Friends. How many of us have them? Friends. Ones we can depend on? The older I get and the more time I spend on this planet, the more I think Whodini straight up preached in those lyrics. It really is true that, if you've got even one friend to speak of, you are truly blessed because, let's be honest—we humans are a trip out here. Two flawed individuals who are trying to make any type of emotional connection work is a feat within itself. But man, when one of those folks is fake, opportunistic, low-key envious, disloyal or simply doesn't know what being a true friend consists of, they can send you on an emotional roller coaster ride that is truly unlike any other. You can find yourself being a friend to someone who is literally the worst kind of enemy.
I've been there. Oh, have I been there. And to prevent you from experiencing the complete and totally WTF moments I have or maybe even help you recognize if you've got a pattern of having "non-friend friends", here are seven signs that just because you call someone your "friend" doesn't automatically or necessarily mean that they are even close to being a real one.
1. If You Weren’t Reaching Out, the Two of You Wouldn’t Communicate
There is someone I know who considers me one of her closest friends. Chile, no I'm not. For one thing, in order for us to be bosom buddies, I have to be able to get in on that decision (some of y'all will catch that later) and second, I haven't heard from that girl in months upon months. The funny—or not so funny, depending on how you look at it—thing is that, the last time I saw her, I told her that I wasn't going to initiate contact anymore, that the next time we spoke, it would be if/when she reached out. When she asked why I was implementing that little rule, I told her point blank, "Because the only reason we speak as much as we do is because I am the one who checks on you." She laughed it off and said I would hear from her the following week. Like I said, that was months ago.
I already know that when I see her again, she's gonna be on the flattery tip; she always is. And you know what? I ain't even mad. On a lot of levels, she's cool people. But are we actual friends? Nah. My friends call me. I call them. They email me. I email them. There's a consistent mutuality that exists—consistently so. This girl? She's basically just a nice person. There's no love lost. It's just that she's not in my inner court by any stretch. (If you want to know what I mean by that, check out "Always Remember That Friendships Have 'Levels' To Them"). Her total lack of initiative proves that she doesn't deserve to be.
2. Their Needs Are an Emergency While Yours Aren’t Even a Priority
When I wrote the article "Life Taught Me That True Friendships Are 'Inconvenient'", what I meant by that is, if you are truly committed to someone and they are truly committed to you, there are going to be times when both of you are inconvenienced. Your friend might need you to stay up with her all night as she grieves the breakdown of a relationship (or friendship), or you might need a few bucks from them in order to pay an unexpected bill. In my friendships, it's not a second thought for me and my peeps to have each other's backs; it's a given. Oh, but there is a woman I know who is stingy as all get out. When she needs something, not only is she quick to ask, but she pretty much assumes that I'm gonna come through. Why? Because I always have. But the past 5-6 times that I've asked her for something, she has always had an excuse. When I brought it to her attention, she even had an excuse for her excuses.
Listen, maturity will teach you that no one owes us anything in life. But if you've got a so-called friend who always expects you to help them out, even though they do not show up for you in a pinch—sis, that is not a friend. That is a user.
3. They’re Your Friend in Your Face but Shady Behind Your Back
A wise person once said, "The person who hears other people talking behind your back but does nothing and might even join in is called an acquaintance. But the person who has a problem with it, will call them out, or will call you and tell you about it, they are a friend." I agree with this to a large extent. If I were to change anything, I would say that anyone who claims to care about you on some level and joins in on gossip about you is not really even an acquaintance. Low-key, they are a hater. Also, based on what your friends know about you and how you react to things, it may not be a good idea to bring certain things directly to your attention. Sometimes, that could make matters worse instead of better. What a true friend will do is handle it and squash it. They will definitely give yappers the impression that they are the last person who should bring up anything negative about you. Point blank and period.
I'm telling you, it can be a hard and oh-so-painful lesson to learn that some people aren't your friend for friend's sake. Nah, they just want to be around you in order to collect information to spread around. So yeah, if you can't say, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the people close to you wouldn't tell your business, throw shade or stab you in the back outside of your presence, are they really your friend? Somehow, I doubt it.
4. They Are Low-Key Competitive
This is an area where I've had bad friends and been a bad friend. That's why I'm not big on building close relationships with folks who have low self-esteem. People like that dislike themselves so much that they don't have a clue how to be happy for other people, celebrate other people, or not feel like they constantly have to one-up other folks. When it came to those who were closest to me, yes, I used to be that kind of person sometimes. I resented them for how they looked, what they had, or even the quality of men they dated. And that turned everything into a bitter battle of competition—or straight-up bitterness.
It is damn near impossible for anyone to love someone else when they don't even love themselves. If you've got someone in your life who always makes you feel like they are trying to outdo you, not only is that exhausting but that's pretty toxic. Friends relish in each other's come-up; they don't compete with it.
5. They Are Narcissistic AF
I grew up in an entertainment industry household. Then, I became an entertainment writer which meant that a lot of my social circle consisted of entertainers and whatnot. Boy, did it take me for-e-ver to recognize that something that automatically came with this reality was knowing a lot of narcissistic people--oodles and oodles of 'em. And just how can you know that you've got a narcissistic "friend" in your space? They're always right. They can never be corrected. Sometimes they build you up, other times they tear you down (and you never know which person is going to show up). They constantly need attention and validation. They are control freaks (including when it comes to your life, if you let them). They're disingenuous. They don't take responsibility for their actions (ie. they deflect…a lot). They refuse to empathize with your feelings and needs. They don't apologize. They act entitled. They have split personalities (or are moody as hell). They wouldn't know a boundary, if it slapped them in the face.
Whew. You know what this all boils down to, right? They are basically emotionally abusive individuals. And abuse, in any form, should never be used in the same sentence (or context) as healthy friendship.
6. They’re Dismissive AF Too
So, I live in Nashville and not too long ago, we had a pretty devastating tornado. The way that it affected me personally is I didn't have electricity for about a week. (You can't even begin to process just how deep that is until it actually happens to you). As I was waiting to "get back on the grid", I had to find ways to rig up getting a charge, like using a car charger or going to a mall to work on my laptop. Anyway, there is someone who could've made all of this so much easier and they live a bike ride away. When I asked if I could charge up for an hour, they talked about how they wouldn't be home all day, so they didn't know when I could. When I asked a few days later to do the same thing, they wrote me late at night talking about they don't check their email as much as I do, so they missed the message. Hmm…that's interesting because when they needed some of my press contacts for a project they are working on, they replied back to back to my responses within an hour. And when they wanted my opinion on some of their music, I heard from them right after sharing my insights. It's basically been like this for years. Would a true friend be like this? I doubt it.
But here's the thing. Sometimes, we keep people around and allow them to have some of the same benefits that our real friends have because they're not bad people. It's just that, as you start to define your own boundaries and expectations, you realize that they don't deserve the same access and privileges.
For me, a "boundary" that I am learning to set is to not be close to dismissive people. Dismissiveness is a subtle form of folks not giving AF. And when you take into account what the actual definition of the word is ("indicating lack of interest or approbation"), it's basically a low-key form of disrespect. True friends take an interest in your life and your needs. Anyone who, through their words and/or actions, shows that they don't...they are not much of a friend at all.
7. “Safe” Is the LAST Word You Would Use to Describe How You Feel Around Them
Probably every fourth article that I write, I mention how important the word "safe" is. That's because it is. When you feel safe, you feel secure. When you feel safe, you're not wondering if someone is going to hurt or harm you. When you feel safe, you are confident that the people in your life are reliable, they have your back, and you are never alone to deal with the ups or the downs of this world. Something else that's cool about the word "safe" is there is no "kinda" to it; either someone makes you feel safe around them or…they don't. If when you just read all of this, you found yourself squinting because a couple of people came to mind who definitely caused you to be unsure, that is a very telling sign that they are not as good of a friend as they should be or as you deserve. No matter how long you may have bestowed the honor of the "friend" title upon them, they need to be demoted. Because a friend who isn't safe isn't a friend at all. Not. At. All.
Feel me? Please tell me that you feel me. And more importantly, tell me that if someone fits this bill, you will make some much needed adjustments ASAP. So that some real friends can come into your life. People who are as far from these signs as possible.
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:
Pettiness, Moodiness & Other "Friendship Irritants" To Work Through
What If You Love Your Friend...But Don't Like Her Anymore?
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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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Chilli Opens Up About Flak She Received For Refusing To Settle In Dating And How Matthew Lawrence Has Everything On Her 'List'
Rozanda "Chilli" Thomas' dating journey displays how refusing to settle, and setting standards could lead one to find their ideal partner.
Over the years, The TLC group member had high-profile relationships with music producer Dallas Austin, with whom she shares an adult son, and R&B singer Usher.
Since then, Thomas has confirmed that she’s now dating actor Matthew Lawrence. Thomas and Lawrence, who were romantically linked in the summer of 2022 when they were spotted vacationing in Hawaii amidst the Boy Meets World star's grueling divorce with Cheryl Burke, would confirm their relationship in January 2023.
In a statement released by Thomas' representative, Christal Jordan, toPeople magazine, Jordan revealed that the couple had been dating since November 2022, two months after Lawrence's divorce was finalized. Jordan also shared that since Thomas began dating Lawrence, the singer is the happiest she's ever been.
To date, the couple has showcased their love by uploading various dancing Instagram posts on their respective accounts and talking about their whirlwind romance in numerous interviews.
Recently, Thomas opened up about her relationship with Lawrence during a virtual interview with The Tamron Hall Show. While recalling her VH1 dating series, What Chilli Wants, which aired on the network from 2010 to 2011, the 52-year-old provided information about why she set such high dating standards in the form of a list known as "Chilli's Checklist" and the steps she took to prepare herself for love.
Chilli On Matthew and Her Dating List
During the May discussion, Thomas disclosed that she wanted to show women the importance of setting standards, and although, at the time, she received massive backlash for it, she refused to settle when it came to love.
Thomas received scrutiny for her list because many thought some of her standards were unobtainable. Thomas' requirements for an ideal partner included not wanting someone that drank, smoked, or ate pork.
In addition to all those qualities, the star also wanted someone that loved God. Because of Thomas' determination to find her perfect match, the "Creep" vocalist claimed that she "waited it out."
"On my show, I always hoped that women see the importance of having high standards. I got a lot of flack from that, but I don't care. For me, I just waited it out. I'm like, 'Lord, if it happens, wonderful. If it doesn't, I'm still okay," she said.
As the topic shifted to Lawrence, Thomas raved about her new beau and shared that the 43-year-old had met all the qualities she wanted in a partner, from his physical appearance to his love for God.
"Matthew, honestly, he's the list... He is my entire list, and so I thank god every day for this," she stated.
Even though it may have taken years and several failed relationships, it is inspiring to see that Thomas refused to settle and worked on herself along the way until she found her person.
Rozonda ‘Chilli’ Thomas’ Next Chapter & Romance With Matthew Lawrence
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