Uh-huh. Clown the Tubi app if you want to, but some of those Black indie movies make some pretty valid points. Take one that I recently watched about a man who seemed to love his wife yet couldn’t stay faithful if his life depended on it. While talking to a therapist about his pattern, he said something that every woman on the planet should hear when it comes to romantic relationships and especially wanting to get married: “You should want a man who wants you, not one you have to pressure for anything.” (He was saying this in the context of him feeling pressured to get married before he was ready, which is a part of the reason why things played out the way that they did.)
And to me, this line is a perfect way to intro this particular topic. Why? Because when it comes to so many women driving themselves absolutely up the wall when it comes to trying to figure out why they are good, and yet their man (or who they want to be their man) seems to be treading water (at least) when it comes to making a lifelong commitment — baby, not only should you want someone who wants you to be their wife (if marriage is what you desire)…you should also let yourself off the hook when it comes to stressing out about why it might not be panning out that way.
We’re gonna tackle this, yet I’m gonna give you a heads up now: this may not go exactly like you think it should; however, I do think that if you go in with an open mind, a bit of humility, and some determination to focus on your needs more than his moves, you very well may find the clarity and freedom that you need in this area of your life. Ready?
Before getting into him, how about we first talk about you — “you” specifically meaning what it means to be a good woman and, shoot, a good person, in general. Because you know what? There are a lot of words that we use, thinking that we know the definition, when, after (re)visiting them, we realize that there is usually more to what they require than we realize on the surface.
To be good is to be morally excellent. To be good is to be virtuous. To be good is to be kind, righteous, gracious, humane, and benevolent. Some synonyms for good include words like positive, pleasing, honorable, and admirable. Yeah, once upon a time, I found myself being pretty pissed about a guy who I desired back in the day not wanting what I did. I went on the “But I’m a good woman” soapbox, my conscience told me to look up the word, just to make sure that I was sure — because if most of us were self-aware and humble about “good” (not either or but both), we’d realize that being good is more like an ultimate goal than an actual status.
Okay, but what about some of the other words that define it? Things like being valuable and worthy. Things like being beneficial. And how about synonyms like wonderful, agreeable, precious, great, and exceptional? Yeah, before we touch on any other points, if you don’t get anything else from this article as it relates to these descriptions of good, it’s more important that you know if you are a good woman in the sense of what you have to offer — and that it is exclusive of if someone agrees or not. Because what’s good for one may not be good for another, yet that doesn’t mean that you’re not good anyway (more on that in a sec).
Look at it this way — if you walked into a jewelry store today, a lot of diamonds are going to be looked at. Know what else? They’re also going to remain in their display cases whether it’s because they’re not specifically what someone is looking for, they are more expensive than what someone can afford, or — please catch this too — someone never had the intention of purchasing a diamond in the first place; they were simply window shopping…no more, no less. Yet a diamond is still a diamond.
So yeah, before going any further, purpose in your mind to assess where you are good regardless of your relational status, situation, or circumstances and where you can stand to grow in the area of goodness. Because the truly evolved know that if they want a good man, they will forever be preparing for him until he arrives on some level because “good” is a super high standard.
Now let’s get more into what I’m sure you really want to know about…
What Kind of Relationship Did You Think You Were Going Into?Giphy
Okay. Remember how I said that some people will go into jewelry stores just to look around? While it could be because they have a goal of purchasing something in the near future, so they want to see their options and also save up, there are others who literally have no plans of doing anything but trying stuff on, admiring it, and moving on with their day.
If you choose to see yourself as a diamond in this story, let's not act like some men aren't proverbial window shoppers — and honestly, there's nothing wrong with that. It's not a character flaw to not want to be married or even in something serious (check out "Single-Minded: So, What If You Like Dating But DON'T Desire Marriage?"). In fact, it's pretty arrogant to try and imply that just because you may want a spouse that, everyone else should automatically follow suit and/or those who don't have some sort of "issue" for being that way.
Marriage is serious — VERY MUCH, SO. It's not the same thing as a boyfriend/girlfriend dynamic (no matter how much our culture tries to prove otherwise), and whether you choose to see it from a spiritual (Malachi 2:14-16, Matthew 19:1-12, I Corinthians 7:10-11), financial or legal perspective, it comes with a lot of guidelines and, if it doesn't work out, ramifications. Indeed, mature people get that two folks don't just throw a big party called a wedding, and it's all peaches' n cream from there. So yeah, I get why many people — men included being that 70 percent of divorces are initiated by women and alimony is still alive and well out in these streets — would semi-hard pass on it.
That's why I am a huge fan of grown folks getting it out in the open, as soon as possible, what the game plan is for dating (check out "The 'Pre-Commitment Interview' Every Dating Couple Should Have"). I don't mean interrogating a brotha on the first or even second date. What I mean is you definitely should feel okay with putting it on record that marriage (or a serious relationship) is the reason why you're dating these days — and the sooner you get that out into the open, the better because you don't want to wait until you're so mentally, emotionally and/or sexually invested that you try and rationalize staying with someone who may not be on the same page (or even in the same book) as you are. You also don't want to do what so many women I know have made the grave mistake of — thinking that because they are a good woman, that even if a man wasn't considering marriage, he will suddenly change his mind, all because of how awesome they are.
Definitely, one of my favorite quotes as it relates to this particular topic is, "You'll never be good enough for a man who isn't ready," and that really is the truth. In other words, being a wife to someone who has no desire to be a husband (check out "Why You're Always The One Who Prepares A Man For His Wife") isn't honorable; honestly, it's risky at best (trust me, I would know) because you are literally putting the cart before the horse.
You know the saying, "There are levels to this thing?" It applies to dating too. A man doesn't need to be taking care of a woman who isn't his wife as if she is; otherwise, why get married? Marriage represents taking the relationship to the optimal and ultimate level, so there are certain benefits and privileges that come with it AFTER vows have been said. Same goes for a woman in how she treats a man who isn't her husband. That's why I loathe (yes, literally) when singles talk about women needing to submit before marriage. A good woman is feminine regardless of her relational status (or at least she should be); however, submission is a wedding present (Colossians 3:18, Ephesians 5:22-33, I Peter 3:1-7).
Okay, but let me stay on track. So, when it comes to trying to figure out if a dating relationship is headed towards jumping somebody's broom, first be honest with yourself about if the two of you started off being very clear with one another about why you started dating one another in the first place and, if all goes well if the end result is to be marriage — for you both…TOGETHER. Because if you're only assuming that, well, we all know that assuming doesn't tend to go very well.
When it comes to something as serious as marriage, clarity must be had, and that comes with having very open and honest discussions about both people's wants and needs — not just stating them but hearing them from your partner too (my subtext here is not only hearing what you want to but listening to what he's actually and literally saying…even if you don't like it).
And if you're not gelling…what in the world are y'all doing? Next point.
Now, What Kind of Relationship Are You Actually In?Giphy
There is a guy I know who was once dating this woman who was totally into him — Lawd, you could tell. Yet there were certain things about how he moved that gave me the impression that the feelings weren’t exactly mutual. When I finally flat-out asked him about it, this guy said, “I mean, I might be her boyfriend, but she’s not exactly my girlfriend.”
Get triggered all you want, but when I asked him how he came to that conclusion, he said that it was because she took it upon herself to go above and beyond, to not date other people and take on a lot of his wishy-washy-ness. He never asked her to. He never told her that he wanted her to be exclusive. He never changed anything about how he operated. She simply decided that she wanted to engage with him on that level.
Now before you say that he is the villain in this story — is he? Or is she someone who decided to go all in without talking to him about it, knowing that it’s human nature for people to want to benefit from things while putting in as little effort as possible? I mean, let’s not act like a lot of men don’t get upset on the regular about paying for expensive dates where they end up getting friend zoned as soon as the check is paid (right, it goes both ways).
And that’s why this point is also a super valid one. Just because you might care about or even love a man in a way where you could see him as your future husband, that ABSOLUTELY DOES NOT mean that he feels that way about you. He may like you. He may even love you. Still, that doesn’t mean that he sees a wedding, a white picket fence, some kids, and a terrier up the road with you. Yeah, someone can like having you around or even love you as a person and still not want to spend forever with you. It’s a harsh reality. It’s still the facts, though.
That’s why it’s always important to ponder right after asking yourself what kind of relationship you wanted (and if that was discussed on the front end) if you know what kind of relationship you are in…with him. Because listen, I also know a married couple (of several years) that includes a wife who constantly says that she dated her now-husband for close to a decade while he “counters her” and says she was never his girlfriend because he never believed in having one (and he pretty much treated her like the other guy I just mentioned during that time too).
Bottom line, when two people are on the same page, it’s hard to find yourself getting frustrated…because you are on the same page. You might struggle with being patient when it comes to budgeting, reaching certain career goals first, or getting life in order before marriage— still, you won’t be out here asking why he won’t marry you because you know that someday he will…BECAUSE HE TOLD YOU SO, AND HIS ACTIONS ARE CONSTANTLY LINING UP WITH WHAT HE SAID.
And what if it doesn’t feel like the two of you are seeing eye to eye on this thing? Good question.
“Good” in General, Doesn’t Necessarily Mean RIGHT for Him. AND THAT’S OKAY.Giphy
Let me just tell you right now that some of y'all aren't gonna want to hear this, but as the Good Book says, it's the truth that has the ability to truly set us free, chile (John 8:31-32). Another definition of good is "suitable or efficient for a purpose." What's revelatory about that is if you go back to the Bible where Adam's wife was BROUGHT to him (he did not chase or pursue; God brought her to him — Genesis 2:22), before that happened, God, himself said this:
"Now the Lord God said, 'It is not good (sufficient, satisfactory) that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper (suitable, adapted, complementary) for him.'" — Genesis 2:18(AMPC)
(Y'all wanna talk about how even if you think that you are good for someone, that may not mean God automatically or necessarily agrees? Or did I just say enough that we can move on?)
Okay, so did you peep the word that is bold and underlined? SUITABLE is more than a notion, y'all.
Suitable: such as to suit; appropriate; fitting; becoming; appropriate; proper; fit
Something else that this same chapter of the Bible talks about is two BECOMING one (Genesis 2:24-25). "Becoming" requires a certain level of incomparable compatibility. It's not just about having deep feelings for one another. It's about having similar values. It's about complementing each other in a very profound and unique way (check out "If He's Right For You, He Will COMPLEMENT Your Life"). It's about (and folks really miss this one) if the two of you can do the day-to-day of living together well — cleaning the house, paying the bills, and providing each other's needs on a very basic yet super relevant level. It's about being each other's right "fit" — and as much as it might hurt to hear, you don't get to tell a man if you are the one to do that. He and God have to figure that out (which means that his caring about how a Higher Source factors in helps immensely with all of this, too!).
And that's why I'm also a huge believer that just because someone may be a good person, that doesn't mean that they are RIGHT for a particular individual — whether that is "right now" (if it's not "right now," there still shouldn't be a lot of anxiety, drama or stress) or ever. Because someone who is right is someone who is suitable — they complement and fit. They also are pretty adaptable, which speaks to them being flexible. They are built that way because again…they are suitable…they complement, and they fit.
And here's what else — when you're RIGHT for someone, it means that you are "in conformity with fact, reason, truth, or some standard or principle; correct." Your standards and principles are similar. There are some hardcore facts about how the two of you gel that BOTH OF YOU can see. There aren't truths about the relationship that are being ignored or deflected. You both get the reasons why marriage is meant to be.
Whew. Okay, so after processing all of this, ask yourself (and be honest with yourself while you're at it) about whether you are RIGHT for him even if you are a GOOD woman. And shoot, beyond that — is he RIGHT for you? Is he? Or do you just want him to be because you love him and/or he's a GOOD man?
You know, sometimes we think that the Universe is playing some kind of cruel trick on us when, actually, it's being merciful as all get out. It knows that while we think life should be going one way, when we really tap into things beyond a surface level, we start to see that it's looking out for us while waiting for us to see past what we want and into what we actually need — and deserve (deserve means to "qualify for," by the way).
So yeah, it's not only okay to think long and hard about it but encouraged to bring the word "right" into the chat. Yes, you are a good woman. Still, are you the right one for him? IS HE THE RIGHT ONE FOR YOU? Because if you were, if he was, do you really think that RIGHT feels and/or acts the way that you're currently acting or feeling?
Do you really?
Don’t Miss the REAL Issue Here: That You Need to Do What’s BEST for YouGiphy
It’s kind of wild — the build-up here. Basically, without even intentionally doing it, we’ve gone from “good” to “right” to the finale — BEST. So with that said, ask yourself something and be as honest about the answer as you deserve (which is 100 percent): have you been so focused on trying to convince him that you’re a good woman that you haven’t stopped to consider that all of the convincing could be a super huge warning sign that he’s actually not what’s best…for you?
Best: of the highest quality, excellence, or standing; most advantageous, suitable, or desirable
Synonyms: first-rate, outstanding, leading, incomparable, finest, champion, 10
For the record, I don’t mean this from a lie-to-your-ego-to-make-rejection-feel-better standpoint either. I mean…I talk to a lot of women who are now ex-wives about how they were either so caught up in getting married or making a specific man their husband that they never really even thought about if he was BEST for them. Because here’s something else: if you’re a good woman and he’s a good man, yet the two of you are not the BEST for each other, the relationship is not as good as you think (or you want it to be). Straight up.
I know we covered A LOT of ground on this, yet, to me, all of it was necessary. If you want to be married, there is nothing wrong with that. If he doesn’t, there is nothing wrong with that either. Where potential drama comes into play is if you know where things stand, and you decide to waste precious time, effort, and energy, knowing that the two of you are not the BEST for each other because you both want different things.
Bottom line on this: being a good woman is only one part of getting someone to marry you. He must be good. You both must want the same things from one another. And most importantly, you should put what’s BEST for you above all else.
Do that, and suddenly wondering what’s up with him won’t be nearly as relevant as what’s BEST for you.
Now exhale. Freedom has revealed itself, sis. What you need to do next will be very shortly as well.
Good needs BEST. Remember that.
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Featured image by FG Trade/Getty Images
- What Should You Do If You Feel Like You Married The Wrong Person? ›
- 15 Women On Why The Thought Of Marriage Absolutely Terrifies Them ›
- If He's Right For You, He Will COMPLEMENT Your Life ›
- He Loves You. He's Just Never Gonna Marry You. Now What? ›
- 10 Men Told Me How They Feel About "Marriage Pressure" ›
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.”
Director of Content: Jasmine Grant
Campaign Manager: Chantal Gainous
Managing Editor: Sheriden Garrett
Creative Director/Executive Producer: Tracey Woods
Cover Designer: Tierra Taylor
Photographer: Ally Green
Photo Assistant: Avery Mulally
Digital Tech: Kim Tran
Video by Third and Sunset
DP & Editor: Sam Akinyele
2nd Camera: Skylar Smith
Camera Assistant: Charles Belcher
Stylist: Casey Billingsley
Hairstylist: DaVonte Blanton
Makeup Artist: Drini Marie
Production Assistants: Gade De Santana, Apu Gomes
Powered by: European Wax Center
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
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
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.
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Feature image by Rachpoot/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images