I can't remember the exact date I was browsing my Twitter feed and saw the horrible video of George Floyd's murder circulating, but I do remember that the amount of shares and views on the video exceeded 100,000. Shortly before George Floyd's death, there was the video of Ahmaud Arbery circulating social media, as well as posts regarding Breonna Taylor's murder.
At this point, I don't think it's an over-exaggeration to say that the world has been in a consistent state of turmoil, and social media has been here to remind us everyday.
I am pretty active on all three of my social media accounts and regardless of which one I am using, I can't catch a break from consistently seeing posts and statuses regarding police brutality, the antics from Agent Orange (Trump), and discussions regarding the unlawful killing of Black people and other people of color. Don't be confused now, I'm not complaining about social media at all. I think it is amazing that the world is using social media to be involved with political and social movements, and to educate and create spaces for people to share opinions and knowledge on the events that are happening in the world as well as a variety of important topics. However, I know that consistently seeing these discussions, statuses, and videos on social media can be triggering and traumatizing for many, myself included. I have told myself a million times to "just stay off of social media" and have even contemplated deleting the apps...but it is just not that simple.
I know self-care is extremely beneficial to my well-being and I like to practice it in all areas of my life. However, social media is my news outlet, and as a writer, I use it to stay informed and updated on world events. So, completely erasing social media, regardless of how much it may be exhausting at this time, is just not an option for me. Can you see why I have struggled with this dilemma for weeks?
I admit it has been difficult trying to figure out whether I want to even stay informed on the current matters or do I want to just take a break and breathe.
Well, I have a testimony for you: in the midst of my internal battle, Jesus came to me and said, "There is a way that you can do both." Look at God...where there is a will, there is a way! So, to my brand ambassadors, YouTubers, journalists, influencers, entrepreneurs, and artists that utilize social media as a source of income, and to the everyday people that use social media for entertainment (I know this has probably spiked due to the stay-at-home orders), xoNecole is here to share some tips with you so that you can practice self-care while still using social media.
Here's four ways to practice social media self-care to bring some light into your world during these dark times:
Turn Off All Notifications
On every single social media outlet, turn off your notifications! Sometimes people tag you in things or you may just be alerted from the app, either way it doesn't help to be notified of something that will re-traumatize or trigger you. Take care of yourself and turn those notifications off and keep them off until you are ready to receive them again.
Muting Is Your Friend
If you're unfamiliar with the muting feature, now is the time to become acquainted. Muting isn't unfollowing or blocking anyone, it is simply hiding their posts. In other words, when you mute someone, you will no longer be able to see anything they post or share. This feature is available on Twitter and Facebook. So whenever you see someone post something that disturbs your spirit, simply go ahead and press that mute button, and don't feel bad for doing this to as many people as you need to for as long as you need to. You can also mute accounts that you know post material that may trigger or disturb you. Muting your followers and accounts helps you monitor what you consume while on social media; be wary of the information you take in on a daily basis.
Set A Schedule
There's a couple of ways to do this, so find what works best for you. One way is creating a schedule for how many hours you're going to spend on your social media accounts a day, i.e. spending 8 hours a day on social media, and using a time-log to keep track of your hours so you don't go over them. The other way to do this is creating time increments for utilizing social media.
For example, you can spend one hour on social media and 4 hours off of social media, and you do this every 4 hours. So basically, every 4 hours you are off of social media, you need to be doing something else to occupy your time. But once those four hours are up, you get an hour (or as long as you choose) to browse social media. You can be creative with how you set and maintain your schedule, but just remember that the purpose is to give yourself time away from social media every day so that you can recharge and not consume so much material that may exhaust you.
In addition, continue utilizing any self-care regimens used off of social media to aid in creating a feeling of replenishment while navigating social media.
Sometimes I have to remind myself to not feel bad for doing whatever it is I need to do to find my balance between Instagram and sanity; staying current on world news is important, but not at the expense of staying in good mental and emotional health.
I have discovered that as long as I am consistent with using my self-care skills daily, I can make it through this difficult time on social media without any mental or emotional bruises. That is the goal.
Want to talk more about beauty, wellness & self-care with like-minded women? Join the xoTribe members community today to start your glow-up journey.
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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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TikTok's Viral Upside-Down Pastry Is The Perfect Blend Of Sweet Meets Savory
Finding our way around the kitchen comes naturally for some and can be a bit intimidating for others. Especially when it comes to baking — there’s chemistry, ratios ingredients, and measurements to learn that all take a little more precision (and patience) to master.
Thankfully, there’s a new baking sensation to hit our timelines that offers a simple-to-follow and delicious-to-eat creation, that puts the ‘ease’ back into easy baking. And did we mention it was upside-down?
Upside down puff pastry with caramelized shallots, ham and gruyere cheese 🧀
This upside-down pastry trend is all about taking a combination of your favorite sweet or savory ingredients and loading them into a buttery, puff pastry to bake and enjoy. The now viral recipe was originally started by TikTok creator, @lilyghodrati, and has since accumulated over 51 million views and 3.4 million likes.
🧅🌿 #balsamic #thyme #caramelisedonion #pastry #pastries #puffpastry #caramelised #bake #baking #patisserie #snack #foodhack #EasyRecipe #Recipe #eats #food #FoodTok #Foodie #fy #fyp #foryou #foryoupage
Pastry lovers from all levels of baking knowledge have been captivated by just how easy it is to make their own variation of this treat, taking a spin on the recipe with different fruits, spreads, veggies, cheeses, oils, and herbs to try.
What makes this pastry so fun to recreate is just how personalized and creative you can get with what goes inside — like making it tangy with onions, balsamic vinegar, oregano, and parmesan cheese, or keeping things sweet with peaches, berries, and honey. The options and flavor combinations are endless.
Traditional Danish and puff pastry desserts are usually constructed by placing the puff pastry on the baking sheet first and adding the filling of your choice on top. However, this new take on the classic dessert does just the opposite by laying your ingredients on the tray and covering them with a puff pastry on the top — thus creating a flakey, treat with a surprise inside.
So if you have a sweet tooth to satisfy and 30 minutes on your hands, we’ve got the step-by-step guide to making these must-try treats at home.
Upside Down Puff Pastry Viral TikTok Recipe
- 1 sheet store-bought puff pastry, thawed
- 4 tsp honey
- 1 apple or peach, sliced
- 1 cup of assorted berries
- 1 egg for egg wash
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Place a small rectangle dizzle of honey on the parchment paper.
- Top with thinly sliced fruit (such as apples, peaches, or berries) that overlap slightly.
- Cover with a square of puff pastry.
- Crimp the edges of the pastry to seal it.
- Brush the pastry with egg wash.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown and the fruit is tender.
- Let cool for a few minutes before serving.
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