When I think of the most traumatic stories one can experience, breakups are among the firsts that come to mind. Losing someone that we love can become the source of such a wrenching pain, it draws an indelible trace on our hearts and leaves us changed forever. As bizarre as it may seem, breakup stories are my favorites to write. It's true that they involve a lot of darkness and negativity that the world would gladly pass on. But the reason I find it essential to tell these stories is that they involve the darkness and negativity that most of us go through, yet often refuse to talk about because of fear.
Fear of being judged, fear of being misunderstood, fear of being alone...sometimes we even fear talking about a breakup because it'd mean that we acknowledge and accept the fact that the relationship is over.
For this particular reason, I recently asked four women* about the worst ways they've been broken up with with the intent to share their stories on xoNecole—I wanted to show you that alone and misunderstood is something that you, who's reading this, will never be. Indeed, there'll always be someone out there going through the same things that you're going through. There'll always be someone experiencing your pain. In fact, what you're experiencing is called life, and life is something that happens to every one of us.
Sharing stories you can relate to isn't the sole purpose of this article, though. What was also important to me was to show you that each of these ladies has somehow found a way to bounce back after hitting rock bottom. Each woman was able to find the good in goodbye. Each was able to find joy and glow again. These stories are reminders that no matter how low you may feel, eventually, you'll bounce back too.
*Names have been withheld for the ladies to maintain their anonymity. Pseudonyms have been used so that the ex-lovers could maintain their privacy.
I Moved To Another State For Him & He Dumped Me Soon After
*Thomas and I met through mutual friends. He's always been pretty upfront about his attraction and desire to get to know me and I wasn't against it. We'd gotten the opportunity to get together (with our friends) on several occasions and I enjoyed our conversations; I thought that he was a cool and funny guy. When he and I began to date exclusively, we did so for almost two years. Within this timeframe, we were serious enough for our families to meet as well as to discuss the serious steps that we wanted to take together as a couple. The first big step, we agreed, was to move from Ohio to Atlanta, GA, where he's from.
At the beginning of our relationship, our similarities, the connection that we had, the way we clicked...the feeling that I was getting from it all was that "we" were too good to be true. But a couple of months in, it became obvious that I'd simply crossed paths with a good person—my person.
Or so I thought.
Thomas was in his last year of law school when I started preparing for our move. Well, it wasn't really our move, it was more my move. I'd decided that, in order to establish myself as well as my professional career over there, I'd move before Thomas graduated so that I could take the time and space I needed to do so. Three months before the big day, what I hadn't noticed was uncertainty at the time began to settle in. "Are you sure you want to do this?" He'd ask me. "Maybe you can wait, just so we can move together?" Neither he nor I were the kind to let doubt creep in during moments or conversations like these. My soul inevitably perceived his words as him looking out for me, not wanting me to go through this on my own while he'd still be stuck in school, unable to protect me should anything happen.
I believe the moment I started feeling that something was off was when I was offered a job in Atlanta. I noticed a significant gap between both our levels of excitement; he wasn't as thrilled as I was. On top of that, there was the fact that, days later, he didn't come to help me move out of my apartment.
My gut feeling, which I was trying my best to ignore on that day, told me that it wasn't normal. Apparently, my cousin didn't think it was either. Being a man himself, I remember him advising me to only move if I wanted to—he, too, was getting a strange feeling from my man's absence.
The moment everything turned upside down came two weeks later, as we were driving to visit an apartment for me. I'd temporarily moved in with my grandmother and was therefore looking for my own place. Since I'd landed in Atlanta, I'd been hanging out with Thomas—who was there to visit—and his family. Despite the good times that we were having, I'd noticed a shift in his attitude, and some things started adding up. All of which started giving me an uneasy feeling. So uneasy that at some point, I felt drawn to ask: "Do you still want to be in this relationship?"
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"No," he said. "There are things that I don't like about you which I feel you'll never change because this is just who you are. And the truth is, I don't see myself married to someone like you."
This whole car conversation was a gut punch. I was furious—and extremely sad at the same time. I'd move to Atlanta for a very specific reason, him, and he was bluntly showing me how huge the mistake I'd just done was. He left me. I found myself isolated in a new city that had broken its promise for a future filled with love and which then lost all its appeal.
Both physiologically and psychologically, having my heart broken changed a lot of things: I lost thirty pounds in the matter of a month, and navigating life was very painful. Later finding out that he'd been cheating on me didn't help. The only way for me to get over Thomas, I figured, was to run away. As far as possible. So, I used my connections. I called one of my friends who always told me to feel free to reach out if I was ever looking for a job and he did all he could to help me pave a way out of Atlanta.
The distance, time, having something to do career- and purpose-wise, meeting new people, allowing myself to fall in love again is the medicine that helped me fix my broken heart.
Over the years, I became open to receiving feedback from the men I was dating. Some of them pointed out the same flaws in me which eventually made me realize that I was probably not the easiest person Thomas had to deal with. No excuse for how he did what he did; he should have broken up with me. He just should have done it differently. All in all, my breakup with Thomas was the catalyst for me to grow up and learn how to take full ownership of the role I play in my relationships instead of just blaming the other person.
Our New Year Resolution Talk Led To The End Of Our Relationship
I believe that human beings fall in love three times during their lifetime. The first time, obviously, is our first attempt at love. We tend to believe that we'll spend the rest of our life with that person—which may happen—but basically, this is mainly the first experience. Then comes our second love: the hardest. It's the love that teaches us about ourselves and changes us at our core. And finally, the third love, which is supposed to be our happily ever after.
*Dorian was my second love. Had I not experienced life with him, I wouldn't be the woman I am today. I wouldn't have been able to know exactly what I want in a relationship, I'd still be insecure and trying to find somebody to fill the void.
When I was introduced to Dorian, I was still dating someone. Funny enough, the work friends that we had in common and who wanted me to meet him believed that my boyfriend at the time wasn't right for me, so they insisted for me to hang out with them all so that Dorian and I could get to know each other. To make a long story short, Dorian didn't impress me at all in the beginning, although I did think that he was a cool guy. With that said, because we shared the same workplace, we got to spend a lot of time together, and, eventually, we built a bond. A bond that I must admit rapidly became ambiguous as, even though Dorian didn't impress me when I first met him, I grew to like him enough to break up with the guy I was dating.
Our relationship wasn't all sunshine and rainbows, though. We loved each other deeply, indeed, but because we both had a lot of growing up to do emotionally, it didn't take long before we somehow began tearing each other down. As I said, I was insecure—and he was too. He didn't know how to express himself, so he would often project his insecurities on me. As for me, I kept some parts of my life before him to myself because I feared he would reject me. The lack of trust is something that truly affected him.
One day into that new year, we agreed that, after being together for almost four years, it was time to start off on a clean slate. We spoke a lot on the morning of New Year's Day. However, when I felt safe enough to finally share my truth with him, the conversation took a turn that I did not expect. I thought he'd be understanding and that he'd give me his support. Instead, he completely blew up on me—and put an end to our story.
Losing my best friend isn't the way I expected the first day of 2019 to go. Generally, New Year's Day is supposed to be a little happier than that. At worst, meant to recover from a strong hangover from the night before. But being broken up with? I wasn't prepared for that.
The days that followed were terrible. I felt as though I had nobody to turn to anymore when things turned bad. Back in the day, I was diagnosed with high-functioning depression and panic disorder. Dorian was the only one who'd seen me have panic attacks and the only one who actually tried to help me overcome that. He used to be my rock—and now I was left to deal with life on my own. Until I remembered that this is what therapy is actually for.
The first four times I saw my therapist, all she heard me talk about was [my relationship with] Dorian. I was going through a roller coaster of emotions and had the hardest time grieving. But once the whole topic of "us" was covered, it was then time to shift the focus of the conversation on me. Me, my feelings, the reason why my love for him was so strong, the necessity for my well-being to move on, and my inabilities to let go.
The most defining lessons that I learned while going to therapy are, one, although my love for Dorian was real, the reason it grew so big was that it came from a place of self-doubt. I was dealing with self-esteem issues and was unconsciously depending on him to fix me.
However, the cure to our problems can't be found in other people. They must be found within. If you are to love someone, it's because that person adds to your life, meaning you're already whole all by yourself. Two, things start getting better from the moment you decide that they will.
My separation from Dorian forced me to level up to a higher version of myself. When I started elevating, taking some distance, I began seeing the situation from a whole other point of view. I was able to witness the bigger picture and as soon as it happened, I knew I'd just been provided with all the evidence I needed to believe that, in the end, I was better off on my own. At least during that season of my life.
He Broke Up With Me Through A Text & Took Off To Africa
Until he decided to abruptly end our relationship through text and take off to Africa right after pressing 'send', *Cameron and I dated for a year. Our story was special. We'd known each other for approximately 10 years before we started dating; it was the kind of love story you see in Hallmark movies. You know when the man has the longest crush on his friend but she has no idea, although she has a lot of love for him as well. And then, the timing of their respective love life never gives them the chance to explore what they don't know exists between them until, 10 years later, singleness finally finds them both at the same time. Yes, it was that kind of romance.
The both of us together formed a great pair; we had the same sense of humor, had a strong connection, traveling was one of our favorite activities to do together…
I couldn't say that our relationship wasn't healthy—if anything, we were best friends who were romantically involved and there have never been any signs of a red flag in sight. This is probably why the breakup caught me so off-guard; everything was fine.
However, when I visited him in Boston that time I had no idea it would be the last—I'm from New York; we were in a long-distance relationship—I noticed a shift in his energy. He was strangely acting as though my every move, not to say my presence as a whole, bothered him. I couldn't pinpoint what it was that I did or said that put him in such a mood. Of course, he wouldn't tell me either—later after the breakup, he admitted that his behavior had nothing to do with me and was in fact due to the struggles he was going through at the time. That was the most uncomfortable I've ever felt around him—and frustrated because he'd asked me to come only to make me feel unwelcome in the end.
Eventually, the time finally came for me to travel back home and get back in my own space and to my own routine. His bad mood had faded a bit before I left, but my senses were telling me that something was still off. And indeed, as well all know, intuition never lies.
No more than 24 hours after I left Boston, a notification popped up on my phone. It was a text from him, a goodbye text. I was at work going through a roller coaster of emotions while reading all these paragraphs that he'd written. So many words simply to tell me that he didn't want to be with me anymore and that, on top of everything, he was about to board a plane to Africa.
It was hurtful. Not so much the breakup, but his behavior. You know a person for so long, you have this built-in trust with him and then, he lets you down... It's hurtful. It makes you question everything, especially who can you trust if you couldn't even trust the person you thought you knew so well? I debated whether or not it was worth responding to his text for a week. After endlessly writing, erasing, and rewriting my response, I ultimately got it off my chest. I had to.
Sometimes, people will tell you to "kill them with silence." While it's a wise thing to do, I believe that there are some situations where you must stick up for yourself. That was one of those for me.
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You see, long-distance relationships come with a lot of sacrifices, whether it's time, money, or [something] else. During that weekend, the sacrifices that I made weren't considered which was very disrespectful, so I had to speak up for myself and show him that what he did wasn't right, nor was it fair.
All in all, it was the worst way I've been broken up with, but I'm happy to say that it didn't shatter me. Quite the contrary, it made me realize what he was capable of; his exit was so big and intense, I couldn't go past it. And focusing on that instead of all the reasons why I loved him opened the way for me to heal and move on quite quickly. I must also admit that the timing couldn't have been better for it happened at a moment in my life where I was finding myself at an intersection. I'd just graduated from college, I was being presented with tons of opportunities, I could decide to do whatever I wanted to do, become whoever I wanted to become; the only one I'd need to look after was me.
A month or so later, I received another text from him, this time saying that he missed me. "I get it," I replied. "I'd miss me too."
After Fake Proposing To Me, He Confessed That He Wanted To See Other People. “People” Included His Homeboy.
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Have you ever found yourself in a relationship that you initially didn't want, yet you ended up the most hurt when it ended? That's exactly what happened to me with *Devin, the most toxic spiritual encounter I've ever had in my life.
I met Devin at a bookstore located in Flint, MI, where he happened to work. My spiritual advisor introduced us. Devin was different from all the other men I'd met before. He was this fine, chocolate man with big almond-shaped brown eyes. He wore his hair like a Black nerd—but a sexy Black nerd. He was nothing like the men I'd dealt with before.
Somehow, that bookstore became my new coworking space. I'd go there to get some work done and whenever he had some free time, Devin would sit with me to help me and give me new ideas for my projects. I remember we'd also talk about entrepreneurship—he was trying to get his feet wet in public relations—and spirituality. The best part was that we started by building a friendship by connecting intellectually, which made him even more attractive to me.
With all of that being said, believe it or not, I wasn't trying to date him. At the time, a relationship wasn't part of my priorities at all; all I wanted to focus on was school and my future. But I'd be lying if I told you that the latter stopped me from accepting his invitation to take me out on a date.
If anything, this man whom I considered my friend made me feel safe. I was comfortable with him, comfortable enough to completely allow him into my life. By that, I mean allowing him to spend time with me at my place and sometimes stay overnight, plus introducing him to my family.
After some time, though, his actions began reminding me of a manipulation technique called love bombing. He would overwhelm me with love, shower me with gifts, and would become passive-aggressive when he'd hear me say that I wasn't ready to commit to him. The times he visited me at my place, I noticed, he'd leave some of his stuff around, probably as a way to mark his territory. In all honesty, the situation began giving me a strange feeling, I wasn't at ease. But my friends kept insisting that I was overthinking it. In their eyes, Devin was only a good man and they maintained that I should just accept receiving his love.
Eventually, spending so much time together led us to become more intimate. Not because I wanted to, but because I felt giving myself to him was the right thing to do as he'd been such a gentleman to me—and according to other people, I'd been so hard on him.
I'll never forget that night when I saw a Black figure leave my room as he was getting off of me. Immediately, I knew that something had changed within me spiritually-speaking. It was like I'd just lost my mind.
From the moment we had sex, we created the strongest soul tie. I couldn't get rid of him, even in spite of the many signs that I received from God urging me to run away. If I felt safe in his presence before, being involved with him then made me feel depressed. I was also sure that he'd brought the spirit of pestilence into my home, added to the fact that I found myself at the hospital quite a few times because of ruptured cysts and twisted ovaries. One night, as I was dealing with my suicidal thoughts while on my way back from work, a deer suddenly hit my car. The accident shook me so much, I knew it wouldn't take any more signs for me to understand that it was time to save myself. With a lot of difficulties, I ultimately found the strength to tell him that we were over.
Fast forward to several months later, Devin reached out to me again. He was being very apologetic and told me that he wanted us to meet up. I know I shouldn't have but I agreed.
At the time I was still really suppressing and dishonoring my intuition. Somehow, I began questioning whether I'd made the right decision when I left. I thought that maybe I was really missing out on something, so I gave him another chance.
Soon after Valentine's Day—that he celebrated with his new homeboy, whom he'd met during the time we were broken up because I was out of town—he came over to my house. It was a sweet moment because we hadn't seen each other in a long time. And at some point during the night, he pronounced some words that sounded a lot like a proposal to me. "If I was to propose to you, would you marry me?" he asked. Although I'd said that I didn't want to commit to him before, the fact that life seemed to keep bringing us back together despite our arguments and disagreements, I was then convinced that he was my soulmate. So, with a glowing heart, ready to hand him my hand, I said, "Yes, I would."
Until, Devin flipped the script on me. Immediately, he admitted that he simply wanted to hear what I'd respond, which was far different from what he'd imagined because to him, it was clear that we weren't a good match in the end. He also briefly mentioned his desire to see other people. Other people that, from my understanding and to my greatest surprise, included the man he spent Valentine's Day with.
If there was one lesson to learn from my story, it'd be to never doubt the signs that God is sending you. I was upset at myself for not listening, also very angry because choosing to get involved with him was similar to choosing to abandon myself.
One of the ways that I found to bounce back from this emotional deception was to get back to my roots, to the essence of who I am. I moved back to my hometown, started spending more time with my family, and my childhood friends. I went back to visit the places that held cheerful memories and made it a priority to do more of the things that made me happy. On the bright side, however, even if this whole experience destroyed me inside, it was the catalyst that allowed me to live my dream to write a book and become an author. All of which has shown me that, if you let them, major breakdowns can actually lead you to the biggest breakthroughs.
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The most Gemini woman you'll ever meet. Communications & community enthusiast, I run a media platform centered around spirituality, and I'm always looking to connect with fellow creatives. Follow me on Instagram & Twitter @savannahtaider
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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15 Women Share Their Personal Hacks For Better Orgasms (And Sex Overall)
I’m pretty sure that I’m basically being redundant when I say that I write about sex quite a bit which means that I spend quite a bit of time doing research when it comes to sex-related intel, tips, and hacks. Yet I have to say that when it comes to getting some much-needed information in the realm of coitus, it’s been my clients (along with random interviews that I do with people because I don’t mind talking to complete strangers about intimate ish) who have garnered me some of the best takeaways.
Take orgasms, for example. Since I’m well aware of the fact that vaginal orgasms (especially) can be a real challenge for a lot of women, I’m constantly on the hunt for what can help to “bridge the gap” in that arena.
And that’s why I decided, this time, to forego science articles, vlogs, and online data and instead ask some women for myself about some of the things that they do to make having an orgasm, improving their orgasms, and their sexual experience overall something that is so much better for themselves.
So, grab yourself a light aphrodisiac snack (check out “Eat Your Way To Better Sex With Aphrodisiacs”) and dig into what 15 Black women told me gets them off, in a mighty big way, just about every time.
*As always, middle names have been used so that everyone can feel comfortable giving up the goods…umm, so to speak*
1. Rochelle. 37. Married for 11 Years.Giphy
“While y’all be out here talking about some kegels, what I’m into is my man giving me a hip massage. The key is to make sure you use some sort of massage oil that has menthol in it. Between the tingling of the menthol and him rubbing on your hips, not only is it really relaxing, but the ‘minty feel’ opens your body up so that once intercourse begins, you’re less tense, and that makes having an orgasm so much easier to do.”
2. Karmyn. 27. Single.
“Kiss him the way you want him to penetrate you. Literally, use your tongue as if it were a penis and move it in his mouth like you want him to move inside of you. The kissing will turn you both on, and if he follows your instructions, you should be able to orgasm with no problem."
"I learned this trick when I asked an ex of mine to explain what p — sy feels like, and he said the best way to explain it is what a tongue feels like inside of [the] mouth. He should’ve never told me that, boy! It’s been hell in these streets ever since!”
3. LaChelle. 43. In a Serious Relationship for Two Years.
“If you’re self-conscious about your body, get some lingerie that has cutouts in them. There is a lot of sexy stuff out here that can have you covering up the parts you’re not comfortable with while still giving him access to the ‘main events.’ My man loves one of my lace one-piece teddies that has no crotch, and it’s easier for me to orgasm because I’m not overthinking the entire time.”
4. Trinitee. 27. Married for One Year.Giphy
“We’ve only been married a year, but we weren’t exactly abstinent when we were just dating. So, we like to find ways to keep it fresh. One thing that we do is go ‘hotel hopping’ once a month. We find a new hotel and meet each other there. We try and do different hours of the day and come with a surprise in hand. Like he might bring a new sex toy, and I might have on some lingerie that he’s never seen before. Then we text each other beforehand to talk about the best part of the sex we had from the last hotel we visited. The anticipation is foreplay.”
5. Wren. 33. In a Serious Relationship for Six Years.
“What works for me is doing afterplay as foreplay. What I mean by that is, taking a nap naked with my boo before any sexual activity is one of my favorite things. Being up under him, especially if he’s spooning me, feels really good, sleeping together is very intimate, and — there’s something about being awakened outta my sleep with kisses on my neck and back that almost makes me want to cum right then and there.”
6. Bevalyn. 40. Living with Her Partner for Four Years.
“Get on your back and have him kneel in front of you."
"Put your legs over his, and when he penetrates you, ask him to use one of his hands to apply pressure on your pubic bone — the area right above your clitoris."
"As he’s gently pushing down while he’s inside of you…if you don’t cum from that, I don’t know what else to tell you, sis.”
7. Sophia. 38. In a Serious Relationship for Two Years.Giphy
“Shower sex can be a bit much, and I don’t trust a used jacuzzi. What we do is fill up our own inflatable pool and get it on inside of it. It’s perfect during the summer, late at night, because we have a tall fence. Just make sure that you bring some silicone lube to keep things slippery down there. An inflatable pool has been one of the best sex investments that we have ever made!”
8. Averie. 35. Single.
“Wanna know if your man is as into giving you head as he claims? Right after he goes down on you, ask him to immediately penetrate you. If he’s hard, he’s totally into it, and if he catches you soon enough, you’ll be in the perfect position to have a multiple orgasm. Don’t say I didn’t give you the ultimate cheat code.”
9. Victoria. 40. Married for 11 Years.
“Shellie, you actually got me on the cinnamon kick when I read one of your articles that talked about applying cinnamon oil to my clit before oral sex. Since [then], I’ve been doing some research, and it says that cinnamon is also an aphrodisiac because it stimulates blood flow. So, I’ll also drink cinnamon tea throughout the day or share a cinnamon cocktail with my husband. Works like a charm.”
Shellie here: She’s right. I did say that. LOL. You can read for yourself: “Here's How To Have Some Really Great Fall-Themed Sex.”
10. Daniela. 28. Engaged for Six Months.Giphy
“Ever been fingered backward? What I mean is, get on all fours and have him insert a finger or two from behind with his palm being flat. That way, the space in between your anus and your vagina will get a massage while your vagina gets penetrated. There’s nothing quite like it.”
11. Saven. 32. Single.
“Ice. Have him rub a little bit of ice on your clitoris and then immediately warm it up with his tongue. There is something about the drastic changes in temperature that gets me every time. And I mean, EVERY time.”
12. Ferynn. 30. Living with Her Partner for Five Years.
“I don’t know about you, but my man loves to put my legs up in the air. It was never really my favorite move until I read that behind the knees are an unsung erogenous zone. Whoever found that out was onto something because if he rubs back there while talking real crazy to me in a deep voice? Here I come…HERE I COME!”
13. Vivienne. 30. Engaged for One Year.Giphy
“Never underestimate the power of a foot massage. Just make sure that he applies pressure in the middle of your foot where your arch is. It instantly makes me wet. I asked my doctor why and he said that it’s probably because foot massages tend to increase blood flow, including where the vagina is. Either way, it’s always a good night if I get a foot massage first.”
14. Michelle. 24. Single.
“I’m a doula who owns my own exercise ball…for sex. When I first started showing couples the positions that women can get into to make labor easier, it got me to thinking that some of those positions could work for sex too — and they do."
"Something about the movement of the ball takes the pressure off of the back for both men and women. It also makes getting into certain positions a lot easier so that you can enjoy sex for a lot longer.”
15. Carol. 31. Married for Five Years.
“My husband and I have bets. If he wants me to make some of his favorite meals five days in a row, he’s gotta make me cum five times in a row. If I want him to get me something that’s not in our budget, I’ve gotta attempt one of his sex fantasies. We’re both competitive as hell, so it works for us because honestly, even when we ‘lose’…we win!”
Listen, I don’t know about y’all, but this was definitely worth my while. After all, ain’t nothin’ like some Black women who can speak from very-personal-and-up-close experience about what makes them happy — especially if it can increase the odds of bringing some sexual satisfaction your way too.
Speaking of, if you want to share the wealth, drop some of your own orgasm-related tips in the comment section. The more of us who can woosah on the regular, the better, chile. Straight up. #havefun #lotsofit
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Featured image by Giphy