Whenever you hear the phrase "faking it", what immediately comes to your mind? If you said faking orgasms, listen, I'm totally with you. In fact, I actually wrote an article for the site about how I personally think that faking it is a form of manipulation (you can read it here). Oh, but there are other ways to fake it in life, chile. Other ways to manipulate people by being fake too.
That's what we're gonna unpack today. Unfortunately, because so much of our lives is filled with some level of media, sometimes, it's challenging to separate what is real from what isn't—from what it really does mean to be fake. To be fake is to be disingenuous. To be fake is to pretend. To be fake is to "conceal the real", so that you can appear more attractive or interesting to others. The problem with all of this is when something is based on fakeness, you can never really trust it because it's all an illusion; a mirage.
Today, let's pull the masks off. Let's do so by looking at some pretty telling signs that you (or someone you know) are faking it, not when it comes to coitus, but when it comes to your relationships with other people. Hopefully, if you see yourself in any of these, you'll feel compelled to break these habits, so that you can cultivate connections with those who know, respect and appreciate you—the real you.
1. “Honest”, “Genuine”, “Direct” Aren’t the Words That Are Used to Describe You—EVER
You remember when grandma used to say that cussing is a sign of not being very intelligent? I always think about that when I come up on studies that reveal things like it's actually smarter folks who tend to use four-letter words. Know what else research says that cussing is an indication of being? More honest. While being liked by the masses has never really been a concern or goal of mine, I will say that the older (and prayerfully wiser) I get, the more I care about being known and respected as an individual rather than everyone simply "liking" me.
A big part of that is because, a lot of the people I personally know who are considered likeable, when I peek behind their curtain and they share some of their vulnerabilities, oftentimes, they don't like themselves very much. And a big part of the reason why is they are so caught up in being popular that they hide a lot of their true selves—including their views, values and even wants and needs (we'll get more into that last part in a bit). Bottom line, they are basically so into being liked that they aren't really very honest with themselves—which makes it close to impossible to be honest with the individuals around them.
It's a pretty miserable existence to have everyone think that you are awesome when you're not even revealing your authentic self—when no one really and truly knows you at all. Believe you me, it's better to have five folks genuinely like the real you than 100 folks praise the version that is fake AF. You're grown. It's your decision. But man, I hope you'll choose what's behind Door #1. It's amazingly freeing in that space.
2. Your Connections Consist Mostly of Online Ones
A couple of years back, Entrepreneur published the article, "Why Everyone and Everything on Social Media Is Fake". I chuckled because it really is a trip, how much people will speak so confidently about individuals they only interact with online. It's also fascinating how people have a real knack for presenting themselves one way on IG and a completely different way in real life.
Case in point. I recently saw someone—someone who has a pretty big Twitter following—make the announcement that they no longer were going to share their personal business because people don't agree with their choices and the stress has caused them to go to therapy. It's been a while since I've had my own social media accounts, but do you get how imbalanced you can get if you spend a lot of time caring about people who you don't even really know? This person got to the point where they regretted revealing parts of their true selves simply because a lot of their random followers took issue with it. Y'all, when it gets to the point where either 1) you only present what you think people want to see online and/or 2) you shy away from being the real you because you care more about "likes" than you do about being at peace with your own self, it's time to take a social media fast or consider getting offline altogether, so that you can devote more time to cultivating real friendships.
Social media has its place. At the same time, it shouldn't be your only interaction with human beings. Actually, I don't think it should be your main one either. I don't care if it's Twitter, Instagram or Clubhouse (whew, that Clubhouse, chile), don't get caught up in the hype of keeping up with how folks present themselves online or thinking that you've got to keep up with the online Joneses. Just like the filter on a lot of those pictures are fake, so is how a lot of people present themselves—this includes how they oftentimes choose to interact with you.
3. Everyone Gets Talked About—Just Not in Their Face
Something else that grandma used to say is, "If they'll gossip to you, they will gossip about you." While that might not be 100 percent accurate (because I actually don't know one person who doesn't gossip on some level; media basically wouldn't exist without it), it's a good thing to keep in mind in the sense that, if you're someone who is constantly talking about people, only to act totally different in their presence, that is the ultimate kind of fakeness.
In fact, I'll give you a true life confession on this. For years, I was perceived as rude because it is absolutely not my modus operandi to act as if I like you and/or things are all good if I don't and/or they're not. I'm just not the kind of person to fake the funk. So, what I've had to work on is accepting that not being someone's fan doesn't mean that I've got to make people feel super uncomfortable or even be impolite. Hmm, come to think about it, about 85 percent of my inner circle has this particular trait in common. While I get that this personality trait isn't for everyone, I actually like it because, at least, I know where I stand—at least, I don't have to wonder if they're being one way in my presence and another way out of it. And neither do they.
Anyway, please don't give yourself any brownie points if you're the person who complains, gripes or speaks ill of folks when they're not around but then you pull the "Hey girl!" approach when they're within earshot of you. If you've got a real issue with someone, it's not going to get resolved if you're not honest and upfront with them about how you feel. Also, if you're someone who is just disingenuous in this way, eventually, even your own crew is gonna wonder if you're always like this…and that wondering could turn into socially distancing themselves from you at some point. It won't be due to COVID-19 either.
There is nothing admirable about acting one way in people's faces and another way behind their back. Figure out how to make peace or address the issue. If you don't want to be fake, you can't really do both.
4. You Care More About Others’ Expectations than Your Own Needs
Ever meet a relational chameleon? Those are what I call individuals who are one way with you and yet a completely different person with others. Matter of fact, it's kind of a toss-up when it comes to who they are gonna be at any given moment. While on the surface, that might sound like the definition of a person who is a bit off of their rocker, I've personally seen it enough in my lifetime to think it's more like someone who is A) unsure of who they truly are; B) an opportunist and/or C) more concerned about what others expect from them than what they need to receive in their relationships.
Being the kind of individual who meets the needs of others isn't a bad thing. It really isn't. Yet if you are so focused on making others happy that you suffer and/or you have no idea what your needs are and/or those needs are constantly shifting based on what you think people believe you should ask of them—while this may seem like a selfless thing on the surface, it's actually another form of fakeness.
I know a guy who's a huge relational chameleon. For instance, the way he acts around white people is completely different than how he acts around us (Black folks). He also lets a lot of BS slide with white people while being much harder on his Black friends. Know what else? He overextends for white folks because those are the ones he does the most business with. Meanwhile, he thinks that they "like" him when it's really more like they enjoy how much they are able to use him.
No relationship is healthy if only one person is doing most of the work. And something is up with the over-giving individual who doesn't confront this issue at some point. Bottomline, it's fake to constantly change yourself in order to please others. Decide what you need and be consistent with your expectations of them being met. Period.
5. You’ve Got Unhealthy Habits Because None of Your Relationships Fulfill You
One of the things that I didn't see being a benefit of the abstinence journey that I've been on is realizing that, although I consider myself to have a pretty healthy sex drive (so did my partners, if I do say so myself), I also realize that some men got what they absolutely did not deserve. It was because I used sex (and my sexual performance) as a way of escape. "Escape" in the sense that if I wasn't getting what I wanted or needed from them outside of the bedroom, I would lie to myself and say that was happening in the bed was more than enough. Lying to yourself is a really unhealthy habit. It can also cause you to be in some of the fakest relationships around.
Are you constantly doing most of the work in your relationships, hoping that they will like you more? Do you not speak up when you feel taken for granted because you don't want to "stir the pot"? Do you find yourself acting like certain things are "fine" when they absolutely aren't because you fear being alone if you speak up? Listen, when you are in a relationship, of any kind, that is making the core of who you are worse rather than better, sometimes to the point where you don't even really know who you are anymore, this is a sign of faking it that is problematic—and counterproductive—AF. It's a bad habit that you need to break ASAP.
The relationships that you can truly exhale in are the ones where you know you aren't overextending yourself or compromising to the point of sacrificing, just to keep them around. Your tribe wouldn't want you to be unhealthy just to keep them happy. Remember that as you interact with others.
6. If You Died Today, No One Could Say They Knew the REAL You
There's a guy I know who is awesome. Like, a really great guy. I don't know one person who would say otherwise and I've known him for well over two decades at this point. Here's the thing, though (and I've actually said it to him directly)—if he were to suddenly pass away today, even he said that probably only his brother could do his eulogy any justice when it comes to the details of his life—and he's been married for years. Why is that? Because no one really knows much beyond the surface.
It's not like he's shady or anything. It's more that he is so used to everyone thinking that he's the greatest person ever that he keeps up polite walls so that folks won't be disappointed. Lord, what a lonely existence at the end of the day because, is it worth it for everyone to so-call love you when they've only skimmed the surface?
A wise person once said, "If everyone likes you, everyone doesn't know you." One way to look at this is, none of us are everyone's "fit" and that's OK. Yet if you're so busy trying to seem like you are every person's ideal, you can find yourself never putting your guard down and letting others in. As a result, while your relationships may be pleasant, they still aren't very real.
I once read a post that said, "Being fake is the new trend and everyone is in style." While unfortunately, there may be a certain amount of truth to this, is it really worth it to not be your true self? That's not a rhetorical question. The answer is, it's not.
You've only got one life. You can be fake. You can be real. Choose wisely. You and your relationships are depending on it.
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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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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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Queen Latifah On Her Journey To Self-Acceptance: 'I've Been Trying To Maintain My Freedom To Be Me'
Actress and rapper Dana "Queen Latifah" Owens is defying societal standards by refusing to be confined in a box regarding her personal and professional life.
Owens, who has been a part of the entertainment industry for over three decades, is widely recognized for her empowering songs and the variety of acting roles she has obtained throughout her career, among other things. The list includes Living Single, Set It Off, Chicago --with which she earned an Oscar nomination-- Just Wright, Girls Trip, and most recently, The Equalizer series on CBS.
Owens is also very tight-lipped about her personal life. However, in 2021, The Last Holiday actress showed appreciation to Eboni Nichols, who is reportedly her partner, and their son Rebel after receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award.Since then, Owens has revealed why she doesn't want to be defined as anything but herself and how she maintains her sense of freedom. In a resurfaced video from theGrio Awards, Owens opened up about those topics when she accepted the Television Icon Award for her past contributions
In a clip uploaded on theGrio's Instagram account last week, Owens explained that she often had to fight to be herself because "the world" kept trying to put her in a box based on what society thought a woman should be.
"My whole life, I feel like I've been trying to maintain my freedom to be me. And the world is trying to put these things on me to stop me from being who I am," she said.
Further into the speech, Owens explained that although many would have their own opinion about her from what the media spews out, she would continue to be herself by wearing "beautiful gowns and dresses," playing in the dirt, participating in basketball games with men and loving who she loves because that's what makes her happy.
The Beauty Shop star also added that despite her celebrity status, she would continue to show respect for others because that's who she is as a person and how she was raised.
"So I wear these beautiful gowns and dresses because I want to because that's part of me. I play in the dirt. I play basketball with the boys because that's me,” she stated. "I love who I love because that's me. I love all of you who have supported me. I give you your respect. I don't have to be above you because that's me. I know me."
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