A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you've been taking and we can't take much more of this quarantine. Even though governors are opting to open some states, we are staying at home for a little longer because outside doesn't seem quite clear yet. In the meantime, we are sitting in the comfort of our homes dreaming up our next getaway. My dream includes me sipping a spicy margarita with somebody's son in a private cabana as the waves hitting the shore.
Since we have been fantasizing over a few of our favorite frequent flyers and travel storytellers photos on the 'gram, we wanted to know how this pandemic is effecting them and what their travel plan looks like post-quarantine. Ahead, find a little relief for your burning wanderlust, as well as a dose of inspiration.
Photo Courtesy of Devorah Walker
"My dream trip after self-isolation would be exploring Indonesia. I had plans to visit Bali for three weeks as the pandemic was declared. I can't wait to see the views of the rice fields, hike up the mountains, beach-hop and of course go on one of Bali's famous high swings. I would then make my way East Java which doesn't have as many tourists as Bali. East Java has some of the most beautiful waterfalls in Asia, starting with Tumpak Sewu, which is breathtaking in photos. From here I would head to Komodo Island to visit the pink sand beach and of course to see a real life Komodo dragon. Indonesia was on my list for quite some time so I cannot wait to make this happen.
"I had a one month Asia trip planned to leave March 22nd. (The pandemic was declared by WHO on March 11th). I was planning to visit Singapore, Australia and Indonesia. This month-long trip was supposed to be the first step of planning an international relocation.
"The biggest lesson I've learned from this time is to enjoy being still. Previously, I barely made time for myself in terms of mentally unplugging. I was always focused on writing, editing, planning the next adventure and managing my every day life. There was never any time for a 'pause'. The pandemic brought my and everyone else's life to halt and made me realize how important it is to just be still as well as appreciate what I already have as opposed to obsessing over what's next."
Photo Courtesy of Global Carnivalist
"My dream getaway will be euro-beach-chic, where I can tan in the sun and never have to think about putting on a sweater in the evening. I will have spa amenities available to me and while the town I decide to stay in will be posh, I will feel like I am a local. I want to submerge myself in the culture and local customs of where I am, but also enjoy the luxury of being there. I've narrowed it down to two places that would fit my ideal trip so far: Sorrento, Italy or Nice, France. I want everything that I was unable to consume while I was at home during COVID-19. Endless sunbathing, beaches, sailing, boutique shops and more importantly, true relaxation.
"COVID-19 has tremendously impacted my travel schedule. I had scheduled trips for Italy, Jamaica, Bahamas, Portugal, Toronto, Bermuda, St. Lucia and Antigua and I have had to cancel or reschedule each of them. I was able to shift some of them to later in the year. Hopefully things will be better by then, but it truly looks like I'll be spending the bulk of 2020 at home.
"The one thing this pandemic has taught me is how important it is to be at peace with yourself. I have had to self-entertain and find creative ways to just be and truly enjoy my own company and I am loving it. I've also realized how much human connection is vital to people, I have had so many friends and family reaching out for support or just someone to talk to, it truly reminds you of what is important."
"The one thing this pandemic has taught me is how important it is to be at peace with yourself. I have had to self-entertain and find creative ways to just be and truly enjoy my own company and I am loving it."
Photo Courtesy of Samantha Everette
"My dream getaway would be an all out Kiki in December in Johannesburg, South Africa. If you've ever been to the continent in December... then you know why. The energy and the vibes are unmatched! I can envision the afternoon braai's (South African word for BBQ's), popping bottles of champagne and dancing to Afrobeats until the sun comes up. After South Africa, I would take a three-month reset in Bali. Yes, I said three months. This would be a necessary respite for my body and my liver! Of course I would want all of my close friends and my IG travel community there with me. I envision a revolving door of friends and family dropping by my villa. There will be lots of days on the beach, mounds of freshly grilled fish and curry everything!
"I was planning on attending two ladies retreats this spring. I planned to spend the month of April in Egypt soaking up the vibes and kemetic energy by the Red Sea with @sarahwes and @returntokemet. We were going to tap into our divine feminine power and live our best lives traveling all throughout the country. I also had to cancel my trip with @theinncrowd.co to Cancun, Mexico. I always have such a wonderful time with the ladies on the Inn Crowd trips, so I'm devastated that I won't be enjoying their company.
"This pandemic has taught me just how much I value my friends and family. I've spent the better part of my adult life halfway across the world. I'm accustomed to a lot of alone time while abroad, but I always knew that I would see everyone once the journey was over. Now those trips, along with the homecomings, have been taken away. We don't know when we will be able to see all of our favorite people again. Physical distance really does make the heart grow fonder but metaphorical distance is even crazier. Everyone is so close but yet so far away and I miss them terribly."
Photo Courtesy of Skylar Marshai
"Times like these have made me wish I lived on the beach, where I could self-isolate on the sand, in the sun! Living in New York is rough because there's so many people and so little nature. By the end of this, I'll have had enough with cityscapes and being inside, so ideally I'd be on the first flight to somewhere warm with lots of lush plant life, overwhelming amounts of decadent food, and enough sun to last me a lifetime. I've been missing Barbados, Tulum, and Costa Rica so if I closed my eyes and picked one, I'd be happy with whichever I ended up in. I'm talking fresh coconuts, waking up before the sun, actually seeing the stars, and fresh air. It's always nice to visit new places but after being in quarantine, I'd like to go somewhere that I know is a sure thing. Pure bliss. Pura Vida. The goal, though, would be to GTF, ASAP. My partner and I have been itching to create new content and I'm just tired of wearing sweatpants. I miss wandering, there's only so much of it that can be done at home.
"So many of our travel plans were changed (I can't say cancelled, gotta keep it positive!). We'd planned a trip just about every month this year so we had to rebook Bali (April), Barbados (May), St. Lucia (June), and France (end of June/July). We're now having to push all of our other travel plans further into 2021 because of it. It's been amazing that some airlines are allowing free flight changes, otherwise we'd have lost hundreds of dollars. The only other downside (other than the obvious) has been reworking collaborations with the companies we planned to work with, abroad. The brighter side is that we've been able to do more research on the places we planned to travel to that we haven't been before. So once we get to travel again, we'll hit the ground running (or rather, sprinting because whew I can't wait to be booked and busy again!)
"I recently learned this and shared it on Instagram, but the idea is that you don't have to escape to soul search. That your soul is wherever you are. I planned 7 trips last year, and another 8 this year–my head was always in the clouds, literally. Since being home, I realized I'd been so busy with wandering physically that mentally I hadn't checked in. To allow yourself to be still and present is just as important as allowing yourself space to escape. It's about balance. I saw this post on Instagram that posed the question, 'Who are you, really?' And I felt attacked! I realized I had a lot of work to do, a lot of myself left to unravel, and that this stillness would serve as the perfect opportunity to do so. You find yourself where you meet yourself, and that can be anywhere."
"To allow yourself to be still and present is just as important as allowing yourself space to escape. It's about balance... You find yourself where you meet yourself, and that can be anywhere."
Photo Courtesy of Jessica Ufoama
"I'd love to go to Belize after self-isolation. I desperately want a classic Caribbean getaway - nothing beats one especially after such unprecedented times. Caribbean holidays are predictable - you know you're going to get some sun, sand and great cocktails and after such a period of uncertainty, I want to know what I'm getting into. I've always wanted to go to Belize - Caye Caulker specifically. Get some much-needed outdoor time, snorkel along the barrier reef, and feel alive again.
"I usually have a calendar full of travel plans every year but I've had to cancel them because we have to beat this virus. My trip to Afronation Puerto Rico had to be cancelled, as well as a trip to Tulum, Mexico in April. My trip to Italy in May looks very unlikely. Summer trips are looking somewhat bleak. I'm just taking life one [day] at a time now.
"The pandemic has taught me to keep being grateful for life and enjoy it to the fullest. It's taught me never to take even the seemingly mundane things for granted and every single day we get to spend on earth is a blessing. I'm looking forward to more opportunities to live life, impact my communities positively, and enjoy the gift of travel."
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Featured image courtesy of Skylar Marshai
Joce Blake is a womanist who loves fashion, Beyonce and Hot Cheetos. The sophistiratchet enthusiast is based in Brooklyn, NY but has southern belle roots as she was born and raised in Memphis, TN. Keep up with her on Instagram @joce_blake and on Twitter @SaraJessicaBee.
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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Text This Before You Ghost Them, Sis.
We’ve all been there at least once (or a few times) along our dating journey. Maybe you’ve had a date or two with a potential suitor, but the spark just wasn’t there. Perhaps you convinced yourself that just “one more” date would help you overlook a non-negotiable ick. At this point in the dating cycle, you’ve probably reached the point where you must decide to either communicate “why” things won’t be moving forward or simply ghost them.
What Is Ghosting?
“Ghosting” refers to the act of suddenly and unexpectedly cutting off all communication with someone you've been dating or talking to without any explanation or further contact. It typically occurs in the early stages of dating but can also happen after a few dates or even in more established relationships.
The act of ghosting has become quite a common practice in our modern dating culture and can manifest in a number of different ways. From days of ignored text messages and phone calls out of the blue to not showing up for pre-arranged plans and sometimes disappearing from someone's life without any notice or explanation.
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The Problem With Ghosting
Being ghosted may seem like a harmless act of “self-choosing,” but the person on the receiving end of your decision can be left feeling confused, rejected, and even abandoned, wondering what happened and where they went wrong.
And we get it, what explanation do you owe someone for leaving after a few cocktails and a $100 date? While that may seem like the perfect opportunity to cut and run, taking an alternative approach to fizzle out a fling is a great time to practice clear and effective communication that can pay off in the long run.
While there is a time and a place for ghosting (and even blocking) if your boundaries have been crossed or safety has been threatened, if we’re looking to live out our best healed, secure-girl summer, there are ways to date freely without leaving others with damage of their own to recover from.
Being honest and upfront about your feelings while being respectful of the other person's time is the best way to leave a situationship or fling with both parties emotionally unscathed. So if you’re looking for ways to break things off with care and consideration, we’ve provided five text scripts to send instead of ghosting somebody’s son:
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5 Texts To Send Instead of Ghosting Them
1. If you want to take the honest but gentle approach:
"Hey [Name], I've really enjoyed getting to know you, but I've been doing some thinking, and I don't see this going any further. I wanted to be upfront and honest with you rather than leaving you wondering. I wish you all the best."
2. If you want to express gratitude before saying goodbye:
"Hi [Name], I wanted to reach out and say thank you for the time we spent together. You're an amazing person, but I think we're better off as friends. I hope you understand and that we can still maintain a positive connection."
3. If you want to leave a note of appreciation:
"Hi [Name], I wanted to let you know that I've had a great time with you, but I don't think we're compatible for a romantic relationship. I appreciate the moments we shared, and I hope we can both find what we're looking for."
4. If a face-to-face convo is needed:
"Hey [Name], I've been doing some thinking, and I believe it's important for us to have an open conversation about where we stand. Can we find some time to talk about our relationship and how we both feel? I think it's important to address things honestly."
5. If you want to keep things cute and concise:
"Hey [Name], I've realized that we're not on the same page, and it's best if we part ways. Take care."
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