Call it an occupational hazard but I really do dig words. I mean, more than average person (I think). That's why it kinda tripped me out that when I initially came up with the title for this piece and I went with the word "cozy", who knew that it had some crazy definitions attached to it? While cozy does mean "snugly warm and comfortable" (which is what I was going for), did you know that the word also includes definitions like "convenient or beneficial, usually as a result of dishonesty or connivance", "suggesting opportunistic or conspiratorial intimacy" and "discreetly reticent or noncommittal"? What in the world, y'all?
That's why I swapped out cozy and replaced it with "comfy" because, the goal here, is to offer up some tips that can make sex between you and yours (especially as the colder temps are starting to set in) feel comfy, which is short for comfortable, which is a word that means things like content, at ease, relaxed, snug, warm, healthy and happy. Sex that can feel like curling up in your favorite blanket, as the snow falls outside and you enjoy a cup of warm cocoa indoors? That's what I'm aiming for. Because, as crazy as it might sound on the onset, the reality is that the more comfortable we feel with our environment and our partner before sex even begins, the better the experience tends to be overall.
So, are you ready to learn more about how to have some "comfy sex" this fall and winter season? Yeah, I figured you would be.
1. Invest in a Comfy Comforter
When's the last time you treated yourself to a new comforter? In the name of comfy sex, how about investing one that is solely about how good it feels to be wrapped up in it? If you want one that provides moisture-wicking (so that you won't overheat) warmth, go with one that has some wool filling in it. A fluffy feel? Down filling is a great choice. Silk creates a feeling of sheer luxury while a cotton and polyester blend is a "lighter fluff". Whatever you decide to go with, make sure to get one that is a size up from the size of your bed (like I have a king comforter on a queen bed). That will leave extra material for you and your partner to be able to curl up in. Trust me, it's divine.
2. Determine to Leave ALL Drama Out of the Bedroom
OK, before going deeper into these comfy sex tips, it doesn't make sense to offer up a ton of hacks if you and yours can't use words like serene, pleasant and agreeable (which are synonyms for comfortable, by the way) to define your mindset before sexual activity even begins. You know, I've got clients who are under the totally delusional mindset that the best time to have deep chats is during sex. According to them, that's when they feel like they can "catch" their partner. No, no, NO.
A part of the reason why I agree with interior designers (and a lot of marriage therapists) when they say that the bedroom is for nothing other than sex and sleep is it reminds couples to see that room of their house as a place for pleasure and rejuvenation — no more, no less. When you know that there is a space that's designated for nothing other than that, it makes it an area that you find yourself constantly looking forward to being in. So, in the name of all things comfy, check issues, problems and drama at the door. Literally.
3. Put Some Jasmine, Vanilla or Cinnamon on Your Bedding
Now. Back to prepping. Did you know that there are scents that can help to make you feel more comfy too? Jasmine is awesome because it's considered to be an aphrodisiac — one that has the ability to put you into a better mood and give you more energy. Vanilla is great because it promotes relaxation, relieves tension and improves your quality of sleep. Cinnamon oil is cool because it helps to relieve achy joints and muscles, stimulate blood flow and reduce feelings that are associated with irritability or head tension. As a bonus, if you add a little bit of cinnamon to your feet at night, it can help to increase blood circulation and keep them warm. Just sprinkle one of these on your bedding. You won't want to get out of your bed for days if you do.
4. Enjoy Some Blackberry and Ginger Mocktails
If you and yours like to sip on a lil' sumthin' before or after gettin' it in, have you ever had a blackberry and ginger mocktail before? While both of these foods have a ton of health benefits, the reason why I'm mentioning them today is because blackberries are a good source of magnesium which can curb stress-related feelings while relaxing your system in the process. As far as ginger goes, it's full of antioxidants and bioactive compounds that can improve brain health overall so that you're in a tranquil state. Sipping on a drink that's made of both of these can help to "get your mind right" which is always a good thing when you're about to put your body into action. (Three great mocktail recipes for this particular drink are located here, here and here.)
5. Or Share a Bottle of Chocolate Wine
If alcohol is what you're after, if it's been a ROUGH day and you and/or your partner just can't seem to get your mind to stop racing, when's the last time the two of you shared a bottle of chocolate wine? Dark chocolate contains polyphenols that are proven to help increase feelings of calm and contentedness while wine plays a direct role in suppressing your nervous system which, in turn, can reduce stress and worry. Total Wine is just one site that sells a few different brands for a really affordable price. You can check out their list here. For tips on how to find the absolute best brand of chocolate wine, Vina Del Vido breaks it all down on their site here.
6. Massage Each Other’s “in Need of Comfort” Pressure Points
A massage is always a smart foreplay move. If you and/or your partner are feeling fatigued, irritated, restless, worried or even a little bit tense, give each other a pressure point massage. While on the onset, it might seem like I'm referring to erogenous zones, I'm actually not.
Some of the pressure spots where anxiety stores up include inside the upper ear, around the shoulder blades, in between the index finger and thumb, on the wrists and at the part of the feet that are right underneath the toes. If you mix a carrier oil like sweet almond, avocado or grapeseed with 5-7 drops of the essential oils that I mentioned earlier, warm the oil up in the microwave for 10 seconds and then massage these areas, it can literally feel like a pampering slice of heaven.
7. Express Something About Your Partner, That Day, That You Appreciate
A couple of years ago, I penned an article for the platform entitled, "10 Creative Ways To Express Gratitude In Your Relationship". Y'all, I can't tell you how many times a husband or wife has told me that they've got one foot out of the door because they feel totally taken for granted. Again, when someone is comfy, they feel mentally and physically comfortable. One way to put your partner into this kind of mental state is to verbally state something that you appreciate about them; not in general, but that they say or did that day. Doing this shows that you're paying attention to their efforts. Doing this reveals that you are proactive about being thoughtful. Doing this will also cause your partner to feel valued in your life. How can you not want to get closer to someone who is intentional about making you feel this way?
8. Cuddle While Taking a 30-Minute Nap. BEFOREHAND.
Whenever a couple tells me that they are too tired for sex, I usually say what I'm about to say to you — take a nap first. While it might sound strange at first, there is all kinds of data to support the fact that a 30-minute nap can help to boost energy levels, strengthen cognitive function, make you more creative, better your memory and put you in a far better mood — all of which is needed for satisfactory sex sessions. And if you nap while you're cuddling with your partner underneath that comforter that we talked about (check out "Fall's Coming: 8 Wonderful Health Benefits Of Cuddling"), the rise in oxytocin levels that can come from it can actually make you desire your partner even more. Just set an alarm. When it goes off, roll over and start kissing. This is the kind of sex hack that is truly unsung.
9. Get into Some Stress-Reducing Sex Positions
While sex, in general, helps to release stress (which is just one of the billions of reasons why you should do it as often as you can), there are positions that encourage less physical tension, more cuddling and greater feelings of comfy-ness. Spooning is wonderful because there is nothing like being the "little spoon" and feeling enveloped in your man's embrace. The Lotus is dope because when your partner is sitting in a pretzel position and you're sitting on top while facing him, how can you not feel super close and intimate? I always encourage having sex in the "cat position" (which is like doggy style but you're lying flat on your stomach) because your partner is literally taking you all in.
Having sex while hugging each other (lying face to face) makes it so much easier to kiss and squeeze one another (it can actually be very sweet). Then there's the good old-fashioned missionary position that is always great for eye contact. Plus, all of these positions are pretty easy on both bodies, so that neither of you are throwing your back out or putting unnecessary stress on your already-tired limbs and muscles in the process.
10. Praise Your Partner for Something Satisfying That Just Transpired
Recently, I was talking to a husband client; he had me cracking up. We were discussing favorite artists and songs. When Jill Scott's name came up, he said, "'Whatever' is my joint." When I asked him why, he said, "Who doesn't want to hear how good they were in bed? That woman told her man that he put it down and then cooked him some breakfast. That's what I'm talking about!" Remember how I said that being comfy is about being at ease? A good lover wants to make sure that their partner is pleased. Whatever yours did to fulfill you, don't waste any time sharing it. It will relax him and make him feel really comfortable with affirming you in return.
11. Turn on the Ocean
I've shared before that until I started sleeping to the sound of rain, I preferred silence. But baby, now that I've found 9-plus-hour videos on YouTube that has real rain falling on them, sleep has never been so good!
While having sex to the sound of rain can be sexy and romantic for sure, since the focus here is comfort, consider going with ocean sounds instead (whether it's before, during and or following copulation). There are many studies to support that listening to things like waves crash or rain on the water can reduce stress and cultivate a sense of calm.
Hey, you'll never know until you try it…right? (Go to YouTube and put "ocean sounds" or "ocean ASMR" in the search field for a list of options to choose from.)
12. Spoon Yourself to Sleep
We already touched on spooning from the sex position standpoint. That said, once you both have "culminated" (wink), getting into the spoon position in order to fall asleep is pure bliss too. It's relaxing. It keeps the feeling of closeness and intimacy going. Oxytocin boots can also help you to fall and stay asleep. Dopamine (which enhances pleasure) and serotonin (which helps to regulate your moods and sleep patterns) are natural hormones that are also released when you spoon as well.
From a very practical angle, you significantly decrease your chances of snoring when you're on your side (vs. your back). While you may not remain in that position all night long, it's definitely a way that conveys "I adore you and tonight was amazing." You can go into sex feeling comfy, experience sex being comfy and end it being in that same head and heart space. And it really doesn't get much better than that, chile.
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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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Janelle Monáe's Reveals The Real Reason Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Tuxedos
Singer and actress Janelle Monáe exemplifies how change can be a powerful catalyst for growth and transformation.
Monáe, who rose to fame in 2010 following the release of her debut album, The ArchAndroid, captivated fans' hearts with her powerful vocals, catchy tunes, and style. Around that time period, when various female artists were known to wear provocative ensembles on stage, the "Tightrope" songstress set herself apart by wearing her signature black and white suits and continued to do so for almost a decade.
In the later years of her career, after the release of her studio albums The Electric Lady in 2013 and 2018's Dirty Computer, many began to notice the shift in Monáe's artistry and fashion, which some widely praised.
Although the now 37-year-old rarely addressed the reason behind the transformation over the years, that would all change when Monáe sat down with radio personality Angie Martinez on her IRL podcast earlier this month.
During the interview, Monáe --who was promoting her latest album, "The Age of Pleasure"-- opened up about her mental health struggles, how she would cope, and why she chose to live in freedom.
Janelle On Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Suits All the Time
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In the May discussion, the "I Like That" vocalist revealed she suffers from anxiety, which she claimed would occur around "winter to spring."
Monáe added that when she has her bouts with anxiety, she tends to turn to food as a coping mechanism. Further in the interview, the "Lipstick Lover" singer disclosed that her emotional eating habits caused a weight fluctuation and that she could no longer fit into the suits she once wore earlier in her career.
Monáe explained that even though she tried to diet and exercise to return to her smaller figure, she ultimately stopped and made peace with herself with the help of therapy because she acknowledged that she isn't the same person she was nearly a decade ago and shouldn't try to be even if it was a highly "celebrated" version.
"I'm petite, but it can get thick... When I couldn't fit them suits anymore, and I was like, 'Oh my God, what is going on?' I would be dieting, running, or exercising, trying to fit into [it]. I'm just like, 'No. No, we're here. This is where we are.' We [are] not about to be utilizing life trying to be an old version of ourselves. No matter how celebrated that version of me was. I'm here. I'm here," she said.
Janelle On Freedom
As the topic shifted to freedom and what that meant to Monáe, the "Primetime" vocalist shared that in this new era of her life, she enjoys it because she can boldly express herself however she wants and honor who she is as a person right now.
Monáe also revealed that she had found ways to become a better artist and the best version of herself because of her freedom.
"What is the new version of freedom? What does that feel like? That's usually when I feel the most free is when artistically, I can honor exactly who I am right now," she stated. "I feel most free as a human when I can honor exactly who I am right now."
Monáe's fourth studio album, The Age of Pleasure, is set to be released on June 9.
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