If you've read between 3-5 of my friendship articles on this site before, you've probably seen me mention that it tickles me, whenever people speak of having multiple best friends. The word "best" speaks to someone being the most, above all else. So, while you can have many good friends, a best friend, by definition, is to stand heads above the rest.
That said, something that I'm a fan of is individuals who strive to be their own best friend. When you think about the fact that the word "best" is about putting something first and focusing what will prove to be most advantageous or successful, why wouldn't you want to make sure that you care about yourself enough that you are doing what is truly best for you? That you are completely and totally at peace with you? That you enjoy spending consistent and quality time—with you?
To me, being your own best friend doesn't mean that you don't need anyone else. It simply means that you're not needy for anyone else. You've got yourself, she's dope and because of that, everyone else is not a dire necessity, so much as a beautiful bonus. So, how can you know that you are your own BFF?
1. Your Favorite Company Is Your Own
Some of us are extroverts. Some of us are ambiverts. Some of us are introverts. When it comes to this particular point, I'm pretty sure the ambiverts and introverts are immediately gonna be able to relate since we (I tend to lean towards the ambivert side of life) get a lot of the energy we need by seeking within. But even if you're someone who gets more of what you seek by being around other people (shout-out to the extroverts), if you are your own best friend, you still have (consistent) moments when you prefer to spend time alone.
See, while an extrovert enjoys other folks, when they are their own best friend, they aren't so needy that they don't know what to do with themselves if they aren't constantly in a crowd. When your favorite company is your own, you literally live for moments when you can read a book in your favorite chair, cook a full meal for yourself or take a weekend to unplug and do nothing but pamper yourself and chill. Going out to dinner by yourself isn't weird, or even uncomfortable, because you are so at peace in your own space that you don't care what others think about you sitting at a table alone. You wanted something to eat, so you went to get it. No one else needed to accompany you. In fact, the thought didn't even cross your mind. That's just how much you dig yourself.
2. You Don’t Need the World to Help You Make a Decision
I know someone who used to constantly find themselves in a pattern of reckless decision-making. When I mentioned to them that they might want to consider seeing a therapist, they flippantly and arrogantly said, "I counsel myself." Hmph. Within that response, therein lies the problem, my friend. Proverbs 12:15(NKJV) says, "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise." So yes, there is indeed wisdom and maturity that comes with knowing that sometimes, getting an outside-looking-in perspective on things (from healthy, stable and trustworthy individuals) can help you to make a less narrow-minded choice.
Keeping this in mind, think about someone who you consider to be a really good friend of yours. I would assume that one of the qualities they hold is you are able to trust them—not kinda-sorta but to the utmost. Well, if you are your own best friend, the person you should have the most confidence in is yourself. You trust your principles. You trust your values. You trust your focus. To a certain degree, you even trust your gut (check out "When You Should Trust Your Gut & When You Shouldn't"). So, this means that you are able to have a level of security and confidence when it comes to making the choices that are right and best for you.
You don't need to always call your mama or your BFF. And, if you do and they don't agree with you, you can decipher when you should allow their opinion to weigh in on your choices or not. You know you, better than anyone. This means that deciding what's best for your life is something that, more times than not, you are able to figure out, all on your own. Know what else? You can also be at peace with your conclusions, even if you're the only one who agrees with them. Not because you're being rebellious or going out of a way to prove your independence (that's another article for another time). It's simply because you know it's OK to make decisions that not everyone will like or understand. And so…you do.
3. You Have a Healthy Sense of Self
I've shared before that something my 40s have consisted of is being intentional about knowing the difference between what is "Shellie" as it relates to a lot the childhood and adolescent trauma that I experienced vs. who I am once a lot of the trauma has been resolved and healed. I call it "Shellie vs. PTSD Shellie". One thing that Shellie is gonna die being is a direct person. Full stop. Something that is fading, because PTSD Shellie is becoming less and less of an issue, is the "inner tick" to want to try and control everything—and sometimes, everyone. This example is why I think it's so important to know the fine-line-difference between self-esteem and having a healthy sense of self. While, for the most part, self-esteem is about respecting and valuing yourself, I like how a writer by the name Antoinetta Vogels said this about what it means to have a healthy sense of self:
"A Sense of Self is a prerequisite for self-esteem but not the same. If you can't really sense your Self, if you are not aware that you are your own person, if you are not home in your own body and being, it is impossible to have any esteem of your Self. Your Self is not sensed so how could you esteem it. To be present to yourself implies paying attention to yourself, listening to your body and respond to your emotional and psychological needs."
I used to spend a lot of time, just assuming that how I am is how I was born to be. But Antoinetta is exactly right; the more I listened to my conscience, my health and, to a certain extent, my feelings, the more I was able to figure out who I am—not who my parents tried to make me be, what denomination I grew up in tried to brainwash me to be or even when the people around me tried to influence me to be. A healthy sense of self is about knowing you and then figuring out what is best for you. The more you put that into practice, the more you're able to start developing a higher sense of self-esteem that will lead you into becoming your own best friend as a direct result.
4. You’ve Got Your Own Back. No Matter What.
Yeeeeeh. Some of y'all don't wanna talk about how the Good Book says that if the world loves everything you do, spiritually, that's a red flag (John 15:19). Basically, what that means is if you stand for biblical standards, a lot of folks are gonna have a real problem with that and try and "cancel" you for it. But even beyond the Bible, a wise person once said, "If everyone likes you, you have a serious problem." What this speaks to is, if everyone is on board with you, all the time, either they don't know you very well or some parts of you are disingenuous. Why? Because it's impossible for every single person to like every other individual on the planet. Not all personalities mesh. Not everyone shares the same perspectives or values. Personal convictions alone can cause folks to be like, "Yeah, I'm good on you." Shoot, even a throwback article from Huffington Post once said that if more than 85 percent of people in your world like you, something is "off" (interesting, right?).
That's why I thought that this was also a very valid point to bring up when it comes to indicators that you truly are your own best friend. When you know you, understand you, respect you and love and like yourself, you don't find yourself compromising your standards or succumbing to pressure—whether online or off—just to get more people to "like you".
If it gets to the point and place where you've got to stand alone on some things, so be it. Things might get a little lonely at times, but you won't be devastated nor will you betray yourself. You're your own best friend, so you're in good company, regardless.
5. You Are Self-Compassionate
In the article, "What Loving Yourself Actually Looks Like", something that I actually touched on was self-compassion. But for the sake of this particular article, let's look a bit deeper into what it means to have this particular quality. Truth is, compassion is probably one of the most misused words around. The reason why I say that is because, while a lot of people profess to be a compassionate person, it's not the kind of word that is lip service-based only. Compassionate folks don't just see suffering and "awh" it or retweet it and then go about their day. They are individuals who notice that someone is in need and then do what they can to bring relief.
So, when you're self-compassionate, this point applies to how you address your own struggles, mistakes and pain. You don't wallow. You are intentional about breaking unhealthy patterns. You take full responsibility for the roles you played in your hurt. And yes, when you do see where you made less-than-the best choices, you don't beat yourself up. You simply look for ways to do and be better. A self-compassionate individual is extremely proactive about suffering less and thriving more. If you consider yourself to be this kind of person, you are someone who is very good to yourself. Trust me.
6. You Do Things with Your Sanity, Well-Being and Future in Mind
Good lookin' out, fam. This is typically something that we tell someone who really looked out for us, right? When it comes to our good friends, they have a tendency to do that often. Well, when you're your own best friend, you can usually smile at your decisions, on a daily basis, because you tend to not make impulsive choices, you learn from the past and you also observe what others have done so that you don't have to go through any unnecessary drama. I can definitely raise my hand in this class and say that since I've become my own best friend, if there is a person, place, thing or idea that is showing earlier signs of jeopardizing my inner tranquility, holistic health or even my future plans, they or it has to remain at a safe distance.
Did you peep how I also said "idea"? One day, I'll pen a piece on how we've got to discipline ourselves to not feed every idea that comes into our minds or is presented into our space. I have learned—the hard way, I might add—that the moment something comes into my psyche that my mind, body and spirit are not all in agreement with, it's usually best to leave that thing alone. It's one of the best ways I've been a friend to myself. It has been a blessing times a billion.
7. You Are a Good Friend to Others As a Direct Result
This one is a great one to end this with. People in my world know that I don't use the word "friend" loosely. Not by a long shot (check out "10 Things You Should Absolutely Expect From Your Friendships" and "Allow These Things To Happen Before Calling Someone 'Friend'"). For one thing, there is a lot of space between "friend" and "enemy" and so it's cool to have some folks be close acquaintances or even just cool people. And second, I know what I expect as well as bring to the table when it comes to my friendships. The bar ain't low and so, yeah, I am careful with the use of that word. But it's interesting that, the more I became my own friend, the better I was at selecting friends—and at being a good friend to them in return. Matter of fact, once I got to a point and place of being my own best friend, the quality of my friendships rose immensely. Things are happy, peace-filled and very settled now. And, because I'm proactive about treating myself well and right, I strive to put the same type of intention into my friendships with others too.
Without a doubt, there are other signs that you're your own best friend. But I believe that if you can nod your head to everything on this list, the others aren't necessary. Remember, life is designed for us to have friendships. All of those can be so much richer when your best friend is actually—you.
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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.
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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Janelle Monáe's Reveals The Real Reason Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Tuxedos
Singer and actress Janelle Monáe exemplifies how change can be a powerful catalyst for growth and transformation.
Monáe, who rose to fame in 2010 following the release of her debut album, The ArchAndroid, captivated fans' hearts with her powerful vocals, catchy tunes, and style. Around that time period, when various female artists were known to wear provocative ensembles on stage, the "Tightrope" songstress set herself apart by wearing her signature black and white suits and continued to do so for almost a decade.
In the later years of her career, after the release of her studio albums The Electric Lady in 2013 and 2018's Dirty Computer, many began to notice the shift in Monáe's artistry and fashion, which some widely praised.
Although the now 37-year-old rarely addressed the reason behind the transformation over the years, that would all change when Monáe sat down with radio personality Angie Martinez on her IRL podcast earlier this month.
During the interview, Monáe --who was promoting her latest album, "The Age of Pleasure"-- opened up about her mental health struggles, how she would cope, and why she chose to live in freedom.
Janelle On Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Suits All the Time
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
In the May discussion, the "I Like That" vocalist revealed she suffers from anxiety, which she claimed would occur around "winter to spring."
Monáe added that when she has her bouts with anxiety, she tends to turn to food as a coping mechanism. Further in the interview, the "Lipstick Lover" singer disclosed that her emotional eating habits caused a weight fluctuation and that she could no longer fit into the suits she once wore earlier in her career.
Monáe explained that even though she tried to diet and exercise to return to her smaller figure, she ultimately stopped and made peace with herself with the help of therapy because she acknowledged that she isn't the same person she was nearly a decade ago and shouldn't try to be even if it was a highly "celebrated" version.
"I'm petite, but it can get thick... When I couldn't fit them suits anymore, and I was like, 'Oh my God, what is going on?' I would be dieting, running, or exercising, trying to fit into [it]. I'm just like, 'No. No, we're here. This is where we are.' We [are] not about to be utilizing life trying to be an old version of ourselves. No matter how celebrated that version of me was. I'm here. I'm here," she said.
Janelle On Freedom
As the topic shifted to freedom and what that meant to Monáe, the "Primetime" vocalist shared that in this new era of her life, she enjoys it because she can boldly express herself however she wants and honor who she is as a person right now.
Monáe also revealed that she had found ways to become a better artist and the best version of herself because of her freedom.
"What is the new version of freedom? What does that feel like? That's usually when I feel the most free is when artistically, I can honor exactly who I am right now," she stated. "I feel most free as a human when I can honor exactly who I am right now."
Monáe's fourth studio album, The Age of Pleasure, is set to be released on June 9.
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