The older I get, the more I am realizing that dating isn't for the faint of heart, or the ill-equipped. Despite swearing off dating to go on sabbatical, I ended up waving my Hot Girl Summer freak flag pretty proudly as I found myself going on quite a few first dates. The song and dance was the same. Girl meets boy over dating app by swiping right, we converse for about a week, and decide to go on a date. Sparks fly for one party but I'm left slightly underwhelmed. And the connection is started and stopped there.
I was today-years-old when I realized that the root of my dating issues and hot and cold feelings towards people I felt lukewarm about was, in essence, a result of not knowing what I want because of standards that were too easily met by any human walking this earth with a job and some coins to rub together. Sure, I know that I'd love to be married one day, but in order to get to that destination, I have to at least be headed in the right direction.
The problem was I had no real direction.
Shannon Boodram, who commonly goes by "Shan Boody", is on a mission to empower those willing to learn with the tools to acquire anything they want. In the world according to Shan, the power to have the life you desire is by playing the game effectively, and you can't do that without work or knowledge. In her new book, The Game of Desire: 5 Surprising Secrets to Dating with Dominance--and Getting What You Want, Shannon presents us with a relationship self-help book like no other that walks us through the different layers of how to level up and operate as our best selves in the digital dating era.
Dating with dominance is about taking your pleasure into your own hands and Shannon teaches us how to do this by passing on knowledge she's acquired about seduction, influence, connection, and flirting based off of 13 years of studying love and relationships as a sex/love expert. "Through that work and some of the books that I read, I was really able to transform my dating life," she shares exclusively with xoNecole. "From 30 until I got married, my love life, my ability to connect, the quality connections I was making had completely done a 180 and the Game of Desire is basically the same thought-child of all of these great books about psychology that really did help transform me."
Bottom line, you can do all the dating in the world, but if you let the wrong players stay in the game when you know they should be on the bench or dropped completely when their stats don't match up to your requirements, you are doing you, your time, and your players a huge disservice.
To remedy that issue, one of the many aspects of connection The Game of Desire touches on is the concept of a Frozen Five, the new standard for standards, which by all accounts is an absolute dating game-changer.
WTF is a Frozen Five?
Shannon defines a "Frozen Five" as the five standards a person must meet in order to qualify in your life as a potential long-term connection. The concept acts as a marker for what you allow in your space and what you deem deserving of your effort and energy. Shannon likened the fact that the "five" are deemed "frozen" due to the fact that they are non-negotiable and therefore should be regarded as basic requirements.
"Basic requirements means, 'Do not apply if you don't have this shit,'" she explains. "This is what you are going to require at minimum to be eligible to be considered for this opportunity [of dating me], and your Frozen Five is exactly that. Here's what is required of you at minimum to partner with me."
An Effective Frozen Five vs. Ineffective Frozen Five
The difference between an effective Frozen Five and an ineffective Frozen Five sometimes are "ideals". Therefore, Shannon believes an effective Frozen Five summarizes what you need in order to be successful with you, meaning choosing a partner that makes you proud to be you, while an ineffective Frozen Five means choosing a partner that you would be proud to be with.
"Idealistically, sure I would like a partner who makes seven figures. But if I really think about what satisfies me in a relationship and what makes me my best self—the version of me that I love being when I go to bed at night and I'm like, 'Today was a great day. I love to being me today'—the way that somebody looks and how much money they make could be cool things, but actually they're not that important to me."
She continues, "What's more important is that I'm with a partner who uplifts and supports me, and just part of my Frozen Five is I need somebody who's supportive of my work and of my good news; somebody who makes me feel proud of the accomplishments I made. I also need somebody who is securely attached because I'm a very flirtatious person and if I'm in a relationship with somebody who is helicoptering over, and you're telling me what not to do, it really gets my defenses up and it makes me very angsty; I can't enjoy my life or be my full expression of me in that kind of relationship. So as much as yes, it would be great to have somebody who makes a ton of money and looks really great and is going to be a handyman around the house, in truth, those things are bonuses versus integral."
How to Create Your Frozen Five
The Frozen Five's origin stems from The Science of Happily Ever After by Dr. Ty Tashiro, a book that inspired Shannon to compile a list of 26 traits that are essential to any romantic bond. What constitutes as your Frozen Five might vastly differ from person to person, but the purpose is to define your personal five by arranging the list of 26 things from most important to least important. To narrow your list down to your Frozen Five, play around with the order by writing them down on a piece of paper or on index cards and shuffle them around.
The list is as follows:
- Agreeable (easy to get along with)
- Emotionally stable
- Securely attached
- High novelty-seeking
- Supportive/happy for good news
- Physically attractive
- Takes responsibility for self
- Unlikely to withdraw
- Has similar interests
- Has similar values
- Speaks my love language
- Good life skills (cooking, cleaning, budgeting, etc.)
- Wants children
- Sexually compatible
- Financially well-off
- Strong leadership skills
- Follows directions/allows others to take the lead
- Highly ambitious
- Independent thinker
- Compatible with my friends and family
- Excellent conflict-resolution skills
- Has good relationships with others
- Speaks my apology language
Of note, there is always freedom to move things around, to shift, and make adjustments as you see fit while you get out there and explore. You can potentially value one thing more in this phase of your life than you do another in the next two months. So although the term is "Frozen Five", don't feel like your values are immovable.
Just like love languages, apology languages, and attachment styles, these things are subject to change as you learn, grow, and experience more life and love. "You're not making a solid set in stone list. This is not the 10 commandments that cannot change. This is going to evolve as you evolve and you can do this as many times as you want to," Shannon echoed.
What I found interesting is that before reading this book, I had been doing my standards all the way wrong. Whereas I thought things like my partner having a good job, having a car, being able to afford to date me were all important things to me, or standards if you will, I realized through reading Shannon's breakdown that it wasn't specific enough and could essentially be a one-size-fits-all where any guy that applied could have an opportunity to be with me. Furthermore, when I did my own list, "financially well-off" was way down the list.
In order to gain clarity about my direction in dating and finding meaningful connections and partnerships was to think about the things that established a foundation for a relationship and thereby relational happiness for me. Those things are as follows:
- Sexual compatibility
- Speaks my love language
- Supportive/happy for my good news
- High novelty-seeking
All other applicants need not apply.
If you want to find out more about Frozen Five and how to create the second step of this exercise, be sure to cop Shannon's bookThe Game of Desire, out now. And follow her on Instagram.
Featured image by Maya Washington for Shan Boodram/Instagram
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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.”
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How To Have A Successful Hot Girl Summer
Summer is upon us, and you know what that means: It's time for a hot girl summer! The term exploded in popularity a few years back, and it’s all about encouraging women to flirt, have fun, and of course, enjoy some good ol' safe sex. But amidst all the fun, it's essential to have the right tools to protect yourself and your partner.
So, if you’re single and ready to mingle, here are a few helpful tips on how to have the best hot girl summer possible.
Start with self-care.
It's no secret that confidence is key when it comes to having a good time. Before you start swiping on dating apps or heading to the bar scene, take some time to indulge in self-care. Get a new haircut, buy a new outfit, and pamper yourself with a spa day. Having a fresh look and feeling good about yourself will boost your confidence and make you feel unstoppable.
Protect yourself and your partner.
Hot girl summer is all about having fun, but safety must come first. Before engaging in any sexual activity, make sure you and your partner use protection, whether it's a condom or other methods. Keep in mind STDs can still spread even with precautions, so it's important to get regular STD testing, especially if you're seeing multiple partners.
Delmaine Donson/Getty Images
Set boundaries and don't compromise.
It's common for women to feel pressured to do things they're not comfortable with during casual sex. In a hot girl summer, it's essential to set clear boundaries and not compromise on what makes you comfortable. If your partner doesn't respect your limits, then it's a sign they're not worth your time.
Be open-minded and explore.
If you want to spice up your summer, try exploring new sexual experiences and positions with your partner(s). For inspiration on what sex positions to try, check out articles on our site like this, this, and this. However, it's always important to make sure you're both on the same page and comfortable with what you're doing. Consent is key.
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Date like it's your job.
With summer in full swing, dating becomes easier, and more people are open to meeting new individuals. Take advantage of this opportunity and start swiping on dating apps, or if you're more traditional, head to the bars or local events. It's important to remember that dating isn't about finding someone to settle down with; it's about having fun experiences and meeting new people.
Be honest about what you want.
Be honest with yourself. If you want a serious relationship, seek it out, but if you want to go on a casual date, go on a casual date. Hot girl summers mean doing whatever it is you want to do and not settling. Just be sure to communicate and be honest about who you are and what you’re looking for.
It's all about having fun, enjoying yourself, and exploring your sexuality. But it's crucial to remember that safety comes first. Use protection, get regular STD testing, set boundaries, and don't compromise. Be open-minded and explore new sexual experiences, but never forget to prioritize your comfort level, and don't let anyone pressure you into doing things you're not comfortable with. With these tips and tricks, you'll surely have the best hot girl summer yet.
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