Neil Brown Jr. gets to play pretend for the rest of his life. His words, not mine. But if you really sit back and think about it, he's absolutely right.
Fans of Insecure and most recently SEAL Team might also be able to attest to this statement as well, as they watch him so effortlessly portray DJ Yella, Chad and Ray respectively. And whether that's due to his on-point comedic timing or striking ability to connect with his character and viewers, it's obvious that pretend or not: Brown was indeed made for these roles.
What's also obvious about the Florida native is that he's madly in love with his craft, his life, and most importantly his wife. He emphatically gushes about her as we chat over the phone in the early hours of the day. He tells xoNecole that not only does his wife Catrina play a pivotal role in his professional evolution, but his personal one as well.
"Her love abounds," he explains. "You know, it turned me into a man, a father, a good friend, a faithful husband, and a faithful Christian in a certain way. She's a cold piece of work. That's my soulmate. I knew we were always going to be together, but we had to learn to be together and how to interpret the dream that was our marriage."
We got the chance to talk to Neil about his new role, why compromise is central to maintaining a long relationship, and why having the capacity to love and endure is so important.
xoNecole: You and your wife have been very open about the formative years of you all's relationship as we saw on ‘Black Love’ doc and various interviews. What made you decide to share that part of your lives?
Neil Brown Jr: With the Black Love doc, we never knew that it was going to be as big as it was. At that point, we had been together for about 18, 20 years and we just saw so many couples with this false sense of what it takes to make a relationship or a marriage work. And no matter what they said, as soon as it got a little rough, they're like, 'Well I don't have to stand for this.'
Throughout our walk in faith, in God and with each other, no matter how rough it got--we had to go back to the core value which was that we wanted to make it work. Outside of someone being abusive towards you, if you made a commitment to each other, then you made a commitment to work things out, not just to be cool when things are all good.
Love is nothing but hard work, compromise, and a lot of laughs in between. We were hoping that when we did that documentary that we would be open and honest, although I am a very private person. We knew we had a responsibility to be honest with [their audience] and let them know that you don't marry [someone] because of how nice and beautiful they are--you marry them because no one can piss you off the way that person can and you still want to be with them.
Photo by Leslie Alejandro
"Throughout our walk in faith, in God and with each other, no matter how rough it got--we had to go back to the core value which was that we wanted to make it work... Love is nothing but hard work, compromise, and a lot of laughs in between."
You two also recently renewed your vows in a beautiful ceremony back in May. What was that experience like and why was that important?
It was a beautiful. But to be honest, I don't remember. From the moment she walked down the aisle--I was done. I was stuck the whole time. I just remember a lot of flowers, a lot of people. It was the most beautiful thing ever, it was everything we had thought of from when I first asked her to marry me when I was 15. The wedding colors and everything we came up, we decided on at 16-17 years old. It took 19 years of marriage [and] 25 years of being together to finally get it done through God's good grace.
Planning it took a whole village. It was so much work. It took 10 years to get the proposal right. Then, it took another year of planning. It just kept getting bigger and bigger. But it was magical. She was a goddess. She walked down the aisle and I'm not going to lie--I couldn't hold it together. Everything was just perfect, she was the belle of the ball. This and the honeymoon have been the greatest experiences thus far, besides the first day that I met her.
What are some of the biggest things you've learned about yourself in your marriage?
Ultimately, that I'm a good person. I never really knew that. I kept wondering what was wrong with me and why it was that I kept messing up. But I realized I'm not a horrible person, I'm just a human being. And when you can accept that and you know that you're human and that you will fall--it's all good as long as you get back up. I also learned that the things that I wanted out of life, I had the willpower to get them done. I learned that I loved her more than I even knew. But I realized that all of the things I wished [for] and dreamed and hoped--I could make those things happen if I had enough faith and that my faith was strong. And that more times than not, I would make the right decision for us.
What's the biggest difference you've found between the Neil at the beginning of your relationship and the Neil you are now?
Patience. I have a lot more patience and I'm slow to anger. Early on I was quick to anger, always ready and looking for a fight, never wanted to lose. I was always trying to win the argument, sometimes at the expense of hurting those I love. But I learned it's okay to lose an argument. As I got older, I became more apt to compromise and with that, I also feel I have a greater capacity for love and what it takes to love.
Speaking of love, how has hers affected you?
Her capacity to love me taught me how to grow up and stop being a little boy and selfish. She taught me to be unselfish and how to compromise. It's funny because my family is the touchy-feely family whereas hers isn't. But they knew how to do things that I didn't--like sharing! I didn't know how to share. My sister is nine years older than me so I was basically home alone. My wife taught me the other side of what I thought love was: how to share, compromise, and give.
I had the touchy-feely stuff down but I didn't know the other part. And my love taught her how to voice it and say it. Her endless capacity to love has taught me more about myself than what I ever knew I could learn. She saw this me in me before I saw it in myself and before I knew he even existed. You know, we're not without our faults but as long as you and your partner have open ears to listen and learn: your love will wither and bloom. But it's always new, it's constantly growing and evolving.
Photo by Leslie Alejandro
"My wife taught me the other side of what I thought love was: how to share, compromise, and give. I had the touchy-feely stuff down but I didn't know the other part. And my love taught her how to voice it and say it.
I’m sure you’ve seen the growing conversation here lately about the importance of love languages. You know, learning how to effectively communicate with your partner. What has that journey been like for you and your wife?
First of all, it's been so much fun. I love to learn, me and my wife both love to learn. And it's interesting that you ask me about love languages because I've actually never read that book. But I always pray to speak to my wife in the love language that she understands and for her to speak to me in a language that we understand.That journey has been so magical because you get little breakthroughs.
Especially when you realize you two just had a debate over something and you realize it wasn't an argument anymore but more like, "I need you to understand me about this." And you both get it and understand. You get to learn new things about your partner and after 25 years, I'm still excited to just wake up and talk to her every morning.
You've been able to successfully maintain a beautiful relationship. What would you say are the major do's and don'ts for someone looking to do the same?
I'd say don't bring other people into your relationship. And that's not to say you can't learn things from other people, but don't judge your relationship based off somebody else's relationship. Just because people are smiling doesn't mean they're happy and just because people are frowning doesn't mean they're necessarily sad. Just because people aren't arguing, it doesn't mean things are great and just because people are arguing, it doesn't mean their relationship is bad. So you really can't look to others or what you need to learn about each other. Because a lot of times the only taste of happiness and joy that some people will ever get in a relationship is when they take a bite out of yours. So you don't want other people influencing your process of loving the one you're with.
Do not shut off, always talk, always be willing to compromise. And don't let your ego write a check that your butt can't cash. You don't want to get to a point in your relationship where you don't have the character to sustain it.
Keeping people out of your relationship, [and checking] your ego and pride are three of the things that I would say would help a couple learn how to love. You have to be willing and wanting to be happy and learn things from each other and listen. Talk to each other, never shut off because that's the quickest way to build resentment and anger. You have to take a step back and be in sight of: do you guys want this to work?
Photo by Leslie Alejandro
"Do not shut off, always talk, always be willing to compromise. And don't let your ego write a check that your butt can't cash. You don't want to get to a point in your relationship where you don't have the character to sustain it."
Before you go, let’s switch gears and talk 'SEAL Team.' It's been renewed for season 3 and you're a fan favorite on that show as Ray, congratulations.
Thank you, thank you.
What has that experience been like?
I am increasingly humbled each and every day by the love that's thrown at all of us. My Dad used to fight in Vietnam so I'm essentially playing my Dad on this show. He's my hero. But I grew up with two forces in my house: my mom was Martin Luther King and my Dad was Malcom X. So I put both of them into portraying Ray. But the fans are so engaged and then I keep running into military personnel from all branches and they really feel it. You know, we're trying to portray the pain and the pitfalls of not just the Special Operators, but their families as well.
But they all dig the show and that's the most heartwarming thing. I actually wanted to be a Navy Seal when I was a kid but I just didn't want to join the Navy (laughs). But now I get to play one on TV which is far more lucrative and way less dangerous. The cast is awesome, our writers are awesome, most of the crew and stuntmen are veterans. It's just humbling all around.
If I’m honest, I feel like you have a track record of being a fan fave on whatever show you’re on. ‘Insecure’ being another example.
You know what? People love to hate Chad and I don't know why! He's just an honest dude, but Prentice Penny and Issa [Rae] and Melina [Matsoukas]--they've been so great. The writers on that show are crazy. People think I'm ad-libbing a lot but I'm not.
I AM NOT. I only ad-lib like 10-15%, but they write Chad that way. Fast-talking, all of that. But the funny thing is, I think everybody at some point in their life knows a person like Chad. But I'm humbled by it, the love is real, it's another dream come true. I couldn't thank HBO and Issa enough. Plus I get to play off Jay Ellis, we have a good time. I wish you guys could see what doesn't make the show. But when we start back up again, I hope I get to do something even more crazy.
We hope you do too. And what's next on the horizon for you?
Fortunately, my hilarious wife is also a writer. She has scripts that I want to go produce, like tomorrow. But it's all about timing. Me and my boy Cory Hardrict have a buddy cop film we're working on. Of course more SEAL Team, more Insecure. And I'm still waiting for Marvel to call. I'll play whoever whenever whatever (laughs). But all in all, I'm trying to continue to work and grow as an actor and just put great things out there.
For more of Neil, follow him on Instagram. Catch him starring in SEAL Team when it returns this fall.
For more of Neil, follow him on Instagram. Catch him starring in SEAL Team when it returns this fall.
*Some answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.
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This was first evident more than a decade ago when she quit her job as the corporate executive of a Fortune 500 company during a Periscope livestream. “I’m not sure if there’s an alignment of [our] future trajectory. I’m going to work for myself. I'm promoting myself to work for myself,” she said at the time before flashing a smile at the viewing audience. As she resigned on camera, a constant stream of encouraging messages floated upwards on the screen.
By 2021, she’d fashioned her work as a corporate consultant and her personal life with her husband and three adopted daughters into a reality show, She’s The Boss, for USA Network. This year, she released the New York Times bestselling memoir Nothing Is Missing, written as she was in the process of getting a divorce and dealing with her eldest daughter’s struggles with substance use.
Convinced that there’s no way the 39-year-old has achieved all of this without intentional strategic planning, I asked her about it when we spoke less than a week before Christmas. I’d seen videos on social media of her working on 2024 planning for other brands, and I wanted to know what that looked like following her own year of success.
She listed a number of goals, including ensuring that the projects she takes on in the new year align with her identity “as a Black woman, as an African woman, as a mother, as someone who has lived a [rebuilding] season and is now trying to live boldly and entirely as themselves.” But, I was shocked by how much of her business planning also prioritized rest.
Despite the bestselling book, a self-titled podcast, and working with numerous corporations, Walters said she’s been taking Fridays off. This year, she doesn’t want to work on Mondays, either.
“A lot of us think we work hard until retirement hits. I want to progress towards retirement,” she said, noting that she’ll check in with herself around March to see how successful this plan has been. The goal, Walters said, is to only be working on Tuesdays and Thursdays by sometime in 2025. “It is intentionally building out what I know I would like to have happen and not waiting for exhaustion to be the trigger of change.”
"A lot of us think we work hard until retirement hits. I want to progress towards retirement... It is intentionally building out what I know I would like to happen and not waiting for exhaustion to be the trigger of change."
Walters said the decision to progressively work less was partially in response to her previously held notions about her career, especially as an entrepreneur. “When I first started, I thought burnout was a part of it,” she said. “What I didn’t realize is that even if you’re able to bounce out of burnout or get back to it, there’s a cumulative impact on your body. If you think of your body as a tree and every time you go through burnout, you are taking a hack out of your trunk, yes, that trunk will heal over, and the tree will continue to grow, but it doesn't mean that you don’t have a weakened stem.”
But, the desire for increased rest was also in response to the major shifts that occurred three years ago when she was experiencing major changes in her family and realized her metaphorical tree was “bending all the way over.”
“One of the things we have to recognize, especially as Black women, is that there is this engrained, societal, systemic notion that our worth is built around our productivity,” she added. “That is some language that I think is just now starting to really get unpacked.” In recent years, there’s been an increased awareness of achieving balance in life, with Tricia Hersey’s “The Nap Ministry” gaining attention based on the idea that rest, especially for Black women, is a form of resistance. Even online phrases such as “soft life” and “quiet quitting” have hinted at a cultural shift in prioritizing leisure over professional ambition.
"One of the things we have to recognize, especially as Black women, is that there is this engrained, societal, systemic notion that our worth is built around our productivity."
If companies are lining up to consult with Walters about their brands and products, then women have been looking to her for guidance on starting over since she invited them to livestream her resignation 12 years ago. As viewers continue to demand more from content creators in the form of intimate, personal details, Walters has navigated her personal brand with a sense of transparency without oversharing the vulnerable details about her life, especially when it comes to her family.
The entrepreneur said she’d been approached to write a book for several years and was initially convinced she was finally ready to write one about business. “I started to do that, and then I went through my divorce. When that happened, I said, why would I write a book telling people to get the life that I have when I’m not sure about the life that I have,” she said.
Instead, she decided to write Nothing Is Missing and provide a closer look at her life, starting with being born to immigrant Ghanaian parents (“You need to know my childhood to know why I’m passionate about entrepreneurship.”) through the adoption of her three daughters and eventual divorce. Despite her desire to share, however, she said she felt protective of the privacy of her family, including her ex-husband.
When discussing this with me, Walters said she was reminded of a lesson she learned from actress Kerry Washington, who released her own memoir, Thicker Than Water, just a week before Walters’ book release. Washington’s memoir grapples with family secrets, too, specifically the fact that she was conceived using a sperm donor and didn’t learn about it until she was already a successful TV star. While Washington reflects on how the decision and subsequent deception impacted her, she’s also careful to hold space for her parents’ experiences, too. “A lot of things she said was that she had to recognize where she was the supporting character and where she was the main character,” Walter said.
This is something Walter worked to do in Nothing Is Missing when discussing her daughter’s struggles with addiction. “I was very intentional about making sure that I did not reveal more than what was required,” she said. “If I say something about someone’s addiction, I don’t need to go into the list of the substances they used, how they used them, what I found. [I don’t need to] walk into a room and paint a picture of what it looked like for people to understand.”
Walters said some of the most vulnerable moments in the book barely made a ripple once it was released. She was extremely nervous to write about getting an abortion, she said. But no one has asked her about this in the months since the book was released. Instead, people have been more interested in quirkier revelations, such as the fact that she once appeared on Wheel of Fortune.
“I have bared my soul about this thing I went through in my youth that has changed me for people, and people are like, ‘So how heavy was the wheel when you spun it?’” she said, chuckling. “It just goes to show that people never worry about the thing that you worry about.”
With the success of Nothing Is Missing, Walters said she still isn’t planning to release a business book at the moment. But, as she navigates parenting a teenager and two adult children while also navigating a relationship with her new fiancé, Walters said she believes she has at least one or two more books to write about her personal journey. “There is sort of an arc of where my life has gone that I know I’ve got something more to say about this that I think is important, relevant and necessary,” she said.
In just three years, Walters’ life has undergone a major transformation. There’s no telling what the next three years will have in store for her, but it seems likely she’ll retain an inspired audience wherever life takes her.
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Author Stephen Covey once said something that I think is especially relevant to today’s topic: “Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.” Because if there is one thing that I hear far too many married couples (and if I’m gonna be real, it’s mostly the wives) say is their reason for not making intimacy a priority, it’s that they don’t have enough time.
I think we all can attest to the fact that a part of what comes with adulting is time management — and that includes prioritizing our time wisely. And that’s what brings the quote full circle because, although life does indeed have a way of life-ing, it’s essential — crucial even — to remember that, no matter what may come up that may seem “urgent,” intimacy with your spouse is always going to be important.
And that’s why I (catch the pun) made the time to come up with 10 ways to give you more time to have sex with your man, even if it seems like you don’t exactly have it.
1. Scale Down Your Social MediaGiphy
Whenever one of my clients tells me that the reason her sex life with her husband is suffering is because she doesn’t have the time for it, one of the first three questions that I ask her is how much time she spends on social media. If I get “crickets,” I’m automatically rolling my eyes to where she can see it.
Why? Because I am well aware of the fact that most people, on average, spend 2.5 hours A DAY scrolling on social media platforms. And since most people are fine with intercourse lasting anywhere between 7-13 minutes (Google it) — let’s just be real: when it comes to the sex lives that are on life support, it’s not that most of those folks don’t have time, it’s that they don’t make it….and that means they don’t prioritize sex in their relationship. And that is a problem that will only get bigger over time if it’s not addressed — quick, fast, and in a hurry.
If you feel seen, it’s time to power that phone down and ramp up your sex life. Social media will always be there; it’s important that you be proactive about making sure your marriage remains healthy and intact.
2. Shower TogetherGiphy
I think we all know that if your objective is to get clean(er), you need to take a shower instead of hopping into the bath (because clean water coming out of a showerhead is better than floating dirt in bathwater). So, what’s the plus of bathing? If you want to soothe achy muscles, reduce stress levels, and/or exfoliate your skin, having a bath soak can be a good look. However, since the chance of that being your focus first thing in the morning is slim, why not get “dirty” and clean with your partner in the morning before heading off to work?
Since, reportedly, the average shower lasts eight minutes, and we just discussed that sex tends to be between 7-13 minutes, you could be in there with your man for around 15 minutes and come out with an orgasmand being squeaky clean. Now, what could be better than that, sis?
3. Stop Underestimating QuickiesGiphy
I was recently talking to a male friend of mine about how his fiancée would rather have no sex at all instead of a quickie: “That s-it makes absolutely no sense to me because we both are able to get ours whether it’s an hour or 15 minutes.”
Listen, it’s not like I don’t see both sides of the coin on this. As far as she goes, sometimes long foreplay, a ton of romance (check out “Tonight's The Night For A More Romantic Sexual Experience With Your Partner”), and going multiple rounds are very much needed. At the same time, though, a quickie can give you all of the health benefits that longer sessions do, plus the climax.
Ever heard of the saying, “You’re cutting off your nose, just to spite your face?” If you’re turning down quickies just because the sex sessions aren’t as long as what you’re used to (or would prefer), you are a walking definition of the saying. Just because quickies are a compromise, that doesn’t mean that you’re settling (check out “12 Super Solid Reasons To Have A Quickie Every Single Day”). Not. At. All.
4. Eat Other Things than Lunch (Metaphorically Speaking)Giphy
I recently read that close to 50 percent of people skip lunch at least once a week. Chile, why? You’ve earned it, and so you should have it. And if you need more motivation to take what I just said seriously, even if you’re not hungry during lunchtime, use that as an opportunity to enjoy your partner. By law, most lunch breaks are either 30 minutes or an hour, and that’s certainly enough minutes to “get the job done” — even if that means having a standing appointment at a hotel that isn’t too far from where the two of you work. Middle-of-the-day sex is top-tier. If you don’t know, ask some of your girlfriends who probably do.
5. Remember: Oral Sex CountsGiphy
Back when I used to be a teen mom mentor for the local chapter of a national organization, it used to trip me out how much some of the students would try and trick themselves into thinking that oral sex isn’t “real sex.” Nevermind the fact that sex is literally in the term — genitalia is penetrating a body part, you can get STIs/STDs from the act, and, let me tell it, it’s even more intimate.
Anyway, my point here is, even if there doesn’t seem to be enough time for total disrobing (for whatever reason), a satisfying workaround is some cunnilingus and fellatio — believe that. You’ll still get an orgasm. You’ll still feel connected to your partner. And you’ll still get a helluva stress release. Yes, oral sex IS sex — and that needs to be said far more often than it tends to be.
6. Turn Date Night into Sex DatesGiphy
Did you know that 52 percent of couples rarely, if ever, have a date night? That’s super unfortunate, considering date nights are all about being intentional about spending quality time with your partner. That said, if you happen to fall into that percentile, take this as a super loud PSA to start prioritizing dates with your bae. By the way, if you are someone who is pretty good about getting out with your man, at least once a month, try and shoot for twice a month and turn one of those into a sex date — time that is set aside to do nothing more than copulate with your partner (check out “When's The Last Time You And Your Man Had A 'Sex Date'?”). It increases anticipation, and that can intensify the sexual experience on a whole ‘nother level.
7. Get Up Earlier and/or Go to Bed LaterGiphy
Again, we’ve already discussed that you can get what you need (you know, for the most part) in about 13 minutes (give or take 15 minutes of foreplay first) so, at least once a week, why not set your alarm clock to wake up earlier for some morning sex or commit to staying up a bit later for some late-night coitus? Since only 60 percent of couples currently go to bed together at night, this tip could inspire you both to get more pillow talk and cuddling in, too, which are all forms of quality time that pretty much every husband and wife need on some level.
8. Stop Running (So Many) Errands When the Kids Aren’t at HomeGiphy
My goddaughters are 12 and 4, and they’ve got just as much, if not more, of a busy schedule than their parents do. Something that I tend to notice, though, is when they are in their dance, volleyball, acting, or whatever other class they’ve got going on, their parents automatically use that as an opportunity to run all kinds of errands. And while that might be a practical use of time — how smart is it if intimacy with your partner is far and few between?
My two cents? If your kids have activities after school 2-3 times a week, make sure that one of those days is set aside for nothing else but sex. I promise you that no matter how important grocery shopping or eyebrow waxing is, if you’re not making time for your spouse, whether immediately or eventually, that will start to create an avalanche of issues that will make anything else pale in comparison. I see it happen on an almost daily basis.
9. Make the Kids’ “Fun Time” Your Fun Time TooSexy Jessica Alba GIFGiphy
When your kids are watching a movie, you could be having sex. When your kids are playing a video game, you could be having sex. When your kids are entertaining themselves in their room, you could be having sex. When your kids are outside with some friends (kids still do that, right?), you could be having sex. When your kids (who are old enough) are making a snack, you could be having sex.
Once children hit a certain age, it’s important to not “helicopter parent” them by feeling that you need to hover over them 24 hours a day. Once they have become self-sufficient enough to do certain things on their own, announce that mommy and daddy will be in the bedroom if they need anything and take advantage of that half-hour or two hours that you’ve got. You’d be amazed how much they’d appreciate you not being on top of them all of the time anyway. #justsayin’
10. Schedule SexGiphy
Any time someone tells me that they don’t want to schedule sex because it won’t be as good that way, I’m always on some — does scheduling dinner at your favorite restaurant make the meal less appetizing? Does scheduling time with your friends make it less fun? Does scheduling a mani/pedi make it less pampering? Please, let’s just stop. When you schedule something, that means that you’re prioritizing it, and sending a message to your partner that you want nothing more than to spend time with him, intimately, is sexy — plain and simple.
Listen, even though we all get 24 hours in a day, sometimes our to-do lists are so jam-packed that it’s both responsible to get your sex life “on the books.”
You know, when it comes to “having time” quotes, someone once said, “People make time for who they want to make time for. They text, call, and reply to people they want to talk to. Never believe someone who says they’re too busy; If they wanted to be around you, they would.” Do I think this resolve is black and white? No. Sometimes, folks have to wait before you can get back to them.
What I will say, however, is when you signed up to be married, you signed up to have your spouse take precedence over just about everyone and everything else. I will also say that a part of what comes with the marital agreement is sexual activity. Put those two things together, and yes — it’s important to never be too busy to find time, sexually, for your spouse. Besides, if the sex is good, how can it ever not be time well spent, chile? C’mon now.
Featured image by Giphy