*Editors note: this article contains information about sexual assault, child pornography and rape. Please read with care. If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673). If you are thinking about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Suicide Crisis Line at 1-800-784-2433.
On June 29th, R&B singer and producer Robert Kelly, best known by his stage name R. Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison by New York Federal Court after being convicted in September of 2021 on charges of racketeering and sex trafficking. The sentencing was announced after many of his victims tearfully shared the impact his graphic abuse of them has had on their lives. This conviction and sentencing come nearly thirty years after the singer began facing allegations ranging from rape, possessing child pornography, marrying a then-15-year-old Aaliyah, having his own sex cult, and more.
In the weeks leading up to the sentencing, xoNecole spoke with four Black women activists who work diligently to address sexual violence within the music industry and writ large on R. Kelly’s conviction. Now that Kelly has been sentenced, we’re sharing our conversations with each one, condensed below: author and founder of the Me Too movement Tarana Burke (featured in the docuseries Surviving R. Kelly and the Russell Simmons documentary On The Record) and the founders of the #MuteRKelly movement Kenyette Barnes and Oronike Odeleye (who also appeared in Surviving R. Kelly ) and author and activist Sil Lai Abrams, who shared allegations against Russell Simmons in The Hollywood Reporter and the HBOMax documentary On The Record.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 07: Tarana Burke speaks onstage at the TIME100 Summit 2022 at Jazz at Lincoln Center on June 7, 2022 in New York City.
Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for TIME
xoNecole: I also invited journalist and Surviving R Kelly documentarian dream hampton who declined an interview but did provide a statement:
“As someone who wants to believe in restorative justice, I think this could have been the beginning of actual healing and justice had R Kelly, at any point, admitted to the harm he's caused for decades. His victim should have a financial fund from which they can draw to rebuild their lives. He could have changed the culture by being accountable in this way. He could have opened up a conversation where predators and abusers could enter too. Which is radical. But no, he'll have his sentence meted out to him by a broken system. He will continue to have the currency of love and devotion by countless Black people, even as he spends these years in prison. It is all a shame.”
xoNecole: What was your initial reaction to the news of R. Kelly’s conviction?
Tarana Burke: I was asked this question when [Harvey] Weinstein was convicted when [Bill] Cosby was convicted and it stays the same: these convictions are not a victory. I understand the catharsis for the survivors. There is a duality, that you have an immediate sort of excitement that feels like we have *something.* Right? You can’t help it. I think that’s human nature. That feeling of we have something, especially as Black women. Because we never get anything. So, I think there’s that first wave of that.
And then there’s the immediate slap in the face – especially if you engage in anything public, like social media or walking down the street – of the rejection of that. So my reaction came in stages, is what I’m explaining. That first stage of sort of surprise and relief that we got something. And that something is acknowledgment of that – even from a f-cked up system – an acknowledgment that our trauma and our pain deserve acknowledgment. It deserves accountability. You have that first wave and then you get slapped in the face with “no, it doesn’t.” I don’t know if we even had sixty seconds of whatever that first wave was. I get settled in just the catharsis of the survivors. It’s like they get a chance to breathe after holding this sh-t for so long. They get a chance to be like, “I get to hold something.”
Sil Lai Abrams: I was not surprised because the conviction was the result of decades of lobbying by activists and advocates. In many ways, his social currency in the Black community was diminished in a way that would enable a conviction to occur in the criminal legal system. To dream’s point, the system as it exists is not one that takes into consideration the needs of survivors or even those that have caused harm. He’s being used as a totem in many respects and I believe that his conviction in some way shields other people who cause sexual harm because I think that society can look at him, point to what will occur with him, and say, “You see? The system works because R. Kelly went to prison.” When in fact, his incarceration does nothing to address the systemic nature of sexual violence and the very broad ways in which harm affects our entire society.
Oronike Odeleye: Honestly, my first reaction was relief. I was relieved for his victims because they have been gaslit for years about the abuse that they’ve suffered. I was also relieved for myself. This has been a long journey that I did not mean to embark on [as a founder of the #MuteRKelly movement]. It’s been emotional and hard, so I’m glad that my part was over and now someone else can take over. And I was relieved for our community because for so many people, a lot of the visceral and emotional reaction they had to this was not necessarily about R. Kelly but about their own interactions. Their own experiences of abuse and trauma that they had carried, a lot of the secrets they had carried and they wanted to see justice play out. I was relieved for everyone involved.
Kenyette Barnes: It was very complex emotions. There was sadness of course because no one wants to be a part of perpetuating a broken system that over incarcerates Black bodies. However, thirty years has gone by and nothing has been done. And on several occasions, I believe that Robert Kelly had the opportunity to fix this in some way and didn’t. So my feelings were sadness because I feel like why did it get this far? My next emotion was a sense of relief for the survivors. They had been fighting for years. The #MuteRKelly movement had put that advocacy on a global stage. And through strategic organizing had resulted in a financial boycott of his music. We received some backlash and unfortunately, this accountability included the criminal justice system.
PARK CITY, UTAH - JANUARY 25: Sil Lai Abrams attends the 2020 Sundance Film Festival - "On The Record" Premiere at The Marc Theatre on January 25, 2020 in Park City, Utah.
(Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)
xoNecole: It’s been nearly thirty years since allegations against R. Kelly first started. Why do you think it’s only now that we’re seeing a conviction?
TB: There had to be like six exposés. I feel like The Miami Herald did one. The Chicago Tribune did one. The Village Voice did one. And so, it’s not from lack of media coverage. It’s not from a lack of raising voices. Every Black woman journalist that I know has been raising their voice across social media. More than one social media campaign. Because #MuteRKelly preceded #MeToo going viral. People conflate those two. The #MuteRKelly hashtag started in August of 2017 after the article came out in Buzzfeed. It got amplified after the #MeToo movement went viral [in October 2017]. So, it took all of that and then the documentary to get people to pay attention. But it was like we had to stand on our heads and light ourselves on f-cking fire in order to get one singular Black man. There’s this narrative about the Black man being targeted. It’s so crazy because that was the singular person. And to your point, we’ve been talking about him for nearly twenty-five, thirty years. And it took that because of that famous Jim DeRogatis quote from The Village Voice where he says the one thing that he’s discovered in all these years that he’s been chasing R. Kelly is that nobody in America matters less than Black girls. I’m paraphrasing the quote, but I’ll never forget reading that quote. This is a sixty-something-year-old white man from Chicago who writes about rock n’ roll, who just on his own was so bugged out about how no one was paying attention to R. Kelly.
SLA: The #MuteRKelly campaign is really the driver behind this push for accountability, this incarceration, without which I don’t believe this would’ve occurred. It took a certain amount of critical mass to come together. They had built a groundwork and a framework for the campaign in the years preceding the #MeToo era. So when #MeToo exploded in 2017, it just facilitated his downfall, so to speak, because there was such a tremendous body of work, of evidence that had been collected and been disseminated for at least three years, I think. So, I believe that is a large part of why this has happened.
In addition, our views around sexual harm have evolved. And even now when someone is now “legal,” [i.e. age 18+] that is no longer seen as a shield against allegations or recognition of predatory behavior. So, for example, you could see an 18-year-old in a consensual – “consensual” – relationship with a 45-year-old and people don’t respond the same. People will call that out and note the disparities in power between the two parties. And I think that’s a big part of it. There is a very slow shift that’s going on in online discourse and I think that’s very healthy. I think another reason why change is happening is because many of the barriers that existed before such as all-powerful public relations agencies and representatives for some celebrities are no longer as effective because social media has had a democratizing effect upon those who recognize harm is occurring.
OO: I think so much has changed within our society. The way we talk about sexual abuse, the way we think about rape. The way we now have vocabulary around grooming. The way that we understand consent. The way that we talk about adulthood and childhood are different than when these allegations first came out thirty years ago. So, I think we are in a place now, to really reckon with all the things that he’s been doing. I think the time that it came out, the idea of these rampant groupies I guess a very dominant idea. We did not think about women’s bodies in the same way. We really thought about women’s bodies as the spoils of war for rich and famous men.
KB: Because they were Black girls and we didn’t give a damn. Even in the space of defending Blackness against white supremacy, that Blackness is Black masculinity. It is not Black femininity. We look at rates that over 60% of Black girls are going to be a survivor of sexual assault before her 18th birthday. Sexual violence as a practice tends to be intraracial.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 21: Oronike Odeleye attends 2019 ROOT 100 Gala at The Angel Orensanz Foundation on November 21, 2019 in New York City.
(Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images)
xoNecole: Why do you think the #MeToo movement hasn’t taken off in the music industry the same way it's taken off in Hollywood?
TB: This idea though that Hollywood was broken wide open is not true. I think the cases that we saw were really huge. Weinstein was obviously the big one and there’s several more behind that. And for one Weinstein, there’s 25 that we don’t know about. And that’s why they keep trickling out little by little and they just get less and less attention every year. Because people care less and less every year. So the question of why hasn’t there been a case as big as Harvey Weinstein in the music industry? I don’t know. Most people when they ask this question they’re asking about hip hop and R&B. I have heard horrific stories off the record that artists have shared with me or industry folks have shared with me and I’ve said why won’t you come forward? And they’re like, "There’s no way that my career would recover if we did." In fact, there were people who would not come forward about R. Kelly even though R. Kelly doesn’t even have a career, because they were scared of the retribution inside of the industry. So, I don’t know what the music industry is set up in vs. Hollywood in terms of the way people’s careers are controlled. But if we’re talking about white women vs. Black women, Black women just have way less protection. And I think Black women have way more to lose. Even if you look inside Hollywood, how many Black women in Hollywood have come forward? And the ones that did come forward, look what happened to them.
SLA: The music industry has always been one in which personal relationships can facilitate success even with individuals with no talent. There isn’t a requirement of any type of education. The barrier to entry is very, very low in many respects. Which is a good thing. At the same time, in the way in which people are connected to each other and the amount of money that’s at stake, people are unwilling to go against the status quo. They’re not willing to speak up because they don’t want to have their money messed with. I believe that society is a cesspool of relationships that are highly interwoven and interconnected, the music industry in particular is just particularly patriarchal. It’s particularly rife with nepotism in a way that really encourages groupthink and group movement.
OO: Well, I don’t know if I would agree with [the framing of that question]. I think that it has in fact put artists and record labels on notice that the community is paying attention. Right now, I’m seeing so much conversation around Trey Songz. We’re seeing so much conversation around Chris Brown. We’re seeing so much conversation about Tory Lanez and violence against women. So I think everyone is hyper-tuned in and paying attention now. And so I think people now are way quicker to call these things out when they’re seeing it and to come forward.
Photo courtesy of Kenyette Barnes
xoNecole: Even with the conviction of R. Kelly which has been a long, long time coming, the culture that created him and allowed him to thrive still exists. What do you think it’ll take to finally dismantle rape culture within the music industry and writ large?
TB: This is the magic question. I think we have to have a huge culture shift and I think it has to happen from multiple directions. The example I use all the time is cigarettes. A little over thirty years ago, we could smoke on airplanes. Most people under a particular age don’t remember that. I remember when you could smoke on airplanes, in clubs – everywhere. And that’s how I grew up. Sitting in the back of my father’s car with the windows closed and he was smoking a cigarette. Then there was a huge concerted effort to shift how we thought about smoking cigarettes. And it’s obviously a very different paradigm, but the reason that I use it is because when I think about how they came at that, it was political, because laws had to change that said you can’t smoke in public places. It was a public narrative. We had major campaigns but also you don’t see the Marlboro Man anymore. Cigarette smoking was cool because everybody did it everywhere. It was a part of the culture that was just sort of ingrained. The way that rape culture is so ingrained that it's natural to us. So there was a political intervention, there was a cultural narrative intervention. There was a research intervention. All of a sudden there was all this research on how second-hand kills. Obviously, people still smoke now. But the culture around smoking today and the culture around smoking thirty years ago are completely different. I think about shifting rape culture the same way. We need multiple interventions.
SLA: Going back to what dream said, I think that there needs to be a space in our society where people can actually acknowledge the harm that they’ve caused in a way that’s not going to be met with highly punitive measures. We have to look at the ways in which sexual harm is fostered. It happens everywhere, the music industry is an easy scapegoat. I honestly don’t have an answer if I knew what it would take I would be extremely wealthy. I don’t have the answers, I have some ideas but everything is connected to something else. I’m a huge advocate for restorative justice and our existing system just doesn’t work when it comes to facilitating some kind of redress, for harm period, but particularly for sexual harm. As dream had said, because Robert refuses to take responsibility, it doesn’t even open the door to any type of restorative action. But also, I don’t want to forget that we can posit about restorative justice and restorative practices and how I think that would be an appropriate way to proceed, but the people whose voices matter and who's going to drive restorative justice are his survivors. So if his survivors don’t want that to occur, I can’t offer that as a unilateral response that’s going to address things. Some might want to see him incarcerated. That’s their choice. I’m not going to shame them for it.
KB: I think what #MuteRKelly did was a direct attack at the music industry. And it was one of the first campaigns that really directly targeted the sexual oppression of Black women and girls. I think we’re going to have to continue those conversations. I think we’re going to have a call-in of the entertainment industry. We saw people like John Legend and Chance the Rapper really speak against this, but we need more.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
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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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French Curl Braids Are Summer's It Girl Hairstyle & Here's How To Wear Them
There’s just something about the summertime that makes a Black woman want to break out a fresh set of braids. Maybe it’s the ease of waking up and knowing that of all things on your to-do list, doing your hair isn’t one of them. Or maybe it’s the versatility that comes with the braided tresses that inspire you to want to try out a new style.
While traditional knotless braids and box braids have taken the crown for the last few summers, the word on the hair streets is that there’s a new style that’s stealing the show.
French curl braids have become the latest and most fly braiding style to take over our TikTok ‘’For You” page. What makes the style stand out from traditional box braids with the straight, dipped ends is the unique curly braiding hair that is used to achieve a bouncy spring to the ends of each braid. You might even recognize the look from OG-braid queen Brandy, who rocked the style so effortlessly in her 90’s sitcom Moesha.
The style has since found new innovations in the hands and creativity of Black women (as we do) to take on different styles, layers, and colors that are versatile enough to wear for any day party, graduation, wedding, or poolside you might find yourself at this summer.
Get Inspired by the Best French Curl Braids Inspiration & Styles:
The French curl braiding hair comes in packs of pre-curled synthetic hair, which has been praised for its lightweight yet voluminous look that truly makes a statement.
And if you’re looking to switch your style up for the summer months ahead, we’ve put together the best French curl braiding looks to add to your moodboard and, hopefully, your summer hair lookbook.
Half-Black & Half-Blonde French Curl Braids With a Buss Down Middle Part
And Beyoncé is literally my mom #frenchcurlbraids #blondebraids #goddessbraids #braids
french curl braids may be my fave new haristyle
whoever created this hairstyle ily
Y’all been asking so here’s 6 cute and unique ways i style my layered French curl braids. Which style would you try?😍#celinakama #fyp #howtostylebraids #layeredfrenchcurlbraids #gingerbraids #knotlessbraids #braidhairstyles #howtostyleknotlessbraids
We’ve brought the IT Girl Braids to the USA! Get your French Curl bundles now, site in bio! #girlsinChi #frenchcurlbraids #braids #braidstyles #braidinghairstyles #blacktiktok #hairtok
I’ve joined them to make 40k braids 🤣 but honestly the quality of Ayya hair is soo good! Obsessed w my hair 🥰#fyp #celinakama #frenchcurlbraids #layeredfrenchcurlbraids #gingerbraids #comegetmyhairdonewithme #tiktoknigeria
come along to get small knotless french curl braids with me - I was so curious about the process and hestiant about getting them intially so I hope this helps someone out! #frenchcurlbraids #knotlessbraids #harlembraidsnyc #harlembraidingshop #nycbraiders
Ways I like to style my French Curl braids 🏾 Love how versatile braids can be! #braids #frenchcurlbraids #texturedhair #layeredbraids
3 Quick ways to style your french curls #hairstyle #londontiktok #braidsuklondon #leedsuk🇬🇧 #hairtutorial #howtotiktok #styletips #frenchbraids
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