Heard on the Street: Amber Riley’s ‘Big Girl Energy’ Doesn’t Need Your Approval

Justin Frazier for iOne Digital via Hello Beautiful

Annika Harris

Amber Riley doesn't need the body-positive community to tell her what to do because she loves herself regardless.

“I don’t really f-ck with the body-positive community. I was pushed into it when I was on ‘Glee,’ which was crazy because I was young. I hadn’t even decided who I was and what I wanted to be. I just was this size on national television.”

“My body is mine. I don't need a community telling me what to do with it. I always have to be 100 percent real with myself. Honestly, if your confidence is predicated on the way that I look, it’s not confidence. I’m not anybody’s idol. Don’t worship me. Don’t get used to me being any size. I can get bigger, I can get smaller. I’m going to love myself either way, but I’m not asking for permission.”

“Big girls are not out here [desperate]. I literally wrote that to talk my sh-t.”

“There may be some [who] have low self-esteem – for good reason— because this world tries to make it seem like fat women shouldn't exist. Not fat men so much. They don't get the same bullsh-t that we have to deal with.”

“I wrote that song ‘Big Girl Energy,’ that was part of the reason that I wrote it, to just be like we not out here chasing y'all. What? You think I have low self-esteem and you just gone treat me any kind of way? I'll move on to the next.”

— Amber Riley, who now goes by RILEY when it comes to her music, clears up some assumptions in an interview with Hello Beautiful’s Brande Victorian. The 34-year-old actor and singer released her debut EP RILEY on October 2, and “Big Girl Energy” is one of the six tracks on the album. The song explains that fat women don’t have to lower their standards or suffer abuse just to secure a relationship. This has been a momentous year for RILEY. In addition to releasing her debut EP, she also protested the criminalization of the mentally ill, launched the #unMUTEny platform to voice the Black experience in Hollywood, and led a group of protestors in a rendition of Beyoncé’s “Freedom” while demanding justice for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. She also revealed to HB that she has dealt with anxiety and depression her whole life, and part of the anxiety stemmed from being overly-sexualized when she was younger, as a result of her curvy size.

“I’ve dealt with anxiety my whole entire life and didn’t know I was dealing with depression at all so I ended up having to take the time to get help, to talk about stuff, get some stuff out, and then as I'm going through the healing process I was like, alright, let’s get back into the studio. I’m still going through this depression and anxiety pretty badly, you know what I'm saying, but let me use music as my therapy.”

“Part of my anxiety had to do with my size. I was overly sexualized when I was young so I'd always dress in big T-shirts and shapeless stuff my whole entire life. I didn’t like that I had hips already. I didn’t like that I had boobs. I hated it because I didn't like that kind of attention. Being young, I didn’t know that people over-sexualized Black girls in general.”

RILEY had a whole lot more to say, including how she’s addressing the grief from losing her friends Naya Rivera and Jas Waters, who committed suicide a few weeks before Rivera died in California’s Lake Piru on July 8. Read her entire cover story, "Big Girl Energy," at HelloBeautiful.com.

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