The idea that Black love is inherently painful is a generational notion that runs hot through our bloodlines. Our stories of partnership are often accompanied with abuse, abandonment or infidelity, and healthy love is celebrated in our communities as a rarity versus an expectation.
But with Stella Meghie's forthcoming film, The Photograph, we bear witness to a budding relationship that reminds us that normal love stories are our birthright, not just some whim or fantasy. The movie follows a woman named Mae (Issa Rae) who uncovers her mother's complicated history with love while charting a heart path of her own. Her world collides with a scrappy journalist named Michael (Lakeith Stanfeild) while he is researching her mother's life and career in photography. We watch Mae and Michael easily succumb to their instant, inexplicable draw to one another.
Every aspect of the film, from the camera angles to the longing gazes from Michael, is in love with Mae.
Director Stella Meghie told xoNecole how important it was for Issa's character to be shown in a golden-hour-like halo in every scene. "Working with Delina her makeup artist, I wanted to strip her face down and just show her natural beauty. So everything was very neutral," Meghie explained. "And then with the lighting, working with Mark Schwartbard, making sure that it was soft and warm and that we played up her melanin instead of hollowing it out and working with the colorist to make sure it's there. I wanted everyone to look brown and beautiful, and that's always my goal. I'm always like 'more saturation, warm it up, warm it up,' that's all I ever say because you know, the skin is just so beautiful."
Her vision for the film played up the way Black skin naturally glows in evening light. The characters fall in love during dusk and night scenes, an intentional choice to make every moment feel intimate. "There was a lot of night. I wanted it to just feel sexy and sultry and warm, sumptuous," Meghie said.
A love story centering the sensual parts of Black womanhood is an invitation for us all to indulge in our softness a little more. Throughout entertainment history, we've seen women of darker skin tones painted as the aggressor or the victim, but in this feature, Stella made it a point to show Issa's supple and open emotional range.
"We're always strong and magic and can do anything, and sometimes we're vulnerable and crying and trying to figure out how to hit that next step, it's not just one thing," Meghie said. "To be the strong woman who fixes everything, you might have had to cry for a night or two and pull yourself together. We are people. So that's important for me to show that."
Issa Rae told xoNecole that she grappled with relaxing her natural "mean mug" to embody the more relaxed, blushing temperament of a woman in love. "I am constantly in work mode and in focus mode. And sometimes I'm ready to be tested or for someone to come at me the wrong way. And I think that's OK too. I think that's a part of moving about in this world, because we are constantly being tested," Issa explained.
"But there are those moments of softness and vulnerability that we share too. And I feel image-wise, that's not always represented. We are always the hard, always the fierce woman, but we're multi-faceted."
Issa is beautifully positioned as the object of desire in the film, a role traditionally reserved in Hollywood for women of a lighter hue. With all eyes on Issa, women who see themselves in her have an opportunity to share in the visual exaltation of a dark skin woman as a standard of attractiveness.
"I think it's really important to be able to identify and feel worthy in a sense, and it sounds corny and you shouldn't get your worth from television by any means but, those images matter."
Issa continued, "I remember seeing Nia Long, and you know, I didn't think I looked like Nia Long, but I was like, 'Look at this brown skin girl…she's so gorgeous.' And she was someone to aspire to. So the more and more images that we have like that, the more it's a recognition of our beauty."
Through Issa's character, we all get to experience the light, wine-tipsy feeling of falling in love without the risk of danger or harm. And perhaps, as the narratives around Black love expand both in real life and on-screen, we can actualize the same feelings of belonging and desire in our own lives too.
The Photograph is in theaters everywhere Friday, February 14. Be sure to check out Issa's special photograph moment in the video down below.
Featured image via Tumblr
- Issa Rae Talks Black Women and Work - xoNecole: Women's Interest, Love, Wellness, Beauty ›
- The 7 Black Sexiest Love Scenes Of All Time - xoNecole: Women's Interest, Love, Wellness, Beauty ›
- The Photograph (2020) - IMDb ›
- The Photograph Movie Review ›
- LaKeith & Issa Rae Valentine Movie Photograph Trailer ›
- 'The Photograph' Trailer: Issa Rae, LaKeith Stanfield Begin ... ›
- The Photograph - Official Trailer - In Theaters Valentine's Day ... ›
- The Photograph Trailer Stars Lakeith Stanfield and Issa Rae ›
- Issa Rae Is Learning to Make Her Big Voice Heard - The New York ... ›
- Issa Rae Talks Spider-Man, 'The Photograph' and the End of 'Insecure' ›
- The Photograph trailer: Issa Rae leads new rom-com movie | EW ... ›
- The Photograph (2020) - Rotten Tomatoes ›
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Feature image by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
Have you ever been in a relationship with someone and felt so deeply connected to them? Everything about the relationship was intense – good or bad? Then you might be in a part of a soul tie.
The concept of a soul tie binds individuals on a level beyond a relationship's physical and emotional aspects; it’s more than a mere connection. You can form a soul tie with anyone – lover, friend, colleague, etc.- but we are discussing romantic partners for this article. Think of you and your partner as an intensely burning flame. The flame can burn passionately to light the relationship’s way or chaotically burn everything in its path. Either way, it leaves an indelible mark on the souls involved.
A soul tie should not be confused with the term “soulmate.” The main difference is that a soul tie can be positive or negative, while a soulmate is a mutual, harmonious connection. Unlike a soul tie, a soulmate relationship is generally characterized by mutual understanding, support, and shared values.
However, the more we learn about soul ties, the more it becomes evident that they are not monolithic; they vary in nature and intensity. As someone who has experienced a negative soul tie, it is crucial to discern whether they contribute positively to personal growth or hinder you from flourishing.
If Your Soul Tie Is Positive
A positive soul tie creates a deep and affirming connection between individuals. One key indicator of a positive soul tie is effective communication. If you’re experiencing a positive soul tie, a shared understanding fosters open and honest dialogue, contributing to a sense of connection and support.
Mutual growth is another hallmark of a positive soul tie. When individuals in a relationship encourage each other's personal development and evolution, it signifies a positive and uplifting connection. This mutual support leads to an environment where both parties can thrive individually and together, contributing to the overall health of the soul tie.
Emotional security is a crucial element in identifying a positive soul tie. In such connections, individuals feel a deep sense of trust and comfort with each other. This emotional security forms a stable foundation for the relationship, allowing both parties to express vulnerability and foster a strong, positive bond. These three indicators—effective communication, mutual growth, and emotional security—underscore the positivity inherent in a healthy and affirming soul tie.
If Your Soul Tie Is Negative
A negative soul tie manifests as a detrimental and draining connection between individuals. One clear sign of a negative soul tie is the presence of emotional turmoilwithin the relationship. When the connection becomes a source of constant distress, causing emotional upheaval and hindering personal development, it indicates a negative soul tie.
Codependency is another red flag for a negative soul tie. In such connections, individuals may become overly reliant on each other, impeding their ability to thrive independently. Codependency often leads to unhealthy dependencies and can result in a toxic dynamic that hinders both individuals' growth and well-being.
A lack of effective communication is a third indicator of a negative soul tie. When there is a breakdown in communication, misunderstandings and unresolved issues can fester, contributing to a strained and unhealthy connection. In negative soul ties, the absence of open and honest dialogue can perpetuate a cycle of negativity and prevent the resolution of underlying issues. These three indicators—emotional turmoil, codependency, and poor communication—point to the negativity associated with an unhealthy soul tie.
Putting Out The Fires And Breaking Your Soul Tie
Unfortunately, my deep, intense connection only caused destruction. And despite the obvious red flags, it took a minute before I broke the connection. Why? Because I was addicted to the relationship, we both were. But it is possible to break a soul tie if and when you are ready because if you are not, pretending you are when you are not is a waste of your time.
Breaking a soul tie requires intentional and purposeful actions. Establishing clear and firm boundaries is a fundamental step in severing the connection. By limiting contact and emotional engagement with the person involved, individuals can gradually weaken the tie and create space for personal growth.
Seeking professional support is another effective strategy to break a soul tie. Guidance from therapists or counselors provides valuable insights and coping strategies. Professional assistance can help individuals navigate the emotional challenges associated with breaking a soul tie, offering a structured and supportive environment for healing.
Redirecting energy toward personal growth is important in breaking free from a soul tie. Engaging in activities that promote individual well-being and create a sense of independence allows individuals to refocus their attention on their own growth and development. This redirection of energy is essential for breaking the emotional bonds of a soul tie and moving towards a healthier, more fulfilling life.
The last step I advise everyone to go through is the mourning period. My partner and I did our song and dance for years before I walked away. And I would be lying if I didn’t say that I mourned our relationship while I healed.
Recognizing the presence and nature of a soul tie in your relationship is crucial to understanding its impact on your well-being. Whether positive or negative, the intensity of a soul tie can shape the course of your personal growth and happiness. Breaking free from a negative soul tie demands intentional efforts, from setting clear boundaries to seeking professional support. Redirecting energy toward personal growth and allowing oneself a necessary mourning period are vital steps toward healing and liberation from the intricate ties that bind.
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Feature image by JD Mason/ Unsplash