'SWV & Xscape: The Queens Of R&B': 7 Life Takeaways I've Gotten Out Of This Helluva Roller Coaster Ride
1991 and 1992. Anyone who was a teenager or in college during that time knows that if there were two groups who were constantly on the airwaves and had music visuals in regular rotation, it was SWV (they came out first) and Xscape (they came out the following year).
Wanna talk about a no-skips LP? That would be SWV’sIt’s About Time (a soundbite from their current show is definitely Coko saying, “30 million records sold…bitch”…LOL). And when it comes to Xscape, I will play “Feels So Good,” “My Little Secret,” and “Do You Want To” like they just came out to this day.
So yeah, when news hit cyberspace that they were going to do a reality six-part series together, I automatically knew that I was going to make the time to check it out. I mean, I had watched their shows (featuring them separately) before, and, for better or for worse, it was definitely some must-see TV.
Honestly, that’s why it didn’t shock me one bit when I peeped the People’s article, “Xscape Members Admit to 'Reluctantly' Signing on for New TV Show 'Queens of R&B' with SWV,”; especially when I noticed that Mona Scott-Young was an executive producer (have we ever seen her and Bravo’s Andy Cohen in the same room? Just sayin’).
And now that we’re what, four episodes in, I’ll just say that as someone who’s covered entertainment for many years now, I get that 1) we will never know people, as well as the media, wants us to think that we do; 2) perspectives are just that; and 3) no one is perfect.
That’s why I thought that the show could serve as a bit of a teachable moment in the sense that, rather than ranting incessantly on social media about what everyone is or isn’t/should or shouldn’t be doing, I would pull out seven lessons that stood out to me personally — things that we each can apply to our own lives if we’d instead turn entertainment into some edutainment. Ready?
1. Passive Aggressiveness Is the Ultimate Form of GaslightingGiphy
If there is one thing that irks me to no end, it’s a passive-aggressive individual and at the risk of being, well, passive-aggressive (LOL). If you’ve watched every episode of the show, you know exactly who fits the bill. One-word answers. Constantly being in opposition just to make things difficult. Dropping hints instead of coming right on out and saying what the issue is. Always playing the victim. Has an ever-growing scorecard without taking any accountability. Whew, these kinds of folks are completely exhausting. And what really sucks about how they move is that their words and actions float under the radar to the point where, when you get sick and tired of their ish and respond or react, they act like you’re the crazy one for doing so.
At the end of the day, passive-aggressive people think that “keeping the peace” means doing things their way. Yeah, watch that. They’re also chameleons because they will keep switching up based on who they’re around to keep a certain narrative about them going. Watch out for that too. Because if you continue to interact with them without calling them out on their ish, they will get off on gaslighting you — which means getting you to the point where you start to question your own reality, feelings, or perception of things, even though you know what you’re experiencing is real, which can end up driving you totally up the wall with no real benefits for doing so.
2. Toxic Moms Are a Problem That Isn’t Discussed Nearly EnoughGiphy
Ms. Gloria (LaTocha and Tamika’s mother). LAWD. I was just saying in an interview not too long ago that it’s past time that we fully address the damage that toxic moms are able to do. And if you will get involved in grown children’s issues; if you will try to intimidate your own children by yelling and talking over them like they aren’t adults; if you will minimize one child’s feelings in order to uplift another’s ego (like when Ms. Gloria said that Tamika was jealous of LaTocha behind Tamika’s back while Tamika was venting about feeling mistreated by both of them); if you will call yourself the fifth member of a group that has only four members and act like that justifies you butting into their business at any given time point and time (which it doesn’t); if you will tell a child that your other child may have taken said child’s money because she needed it (what in the world?!) and, if you’ve got one of your children never having peace about her own voice in life because she thinks she has to muffle it in order to get your approval — these are all forms of toxicity in parenting.
Wanna know some other ones?
- Toxic parents are self-centered
- Toxic parents are emotionally unpredictable
- Toxic parents are overly-critical
- Toxic parents disrespect other people’s boundaries
- Toxic parents have a justification for even the most destructive behaviors
- Toxic parents are demanding — oftentimes unrealistically so
- Toxic parents get off on using fear to get what they want, even out of their adult children
- Toxic parents lack any level of self-accountability
- Toxic parents are draining to be around
- Toxic parents basically only apologize to get you to lower your guard so that they can do something else manipulative.
It’s truly irrefutable that Ms. Gloria checks off these boxes. Yet if there is a silver lining to watching all of this go down in Tamika’s world, it’s that it could help some people to “connect some dots” in their own world (by the way, another sign of toxic parenting is a controlling parent because their job, especially once you are an adult, is to advise not dictate; we’ll have to deal with that at another time, though).
You know, unfortunately, when it comes to toxic parents of adult kids, oftentimes we’re told to just grin and bear it out of “respect for our elders.” Uh-huh, and do you know what that is? It’s another sign of toxic parenting because it’s a form of manipulation. And when folks decide to bring the Bible into the mix, the kind of manipulation that it is, specifically, is spiritual manipulation. This brings me to the next point.
3. Spiritual Manipulation Is a Very Real ThingGiphy
“You don’t have enough God in you to calm yourself down and listen to righteousness. And if I hear you jumping on your sister, there ain’t nothin’ in this world that won’t keep me from kickin’ yo tail.”
When I heard Ms. Gloria say the above message on Tamika’s voicemail, it was triggering as literal hell. I mean, you’d have to be completely delusional about what it means to have a Christ-like disposition to think that anything about that was loving, peace-filled, or compassionate. Yet, unfortunately, a lot of every-week-church-going people will think that Christianity is like Showtime at the Apollo back in the day.
What I mean by that is some of us are old enough to remember that they didn’t let you boo someone if they sang a gospel song, no matter how bad they were. In comparison, a lot of people think that they can’t be told about themselves so long as they claim to be a believer or they use — or is it manipulate? — a Scripture to justify their totally reckless behavior.
Even when LaTocha said, “We come from a praying family,” I couldn’t help but think, “there is PRAYING, and then there is PREYING” because if there is a constant discourse, pain, and drama, something is profoundly awry. After all, it is the Good Book itself that says that God is not the author of confusion but peace (I Corinthians 14:33) and that humility is where riches, honor, and life stem from (Proverbs 22:4).
And don’t get me started on the parents who think they can treat their children any ole’ kind of way under the guise of “Honor thy father and mother” (Exodus 20:12) because that very same Bible also says, “Do not provoke your children to wrath” (Ephesians 6:4).
Yeah, it really is time out for thinking that saying one is a Christian is enough to qualify as actually being one because if your character doesn’t complement how the Bible — not church culture but the Bible itself — says that one is supposed to act like, then something is off. WAY OFF. And you should be corrected for it. THE BIBLE SAYS SO.
“He who disdains instruction despises his own soul, but he who heeds rebuke gets understanding.” (Proverbs 15:22 — NKJV)
Besides, if you’re the only one who can delve out judgment calls and never be on the receiving end, not only is that highly hypocritical, that is actually spiritual manipulation at its finest. May we all beware of that.
Oh, and for the record, being spiritual means little if you remain in a state of spiritual immaturity. What are some indications of that?
- Holding grudges is spiritual immaturity (Ephesians 4:26)
- Unforgivingness is spiritual immaturity (Matthew 18:21-22)
- Rudeness is spiritual immaturity (I Corinthians 13:5 — AMPC)
- Not taking personal accountability is spiritual immaturity (I Corinthians 11:31-32)
- Trying to be popular at the expense of avoiding truth is spiritual immaturity (Luke 6:26 — Message)
4. Funky Attitudes Could Have Underlying IssuesGiphy
Again, I have been a fan of SWV since my teen years (my first love used to sing "Weak" to me often). I adored them then, and I enjoy them now ("Rain" is always gonna be my fave). That's why I thought it was interesting when Taj said in the first episode that they hadn't had any — pardon the pun — harmony issues since their 20s. Umm, I watched their 2014 reality television show (SWV Reunited) on WE tv, and it sings a very different tune (check out one example here). And boy, if there was a consistency in why the waters were so rocky, Coko was it.
Coko is a Gemini, and so am I. So, when it comes to the "straight no chaser" delivery that she has, I get it. Although I have to admit that time and intentional maturity on my part has taught me that "just being that way" isn't good enough if it's hurting other people's feelings or it's ultimately doing more harm than good.
As far as Coko, though, it seemed like — I'm gonna bring a word back — being janky never really bothered her, and I always found that to be…fascinating, especially since she always talked about growing up in the church. Like, you don't ever care about ruffling feathers? Like…EVER? Even with all of the talent that you have (because she really can SANG sing), do you not miss out on opportunities because people don't want to deal with so much of your…muchness?
That's why I'm glad she shared that she deals with bipolar depression. Not only does it shed some light on what seemed to oftentimes be erratic behavior on her show, but it also serves as a reminder that sometimes people are the way that they are due to some underlying causes that they might not even know about. Random mood swings. Blindsiding people with certain actions. Projecting issues. Stuff like that can have reasons that require some real therapy and/or medication, which is nothing to be ashamed of.
What people should feel uncomfortable about is constantly making others uncomfortable without looking into why they can be so triggering for them. So yeah, I salute Coko for sharing that private part of her life. She also gets mad props for a headline that I recently checked out: "SWV's Coko Gamble Takes In Cousin's 12-Year-Old Twins After Losing Her to Lupus: 'No Brainer.'" Much respect, indeed.
5. Never Apologize for Having Your Own VoiceGiphy
If there's one thing that seemed to be a running theme with this show, it's everyone wanted to make sure that their voice was heard — and good for them. LeLee has an alter ego (chile…CHILE), for instance. LaTocha wants to do gospel music. And Tamika doesn't want to be the hype man for her sister anymore — and interestingly enough, she seems to be paying for it when it comes to what it's costing her with her sister (and her mother).
Listen, if you don't get anything else out of these takeaways — please take away this: no one is truly your friend, blood or otherwise, if they only like you/can support you/will respect you if you do what they want you to do and/or how they want you to do it.
This is why the people who I counsel know that I will oftentimes say that what causes a lot of discord in relationships is so many people aren't looking for an actual PARTNER; what they want is a FAN and an AUDIENCE. Someone who will tell them that they can do no wrong and will back them up even when they are making the gravest of mistakes. Someone who will discourage you from growing if it's going to cause them to have to share some of their own spotlight. Someone who may claim to appreciate them, but oftentimes, what's really going on is they are quietly jealous— jealous of what could manifest if less focus was put on them.
I remember when I was penning my first book; there were family members who gave me the silent treatment for months because they were trying to intimidate me into not penning my book because they were concerned about how they would look in it. Lucky for them, I was merciful, and honestly, they should've been more concerned about how they treated me than if others were going to find out. That's on them. Yet I'm so glad that I didn't let them silence my voice because, as Alice Walker once said, "No person is your friend who demands your silence or denies your right to grow."
Someone is in some sort of relationship, friendship, or business partnership, and they know that it is holding them back. Please let all that you just read in this particular section serve as a BIG GREEN LIGHT that it's time to do what needs to be done to go to the next level — with or without them. (Side note: If they are right for you, they won't require that you sacrifice one for the other.)
6. Don’t Stay Stagnant or StuckGiphy
When Todd said in episode three that Xscape and SWV should go to group therapy, even if he was joking, there really is truth in all humor. Between LaTocha and Kandi still having issues from 1998 ('98, y'all) to Taj asking Xscape if they even want to resolve their hamster wheel of drama to LeLee saying, "With girls, it's always some bullshit," to LaTocha still being mad at her group for saying, "If you had an ass to kiss" years later (what in the world?) — you would think that record labels and television shows would almost require that groups go to see a therapist, counselor and/or life coach at least a couple of times a year. Yeah, but that's almost too much like right…right?
It's kind of wild that a part of the reason why these kinds of shows continue to get picked up is that so much drama carries on from year to year to the point where stuff is still getting brought up from decades before — and that's why folks keep getting triggered and ish never gets fully resolved.
Not too long ago, I was in a session with someone who is basically on the verge of self-sabotaging their current relationship because they are still caught up in stuff that they wish their ex had done TWENTY YEARS AGO. And because they are still holding on to all of that, it's got them looking in the past rather than focusing on the present. And when we do that, it's impossible to fully move forward.
Listen, I don't know what the ladies on the show are gonna do. What I do know is healing is a choice, and there are plenty of resources available to us all in order for that to happen. As for this particular takeaway, all I will say is, it would be a damn shame for any of us to miss out on what's best for us because we're still holding onto things in the past that won't change no matter how much we wish that they would.
Hold folks accountable. Set boundaries. Do some releasing as needed (check out "Why I Don't 'Cut People Off' Anymore, I Release Them Instead"). Yet purpose in your mind that this will be the year when you do really learn to LET ISH GO. As the Chinese proverb goes, "It's later than you think," so why waste time holding on to what's only keeping you stagnant? Or worse, stuck?
7. EVERYWHERE YOU GO, THERE YOU AREGiphy
One more, and then I'm out. Did you peep how one person on the show is the common link in a lot of the drama, and yet that same person hasn't said one thing that they've done wrong? Whew, chile. Whenever I encounter individuals like that, the same quote always comes to mind — "everywhere you go, there you are" because it's the truth.
Indeed, while it's really kind of inconsequential for one person to say that you're problematic in a particular area if 20 folks are echoing the same point (especially people who claim to care about you vs. trolls on the internet…who cares about them?), only those who are complete egomaniacs or totally lack self-awareness wouldn't pause-and-ponder to see if there could be some truth into what is being said.
And those kinds of people? Tuning out the voices only to find another circle to hang out in is counterproductive as hell (Thomas Hobbes once said that "hell is truth seen too late") because if you don't do some self-correcting, the same stuff about you is eventually gonna creep up. That's how the universe teaches us to grow up.
So yeah — whoever gets under your skin the most on the series, my two cents would be to do a bit of self-reflection. Are you similar to them? Have some folks told you about yourself, and you, Elmo shrugged them off? Are you caught up in some patterns that you know it's time to break?
Listen, television programming is just that — TELEVISION PROGRAMMING (which is why we all should watch what we tune into and how much time we spend — or is it waste? — on the tube). Yet if we choose to step outside of just gawking and laughing, the good news is we can learn a few things. This show is certainly not exempt. Not by a long shot.
So, here's hoping that as you're playing your own favorite SWV and Xscape joints, you're taking in one or two life lessons along the way.
Now let me get off of this thing and listen to "You're Always on My Mind" for the billionth time to settle my spirit from all of this keyboard stroking. LOL.
Good times, good times. And yes, teachable moments too. Give thanks.
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Featured image by YouTube
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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