In the new Hulu sex comedy Three Ways, a prudish young woman named Stacey decides to open herself up more sexually by having a threesome with her new partner Justin and another woman. Written and directed by first-time filmmaker Jamal Dedeaux, the provocative and sexy comedy comes during a time when conversations around open relationships, polyamory, and sexual liberation are becoming more common amongst younger Black people.
Speaking with xoNecole, Dedeaux says that the film was inspired by his love for such classic films like Boomerang but also by his own life more than the desire to get in on growing conversations. “I had a threesome, and I told [the woman that inspired Stacey]: ‘Hey, you should write a short film about it kinda like from your point of view.’ And then I just thought, you know what, I'll do it.”
For actress Andrea Lewis, who plays Stacey, the film was an opportunity to gain perspective on the different types of relationship styles. “I love hearing the discussions around monogamy or polyamory, just hearing the different opinions,” she says. “I've always been just a really open-minded person in terms of hearing others' experiences.”
Three Ways also brought on a new challenge for Lewis, the Degrassi: The Next Generation actress who has been acting for over two decades now. “It was definitely my first time experiencing something so spicy,” she says, dealing with the raunchy subject matter. She says that she and other actresses she works with discuss all the time how to approach sex scenes in their work. “It's always a variety of opinions in terms of some people are comfortable [with sex scenes], some people are not. Some people hope they never get something like this because it takes a lot of vulnerability.”
Working on the set of Three Ways, Lewis says she felt completely safe doing intimate scenes. “We had an intimacy coordinator, Tatiana, and she said it best: you can change your mind the whole time. There is nothing here that's like, you have to do it. You can say, I don't wanna do this, or I thought I would, and now that we're in the midst of it, it's making me uncomfortable.”
For his part, Dedeaux was deliberate about making the actresses feel as comfortable as possible to do their love scenes. “One thing I did was made sure we surrounded the set with women,” he says. “Every shot in the sex scene was storyboarded, or was it shot listed.”
“Ultimately, it requires choreography. It requires people to be very comfortable with each other, and it's definitely absolutely not as sexy as people [think],” Lewis says.
Three Ways arrives nearly a decade after Lewis released her cult classic web series Black Actress, where she plays a young Black woman frustrated with the film and television industry. With this latest film and a string of other personal projects, including a forthcoming docu-series called The Black Beauty Effect, Lewis has experienced what she describes as the dramatic shift that has taken place in Hollywood in the past several years.
“Black women in general in media have been very aggressive about wanting to see ourselves,” she says. “Now we’re getting to this place where not only are we getting a lot of diversity with representation, the focus is on how authentic we actually feel and look, it's like people really wanna see you looking like a Black woman.”
Three Ways is streaming on Hulu.
Featured image by J. Countess/Getty Images
If you’re like me, one of your New Year's Resolutions was to get better at doing makeup. There’s only one problem: you don’t know where to start. There were many decades where, as a Black woman, going to the store to find makeup that matched and/or complemented our complexion was nearly impossible. Today, there’s an abundance of brands dedicated to celebrating the array of rich and beautiful shades that Black women come in. All these options can be a bit intimidating for first-time makeup users to choose from, not to mention all the other items used to accentuate our beauty.
xoNecole has caught up with a couple of beauty chemists, the scientists behind what goes into all of your favorite makeup items, who will tell you how to choose the best products based on your complexion and skin type.
Starasia Sabrena: Beauty Chemist, Esthetician
- “Instead of letting someone put the foundation on you and immediately liking how it looks, you need to wait, go outside, gotta get some air, and then see how it's showing up on your skin. Because that test is the true test if that foundation is gonna fake you or not.”
- “If you're trying to focus on hyperpigmentation, you wanna use red. If you're trying to focus on like coloring bruises or making sure that it doesn't oxidize, blue works really well.”
- “[Putting foundation on the back of your hand before putting it on your face], that heat transfer makes it smoother when it goes on and it's a more flawless application. You get to be able to use less product especially if you're trying to do like a buildup to a full face. If you heat it up first, you get a really good indicator of how it's gonna look in the buildup or without buildup. From there you save a lot of products and it just looks so much better.”
Brushes v. Blenders:
- “A brush does seem to go on [the face] a little bit even versus the beauty blender and for whatever reason, I think people have a hard time cleaning their beauty blenders versus brushes…which creates bacteria which [also] promotes breakouts.”
- “Brushes, the kabuki brush in particular, helps everything kind of just spread out a little bit more evenly, you can build up versus like the beauty blender. I feel like you have to have a perfect hand and you can't be [heavy]-handed or things get really cakey really quick.”
- “Wear a physical sunscreen at night. It helps protect against the sun, UV rays, and it also helps with acne.”
Andrea Ichite: Beauty Chemist, Founder of Aini Organix
- “I would say that to understand your skin, first of all. If you have like oily skin then maybe an oil-based foundation isn't best for you. You might want something like water-based or maybe even, a powder. And then a lot of makeup is fragranced and obviously fragrance can be very irritating, especially if you don't put a lot of stuff on your skin. So I would try to find products without fragrance.”
- “[Finishing spray] let's say, for lack of a better word, [is] almost an adhesive, like a sealant that's gonna kind of seal in your makeup. It's a polymer that's gonna just kind of trap the makeup in.”
- “There are a couple different types of primers. It's like a protective layer between your skin and your makeup. It also makes your skin tacky so the makeup grips it better, which keeps it on longer.”
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Feature image by Nina Manandhar/ Getty Images
Krystal is tired of people telling her why she’s single. “People have shitty advice for late bloomers,” the 23-year-old tells xoNecole. “'There’s something you’re doing wrong’ or ‘how can you change yourself,’” she says are just some of the things she has been told when she confesses to being delayed romantically.
On her TikTok, Krystal has built a modest following not only from videos of her singing and sharing her music but from talking about her life as a self-described late bloomer. “A late bloomer can be defined as someone who starts dating later than the average age of dating,” she says in response to someone asking her what exactly a late bloomer is.
Sorry if I’ve been sounding emo lately im not emo but I have a lot more time to process things/enjoy talking about real shit on here #blackgirl #latebloomer #dating #datingculture #hookupculture #blackwomen #rant #letmetalk #fyp
In recent years, the discussions surrounding romantic loneliness have put men squarely at the center of the topic. It was on one of my many TikTok rabbit holes a few years ago, however, when I stumbled across a community of Black women who, like Krystal, express their frustrations with having to find love and romance later in life.
“I think there's a part of me that feels like what I desire is unrealistic as I get older,” says another young Black woman who wanted to remain anonymous that xoNecole spoke to. Unlike other late bloomers, this young woman has been in a relationship, including one that ended only eight months ago, but she says she felt unfulfilled in part because of feeling pressured by societal standards to get into a relationship. “Though I identify as a Black feminist, embarrassingly I still fell tragedy to the pressures around age and relationships for women,” she says.
Krystal has made several attempts at putting herself out there including going on dating apps which she says has only made her uncomfortable. “People are kind of like bolder [on dating apps],” she says. “In real life, when I’m out and about, those kinds of people would not be walking up to me.”
Talking with her friends hasn’t helped either Krystal confesses. “I made a TikTok last year about how hard it is opening up to your non-late bloomer friends about being a late bloomer,” she says. “Some of my friends have no issue getting a date at all and they just insist I give attention to any guy at all.” This has also included friends attempting to set her up on dates with men she has no interest in or trying to pass off men they have rejected. “The guys that they turn down [weren’t] up to their standards but because I don’t get any attention, I should give them attention?” Krystal asks.
A few people have also suggested she move from the predominately white city she lives in to a Blacker city like Atlanta. “Financially I can’t do that, but also that depresses me because there’s tons of people who don’t need to move to find love.”
Krystal says that through posting videos online she has been able to connect with other Black women who are late bloomers. “My followers are really random people,” she says. “I think a lot of people find my late bloomer TikToks on the for you page.” She continues, “And so it's just people telling their own personal stories and that's really empowering. I've had people say like, I'm so grateful I found this video because now I can meet other people who are going through this. I had no idea.”
In recent months, Krystal says she’s felt less sad about being a late bloomer in part because of her self-love journey, which she acknowledges can also come off as patronizing advice to other late bloomers. “When you’re not getting this attention, you start to think that there’s something wrong with you, but knowing that there’s nothing wrong with you.”
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There was a moment before adult performer Demi Sutra reentered the industry for what would be her second of three separate times in under a decade when she realized that her profession was in desperate need of change. “I didn’t love everything that I saw,” Sutra tells xoNecole. “[But] I still wanted to be there.” This realization came to her after she reached out to several Black performers through Twitter to ask about their experience dealing with the racism that plagues adult entertainment. “It was just incredibly obvious that it needed help.”
Sutra first entered adult entertainment when she was 23 which she describes as being “not a good time” for her. “I found it to be problematic and really hurtful,” she says about her experience of being pigeonholed to sites specifically meant for Black female performers.
In 2018, she would move to Los Angeles from Florida to relaunch her career only to leave again in 2019. The second time she would leave she cited being overworked and blatant racism. “I didn’t like my agency. [There was] a lack of protection for me when it came to racism,” she says.
The inaction by her then agency (the famed Spiegler Girls) led to Sutra becoming vocal on her own social media. “When you do those callouts you risk being blacklisted,” Sutra says. “But I was really just tired of it and I started saying shit about companies online.” Despite the slow change, she said she saw from her being vocal online, Sutra was still frustrated with the industry’s racism.
“I had so many directors for multiple companies say to my face: ‘Oh man, you’re really talented. I really wish I could book you for more scenes but we met our Black girl quota.'” Sutra was taken aback when told this. “So your boss is racist and you’re okay with that?”
That experience would echo that of another Black female performer xoNecole spoke with. Wanting to remain anonymous, she says that “for Black girls, they don’t want to have us on there too much, even if we’re doing well because they don’t want to be seen as a ‘Black girl site.' It makes it so our trajectory in the industry is slower.”
Misogynoir in adult entertainment is a systemic issue that has manifested itself in many different ways for Black women performers.
Newcomer Elsie’s short-lived mainstream career came to an end towards the close of 2022 after the constant struggle to have Black scene partners. “They told me Black on Black doesn’t sell.” She says the difficulty in selling these kinds of scenes is due to the kind of viewers that mainstream adult entertainment caters to. “The audience they have created is not Black,” Elsie says. “It's catered to white people. A lot of the tropes, like the stepsister stuff, that’s not catered to us.”
Blacked, a popular adult entertainment production company that produces content with Black men and white women has come under scrutiny in particular for some of the racist stereotypes they perpetuate. “Blacked symbolizes something so dirty,” Sutra says as she recounts her discovery of the website. She says that performers who have worked with Blacked have reached out to her telling her that the company makes the white female scene partners look as if they’re uncomfortable and in pain. “In this evangelical fucking white America that we live in, [white women] were put on a pedestal and Black men were killed.”
Despite Sutra’s vocal objections to the website on her Twitter account, she says that she gets the most pushback from Black male performers and Black male fans. “[Blacked] did have a convo with all of their Black male talent and two of the Black female talent they were shooting at the time … and asked the Black men – they didn’t even ask the women – if the title bothered them,” Sutra says. “All of them said no.”
Sutra says following her criticism of Blacked, that she was harassed and received death threats on social media. “It was really insane that I was trying to stand up for something that I know to be right and it’s not a positive thing.”
Sutra’s hope for a better industry isn’t lost despite all the backlash she’s faced. After the country-wide racial reckoning in 2020, Sutra said she saw the most dramatic change in the industry since she’s been there. She points to programs like BiPoc started by Sinnamon Love that addresses the racial inequality within the industry that would later receive funding from Adult Video Network or AVN. “That program which does enable Black pornstars to be able to get therapy, get testing — because some people can’t afford it, especially being that there’s so few places for Black talent in pornography.”
Moreover, Sutra is looking toward her own future in the industry. In 2021, she signed with Brazzers, marking her third official time with the industry. She is most excited however for the future generation of Black female stars. “I’ve fully stepped into the phase of uplifting younger Black women in the industry and that is what I’ll continue to do.”
Feature image by @demisutra/ Instagram
Much like the hair that grows out of our heads, our body hair is heavily policed and politicized. Whether it is our armpit hair, the hair on our legs or even the hair on our knuckles, no part of our bodies is free from the white patriarchy’s grueling gaze.
“I love my bush!” 24-year-old Eva tells xoNecole. The “bush” they are referring to is the one growing in between their thighs. Women’s pubic hair has long been a particular point of contention in society that would rather see women retain their hairless, prepubescent form.
Over the decades, the hair that covers our intimate parts has gone through a series of cultural transformations. There was the unmanicured bush. There was the landing strip and other festive shapes. And of course, there was just completely bald. Some of the women xoNecole spoke with cycled through similar options with their crotch hair before landing on rocking a full bush.
“I have tried shaving, waxing, and sugaring,” an anonymous 28-year-old woman tells xoNecole, saying that she stopped because of the unbearable pain that she experienced during the process. Eva explains how she initially felt disgusted with her body hair growing up and would look for ways to remove it. “When I was like eleven I got in trouble because I kept stealing my mom’s little cheap-ass disposable BIC razors and fucking up my legs.” She continues, “I took myself for my first bikini wax at 18 which looking back was way too young.”
For some of the women xoNecole spoke with, the process of embracing their bush was less about a technical process and more about unlearning the toxic ideals about their bodies they had internalized.
“I never had a partner explicitly ask or demand that I shave but I definitely did feel the societal pressure,” says an anonymous 25-year-old who now loves their bush. 37-year-old Nanette who says she is “pretty happy” with her bush these days, tells xoNecole, “I wouldn't shave a f—cking thing if I didn't feel like I had to.”
A few of the women say that they never felt particularly pressured either way when it came to shaving. “I think because I had no older sister or older girl cousins I never was aware that this was a common thing to feel shame/ disgust for,” says the 28-year-old. She continues by saying that while she understands why other women might opt for the bald look, she personally feels her sexiest with her bush. “I think pubic hair is so normal. I'm really disgusted by men who have a strong preference for a bald look.”
Regardless of the journey it took for a woman to begin embracing the way their pubic hair naturally grows, the women we spoke with agree that the work to unlearn society’s toxic messaging has been an added bonus. As one of the women put it: “I am fully bushed and very proud of it."
Feature image by Delmaine Donson/ Getty Images
In a recent viral clip, 15-year-old water activist Mari Copeny, or Little Miss Flint as she’s come to be known, broke down into tears during her appearance on The Tamron Hall Show. “I’m sorry, it’s just been really hard trying to get money and stuff for this event because people haven’t been treating me very nice,” the teen says. “And it's just been very hard and it means a lot, really.”
Those of us familiar with Little Miss Flint will recognize the precocious teen from the years she’s spent organizing around the still ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan. At just eight years old, she first gained national attention after then-President Barack Obama replied to the letter she sent him raising awareness of the dire situation in Flint.
\u201cYes I cried on National tv. People tend to think I am always happy, but people sometimes are not nice. This year has been so hard to fundraise and even with the toy donation we still need to get closer to my goal. I have under a week to fundraise. \n\nhttps://t.co/JHat7hAq6F\u201d— Mari Copeny (@Mari Copeny) 1670623972
Since writing that letter, her online presence has been used to track the systemic failure that continues to ravage her community. On Twitter, she holds up a sign showing just how long residents of Flint have been without clean water. “Flint, Michigan, has been without clean water since April 24th, 2014.” Her most recent reminder would come this past April. Eight years later.
It's almost easy to forget behind all her impossible adorableness, that a Black girl has been robbed of her childhood by the evils of environmental racism. No amount of girlhood sweetness can sugarcoat the deep moral rot of a country that coerces Black girls out of their childhood and into a life of defending their right to simply exist. There’s no tidy bow to wrap around how this country would rather see Black girls beg for life-sustaining resources than just simply give it to them.
There are many hands that have steered us in the direction of this particular catastrophe. There’s the Flint, Michigan officials who decided to skim on costs by changing the city’s water supply to a supplier that would eventually lead to poor water quality. There’s Governor Rick Snyder whose gross negligence has only exasperated the water crisis. Then there’s Obama himself, who during his visit to Flint in 2016 drank a cup of what was purportedly Flint’s tap water as a gesture that the crisis was over. It should be noted that the crisis was not and presently is still not over.
The direct impact on the community has been immeasurable. There were all the illnesses from the lead exposure, some of which have resulted in multiple deaths. There’s also the mental strain it has taken on the residents.
Mostly I think about the toll it has taken on the youth of Flint, namely Copeny. If nothing changes, in two years, she will have lived longer without clean water than she lived with it. Another tragedy to add to this catastrophe’s unending list.
Feature image by Bryan Steffy/WireImage