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Why Rwenshaun Miller Traded In His Football Jersey For Therapy

#xoMan

Every woman says they want a man who's in touch with his feelings, until they actually meet one who makes her realize that she isn't even in touch with her own.


Due to a number of environmental and psychological factors, African Americans are more 20% more likely to experience depression, and only quarter of those diagnosed actually seek treatment. This startling fact has an impact on our quality of life, physical health, and even our romantic lives and has created generational emotional trauma that is seemingly irreconcilable.

One North Carolina native and former football star is seeking to change this dynamic for good.

Rwenshaun Miller struggled with mental illness for 11 years in silence. His condition was unknown to those closest to him until after a number of suicide attempts, masked by his efforts to perpetuate the false ideology that boys don't cry. After going to therapy and receiving a proper diagnosis, the 31-year-old football star used his platform to tell the world that black men need therapy, too.

Rwenshaun is now a therapist by trade, the owner of three businesses, pursuing a PhD, and still finds time to check in with his feelings. Damn, who knew meeting a man who can multitask could be so damn sexy?

The young advocate says that his plans weren't always activism, but as we all know, the universe has a funny way of putting us all where we're supposed to be. After using an anonymous blog to share his battle with mental health, he realized that he could use what he learned about his illness to help the people closest to him. "That's when everything clicked for me because it was like okay," he said. "There's a reason why you're still here."

We recently got a chance to chat with #TherapistBae about his own romantic life and how he's using his platform to help other black men get serious about their mental health.

What have black women meant for you throughout your healing process?

Everything. They are some of the strongest people I've interacted with, and then with being able to show compassion and love and care. Even my aunt, close friends that I've grown up with over the years, even from college on to my adult life. Just being able to bounce ideas off them. To be honest, even though I'm in tune with a lot of stuff that goes on with me, it's hard to talk to another man about certain things, because you just won't get that response.

"Black women are some of the strongest people I've interacted with."

It's just something about that black girl magic.

Right, that's it. But then also them being able to provide that sense of security, that sense of support. It's unmatched. My mom displayed that early on and that's something that I look for in a companion.

So what are those traits?

The ability to be strong but then also still be vulnerable because there [is a] fine line. My mom always made sacrifices to give me the things I needed in my life. But she also was able to show me that stuff ain't always as they seem. She showed me that she struggled at times. She was open and honest with me about her feelings and emotions and didn't hide them from me. And then, we bounced things off of one another, especially as I got older.

She also instilled in me the fact that she's not above asking for help. Whether it was her getting help from her mom and dad, her brothers and sisters, and now she's even asked me for help. That opens it up for me to ask her for help. It's creating a two-way street.

And that takes a lot of courage.

Right, it takes courage. A lot of times people don't think that's vulnerability. That's the ultimate vulnerability, to show that part of you that says, "Okay, yeah tried it but I know I need help. So please help me."

And I know black women are strong, but we all have this innate ability to really be able to be there for somebody. If you ask somebody for help and you allow them to help you, I feel like that's another type of connection. It's much stronger than a connection between people who refuse to be vulnerable with one another. Because that'll break you down in the long run. Just like black men need therapy, black women need therapy. And we don't talk about it either.

"If you ask somebody for help and you allow them to help you, I feel like that's another type of connection."

There's this idea that women have that's like, "I want my man to be a man." I see your story in my father and my brothers and my uncles and my nephew, and it's painful. Every woman says they want a man who's in touch with their feelings, but in reality that can be a challenge. Has your knowledge about mental health affected your own romantic relationships at all?

Every woman wants a man that's in touch with their feelings, but also they don't want a man who's too in touch with their feelings because because they may consider him a punk. They want a man's man but they want them to still communicate. In my instances, before I talked about my mental health challenges, I played into that masculinity role. Like, no I'm not gone talk about the things that hurt me, I'm not gone talk about any aspects that can make me vulnerable and open up my heart to you, and that made relationships very difficult.

I'm familiar with that dynamic, I've been with so many men that made me feel like I was in a relationship with an ice box. I never considered that their emotional walls could have stemmed from a mental health issue. How did you overcome that?

I understand that my best bet is not communicating verbally, especially if I'm mad or sad. I would write letters. It's all about really trying to find ways to communicate, finding that balance, and being able to make each other comfortable when it comes to communicating.

With that being said, what does an ideal relationship look like to you?

I'm a hustler by nature, so I always have a lot of things going on. [She has to] be able to understand that aspect of my life and know that I have a million things going on and knowing that I'm building something larger than me. I'm running three businesses right now and I'm pursuing a PhD. Being able to communicate with each other but also being able to have fun with each other [is also important to me].

Communicating. Fun. I like the way that sounds. So if one of our readers were to shoot her shot via DM, what would a date with #TherapistBae look like?

I like to be out in nature, trying things that aren't status quo. I'd like to try things like skydiving. Things that are different man, that's me! If we do dinner, let's pack a picnic basket and go hiking, and do lunch on top of a mountain somewhere. Just small things like that.

Yasss. I know every woman would rather hear that than the average "wyd" or "come thru." No thank you, sir.

Yes! Honestly, whenever I get into those spaces, nature calms me down. If I'm able to be in a place of serenity with you, I'm more likely to open up about certain things and it's just more time for us to get to know each other, because we break down those walls, we don't have a bunch of distractions. We don't have a movie going on, we aren't trying to figure out what's on the menu, or people watching period. Or trying to figure out who's watching you while you're out. It breaks it down to: we [are] just gonna put on some workout gear and hit the trail.

"If I'm able to be in a place of serenity with you, I'm more likely to open up about certain things and it's just more time for us to get to know each other because we break down those walls."

So really, your ideal date would be anything having to do with being able to communicate without distraction? Now, that's scary.

It is, and honestly I'm a therapist by trade, but I enjoy people so I enjoy learning about people. No matter who I interact with, I feel like I can learn something from you. So even if we don't click romantically, there is something for you to learn from me and and something for me to learn from you. Just to make that connection, period.

I wish more men took that approach. What's your sign?

Scorpio.

Oh Lord. I know what that means.

What?! We're passionate!

That they are. And, just to be clear, Rwenshaun is on the market and possibly open to some potential connecting, as long as you can keep up with his busy schedule. He's currently preparing to release a mental health journal in the fall, founding a mental health clinic, and recently launched a campaign to get his book in the hands of 100,000 incarcerated men.

So, yeah. He's pretty busy. But a man who knows himself and uses that knowledge to help others is well worth the wait. Keep up with Rwenshaun on Instagram and visit his website to learn more about our #TherapistBae.

Last year, Meagan Good experienced two major transformations in her life. She returned to the small screen starring in the Amazon Prime series Harlem, which has been renewed for a second season and she announced her divorce from her longtime partner DeVon Franklin.

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Mental health awareness is at an all-time high with many of us seeking self-improvement and healing with the support of therapists. Tucked away in cozy offices, or in the comfort of our own homes, millions of women receive the tools needed to navigate our emotions, relate to those around us, or simply exist in a judgment-free space.

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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