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 was first evident more than a decade ago when she quit her job as the corporate executive of a Fortune 500 company during a Periscope livestream. “I’m not sure if there’s an alignment of [our] future trajectory. I’m going to work for myself. I'm promoting myself to work for myself,” she said at the time before flashing a smile at the viewing audience. As she resigned on camera, a constant stream of encouraging messages floated upwards on the screen.
By 2021, she’d fashioned her work as a corporate consultant and her personal life with her husband and three adopted daughters into a reality show, She’s The Boss, for USA Network. This year, she released the New York Times bestselling memoir Nothing Is Missing, written as she was in the process of getting a divorce and dealing with her eldest daughter’s struggles with substance use.
Convinced that there’s no way the 39-year-old has achieved all of this without intentional strategic planning, I asked her about it when we spoke less than a week before Christmas. I’d seen videos on social media of her working on 2024 planning for other brands, and I wanted to know what that looked like following her own year of success.
She listed a number of goals, including ensuring that the projects she takes on in the new year align with her identity “as a Black woman, as an African woman, as a mother, as someone who has lived a [rebuilding] season and is now trying to live boldly and entirely as themselves.” But, I was shocked by how much of her business planning also prioritized rest.
Despite the bestselling book, a self-titled podcast, and working with numerous corporations, Walters said she’s been taking Fridays off. This year, she doesn’t want to work on Mondays, either.
“A lot of us think we work hard until retirement hits. I want to progress towards retirement,” she said, noting that she’ll check in with herself around March to see how successful this plan has been. The goal, Walters said, is to only be working on Tuesdays and Thursdays by sometime in 2025. “It is intentionally building out what I know I would like to have happen and not waiting for exhaustion to be the trigger of change.”
"A lot of us think we work hard until retirement hits. I want to progress towards retirement... It is intentionally building out what I know I would like to happen and not waiting for exhaustion to be the trigger of change."
Walters said the decision to progressively work less was partially in response to her previously held notions about her career, especially as an entrepreneur. “When I first started, I thought burnout was a part of it,” she said. “What I didn’t realize is that even if you’re able to bounce out of burnout or get back to it, there’s a cumulative impact on your body. If you think of your body as a tree and every time you go through burnout, you are taking a hack out of your trunk, yes, that trunk will heal over, and the tree will continue to grow, but it doesn't mean that you don’t have a weakened stem.”
But, the desire for increased rest was also in response to the major shifts that occurred three years ago when she was experiencing major changes in her family and realized her metaphorical tree was “bending all the way over.”
“One of the things we have to recognize, especially as Black women, is that there is this engrained, societal, systemic notion that our worth is built around our productivity,” she added. “That is some language that I think is just now starting to really get unpacked.” In recent years, there’s been an increased awareness of achieving balance in life, with Tricia Hersey’s “The Nap Ministry” gaining attention based on the idea that rest, especially for Black women, is a form of resistance. Even online phrases such as “soft life” and “quiet quitting” have hinted at a cultural shift in prioritizing leisure over professional ambition.
"One of the things we have to recognize, especially as Black women, is that there is this engrained, societal, systemic notion that our worth is built around our productivity."
If companies are lining up to consult with Walters about their brands and products, then women have been looking to her for guidance on starting over since she invited them to livestream her resignation 12 years ago. As viewers continue to demand more from content creators in the form of intimate, personal details, Walters has navigated her personal brand with a sense of transparency without oversharing the vulnerable details about her life, especially when it comes to her family.
The entrepreneur said she’d been approached to write a book for several years and was initially convinced she was finally ready to write one about business. “I started to do that, and then I went through my divorce. When that happened, I said, why would I write a book telling people to get the life that I have when I’m not sure about the life that I have,” she said.
Instead, she decided to write Nothing Is Missing and provide a closer look at her life, starting with being born to immigrant Ghanaian parents (“You need to know my childhood to know why I’m passionate about entrepreneurship.”) through the adoption of her three daughters and eventual divorce. Despite her desire to share, however, she said she felt protective of the privacy of her family, including her ex-husband.
When discussing this with me, Walters said she was reminded of a lesson she learned from actress Kerry Washington, who released her own memoir, Thicker Than Water, just a week before Walters’ book release. Washington’s memoir grapples with family secrets, too, specifically the fact that she was conceived using a sperm donor and didn’t learn about it until she was already a successful TV star. While Washington reflects on how the decision and subsequent deception impacted her, she’s also careful to hold space for her parents’ experiences, too. “A lot of things she said was that she had to recognize where she was the supporting character and where she was the main character,” Walter said.
This is something Walter worked to do in Nothing Is Missing when discussing her daughter’s struggles with addiction. “I was very intentional about making sure that I did not reveal more than what was required,” she said. “If I say something about someone’s addiction, I don’t need to go into the list of the substances they used, how they used them, what I found. [I don’t need to] walk into a room and paint a picture of what it looked like for people to understand.”
Walters said some of the most vulnerable moments in the book barely made a ripple once it was released. She was extremely nervous to write about getting an abortion, she said. But no one has asked her about this in the months since the book was released. Instead, people have been more interested in quirkier revelations, such as the fact that she once appeared on Wheel of Fortune.
“I have bared my soul about this thing I went through in my youth that has changed me for people, and people are like, ‘So how heavy was the wheel when you spun it?’” she said, chuckling. “It just goes to show that people never worry about the thing that you worry about.”
With the success of Nothing Is Missing, Walters said she still isn’t planning to release a business book at the moment. But, as she navigates parenting a teenager and two adult children while also navigating a relationship with her new fiancé, Walters said she believes she has at least one or two more books to write about her personal journey. “There is sort of an arc of where my life has gone that I know I’ve got something more to say about this that I think is important, relevant and necessary,” she said.
In just three years, Walters’ life has undergone a major transformation. There’s no telling what the next three years will have in store for her, but it seems likely she’ll retain an inspired audience wherever life takes her.
Featured image courtesy
Author Stephen Covey once said something that I think is especially relevant to today’s topic: “Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.” Because if there is one thing that I hear far too many married couples (and if I’m gonna be real, it’s mostly the wives) say is their reason for not making intimacy a priority, it’s that they don’t have enough time.
I think we all can attest to the fact that a part of what comes with adulting is time management — and that includes prioritizing our time wisely. And that’s what brings the quote full circle because, although life does indeed have a way of life-ing, it’s essential — crucial even — to remember that, no matter what may come up that may seem “urgent,” intimacy with your spouse is always going to be important.
And that’s why I (catch the pun) made the time to come up with 10 ways to give you more time to have sex with your man, even if it seems like you don’t exactly have it.
1. Scale Down Your Social MediaGiphy
Whenever one of my clients tells me that the reason her sex life with her husband is suffering is because she doesn’t have the time for it, one of the first three questions that I ask her is how much time she spends on social media. If I get “crickets,” I’m automatically rolling my eyes to where she can see it.
Why? Because I am well aware of the fact that most people, on average, spend 2.5 hours A DAY scrolling on social media platforms. And since most people are fine with intercourse lasting anywhere between 7-13 minutes (Google it) — let’s just be real: when it comes to the sex lives that are on life support, it’s not that most of those folks don’t have time, it’s that they don’t make it….and that means they don’t prioritize sex in their relationship. And that is a problem that will only get bigger over time if it’s not addressed — quick, fast, and in a hurry.
If you feel seen, it’s time to power that phone down and ramp up your sex life. Social media will always be there; it’s important that you be proactive about making sure your marriage remains healthy and intact.
2. Shower TogetherGiphy
I think we all know that if your objective is to get clean(er), you need to take a shower instead of hopping into the bath (because clean water coming out of a showerhead is better than floating dirt in bathwater). So, what’s the plus of bathing? If you want to soothe achy muscles, reduce stress levels, and/or exfoliate your skin, having a bath soak can be a good look. However, since the chance of that being your focus first thing in the morning is slim, why not get “dirty” and clean with your partner in the morning before heading off to work?
Since, reportedly, the average shower lasts eight minutes, and we just discussed that sex tends to be between 7-13 minutes, you could be in there with your man for around 15 minutes and come out with an orgasmand being squeaky clean. Now, what could be better than that, sis?
3. Stop Underestimating QuickiesGiphy
I was recently talking to a male friend of mine about how his fiancée would rather have no sex at all instead of a quickie: “That s-it makes absolutely no sense to me because we both are able to get ours whether it’s an hour or 15 minutes.”
Listen, it’s not like I don’t see both sides of the coin on this. As far as she goes, sometimes long foreplay, a ton of romance (check out “Tonight's The Night For A More Romantic Sexual Experience With Your Partner”), and going multiple rounds are very much needed. At the same time, though, a quickie can give you all of the health benefits that longer sessions do, plus the climax.
Ever heard of the saying, “You’re cutting off your nose, just to spite your face?” If you’re turning down quickies just because the sex sessions aren’t as long as what you’re used to (or would prefer), you are a walking definition of the saying. Just because quickies are a compromise, that doesn’t mean that you’re settling (check out “12 Super Solid Reasons To Have A Quickie Every Single Day”). Not. At. All.
4. Eat Other Things than Lunch (Metaphorically Speaking)Giphy
I recently read that close to 50 percent of people skip lunch at least once a week. Chile, why? You’ve earned it, and so you should have it. And if you need more motivation to take what I just said seriously, even if you’re not hungry during lunchtime, use that as an opportunity to enjoy your partner. By law, most lunch breaks are either 30 minutes or an hour, and that’s certainly enough minutes to “get the job done” — even if that means having a standing appointment at a hotel that isn’t too far from where the two of you work. Middle-of-the-day sex is top-tier. If you don’t know, ask some of your girlfriends who probably do.
5. Remember: Oral Sex CountsGiphy
Back when I used to be a teen mom mentor for the local chapter of a national organization, it used to trip me out how much some of the students would try and trick themselves into thinking that oral sex isn’t “real sex.” Nevermind the fact that sex is literally in the term — genitalia is penetrating a body part, you can get STIs/STDs from the act, and, let me tell it, it’s even more intimate.
Anyway, my point here is, even if there doesn’t seem to be enough time for total disrobing (for whatever reason), a satisfying workaround is some cunnilingus and fellatio — believe that. You’ll still get an orgasm. You’ll still feel connected to your partner. And you’ll still get a helluva stress release. Yes, oral sex IS sex — and that needs to be said far more often than it tends to be.
6. Turn Date Night into Sex DatesGiphy
Did you know that 52 percent of couples rarely, if ever, have a date night? That’s super unfortunate, considering date nights are all about being intentional about spending quality time with your partner. That said, if you happen to fall into that percentile, take this as a super loud PSA to start prioritizing dates with your bae. By the way, if you are someone who is pretty good about getting out with your man, at least once a month, try and shoot for twice a month and turn one of those into a sex date — time that is set aside to do nothing more than copulate with your partner (check out “When's The Last Time You And Your Man Had A 'Sex Date'?”). It increases anticipation, and that can intensify the sexual experience on a whole ‘nother level.
7. Get Up Earlier and/or Go to Bed LaterGiphy
Again, we’ve already discussed that you can get what you need (you know, for the most part) in about 13 minutes (give or take 15 minutes of foreplay first) so, at least once a week, why not set your alarm clock to wake up earlier for some morning sex or commit to staying up a bit later for some late-night coitus? Since only 60 percent of couples currently go to bed together at night, this tip could inspire you both to get more pillow talk and cuddling in, too, which are all forms of quality time that pretty much every husband and wife need on some level.
8. Stop Running (So Many) Errands When the Kids Aren’t at HomeGiphy
My goddaughters are 12 and 4, and they’ve got just as much, if not more, of a busy schedule than their parents do. Something that I tend to notice, though, is when they are in their dance, volleyball, acting, or whatever other class they’ve got going on, their parents automatically use that as an opportunity to run all kinds of errands. And while that might be a practical use of time — how smart is it if intimacy with your partner is far and few between?
My two cents? If your kids have activities after school 2-3 times a week, make sure that one of those days is set aside for nothing else but sex. I promise you that no matter how important grocery shopping or eyebrow waxing is, if you’re not making time for your spouse, whether immediately or eventually, that will start to create an avalanche of issues that will make anything else pale in comparison. I see it happen on an almost daily basis.
9. Make the Kids’ “Fun Time” Your Fun Time TooSexy Jessica Alba GIFGiphy
When your kids are watching a movie, you could be having sex. When your kids are playing a video game, you could be having sex. When your kids are entertaining themselves in their room, you could be having sex. When your kids are outside with some friends (kids still do that, right?), you could be having sex. When your kids (who are old enough) are making a snack, you could be having sex.
Once children hit a certain age, it’s important to not “helicopter parent” them by feeling that you need to hover over them 24 hours a day. Once they have become self-sufficient enough to do certain things on their own, announce that mommy and daddy will be in the bedroom if they need anything and take advantage of that half-hour or two hours that you’ve got. You’d be amazed how much they’d appreciate you not being on top of them all of the time anyway. #justsayin’
10. Schedule SexGiphy
Any time someone tells me that they don’t want to schedule sex because it won’t be as good that way, I’m always on some — does scheduling dinner at your favorite restaurant make the meal less appetizing? Does scheduling time with your friends make it less fun? Does scheduling a mani/pedi make it less pampering? Please, let’s just stop. When you schedule something, that means that you’re prioritizing it, and sending a message to your partner that you want nothing more than to spend time with him, intimately, is sexy — plain and simple.
Listen, even though we all get 24 hours in a day, sometimes our to-do lists are so jam-packed that it’s both responsible to get your sex life “on the books.”
You know, when it comes to “having time” quotes, someone once said, “People make time for who they want to make time for. They text, call, and reply to people they want to talk to. Never believe someone who says they’re too busy; If they wanted to be around you, they would.” Do I think this resolve is black and white? No. Sometimes, folks have to wait before you can get back to them.
What I will say, however, is when you signed up to be married, you signed up to have your spouse take precedence over just about everyone and everything else. I will also say that a part of what comes with the marital agreement is sexual activity. Put those two things together, and yes — it’s important to never be too busy to find time, sexually, for your spouse. Besides, if the sex is good, how can it ever not be time well spent, chile? C’mon now.
Featured image by Giphy