Isn't Beyoncé just the best? But seriously, the singer/songwriter/producer/actress who rose to fame as the lead singer of multi-platinum quartet (and later trio) Destiny's Child has become a centerpiece in culture and entertainment. What's most inspirational is that she's done it all while being unapologetically Blackity, Black, Black, BLACK.
She's constantly reminding us of who we are with projects that feel like carefully-crafted love letters to the Black culture and experience. Her latest work, Black Is King, is no exception—it actually might be her most melanin-rich work yet. The visual album dropping July 31 on Disney+ is a nod to her 2019 project, The Lion King: The Gift, but more importantly serves as "a celebratory memoir for the world on the Black experience."
For Black women especially, Beyoncé is always a mood. In honor of her Black Is King release, we're reminded of all the times she put Black women front and center in her work.
When She Introduced The World To Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
In 2013, Beyoncé changed the game with the midnight drop of her self-titled visual album, a first of its kind. This was also the album where we really saw Bey come into her own and shed light on the feminist movement. For the bridge of her song "***Flawless", Bey sampled a TEDxTalk given by celebrated Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie titled, "We should all be feminists".
Adichie's talk is mainly focused on the status of women in Nigeria ("Because it is where I know and where my heart is," Adichie explains), however, Bey chose to feature lines that resonate to all women:
"We teach girls to shrink themselves. To make themselves smaller. We say to girls 'You can have ambition. But not too much. You should aim to be successful. But not too successful. Otherwise you will threaten the man.' Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support, but why do we teach to aspire to marriage, and we don't teach boys the same? We raise girls to see each other as competitors. Not for jobs or for accomplishments which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are. Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes."
When She Made Lemons Into Lemonade
Lemonade was Beyonce's second visual album drop and premiered on HBO. This project played like an ode to Black women, gave a new meaning to "baby hair and afros", and renamed a style of braids worn by generations as "Lemonade Braids". Here's how:
Where there is sweetness in life, there is also bitterness, and no one has quite made lemons into lemonade like the Black woman. Lemonade represents the Black woman at her fullest self, her most vulnerable, her most angry, and her most powerful. In a series of songs that walked us through a pathway of different emotions, we saw ourselves in visuals and heard our pain and pleasure through sound. She showed the power and strength of Black women, but also our softness, our worries and fears through lyrics, melodies and stunning images. We cried, we laughed, and we ultimately healed. Then, there was the not-so-subtle shoutout to Black hair in "Formation" when she sang, "I like my baby hair, with baby hair and afros" after internet trolls tried to come for daughter, Blue Ivy's hair. And how could we ever forget the summer of 2016, when "Lemonade Braids" went mainstream? #BeyDidThat
When She Brought The Black Panthers To The Super Bowl
At the Super Bowl 50 Halftime Show, Beyoncé and her troop of female dancers strutted across the field for a "Formation" performance in Black Panther party realness. The bold move shed light on the Black Panther Party, a revolutionary socialist political organization which originated in 1966 for the self-defense of Black people. Considering that historically Black women are the most unprotected and underserved demographic in America, seeing Queen Bey lead the charge out onto the field in front of an audience of nearly 100 million people across the country was a MOMENT for Black women everywhere.
When Coachella Became Beychella
The year was 2018. Coachella became Beychella and Beyoncé's performance that paid homage to HBCUs finally gave the institutions the love they deserve. Historically Black Colleges and Universities created specifically for the advancement of the community are an experience like no other––just ASK any HBCU alum!
"So I studied my history, I studied my past, and I put every mistake, all of my triumphs–my 22-year career–into my 2-hour Homecoming performance." – Beyoncé
When She Brought Us All To Homecoming
It's just like Beyoncé to take her epic performance at Coachella and turn it into a documentary that we can watch over and over again. The doc as a whole serves as motivation for any woman trying to achieve a goal, but if you break it up piece by piece, there are easily digestible nuggets of motivation in the inspiring quotes by Black women she sprinkles throughout the film. Toni Morrison, Alex Walker, and Danai Gurira are just a few of the women whose words of wisdom pop up on-screen. Here's one we love:
"To me we are the most beautiful creatures in the whole world, Black people. And I mean that in every sense." — Nina Simone
When She Dropped "Black Parade"
"Black Parade" dropped on Juneteenth (June 19) and every line is an ode to the culture. With Black Lives Matter protests abound in respond to poilce brutality and a pandemic literally killing at rapid numbers, this track was necessary. So, when she says this verse, we really felt it:
"Hold my hands, we gon' pray together
Lay down, face down in the gravel
We wearin' all attire white to the funeral
Black love, we gon' stay together"
Featured image by Giphy.
Jazmine A. Ortiz is a creative born and raised in Bushwick, Brooklyn and currently living in Staten Island, NY. She started in the entertainment industry in 2012 and now works as a Lifestyle Editor where she explores everything from mental health to vegan foodie trends. For more on what she's doing in the digital space follow her on Instagram at @liddle_bitt.
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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Squeeze Your Way To Ecstasy: How This Masturbation Technique Can Make You Orgasm
What if I told you that you can achieve an orgasm by simply squeezing your thighs together? Believe it or not, this technique has been known to lead to some seriously orgasmic experiences and is gaining popularity among people who want to explore new ways of reaching orgasm. There's a word for this, it’s called syntribation. The act of squeezing or rubbing the thighs together to create friction and pressure until climax.
First, let's talk about the anatomy behind this technique. The pelvic nerves responsible for arousal and orgasm pass through the thighs, so squeezing them can stimulate these nerves and send a rush of pleasure to your genitals. Additionally, the muscles in your thighs tense up during orgasm, so squeezing them can replicate that sensation and potentially lead to the real deal.
How To Do Syntribation
Start by crossing your legs and squeezing your thighs. Keep going until you feel a pleasurable pressure on your clit/glans area. Another method is by putting your hands in the middle of your inner thighs. Then cross your legs and squeeze your thighs as tight as you can. Note that your hands are not doing anything - they are just sandwiched between your thighs. Using this method will provide more pressure and squeezing sensation.
You can also practice syntribation with sex toys as long as they’re not chunky vibes and dildos. Simply place the sex toy in the middle of your thighs, and let it vibrate as you syntribate.
Is Syntribation Safe?
While syntribation masturbation is a relatively new masturbation technique, it does not pose any major risks to your physical health. The one potential risk is possibly skin irritation from friction, but that can be avoided by wearing long pants or using a cushion between your legs.
The Benefits of Syntribation
As with any masturbation technique, this one will have some health benefits, including a boosted immune system, reduced stress, glowing skin, stronger vaginal walls, and so on. Syntribation masturbation can offer a new way to explore your sexuality and achieve sexual pleasure. It can be a great alternative for people who prefer not to use their hands or fingers during masturbation.
In addition to enhancing feelings of pleasure and relaxation, syntribation may even appeal to voyeurs and exhibitionists who are intrigued by the idea of public play.
Is Syntribation Effective?
The effectiveness of syntribation masturbation varies from person to person. Some people may find it more pleasurable than traditional methods of masturbation, while others may not enjoy it at all. It ultimately comes down to individual preferences and experiences. However, if you are looking to try something new and explore different ways to achieve orgasm, syntribation masturbation can be worth giving a try.
Although syntribation masturbation may sound unusual, it is gaining popularity as a way to explore new methods of achieving sexual pleasure. It’s hands-free and has no major risks. Even though the effectiveness of syntribation masturbation varies from person to person, depending on individual preferences and experiences, ultimately, I think it’s worth giving it a try.
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