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“I told you about sex when you were three,” my mother explained to me in her typical matter-of-fact fashion. I had asked her about when I had first learned about sex.

It made perfect sense because, even as a very young child, I can’t recall a time in which I did not I understand the mechanics of sex, at the very least, in the context of where babies came from. My mom is a devout Catholic, but she’s also a registered nurse who takes care of new mothers, meaning she sees plenty of pregnancies, including those from minors. Right after I asked, she went into a quick lesson about how to put on a condom and mentioned a banana. I remember saying, “I’m not having sex anytime soon.” I was barely a teenager, and while my hormones were raging, the same could be said of my body— the round belly and fat deposits on my chest screamed “the training bra soon cometh.”

My father has always been in my life—for better and for far worse—but we have never had a conversation about sex. Ever. The only sex-related question he’s ever asked me was well into my 20s—he wanted to know if I was gay. Even if I said something sooner, it’s wasn’t like he was going to go out of his way to find a pamphlet detailing the pleasure and pains of gay sex.

I did take a health class in 11th grade that vaguely referenced sex education, but as the wave of pregnant girls in my high school swelled, there was not much in the way of wisdom shared and it was too little, too late, anyway.

So yes, while I understood sex in terms of procreation, I knew embarrassingly little beyond that. But, like many things I was intrigued by as a child—religion, whatever I saw on the news, and the various warnings of doom and gloom that I saw on episodes of Captain Planet—I wanted to know more. I don’t know many people who can say they have talked with great frankness about sexuality with their folks. Many of us, however, can say we’ve been largely influenced by the images we’ve seen in film and television and the music we grew up listening to.

If there’s a pop cultural figure that played an integral role in my sexual education, it was Janet Jackson.

When the janet. album was released, I was only nine-years-old. I vaguely knew what she was singing about, but I didn’t have any meaningful understanding of what exactly I was singing along to. What I did know, though, was that I could not stop staring at one of her dancers, Omar Lopez, with excitement. If you don’t remember this man, he was the one Janet Jackson groped in the “If” video. He’s also the beautiful man who played the male lead in TLC’s “Creep” video. Omar Lopez is a legendary bae and one of the first real tests of my heterosexuality.

Spoiler alert: I was defeated.

Read the rest Complex’s NTRSCTN.

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When I told a friend that I would be writing about Keri Hilson’s return to music, she immediately responded with the question, “Who’s looking for her to come back?”

Therein lies the issue with the singer-songwriter as she plots a return to music. Like many music writers and bloggers, I received an email announcing Hilson’s return along with a link to two new tracks, “100” and “Scream.” Months prior, the likes of Timbaland teased fans with new works like “Listen.” Around the same time, Hilson herself teased us with audio of “Dinero,” although singer Monica sold the new track far better than she did.

The songs we’ve been teased sound more interesting than what’s come in full, but whatever we do get in terms of a new Hilson album, one wonders whether or not the public cares anymore. “100” and “Scream” were leaked to the Internet in full, but in terms of volume, both generated more of a “hi and bye” than conversation. Whenever Hilson does make an official return to music, she’s got her work cut out for her.

Two years ago, the Atlanta-bred artist took to Twitter to lament about the years of “verbal abuse,” noting, “You have no idea what your hateful words could do to someone’s spirit.” She was mostly referring to the Beyoncé fans that consistently berated her for her not so subtle shots at the Queen Bey. To this day, Hilson acts as if other people misinterpreted her past comments and actions about Beyoncé.

No one did, though, and regardless of whether or not she’ll ever own up to it, the reality is Keri Hilson is responsible for her reputation as the Maleficent of R&B. Like I noted at the time, she’s been equally shady to her other contemporaries, which is why many dislike her. At the very moment, a few people are reading these lines and thinking, “But it shouldn’t matter if you like the artist. What counts most is the music.” That’s cute, but that’s never been the case— likability has always factored into one’s success. In fact, one could say in an age where buying music is a choice an increasingly less amount of people opt to make, it matters more than ever.

And to be blunt, when it came to Keri Hilson openly shading Beyoncé in public spaces, it was just a dumb decision. Not only is Beyoncé one of the biggest pop stars on the planet (and to some, the biggest), she’s also known as one of the nicest. It was like Ciara taking an unnecessary shot at Rihanna on Fashion Police. In that instance, Rihanna simply read Ciara her rights via Twitter, but both Ciara and Hilson looked like the Jan Brady to their Marsha.

Read the rest at VH1.

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I like when Love and Hip Hop: Atlanta launches into a new episode without pretense. Last night, we went straight to the drink throwing—in this case, Karlie Redd aiming her presumably mango Myx moscato chased with Diddy-flavored vodka at Khadiyah—and security stepping in before a full-fledged brawl erupted. Khadiyah says it was water, but I like my version better. Anyhow, as Sina and Karlie Redd chuckled about playing with Khadiyah’s emotions, Karlie Redd’s new boo thang, Lyfe Jennings, was not as amused. He pulled her to the side to remind her “I got legal situations,” thus if she were to get into altercation and he would have to jump in, that places him in a precarious position.

Love is your man letting you know that he’s on papers. So it’s probably not a great idea to intentionally put him at risk of needing to throw hands and subsequently get his ass tossed back in prison. Are you as touched as I am right now?

As far Khadiyah, she met Yung Joc at the studio to deliver the same damn speech we’ve been hearing far too many times in a single season. I swear Khadiyah is the first and second Keyshia Cole albums on loop. Fed up with her speeches, Joc told Khadiyah, “Fuck you.” Yo, if a man you already feel mistreats you tells you that, you’ve really got to move the hell on.

May the Lord be with Khadiyah and all her future endeavors, but I’m tired of this relationship and I’m not even in it.

Later on, Joc stopped by Karlie Redd’s store (which she once again noted was featured on “CNN News”) and told her to leave Khadiyah alone. Oh, and his baby mama Sina, who Karlie said is a new friend. Joc then tried to look at Karlie’s ass, which just goes to show he’s content living his life as a southern rap version of HBO’s Big Love.

Keeping with the theme of doing the most, Joseline popped off on Margeaux for not appreciating Stevie J’s offer to appear on the cover of his magazine (although it came at the expense of Margeaux’s estranged husband Nikko’s ego). As Margeaux walked away—thinking she was cute—Joseline had one final request: “Take the wedgie out of your ass.” Joseline is so good at this and only improves with time.

By the way, Margeaux dresses like Smurfette at the strip club or Judy Jetson’s Black friend from the projects with style and dreams of rap stardom. I needed to get that out. I feel better now.

Another thing about Margeaux is she’s also not as shrewd a businesswoman as she fancies herself to be. Margeaux, if you do a photo shoot, shouldn’t you have already agreed to a rate and other terms? Like, you want to position yourself as the reasonable one on this great mess of a TV show, but you’re married to Nikko. Case dismissed.

Although I’d rather not, we have to discuss the Rasheeda portions of the show. For starters, she met with Tammy, who apparently is just going to be here for a while, at the viewing party for the video Bambi made a cameo in. Before they pretended to support The Bam, they gossiped about Kaleena. Tammy tells Rasheeda that she wanted to know the “snake bitch” she was dealing with, meaning Kaleena. You see, Tammy’s had this intel about Kaleena for so many years, but only decided to tell Rasheeda once she had a problem with Kaleena. Friendship is beautiful, isn’t it?

Read the rest at Complex.

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I realized I wasn’t that young anymore when my oldest niece innocently asked me, “Is Aaliyah that singer who died in a plane crash?” Immediately after I answered, I went into pop quiz mode. “Do you know who Brandy is, beautiful?” Frighteningly, she had absolutely no clue–until she released a single featuring Chris Brown.

More recently, I’ve gone on dates with men born in 1990 – you can drop your judgment off right here, thanks – and openly cried out to God over their lack of knowledge about one of the greatest women to ever body roll on this Earth, Janet Damita Jo Jackson. Some of these very men have referred to me as “old.”

This can’t be life.

As youthful as I feel, I was born in 1984 and I’m getting frequent reminders that I am entering a new stage of life. Many of the albums I grew up listening to have either hit their 20th anniversary mark or they’re right on the cusp of doing so. This includes janet, CrazySexyCool, My Life, Brown Sugar, and soon, Faith and Hardcore. The same way I looked at my mama about her Chi-Lites and Whispers, referring to the group members as “pop-pops” is what’s happening to me now when I bring up UGK in certain groups. Karma is a hateful heifer.

While many folks my age crack jokes about “aunties,” as one of my friends recently reminded me, we are now the aunties. Do you know who is now doing the Tom Joyner Cruise? Trina! Yes, “da baddest bitch” is out here on the cruise shop that the super grown folks are known for attending performing “Single Again.” One of my friends is so amped about one day joining the cruise. In his mind, he thought 40 would be the perfect age, but auntie life came calling a bit sooner.

I’ll also admit that if not for the youth in my life, I’d have no idea what in the hell so many of the folks on the Twitter talk about. Like, what is a fleek? And one question I’m constantly asking: Who in the hell is this rapper that sounds like English is his fourth language?

I am only 31-years-old and while I can still drop down and get my eagle on, my pop, lock, and drop ain’t what it used to be. There’s also yoga, but that’s not the core issue. I’m just getting older and in the HOV lane to a new stage in life. An era where linen pants will sooner than later overfly my closet. Where all white parties will fill my calendar. A place where, Crown Royal and Wild Turkey will be my drinks of choice – just like so many of my uncles. Hell, I’m already halfway there if you include Crown Apple. In my defense, that is delicious and best served with ice in a mason jar.

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Bobbi Kristina Brown never had much of a chance, did she?

I feel guilty for simply posing that question, but I have more grief over what has happened to her in her short life. Though there are conflicting accounts over the marriage of her parents, Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston – and who did what and to whom – the greatest sin of their romance was this: their child was victim to their chaos.

When called to reflect on Bobbi Kristina in the wake of her being discovered unresponsive in a bathtub, I said that no matter who happens to that girl, I hope that she finally founds peace. Since that time, we’ve found out more about the last days of Bobbi Kristina’s life and it only made it more apparent just how much she was in need of that. Multiple sources would confirm that the daughter of two famous addicts had her own struggles with substance abuse. She reportedly regularly used heroin, cocaine, and Xanax. She also described as a “heavy drinker” and a person who regularly “appeared to be high, slurring her words and seeming incoherent.” There are also serious questions about the young man who she chose as her partner, someone who had been loved and cared for by her mother.

There were signs of this on the now even more inappropriate reality series, The Houstons: On Our Own, which chronicled Whitney Houston’s family members in the wake of the singer’s untimely death. There was one scene in particular that featured Bobbi Kristina – who already arrived to the home of her aunt, Pat Houston, seemingly high – drinking wine and barely able to form a coherent sentence. During a confessional following that scene, Pat said, “I do not want her dealing with her mother’s passing in the wrong way.”

What Pat wanted clearly did not happen, and though we may never know exactly what did, it all ultimately serves as yet another reminder that everyone around Bobbi Kristina failed her. Of course, there is something to be said of personal accountability, and it is true that there were people within the entertainment community who tried to help her as she grieved while the public watched. I do not judge her nor should she be judged.

When you are the child of an addict, certain skill sets and life lessons often go untaught.

You also tend to carry with you so many of your parents’ burdens on your own shoulders. Those suffering from the disease of addiction can point to a specific pain from a specific source. Said pain is often transferred from parent to child and subsequently from child to their own creations. It is an ugly, vicious cycle far too many aware acutely aware of. Couple that with instant fame by way of her lineage, and it’s easy to see how what all that happened to Bobbi Kristina did.

Yes, very few people are born into fame and fortune, but what good is it if you don’t have stability around you, parents you can depend on, and a safety net that doesn’t include those willing to exploit your pain for profit?

Bobbi Kristina did not have much chance of survival – that is, beyond the vegetative state she laid in for months before her death – after it was revealed she suffered “global and irreversible brain damage.” What’s saddest, however, is that she never was provided much of a chance for a healthy life.

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While at a mixer for black writers and editors earlier this week, a friend and colleague of mine was accosted by the sight of bare butt cheeks on my phone. I was not the proud owner of said behind; I was answering a text message and had no idea a flirtatious exchange had escalated to full-out sexting. My colleague and I were already too far into enjoying laughs and tequila for it to matter, but it did remind me of how exposed I am through my phone.

Yes, my financial information and other pertinent information is stored there, but also things I’m equally, if not more, concerned about getting out: my sexual secrets. This includes my visuals, conversations and other items that my friends and I affectionately classify as “ho shit.” A few months ago, I wrote about a reluctance to try out what are commonly known as “hook up apps” and how being recognized by others on the apps resulted in initial embarrassment. Initial because, after a while, I decided to not let anyone else’s stigmas burden me any longer. I am human, after all, and expressions of sexuality – in this instance, by way of a free app I downloaded on my iPhone – come with the territory.

That sort of confidence takes a long time to build up for many, and it can be hard to maintain – ergo the aforementioned “sorry about this ultra-nice butt accosting your eye sockets, girl.” While I now own my antics, I often worry if one day I’ll anger the wrong person who will literally expose every facet of my body and whatever sexual desire I’ve shared in presumed confidence. To “blast me,” which is loosely translated into embarrassing and shaming.

Throughout the year, and every year really, there are people exposed for essentially being human. This is not just limited to famous people, though not surprisingly, a celebrity sex scandal draws greater interest by virtue of name recognition. Still, in 2015, if you are sexually active and sexually free on your cellphone, you run the risk of being exposed in this manner.

But sexts have different levels of stigma attached to them. A lot of us can say we’ve seen someone’s nudes leaked to social media in fits of rage from an angry partner, or a part-time plaything. Meanness is a staple of social media, and in an era where folks just love to “shade” and “pop off,” this trend of outing people for whatever they’re into or have done is just a new facet of it.

What isn’t new is that being “different” is a more shameful thing to expose. Sex itself, particularly between two people of the same gender, can still be regarded as shameful. The same goes for being sexually drawn to someone whose gender identity does not fit into a neat little two-seat box.

If I had my way, I’d wave a magic wand and sing a solution – accept every form of sexuality, don’t be so ashamed about how you get it down – and end it with “Bibbidi-bobbido-boo.”

Unfortunately, I do not have the magic powers of an old lady in Cinderella, so it’s more likely that this  trend will only worsen with time. Perhaps such secret sharing and subsequent stigmatizing won’t happen to you, but there’s surely something about yourself on your phone that you wouldn’t want aired out. The courtesy you would want paid to you in such crisis should be extended to others. But that would be too much like right, wouldn’t it?

Read the rest at The Guardian.

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If you had asked me three years ago if I were interested in watching a reality show starring Evelyn Lozada, I might’ve cursed you out for disrespecting my eye sockets.

Lozada played an integral role in the success of VH1’s Basketball Wives and was arguably the star of the show. But she was as mean as a Disney villain more often than not. Mean as in telling the woman whose husband she bedded once upon a time while they were still married, “You’re a non [motherf–king] factor, bitch.” Lozada was also as violent as a UFC fighter, often leaping over tables to pounce on her detractors or tossing wine bottles at their heads in one of her multiple fits of rage throughout her time on the show.

She was like a Puerto Rican, professional-athlete-dating, version of Ursula, the Sea Witch, minus the singing voice.

It made for interesting television, but there’s only so long one can keep up with a shtick before it grows stale. Unfortunately, we never got the chance to see Lozada’s original spinoff, Ev & Ocho, following reports that her then-new husband, Chad Johnson, had assaulted her. Though I was not exactly a fan of Lozada’s, I did take issue with her Basketball Wives antics being used to justify her reported assault. This would include ESPN anchor and piss-poor commentator on social issues Stephen A. Smith engaging in victim blaming. Whatever Lozada did on Basketball Wives has no bearing on what allegedly happened in the car ride with her now-former husband.

Even so, with that criticism came an opportunity, and she certainly seized upon it. My initial reaction to Lozada doing Iyanla Vanzant’s Fix My Life was cynical: damage control and potentially parlay this “new Evelyn” into another television show.

In hindsight, motivation doesn’t matter.

I finally watched Lozada’s new series on OWN, Livin’ Lozada, and I—surprisingly, perhaps not so surprisingly—love it.

For the longest time, I thought of her as a jackass, too, into sucker punching people. Then again, her former reality vehicle never allowed for a fuller depiction of who she was. And also, maybe she wasn’t ready for one, either.

On Livin’ Lozada, Lozada is tackling her role as mother to a 2-year-old son and a 21-year-old daughter, itching to launch her own brand and take control of her own life. On this show, Lozada has to grapple with wanting to have more children, but realizing that at the age of 39, time is not on her side. Enter her revealing on the series premiere that she became pregnant, only to find out later that she suffered a miscarriage.

There is no pretense about the issue of Lozada’s temperament, either. She is working on controlling her anger issues, and in many respects she has done a good job. However, she still has her moments (as many of us do). I actually find her commitment to cursing profusely endearing.

For skeptics—including me—who wondered how Oprah Winfrey would manage to align her initial vision of the network with Evelyn Lozada’s having a show, the answer is clear: easily.

Read the rest at The Root.

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In opening scene of I Am Cait, we see an anxious Caitlyn Jenner, well awake in the middle of the night, wondering about her place in an important movement that she’s elected to serve as a new face for.

She begins by sharing, “It’s 4:32 a.m. in the morning and I can’t sleep. In the monitor, I look crap, but anyway.” Reflecting on trans teens across the country being bullied across the country, and the trans women—notably black trans women—being murdered, Jenner explains, “I feel bad that people, especially young people, are going through this difficult time in their life. We don’t want people dying over this, we don’t want people murdered over this stuff. What a responsibility I have towards this community.”

By virtue of her celebrity and choosing to share her transition with the rest of the world, Jenner will change the minds of many about those who have struggled with gender identity. Likewise, the more she speaks and the more she lives, I imagine many of us will also continue to realize how detrimental it can be only seeing male and female so linearly. Nonetheless, my immediate reaction to Jenner’s wrestling with the weight of being a role model was: “Yeah, but you’re a Republican.”

When she still lived publicly as Bruce Jenner, the Olympian and reality TV star was quick to note allegiance to the GOP, quipping, “I believe in the Constitution.” Such a loaded remark is customary of select conservatives, though one wonders whether Jenner now equally wrestles with whether or not the Republican Party believes in her and the struggles for which she now lends voice to. At the time, Diane Sawyer asked Caitlyn whether or not there would be a willingness to engage Republican congressional leadership to support LGBT issues.

When Sawyer asked Jenner if he would be willing to ask the Republican congressional leadership to support LGBT issues. “In a heartbeat, why not?” Jenner answered. “And I think they’d be very receptive to it.”

Tax hawk Grover Norquist—who has remarkable sway to say the least over many Republicans—tweeted in support of Jenner around the time of that interview, using the phrase “solid Reagan Republican” as a descriptor.

And yet, recently, Republicans had an opportunity to lend protection to the rights of LGBT youth at a critical time and failed to do so. The Senate failed to pass the Student Non-Discrimination Act—a bill that would have prohibited public schools from discriminating against any student on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Senator Al Franken (D-MN) offered SNDA as an amendment to the Every Child Achieves Act. The amendment failed on a vote of 52 to 45 in a GOP-controlled Senate.

Read the rest at VH1.

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Whenever I think about the criticism bisexuals face about their sexuality, I think of Charlotte York quipping on Sex and the City, “I’m very into labels; gay, straight—pick a side and stay there.”

To those who don’t know any better, an admitted equal attraction to both sexes feels more like indecisiveness or confusion. Another awful theory tends to point to some sort of past trauma. I have been guilty of making assumptions about bisexuality. Like many gay men, I tried to convince myself that I was bisexual because in my mind at the time, “it sounded better.” And by better, I mean less stigmatizing. All too often, though, we collectively based someone else’s experience on our anecdotes. It’s as often wrong as it is unfair.

So, I could understand the frustration felt by those 12,000 people who signed an online petition over a Vogue profile of Cara Delevingne that suggested her bisexuality might just be a phase.

The original petitioner, Julie Rodriguez, said in an interview: “The idea that queer women only form relationships with other women as a result of childhood trauma is a harmful (and false) stereotype that lesbian and bisexual women have been combating for decades. How could Vogue’s editorial staff greenlight this article and publish it without anyone raising concerns about this dismissive and demeaning language?”

When asked about herself in the New York Times, Delevingne said she found the protest flattering although she saw “nothing malicious” about the article. She was, however, clear on this point: “My sexuality is not a phase. I am who I am.”

It was good that Delevigne was given a platform to address other people’s assumptions about her sexuality, but it doesn’t negate the overall problem in how media covers bisexuality.

Before she openly admitted to being sexually fluid, Miley Cyrus, who has been rumored to be dating Delevingne, was subjected to speculation about her sexuality. The language of it was noticeably pathological.

In one story for Hollywood Life, a source said of Miley, “She’s also beyond disillusioned with dating dudes right now. She thinks the majority of men are pigs and she has major trust issues. So the idea of dating a woman is very appealing right now, no one would be surprised if she does. And the first girl on her mind is Cara.”

Read the rest at VH1.

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No one with even half a clue hiding inside their head will deny the role ageism plays in the entertainment industry, particularly in the eternally image-conscious world of pop music.

So, in many respects, I totally understand why Madonna’s latest favorite collaborator, Diplo, is airing his grievances about the state of the icon’s music career. As someone still very much obsessed with the documentary Truth or Dare, Diplo is right in his assessment that, “She created the world we live in.” Likewise, Diplo is correct in noting that Madonna still manages to sell out “her tour in minutes.” However, when he tells Rolling Stone that “no one wants her to succeed,” one can’t help but boo and hiss at such a hyperbolic claim.

The same goes for Diplo’s categorizing of present attitudes about Madonna: “Madonna, we’ve been there, done that, now we’re about Kim Kardashian. Her song ‘Ghosttown’ was a guaranteed Number One for anybody else, but she didn’t get a fair shot. With ‘Bitch I’m Madonna,’ everyone said there’s no way it will go anywhere, but I’m like, ‘Screw it, it represents you more than anything.’

The song “Bitch, I’m Madonna” does indeed represent Madonna in 2015 “more than anything,” only that is exactly the 56-year-old singer’s problem. I will not deny that in terms of maintaining relevance, Madonna has two disadvantages: her age and her gender. They are similar challenges her fellow older pop singers like Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, and Janet Jackson find themselves facing. It is indeed unfair how we collectively dispose of singers reach a certain age bracket.

That said, everyone has their moment and what happens after that has a lot to do with the product they present. I’m not entirely convinced that “Ghosttown” would be an easy smash for “anybody else” as Diplo argues, and while Madonna’s latest album, Rebel Heart, is her best offering in quite sometime, that’s not exactly saying much.

My favorite Madonna album is 1994’s Bedtime Stories, which Madonna acknowledged was heavenly influenced by Joi’s influential and very much ahead of its time The Pendulum Vibe, released that same year but months prior. Madonna was so influenced by that album that she tapped its executive producer, Dallas Austin, to help her steer Bedtime Stories in a similar direction. A pop star’s ability to notice trends and pull from the periphery to create works for mass consumption is a skill – one that Madonna had mastered for much of her career.

Unfortunately, with age comes a certain disconnect. For the last decade now, Madonna has been chasing trends that are either dying out or long been over. See 2008’s very good, but very much too late to the Timberland-resurgence bandwagon party Hard Candy, or 2012’s rather forgettable MDNA. This year’s Rebel Heart is no different.

Read the rest at VH1.

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