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Courtesy of Nephew Tommy

Nephew Tommy On 'Ready To Love' & How He Knew His Wife Was The One

"Regardless of where you are, dating is a challenge."

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Thomas "Nephew Tommy" Miles is an actor, comedian, and media personality who has become a comforting face in our community. That's why I was super excited when I learned he had become the host of OWN's Ready to Love, a dating show for mature singles looking for authentic and long-term relationships. Since its start in 2018, Ready to Lovehas given viewers a personal and authentic look into the lives of everyday people on their journey to find a genuine connection.

This season, Ready to Love is leaving its home in Atlanta to travel to Nephew Tommy's hometown of Houston. And he is excited for viewers to become more familiar with the city he loves, "Houston, it's the fourth largest city [in America]. Though to people here, it's more like a big town. Everybody kind of knows everybody. But regardless of where you are, dating is a challenge. If you've been preoccupied, it's the same thing. You still haven't taken time to focus, and say I'm gonna find what I want."

Courtesy of Nephew Tommy

In our conversation, we chatted about what that looks like this season, love and relationships, and marriage. And just as expected, the chat was full of laughs, truth, and a bit of tea. Check it out below.

xoNecole: For those who aren't familiar with the show, tell me more about Ready to Love?

Nephew Tommy:Ready to Love is a dating show, but it's not a typical dating show. These people are in their 30's, 40's, and even 50's, and they're looking for love. These are people that have been in marriages, gotten divorced, and are career-driven, and haven't taken time to find a relationship. We start with 20 singles, 10 women, and 10 men, and it's a process of elimination. Each week, the power shifts back and forth: women eliminate men and men eliminate women until we get down to six people, three couples that hopefully find love. There's no $1,000 reward and there's no trip around the world. The prize is love and you can't put a price on that.

You know, one of the things I like about the show is that the singles are 30 and older; it adds a unique element. How do you think that differs from other television shows?

I think it's different because people are in a different space in their lives. We know what the twenties are like, we all had a lot of fun. But once a person has gotten grown and has responsibilities, and that's the one element they're looking for that they don't have, they want it. And I think the difference in 30-plus in comparison to someone younger, is that the nonsense is out the window and people that want it are chasing it. There are some women on this show that are no-nonsense, and they let the guys know.

Interesting, and how do you think this season varies from other ones. What new and exciting things can we expect?

This one is a bit different to me because it's some boss ladies on there. I mean when I say boss ladies, these ladies are making money. They are lawyers, entrepreneurs and they own their businesses. This takes the stakes up a lot higher, and it makes it where these men have to step up to the plate. And you know, they can't come in insecure because the woman is making more money. It's like, bring your A-game and she might just help you step your game up so you can be a boss man.

Are there any special or funny behind-the-scenes moments from past seasons that you can share with us?

It's been some crazy stuff behind-the-scenes and in front of the scenes. I think the one that's the most bananas is from last season [at] the resort. It was about a week or two before the reunion, and I found out one of my contestants was pregnant the whole time the show was going on. I'm like, 'Are you serious?' And then when I got to the reunion, I found out two of the guys also had babies on the way. The woman could have had the baby during the reunion, she was expecting right then! So yeah, there's a lot behind-the-scenes that sometimes I don't even know.

Well, a lot of times in general people think they are ready to love but have not let go of past situations or are not ready for commitment. From your perspective, when do you think someone truly knows they're in love.

I think you just know, it's a feeling, it's a vibe. There are a few people on our show that I saw and knew exactly when it hit them, and when they connected. But you know when it's there. You don't have to go on one million dates (laughs). You know when you're ready. You get that feeling!

Speaking of feelings, when did you know your wife was the one?

College, I said, "OK, that's the one." But even then, I was in my twenties when we met so I had to go around the world and act a fool before I straightened out and got it together.

Now you know we love a good "How We Met" story at xoNecole, so you gotta take me back, how did you two connect?

It was at Texas A&M in 1986 (smiles). Probably the first couple weeks of school in the common areas. It's where people are shooting pool and there are TVs and lounges, and that's where we talked, connected, and it all happened.

Nephew Tommy pictured with his wife Jacqueline Mills.Moses Robinson/Getty Images

I noticed your wife was in the casting episode of Ready to Love and it was obvious that you guys have a fun relationship. What would you say are the most important traits that fuel your marriage?

Just chemistry and longevity. Over a course of time, it just connects. There are some good and bad days but through it all, you just tough it out and ride it out. It's all about riding it out.

And how important is the idea of partnership to you, is it prevalent in your marriage?

I think it is really important, especially when it comes to what you're good at. I like being the go-getter, the breadwinner, and making it happen for everybody. And trust me, there's a lot of people under that umbrella. But as far as paying this and that bill, I don't want to do that, I'm not good at it. I wanna be this creative guy and go work, and it's nice when you have someone good at different things, and it just all comes together.

Well, I have to ask about the other side as well. What struggles have you guys encountered and how did you combat them?

There are always struggles. In the beginning, I didn't have any money. I mean, I didn't have two nickels to rub together (laughs). But for her to see that I had a dream and just try to follow me with it and stand behind me, was a lot for me. She rode it out and now the tables turned and I'm the breadwinner and everybody gets to chill out at home and doesn't have to work and do anything, everyone's happy.

You guys clearly have a rich history. Still, has hosting Ready to Love taught you anything new about love and relationships?

Communication is the key. I tell the people on the show all the time, there's a difference between hearing and listening. A lot of people hear you but there's very few listening. I can sit on the couch and hear all day long, but am I truly listening? That's the key in a lot of relationships. A lot of people want to be heard and spit back what they think but sometimes it doesn't work because they're not listening.

Finally, for old and new viewers, why should we tune in this season?

People should tune in because this is black love at its best. It's real, it is who we are. I think we wear and carry it well. You can watch it with your girlfriends, brothers can tune in, and a lot of couples watch it together too. You can sit back and put your bets together, and start guessing who is gonna connect and make it to the end. It just becomes a fun thing to do and it's the best thing on Friday nights, and I'm not just saying that because I'm on it. No, I am saying that because I'm on it (laughs).

Catch the new season of Ready to Love, Friday nights at 9/8c on the OWN Network.

Featured image courtesy of Nephew Tommy

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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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