Not too long ago, I saw an article that had a title that made me chuckle—"Eighty-Four Percent of Families Plan to Be Together this Christmas, even Though Two-thirds Predict an Argument with Relatives, According to New International Survey". Goodness. If you just read that and shook your head because you can totally relate, perhaps, "This Will Keep Your Family Off Of Your LAST Nerve This Holiday Season" might be the better read for you than this one (good luck and hang in there).
On the other hand, if you're someone who has decided to totally buck the system and forego all of the holiday travel, family bonding and potential drama so that you can have a nice quiet time at home with you and your boo—first of all, congrats. I salute anyone who chooses to do the holidays their own way. Secondly, I've got a few ideas the two of you can do together; things that will help to turn your home into an unforgettable romantic winter wonderland for you and yours—whether it snows outside or not this year or not.
Decorate Your Tree (or Go with a Tree Alternative)
As far as decorating your tree goes, this is probably already something that the two of you do. But the reason why it tops the list is because, what I mean is, to make a ritual out of it. Turn on some of your favorite music; break open a bottle of wine; once the lights are on the tree, dim your overhead lighting; turn off the television and silence your smartphone—shoot, put on some sexy lingerie and then decorate the tree. Maybe even take out this time to make a couple of ornaments; it's a great way to have fun with your partner and create memories at the same time (check out some DIY links here, here and here).
Or, if you'd prefer to spare a live tree this year or you want to go with more of an avant-garde look in your home, you could make—a tree display out of copper and wood (here); a wooden tree to display your Christmas greeting cards from (here); a wall-mounted tree out of velvet fabric (here); a tree that's made from yarn (here), or you can get a couple of faux tabletop trees to put on your nightstands and call it a day.
Cook (or Bake) Christmas Childhood Favorites
As a marriage life coach, something that I think can help couples to understand each other more is to discuss their childhoods more often. For instance, there is someone I know who doesn't miss a Christmas without watching The Wizard of Oz; like they get low-key irate if they miss it. When I finally asked them why, they explained that while growing up with an alcoholic parent, watching that movie was the only time when there seemed to be peace in the house. Someone else told me that big Christmas breakfasts are a must-do tradition because it reminds them of their home before their parents broke up.
Cooking with your partner is already a wonderful (and effective) way to spend quality time with them. But if you both are intentional about preparing some Christmas childhood favorites, the stories that you both share can shed some enlightenment and, in turn, bring the both of you closer together too.
Watch Your Favorite Throwback Christmas Episodes
Pretty much any throwback program that you can think of has a Christmas episode. If you can't find them on your favorite streaming service, sites like Dailymotion and YouTube may have them. It could be a lot of fun to watch a Christmas episode of A Different World, Living Single or Moesha in between some of those sappy Christmas movies that are in heavy rotation right about now. I know I always dig them when I see them.
Slow Drag—then Make Out—to Christmas Classics
In this ever-shifting culture, one thing that never gets old is slow dragging. I think it's because, whether you can actually dance or not, it's something that you can pull off. Plus, you're able to get all close 'n cuddly with your partner. Yeah, the slow drag continues to be undefeated. That's why I say that, in between all of the things on this list, take out at least 30 minutes to put on some of your favorite Black Christmas music classics while slow dragging underneath a mistletoe. If you do it right, the dance could turn into a make out session and…who knows what that could lead to?
Make S’mores in Your Fireplace
Dark chocolate is quite the aphrodisiac. If you're fortunate enough to have a fireplace, create your own mini bonfire by making some s'mores in it. You can find a classic recipe, along with over a dozen more creative ones, here. Or, if you still like the s'mores idea but all you've got is an oven, you can still make some bomb ones by following this recipe.
Have an Indoor (or Outdoor) Picnic
Something that couples can actually have year-round are picnics; it doesn't have to be indoors either. Yeah, I already know that some of y'all are looking at me like I am crazy, but I personally know some couples—yes, Black ones—who have had some really romantic Valentine's Day picnics outdoors with the help of some chicken noodle soup, hot chocolate and chunky knitted blankets.
Anyway, if you totally dig the picnic concept but indoor is more your speed, here are some of the things that you will need to totally set it off:
- An indoor tent
- Some candles (or twinkle lights)
- Some throw pills
- Background music
- Some finger foods
- A Christmas-themed dish
- A bottle of bubbly
After a little time in an indoor picnic tent, there's no telling how much you might end up prefer it to your own bed (if you know what I mean).
Play a Christmas Music or Movies Drinking Game
So, earlier this year, I read an article that addressed if sex when you're drunk or high is better, strictly from a scientific perspective. Long story short, if you wanna take more sexual risks, get drunk; if you want sex to feel better, get high. But if, for whatever the reason, weed ain't your thing, go with red wine. It's proven to boost the libido of men and especially women which can make for a really good time.
Make the drinking even more enjoyable by having your own Christmas pop culture drinking game. Ask each other questions about some classic Black Christmas movies and music and take a shot every time you get an answer wrong. Shoot, take the game up a notch by also taking off a piece of clothing too. A game that ends with some red wine-induced sex is a game worth playing (a few times), if you ask me.
Give Each Other a Love Language Present
Over this past year, we touched on the importance of love languages in relationships quite a bit (check out "I Discovered My Husband's Love Language ...And It Changed Everything", "Your Love Language, According To Your Zodiac Sign", "Knowing Your Partner's Love Language Can Transform Your Relationship" and "15 Date Ideas Based On Your Love Language").
One way to convey to your partner that you not only know what their love language is, but you understand how to speak it is to give them a Christmas present that is based on their love language.
For instance, if their love language is quality time, give them a reservation to a bed and breakfast in the next city. Or, if their love language is acts of service, offer to use your gifts and talents to help them get an idea off of the ground in the new year. Love language gifts are cool because, not only are they thoughtful, they can make you and your partner feel seen, heard and felt which is always a really beautiful and beneficial thing.
Also, Give Each Other a “12 Dates of Christmas” Date Jar
Speaking of spending quality time together, if you and yours have big plans in 2021, make sure that the romance in your relationship doesn't fall by the wayside. One way to avoid that is to plan ahead when it comes to going on future dates. One way to do that is by giving each other a "12 Dates of Christmas" Date Jar (not to be mistaken by the sex jar that every long-term committed couple also should have in their possession as well). In it, put pieces of paper that have cool date ideas for the next 12 months. Both of you hand each other a jar come Christmas morning. It can be exciting to see what the two of you have come up with. Plus, you can both have the assurance that you'll be going on at least two dates a month until 2022 rolls around.
If you and yours are serious about having a quiet and romantic Christmas, let those close to you know that you'll be falling totally off of the grid, at least from December 24 thru December 26. Then put your cell phones on vibrate and in a room where you won't be spending a ton of time. Keep your computers off, period and only have your television on to watch movies and television programs—no news (including entertainment news).
When you make a point to totally disconnect from technology, a day away can seem like an entire week. Plus, it can give you and yours time to really relax and reconnect with one another. Out of all of the suggestions I've shared, this is what could end up being the very thing that could result in you having the very best Christmas yet!
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Featured image by Shutterstock
Originally published on December 12, 2019
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (email@example.com) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
Unapologetically, Chlöe: The R&B Star On Finding Love, Self-Acceptance & Boldly Using Her Voice
On set inside of a mid-city Los Angeles studio, it’s all eyes on Chlöe. She slightly shifts her body against a dark backdrop amidst camera clicks and whirs, giving a seductive pout here, and piercing eye contact there. Her chocolate locs are adorned with a few jewels that she requested to spice up the look, and on her shoulders rests a jeweled piece that she asked to be turned around to better showcase her neck (“I feel a bit old,” she said of the original direction). Her shapely figure is tucked into a strapless bodysuit with a deep v-neck that complements her décolletage.
Though subtle, her quiet wardrobe directives give the air of a woman who’s been here before, and certainly knows what she’s doing. At 24 years young, she’s a “Bossy” chick in training— one who’s politely unapologetic and learning the power of her own voice.
“I'm hesitant sometimes to truly speak my mind and speak up for myself and what I believe,” she later confessed to me a couple of weeks after the photoshoot. “It's always scary for me, but now I'm realizing that I have to, in order to gain respect as a Black woman— a young Black woman— who's still navigating who she is. And you know, I'm realizing that closed mouths don't get fed. And if I keep my mouth shut just because I'm afraid of what people's opinions of me will be or turn into, then that's not any way to live.”
For Chlöe, the journey into womanhood is about embracing who she is, without succumbing to the perceptions of what others think of her. From the waist up she’s everything you’d imagine. A gorgeous goddess with the kind of sex appeal that some work hard to embrace but fail to exude. But unbeknownst to anyone not on set, her bottom half is covered by a white robe, surprising coming from the girl who boasts “'Cause my booty so big, Lord, have mercy” on her first hit single “Have Mercy.”
But that’s the beauty of Chlöe. There’s more to her than meets the eye. More than what a few sensual photos sprinkled throughout an Instagram feed could ever tell you. Just like the photo-framing illusion of her portrayed from the waist up, what we know about the songstress is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more beneath the surface.
Some hours later Chlöe leans back in a high chair as her locs are transformed from a formal updo to a seemingly Basquiat-inspired one. It’s pure art, and at her request, no wigs are a part of the day’s ensemble. She’s fully embracing her natural hair, a decision that wasn’t always a socially accepted one.
In the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, (Mableton, to be exact) Chlöe began to explore the foundation of her self-image. At an early age she and her younger sister, Halle, demonstrated a vocal prowess and knack for being in front of the camera that caught their parents’ attention. Soon after, they were sent on a parade of local talent shows and auditions, and eventually broke into the digital space with song covers on YouTube.
It was during these early years that Chlöe first learned that the entertainment industry could be unforgiving to those who didn’t fit a particular beauty standard. Despite the then three-year-old snagging a role as the younger version of Beyoncé’s character, Lilly, in Fighting Temptations, casting agents requested that her natural locs be exchanged for more Eurocentric tresses. Ironic, considering that growing up Chlöe saw her hair as no different than that of her peers. “I remember specifically in pre-K we had to do self-portraits and I drew myself with a regular straight ponytail, like how I would put my locs in a ponytail,” she says. “I just never saw myself any different.”
Chlöe would also learn the true meaning of a phrase that would later become an affirmation posted on her bedroom mirror: “Don’t Let the World Dim Your Light.” After attempting to wear wigs to fit in, the Bailey sisters instead chose to rock their locs with pride, which undoubtedly cost them casting roles. Yet they would have the last laugh when making headlines as the “Teen Dreadlocked Duo” who landed a million-dollar contract with Parkwood Entertainment, and the coveted opportunity to be groomed under the tutelage of a world-renowned superstar.
Credit: Derek Blanks
While that could be the end of a beautiful fairytale of self-empowerment, the reality is that it’s just the beginning of the story of her evolution. For most girls, the transition into womanhood takes place in the comfort of their own worlds, often limited to the number of people they allow to have access to them. But for Chlöe, it’s happening in front of millions of critiquing eyes just waiting for an opportunity to either uplift or dissect her through unwarranted commentary.
Many in her position wouldn’t be able to take that kind of pressure. But Chlöe is handling it with grace. “I feel like all of us as humans, we have the right to interpret things how we want,” she says. “I put art out into the world and it's up for interpretation. I'm learning that not everyone is going to always like me and that it's okay.”
Chlöe isn’t the first artist to receive criticism for her carnal content, and she certainly won’t be the last. In 2010, Ciara writhed and rode her way to banishment on BET when the then 24-year-old released her video for “Ride.” In 2006, 25-year-old Beyoncé received backlash for “Déjà Vu."
"I put art out into the world and it's up for interpretation. I'm learning that not everyone is going to always like me and that it's okay.”
So much so that over 5,000 fans signed an online petition demanding that her label re-shoot the video because it was “too sexual.” Even 27-year-old Janet didn’t escape critical headlines when she shed her image of innocence for a more risqué appearance with the 1993 release of janet.
It’s almost as if public reproach is a rite of passage for young Black women R&B singers on the road to stardom. Good girls seemingly “go bad” whenever they embrace the depths of their femininity, and fans only like you on top figuratively. But Chlöe has learned not to bow down to other people’s opinions, but to boss up and control the narrative. As the saying goes, well-behaved women seldom make history. If sex appeal is her weapon, she wields it well.
On set, Chlöe exudes the energy of Aphrodite in an apple red, off-shoulder dress with a sexy high split. In between shots, she mouths the lyrics to Yebba’s “Boomerang” as it echoes throughout the space in steady repetition at my recommendation. The hour grows late, yet Chlöe is heating things up as eyes stare in deep mesmerization of the girl on fire.
Credit: Derek Blanks
Through music, she explores the depths of her being, a journey that seems to be, at its foundation, rooted in self-discovery. Whereas their debut album The Kids Are Alright (2018) boasts a young Chloe x Halle empowering their generation to embrace who they are while finding their place in the world, their second album Ungodly Hour (2020) shows the Bailey sisters shedding the veil of innocence for a more unapologetic bravado.
What fans looked forward to seeing is who Chlöe shows herself to be on her debut solo album In Pieces. In an interview with PEOPLE, she confesses that releasing her first project without her sister was “scary.” "It was a moment of self-doubt where I was like, 'Can I do this without my sister?’”
Chlöe has never been shy about sharing her insecurities or her vulnerabilities, all of which are laced throughout the 14-track album. “I want people to have fun when they listen to it and to just realize that they're not alone and it's okay to be vulnerable and raw and open because none of us are perfect; we're all far from it. And I think it's healing when we all admit to that instead of putting up a facade.”
The gift of time has given the self-professed “big lover girl” more encounters with romance and heartbreak. Love songs once sung for their beautiful riffs and melodies become more than just abstract lyrics and are replaced by real-life experiences, which she tells me is definitely in the music.
In her single “Pray It Away,” for example, she contemplates going to God for healing instead of going at her ex-lover for revenge for his infidelities. “With anything dealing with art, I am completely vulnerable,” she says. “I'm completely myself, I'm completely open and transparent. So it's pretty much all of me and who I am right now.”
Has Chlöe been in love? That still remains to be said. Of course, she’s been linked to a few potential baes, but dating in the digital age isn’t as easy as a double tap or drop of a heart-eyes emoji. It requires a level of trust and vulnerability that’s hard to earn, and easy to mishandle. To let her guard down means to potentially set herself up for disappointment. “It’s difficult dating right now, honestly, because you really have to kind of keep your guard up and pay attention to who's really there for you. And you know, I'm such an affectionate person and I love hard.
"So when I meet the one person that I really, really am into, it's hard for me to see any others and I get attached pretty easily. And you know, I don't know, it's…it's a scary thing.”
Credit: Derek Blanks
“With anything dealing with art, I am completely vulnerable. I'm completely myself, I'm completely open and transparent. So it's pretty much all of me and who I am right now.”
While broken hearts yield good music (queue Adele), what’s in Chlöe’s prayer is the desire to be happy. What does that look like? Well, she’s still figuring that out herself. “Honestly, I'm the type of person who I don't truly learn unless I experience it. So it's like I can view and watch my parents and watch the loving relationships that I see in my life and be like, ‘Oh, I want that. I would love to have that.’ But then I also have to experience [love] on my own and see what my flaws or my faults might be or see what my good things about myself are. I feel like it's really all about self-reflection. And even though our base is our family and that's our foundation, we are still our own individuals and we have to find out specifically the things about ourselves that may be different from what we saw from our parents when we were growing up.”
Her ideal beau, she tells me, is someone she can feel safe to be her fun, goofy self with, but who also gives her the space to be the boss chick chasing her dreams. A man who understands that just because the world compliments her doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to hear those words from his lips or feel it in his touch. A bonus if he shows up on set after a long hard day of work with vegan cinnamon rolls. You know, the basic necessities. “I like whoever I'm with to constantly tell me they love me and that I look beautiful because I do the same. I am a very mushy person, and if I see something or you look good, I will never shy away from saying it out loud. And I want whoever I'm with to do the same, be very vocal. Tell me that you love me. Tell me what you love about me because I'm doing the same for you because that's just the person I am.”
Until she meets her match she’s married to the game, and for now, that seems to be perfect matrimony.
Credit: Derek Blanks
On stage at the 2021 American Music Awards, Chlöe solidified her position as a force to be reckoned with. It was a full-circle moment. In 2012, bright-eyed and baby-faced Chloe and Halle would walk onto the set of The Ellen Degeneres Show and blow the audience away as they bellowed out their future mentor’s song. Ellen would present the sisters with tickets to attend the AMAs, assuring them that they would be back and had a promising future. Nine years later, Chlöe descends from the sky cloaked in a snow-white cape and matching midriff-baring bodysuit for her debut performance. It’s the first time she’s graced the stage of the very award show that she was once an audience member of.
As she shakes and shimmies and boom kack kacks out her eight counts, it’s clear that she’s in her element. Just like her VMA performance a couple of months prior, and the many more stages she’ll continue to grace, she brings an energy that has earned her comparisons to the beloved Queen Bey herself. An honorable statement, considering few R&B songstresses are getting accolades for their entertainment capabilities. It’s on these very stages, in front of hundreds of astonished eyes and millions more glued to their televisions at home, that she tells me she feels most sexy. Powerful, even.
But off stage, it’s a different story.
It’s more than just the commentary about her image and media-flamed rumors that get to her. Mentally, she’s in competition with herself. The desire to be the best burns at the back of her mind with every performance, every production, and every time she steps into the booth. Before, she could share the weight of this burden with her sister. Being a part of a duo meant she could turn to Halle for quiet confirmation and encouragement without a word being exchanged. But lately stepping on the stage means stepping out on her own. And despite being a breathtaking, five-time Grammy-nominated star, Chlöe doesn’t escape the reality that sometimes we can be our own worst critics.
Over the last year, she’s been coming to terms with who she is on her own while overcoming the fear of failing to become who she’s destined to be. While the world waits to see how Chlöe wins, the real triumph is in every day that she chooses herself and continues to walk in her purpose. “I don't really have anything all figured out, honestly. But what I try to do, a lot of prayer. I talk to God more and I just try to do things that calm my mind down and just breathe.”
To whom much is given, much will be required. She’s been chosen to walk this path for a reason. Once she fully embraces that everything she’s meant to be is already inside of her, she’ll be an unstoppable force. “My grandma, Elizabeth, she just passed away and my middle name is her [first] name. So I feel like I truly have a responsibility to live up to her legacy that she's left on this earth. I hope I can do that.”
There’s no doubt that she will. With a role in The Fighting Temptations at three years old, a million-dollar record deal, a main role on five seasons of Grown-ish, five Grammy nominations, a number one solo record in Urban and Rhythmic Radio, a debut solo album, and starring roles in recently released movies Praise Thisand Swarm (just to name a few), Chlöe’s certainly already made her mark, and she’s just getting started.
Photographer & Creative Director: Derek Blanks
Executive Producer: Necole Kane
Co-Executive Producer: EJ Jamele
Producer: Erica Turnbull
Digitech: Chris Keller
DP: Alex Nikishin
Gaffer: Simeon Mihaylov
Photo Assistant: Chris Paschal
2nd Photo Assistant: Tyler Umprey
Features Editor: Kiah McBride
Special Projects: Tyeal Howell
Hair: Malcolm Marquez
Makeup: Yolonda Frederick
Fashion Styling: Ashley Sean Thomas
For More: Cover Story: Issa Rae Comes Full Circle
"I Have Truly Survived the Unimaginable." Megan Thee Stallion Is Ready To Resume Her Next Chapter.
Megan Thee Stallion is ready to resume her life, not as a victim but as a survivor of gun violence.
In a recent as-told-to essay for ELLE, the 28-year-old mega-star took time to reflect on her experience surviving the shooting incident involving rapper Tory Lanez in July 2020.
In the piece, Megan described her traumas in the aftermath of the shooting and the drawn-out legal case and trial that brought on the public's negative reaction to the incident.
“Imagine how it feels to be called a liar every day?” Megan says. “Especially from a person who was once part of your inner circle.” She notes that many people were quick to doubt her story and blame her for how the incident unfolded. For nearly three years, she went through the weight of public humiliation, while being the brunt of jokes, memes, and “sneak disses” as her humanity was ignored.
“The truth is that I started falling into a depression,” the rapper says. “I didn’t feel like making music. I was in such a low place that I didn’t even know what I wanted to rap about. I wondered if people even cared anymore.”
She adds, “There would be times that I’d literally be backstage or in my hotel, crying my eyes out, and then I’d have to pull Megan Pete together and be Megan Thee Stallion.”
Megan wrote how not fitting “the profile of a victim” played a role in the dismissal of her traumas in the public eye and emphasized the importance of believing women when they come forward with their own stories of violence and abuse. “But my heart hurts for all the women around the world who are suffering in silence, especially if you’re a Black woman who doesn’t appear as if she needs help,” she says.
“So many times, people looked at me and thought, ‘You look strong. You’re outspoken. You’re tall. You don’t look like somebody who needs to be saved.’ They assumed that, per preconceived stigmas, ‘I didn’t fit the profile of a victim,’ and that I didn’t need support or protection.”
With time, the Houston fem-cee has been able to take a step away from the public eye to heal, spend time with her dogs, and “doing a lot of praying” to recover from the incident. “The physical and mental scars from this entire ordeal will always sting, but I’m taking the appropriate steps to resume my life,” Megan says.
And while she is “in a happier place,” there are still moments of anxiety that come up from time to time. “Talking about being shot still makes me emotional. I’ve started journaling as a way to better process my thoughts, hopes, and fears,” she says. “Prayer has also played a therapeutic role in my healing, because I can have honest and unfiltered conversations with God without any judgment.”
Megan concluded her essay by expressing her hope for a future where people can live without fear of gun violence and victims of trauma and abuse can receive the support and healing they need.
“My purpose is for these words to serve as the final time that I’ll address anything regarding this case in the press,” Megan notes in the article. “I understand the public intrigue, but for the sake of my mental health, I don’t plan to keep reliving the most traumatic experience of my life over and over again. I’m choosing to change the narrative because I’m more than just my trauma.”
With new music to come, we look forward to seeing Megan back on her healed, hot girl ish.
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Featured image by Hubert Vestil/WireImage