he found in developing a routine. I was a little lukewarm on him, but I think when he is expressing his pleasure in doing things for Jackie, his inner light is glowing, and he seems that much brighter overall. He recounts the good things about doing life with her, like waking up to her, making her breakfast before sending her to work, doing his things, and then waiting for her to get home.
While they are on the couch together talking about telling their respective families about their engagement, Marshall shares that his family is "over the moon" happy for him. However, Jackie shared that she told her mom and dad and that their response was, "This is not Jackie." She says it with a laugh and reiterates that they were so shocked and she had to tell them that she was "dead-ass." She ends the story by saying that she still doesn't think they believe her, but they will just have to come to terms with her being engaged in their own time.
Jackie notes that she has to be "up to par" when it's time to meet Marshall's folks but says that she wants to hold off on him meeting her family for as long as possible. When Marshall asks if Jackie thinks her family wants to meet him, she answers, "I would hope so," and then details how her mom and dad are.
Later in the episode, we see Marshall doing his aforementioned favorite thing, cooking breakfast for Jackie. She greets him warmly and learns he is making pancakes with a strawberry raspberry compote. Jackie is so impressed by the initiative and the effort and says excitedly, "Wow, I feel like I'm in a restaurant!" and thanks him with a kiss. "I'm so blessed," she says to him. "You are," he responds.
Jackie reveals to the camera that she has never been loved like this or experienced anything like this before. And that explains a lot of the self-sabotage vibes I got from the previous episodes. She's never been treated like this before, so she might be combatting feelings of unworthiness and doing that thing where we fuck up things that we know are good for us because somehow we've convinced ourselves we don't deserve it. Self-sabotage is a mf.
I see glimpses of the self-sabotage threaten to reemerge in episode 7, where Jackie seems very anxious about something. It is revealed that the couple is talking about meeting his family plus her family's lack of support and that Jackie is stressed out because "it is a lot." Jackie wants Marshall to give her some space to get herself together, and Marshall agrees to take a walk to give her some time. He tells the camera that Jackie has a tendency to ruminate and stay in moods for a long time but that he is able to give her the space she needs to sort through her own feelings. "I can do that for her," he explains.
Jackie eventually opens up to Marshall about her emotions and feeling like she has to make a hefty decision at the end of this experiment that will not only impact her but her relationship with her family since they are not in full support of her and Marshall. She doesn't want to hurt her family, but she also doesn't want to hurt herself in the process. Her anxiety is getting the better of her and as a result, she doesn't feel like she is at her best to meet his family.
Great news, Jackie does decide to meet his family that day despite the emotional tailspin she was in. Marshall's sister and brother-in-law come through with his niece. And the vibe completely shifts from tears to all smiles. "I need to know everything from the beginning," his sister announces as they eat together. Marshall lets his sister know how much of an impact Jackie has made on him as a creative, as a man, and as a person, and breaks down how they bonded.
Marshall's brother-in-law notes that he feels a positive shift in his aura. Jackie speaks her piece about her connection with Marshall and how he's taught her to be more grown. "Marriage is biblical. That's serious. I need to make sure I'm the best version of me before I say yeah," Jackie admits to Marshall's family. I love that Jackie said that because it emphasized her values around the commitment of marriage.
Courtesy of Netflix
I still don't see it for these two. The pieces are there, but there's something missing. They kind of remind me of another couple on the show that I don't talk much about, Paul and Micah, in these recaps. Like they're trying to get pieces to fit, but somehow, it doesn't feel organic. I don't doubt that love is there, but I do doubt this couple and that couple's staying power, especially in terms of having very real sources of conflict but being reluctant to adequately talk through the issues before they build up to be more.
Jackie is downplaying the importance of her family's support or lack thereof and can also just overall feel like a walking red flag. Micah is downplaying the fact that she wants to be able to go back and forth to her place in Arizona, and Paul isn't having any of it. Whereas I feel like Marshall has enough flexibility for a relationship with Jackie to go the distance, I do wonder if it is indeed what Jackie needs. Despite constantly reassuring the viewers and herself, how does she really feel?
In episode 8, the relationship between Marshall and Jackie officially begins to unravel. I didn't think that my concerns about them would be validated, but one argument proved to be a turning point in their relationship and would eventually lead to a point of no return. Marshall tells the camera that the relationship is looking pretty "bleak" with Jackie and that during a conversation they had while the cameras weren't rolling, Jackie told Marshall he needed to "boss up." Now, I know that's one of Jackie's favorite phrases, so I could see her saying that.
Marshall didn't take that phrase very well and heard in her choice of words that he was not "man enough." I don't know if that's what she meant, but that's what he received from her communication, which is perhaps what matters. He apparently left her to stop himself from going off and the conversation from getting too heated. When he enters the house after being gone for 2-3 days (the timeframe isn't clear), Jackie is visibly upset as she is packing.
Marshall passively aggressively questions if she's packing her stuff and why. "I'm not about to play these games with you," she says dismissively as she brushes past him. She reveals that she is upset because she wanted to be able to talk to him in his heated moment, but instead, he leaves. His leaving was a problem for her. She clarified to him that she never said he wasn't man enough for her; she requested that he be more aggressive. "We don't have sex," she says before adding, "Do something."
Courtesy of Netflix
Marshall counters, "It's always what you feel and how you think." Resentment. I knew it was hard having a savior complex, but he was the one who decided to take on that role. You can't be mad at the precedent you set in a dynamic. The argument that follows is so unproductive. I was shook when Marshall did a clap during the back and forth and said he was "testing" her. It's unfortunate that a miscommunication uncovered all of this with threats for both parties to leave the relationship.
Eventually, Marshall speaks his piece about putting in all the work to be the initiator of their physical intimacy, which contradicts Jackie's complaints about him not being aggressive sexually. "You have done nothing to make me feel seduced or special or anything," he tells her. "Make me feel like something, Jackie."
Jackie, of course, then asks something to the effect of why are you with me if I do nothing for you. And Marshall drops the mic when he answers very coldly, might I add, "Because I see you as a project, and I saw potential." PROJECT?!?! PROJECT?!?! I don't like Jackie like that, but I felt for her in that moment because to hear that from someone who, in the same breath, claims to love you has got to be heartbreaking.
And then he repeats the "project" talk a couple more times as if he can't see how hurtful being on the receiving end of a statement like that is. He brings it back eventually by saying it was the emotions talking and that he doesn't see her as a "project"; he sees her as having "limitless potential." It's too late, my g. For me, at least, because Jackie ends up embracing him tearfully after that back peddle. Do I think some things get said in heated situations that aren't always indicative of reality? Absolutely. But I also think sometimes truths come out when the filter and facade come down.
Courtesy of Netflix
With Marshall, I always wondered why he felt like he had to "save" Jackie. It turns out I got that wrong. Seeing her as a project might point to the fact that he wants to "fix" her. Jackie isn't perfect. None of us are. But it's interesting how he went from a nice guy lover boy to a puppeteer who thinks he can direct how someone is by his involvement in their lives. If someone grows from being in a relationship with you, beautiful, but it's not up to you to dictate how that comes to be. More importantly, you shouldn't look at your partner from a lens of, "If this change this, then..."
And even though I don't think he maliciously went into their romance with that at the forefront of his mind, some of what was exposed in that argument spoke volumes for how he views them. I don't care what reconciliation goes down between this couple. I stand firmly in my belief that they don't need to be together. Not right now. They both have work to do. Marshall needs to figure out why he sees partners as projects and the unhealthy cycle of that, and Jackie needs to be more ready to say "I do" ideally to a partner that she likes a little more versus tolerating them because they're "a good man."
Just in case things weren't messy enough, in true LIB fashion, an obligatory get-together happens later in episode 8 for Chelsea's birthday with couples as well as a few contestants who didn't make it out of the Pods, like Josh. Marshall arrives at Chelsea's birthday alone and says he doesn't know where he and Jackie stand.
Courtesy of Netflix
He later confides with Brett that Jackie wants him to be aggressive in the bedroom, which looks like slapping her around, and that's not him. My eyes were just widening in his conversation with Brett because that's not what I got from their argument, but perhaps they had a sidebar that was too hot for TV, and that's what sis meant by "boss up" and being "aggressive." Interesting.
He also relays to Brett that Jackie tells him she "fucks with him tough" but has never said she loves him. Wow. Just wow. It's two weeks away from the wedding, and this is the type of BS this couple is navigating. Despite what they have been going through, Jackie does show up to Chelsea's birthday party. And the messiness continues.
Josh is there. If you can remember from previous episodes, Josh was one of Jackie's connections that she had Marshall tell to step. She finally gets to put a face behind the name and voice. And Josh seems dead set on making it known how he felt about Jackie, that he was in love with her, etc. Just to warn y'all, Josh also gives cringe, but somehow I see somewhat of a vibe when he is standing next to Jackie and getting her to smile with his antics.
Surely enough, Josh steps to Marshall in a drunken and passive-aggressive manner to talk to him about loving the same woman, Jackie. He refers to himself as "Mr. Steal Yo Girl," and Marshall replies half-jokingly, "If you of all people can steal her from me, you can have her." It's honestly hard to read the conversation, and even Marshall seems confused after Josh leaves him alone.
Courtesy of Netflix
Josh's liquid courage leads him to a sidebar one-on-one conversation with Jackie. Josh then takes sabotage to new heights in this series by throwing Marshall under the bus to Jackie, first calling him "NBA Cryboy" and then revealing that Marshall cried with everyone he spoke to. The Micah-Kwame poolside conversation crawled so this one between Josh and Jackie could walk. Jackie seems to really be invested in what he was saying, which is interesting because I didn't think she'd fall for it, but it seems like she might be.
She even mentions not talking about emotions with him in the Pods, which suggests to me that that might have been a reason she chose Marshall over him. Marshall wore his heart on his sleeves, while it seems Jackie might not have been sure if Josh was serious or not despite the way they vibed. "We had a connection, but you never was, like, super deep with me, super open," she explains. Daaaaaamn. All this playing in people's faces this season, I tell you.
Once Marshall becomes privy to this conversation (if he ever does), I'm sure it won't be good.
New episodes of Love Is Blind are now streaming on Netflix.
Featured image courtesy of Netflix
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.”
Director of Content: Jasmine Grant
Campaign Manager: Chantal Gainous
Managing Editor: Sheriden Garrett
Creative Director/Executive Producer: Tracey Woods
Cover Designer: Tierra Taylor
Photographer: Ally Green
Photo Assistant: Avery Mulally
Digital Tech: Kim Tran
Video by Third and Sunset
DP & Editor: Sam Akinyele
2nd Camera: Skylar Smith
Camera Assistant: Charles Belcher
Stylist: Casey Billingsley
Hairstylist: DaVonte Blanton
Makeup Artist: Drini Marie
Production Assistants: Gade De Santana, Apu Gomes
Powered by: European Wax Center
15 Women Share Their Personal Hacks For Better Orgasms (And Sex Overall)
I’m pretty sure that I’m basically being redundant when I say that I write about sex quite a bit which means that I spend quite a bit of time doing research when it comes to sex-related intel, tips, and hacks. Yet I have to say that when it comes to getting some much-needed information in the realm of coitus, it’s been my clients (along with random interviews that I do with people because I don’t mind talking to complete strangers about intimate ish) who have garnered me some of the best takeaways.
Take orgasms, for example. Since I’m well aware of the fact that vaginal orgasms (especially) can be a real challenge for a lot of women, I’m constantly on the hunt for what can help to “bridge the gap” in that arena.
And that’s why I decided, this time, to forego science articles, vlogs, and online data and instead ask some women for myself about some of the things that they do to make having an orgasm, improving their orgasms, and their sexual experience overall something that is so much better for themselves.
So, grab yourself a light aphrodisiac snack (check out “Eat Your Way To Better Sex With Aphrodisiacs”) and dig into what 15 Black women told me gets them off, in a mighty big way, just about every time.
*As always, middle names have been used so that everyone can feel comfortable giving up the goods…umm, so to speak*
1. Rochelle. 37. Married for 11 Years.Giphy
“While y’all be out here talking about some kegels, what I’m into is my man giving me a hip massage. The key is to make sure you use some sort of massage oil that has menthol in it. Between the tingling of the menthol and him rubbing on your hips, not only is it really relaxing, but the ‘minty feel’ opens your body up so that once intercourse begins, you’re less tense, and that makes having an orgasm so much easier to do.”
2. Karmyn. 27. Single.
“Kiss him the way you want him to penetrate you. Literally, use your tongue as if it were a penis and move it in his mouth like you want him to move inside of you. The kissing will turn you both on, and if he follows your instructions, you should be able to orgasm with no problem."
"I learned this trick when I asked an ex of mine to explain what p — sy feels like, and he said the best way to explain it is what a tongue feels like inside of [the] mouth. He should’ve never told me that, boy! It’s been hell in these streets ever since!”
3. LaChelle. 43. In a Serious Relationship for Two Years.
“If you’re self-conscious about your body, get some lingerie that has cutouts in them. There is a lot of sexy stuff out here that can have you covering up the parts you’re not comfortable with while still giving him access to the ‘main events.’ My man loves one of my lace one-piece teddies that has no crotch, and it’s easier for me to orgasm because I’m not overthinking the entire time.”
4. Trinitee. 27. Married for One Year.Giphy
“We’ve only been married a year, but we weren’t exactly abstinent when we were just dating. So, we like to find ways to keep it fresh. One thing that we do is go ‘hotel hopping’ once a month. We find a new hotel and meet each other there. We try and do different hours of the day and come with a surprise in hand. Like he might bring a new sex toy, and I might have on some lingerie that he’s never seen before. Then we text each other beforehand to talk about the best part of the sex we had from the last hotel we visited. The anticipation is foreplay.”
5. Wren. 33. In a Serious Relationship for Six Years.
“What works for me is doing afterplay as foreplay. What I mean by that is, taking a nap naked with my boo before any sexual activity is one of my favorite things. Being up under him, especially if he’s spooning me, feels really good, sleeping together is very intimate, and — there’s something about being awakened outta my sleep with kisses on my neck and back that almost makes me want to cum right then and there.”
6. Bevalyn. 40. Living with Her Partner for Four Years.
“Get on your back and have him kneel in front of you."
"Put your legs over his, and when he penetrates you, ask him to use one of his hands to apply pressure on your pubic bone — the area right above your clitoris."
"As he’s gently pushing down while he’s inside of you…if you don’t cum from that, I don’t know what else to tell you, sis.”
7. Sophia. 38. In a Serious Relationship for Two Years.Giphy
“Shower sex can be a bit much, and I don’t trust a used jacuzzi. What we do is fill up our own inflatable pool and get it on inside of it. It’s perfect during the summer, late at night, because we have a tall fence. Just make sure that you bring some silicone lube to keep things slippery down there. An inflatable pool has been one of the best sex investments that we have ever made!”
8. Averie. 35. Single.
“Wanna know if your man is as into giving you head as he claims? Right after he goes down on you, ask him to immediately penetrate you. If he’s hard, he’s totally into it, and if he catches you soon enough, you’ll be in the perfect position to have a multiple orgasm. Don’t say I didn’t give you the ultimate cheat code.”
9. Victoria. 40. Married for 11 Years.
“Shellie, you actually got me on the cinnamon kick when I read one of your articles that talked about applying cinnamon oil to my clit before oral sex. Since [then], I’ve been doing some research, and it says that cinnamon is also an aphrodisiac because it stimulates blood flow. So, I’ll also drink cinnamon tea throughout the day or share a cinnamon cocktail with my husband. Works like a charm.”
Shellie here: She’s right. I did say that. LOL. You can read for yourself: “Here's How To Have Some Really Great Fall-Themed Sex.”
10. Daniela. 28. Engaged for Six Months.Giphy
“Ever been fingered backward? What I mean is, get on all fours and have him insert a finger or two from behind with his palm being flat. That way, the space in between your anus and your vagina will get a massage while your vagina gets penetrated. There’s nothing quite like it.”
11. Saven. 32. Single.
“Ice. Have him rub a little bit of ice on your clitoris and then immediately warm it up with his tongue. There is something about the drastic changes in temperature that gets me every time. And I mean, EVERY time.”
12. Ferynn. 30. Living with Her Partner for Five Years.
“I don’t know about you, but my man loves to put my legs up in the air. It was never really my favorite move until I read that behind the knees are an unsung erogenous zone. Whoever found that out was onto something because if he rubs back there while talking real crazy to me in a deep voice? Here I come…HERE I COME!”
13. Vivienne. 30. Engaged for One Year.Giphy
“Never underestimate the power of a foot massage. Just make sure that he applies pressure in the middle of your foot where your arch is. It instantly makes me wet. I asked my doctor why and he said that it’s probably because foot massages tend to increase blood flow, including where the vagina is. Either way, it’s always a good night if I get a foot massage first.”
14. Michelle. 24. Single.
“I’m a doula who owns my own exercise ball…for sex. When I first started showing couples the positions that women can get into to make labor easier, it got me to thinking that some of those positions could work for sex too — and they do."
"Something about the movement of the ball takes the pressure off of the back for both men and women. It also makes getting into certain positions a lot easier so that you can enjoy sex for a lot longer.”
15. Carol. 31. Married for Five Years.
“My husband and I have bets. If he wants me to make some of his favorite meals five days in a row, he’s gotta make me cum five times in a row. If I want him to get me something that’s not in our budget, I’ve gotta attempt one of his sex fantasies. We’re both competitive as hell, so it works for us because honestly, even when we ‘lose’…we win!”
Listen, I don’t know about y’all, but this was definitely worth my while. After all, ain’t nothin’ like some Black women who can speak from very-personal-and-up-close experience about what makes them happy — especially if it can increase the odds of bringing some sexual satisfaction your way too.
Speaking of, if you want to share the wealth, drop some of your own orgasm-related tips in the comment section. The more of us who can woosah on the regular, the better, chile. Straight up. #havefun #lotsofit
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Featured image by Giphy