The term selfie was coined, curated, and continued by the ever-innovative millennial. Sure, other generations were taking selfies with their disposable kodaks but we were the group to give this concept life. And while many of us mastered the necessary nooks, crannies, and angles to aim the target at in order to take the best of the best selfies, we're still mastering the art of the sexy selfies, er, thirst traps depending on who's asking and who's telling.
Sexy selfies are more distinguished, poised, sophisticated than your run of the mill nude pic. It leaves just enough to the imagination while also allowing the imagination of your target audience to get a sneak peak of what they're actually missing...at least for the moment.
Sexy selfies say "stay ready, so you don't have to get ready" should a nosey mofo somehow find their way into your private collection, in the case that you reserve them for a special someone (yourself included). Regular nudes scream "basic" and "amateur." At this grown age, we should all take pride in our sexy selfies, regardless of who they're intended for—if for no reason other than if I go out (because I've been tried), I'm going out with a lawsuit and hella pride. Nothing less.
Sexy selfies run the gamut when it comes to the attire. You can be as naked as you please, but as you'll know from your experience with regular selfies, it's the pose and angles everytime that put the sex in sexy.
While it does take patience, it's not impossible for any of us to pull off our own little boudoir photos. But, if you've ever seen your homegirl or fave influencer or whoever, post sexy selfies and wonder "how" — wonder no more. I reached out to the sexiest, most sensual selfie-taking people (myself included) that I know of for the best tips on how to execute and shoot your own sexy selfies.
Kiarra Sylvester, She/Her, Sex Educator
Courtesy of Kiarra Sylvester
"It's far from a perfect science and I'm far form being the perfect scientist but here's what I can say as the underdog of sexy selfies: Seduce yourself! View yourself from the same lens that a romantic partner might view you from — that's the type of self-love and unwavering lusty confidence that makes for a good selfie.
"Also, be committed to trying various angles! For a good one man shoot, I've gone as far as taping my phone to a ceiling fan for a flattering aerial view. As always, accessories are a girl's best friend! I, personally, have used everything from wigs, hand fans, and mirrors.
"Lastly, it's give and take. Give a little thigh, take a little thigh. Much like a game of operation you want to try moving all of your parts until you've got a match. The mind-fuckery of using a little thigh or arm wrap as a makeshift boa drives people wild, adding a touch of mystery."
Orixa, She/Her, Founder of Bad Girl, Good Human
Courtesy of Orixa
"I developed a level of comfort with my sensuality and self-portraiture by paying attention to myself and studying my reflection daily. Wherever I can see me, I pay attention. However, translating poses into stills isn't the greatest takeaway. It is emoting. Whatever you feel in that moment. Remaining fluent in your movement while in the act is what brings a sexy selfie home."
Tailah, She/Her, OnlyFans Entrepreneur
Courtesy of Tailah
"Taking a sexy selfie is not as simple as it looks. But over time, it gets easier. Like anything, you get better with practice. Knowing your angles is the first step. The saying 'one size fits all' does not apply to selfies angles. Find yours. You want to accent the sexy parts of you. Curves, curves, curves!
"Next step is to laugh. Literally, laugh out loud. Laughing at yourself will relax your face and body. It reminds you that it ain't that serious, it's just a selfie after all. Step three is the 'smize.' Yes, Tyra Banks' advice of smiling with your eyes is for real. They say 'the eyes are the key to the soul' or something like that. Look into that camera like it's the guy or girl of your dreams.
"These three steps should give you a good sexy selfie to work with. Don't skip the small details like moisturized lips, good lighting, an outfit that makes you feel like a snack, a clean space. But this is common freaking sense. All that smizing in front of a dirty bathroom sink? No baby."
Ev'Yan Whitney, They/She, Sexuality Doula and Sex Educator
Courtesy of Ev'Yan Whitney
"Two of my favorite go-to tricks for my best sensual selfies that I teach in my sensual self-portraiture classes are angles and flowers. Going into it, it's important that you're familiar with your body type, its curves, features, and how you're able to position it. I recommend doing some posing in the mirror and trying out different positions; this is a great way to get to know your body. Once you do that, you'll begin to find ways to angle your body to accentuate what you've got or boost what you don't.
"I'm a member of the small booty club but in this photo, you wouldn't know it based on the way I'm sitting—which, I'm squatting on my toes, arching my back, and strategically cropping the shot in such a way that makes my thighs and ass look bodacious (wearing thong underwear really helps too). I like to add flowers to all of my sensual selfies to bring some color and sensual softness to the shot. If all else fails, flowers are the perfect prop to play up, censor, or accentuate your sexy selfie. Buy yourself a bouquet and have fun exploring the ways you can wear flowers like an accessory."
Kendra, She/Her, Sex Educator
Courtesy of Kendra
"Personally, I like to tell stories with my selfies. So my first piece of advice to the selfie-taker is, ask yourself what you're trying to say or share through your selfie: is it just a 'look at me because I'm hot' pic? 'Decipher my brooding eyes' pic? WHAT if anything do you want your viewers to pick up on?
"Secondly, choose your setting. Whether it's predetermined or an impromptu decision, setting can add or take away from your photo. Decorate accordingly. This entails moving items and/or furniture around. Choose your lighting. Are you working with superficial light or those 8 a.m. rays coming through your window?
"Decide if the photo should be touched up or untouched (i.e filters, Photoshop, etc). There's no shame in editing. Filters aren't always about making blemishes magically disappear. You can add some shimmer here or there, fade a background, or blur some parts."
Allie J, She/Her, Hair Stylist and Model
Courtesy of Allie J
"When taking sexy selfies, I always make sure that I smell tasty. Smelling tasty makes me feel good and gets me hype for pictures. Knowing your angles is important, whether you're taking a picture of just your *assets*, your silhouette or just your face. For example, for my baby booty girls, the best angle is having the camera almost angled under it, making it look more juicy.
"Lastly, lighting is key for creating whatever mood you're in or trying to create. Dim light for some sultry vibes, different color LED lights for artsy vibes, or just natural golden hour for a flawless face/body pic. But the most important tip is confidence, confidence yields the best pics because the energy shines through!"
Sheriden Chanel, She/Her, Managing Editor of xoNecole and Podcast Host
Courtesy of Sheriden Chanel
"First and foremost, I take photos of myself for me. No matter what state I am in, clothed, unclothed, whether it makes it to the 'gram or just to my man's phone, I am operating from a space where I feel beautiful and connected deeply to myself. My self-portraits are one of the ways I make love to me and remind myself I am worthy of adoration. Sexy selfies definitely take that up a notch (or several) by reminding myself that I am also a sexual being. Moreover, I can tap into those sensual and sexual sides of myself without penetration, without sex, or without a partner.
"For me, it's all about good lighting and the mindset. My best tips for taking a sexy selfie is to first do something that makes you feel connected to your body. For me, that's dancing. I am reminded of hips, of softness, of the strength and the subtle fragility of my womanhood. I like capturing myself after those moments. I find a window to act as my source of light and light sheen of sweat that covers me adds to my glow. And then it's about seduction. Connect with the camera but also connect with your body. Accentuate your favorite parts of your body and find beauty in the simple things: displayed shoulders, the expanse of your back, exposed tattoos that feel like whispered secrets, the curve of your peach, parted lips, and hair.
"I have other photos, but perhaps this is the one that felt safest for work to me to share..."
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Featured image courtesy of Ev'Yan Whitney
Motor City native, Atlanta living. Sagittarius. Writer. Sexpert. Into all things magical, mystical, and unknown. I'll try anything at least once but you knew that the moment I revealed that I was a Sag.
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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Queen Latifah On Her Journey To Self-Acceptance: 'I've Been Trying To Maintain My Freedom To Be Me'
Actress and rapper Dana "Queen Latifah" Owens is defying societal standards by refusing to be confined in a box regarding her personal and professional life.
Owens, who has been a part of the entertainment industry for over three decades, is widely recognized for her empowering songs and the variety of acting roles she has obtained throughout her career, among other things. The list includes Living Single, Set It Off, Chicago --with which she earned an Oscar nomination-- Just Wright, Girls Trip, and most recently, The Equalizer series on CBS.
Owens is also very tight-lipped about her personal life. However, in 2021, The Last Holiday actress showed appreciation to Eboni Nichols, who is reportedly her partner, and their son Rebel after receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award.Since then, Owens has revealed why she doesn't want to be defined as anything but herself and how she maintains her sense of freedom. In a resurfaced video from theGrio Awards, Owens opened up about those topics when she accepted the Television Icon Award for her past contributions
In a clip uploaded on theGrio's Instagram account last week, Owens explained that she often had to fight to be herself because "the world" kept trying to put her in a box based on what society thought a woman should be.
"My whole life, I feel like I've been trying to maintain my freedom to be me. And the world is trying to put these things on me to stop me from being who I am," she said.
Further into the speech, Owens explained that although many would have their own opinion about her from what the media spews out, she would continue to be herself by wearing "beautiful gowns and dresses," playing in the dirt, participating in basketball games with men and loving who she loves because that's what makes her happy.
The Beauty Shop star also added that despite her celebrity status, she would continue to show respect for others because that's who she is as a person and how she was raised.
"So I wear these beautiful gowns and dresses because I want to because that's part of me. I play in the dirt. I play basketball with the boys because that's me,” she stated. "I love who I love because that's me. I love all of you who have supported me. I give you your respect. I don't have to be above you because that's me. I know me."
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Feature image by Mike Marsland/WireImage