The month begins with a mystical Full Moon in Pisces inviting us to surrender our plans to align with those of the Divine. Your popularity is getting you places when Venus enters Leo, making you a recipient for good fortune and generosity from others. On the 9th, Mars goes retrograde encouraging you to slow down a bit to reassess how you've been expending your energy. The New Moon is a great time to implement a healthier approach to managing stress and anxiety.
When the Sun joins Mercury in Libra, the focus is on revising contracts and balancing relationships—whether that be with another person, your work, and even yourself. On the 27th, Mercury enters Scorpio, encouraging you to nurture the connections you'd like to develop more intimacy with. At the end of the month, Saturn joins Jupiter direct, helping you honor your limits moving forward.
Check out what your horoscopes have in store for the month of September.
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September begins with a transcendent Full Moon helping you embrace the chapter that is closing in your life with grace. When Venus enters Leo, you're encouraged to invite more play into your life. What activities and hobbies is your inner child yearning to explore? Your ruling planet, Mars, begins its retrograde on the 9th, inviting you to get a little selfish as you prioritize more time for pursuing what you're passionate about. On the 17th, the New Moon supports you in establishing healthier habits, making this the perfect time to develop mind-body awareness.
The Sun meets up with Mercury on the 22nd, drawing your focus to contracts, clients, and your significant other during the next month. Renegotiating the terms of agreement and discussing potential business moves with your partner are encouraged at this time. Towards the end of the month, Jupiter and Saturn are both direct, helping you move forward in your career endeavors with a more grounded perspective of your limitations. Remember, babe—it's not about the destination, it's about the journey. You might as well enjoy yourself along the way.
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We enter September with a revealing Full Moon gifting you with foresight into your future and the people you need to surround yourself with to bring your vision to reality. Remember—teamwork makes the dream work! When Venus enters Leo, you may be feeling some pressure to relocate or make some adjustments to your current living environment. Be mindful of family being more demanding of your time or even a little dramatic over the next few weeks. During Mars retrograde, you're challenged to develop a little more patience and compassion—not only for others but yourself as well.
Your creative genius is at a peak when Jupiter and Uranus meet up around the 12th, giving you the leading edge when it comes to expanding your business and establishing more wealth. The New Moon is the perfect time to plant the seeds for your next creative project, leading you to an abundant harvest. On the 22nd, the Sun and Mercury bring your focus to creating more balance in your daily routine. Getting the bag is important but so is your health. Towards the end of the month, you're encouraged to renegotiate contracts and establish better boundaries within a close relationship. On the 29th, Saturn joins Jupiter, empowering you to advocate for your growth by trusting your inner guide and committing to your goals.
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September kicks off with a sensitive Full Moon encouraging you to establish better energetic boundaries between yourself and your career as you rise to new heights. When Mercury enters Libra, it's time to balance out your life with some fun. Hit up your girls for a happy hour, go on a date, or do something creative (and completely unproductive). Social media is a powerful money-making tool for you once Venus enters Leo. Your presence is even more dynamic than usual, which could attract some new opportunities your way.
On the 9th, Mars goes retro, giving you a chance to reevaluate any recent tension between you and some folks in your social circle. Don't feel bad for choosing to focus on yourself to avoid the drama.The New Moon is a good time to clean and organize your home. What do you need to get rid of or bring into your sanctuary to put your mind at ease? Towards the end of the month, Mercury shifts gears, bringing your focus to your sexual and reproductive health, making it a perfect time to schedule your annual screening. When Saturn links up with Jupiter direct on the 29th, you're embracing the power of your sexual energy and the ability it has to transform, and heal, your life.
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September kicks off with a magical Full Moon shining in the spotlight. Release that novel, launch that workshop, or start that mentorship program. You are wise beyond your years and people are eager to receive the wealth of information that you have to share. Family matters may get a little tense when Mercury enters Libra. Don't feel guilty about asserting some boundaries. It's not your job to take care of everyone. When Mars goes retro, you'll be feeling some pressure when it comes to climbing up the ranks in your chosen career. Exerting too much energy may be futile, so try to strategize a way to work smarter, not harder.
When Jupiter enters Capricorn, promising business partnerships and opportunities are on the table. The New Moon on the 17th is a great time to start learning a new skill that can help you establish a more solid financial foundation for your future. On the 22nd, the Sun enters Libra, bringing your focus to beautifying your living environment and harmonizing with the people you live with. This is also a supportive time to browse the market for your next home or to invest in a property to gain some passive income. Love matters get steamy when Mercury moves into Scorpio. Be mindful of overly-suspicious, and borderline obsessive, thoughts about your romantic interest. The month wraps up with Saturn going direct and you potentially taking a relationship to the next level. Do I hear wedding bells in the air?
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Your intuition and your emotions are a little more sensitive than usual, thanks to the Full Moon at the beginning of the month. Use discernment to gauge whether there's more than meets the eye or if you're just being a little paranoid. When Venus enters your sign on the 6th, you're a magnet for good fortune and a lot of attention, making this a good time to revamp your appearance in some way. During Mars retro, you're invited to connect with the power of your spiritual allies to help you move the proverbial mountains in your life. The New Moon on the 17th is a supportive time for monetizing any talents you've been sleeping on. Your gifts are meant to be used in service for yourself and others.
On the 22nd, Mercury meets up with the Sun, helping you boost your social media presence and your influence over others. Use your power wisely. Be mindful of family tension when Mercury enters Scorpio. Secrets may be revealed that result in you questioning someone's motives. If you're signing a lease or buying a home around this time, pay close attention to the fine print! By the end of the month, Jupiter and Saturn link up to help you get more serious about your health and that bad habit that needs to be kicked to the curb. Remember, babe—it's mind over matter and you've got what it takes to come out on top (and looking good AF when you do).
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Your birthday month begins with a mystical Full Moon inviting you to align with some powerful allies that you can make magic with. Don't be surprised if you've outgrown some connections that no longer seem to fit in your life. Let them go with love and continue on with your glow up. When Mercury enters Libra, you're focused on securing the bag and possibly a contract that can help you achieve your financial goals. Love matters are a little more quiet this month when Venus enters Leo. You could be attracting lots of affection and gifts from some unexpected sources. During Mars retro, you'll be feeling motivated to find healthy outlets for your anger. Opt for busting a nut instead of busting somebody over the head.
It's time to make a wish and blow out the candles on your New Moon. Set an intention for something you'd like to see come to fruition by the Full Moon in Virgo during Pisces season. On the 22nd, the Sun enters Libra, placing a spotlight on those hidden gifts of yours. Don't be shy, boo! It's time to shine and monetize! This is also a favorable time for renegotiating outdated contracts as well. When Mercury enters Scorpio, you may find that everyone wants to tell you their secrets. Uphold your integrity and keep your lips sealed. There could even be a project that you're working on behind the scenes as you await the perfect opportunity to reveal it to the world. By the end of the month, Jupiter and Saturn are meeting up to help you take a more practical approach to your creative endeavors that will assure your success and establish your legacy for many years to come.
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If you've been having a hard time breaking that stubborn habit, the Full Moon on the 2nd helps you experience the clarity and breakthrough needed to make a shift in your lifestyle. When Mercury enters your sign, you're encouraged to find a more balanced approach to managing that busy schedule of yours. Reach out to someone in your social circle that has the expertise you need so you can delegate that heavy load of responsibilities. Enhancing your online presence is also supported while Venus is in Leo. During Mars retro, you're invited to check in with yourself and your ever-changing needs. Are your relationships still serving you in a way that is mutually beneficial?
The New Moon on the 17th encourages you to reflect and rest. What mental baggage do you need to drop so you can start living your life with less judgement? Your birthday season officially begins on the 22nd, motivating you to assert yourself and your needs in a way that assures your ultimate fulfillment. Towards the end of the month, Jupiter and Saturn are linking up, making this a supportive time to move forward with those home renovations, a relocation, or property investments that can help you establish wealth for you and the generations to come.
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Romance takes front and center stage at the beginning of the month. This Full Moon has you inspired to express your love through a song, a poem, or even some weird interpretative dance routine that your lover can't resist. This energy is super fertile for you, so if you're ready for a baby, now's the time to shoot your shot. When Mercury enters Libra, you'll be balancing out the scales of karma which could result in some endings. Trust that whatever, or whoever, is exiting your life is meant to do so at this time. When Venus enters Leo, you're feeling the pressure to make some changes in your career. Be mindful of butting heads with an authority figure as this may be the very thing that blocks your blessings.
During Mars retrograde, you may find yourself having difficulty expressing your anger. Don't internalize but don't project either. Exercise and meditation will be your best friends during this transit. On the 17th, the New Moon encourages you to expand your social network and strategize new ways to enhance your presence online. When the Sun enters Libra, it's time to prioritize rest in preparation for your birthday season. You're invited to stay low and build when Mercury moves into your sign on the 27th. The month wraps up with Jupiter and Saturn challenging you to be more communicative about your personal boundaries instead of assuming people are just as psychic as you are.
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The Full Moon at the beginning of the month has you focused on home and family. Be mindful of brewing tension with your kinfolk or roommates. Sometimes it's best to take the high road instead of trying to get your point across to someone that's not open to hearing you out. When Venus enters Leo, opportunities to travel abroad and make some extra cash can present themselves to you. On the 9th, Mars goes retro, inviting you to validate your inner child and some of the frustrations you're feeling. Maybe you've been working a little too hard and need some time to play.
The New Moon could find you receiving a promotion or rising up within the ranks of your chosen career. A good leader doesn't just boss folks around. They're also willing to be of service to others. Embrace this approach to assure your success. On the 22nd, Mercury and the Sun meet up, making this a good time to connect with friends and share your goals with people that can help you achieve your dreams. By the end of the month, Jupiter and Saturn are helping you achieve financial gain through a healthy balance of curiosity and discipline.
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The month kicks off with a healing Full Moon helping you resolve some communication barriers between you and others. When you allow yourself to be more vulnerable, you can experience more meaningful interactions with others. When Venus enters Leo, you're feeling more courageous when it comes to nurturing more emotionally intimate connections. It's time to put the tough bravado aside to receive the support you pretend you don't want. During Mars retro, you'll need to learn healthier ways to express any frustrations you have with family members or roommates. If your living circumstances are undesirable, take accountability for what you need to do to change things.
The New Moon on the 17th supports your interest in expanding your knowledge, making this a good time to apply to school or enroll in that workshop that can take your skills to the next level. On the 22nd, Mercury and the Sun link up bringing your focus to career. You could be experiencing a major achievement that deserves some celebration. Gon' head and pop that fancy bottle of wine open in honor of the moves you're making. When Mercury enters Scorpio, a friend may come to you bearing a secret. Honor the code and keep your mouth shut to avoid any drama later down the line. The month wraps up with Jupiter and Saturn meeting up in your sign, helping you recognize just how far you've come and also how much further you need to go. Remember—it's not about the destination, it's about the journey. You might as well enjoy the ride.
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September kicks off with a magical Full Moon that could have you in the spotlight sharing your gifts with the world (and making some extra coin, too). When Mercury enters Libra, you're making plans for that next stamp on your passport to shake the COVID cabin fever. Your relationships are your greatest teachers this month when Venus enters Leo. Don't be afraid to ask for more or seek your sustenance through new connections that generously provide you with the support that you desire. On the 9th, Mars goes retrograde and you may find it difficult to express your anger in a productive way. Getting to the root of your rage will help you avoid projecting onto others.
The New Moon invites you to explore the voice of your inner critic. You may be surprised to find out that the source isn't even you. Schedule a session with your therapist to help you discover who the culprit is if you don't already know. When the Sun enters Libra, you could find yourself going back to school or in the position of a teacher to others. Brush up on your expertise so you feel more confident in your presentation. Use more discretion when Mercury enters Scorpio on the 27th. Everyone ain't gotta know your business when it comes to the career moves you're making. The month wraps up with Jupiter and Saturn, helping you establish a better relationship between rest and work. Rome wasn't built overnight, babe. It's OK to take your time.
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The spotlight is on you with the Full Moon in your sign on the 2nd. Don't be shy, babe. It's time to share your magic with the world. When Venus enters Leo, you're focused on loving that beautiful physical vessel of yours. Pamper yourself with a lavish self-care routine, get back into working out, and feed your body with the sustenance you need to thrive. On the 9th, Mars goes retro encouraging you to reel in the impulsive spending so you can achieve some of those financial goals you have, whether that's paying off debt or saving money for a major purchase later this year.
The New Moon on the 17th invites you to set the intention for your ideal business partnership or client relationship. It's also a good time to consider what traits you desire in a committed romantic connection. Does your current love interest have what it takes to go the long haul with you? On the 22nd, Mercury meets up with the Sun, helping you get clear about the emotional baggage you need to release to come into more balance. It's time to let go of the outdated narrative where you give so much of yourself to the detriment of your own well-being. When Mercury shifts into Scorpio, you could find yourself teaching others about spiritual topics you're well-versed in. This is also a good time to take a secluded getaway by yourself or with someone you want to become more intimate with. The month comes to a close with Jupiter and Saturn, helping you get clear about your boundaries with people in your social circle. A much-needed reality check will help you determine who you should (or shouldn't) be investing your energy into.
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Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
Director of Content: Jasmine Grant
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Photographer: Ally Green
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Introducing Chief Mom Officer: Where Working Moms Come First
xoNecole's Chief Mom Officer explores the 18-month post-pregnancy journey through the lens of our very own Chief Mom Officer, Shakyna Bolden. The series will serve as an inspirational and resourceful guide to help get through the early days of new motherhood as working moms knowing they are not alone in the hardships.
“I want to build my work around my life, and not my life around my work.”
I typed these words in my iPhone Notes as I fed my newborn daughter one morning during the first few weeks of having her earthside. I didn’t have much time for page-filled journal entries as my days were filled with nonstop feedings, soothing, and recovery…but I knew I needed to give those words space and life.
Prior to my maternity leave, I, like most working moms, was burning fumes juggling work and life. Since 2019, I’ve been running revenue operations here at this really cool company you may have heard of called xoNecole (hehe). I’ve been behind the scenes building our brand partnerships and negotiating deals with companies such as Ulta Beauty, Toyota, Target, Spotify, SheaMoisture, etc.
Courtesy of Shakyna Bolden
I’ve co-produced our signature events like ElevateHER and Pajamas & Lipstick while conceptualizing, selling, building, and distributing our original video and podcast content and podcast. The list goes on and on. I’ve helped build this small but brilliant company into what it is today, all while running my own small family. And that is not an easy feat.
In all truth, trying to be the best mom and partner I can be while also leading in my job has felt at times like a whirlwind where the rest of my life is passing me by. I don’t quite know where or when it happened, but I swear somebody pushed the fast-forward button in life, and I’m losing my edges trying to keep up.
My mind and body get so preoccupied with the management of life that my soul sits on the sidelines, waiting to take the reins and intentionally live it.
So many facets of my life, from my health and well-being to my hobbies and passions, have been placed on the back burner while tending to my young family and growing in my career has taken center stage. And for the longest time, I’ve wanted to flip the switch, but the pace of life just hasn’t let me restack my priorities.
That is, until now.
Courtesy of Shakyna Bolden
When I found out I was pregnant with my daughter last year, I couldn’t imagine adding more to my already full plate. Simultaneously, I was also relieved to know that my upcoming maternity leave would force me to press pause and catch my breath. Her birth in January 2023 was a much-needed reset, to say the least.
My maternity leave was the first time since 2019 that I had a second for dreams that were buried in the back of my heart to bubble up to the surface of my reality. I got a taste of what it was like to solely focus on my well-being and my home life. And I liked it a lot. My healing. My recovery. Sitting and really taking quiet time with God to search the unattended areas in the garden of my life.
I was cooking homemade meals on the regular and actually sitting down with my family at the table to eat. As grueling as those first newborn weeks can be, I was enjoying the long-awaited shift in my priorities; and I wanted that shift to stick. I didn’t want it to fade away after my maternity leave.
I want to build my work around my life and not my life around my work.
As a leader of an organization that speaks to millions of women every day about their well-being (and also in leading a team of majority women), I feel it’s my responsibility to carry this shift forward boldly. This is why I’m launching a new column here at xoNecole: Chief Mom Officer!
As I return to work full-time this month from my maternity leave, I want to regularly share my experience of trying to harmonize work and life. As an audience, you all share your raw, unfiltered journeys with us. For years, they’ve undoubtedly inspired me. I want to show up and do the same because I know this shift in my life will be quite the journey.
So for all my Chief Mom Officers—those of us who are constantly merging the imperfect and chaotic worlds of leadership in the office and wearing our crowns at home—I invite you to come on this journey with me and celebrate the ebbs and flows in how we show up for each.
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Featured image courtesy of Shakyna Bolden