Grammy-award-winning singer and songwriter, Melanie Fiona says that her story with her husband, fellow singer, and songwriter, Jared Cotter is her favorite love story. Describing it as having all the makings of a romantic comedy, their relationship involves “real introspective lessons of growth and self-awareness.” Following a year and a half of doing intense and intentional, spiritual work, the Canadian native decided that it was time to meet her person. What she didn’t know was that on her way to a songwriting retreat in the Caribbean, she would meet Jared.
They began dating shortly after returning to New York. However, less than a year into their relationship, Melanie made the difficult decision to break up with Jared, a decision she didn’t want to make but needed to so that Jared could be sure of where he wanted to be. Six months into their break-up, Jared made his way back to Melanie more evolved and confident in how he wanted to show up for her and what she meant for him in his life.
Since then, the two have welcomed two children, gotten married, and recently shared their love story on OWN’s Black Love. In this exclusive with xoNecole, Melanie Fiona shares what she did to manifest Jared, why Black women should stop holding onto potential, and how their six-month break shifted her and Jared’s relationship dynamic.
xoNecole: After a year and a half of not dating, what were some areas you focused on and things you did to manifest Jared?
Melanie Fiona: I think the main thing that I did was say it out loud. And I said it to one of my very good friends. I said it in such a way that I woke up and was very clear about it. Once I was clear, my body, my life, and my mind began preparing for it. I had already stopped dating and sharing my body with men who were not committed partners to me. I stopped going on dates just to fill my time with company and casual conversation. I told myself that I wasn’t going to pick up the phone and call that ‘on reserve’ dude just to have a conversation because I was bored or sad or lonely.
I started valuing my time, my energy, my body, my love, my generosity, and grace for myself more than ever. I realized that I was not preserving myself for me or who deserved me. And so the minute I started operating from that space, I woke up and was ready to meet someone. I said it so clearly and just operated from a space of openness and positivity and self-love and self-value.
Courtesy of Melanie Fiona
"I started valuing my time, my energy, my body, my love, my generosity, and grace for myself more than ever. I realized that I was not preserving myself for me or who deserved me. And so the minute I started operating from that space, I woke up and was ready to meet someone."
My mantra for that year was “Happy, Healthy, Creative.” And it guided me in every area of my life, even when it came to working. Because I had these affirmative words, I had this clear direction of where I saw myself going. And I think the universe or God heard me and saw that I was doing the work and willing to set boundaries for myself with other people. I was living an obedient life that would create space for healthy love and healthy relationships and happiness to come in beautiful, creative opportunities.
Any opportunity that fit in that “Happy, Healthy, Creative” box, I was going for it. And so because the opportunity came up to do this camp on this island, that checked all of my affirmative boxes, I went for it. I had no fear. And lo and behold, that’s where I met Jared.
xoN: Did you feel that Jared was your person when you met him?
MF: I didn’t feel that he was my person, but I was taken aback by the fact that he was the first person that I could be myself with since my previous serious relationship. There were no red flags and I didn’t feel like I was playing a game of deciphering what someone says or means. Jared reminded me what it was to be authentically safe with someone. As we spent more time together, I knew there was something very important about our meeting and I knew that he could be that person.
But I also recognize that holding on to potential is a very dangerous thing for women. We see this potential of who someone could be, and we want to hold on to it and fix it and look for ways to help someone be that for us. I've done that before, but this time, I recognized that he was the person for me, but he needed to know he was the person for me. He needed to see that. I knew that Jared knew I was his person. There's no doubt about it. If you talk to him, he will tell you. But he didn't have the confidence to know that he was the one for me and that's the difference.
Courtesy of Melanie Fiona
"I knew that Jared knew I was his person. There's no doubt about it. If you talk to him, he will tell you. But he didn't have the confidence to know that he was the one for me and that's the difference."
I'll say that it didn't happen instantaneously, but once everything started going. I was like, “Oh no, this is him.” And so when I had to break up with him, it was the hardest breakup I think I've ever had. I had never released someone in love. I had always broken up with somebody due to something tumultuous or dramatic or at a breaking point. I had done so much spiritual work to understand what healthy attachments were and understood that if things are truly meant to be they will be. But I was sending away my person.
I did the work, I was in the right place. I knew what we shared. I knew what we had been through. But I had to let him go because his learning process couldn’t be at the expense of my feelings and he understood that. It was the biggest act of selflessness and self-love at the same time. But I had an odd sense of peace and trusted that I was making the best decision for me.
However, deep down inside, I was hoping that we would always come back.
xoN: Did you ever have any doubts that the two of you wouldn’t find your way back?
MF: It's interesting. I feel like I had closed the door but I knew that I had a crack in it for Jared. I knew inside that I would leave this door open for him. I was like if he comes back and he comes back right, this door is open for him. It was never shut completely.
I always knew that there was more for our story. I didn't know how or when it would present itself, but I'm very grateful that it was only six months. On the outside, I had to move and live and treat him and the whole situation–even amongst our mutual friends–like we were moving on. But on the inside, I knew there was more.
xoN: You previously said that as women we sometimes hold on to potential or look for ways to fix someone. Why would you say that it is important for women to let go of potential and stand firm in their boundaries in relationships?
MF: I think that Black women have enough to fight with every day for their existence. Just to exist as a strong, beautiful, Black, intelligent, established woman. As Black women, we go through so much individually and I feel like you have to set boundaries for yourself to honor your value when you know what you have to offer.
Holding on to potential or trying to fix it comes from a place of fear. I think it’s a bit of trauma response and feeling like you can't or won’t do any better. Sometimes as Black women, we take what we can get and [don't] get upset. Also, I just think Black women in general are nurturers. We have this insane and beautiful ability to come in and fix and nurture and gather and just want to take care of people. And it's depleted us over time. We see it in our mothers and our grandmothers and hear how tired they are at the end of the day from doing so much.
Courtesy of Melanie Fiona
"As Black women, we need to honor the fact that that is our superpower. That we can come in and fix and help but we can't do it in spaces that deplete us or that abuse us or take advantage of us. They have to be healthy, reciprocated environments where we're growing together. It can't be at the expense of our emotions."
I think that as Black women, we need to preserve what we know is our light and our power, and we need to always make sure that everyone sees us for that, honors it, and doesn’t take advantage of it. Because some of these dudes also want to be taken care of because of what they go through daily and are looking for somebody to come and help them through it.
As Black women, we need to honor the fact that that is our superpower. That we can come in and fix and help but we can't do it in spaces that deplete us or that abuse us or take advantage of us. They have to be healthy, reciprocated environments where we're growing together. It can't be at the expense of our emotions. It cannot be at the expense of our feelings and our happiness in the situation.
xoN: How did you come to know what your superpower was as far as what you brought to your relationship?
MF: It came through spiritual work. Through understanding the higher vibrational version of myself, and knowing that I'm very powerful with my words. I'm very powerful with my love. I can change things. I can make things happen for myself when operating from a place of self-love because it allows you to just know what is working within that vibration or is not. It comes with work, it comes from really knowing yourself and understanding. Are you ignoring what your inner voice is screaming at you right now? Or are you letting it lead and trusting it and are you going with yourself?
I knew that when there was high vibration because I could feel the difference. I could see the difference in myself. I knew that I had pure love to offer someone because I had done the work for myself. And I was in a place to do so.
Courtesy of Melanie Fiona
"I used to tell Jared that I expected exceptional love because that was what I had to offer. I know that the place in which I like to operate in love may not necessarily fit everyone's parameters or description of what a healthy relationship looks like, but I know what it looks like for me and it feels like going above the norm."
I used to tell Jared that I expected exceptional love because that was what I had to offer. I know that the place in which I like to operate in love may not necessarily fit everyone's parameters or description of what a healthy relationship looks like, but I know what it looks like for me and it feels like going above the norm. It feels it's going above standard and expected. It operates a little bit higher, a little bit more mindful. It operates a little bit more intentionally. And that's kind of the way that I feel like I've found my superpowers in all areas of my life.
xoN: Given everything that you and Jared have gone through in your relationship as far as breaking up and getting back together, how has that changed the dynamic within your relationship and how do you intend on using that to set an example for your children?
MF: The thing that we hold on to is that we made a choice. We chose to be here. We didn't get thrown into the situation. We made an absolute mindful choice to choose one another. And that's the thing that I hope more people start to think about in their relationships. By making that choice, the foundation of our union, every other choice has to honor that one. That's how we navigate our relationship now.
Courtesy of Melanie Fiona
"We chose to be here. We didn't get thrown into the situation. We made an absolute mindful choice to choose one another. By making that choice, the foundation of our union, every other choice has to honor that one. That's how we navigate our relationship now."
My husband and I are very affectionate. We love each other. And my son sees that. But the other day, he said something about getting married. I asked him if he knew what it meant to be married and he paused and said, “To be happy.” Jared, we looked at each other, and I realized we were doing it right because our six-year-old could define marriage. And that’s the goal.
I think most parents want their kids to feel that their union is healthy and happy and loving. And that was one of those confirmations along the way that reminded me we were doing something right. But again, we intentionally chose one another. And we take our actions in the way that we lived individually and together to honor that choice.
For more of Melanie, follow her on Instagram @melaniefiona.
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This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Russell and Nina Westbrook are one of those low-key, unproblematic couples we don’t talk about enough. They met in college and got married in 2015. They also have a beautiful family with three kids. While Russell is an NBA star, Nina is a licensed family and marriage therapist and a mental health advocate.
She recently launched the podcast The Relationship Chronicles with Nina Westbrook, and in the latest episode, she had none other than her husband on as a guest. The college sweethearts dived into important topics from marriage to children and how they navigate it all.
One of the topics they touched on was dealing with resentment in your relationship. The former MVP highlighted the sacrifices his wife has had to make in order for him to pursue a career in the NBA, and that’s why it’s also important for him to support his wife whenever he can.
“For me is respecting and understanding what your partner do and the time it takes,” Russell said. “Not kind of downplaying what they do, understanding the time and energy and effort they're doing to make sure whether it’s their job or making sure home is taken care of, and understanding that, I think that is the challenge of not being resentful.”
Nina agreed and also shared her thoughts on resentment. According to her, one of the best things couples should do is have their own identity and passions outside of the relationship in an effort to be fulfilled.
“I also think that when you’re in a relationship, that’s why it’s so important that each individual kinda pursue their own passions and follow their own dreams as I feel like it only becomes or leads to resentment when one person is not feeling fulfilled in what they're doing in their lives,” she explained.
“And so, they will start to look at the other partner who’s happy or excelling or promoting or moving along in their journey, then they’re left feeling stuck like they sacrificed themselves, their happiness, their career, their future and have not pursued it in the name of the relationship or their partner. So, it’s so much easier to avoid those feelings of resentment when you’re each equally pursuing your passions.”
The couple has many passions that they work on together and separately. Outside of basketball and his family, Russell has become known for his eclectic style and started the fashion brand Honor The Gift. Nina has her podcast, and she also started the mental health website Bene. Together, they run the Why Not? Foundation, which works with kids in underserved communities.
“I’m a firm believer that one person can’t be everything to you, so you have to sort of seek out those different friendships or groups or hobbies or activities that help to fulfill you,” Nina concluded.
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