If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times. If you want to know what a man is really thinking, while your girlfriends—well, at least some of your girlfriends—can offer up some insight, you're going to be far better off picking the brains of your dad, your brothers or some of your male buddies. I can vouch for this because I can probably count on one hand, the times I went to a guy and then a girl for advice on the same issue and they both had the same perspective on it. Men and women are different. God made them that way. Simple as that.
That's why, when it comes to topics like how men approach marriage, emotional connections and sex, I think it's much wiser—enlightening too—to ask them directly than to be presuming or guessing with those of the female persuasion. When I asked several Black men about what turns them on, while the answers didn't surprise me much, some of the explanations behind them were interesting.
Sidenote: The actual turn ons are direct quotes, but because there was a lot of "streams of consciousness" going on during the interviews, I decided to simply summarize their explanations so that you can get the overall gist. I hope that's cool with you.
So fellas, what turns you on about women? Whoops, let me specify—about Black women?
“A woman who has a signature scent.”—Andre’, 32
OK. So according to Andre', a lot of women smell too much like, well, other women. "I think the scent that you wear is a lot like the style that you choose and real style doesn't pay attention to what's in or out. Ladies with style are interested in what works for them." He has a good point there. He also told me that he's into essential oil blends instead of perfumes. And a woman who puts her signature scent in her hair can get just about anything she wants from him. Good to know, Andre'.
“Someone who is comfortable without make-up—at home and in public.”—Isaac, 27
I'm a woman and still, I find it interesting when some women get offended when a man says he's not a fan of make-up or extensions. I mean, if it's true that ladies are "doing it for themselves" and not for a guy's attention, applause or approval, why should it matter what men think…right? Anyway, what Isaac broke down to me is, as cliché as it might be, he agrees with Drake (in his "Best I Ever Had" song) when he said, "Sweat pants, hair tied, chillin' with no make-up on. That's when you're the prettiest, I hope that you don't take it wrong."
"A woman who knows how to, what do the ladies say, 'beat' their face is an art form, no doubt. But it's not the most convenient for us. Make-up gets everywhere and their lips have residue on them. I dunno. I think a woman who can go out with nothing but lip gloss…there's something about her level of self-confidence that is super sexy to me."
“Manicured feet, soft hands and a sexy pair of shoes.”—Bryant, 40
When Bryant told me what his top turn on was, I smiled because it took me back to one of my male besties when I was in college. I had never seen a foot fetish quite like it; he even told her that he'd prefer pretty feet over a beautiful face or a bangin' body (for real?!). When I shared this with Bryant, he nodded in agreement. When I asked him to explain WTH that was all about he said, "Do you know how much a woman loves herself if she makes sure to pamper her feet?" And the shoe thing? "Guys love sneakers. I think we just appreciate a woman who's as knowledgeable about shoes as we are."
The hands thing, I got. Ash is the worst. No expounding needed on that.
“Great conversation and a wonderful sense of humor.”—Keith, 25
Talking to Keith about his turn ons was not surprising in the least, but it was fascinating. Not the sense of humor part because I believe most of us want that. No, it's what he said about conversing with a woman that especially caught my attention. "A woman who listens is amazing. I know a lot of women think that they listen, but they really don't. Their body language and the fact that a lot of them repeat back what they heard in their mind and not what actually came out of my mouth is frustrating. But a good conversation is about more than that. I love great timing, quick wit and the ability to walk away and know that I learned something new or I can appreciate a different perspective. A great conversation that has a lot of laughter is the greatest aphrodisiac around."
“A woman who knows a little bit about everything.”—Justin, 36
When Justin told me that a knowledgeable woman was a turn on for him, I didn't really look for him to expound much. It is for me as well, so I totally got where he was coming from. "It's just so hot when you can mention everything from an 80s rap group to a Scripture in the Bible to what's happening in politics and the woman across from you is not sitting with a blank stare on her face," Justin said. Then he paused and went on. "I think that's why Jacqueline had Marcus so messed up. She was fine, she was a business exec and she could enjoy a basketball game and a beer. That's my dream woman right there."
(In case you're wondering, that was a Boomerang [the movie, not the series] reference.)
“Stretch marks and an overbite.”—Lucas, 35Giphy
Lucas is a man of action more than words. So, when I asked him what was up with what drew him to a woman, he said, "Grown women have stretch marks and grown women are what turn me on." (shout out to my birthday twin Kendrick Lamar who basically said the same thing in his song "Humble".) And the overbite? "How X-rated can I get in this interview? Let's just say that an overbite is fellatio's very best friend." Yep. Moving on.
“Surprise piercings and tats.”—Marcus, 29
Talking to Marcus about his turn ons was cool; not just because I have 10 piercings (eight of 'em are in my ears) and three tats myself, but because I have a friend who said a woman with tats are a total deal breaker for him (yes, out of his own mouth, he said that he would break up with a woman if he found out that she had one). Why is Marcus the total opposite? "Tattoos are stories to me. I'm intrigued when a woman is willing to tell a story on her body; especially if it's a…private tale." (You nasty, Marcus.)
As far as the piercings go, Marcus pleasantly surprised me when he was able to tell me that I had a tragus, along with the names of other types of piercings. "I love a woman of mystery and so, it's so sexy to me when a woman appears super-conservative and then, when you spend your first night with her, she has a nipple or clit piercing. Man."
“I like a woman who enjoys sex more than she’s simply ‘good at it’.”—Damon, 43
Recently, I penned a piece about how grown women approach sex. One of the things I shared is grown women would rather have "B" (good) sex all of the time than A+ (totally off of the charts) sex every once in a while. When I shared this with Damon, he shook his head in total agreement. "I've been with women who made my toes curl, but their libido was on life support. A woman who lost her virginity late in life and has only had two partners but is enthusiastic about gettin' it in is way more appealing than a woman who's been told she's the best by all of her partners but only wants to have sex once a month." Damon, swap out woman for man in my case and I couldn't agree with you more.
“A woman who needs me without being needy.”—Timothy, 42Giphy
A little while back, I wrote an article for the site entitled "Are You In Love Or Are You In Need?" It gets into what it means to be needy in a relationship. Even as a woman, I totally get how that can be a total turn off. When I asked Timothy to expound on the point, he said, "You can tell when a woman is looking for someone to make her feel good about herself vs. a woman who enjoys a man's presence in her life even though she doesn't really need him to be in it." I looked to him for more clarity, so he elaborated. "I'm not saying I don't want to be needed but I think that should come once a relationship has been established. Not after a date or two." Agreed. (That goes both ways too.)
“Someone who doesn’t try to be sexy. She just is.”—Xavier, 39
"No diss to the IG models out here in the world, but they do nothing for me. It's like overkill. A woman who is comfortable in her own skin, that's sexy to me. She's got her own views, her own style and she's drippin' with femininity—I will eat that up. Literally." Whew Xavier, tell us how you really feel.
"I don't think a lot of women realize that once a man gets to a certain stage in his life, T&A is icing on the cake. A big brain, tons of self-confidence and a sexy walk will keep us more than a big booty and a smile will. A woman who carries herself like she knows all of this is the epitome of sexy to me." Indeed, Xavier. Indeed.
What's a trip about this is some folks are gonna read it and critique the responses. It's human nature. But my takeaway is if I want to know what turns someone on, I need to ask them and then accept it. It's not about what I think it should be; it's about what they tell me it is. By asking rather than assuming, I just might be surprised by what I hear—in the most pleasant way possible. Just as I was with these 10 Black men.
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (email@example.com) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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Chilli Opens Up About Flak She Received For Refusing To Settle In Dating And How Matthew Lawrence Has Everything On Her 'List'
Rozanda "Chilli" Thomas' dating journey displays how refusing to settle, and setting standards could lead one to find their ideal partner.
Over the years, The TLC group member had high-profile relationships with music producer Dallas Austin, with whom she shares an adult son, and R&B singer Usher.
Since then, Thomas has confirmed that she’s now dating actor Matthew Lawrence. Thomas and Lawrence, who were romantically linked in the summer of 2022 when they were spotted vacationing in Hawaii amidst the Boy Meets World star's grueling divorce with Cheryl Burke, would confirm their relationship in January 2023.
In a statement released by Thomas' representative, Christal Jordan, toPeople magazine, Jordan revealed that the couple had been dating since November 2022, two months after Lawrence's divorce was finalized. Jordan also shared that since Thomas began dating Lawrence, the singer is the happiest she's ever been.
To date, the couple has showcased their love by uploading various dancing Instagram posts on their respective accounts and talking about their whirlwind romance in numerous interviews.
Recently, Thomas opened up about her relationship with Lawrence during a virtual interview with The Tamron Hall Show. While recalling her VH1 dating series, What Chilli Wants, which aired on the network from 2010 to 2011, the 52-year-old provided information about why she set such high dating standards in the form of a list known as "Chilli's Checklist" and the steps she took to prepare herself for love.
Chilli On Matthew and Her Dating List
During the May discussion, Thomas disclosed that she wanted to show women the importance of setting standards, and although, at the time, she received massive backlash for it, she refused to settle when it came to love.
Thomas received scrutiny for her list because many thought some of her standards were unobtainable. Thomas' requirements for an ideal partner included not wanting someone that drank, smoked, or ate pork.
In addition to all those qualities, the star also wanted someone that loved God. Because of Thomas' determination to find her perfect match, the "Creep" vocalist claimed that she "waited it out."
"On my show, I always hoped that women see the importance of having high standards. I got a lot of flack from that, but I don't care. For me, I just waited it out. I'm like, 'Lord, if it happens, wonderful. If it doesn't, I'm still okay," she said.
As the topic shifted to Lawrence, Thomas raved about her new beau and shared that the 43-year-old had met all the qualities she wanted in a partner, from his physical appearance to his love for God.
"Matthew, honestly, he's the list... He is my entire list, and so I thank god every day for this," she stated.
Even though it may have taken years and several failed relationships, it is inspiring to see that Thomas refused to settle and worked on herself along the way until she found her person.
Rozonda ‘Chilli’ Thomas’ Next Chapter & Romance With Matthew Lawrence
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