The OWN network has turned up the heat on Tuesday nights. And if you watched the premiere of the Will Packer produced series Ambitions, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Viewers were catapulted into this deliciously messy drama that follows the lives of five families who are all trying to navigate the waters of dominance, disloyalty, dishonesty, and most of all: debauchery. The cast is full of amazing actors who do more than a good job bringing their characters to life -- I'm talking Essence Atkins, Brian J. White, Kendrick Cross, Brely Evans and the lead lady of the pack: Robin Givens.
Owning the role of Stephanie Carlisle Lancaster, wife to Atlanta Mayor Evan Lancaster and successful lawyer at her family's firm, the 54-year-old proves once again why she's able to maintain relevance in an industry of come-and-goers. She's poised, she's sexy, and she's deliberate.
Givens knows exactly how to reel you in and let you go with just enough so that you'll keep coming back for more. But perhaps what's more impressive than what she does on-screen, is the woman she's become off-screen.
As we chat over the phone on a midweek afternoon, it becomes clear that Givens is a woman who has both lived and learned a lot. She's a woman who, at this point in life, is very clear on who she is, where she's going, and who she hopes to be. Her light and reflective disposition radiates easily as she speaks and it lets me know that, more than anything, Robin Givens is an unstoppable, unshakable, and inspiring force.
The renowned actress spoke candidly with us about Ambitions, faith, and if she'll ever get married again. Here's what she had to say.
xoNecole: We’ve seen you play a myriad of roles onscreen: the vixen, the sex symbol, the tough girl who takes no stuff. Are there are any parallels between you and the characters you portray?
Robin Givens: Well, I think I usually play smart women, you know they're very well-educated. In some ways I'm a little bit behind my character, but in others, I'm ahead of them. I think I'm more mature and maybe more evolved in life than Stephanie Lancaster in some ways. I feel that in some respects though, for a lot of characters that I played--they had more confidence than I had. Stephanie is shrewd; she can maneuver things which personally I'm terrible at. Some parts of her, I really admire because I wouldn't even know how to do what she does.
"Stephanie is shrewd; she can maneuver things which personally I'm terrible at. Some parts of her, I really admire because I wouldn't even know how to do what she does."
In a recent interview, you talked about how Stephanie was first written in the script. You described her as an “Ice Queen.” What originally drew you to play her character?
The writing was just SO good, and I thought I could shade her in and color her a little bit differently than a lot of people would. I just knew I thought of her in a certain way and I wanted to give her a sense of humor. So I think that was a little bit different than what Jamey [Giddens, creator] had in mind initially.
While watching the first episode of ‘Ambitions’, viewers almost get a sense that Stephanie and her husband Evan almost hate each other. That they’re only married for convenience, can you give us a little insight into their relationship?
I think initially it was convenient, and I think she thinks she's ambitious. She sees that Evan can be the mayor of Atlanta and [might] go on to become governor of Georgia. But as time goes on, you begin to see that there is a little bit more [of] something there. They really are a power couple. Each of them sees themselves in each other and they're kind of bonded in a way. Later on, we'll get to see that there's a little more love in there.
Robin Givens as Stephanie Carlisle starring alongside Brian J. White as Evan Lancaster in 'Ambitions'
"They really are a power couple. Each of them sees themselves in each other and they're kind of bonded in a way."
You mentioned power couple just now, so I’m curious. If you could compare their relationship to one in the public eye currently, whose would it be and why? We saw on the ‘All-Access’ show, your costar Brian J. White mentioned Bill and Hillary [Clinton or] Jay-Z and Beyoncé.
I mean, I don't know! I work with Brian so I know how he feels personally about this (laughs). He was actually a big part in our 'Stephanie and Evan', in terms of the closeness of their relationship. I think I can pull Bill and Hillary. I don't know much about their personal relationship but certainly they are very bonded. I think they have a mutual respect for one another. From the outside looking in, I think he admires her [and] respects her. And Evan feels that way about Stephanie; the respect and admiration is mutual. So, when we [hear] his character say, "I'm never going to leave my wife"-- it's true. Evan is never going to leave her. There is no woman like his wife… I think she challenges him.
Has Stephanie and Evans's relationship altered the way you view marriage in any way?
No, no. I don't take it that seriously. I don't think I would want their marriage, I don't think anyone would want their marriage! So definitely don't try this at home. To the people watching: don't push up on your wife and don't pull a gun on your husband (laughs).
Is marriage something you’re open to again?
Of course, of course yes--I would absolutely love it! I have two boys, I adopted my first child and the other one I had with a wonderful man. He remarried but we love each other dearly and I love his wife. So we are very much a blended family, but absolutely. I would love that, especially now that I'm an empty nester. I'm working again, I'm a little older. So maybe I can focus in on that as well.
Maybe you can, yes. We are all rooting for you.
Maybe I can have my agent hook me up, but hey if you know anybody let me know!
I surely will, I’ll be your Wingwoman.
There you go, yes! We have to stick together, we have to (laughs).
So at this stage in your life, empty nester-slash-working woman: how would you like a man to court you?
Well, I like being treated like a lady. I really need someone who just gets me, you know? I'm so different from any of my characters. I need someone who understands me. Someone who thinks I'm cute apart from all of this, acting and getting dressed up… I'm looking for peace because I like that. Laughter, friendship in a very simple way. I like to enjoy life with simplicity, so I try to keep things that way. And someone who is patient, likes dating me, and who can make me laugh.
You mentioned your sons a little bit ago, do you find that motherhood affects the way you go about dating?
I think so. I tried to keep dating very separate from them. But now that they're older, I started talking about dating when my eldest son started dating. And it's funny because, there was this one time when we were out somewhere and he goes, "Come on Mom, it's time for you to start dating again, you have to get a guy and stop concentrating on us." And it's like, why is my child verbally reprimanding me? (laughs) I was mad but I was cracking up at the same time.
But you know, the older they get, the more freeing you get. In the sense of you don't have to be home at a certain time and things like that. So, now that I have an empty nest, I think with that comes a courage--not just for dating but for acting as well. For pursuing your dreams and concentrating on yourself and making yourself your project instead of your children--that takes courage.
Behind the scenes of 'Ambitions' with Robin Givens as Stephanie Carlisle Lancaster
"Now that I have an empty nest, I think with that comes a courage--not just for dating but for acting as well. For pursuing your dreams and concentrating on yourself and making yourself your project instead of your children."
I want to switch gears a bit and talk about your advocacy against domestic violence. You’ve been a voice for the bulk of your career, having experienced it in your own life at a point.
And there’s a scene in episode one where after Evan pushes Stephanie, she decides to turn it up several notches and pulls out a gun. Was there a sense of empowerment of “fighting back”?
As much as I am an advocate for domestic violence, I'm really just an advocate for women. I'm a woman, I'm a black woman and I really believe we all have more in common than we think. Certainly our circumstances are different but I think these are all women's issues. And I like to do my part in empowering women especially with being a single mom. I do like how Stephanie gives him no energy whatsoever and then like you said, she takes it up a notch. I don't really connect it to myself so much, I don't do that.
I allow Stephanie to live in me. I bring her to life without burdening her with my history and my circumstances. That being said, I think everything I've gone through in my life--the good, bad and the ugly--helps give me a perspective. It gives me a well to draw from. It's in me. So I can't deny that I put some things into it, but I don't want her to carry around Robin on her back. She's got enough issues to deal with on her own.
Robin Givens as Stephanie Carlisle starring alongside Brian J. White as Evan Lancaster in 'Ambitions'
"I allow Stephanie to live in me. I bring her to life without burdening her with my history and my circumstances. That being said, I think everything I've gone through in my life--the good, bad and the ugly--helps give me a perspective. It gives me a well to draw from."
You are definitely right about that. But on a personal note, what would you say is the biggest difference between the Robin at the beginning or your career and the Robin you are currently?
I'm grown up--I'm a grown up now! I started this really, really young; I think I've had my SAG-Aftra card probably 35 years now or something like that. I've grown and the world kind of watched me grow up. Now I'm a grown woman and I like being a grown up. So I think that's probably the biggest difference. I was a baby in a sense, a kid initially. But with being grown and being more mature, I have a perspective and respect for things and opportunities.
There were so many things I said "no" to that the Adult Robin would look back on and go, "Now why did you say 'no' to that? Are you crazy, you think opportunities just come as you'd like them?" (laughs) So I think having the perspective of an adult--I really like that and it makes me a better actor, you know what I mean? I feel like I can bring Stephanie to life knowing that I want her to be however strong she seems to people, but that she has vulnerabilities. And that was important for me to show. She has fears. And as an adult now, I know how to shade her in a different way.
Before you go, I want to touch on your faith. I know that’s very important to you, having been vocal about how it anchored you in a sense and got you through some of your lowest moments...
So I want to ask you about a quote you once said. It reads: “It is by experiencing God that we get to know Him…and it is in knowing God, truly knowing God, that we get to know ourselves.” When you hear that, what does this statement mean to you?
You know, my relationship with God is as I call it, is a relationship with "the only Father I've known." It's been something that's grounded me, sustained me, and saved me. It's meant everything to me. It's how I'm able to be here, be sane and be whole. And hopefully, perfectly broken in a way that can inspire others. He has given purpose to this sort of, beautiful mess. You know, I grew up Catholic and there was a certain ritual that we would go through. And I think often times, we go through these rituals and we--or I didn't really get to know God-- or what it meant to really fall onto your knees [in prayer] until I could only fall on my knees and prayer. So that relationship changed for me and went beyond being a ritual to being a real relationship and that has meant the world to me.
"My relationship with God is a relationship with 'the only Father I've known.' It's been something that's grounded me, sustained me, and saved me. It's meant everything to me."
For more of Robin, follow her on Instagram. And catch new episodes of Ambitions every Tuesday night at 10/9c, only on OWN.
*Some answers have been condensed and edited for clarity.
Featured image by Joe Seer / Shutterstock.com
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Imma tell y’all what — it seems like not one week goes by when I don’t see some sort of so-called term that has me like, “What in the world?” For instance, when I first stumbled upon “self-partnering,” honestly, I laughed. Then shared it with some other single people as well as married folks I know. And I kid you not, every individual was like, “What the heck does that mean?” When I told them that it was yet, one more way to seemingly define single living, basically everyone’s follow-up was, “Oh, brother.”
Why can’t (more) singles just be single and be okay with that? Good Lord. Why does there need to be some sort of relational play-on-words to make it sound like we’re with someone — even if we’re not?
Now masturdating? Even though it’s not even close to being a “real” word, it’s something that also brought a laugh outta me — although it was then followed by a genuine smile. The laugh because I almost immediately caught the play-on-words. The smile was due to the intention behind it all.
If you’re not familiar with what masturdating is and you’re curious about why you should even care, take a few moments to at least skim through what it’s about and why I think participating, as a single person, is a pretty cool (and effective) concept.
Masturdate: a date w oneself
What’s Masturdating All About?
Masturdating. Okay, so let the word marinate for just a moment. What does it sound like? Yeah…exactly. And since a huge part of masturbation centers around self-pleasure, it’s cool to explore how “self-dating” could produce similar (as far as pleasure is concerned in a broader sense) results. Because masturdating is all about spending quality time with yourself, pampering yourself, treating yourself— and yes, taking yourself out on dates.
Any of you who may think that masturdating is a consolation prize — and a pitiful one at that — for not being able to go out with another human being or get that dream $200 first date that social media was all in a tizzy about last year (bookmark that) — personally, I think that you’re the demographic who needs to try out masturdating first and the most. Why? Off top, I’ll share my three good reasons.
3 Reasons To Strongly Consider Masturdating
1. It’s an intimate way to get to know yourself better. I’ve been working with couples for a pretty long time at this point and if there’s a pattern that I see arise, OFTEN, it’s that two people are oftentimes so busy trying to “find their person” that they didn’t even know who they were. As a direct result, they found themselves in a relationship with someone who only complemented the “kiddie pool version” of who they were.
That’s why it can be so beneficial to spend time getting to know yourself on the “deep end” of things: what makes you tick, what your passions are, what you want most out of life, what are your interests beyond obvious things — and masturdating can help you to discover all of this. Whether it’s traveling alone or taking out a weekend to drink some wine and journal, the more you get to know yourself, the clearer you’ll be about who complements you on a romantic and friendship level.
2. It will definitely help to boost your confidence levels. I guess since I’m an ambivert, I don’t really get why people freak out at the mere thought of going to a restaurant or movie alone. Personally, I think it requires a helluva lot more energy and gumption to wait around and plan stuff with other people (#Elmoshrug). However, whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert, there’s no way around the fact that the more comfortable you get with doing things alone, the more your confidence levels will increase — no, soar — because of it.
One article that I read on the topic said that doing things alone can make you more creative, improve your mental health, and help you to be totally okay with being alone (so that you’re not “needy” for other people’s attention). A psychotherapist from a New York Times article on the benefits of spending time alone said, “Getting better at identifying moments when we need solitude to recharge and reflect can help us better handle negative emotions and experiences, like stress and burnout.” And when you’re able to stare negativity in its face without flinching, how could that not make you bolder, more self-secure, and hopeful about your life?
3. It will teach you to value your time more effectively. In every facet of your world, you’re gonna operate from a healthier place if you’re operating from a “full cup” rather than an empty one. When it comes to this topic, think about it — if you’re constantly waiting on someone to call you to go out or wishing for a dream date with some guy, all you’re doing is wasting precious time that you could be spending taking a cooking class or hell, hiring a chef to make you dinner at your own home.
Indeed, waiting has two sides to it: when it’s in the form of patience, it is indeed a virtue, yet when it’s wrapped up in the notion that you’re not really living life unless you have an audience…it is totally working against you. Choose wisely.
10 Solo Date Ideas To Help You To “Master” Masturdating
So, what if you’re someone who has either never considered actually masturdating before or you don’t really know what to do beyond dinner and the movies? Here are a few ideas to consider:
1. Attend a workshop or masterclass that you’re interested in. If there’s something that you’ve always wanted to learn, sign up for a workshop or masterclass. The cool thing about this option is there are probably some in your city, as well as some that you can find online (like here) that are convenient and affordable.
2. Binge-read at a local coffee shop. Aside from their coziness and oftentimes inviting scents, I once read that a lot of us gravitate to coffee shops because we can be around people without having to actually socialize with them. So, if you want to “hang out” while still being able to enjoy a bit of solitude, take a book that you’ve been trying to finish to a local coffee shop, order your favorite latte, and sit in a big-ass comfy chair. Usually, you can sit there for hours, and the staff will be just fine with it (another bonus).
3. Have a spa day in the next town. You can never go wrong with a spa day. And while going with a friend can be fun, sometimes there’s too much talking transpiring to be able to fully chill out and relax. So, go off of the grid, get a change of scenery, and hit up a spa in the next city (or town). There are lots of studies out here supporting that day trips or “daycations” can actually be really good for your long-term health and well-being.
4. See a community play. Some of the best solo dates that I’ve ever been on consisted of taking in some of the local arts in my city. What’s really cool about this particular option is, oftentimes, they are extremely inexpensive, if not totally free of charge (in exchange for making a donation or putting money into a tip jar).
5. Plan a trip. Whenever people say something along the lines of, “If you don’t expect anything, you won’t be disappointed,” I know that they low-key have some (additional) healing to do from past disappointments. There’s simply too much intel out here to support that anticipation (of good stuff) makes us more motivated and optimistic, keeps our dopamine levels up, and makes life more exciting overall.
Since traveling alone is more cost-effective, gives you the freedom to do whatever you want (when you want), and increases the possibility of meeting new people and having new experiences on your journey — why not devote a day this weekend to planning a solo trip? All the way around, it’s good for you.
6. Try your hand at your own “$200 date.” Uh-huh. Roll your eyes if you want to, but it’s real easy to talk left about how a man should be able to just drop $200 like it’s nothing…until you actually try to do it. So yes, while taking yourself out on this type of date could serve as a bit of a reality check, it can also “scratch the itch” of waiting on some dude to do it for you. It’s also way less emotionally draining because, at least when you’re taking your own self out, it’s guaranteed that you’ll enjoy the company…right?
7. DIY some pampering. When you get a chance, check out “5 Reasons You Should Unapologetically Pamper Yourself,” “Want To Love On Yourself? Try These 10 Things At Home.,” “I’ve Got Some Ways For You To Start Pampering Your Soul,” and “When's The Last Time You Actually Pampered Your Vagina?” The bottom line here is pampering is all about, not mere self-maintenance; it’s all about treating yourself to levels of EXTREME SELF-INDULGENCE. So, if nothing else tickles your fancy on this list, at least consider doing that, chile.
8. Feed your creativity. Something that I used to be really good at is art. That said, one of my goddaughters is insanely talented, so she has reminded me to tap back into it. Also, a big part of what got me into the writing world is poetry; I actually used to be a house poet at a local spot. Sometimes, my best quality time moments with myself have been revisiting these creative sides of me — and this is definitely easier to do (and enjoy) alone.
9. Try some stargazing. When’s the last time you took a blanket into your backyard, laid down on it, and just stared at the stars for hours on end? While some say that stargazing can teach you to be mindful, others say that being in that form of nature reduces stress, while others believe that looking up at the universe at night can increase your attention span. All solid reasons to give it a shot, if you ask me.
10. DO. ABSOLUTELY. NOTHING. Let me tell you something that nobody will ever be able to make me feel bad about: doing absolutely nothing. I’ve got data to back me up. Good Housekeeping shares that doing nothing can help you decide how you want to respond or react to certain things. I like howThe Guardian says that taking this approach helps you to regain control of what you give your attention to.
TIME magazine says that it can ultimately make you more productive.BBC offers up that it can help you tap into your ingenuity.Henry Ford Health says that it can make you kinder and a better problem-solver. So, if you want to invest in yourself, do nothing sometimes.
Closing Thoughts from the Lovely Javicia Leslie
While some of y'all may know Javicia Leslie from being the former Batwoman, I discovered her back in the day from the indie series Chef Julian (and yes, "Julian" was right to say that "Mo" looks like Tatyana Ali...the real ones know). Sometimes I'll hop on her IG to see what she's got going on and this story popped up within a few hours of me penning this...so, I took it as hella confirmation.
TREAT YO SELF. WAIT FOR NO ONE.
WAIT FOR NO ONE. TREAT YO SELF.
RINSE AND REPEAT.
Sooo…what kind of masturdating plans do you have for this coming weekend? While going out with others has its perks, hanging out with yourself has a ton of ‘em too. Enjoy!
No…for real. ENJOY!
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