When we think about healthy relationships, immediately I think about what it takes to have a healthy body. Ask any doctor or take any blood test, and you will be given clear indicators of your health, or lack thereof. While all of us have different body shapes and blood types, there are specific universal factors (i.e., heart rate, cholesterol, blood pressure, etc.) that contribute to our overall health.
Similarly, no relationship is exactly the same because everyone has different personalities, needs, and love languages. However, beyond some of the obvious things like attraction, intimacy, and love, the following three characteristics are critical in building a solid foundation and sustaining just about any healthy relationship.
The Three C's Of A Healthy & Happy Relationship
As one of the three most important relationship characteristics, communication may sound obvious, but you may be surprised to know how many people aren't able to adequately articulate their thoughts, opinions, and emotions. Communication isn't just the key, in fact, how you communicate is just as critical. Additionally, you have to be willing to listen as much as, or more than, you talk.
When my husband and I first got married, we were communicating for sure, but we were not doing so in a way that was healthy or helpful for either of us. From hitting below the belt and yelling at each other to ignoring each other and walking out or running away from the conversation, you would've thought we were on an episode of Love & Hip Hop.
Not only was the way we communicated unhealthy, it was also unproductive.
That's not to say that you won't have heated discussions or arguments in a relationship, because everyone has their issues. However, it's critical to find better ways to communicate effectively if you want to make it through the ups and downs.
Commitment is yet another healthy relationship characteristic. And I'm not just talking about going from dating to being in an exclusive relationship, or getting engaged, or even getting married. I'm also not implying that you should stay through any and everything merely for the sake of being in a relationship.
Rather, when I say commitment, what I am referring to is being committed to staying together even:
- On the days when it doesn't feel like the fairytale you imagined,
- When people can't see the petty arguments behind the pretty pictures posted on the 'gram,
- When the so-called 'newlywed season' wears off,
- When the "worst" comes before the "better" after you get married, or
- When you experience growing pains or difficult seasons.
It's choosing to fight more for each other than against each other. Basically, the same fervor and fortitude that went into making it down the aisle, should be multiplied when it comes to making the marriage last. Anybody can be in a relationship, but it takes that much more to stay in a relationship.
Candor is simply another word for honesty and sincerity. It unlocks the doors to vulnerability, intimacy, and trust...the major components that separate dating and courting from genuine, exclusive love. It's the place where you can be you without judgment, and you can be your most vulnerable self. I've never felt more comfortable to be me than until I met and married my husband.
Candor also allows couples to have the tough, yet necessary, conversations regardless of how difficult they may be. When people say, "Oh, we don't have disagreements or we never argue," that usually means to me that someone isn't being honest with themselves and/or they're not being honest with their significant other. Yes, you have to choose your battles because it's important not to "major in the minor" to prevent from turning molehills into mountains. However, toxic things like bitterness and resentment often reside where frustration and unresolved issues linger.
There have been times when, unfortunately, I've witnessed situations where people were more honest and upfront about their marital issues with other people than their spouses; which usually and unfortunately led to bigger issues including infidelity. But that's where candor comes…it helps eliminate the need for anyone to feel as if they can't be completely honest with their partner.
Furthermore, openness and vulnerability often initiate the journey towards healing whether it's for the individual or to help resolve an issue within the relationship. As with most things in our lives, healing usually begins when we first admit that there's an issue. When that doesn't happen, how, then, can the healing begin or how can you rectify a situation if you're not willing to be 100% open with each other? Not to mention, if I'm not aware of something, then how can I begin to work on it or help you work through it?
At the end of the day, if you can't be vulnerable with the person you spend the most time with, then who can you be open with? Although it takes time because many of us build emotional walls and being vulnerable can feel uncomfortable, nobody should know you better than your partner knows you.
Although this list isn't exhaustive, rest assured that these three healthy relationship characteristics––communication, commitment, and candor––will definitely set you up for success for a happy, healthy and loving relationship.
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Shonda Brown White is a bestselling author, blogger, life coach, and brand strategist. When she's not jumping out of a plane or zip lining, she's living the married life with her husband in Atlanta, GA. Connect with her on social @ShondaBWhite and her empowering real talk on her blog.
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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The Best Primers For Hot Weather: How To Keep Your Base Makeup Secure
There is no feeling worse than applying a full glam face beat only to have it melt off from the spring humidity and summer heat. Having the right primers on your roster to combat the melt is a must, with summer rapidly approaching. To assist you with keeping your makeup look secure in hot weather, this is everything you need to know about securing a weatherproof base, primer edition!
The start to any flawless glam depends heavily on skin prep. Whether you are a cleanser, vitamin C, followed by SPF girly, or not, starting on clean, well-hydrated skin makes a huge difference in makeup that lasts. With both primer recommendations we highlight below, be sure to apply a hydration routine that works best for your skin type and concerns.
Secure The Sweat Waterproof Mattifying Primer
One/Size, the beauty brand founded by Patrick Starrr, launched the Secure The Sweat Waterproof Mattifying Primer. This makeup primer, according to the One/Size site, promises to be “sweatproof, waterproof, and shine proof.” Secure The Sweat delivers up to 12 hours "of oil resistance, shine control while remaining mattifying.” It is an aluminum-free formulation with “botanical alternatives to provide a skin-safe option to balance excess sweat.”
Secure The Sweat retails for $34, and the application process to reap the maximum benefits of the primer is simple, beginner friendly, and easy to follow.
You want to start on fresh skin using a dime size amount. Warm the primer up on your fingertips, then pat the primer into the skin.
This is the step you want to follow to the T to reap the full 12-hour benefits. Wait 1 minute before applying foundation or desired base makeup.
The final result is comfortable on the skin while maintaining a completely matte finish.
E.L.F Cosmetics Power Grip Primer
The E.L.F Cosmetics Power Grip Primer is the primer of the year for 2023! The Power Grip Primer retails for $10 and is the best cost-effective way to get long-lasting makeup. The Power Grip primer leaves the skin with a super-hydrated natural finish. Great for dry skin types, it's packed with ingredients like hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and glycerin.
Like Secure The Sweat primer, the application is easy to follow. Apply evenly to the skin. Using your fingertips, warm the product and pat the product into the skin. Allow the primer 30 seconds to set before applying foundation or desired base makeup.
While the E.L.F Cosmetics Power Grip primer is exceptional and a personal favorite, I had to put Secure The Sweat to the test. I wore the primer for a full 12 hours.
My makeup after 12 hours with primer.
As promised, my makeup was intact after a long day of running errands, a walk in 80-degree weather, and filming under studio lighting. I noticed some shine around my t-zone later in the evening, but nothing compared to how my unprimed routine would break down in a 12-hour time frame.
Whether you choose the Power Grip or Secure The Sweat, it's safe to be outside this summer because your makeup is not going anywhere!
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