I think it's fair to say that most of us long to reach that place where the money resides, especially in the present times when life is so uncertain and people are likely to lose their jobs at any given moment. On the other hand, perhaps thanks to the plethora of entrepreneurs that document their journeys on social media, there's the sense that abundant financial wealth seems more accessible now than it ever has before. With that said, despite all the step-by-step guides to becoming rich available on the market, we can still hear the same question echoing in our heads: How do I get to the bag, though?
Well, apparently, it's in the mind, chicas. It all happens in our minds first.
The mind is a powerful tool that, depending on how we choose to use it, has the power to make or break us. This is a fact that the bomb business owners I had the opportunity to interview as part of this feature said to have learned the hard way while on the path to acquiring their Boss badges. The four ladies got real on the struggles that they've faced in the past which almost prevented them from becoming who they are today, the mindset shifts that helped overcome them, and more.
Befriending Fear To Unlock a World of Luxury
Candace Junée, Digital Marketing Maven & CEO of Epic Fab Girl
Image courtesy of Candace Junée
For the longest, I followed the 'American dream.' I studied mechanical engineering in undergrad, received my MBA by the age of 23, and transitioned into a job in Corporate America [and] began earning six figures. However, despite all the benefits of working that job, I knew after a little time that it wasn't what I wanted to do forever. Corporate America, I felt, deprived me of being the master of my own time. My time was theirs and I had little to no say on that.
Many times, I found myself wiping my tears because I had to work extra hours or on the weekends to complete the tasks that I was asked to do at the last minute, all while my personal life and loved ones were waiting on me. When September 2017 came, the moment finally came for me to reclaim my freedom. Although I was deathly afraid and almost talked myself out of it, I decided to quit my job and pursue my dreams.
Fear, I must say, is the companion that's been following me throughout this whole journey from giving up on a six-figure salary to building my own six-figure company. It's still there, to be honest, but I've learned how to tame it.
In the beginning, I feared wandering in the unknown. While we do know what we decide to walk away from, there's no certainty that what we'll find on our path will be any better. And then, once I became my own boss, the fear that my finances would never advance as much as my career did quickly took over me.
A year before taking this leap of faith, I launched Epic Fab Girl, "a community for women entrepreneurs who want to build profitable brands and grow their faith." The latter initially started as a blog but after I quit, I had to figure out a way to monetize it to generate revenues. On top of that, in January 2018, I launched my own marketing agency. I wanted to offer my target audience coaching services and digital courses to help them scale their businesses to six figures. Funny thing is, I was nowhere near earning such an amount of money myself, even after giving my business more than a year to grow and flourish.
While my clients were getting the desired results, on my end, I was struggling financially; I faced difficulties paying my bills, my car had been repossessed and I'd received foreclosure papers on my home as a Christmas present. Earning six figures has never been a requirement for me, but it was somewhat mandatory if I wanted to maintain the level of comfort I was living in. All of which ultimately had me contemplating [whether or not] to go back to Corporate America. However, while it's a move that my entourage encouraged me to make, I never received any signs from God that meant this was what He wanted for me. So, as a woman of faith, I continued walking the path that I was already on.
As soon as 2020 rolled around and the pandemic hit, that's when everything changed for the better. Within the first semester of the year, my revenues reached six figures for the first time—which wouldn't have happened had I decided to take some steps back or had I simply not shifted my mindset to believe that my services are worth the luxury price point.
Image courtesy of Candace Junée
It probably wouldn't have happened either if I hadn't invested in a coach to help me make the shift on top of using affirmations and visualization to help me own my abilities and brilliance when I'm doubting.
Here again, fear made me doubt whether I was making the right decision or not because I wasn't fully convinced that my audience would pay those prices—although some of my clients were already paying me four figures monthly for some of the services that I offer. But because I'd managed to reach a level of self-confidence high enough to recognize that I was excellent at what I was doing and understand that my financial situation was only the consequence of me undercharging for my services, I was ready for those who want to work with me to pay premium prices.
The best thing was to realize that I wasn't insane for believing that numbers don't necessarily throw people off. Quite the contrary, they attract the right clients, the kind that can afford your expertise, and therefore make a way for money to flow to you easily.
Wherever you find yourself in your journey, fear is going to rear its ugly head. To me, it's a sign that you're on the right path. You've probably read somewhere that, "If your dreams don't scare you, they're not big enough." I believe that it couldn't be more true. Be willing to bet on yourself and know your value. Trust that anything is possible.
Follow Candace on Instagram @candacejunee.
Unlearning Scarcity To Discover Absolute Abundance
Chris Bible, CEO & Owner of SheLuvsLashes
Image courtesy of Chris Bible
One of the biggest personal breakthroughs I've experienced thus far is realizing the vital value of unlearning. Unlearning the things that hold you back is just as important as learning new [things]. It's necessary to be successful and unlock your potential.
I was a mother at the age of 16 and was raised by a single mother solely responsible for five children. Needless to say, I had to unlearn the scarcity mindset engraved in my head from childhood. Becoming a mother before I became a woman also played a major role in the endless struggles that prevented me from exploring the boss lady hibernating within. Like many, I didn't have a direct example of entrepreneurship; I was raised to play safe and to think that financial stability was something that only Corporate America could offer.
With age and an evolved self-awareness, I began to take risks and explore opportunities I normally wouldn't as a way to overcome those struggles.
In 2012, I relocated from Los Angeles to Arizona after being laid off from a corporate position that I occupied for five years. This move that I considered to be bold truly cultivated the opportunity for me to discover what my passion was. Thanks to Arizona's low cost of living, I was able to quit the new job that I'd found after working there for a year to live off of savings and explore revenue-generating opportunities which I'd hoped would unveil my purpose and passion. Moment of transparency, I must give credit to my supportive husband and his steady income. Without him, I wouldn't have been able to do so.
I tried fashion blogging and freelance writing for local publications. I even dabbled in fashion event production. Although all of that was fun, it wasn't what ignited the fire in me, which is truly what I was seeking. After many failed attempts, I found myself enrolled in a lash extension training class—a $1,300 investment. My lash artist at the time encouraged me to do so because I'd always ask her thousands of questions about how she did mine. Unexpectedly, this training class is where I found my spark.
Back in the day, I wasn't aware of all the doors that would open from just trying something new.
Image courtesy of Chris Bible
Never would I have thought that I'd one day run my own business, let alone work in the beauty industry. But it turned out that lashing was a service that quickly led to the creation of my own training academy and a full-fledged lash product line.
Seeing the revenue that I was generating is partly what helped break the scarcity mindset that I earlier mentioned I was suffering from. What was truly life-changing, I'd say, was practicing daily affirmations as well as investing in a mentor, Pauleanna Reid for instance, salon staff and marketing experts. This is what truly propelled me to my current level of success and showed me that taking control of your daily rituals on top of having an organized process for goal-setting is the difference between having a side hustle and running a six-figure business.
A boss, in my world, is a leader. She has clear morals and values, yet balances that with an attitude that gets ish done by any means necessary. Sacrifice, hard work, and patience are the ingredients to achieve success.
I didn't reach boss status before I made countless mindset shifts, alleviated excuses, welcomed uncertainty with confidence, and followed an unorthodox schedule. Most importantly, I had to embrace that I was worthy and capable of reaching a certain level of success and that it could be done all on my own. Of course, some of these shifts were easier to implement than others, while some were made out of necessity. The hardest changes dealt with inner work and self-love. I struggle with imposter syndrome and reminding myself that I am worthy is a constant fight. Having to embrace who you're meant to be can be frightening but growth never comes from comfort; it thrives in the newest version of ourselves.
Follow Chris on Instagram @sheluvslashes.
When Failure Serves as an Expensive Stepping Stone to Success
Blair Presley, Product Management Career Coach
Image courtesy of Miranda Mader
I had a huge mindset shift in my early 30s when I launched a business that failed—but from which I recovered. That experience taught me a ton from bringing a dream to fruition to pivoting and iterating.
Five years or so ago, I launched a business with two friends and partners whose purpose was to encourage college students, particularly HBCUs students, to travel the world. My friends and I who are all HBCU grads have had the opportunity to travel abroad when we were younger and being aware of the benefits of doing so, our desire was to give that opportunity to an audience that didn't have the same ability as we did.
We made a ton of mistakes during the launching process. We firmly believed that this project would be the solving of an issue, however, we didn't succeed to shed light on the said issue in a way that resonated with our target audience. We failed to properly grab their attention. And then, we launched too big, way too big—and we actually paid for it.
Looking back, that situation was ironic considering that prior to that, I'd spent a significant amount of time teaching as a product manager—and now as a product management career coach and business coach to women of color entrepreneurs—to actually not do this [launching too big]. It's always best to start small and test your audience first, which is a fact that I was proven once again when I later found myself launching another venture with a pair of two other friends.
For years, we'd casually played a game about dating deal breakers during our girls' nights and wondered if it would be commercially viable. We wanted to create it and then sell it to the public. However, despite how good we thought this idea was, having learned from my past mistakes the hard way, I made it clear from the start that spending any money was out of the question for me; an announcement that caused my friends to glance at me with a confused stare stating that it would therefore not be feasible. But I knew we would figure something out. And we did.
We managed to come up with the simplest launching strategy which cost us the bare minimum but enabled us to maximize our success.
Image courtesy of Miranda Mader
To introduce the game to our audience and test both, we decided to organize a small gathering with our friends. The plan was to play with them so they could see how much fun it is and therefore potentially turn those friends into customers. As for the cards' prototype, my partners and I had opted for at-home printing, a cheap and efficient solution. When the ladies validated our concept that night, we were given the green light to start the next step of our launching process: social media promotion. There again, we'd only invested a few dimes in marketing, just enough to get a decent number of customers to pre-order the deck and allow the real production of our card game to finally begin. We suddenly had the cash to order inventory to cover the pre-orders and more, without taking a hit upfront.
While my initial attempt at entrepreneurship was a complete failure, the lessons that I've learned from our mistakes [not building proper brand awareness and launching too big] are the main reasons why my other partners and I managed to turn this second endeavor into a complete success. I told them that I wouldn't risk losing any more money and adopting such a sales strategy that spared us from buying in bulk without being sure whether we'd sell allowed me to honor my vow.
As I previously briefly mentioned, I now work as a business and career coach. I've been self-employed for approximately two years now, and the services that I offer allow me to generate a six-figure revenue. I believe it's worth noting that the journey hasn't been linear and didn't come without low-grade anxiety. Self-doubt was also ubiquitous; the "will-I-be-able-to-sustain-this-long-term" fear was real. But the thing that I did and which today allows me to say that I'm living a life beyond my dreams was pairing my ability to execute, my vivid imagination, and Godly faith. It's been equal parts of each: envisioning an outcome, believing that it's available to me—which has been difficult because as a young girl, I hadn't met many black women entrepreneurs who independently monetized their talent for the personal and professional benefit of others—, and creating and executing a plan to achieve.
Shifting from fear to possibility has gotten easier over time. I equate it to the first time you tackle a small fear. It's nerve-wracking at first but through repeated actions, it becomes a part of your muscle memory.
Follow Blair on Instagram @blairpres.
Learning How To Cope With Introversion and Impostor Syndrome
Bola Sokunbi, Founder & CEO Clever Girl Finance
Image courtesy of Caroline Beffa Photography
My name is Bola Sokunbi, I'm the founder and CEO of Clever Girl Finance, "a mission-driven financial empowerment platform aimed at providing women with the right products and services as well as financial guidance." I'm also a super introverted individual who happens to suffer from impostor syndrome, all of which can be a tad bit problematic when you have high professional ambitions. I wish I could say that these feelings fade away with time and experience, but they don't. However, what the former and the latter did help with was to figure out my coping mechanisms.
Before I started my business, I remember how much of a struggle it was for me to make myself seen and heard when I found myself in important rooms. Instead of being as aggressive as my colleagues were in the pursuit of coveted promotions, I was trying to stay as quiet and as little as possible. I was unable to position myself for further opportunities—and had my advisor not convinced me that the founder of a brand is as important as the brand itself, my inner struggles would've probably prevented my company from growing as well.
One of my biggest challenges was to believe that my story—the story of how I managed to save $100,000, for instance—and accomplishments are valuable enough to be shared with the world. The question that would always pop up in my head was, "Who are you to actually say these things?" When I finally had the guts to put it out two years after the launch of my business, it turned out it became a huge anchor in terms of brand awareness. The exposure my story was given by other media outlets showed me that my fears of being judged were unfounded for people were actually inspired by it, and it also made me realize that what I'm doing is bigger than me.
When I first launched Clever Girl Finance, I used to decline all public speaking appearances and big events that would make me the focal point. Now, because my mindset shifted to thinking of purpose before self and I've learned how to cope with them, I'm able to seize those opportunities.
My secret when it comes to surviving being an introvert plus impostor syndrome as a business owner is to step out of my comfort zone when I need to and step back into it when I can.
When I step out of it, I prepare by repeating affirmations out loud, hyping myself up. I look for an accountability partner, whether it's a friend or my husband so that I have someone to push me and make sure that I do whatever it is that I'm supposed to do. And then, once it's done, I allow myself to rest. Keyword: rest.
Image courtesy of Caroline Beffa Photography
I came to realize that being an introvert was so much of a struggle for me—not just as a professional but in my daily life as well—because I never took the time to recover after I do an event. Or a video. Or a webinar. Basically, anything that puts me in a place where I'm surrounded by a lot of people.
By not giving myself time to recover, I was just compounding the effect of how much I disliked being out there and being the face of my business. But when I allow myself to step back into my comfort zone and sit there in silence for as long as I need to, I feel rejuvenated and motivated enough to go out and do it again.
Since I discovered the benefits that this technique has on me, 'recovery day' made it to my weekly calendar. It usually occurs on Fridays and to make it possible, I hired a team to help me alleviate the work, take the pressure off of me and allow me to hide for a short amount of time. My staff has been the best at pointing out when I need them to take specific tasks off my plate. Because one thing about introverts, when they don't feel like doing something, that's when a whole nonessential delay game begins and time gets wasted, which is a fortune that as business owners, we cannot afford to lose.
On top of my team, I can also count on my three advisors to help me to be my best self. These ladies, whom I consider my sisters and aunties in my head, make sure to speak life and words of encouragement into me. They also make me uncomfortable, but I like it because the discomfort is private. It's not happening on the public stage, but one thing that's for sure is that it prepares me to stand with confidence in front of my public.
As I said earlier, impostor syndrome and introversion are unfortunately not easy to get rid of—provided it's possible. For me, these are uneasy feelings I'll always have to deal with and I can tell from experience that they evolve with each level that you reach throughout your journey. But there are going to be times when you'll have to tell them to sh*t up because you have work to do. You have a purpose to serve—and recovery day is coming soon anyway, so you can do it.
Follow Bola on Instagram @clevergirlfinance.
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Featured image courtesy of Candace Junée
Originally published on February 19, 2021
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The most Gemini woman you'll ever meet. Communications & community enthusiast, I run a media platform centered around spirituality, and I'm always looking to connect with fellow creatives. Follow me on Instagram & Twitter @savannahtaider
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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15 Women Share Their Personal Hacks For Better Orgasms (And Sex Overall)
I’m pretty sure that I’m basically being redundant when I say that I write about sex quite a bit which means that I spend quite a bit of time doing research when it comes to sex-related intel, tips, and hacks. Yet I have to say that when it comes to getting some much-needed information in the realm of coitus, it’s been my clients (along with random interviews that I do with people because I don’t mind talking to complete strangers about intimate ish) who have garnered me some of the best takeaways.
Take orgasms, for example. Since I’m well aware of the fact that vaginal orgasms (especially) can be a real challenge for a lot of women, I’m constantly on the hunt for what can help to “bridge the gap” in that arena.
And that’s why I decided, this time, to forego science articles, vlogs, and online data and instead ask some women for myself about some of the things that they do to make having an orgasm, improving their orgasms, and their sexual experience overall something that is so much better for themselves.
So, grab yourself a light aphrodisiac snack (check out “Eat Your Way To Better Sex With Aphrodisiacs”) and dig into what 15 Black women told me gets them off, in a mighty big way, just about every time.
*As always, middle names have been used so that everyone can feel comfortable giving up the goods…umm, so to speak*
1. Rochelle. 37. Married for 11 Years.Giphy
“While y’all be out here talking about some kegels, what I’m into is my man giving me a hip massage. The key is to make sure you use some sort of massage oil that has menthol in it. Between the tingling of the menthol and him rubbing on your hips, not only is it really relaxing, but the ‘minty feel’ opens your body up so that once intercourse begins, you’re less tense, and that makes having an orgasm so much easier to do.”
2. Karmyn. 27. Single.
“Kiss him the way you want him to penetrate you. Literally, use your tongue as if it were a penis and move it in his mouth like you want him to move inside of you. The kissing will turn you both on, and if he follows your instructions, you should be able to orgasm with no problem."
"I learned this trick when I asked an ex of mine to explain what p — sy feels like, and he said the best way to explain it is what a tongue feels like inside of [the] mouth. He should’ve never told me that, boy! It’s been hell in these streets ever since!”
3. LaChelle. 43. In a Serious Relationship for Two Years.
“If you’re self-conscious about your body, get some lingerie that has cutouts in them. There is a lot of sexy stuff out here that can have you covering up the parts you’re not comfortable with while still giving him access to the ‘main events.’ My man loves one of my lace one-piece teddies that has no crotch, and it’s easier for me to orgasm because I’m not overthinking the entire time.”
4. Trinitee. 27. Married for One Year.Giphy
“We’ve only been married a year, but we weren’t exactly abstinent when we were just dating. So, we like to find ways to keep it fresh. One thing that we do is go ‘hotel hopping’ once a month. We find a new hotel and meet each other there. We try and do different hours of the day and come with a surprise in hand. Like he might bring a new sex toy, and I might have on some lingerie that he’s never seen before. Then we text each other beforehand to talk about the best part of the sex we had from the last hotel we visited. The anticipation is foreplay.”
5. Wren. 33. In a Serious Relationship for Six Years.
“What works for me is doing afterplay as foreplay. What I mean by that is, taking a nap naked with my boo before any sexual activity is one of my favorite things. Being up under him, especially if he’s spooning me, feels really good, sleeping together is very intimate, and — there’s something about being awakened outta my sleep with kisses on my neck and back that almost makes me want to cum right then and there.”
6. Bevalyn. 40. Living with Her Partner for Four Years.
“Get on your back and have him kneel in front of you."
"Put your legs over his, and when he penetrates you, ask him to use one of his hands to apply pressure on your pubic bone — the area right above your clitoris."
"As he’s gently pushing down while he’s inside of you…if you don’t cum from that, I don’t know what else to tell you, sis.”
7. Sophia. 38. In a Serious Relationship for Two Years.Giphy
“Shower sex can be a bit much, and I don’t trust a used jacuzzi. What we do is fill up our own inflatable pool and get it on inside of it. It’s perfect during the summer, late at night, because we have a tall fence. Just make sure that you bring some silicone lube to keep things slippery down there. An inflatable pool has been one of the best sex investments that we have ever made!”
8. Averie. 35. Single.
“Wanna know if your man is as into giving you head as he claims? Right after he goes down on you, ask him to immediately penetrate you. If he’s hard, he’s totally into it, and if he catches you soon enough, you’ll be in the perfect position to have a multiple orgasm. Don’t say I didn’t give you the ultimate cheat code.”
9. Victoria. 40. Married for 11 Years.
“Shellie, you actually got me on the cinnamon kick when I read one of your articles that talked about applying cinnamon oil to my clit before oral sex. Since [then], I’ve been doing some research, and it says that cinnamon is also an aphrodisiac because it stimulates blood flow. So, I’ll also drink cinnamon tea throughout the day or share a cinnamon cocktail with my husband. Works like a charm.”
Shellie here: She’s right. I did say that. LOL. You can read for yourself: “Here's How To Have Some Really Great Fall-Themed Sex.”
10. Daniela. 28. Engaged for Six Months.Giphy
“Ever been fingered backward? What I mean is, get on all fours and have him insert a finger or two from behind with his palm being flat. That way, the space in between your anus and your vagina will get a massage while your vagina gets penetrated. There’s nothing quite like it.”
11. Saven. 32. Single.
“Ice. Have him rub a little bit of ice on your clitoris and then immediately warm it up with his tongue. There is something about the drastic changes in temperature that gets me every time. And I mean, EVERY time.”
12. Ferynn. 30. Living with Her Partner for Five Years.
“I don’t know about you, but my man loves to put my legs up in the air. It was never really my favorite move until I read that behind the knees are an unsung erogenous zone. Whoever found that out was onto something because if he rubs back there while talking real crazy to me in a deep voice? Here I come…HERE I COME!”
13. Vivienne. 30. Engaged for One Year.Giphy
“Never underestimate the power of a foot massage. Just make sure that he applies pressure in the middle of your foot where your arch is. It instantly makes me wet. I asked my doctor why and he said that it’s probably because foot massages tend to increase blood flow, including where the vagina is. Either way, it’s always a good night if I get a foot massage first.”
14. Michelle. 24. Single.
“I’m a doula who owns my own exercise ball…for sex. When I first started showing couples the positions that women can get into to make labor easier, it got me to thinking that some of those positions could work for sex too — and they do."
"Something about the movement of the ball takes the pressure off of the back for both men and women. It also makes getting into certain positions a lot easier so that you can enjoy sex for a lot longer.”
15. Carol. 31. Married for Five Years.
“My husband and I have bets. If he wants me to make some of his favorite meals five days in a row, he’s gotta make me cum five times in a row. If I want him to get me something that’s not in our budget, I’ve gotta attempt one of his sex fantasies. We’re both competitive as hell, so it works for us because honestly, even when we ‘lose’…we win!”
Listen, I don’t know about y’all, but this was definitely worth my while. After all, ain’t nothin’ like some Black women who can speak from very-personal-and-up-close experience about what makes them happy — especially if it can increase the odds of bringing some sexual satisfaction your way too.
Speaking of, if you want to share the wealth, drop some of your own orgasm-related tips in the comment section. The more of us who can woosah on the regular, the better, chile. Straight up. #havefun #lotsofit
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Featured image by Giphy