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Courtesy of Mike Johnson

'The Bachelorette' Alum Mike Johnson Is Doing The Inner Work For A Better Love

"I'm making the love that I want."

#xoMan

What does it take to find the love you want? To attract the love you want, to make the love you truly want to experience in this lifetime? Well, former Bachelorette star Mike Johnson says it starts with doing the inner work FIRST. And by inner work, he means rewriting and reflecting on the internal stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and using them as a springboard to attract the life and love that we deserve. And if you need help tapping into that side of yourself, look no further than his debut book, aptly entitled Making the Love You Want.

In it, the Texas native provides a toolbox for all those looking to genuinely level up their lives from the inside out through the practice of self-love. "I just want it to be a vessel that can help people with the issues that they're going through and the things that they're facing in life," he tells xoNecole in our midday chat. "By reading it, you'll be able to obliterate, and I mean, completely destroy those self-limiting beliefs. You will be able to have the courage and the strength to propel yourself to the next level of your life."

We recently sat down the 32-year-old self-love sage to talk about personal growth, romantic love, and why it's important for Black men to be vulnerable.

*Some answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.

xoNecole: In your book, you really harp on doing the inner work, particularly in the areas of self-love and self-worth. Personally, I tend to think self-worth is an inside job.

Mike Johnson: It absolutely is, it's in the name.

For Black men in particular, how can they continue to cultivate that sense of self-awareness?

[I think it's in] the strength that we have, the strength that we are blessed with and the strength that society makes us have. I think that we can take some of that strength and be vulnerable as well, because it does absolutely take strength to be vulnerable. And I feel that once we can see the strength, meaning vulnerability, there's nothing that we can't do. It's more of a mindset--it's funny because when I think of this topic, I think of Eminem and 8 Mile. If you remember when he did the rap battle, he said everything negative against himself, he put it all out there. And once you put everything out there, no one could combat you. It's already out there. So, I think that's something that we have to utilize to our advantage.

"I think that we can take some of that strength and be vulnerable as well, because it does absolutely take strength to be vulnerable. And I feel that once we can see the strength, meaning vulnerability, there's nothing that we can't do."

Why do you think it’s so hard for Black men to have conversations around self-love and personal growth?

I wouldn't say that it's hard. It's just maybe something that isn't as seen in mainstream media. And I can speak to why I think that is. I feel that in our community, we put on a tough face at times but I do want to say that the color of our skin doesn't dictate our emotional levels. I feel that our environments do. And we adapt to the environment to make sure that we survive out of it. I think people like Charlamagne are doing a wonderful job of spearheading how to get out of those environments, Derrick Jaxn on Instagram, someone like myself--since I'm trying to be in that realm as well. And if something is popular, more people want to be able to do it as well.

When men start to realize that, you know, it's OK for us to be vulnerable, it's OK to talk about real issues and you're not considered a victim--I think that people relate to that more. I mean, the reason some of our biggest musical artists are so big is because they have a creative way of getting out their emotions and they speak on what they're going through, through songs.

You seem to be a very optimistic guy.  Every time I come across you on Instagram, you always seem to have a smile on your face. So I wanna know, is a positive outlook a deal-breaker for you when it comes to relationships?

Not having a positive outlook, yeah. If she doesn't have a positive outlook--I don't care how fine she is. I don't care how much money. I don't really care, if you [are] a Negative Nancy, I'm not with you. I am extremely strong with that. If you're just a negative-thinking individual, I'm not going to let your negativity interrupt my energy. It's too precious.

"If you're just a negative-thinking individual, I'm not going to let your negativity interrupt my energy. It's too precious."

Courtesy of Mike Johnson

How has your time on ‘The Bachelorette’ or ‘Bachelor In Paradise’ influenced what traits you now look for in a potential partner?

No, it hasn't changed whatsoever. I still know the type of woman that I love and adore, and quite honestly with me on TV-- it doesn't change my outlook because I was able to attract the woman that I like already. The TV doesn't do anything when it comes to dating, except for if you want to be superficial and get a certain type of chick, then you can do that. But my homies still know back in the day, when I was a teenager, we would call Walmart, Club Walmart. And if I go to Walmart to this day and I see somebody that I'm into, she could be the cashier. I don't care.

So, no TV doesn't do anything. All the TV does when it comes to dating is people feel as if they know exactly what you like. I know you didn't ask the question, but when I talked to my homies about when Black women say that I don't like Black women--I'm like, 'Why is it that way?' That's hard for me to hear because that's a damn lie. My ex was Black. And if the Bachelorette was a Black woman, no Black woman would say that. Right? So that's the only thing that actually hurts me, if I can honestly be transparent about that. That hurts my heart because I'm like, 'Hey, I love y'all period.'

Who is Mike Johnson as a romantic partner?

Mike Johnson is a loving partner. I'm the guy that your girlfriends hate because you are going to be saying all of these positive things and they don't have a good man like that (laughs). I would say that I'm pretty damn good at relationships. I definitely have no problem with someone putting me in the check but if they do something crazy too, I'm going to let them know. I don't like that either. I'm definitely someone that will motivate you just by you just watching how I act and how I move in life. I have goals all the time and so that will rub off on my partner. And I am definitely a sexual being.

Speaking of, kind of. Do you know your love languages and if so, what are they?

Yeah. So at first, before I read the book by Gary Chapman--amazing book-- I thought my love language was physical touch. But after reading the book, doing the quizzes, I ended up going deeper and it turns out my love language is actually quality time. But my dialect is quality communication. So when you speak to me, tell me what your heart is telling you, tell me your thoughts, be transparent with me, be loyal to me, that brings that trust like nothing else.

Are you single? How would you like for a woman to approach you now?

Oh wow. Well, I will say I am dating someone right now. I'm making a love that I want.

Shameless plug. Lastly, what's one thing you know now to be true about love?

One thing I know to be true about love. If you're loyal to a person, that person is loyal to you, if you do everything to make that individual happy, and if you have an open communication, open dialogue--there's nothing that you guys can't get through.

Making the Love You Want is available now, wherever books are sold. And to keep up with Mike, be sure to connect with him on Instagram.

Featured image courtesy of Mike Johnson

Mental health awareness is at an all-time high with many of us seeking self-improvement and healing with the support of therapists. Tucked away in cozy offices, or in the comfort of our own homes, millions of women receive the tools needed to navigate our emotions, relate to those around us, or simply exist in a judgment-free space.

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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