Ah. Yes. Romance. Romance is an interesting topic to me because, since I tend to be pretty word specific (because of that I know that romantic means things like being fanciful and impractical), I must admit that sometimes, I think this word applies more pressure onto relationships than it should. Does that mean that I think that there isn't an art to wooing and that people deserve to experience it? Of course, not. I just personally believe that it's important to hold true and real romance to a more realistic bar than what we see on the television or movie screen.
So, what do I think that it means to be a romantic individual? Well, in the spirit of avoiding the fanciful and impractical, how about we look at this world from a more sensible—and yet still wonderful—point of view.
1. A Romantic Person Is Thoughtful
Another word for thoughtful is "considerate" and while that might seem like an odd way to lead off a topic like this, when you really stop to think about it—it's not. When someone is considerate, they use tact in conversations. When someone is considerate, they factor in other people's feelings when it comes to the decisions that they make. When someone is considerate, they respect other people's time, they avoid doing things that will trigger them or make them feel uncomfortable and they have a very kind demeanor. Someone who's considerate is also pretty proactive in their actions.
Matter of fact, one definition of considerate is deliberate. This means, they are intentional in what they do and, when it comes to relationships, a part of the intention is doing what they can to make people feel good. So, while this might seem like a super practical definition of romantic, that doesn't make it any less relevant.
The reason why I thought it was important to lead with this is because a lot of women find themselves getting their feelings all the way hurt because they confuse charming with consideration. A guy can be a complete and total ass and still charm your pants off (literally). A considerate man is going to make choices that factor in more than just the present. He's going to move in a way that shows that he cares about how you'll feel about him in the days, weeks and months to come too.
Sis, spend more than a couple of decades on this planet and you will come to realize just how romantic that kind of guy really and truly is.
2. A Romantic Person Is Attentive
A romantic person? They want to know your love language. Once they do, they don't forget it. They ask when your birthday is and honor it every year. They take note of what some of your favorite things are and then present them to you at the most random of times. When you're having a bad day, they're present. When you're having a good day, they want to celebrate it with you.
Bottom line, when someone is good at being attentive, what they strive to do is make others feel really special, wanted and valued. And yes, that is a cornerstone point of what it means to be a romantic individual. If you've got someone in your life who is affectionate, giving, sentimental and super consistent when it comes to all of these qualities, count yourself blessed. Attentiveness is an art and it's not a ton of folks who have truly mastered it.
3. A Romantic Person Can Move You Without Money
I actually think it's fascinatingly hilarious that one definition of romantic is to be impractical because, when it comes to a lot of people's expectations as it relates to romance, that's exactly what they are. To think that someone is only being exciting, passionate or chivalrous (which are synonyms for romantic) is when they're pulling out their credit card all of the time or purchasing things that shine is a huge fallacy. Honestly, that's kind of a cop out way to be romantic because simply spending a lot of money doesn't really require much creative thinking.
Love letters. Cooked dinners. Personalized playlists. Handmade gifts. Flowers (a bouquet or petals spread everywhere). A drawn bubble bath. Slow dancing in the living room. Kissing in the rain. Taking impromptu walks down memory lane. Sharing a dessert. These are some ways to be romantic without spending a ton of cash.
And I can speak from personal experience that these are oftentimes the kinds of experiences that you end up remembering more anyway. Besides, if you read all of that and thought, "Hmph. Sounds more like being cheap to me," perhaps you need to ponder if you are romantic. Or not.
4. A Romantic Person Is Seductive Without Being Sexual
So, here are some synonyms for the word seduce—entice, allure, fascinate, magnetize and captivate. While I think we all know that, for the most part, seduction is ultimately about trying to get someone to engage in sexual activity, a truly romantic person knows that there is a true art that comes with it. For instance, I was recently talking to a male friend of mine who isn't big on kissing or giving oral sex (he'll do both; they're just not on the top of his menu). When I asked him what the "selling points" were for actually sleeping with him, he told me that he does enjoy cooking for women, rubbing their feet and singing to them.
Listen, I've known this guy for a long time now and he's never had a shortage of female company. While I personally would find someone who "tolerates" kissing and head to be a huge turn-off, I get how he's been able to hold so many women's attention—he seduces them. People who are truly romantic, they enjoy their partner. They look for ways, outside of sex, to make them feel beautiful and desired. It's not just because there's some sort of end game in mind. For the true romantic, just knowing that their partner feels desired in their presence? That, is oftentimes, what even turns them on the most.
5. A Romantic Person Tends to Go ALL In
I think that my favorite thing about romantic people is that they don't half step. If they get you flowers, they want to make sure that it's your favorite ones. If your anniversary is coming up, they go out of their way to see that it's absolutely unforgettable. Even if they do something like bake for you for the first time, they take special care to make sure that the presentation is right. My late fiancé? He was super romantic. Even when we were both living on campus, if I was sick, he wouldn't just bring me orange juice and Tylenol; there was breakfast, tulips (some of my favorite flowers) and a card asking to go on a date with him when I felt better too. Or, when I had to leave one of my favorite pets to go to school, he mailed me a toy Simba because that was my cat's name. To him, it wasn't good enough to simply call me and say, "Wow, I'm sorry to hear that." He wanted to do some sort of gesture that made me feel like he truly understood where I was coming from.
On the romance tip, I know a husband who created an entire calendar of planned out dates for his wife. I know a wife who surprised her husband with a staycation that consisted of nothing but his favorite foods and things to do. I know a man who takes his partner on three-course dates (he plans something for the morning, afternoon and evening). I know a woman who created flashcards with words that defined all of the things that she adored about her man. Then she had those words painted into a portrait for him to put up in his home office. None of these things are super over-the-top. At the same time, none of them are mediocre in effort either. When a romantic person wants to convey how they feel, they make sure that the message is clearly sent. Often.
6. A Romantic Person Is a Solid Love Advocate
I like the word "advocate" a lot. It's someone who constantly speaks in favor of something (or one). Not only that, they highly recommend whatever they are in favor of to any individual who will listen. And someone who's romantic? They definitely fit this bill. It's like, no matter what is going on, they see love as the solution and remedy. Going further, romantic people tend to be students of love too.
They are the ones who journal their lessons learned from past experiences, along with their goals for the future. They're the ones who have love self-help books in their personal library. They're the ones who listen to relationship podcasts, can recite I Corinthians 13:4-8 (the Love Chapter in the Bible) basically by heart and—here's the real clincher—are extremely careful with the using word.
I believe I've shared before that, for several years now, I've gotten out of saying "love" for everything. I don't want to be in the habit of saying I love my future husband and I love lemonade IZZEs. My man deserves better than being compared to some sparkling drink. Honestly, truly romantic people can share a similar way of thinking because while there are some romantics who border on being love addicts (because they don't have a lot of balance in their approach to being romantic), a truly romantic person has a sense of integrity to them. They want the object of their affection to trust them and believe what they say. And so, while they do want the entire world to experience love, they want the love to be as real and healthy as possible. Romantic people will woo yet love often takes time. Again, if they are approach romance from a healthy perspective.
7. A WARNING: A Romantic Person Sometimes Needs to Be “Brought Back to the Ground”
I've shared before that one of my favorite quotes of all time is, "The excess of a virtue is a vice." Aristotle once said that and he's exactly right. So even with as admirable of a trait that being truly romantic is, the thing that romantic individuals have to stay on top of is not falling too quickly, idealizing or—dare I say it—romanticizing things to the point where they overlook facts and common sense. They also need to make sure that their "human trinity" (mind, body, spirit) are in alignment because "following one's heart" isn't the wisest motto to go by. Why? Because your heart is the center of your emotions and if you only go off of those, you can find yourself being all over the place.
That's why, even with all that I just shared with you, romantic people also tend to need accountability. Loved ones who care about them enough to say, "We know you love love, just make sure you're seeing everything from a leveled perspective." Oh, but if the person does, if they know that they can make someone feel like they are walking on cloud nine, even with their feet still on the ground, they can be a real blessing in someone's life.
How romantic are you? How romantic is he? Definitely something to think about. In real life.
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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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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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Queen Latifah On Her Journey To Self-Acceptance: 'I've Been Trying To Maintain My Freedom To Be Me'
Actress and rapper Dana "Queen Latifah" Owens is defying societal standards by refusing to be confined in a box regarding her personal and professional life.
Owens, who has been a part of the entertainment industry for over three decades, is widely recognized for her empowering songs and the variety of acting roles she has obtained throughout her career, among other things. The list includes Living Single, Set It Off, Chicago --with which she earned an Oscar nomination-- Just Wright, Girls Trip, and most recently, The Equalizer series on CBS.
Owens is also very tight-lipped about her personal life. However, in 2021, The Last Holiday actress showed appreciation to Eboni Nichols, who is reportedly her partner, and their son Rebel after receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award.Since then, Owens has revealed why she doesn't want to be defined as anything but herself and how she maintains her sense of freedom. In a resurfaced video from theGrio Awards, Owens opened up about those topics when she accepted the Television Icon Award for her past contributions
In a clip uploaded on theGrio's Instagram account last week, Owens explained that she often had to fight to be herself because "the world" kept trying to put her in a box based on what society thought a woman should be.
"My whole life, I feel like I've been trying to maintain my freedom to be me. And the world is trying to put these things on me to stop me from being who I am," she said.
Further into the speech, Owens explained that although many would have their own opinion about her from what the media spews out, she would continue to be herself by wearing "beautiful gowns and dresses," playing in the dirt, participating in basketball games with men and loving who she loves because that's what makes her happy.
The Beauty Shop star also added that despite her celebrity status, she would continue to show respect for others because that's who she is as a person and how she was raised.
"So I wear these beautiful gowns and dresses because I want to because that's part of me. I play in the dirt. I play basketball with the boys because that's me,” she stated. "I love who I love because that's me. I love all of you who have supported me. I give you your respect. I don't have to be above you because that's me. I know me."
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