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Ryan Destiny Wants You To Know Your Worth (Then Add Tax, Plus Gratuity)

Self-love is the best gift you can give yourself, and there's no better time to do it than the present.

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Anyone who's ever had a dream knows that success hits different when you prioritize self-love. Doubt is a helluva drug, but knowing your worth is priceless. This mentality shift helps Ryan Destiny stay booked, busy, and unbothered year-round.

As a Black creative in the digital age, you know that your insecurities have the potential to finesse you out of your check (and your peace of mind), but in her recent interview with Teen Vogue, Ryan broke down the secret to how she finally stopped letting self-doubt block her bag. She told the publication:

"I grew up feeling like that [insecurity] should have been gone, but it wasn't. And I didn't realize [I still had] a problem, [up until] maybe around 18, 19 I think it was just me really starting to understand and love myself, and understand the void that was in the industry, and that something needed to be done about it. I just realized I had a responsibility, and then knowing that and feeling I had a purpose gave me a bit more confidence in what I was doing."

After the cancellation of Star last May, the Internet was in shambles and Ryan was understandably shook, but despite her initial disappointment in the show's ending, the 25-year-old later found that every loss is an opportunity to level up your mentality. She told the publication:

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"I think that that show taught me that I can [do] and I'm worth a lot more than I thought. And it's okay to say that. Just because other people may not see it doesn't mean it's not true. I knew my power way more, and I was past the point where I was letting people, no matter what they've done in the industry, control me. I think it's easy to let people control you and step over you, and I was just really over that by the time the show ended."

In her interview, Ryan also touched on external areas of her life where the love is heavy, including her uber-hot relationship with fellow entertainer Keith Powers and the pressure they have to keep what's personal, private:

"We're definitely more strategic than people think we are. When we first started dating, we were in the private stage, but still wanting to share that we were together. As time has gone on, we've moved back from [posting about each other] because we saw that the more that you put out, the more that people feel like they can be in your business."

Ryan also said that while she appreciates our support when it comes to her young romance, she and her boo are intentional about the fact that their relationship is none of our damn business:

"I try to appreciate the fans that are kind of just supportive versus the ones that are just kind of too aggressive. We didn't post each other for, like, two months after we started dating because we were just kind of nervous about making it a public thing — we knew the risks. We just try to make sure that we stay our own person but still be a couple and show that I love this person, this person loves me, that's still fine and natural too. But, of course, we love our careers as well and want to keep doing that and building that separately and together."

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Featured Image by Dominik Bindl/Getty Images

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When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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