Happy August, babes! We've finally closed out that wild ass eclipse season and Mercury retrograde madness just in time to end our hot girl summer on a high note.
Most of the action this month takes place in magnanimous Leo before we transition into ambitious Virgo motivating us to finish out the Summer strong so we can reap the blessings of the harvest season this Fall. Check out your monthly horoscope below to see what awesomeness August has in store for you!
Aries and Aries Rising
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The cosmos is showering you with blessings this month as Jupiter, the benevolent, goes direct on the 11th opening up new opportunities for you that allow you to flex your innate leadership qualities. You may be playing the role of teacher, mentor, or guru to people near and far and this transit could even bring you the gift of adding a new stamp to your passport. Mercury moves into Leo on the same day, making your communication even more feisty than usual. When it comes to romance and dating, be mindful of your aggression which may be better suited for a high intensity workout that could definitely take place behind closed doors.
Your creativity is at a peak this month and you're likely to attract tons of attention for simply expressing the greatness of who you are.
Uranus goes retro on the 11th as well, giving you the chance to review some of your long-term financial goals and to revise accordingly. This transit will help you figure out how to make money by doing more of what you love and value. On the 15th, the Full Moon illuminates your friend circle and social networks. This can result in the dissolution of certain bonds that give you the freedom to connect with new people that are more in alignment with your vision. Virgo moves into Mars on the 18th and you're feeling motivated to whip your body into shape. By the end of the month, the Sun, Mercury and New Moon in Virgo are setting you up for some much-needed changes in your daily routines that are more beneficial for your mental and physical well-being.
Taurus and Taurus Rising
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The month begins with Jupiter ushering in the blessings when it comes to your finances. You've got the potential to strike gold with some back taxes, a credit boost, or even just some extra support from a benefactor. On the 11th, Mercury moves into Leo, making you the center of attention amongst your household. Be mindful of stirring up drama amongst your family at this time and use your influence to uplift your loved ones instead. Uranus begins its retrograde in your sign and the next several months is taking you through a deep, inner metamorphosis regarding your personal values. It's time to free yourself from any limited conceptions of who you've known yourself to be until now. On the 15th, the Full Moon brings some good news regarding your career achievements. If you're feeling unfulfilled within your current job, you may decide to call it quits in pursuit of something more meaningful. Mars moves into Virgo on the 18th, helping you to buckle down on those creative projects.
Push past those dreaded perfectionist tendencies and give yourself a chance to really express yourself. Your voice, and art, matters but it's up to you to validate it!
When it comes to love, you may be feeling more pressured to get serious and with Venus moving into Virgo on the 21st, you've got the potential to attract exactly what you want. The Sun moves into your sister sign on the 23rd, giving you a boost of energy and the clarity needed to break through any creative blocks you've been experiencing. With Mercury moving into this same part of your chart on the 29th, spending a little extra time with your munchkins is important. If you're interested in starting a family, this is a great time to talk with your OBGYN to get you on a fertility plan for a healthy, successful pregnancy. The New Moon in Virgo on the 30th can be a potent time to plant the seed (if you know what I mean). Even if the idea of children makes you gag, this lunation invites you to get in touch with your own inner child. Loosen up and have some fun! Life doesn't always have to be so serious.
Gemini and Gemini Rising
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Jupiter, the benevolent, is coming through with the blessings when he goes direct on the 11th, bringing you good fortune in your relationships, whether it be a significant romantic connection or key business partnerships. Do I hear wedding bells? Mercury moves into Leo the same day and you're making quite the impression on your social media platforms and with your gift of gab. Give me drama, dahling (not the Love & Hip-Hop kind but more so the Broadway kind of flair). Uranus goes retro on the 11th as well, giving you the chance to do the inner work that will liberate you from karmic contracts that impede on your flow of wealth. It's time to clean up your subconscious money programming, my love. On the 15th, the Full Moon in Aquarius places you in the spotlight as a teacher or guru of some sort.
Stay humble and keep in mind that with great power comes great responsibility.
On the 18th, Mars moves into Virgo, motivating you to get organized in your home. With Venus following closely behind on the 21st, you and bae will prefer the comfort of your sanctuary versus being out and about. This could also be a time of discussing family planning for those of you ready to take that step. The Sun moving into Virgo on the 23rd has you hyper-focused on your family. Avoid being overly critical of your loved ones, Gemmie. We all have our imperfections—even you. As Mercury moves into Virgo on the 29th, you've got the opportunity to create more healthy bonds amongst your family and the New Moon on the 30th marks a much-needed fresh start when it comes to the way you relate to them. Some of you could even find yourselves shacking up with your significant other or relocating around this time due to an expansion of your family.
Cancer and Cancer Rising
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You finally made it through that hectic eclipse season. Your birthday season likely brought a lot of twists and turns along with your celebration of another year of life. If you feel like you got the short end of the stick last month, Jupiter is here to make up for it when it comes to your health, daily work, and routines. Your schedule should be smoothing out a lot more with this benevolent planet going direct. Some of you may be in for some amazing new work opportunities, or an adjustment in your current routine, that will benefit your overall well-being. Mercury moves into Leo on the 11th as well and you're extremely dynamic when it comes to bringing in the cash. Don't be afraid to strut your stuff! Uranus goes retrograde on the same day, giving you a chance to reevaluate your long-term goals. Are they truly in alignment with what you love and value?
On the 15th, the Full Moon helps you break through psychological trauma or intimacy issues that get in your way of feeling connected to the collective.
Mars moves into Virgo on the 18th, motivating you to connect with your sibling(s), friends, and local community. Acts of service are favored during this time. In what ways can you give back to these groups of people? On the 21st, Venus moves into Virgo and you could be attracting someone that is enamored with your intellect. Online dating is favorable during this transit. Once the Sun moves into Virgo on the 23rd, you may consider planning a short distance trip to end the Summer on high note. Mercury moving into Virgo on the 29th encourages you to get that oil change before hitting the road. The month winds down with a New Moon in Virgo inviting you to communicate your ideas in new ways. Maybe it's time to start that blog or YouTube channel to share your wealth of wisdom as an act of service to others.
Leo and Leo Rising
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Happy birthday, superstar! Jupiter is showering you with blessings once it goes direct on the 11th, enhancing your world with even more romance, adventure, and creativity. Mercury moves into your sign on the same day, making you the social butterfly of the season. Your dynamic energy is irresistible at this time, so use it to your advantage to make your birthday wishes come true. On the same day, Uranus goes retrograde, giving you the opportunity to reassess your career path and whether it's truly in alignment with what you personally value. Don't be surprised if you find yourself embarking on a new path once this transit is all said and done. On the 15th, the Full Moon in Aquarius highlights a committed partnership or business connection. However, some of you may be realizing that a key partnership no longer meshes with your long-term goals which could result in a separation.
On the 18th, Mars moves into Virgo bringing your focus to finances. This is a good time to reassess your budget and spending habits.
With Venus moving into this part of your chart shortly after, you could be on the receiving end of some extra cash or gifts. When it comes to love, attracting a partner with more long-term potential is possible during this transit. On the 23rd, the Sun moves into Virgo which could have you feeling a little raw and exposed due to you being overly critical of yourself. Be easy on yourself, mamí. Mercury moving into Virgo encourages you to use those positive affirmations to counteract the negative self-talk. The month closes out with a New Moon on the 30th that can bring in a new money-making opportunity for you that may alter your daily routine and your bank account.
Virgo and Virgo Rising
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Happy (early) birthday, Goddess! Jupiter is gifting you in the area of home and family once he goes direct on the 11th. Some of you may be relocating or even expanding your family in the months ahead. Don't forget to thank your ancestors as they play a big role in the blessings you're receiving during this transit. Mercury moves into Leo on the same day, enlivening your dream world with clues as to how you can tap into your star potential. You may even experience some past life recall of your life as a former entertainer which will ultimately help you embody that energy in this current lifetime if you choose. Uranus goes retrograde on the 11th as well and you're headed back to school (or diving deep into self-study on topics of interest).
It's time to expand your wisdom about the ideologies you value the most.
On the 18th, Mars moves into your sign and you're feeling more motivated than ever before. It's time to take the world by storm! Venus moves into your sign on the 21st, making you even more attractive than usual. Expect to be showered with attention, gifts, and money during this transit. If you want to switch up your look at all, this is a favorable time for a makeover. Virgo season officially begins on the 23rd and the world essentially revolves around you for the next month. Mercury moving into your sign on the 29th makes you the social butterfly of the zodiac at this time. Get out there and mingle. You could be meeting some important movers and shakers during this transit. On the 30th, the month winds down with a New Moon in your sign, inviting you to set an intention for what you'd like to accomplish in the year ahead.
Libra and Libra Rising
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Jupiter is bringing in the blessings once he goes direct on the 11th in a part of your chart having to do with communication, transportation, and short-distance travel. This energy is also ripe with breakthrough for any writers or speakers wanting to get themselves out there more. Mercury moves into Leo on the same day, helping you boost your social media presence. Shine bright, superstar! On the same day, Uranus begins its retrograde, inviting you to transform your inner psychological landscape as it pertains to your self-worth and money mindset. On the 15th, the Full Moon in Aquarius illuminates the world of romance, creativity, and adventure. You may find yourself connecting with someone who has a similar vision to yours when it comes to the long-term goals you want to accomplish.
Meeting someone who shares the same humanitarian interests as you is likely. This is also a great time to drop any creative projects you've been working on behind the scenes.
On the 18th, Mars moves into Virgo, giving you the motivation to clean up bad habits that interfere with your ambitions. It's time to put your inner critic in its place, babe. Venus follows shortly behind on the 21st and love matters take a more quiet approach. Spending time in the bedroom with bae will be more preferred during this transit. With Mercury in Virgo as well, the pillow talk will be even more stimulating than usual. By the end of the month, the Sun and the Moon are cozying up in the sky, inviting you to set some intentions that will help you implement better habits and routines into your life that will elevate the health of your mind and body.
Scorpio and Scorpio Rising
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The month opens up with Jupiter, the benevolent, going direct on the 11th which has the potential of bringing in some extra cash for you. If you've been looking for new ways to increase your flow of income, a fortunate opportunity could be knocking on your doorstep in the weeks to come. Mercury moves into Leo on the same day, boosting your presence amongst your work environment. You're making quite an impression on some really important people who are recognizing your ability to lead and make shit happen.
On the same day, Uranus goes retrograde, giving you the opportunity to reassess your relationship values. Are your relationships a reflection of your self-worth?
On the 18th, Mars moves into Virgo, bringing your attention to friends and social networking. With Venus moving into this part of your chart as well, you may be attracting someone from your friend circle. If you're single and open to meeting someone, sign up to volunteer with a local organization or humanitarian cause. The Sun moves into Virgo on the 23rd, getting you hyper-focused on those long-term goals of yours. Mercury moves into this part of your chart on the 29th, helping you get organized when it comes to achieving those big hopes and dreams of yours. Just watch out for being overly critical of yourself and the process. Believe in yourself! You wouldn't have the vision if it wasn't meant to be a reality.
Sagittarius and Sagittarius Rising
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Your ruling planet is bringing in the blessings, Saggie. Jupiter is finally going direct on the 11th, so expect a windfall of expansion and abundance in at least one area of your life. Mercury moves into Leo on the same day, inspiring you through international travel and foreign affairs. This is also a great time to publish any written work of yours. Some of you may even consider going back to school to expand your knowledge or dive deeper into self-study about esoteric wisdom. Uranus goes retrograde on the same day, giving you the opportunity to revamp your routines. Ask yourself if your habits really add value to your life. If not, it's time to make the cut. On the 15th, the Full Moon in Aquarius brings up an important conversation or opportunity for you to express your truth.
On the 18th, Mars moves into Virgo, getting you motivated to make some boss moves when it comes to your career.
Watch out for workplace romances while Venus transits through this part of your chart. You may find yourself attracting, or attracted to, someone in a position of power and influence. Virgo season officially begins when the sun moves into this perfectionist zodiac sign on the 23rd, helping you dot your i's and cross your t's when it comes to moving up the social ladder within your professional world. With Mercury moving into Virgo on the 29th, you've got the gift of gab and you're making quite the impression on your boss or someone that is interested in hiring you. The month winds down with a New Moon in Virgo on the 30th, bringing in that job opportunity or promotion you've been waiting on.
Capricorn and Capricorn Rising
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Your spiritual awareness gets a whole lot more expansive this month with Jupiter going direct on the 11th. Say goodbye to that past-life karma and hello to a more liberating experience. Mercury moves into Leo on the 11th, helping you to boldly conquer some of your inner demons. Keep in mind that you don't have to go at this alone and confiding in a professional wouldn't be the worst thing around this time. Uranus goes retrograde on the same day, giving you a chance to reevaluate whether your dating prospects are a reflection of your values. This is also a good time to give voice to your inner child and heal any self-esteem issues that inhibit your personal expression. On the 15th, the Full Moon in Aquarius brings your attention to money matters. This culminating energy can represent an ending in one source of income but trust that something more abundant is coming in for you.
Use the power of social media and networking to create new opportunities for yourself.
On the 18th, Mars moves into Virgo and your wanderlust is insatiable. This is a good time to plan an international voyage or learn more about another culture. Venus moving into this part of your chart on the 21st could have you attracting someone from a far away land. The Sun moves into Virgo on the 23rd, helping you get more organized when it comes to your research and studies. With Mercury moving into this part of your chart on the 29th, it's a good idea to connect with like-minded individuals to reinforce what you're learning. This is also an opportune time to publish that think piece or book you've been working on. The month winds down with a New Moon in Virgo, inviting you to connect with a new teacher or guide (possibly even a spirit guide) that will help you transcend to a higher level of consciousness.
Aquarius and Aquarius Rising
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The month starts off slow leading up to the highly anticipated Jupiter direct on the 11th, helping you expand your social circle and reap some blessings when it comes to that long-term vision of yours. Mercury moves into Leo the same day, making your relationships more animated than usual. Just watch out for being too much of a drama queen with your significant other or in a business partnership. Uranus goes retrograde on the same day, giving you the chance to reevaluate your living arrangements and your family dynamics. It's time to reshape the money mindset imparted on you throughout your ancestral lineage. On the 15th, the Full Moon in your sign places you front and center stage.
It's time to reveal the new and improved version of yourself! This energy fully supports you in revamping your wardrobe or getting that new hairstyle.
On the 18th, Mars moves into Virgo and you're motivated to transform your psyche particularly when it comes to obsessive forms of self-criticism and judgement whether it's towards yourself or others. Venus moves into this part of your chart on the 21st, giving you the upper hand in receiving financial assistance from a benefactor. When the Sun moves into Virgo on the 23rd, you'll be getting to the psychological root of any health issues you've been struggling with. Mercury moves into Virgo on the 29th, inviting you to research some better alternatives for dealing with stress and anxiety. The month winds down with a New Moon in Virgo on the 30th, encouraging you to stick with these new, healthy habits which will completely transform your world in the next six months.
Pisces and Pisces Rising
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Jupiter, your ancient ruling planet, goes direct on the 11th, bringing you good fortune when it comes to your career and social status in the world. On the same day, Mercury moves into Leo, making you super dynamic in your work environment and very popular amongst your co-workers. You've got a lot of energy under this influence, so getting back into your fitness routine is favored at this time. Uranus, the great awakener, goes retrograde on the 11th as well, helping to liberate you from any self-limiting thought patterns that inhibit you from expressing your truth. If you're a writer or speaker in any capacity, this transit is opportune for restrategizing ways to bring in revenue with your skill set. On the 15th, the Full Moon in Aquarius releases you from some heavy past life karma that has perpetuated a belief of not being a part of the group.
As different as you are, sweet Pisces, you still belong.
On the 18th, Mars moves into your opposite sign, bringing your focus to relationships. Be mindful of being to critical or judgy of people that you have close, one-on-one connections with. Venus moves into this part of your chart on the 21st and you could be taking your current relationship to the next level. If you're single, you may be reevaluating your relationship boundaries to avoid continuing some unhealthy patterns you've been experiencing in love thus far. On the 23rd, the Sun moves into Virgo and you're more interested in connecting with others in a more intimate setting versus large groups of people. Mercury moving into this part of your chart on the 23rd could result in negotiations of contracts with a business partner or significant other. The New Moon on the 30th will help solidify this adjustment moving forward.
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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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What Is A 'Monogamy Agreement' And Should You Have One?
As a writer, I've gotta admit that it can get more and more challenging to tackle certain topics. Why? It's because I'm a pretty word-literal person. Yet, like a lot of people who I witness on a daily basis, who constantly move the goalposts in order to suit whatever whim they're on at any given moment, even the dictionary has a way of doing something similar when it comes to various words' definitions.
Take monogamy, for example. When I was growing up, it meant "married to one person for a lifetime." This meant that you couldn't be remarried and technically consider yourself monogamous (because you're not with the first person you said vows to). And you definitely couldn't be living with someone or in a long-term relationship and use the word. No, for you, something like "exclusive" would be more accurate (and that's actually the word that I lean into in those instances even now).
These days, though, the goalpost says that monogamy is "marriage with only one person at a time." So, while people who've had more than one spouse can now use the word, when it comes to what we're about to dive into today (a monogamy agreement), folks who are interested in those would still be far better off going with something like "exclusive" to drive their point home. That's because this topic doesn't really have anything to do with marriage…although it does approach commitment in an interesting kind of way.
Yeah, in a world that is ever finding ways to change marriage, redefine marriage or figure out how close they can get to marriage without actually getting married, monogamy agreements have entered the chat. And because we try to cover as many bases as possible, basically on the "FYI tip," I wanted to take a moment to break down what exactly they are.
Let’s Tackle Traditional Marriage First. For Clarity’s Sake.
I won't lie — even as someone who's been working with married couples for many years now, whenever I happen upon a healthy (first) and happy (second) married couple of more than a decade, I'm halfway in shock. That's because, these days, people seem to treat the sacredness of marriage like they would a dating relationship — they have a big party in the form of a wedding, pledge to God and everyone present that they're not going anywhere (Ecclesiastes 5:1-7) and that their love is patient (I Corinthians 13:4) and then, somewhere down the line, when things get rough, they end it…only to rinse and repeat.
Now when it comes to things like infidelity and abuse, that's not what I'm speaking of here. I'm talking about there are so many people acting like they are married before they actually are (a boyfriend or girlfriend is not a husband or wife) that by the time they do say "I do," they are numbed out to the fact that a marriage is supposed to be several steps up in seriousness and sacredness than a dating dynamic is.
I definitely could go on and on about how there is supposed to be a boatload of integrity behind the vows that are exchanged between two people. However, this article isn't about marriage — it's about monogamy agreements. What I will say about marriage, for now, is it's not just about if you love someone a lot. Ask any pastor, marriage counselor, or even lawyer worth their merit, and they will confirm the fact that marriage is a legal contract — that you are not just vowing sentiments and emotional promises. No, under the law of marriage, there are also certain rights and responsibilities that you are agreeing to as well. That's why people should go into marriage with a very sober and level-headed mind because they're a lot easier to get into than they are to get out of. No doubt about it.
Speaking of legalities, let's touch on marriage licenses for a moment, shall we? Because there is something about them that you actually may not know (that I absolutely think that you should).
So, What’s the Deal with Marriage Licenses and Marriage Certificates?
Although this really could get its own article, let me just say that marriage licenses definitely deserve some level of side-eye in this country. Even though history says that it started out as being a business contract in England, in America, the long short of it is racist politicians used marriage licenses as a way to keep track of interracial couples (you can read more about it here, here, and here). Yep. So, that's part of the reason why even some traditionally married couples are not super fond of marriage licenses — because, basically, the government is "regulating" the relationship on some level.
With that cleared up, just what is the difference between a marriage license and a marriage certificate? Good question. A marriage license is what allows you to get married in your state prior to saying "I do," while a marriage certificate is a document that proves you are married once your wedding ceremony is actually over.
Can you get a marriage certificate without a marriage license? The short answer would be "no," although couples who fall into the category of "common law marriage" sometimes are able to work around this based on what state they live in. For everyone else, getting married without a marriage license is basically a commitment ceremony. That's because, in order to get a marriage license or marriage certificate, your state's county clerk would have to issue you one.
Now, I ain't got no lies to tell you — go to YouTube, and you will see a good amount of videos (like this one here) stating that not only can you work around not getting a marriage license, you absolutely should. To that, I'll just say that one of the biggest problems with social media is everyone is a so-called expert now, even if they have no credentials to back it up. So with that in mind, if this section of the article has you tempted to go down a long rabbit hole (and I totally get it if it does), speak with some people who have actual and literal experience in the field in your state. Don't just go rogue with your own resolve (please don't let YouTube and TikTok hem you up).
Okay, So What Is This Whole Monogamy Agreement Thing About?
So, what does all of that have to do with a monogamy agreement? Well, in order to explain why some people are opting for it as an alternative to a marriage license (or marriage altogether), it was important to explain marriage licenses and certificates just so that you could clearly get what the differences are.
Now that you know, a monogamy agreement is pretty much just how it sounds: it's an agreement that is established between two people who want to have some form of a commitment to one another, yet they don't want all of the legalities that come with traditional marriage.
If you're trying to wrap your head around that, I'll explain it to you this way. You've probably heard someone say that they wish that the marriage contract could be renegotiated every few years. For instance, rather than being "locked into" until death parts us, every five years or so, they wish that they could revisit their marriage to see if they want to opt-out, change certain initial agreements, or restructure the marriage altogether. Well, for folks who are wired this way, a monogamy agreement is probably the best route for them to take because, again, although it's not a legally binding contract, it is a formal agreement between them and their partner about what each of their expectations is.
See it like an integrity agreement — no one is making assumptions about where things stand or where things are headed (hopefully); the monogamy agreement puts things in black and white so that it's all crystal clear.
And when I say "black and white," I literally mean just that. Again, although it's not a legal contract, it is a document that lays everything out so that there is no confusion. And what do I mean by "everything"? It's totally up to you and your partner, yet some of the things that people usually include are goals and values, sexual expectations, financial responsibilities, boundaries (both in and outside of the relationship), how infidelity is defined, ultimate goals for the relationship — and yes, when the agreement is up for renegotiation whether that's in a year, five years or 10.
Who Should Consider a Monogamy Agreement?
Now that you know more about what a monogamy agreement is, let's begin to land this plane with the people a monogamy agreement may be best suited for. While at the end of the day, the short answer is anyone who wants one, there's a specific reason why I decided to even broach this topic.
It's because, while it's not (yet) earth-shattering in either direction, marriage is somewhat on the decline as cohabitation is on the rise in this country. And while research continues to reveal that married couples are more satisfied with their relationship than folks who live together and many who do cohabitate, they see it as a stepping stone towards becoming spouses at some point, let's not act like millennials (and under) aren't a bit gun shy when it comes to saying "I do."
Reportedly, 56 percent of them are not married. For many women, it's because they are prioritizing their education and careers over marriage and a family. Also, some suffer from what is known as gamophobia (the technical term for having a fear of getting married), in part due to a pattern of failed relationships, being the child of divorce (divorce affects children more than a lot of people want to accept) and what getting divorced themselves could possibly cost them. Then there are those who just never wanted to get married…yet that doesn't mean that they don't believe in some form of commitment on some level.
For individuals who don't want to casually date or even just sit at the "boyfriend/girlfriend level" for years on end, monogamy agreements may be a solid fit. You can have your own version of a commitment ceremony (or not), knowing that you're not on one page regarding what your relationship is about while your partner is somewhere totally different. There's no confusion because you literally have documentation about where the two of you are.
Now, I will say this: no agreement works if two people's words are trash (LOL). Yet honestly, that can apply to traditional marriage or a monogamy agreement. I'm just putting you on to what a monogamy agreement is all about if you've been trying to figure out how to have a serious commitment without a legal contract.
No doubt about it, monogamy agreements are gaining some real traction out in these streets.
Something for the committed-yet-not-marriage-minded.
Interesting, right? Relationships always are, chile.
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