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I Promised Not to Lose My Virginity Until Marriage. Instead, I Lost My Faith.

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Everyone took their teenage daughter to the same store to buy her abstinence ring. The store was in a newly built outdoor shopping mall, and the air conditioning was on so high that I remember my hair blowing back when stepping inside from the triple-digit heat. Inside their glass terrariums, the rings were cradled in little pillows, each propped upright, begging to be purchased. It was the first time I had been into a jewelry store, and I tugged at my shorts, worried they were too short. In the cases shone silver rings with crosses cut out, crosses forged roughly, crossed horizontal on the tiny bands. Too obvious, my parents and I decided. We laughed together at the one with the words TRUE LOVE WAITS engraved on it. Tacky. We chose something subtle: a stacked silver ring. But there’s nothing really that subtle about a 15-year-old wearing any jewelry on her left-hand ring finger. It was Texas, after all. Everyone knew exactly what it meant.

The ring was a finale to a multi-week program in which I had listen to my parents speak vaguely and uncomfortably about sex more than I had ever wanted to. The idea was that by putting everyone at our evangelical church through the same True Love Waits abstinence pledge program, we would break down the barriers in communication around sex. This, of course, was a complete and utter failure because the whole premise of the program was that I was agreeing to not have sex until I was married. More than agreeing, I was promising.

In all honesty, it wasn’t that hard of a promise for me to make. I was 15 years old. I didn’t think I’d ever want to have sex very badly, so I promised not to do it. This made me good, moral, admirable. Worthy of praise by the adults in my community. But it also tied up my faith with sexual purity, so that without one, I could no longer have the other. In retrospect, I can barely even remember which I lost first: my faith or my virginity.

You can see my purity ring here; I was 16 years old and this photo was taken at dinner before a high school dance in Dallas, Texas.

Courtesy of the author

The preservation of girls’ virginities is nothing new. Human history and the church in particular have long been obsessed with women’s purity. The Bible is clear that one should flee from “sexual immorality,” and American culture latched onto that suggestion as a beacon of truth. The Reagan Administration had The Chastity Act in the 1980s. The Southern Baptist Convention introduced True Love Waits in 1993. A spin off, Silver Ring Thing, was founded in 1995. An estimated 2.5 million teenagers pledged to stay abstinent. When I was a teenager, half the hot young celebrities had purity rings: the Jonas brothers, Selena Gomez, Jordin Sparks, Demi Lovato, and Miley Cyrus.

The pledges, generally, ask you to sign a card, vowing that you will abstain from sexual encounters until marriage. It’s not just a pledge to stay a virgin, but a pledge to stay “pure.” Most people take these pledges in late middle school or early high school, when they are more children than adults—young enough to not really know what they are agreeing to. As a child, I learned in church that lust was a sin boys struggled with, not girls. Sex, I was taught, was something men wanted and women reluctantly agreed to. In the journal I kept around that time I wrote, married women “are always talking about how great sex is and how precious it is inside marriage, but it sounds like they’re trying to convince themselves, not me.”

Maybe I didn’t think I would ever want sex because I was too young when I took the pledge, or maybe its because I was so closeted I didn’t recognize the feelings I had for girls as more than friendly. I was surprised when I learned a bit later in life that the pulsing tension and lingering looks I had experienced were in fact about sex. I had matured enough to realize I wanted more than someone to date; I wanted someone to touch me. It was a feeling I had been told was wrong, but in that moment, it certainly didn’t feel like it. More than feeling guilty, though, I felt confused.

In retrospect, I can barely even remember which I lost first: my faith or my virginity.

I knew men wanted sex. I knew married women had sex. But wanting sex myself surprised me. “Making women the sexual gatekeepers and telling men they just can’t help themselves not only drives home the point that women’s sexuality is unnatural, but also sets up a disturbing dynamic in which women are expected to be responsible for men’s sexual behavior,” Jessica Valenti wrote in her book The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Harming Young Women. It did feel unnatural; I felt strange for wanting more than just my hand held. And I also felt broken somehow, as if a screw had popped loose inside the machine of my body and pieces of myself were rapidly collapsing.

When I first started working on my debut novel God Spare the Girls, I knew that I wanted to write about purity culture and how it’s adapting to fit the modern era. How churches now are more willing to admit that young girls want sex, but they still condemn it—insisting that to even want sex, much less to pursue or acquire it, is something to be ashamed of. It’s a form of policing young women’s bodies and desires that seeks to control them, but more importantly, it puts young people in an easy space to be manipulated. Maybe you’re 16 years old, as I was, and always had a hard time relating to the gospel preached that you are broken and sinful and in desperate need of a savior. I had straight As. I was a model child. I did everything in my power to be perceived as good. Until I started desiring sex, there wasn’t much in my life that a pastor could allude to that was meant to make me feel guilty.

There has been a lot written about how purity culture and abstinence pledges can ruin people’s relationships with sex for life, how it can build up a heavy guilt in a person’s gut that threatens to drown them in their own shame, and how it makes most young women feel unempowered and trapped. I had dozens of calls with friends of mine who grew up with the same program, grew out of it, and called me in the middle of the night crying when they failed. I have seen firsthand the difficulty they had balancing the thing they believed with the decisions they wanted to make.

Purity culture fails at everything it tries to accomplish. Studies have found teens who take purity pledges are almost twice as likely to become pregnant.

For me, though, it was more complicated than that. Sex, and sex adjacent activities, never felt wrong to me. I never felt the guilt I was promised, or the shame I was supposed to feel, or the dread that was supposed to consume me. In fact, it was the discussions about God that more often began to feel that way to me.

In her book The Years, Annie Ernaux writes that, “the Church no longer terrorized the teenage imagination or ruled over sexual exchange. Women’s bodies were freed from its clutches. By losing sex, its main field of endeavor, the Church had lost everything.” When I read this a few months ago, my book was already finished, but it was a perfect encapsulation of why I began writing it in the first place. Because I had been taught so firmly and so adamantly that sex outside of marriage was a sin and an affront against God, when my body failed to feel those things, it wasn’t myself I questioned, but the God I had been promised.

The power dynamic of my relationship to myself shifted when I started having sexual experiences. Because I was the one in control and because I was the one making the decision, I felt stronger. Like the protagonist of my novel, it was in the eyes of people who were attracted to me that I saw reflected back how strong I could be, and how much power I actually had. It wasn’t the sex itself that made me feel empowered as much as the realization that I was an individual who could choose which rules to follow and which to ignore.

The hardest part for me about losing my virginity wasn’t guilt or shame; it was the recognition that what I was really losing was my faith.

Teenagers today are better at that. Many of them realize that sex is a choice for them to make, and because they also realize that having sex can be a painful and hurtful thing, they’re more cautious. According to a 2020 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American teenagers are having less sex than ever. Only 42 percent of teen girls and 38 percent of teen boys reported having sex. That number is down significantly from 2002 when it was 46 percent for both. In 2019, teens interviewed didn’t say this was because of religion or a desire for abstinence, though, they said it was because of awareness of disease and access to more information on the internet. So that decline isn’t because of purity rings and abstinence pledges; it’s not fear-mongering making young people today choose to wait longer to have sex—it’s their own empowerment.

Purity culture fails at everything it tries to accomplish. Studies have found teens who take purity pledges are almost twice as likely to become pregnant while not married. Teens who take purity pledges also often have guilt and shame that affects their sex lives and the future. And the whole intent of the pledges in the first place—to convert people to Christianity—is a massive failure on every front. While teens attend church regularly, young adults do not. The Pew Research Center found in 2019 that the share of Americans who consider themselves white evangelical Protestant has declined from 19 percent to 16 percent of the U.S. adult population in the last decade.

The bet purity culture didn’t realize it was making is that young adults would choose God over sex. They didn’t and they won’t. But in setting up that dichotomy, the church has failed young evangelical women on every front. The hardest part for me about losing my virginity wasn’t guilt or shame; it was the recognition that what I was really losing was the faith I had held close to my heart my entire life.

I wore my abstinence ring every day, long after I stopped believing or abiding by the message it projected, because I didn’t want to answer questions and because I didn’t want to allow myself to ask the biggest question hiding in the back of my min.:If I didn’t believe it mattered at all what I did with my body, why did I believe any of it? I don’t know where my abstinence ring is now. Like my virginity, I lost the ring slowly, over time, in incremental steps, and in the end, both it and my virginity were so much less important than I’d at one time they thought might be.

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Fashion

Here’s Jennifer Lopez Posing in a Tiny Bikini on a Yacht, as One Does When You’re J.Lo

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Jennifer Lopez continued her 52nd birthday celebration week by sharing more thirst trap content for the general public—and promoting her skincare line at the same time. The singer posted two shots of her hanging on her yacht in a yellow string bikini. She credited her go-to photographer Ana Carballosa and tagged JLo Beauty in the post. “Ciao 💛,” she captioned the IG.

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Lopez has spent the bulk of her week in Italy yachting and sightseeing on land. Her new bikini shots come shortly after photos of her making out with her back-on boyfriend Ben Affleck at a restaurant in Nerano, Italy, were released.

Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck on July 28, 2021 before their dinner makeout.

MEGAGetty Images

Lopez spoke to ELLE.com in December 2020 about how she swears by sunscreen above all for good skincare at all ages. She recalled her own experience:

I was in my 20s and I was dating this guy. He went to one dermatologist and I went to another dermatologist. Basically, my dermatologist gave me a great cleanser and some sunscreen and said, “If you do this from now on, your skin is healthy, you’re young right now, it’s going to be great.” And he’s like, “But the sunscreen is the thing.”

And then I went to this other doctor with the boyfriend, and again, I was 20-something years old, and I haven’t ever had Botox to this day. And she said, “Did you know you have a little line right here? We should start Botox.” I mean, I had to be 23 years old, right? And I was like, “I’m going to pass.” I didn’t like needles anyway, but the boyfriend’s like, “Yeah, you should start it. I do that.” I was like, no, thank you. And I just wonder what would’ve happened to me if I would’ve started Botox at 23, what I would look like right now. My face would be a totally different face today.

One of the big things I would encourage everybody to do from the time they’re 15 years old, even younger, is wear sunscreen every day. We developed a sunscreen you can wear every single day as your day moisturizer, and that is going to protect you more than anything. That’s a big skincare secret that people kind of do but don’t do. They use moisturizers, but they don’t put on sunscreen every day. That is something I have done from that time I was 22 years old.

In the meantime, Lopez’s JLo Beauty products are on sale for those hoping to get her just-off-the-yacht glow. Shop the best of her line below.

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73 Black-Owned Brands to Support Today, Tomorrow, and Forever

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Cindy OrdGetty Images

In the midst of the Kavanaugh hearings, Jeremy Scott took the finale lap at his spring 2019 show in a t-shirt that urged viewers to “Tell Your Senator NO On Kavanaugh.” For his fall 2017 show, Christian Siriano sent a model down the runway in a shirt that read “People are People” set to Depeche Mode’s song of the same name. The week Harvey Weinstein was convicted of sexual assault and rape, Dior’s runway was peppered with signs like “Women Raise the Uprising” and “Consent.” If the fashion community has proven anything, it’s that it is willing to fight against inequality and social injustice. But what about the injustices plaguing its own industry, from the lack of Black representation on the runway to the lack of visibility and opportunities afforded to Black designers?

Last year, as the world grappled with the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Ahmaud Arbery—Black humans who were targeted and discriminated against because of their skin color—everyone flocked to pour dollars into the Black designers, creatives, and businesses who are often overlooked. But buying Black isn’t a moment, it’s a movement. A re-post is not enough. A hashtag is not enough.

Ahead, 73 Black-owned brands to shop from today, tomorrow, and forever.

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1

Wmns Wear

Wmns Wear may be designed under London’s typically cloudy skies and drizzling rain, but its collections were meant to be worn on your next island vacation. Created by women for women, each piece contours every bend and curve of a woman’s body and imparts a sense of confidence with every wear.

If you buy one thing: Lucid Dress, $118

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2

Kendall Miles

At Kendall Miles, luxury doesn’t mean compromise. Launched in 2015, Kendall Miles is a family-run shoe company that produces durable, reliable, one-of-a-kind shoes that are extra with a capital E. Rest assured you won’t find anyone else with your pair.

If you buy one thing: Posh Pump, $715

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3

Tejahn Burnett

You can feel Jamaican-Canadian designer Tejahn Burnett’s roots in every pair of shoes she designs. Her upcoming release is embellished with seashells dangling down your foot, but it’s her viral Simijah sandals that caught everyone’s—including Cardi B’s—attention. Pronounced “see-me-jah,” which is a Jamaican greeting—the knotted sandal is just the silhouette to add some pizzazz to your shoe collection.

If you buy one thing: Simijah, $215

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4

Char Workroom

Char Workroom doesn’t prescribe to seasonal collections—booty shorts should be worn year-round. The Houston-bred brand is most known for its ruffle-trimmed cheeky shorts available in gold, silver, and pink metallic.

If you buy one thing: Cheeky Short, $160

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5

Clue Clothing

There’s nothing quite like summer in Brooklyn. With the city’s endless opportunities for fun—from day drinking at parks to exploring new restaurants—Clue Clothing’s variety of no-fuss, cool-weather clothing keeps you prepared for any excursion. Since its launch in 2013, the Brooklyn-born brand—which stands for Creativity Lives Under Excellence—has built a community of devotees since its release of collegiate-inspired sweatsuits and continues to go wherever creativity takes them.

If you buy one thing: Open Mind Button Down, $120

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6

Frederick Edwin Poe

Built on the idea that the world is your personal runway, allow Frederick Edwin Poe (FEP) to show you what traveling comfortably in style looks like. Its premium unisex tracksuits and sweatsuits are far too versatile to be relegated to indoor loungewear. Speaking of versatility, opt for the shorts, which double as swim trunks.

If you buy one thing: FEP Coordinated Set, $90

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7

Rendoll Lagos

Rendoll’s Instagram is a feast for the eyes. Every piece is designed in vivid prints as beautiful and worldly as the Nigerian city where it’s designed. Like the models featured on its site, Rendoll was created to accentuate the beauty and curves of women of every shape and size.

If you buy one thing: Teddy Set, $154

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8

The Ekhator Label

A quick perusal of The Ekhator Label’s Instagram will tell you everything you need to know about the Nigerian label: It’s not for the faint of heart. The brand’s signature heels ooze sex appeal, whether you opt for its towering Trixie mules or its Lottie basket heels. What’s more, the label’s creativity extends beyond footwear; slip into the brand’s psychedelic printed bikini sets or dresses to turn things up another notch.

If you buy one thing: Trixie, $250

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9

Seuil Studios

Looking for a shoe game refresh? Seuil Studios puts a sexy, youthful spin on minimalist heels. Each heel has its own personality, from a simple strappy black heel with a bubble heel to a pointed slip-on heel with a toe loop for added support and edge.

If you buy one thing: Mamba, $130

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10

Washington Ave

The brand’s tagline is “Making Old Things New,” but this ain’t your mom’s vintage shop. Vibrant, structured-shouldered blazers are chopped in half to make a sexy two-piece set, while maxi skirts and dresses are given the high-thigh slit treatment. Washington Ave doesn’t make old things new, the brand makes them sultry as well.

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11

Honor The Gift

Earlier this year, Russell Westbrook’s brand Honor the Gift launched its first women’s collection chock full of simple silhouettes that let your body do the talking. While the women’s collection is full of biker shorts and sports bras, they’re simple enough to layer with the men’s offerings as well.

If you buy one thing: Command Bodysuit, $50

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12

Rouhi

Imagine having an outfit every time your mood changes. Are you feeling a loud shirt and pants set? Or maybe you’re in the mood for a deconstructed blazer? Think of each Rouhi piece as an extension of your own “experiences, moods, colours and creations.”

If you buy one thing: Adaliz Blouse, $150

https://rouhi.co/products/adaliz-bloouse

13

Thirtynine Seven

Thirtynine Seven reminds women that they’re beautiful and their bodies are works of art. No need to wear boring clothes when Thirtynine Seven designs clothes that puts your beauty (and booty) on full display.

If you buy one thing: Full Circle Multicolor Dress, $420

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14

Theophilio

Jamaica-born, Brooklyn-raised Edvin Thompson’s designs transport you back to the days of “passa passa,” weekly street dances that originated in Kingston, Jamaica before traversing across the Caribbean. Mesh tanks and midi dresses in Rastafarian hues—red, black, gold—are easily his most recognizable pieces, but delve further into his offerings and you’ll find so much more, including a green organza truck jacket, a button-down shirt with corset detailing crawling down the lower back, and faux leather trousers.

If you buy one thing: Corseted Long Sleeve Button-Down Shirt, $260

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15

Farai London

Megan Thee Stallion. Kylie Jenner. Lori Harvey. This past summer, celebs traded in their Jacquemus and Cult Gaia vacation wear for smaller brands, and you couldn’t escape Farai London’s Gaia dress on Instagram timelines. The East London brand is beloved for its eye-catching prints molded into cut-out dresses and bodysuits.

If you buy one thing: Gaia Blue Velvet dress, $122

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16

Loudbrand Studios

Loud Brand came in hot this past summer with the debut of their Vashtie dress. The bodycon style, asymmetrical neckline, and adjustable length made it the perfect vacation dress and served as a teaser for the figure-hugging silhouettes the brand would continue to release. That same dress also launched a Twitter-wide debate after Kylie Jenner posted a picture in the Vashtie dress without tagging the designer (she eventually did). Do you hear that? It’s the sound of the price going up.

If you buy one thing: Raw Edge Vashtie In Pearl, $197

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17

ByDose

It’s not often you find a pair of heels that can withstand partying, walking, and standing for hours on end without hurting your feet. With ByDose’s signature lace-up heels, those woes are a thing of the past.

If you buy one thing: Mid Aurum Knotted Thong Sandals, $177

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18

Kai Collective

You can spot a Kai Collective print from anywhere. The brand is described as “attainable clothing with luxury aesthetics,” designed by Fisayo Longe, and known for its popular Gaia mesh bodycon dress. Other standouts include its butter silk Irun line featuring a button-down shirt, skirt, and wide-leg pants. It’s no wonder Saweetie, Jackie Aina, and plenty of other celebs can’t get enough.

If you buy one thing: Gaia Dress Red, $173

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19

Local European

Local European speaks to the minimalist in all of us. The Los Angeles-based brand, birthed in 2019, features key pieces you can build any outfit from. Start with their signature cropped Jordi blouse for an NSFW touch to a workwear classic, or the LE Crewneck (and matching sweats) that marry luxury with comfortability.

If you buy one thing: Jordi Cropped Blouse, $83

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20

Re Ona

Known for their double-layered t-shirts, Re Ona makes easily transferable pieces for the conscious shopper. Staples like the Signature Long-Sleeve or Scoop Long Sleeve Bodysuit take the guesswork out of dressing and easily pair with other pieces in the lineup, like the Suit Trousers or Joggers.

If you buy one thing: Sweetheart Dress in Black, $125

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21

Johnny Nelson

The idea to launch his namesake jewelry label came to Johnny Nelson while he was on stage performing. Stage presence is everything to an artist, and Nelson always felt like something was missing. Enter: a three-finger ring, the first piece he ever designed, inspired by NYC’s own hip-hop culture. Now, Nelson carries bestsellers that nod to pivotal moments and symbols in Black history: the Black Panther Party, the Black power fist, and activists like Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Martin Luther King Jr., and many more.

If you buy one thing: Let Freedom Ring 4 Finger Ring, $480

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22

Chuks Collins

Chuks Collins launched his namesake brand as made-to-measure for private clients, then pivoted to designing seasonal couture and ready-to-wear collections for men and women. Now, Collins’ collections marry his Nigerian heritage with his New York upbringing. Think Ankara prints on bomber jackets and shorts.

If you buy one thing: Line Print Bomber Jacket, $120

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23

Aliétte

When you’ve styled the majority of Hollywood, what else is left to do? Launch your own clothing brand, of course. Jason Rembert, the stylist to the stars, is the mastermind behind Aliette, named after his daughter and mother. Taking cues from around the world for the colors, fabrics, and silhouettes, Aliette fits as perfectly on a resort as it does the UES.

If you buy one thing: Diana Dress, $695

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24

Samantha Black Designs

Samantha Black’s collections are as vibrant and eccentric as the women who wear them. Gabrielle Union, Halle Berry, Keke Palmer, and Kelly Rowland are just a few of Black’s clients. Need I say more?

If you buy one thing: Jade Geo Dress, $220

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25

Brandon Blackwood

In 2015, Brandon Blackwood launched his namesake brand with just four bags. In the time since, he’s expanded to every texture and fabric you can think of, but it was the bag with three words on the front that made his brand a must-have in 2020: End Systemic Racism. Inspired by the injustices Black people continue to face, Blackwood designed the tote to make a statement. Proceeds are donated to Pro Bono legal services provided by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights.

If you buy one thing: ESR Tote, $70

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26

Sai Sankoh

Sai Sankoh’s resort wear was made for the traveler who likes to stand out amongst basic beach cover-ups and dad shirts. Picture dinner in a bold orange and pink two-piece skirt set, or perusing the resort in a floor-length tropical-print kaftan. What’s more, each piece has a story: Are you the Doreen skirt traveling to the Caribbean? Or the Amalie pants preparing for a trip to South Africa?

If you buy one thing: Orange Doreen Skirt, $165

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27

Lionne Clothing

Lionne takes mundanity out of the everyday wardrobe and adds a touch of excitement to every piece designed. At first glance, a sleeveless button-down shirt looks exactly like that—until you stare a bit longer and realize it’s a bodysuit. Launched in 2018, Lionne strikes the balance between edge and sophistication.

If you buy one thing: D2 Collard Shirt Dress, $282

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28

T.A New York

T.A is a luxury concept store created by Telsha Anderson that features a highly curated collection of pieces sourced from all over the world. The retailer highlights designers of all backgrounds, including Wesley Harriott, William Okpo, and Situationist.

If you buy one thing: Wesley Harriott Double Work Skirt, $570

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29

LaSette

LaSette aims to reimagine the way people think of lingerie by creating pieces you’ll want to show off anywhere but the house. Styles like the Ada dress can take you from the bedroom to the club while the Strapped In bralette can be worn with a pair of jeans for an effortless look.

If you buy one thing: Ada Slip Dress, $150

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30

Nichole Lynel

Every time founder Nichole Lynel posts a new look, you have to stop and stare. The young entrepreneur launched two fashion businesses: Her namesake brand, which offers fun wardrobe must-haves, and NL the Label. Consider the latter as the cool, older sister whose closet consists of both destroyed denim trimmed in rhinestone fringe and an elegant nude pantsuit—basically everything a younger sibling would want to borrow.

If you buy one thing: Sparkling Sequins Short Set, $189

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31

Auvere

Auvere’s name combines the chemical symbol of gold (Au) with the latin word “vere”—which means true—to give customers “true gold.” Auvere creates one-of-a-kind pieces handcrafted and made of pure 22k or 24k gold.

If you buy one thing: V Neck Earring Satin, $850

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32

Castamira

Castamira aims to accentuate the woman’s body with its Mallots line. Featuring high-leg cuts, corset detailing, and plunging necklines, Castamira proves that one-piece bathing suits can be sexy and beautiful.

If you buy one thing: Gemser, $195

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33

Matte Brand

Wilson creates designs for the fearless and unapologetic souls who know that they’re 100 percent that bitch.

If you buy one thing: 1992 Jacket in Chocolate, $160

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34

Prayers and Plans

Amaka Ikpeazu launched Prayers and Plans in 2017 with a simple mission: “to encourage and remind women that they are capable of extraordinary things.” Confidence is birthed from comfortability, which sets the tone for the brand’s take on loungewear. Robes, slip dresses, and pajama sets are made in luxurious silk fabric so that every woman who wears a P&P piece can feel elegant in their own home. What’s more, P&P donates five percent of every purchase to Solar Sisters, an organization that provides training, resources, and support to distribute clean energy to underserved communities in Africa.

If you buy one thing: Midnight-Blue Jasmine Silk Set, £123

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35

Tier NYC

Tier NYC is the brainchild of founders Nigeria Ealey, Victor James, and Esaïe Jean-Simon. The brand elevates sportswear classics like hoodies and sweatpants in butter-soft fabrics offered in an array of bright colors.

If you buy one thing: Amberglow Sweatpants, $140

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36

The K Label

Karice Leila was inspired to launch The K Label in 2015 after experiencing the same dilemma repeatedly: her closet lacked quality pieces that could carry her from day-to-night. That directly correlates with the brand’s most popular style: a corseted sweatsuit that pairs well with both sneakers and heels.

If you buy one thing: Tonik Corset Hoodie in Azure Blue, €156

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37

Samaria Leah

Samaria Leah is where the past meets the present. Leah’s namesake label was birthed from her love for upcycling Levi’s growing up. Her collection of reworked denim breathes new life into vintage jeans by adding modern twists, like the lace-up detail on the brand’s bestseller, the Leah jean.

If you buy one thing: Leah (Bone), $225

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38

Love, Vera

Love, Vera isn’t your typical, run-of-the-mill lingerie company. The inclusive brand seeks to ensure that every woman deserves lingerie that makes her feel sexy. Launched by Vera Nicole in 2018, Love, Vera celebrates Blackness by casting diverse models in all shapes and sizes, many of whom are proudly sporting their afros and locs.

If you buy one thing: Kai Snake Print Eyelash Lace 3-Piece Set, $50

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39

William Okpo

Parents aren’t normally a source for fashion inspiration, but sisters Darlene and Lizzy Okpo found a way to take their parents’ personal style and give it new life. William Okpo’s designs consist of breezy, feminine silhouettes with a dash of masculinity in soft, warm tones that serve as the foundation of any outfit.

If you buy one thing: Womanly Dress, $375

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40

Phlemuns

James Flemons’ label Phlemuns is the saying, “Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak,” come to life. Phlemun’s is not for the faint of heart; the prints are loud, the cuts unexpected, and the designs unique. You’ll never encounter anyone with your exact outfit again. The brand counts Normani, Lizzo, and Billie Eilish as fans.

If you buy one thing: Single L/S Mini Dress, $190

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41

Salone Monet

Not all nudes are made equal, so Salone Monet gave us six different shades to choose from. Ranging from four-inch stilettos to two-inch kitten heels, each shoe comes in a satin finish for a luxurious touch to the simplest outfit.

If you buy one thing: Sable Kyle, $295

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42

Daily Paper

The Amsterdam-based brand founded by friends Jefferson Osei, Hussein Suleiman, and Abderrahmane Trabsini fuses the trio’s own African heritage with contemporary aesthetics. Its minimalist approach diverts attention to bright palettes and prints.

If you buy one thing: Vintage Blue Kenna Shirt, $198

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43

TLZ Femme

Bold enough to wear a metallic, ankle-length mesh dress? What about an all-lace one-shoulder catsuit? If you answered yes, TLZ Femme is for you. The brand’s designs are for those who are unapologetic about their femininity and embrace every part of their bodies. Cardi B and Kylie Jenner are fans.

If you buy one thing: Black Fishnet Floor-Length Dress, $198

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44

Riot Swim

Your vacation wardrobe isn’t complete without a Riot Swim swimsuit. The brand offers an array of sexy swim styles, but its bestseller is the Echo one-piece, which comes with a plunging v-neckline and high-leg cut.

If you buy one thing: Echo One Piece Kiwi, $96

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45

Tongoro Studio

Tongoro is a sustainable Senegal-based brand that designs playful yet mature clothing and won’t break the bank. Each item is made in Africa, an intentional move to “foster the economic and social development of artisanal workers in western Africa,” according to the brand’s site.

If you buy one thing: Jama Jumpsuit, $250

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46

Diarra Blu

Diarra Blu, founded by Diarra Bousso, celebrates Africa’s rich colors and textures in modern designs. Fan favorites include the brand’s Convertible line, which features a dress and a jumpsuit with a flexible top that morphs into a multitude styles.

If you buy one thing: Sustainable Mailys Convertible Dress, $225

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47

Pyer Moss

Kerby Jean-Raymond’s brainchild has garnered a wave of recognition and support in recent years thanks to the designer’s powerful messaging woven into the threads of his collections and politically charged runway shows.

If you buy one thing: Boat Neck Silk Slip Dress, $975

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48

Mateo New York

Founded by Matthew Harris, Mateo New York’s simple, elevated, everyday fine jewelry dips into dazzling diamonds and gemstones for the woman on the move.

If you buy one thing: 14-karat Gold Faceted Huggies, $325

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49

LaQuan Smith

LaQuan Smith designs for the It girls who don’t mind being the talk of the event. Each piece exudes sex appeal, including the signature mesh and sheer detailing and leg-baring designs that accentuate the female frame.

If you buy one thing: Animalia Catsuit, $695

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50

Rebecca Allen

Before pivoting to fashion, Rebecca Allen worked in finance. She couldn’t incorporate color into her outfits, but couldn’t find comfy nude shoes that matched her looks either. In an effort to aid others who faced the same dilemma, Allen launched her namesake label, which offers pumps, flats, and sandals in five different shades of nude.

If you buy one thing: The Skim Flat, $150

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51

Brother Vellies

Brother Vellies is sustainable footwear founded by Aurora James. The brand is famous for its handmade shoes, which are produced by artisans from all over the world to celebrate their rich histories and cultures. Brother Vellies recently went viral for creating the snakeskin boots Jodie Turner-Smith’s Queen wore in Queen & Slim.

If you buy one thing: Woven Olivia Pump, $795

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52

Telfar

Telfar Clemens is the mastermind behind the handbag everyone can’t wait to get their hands on. The Telfar shopper tote comes in varying sizes and colors that sell out immediately folowing each release. Telfar also gives wardrobe classics like t-shirts and denim a modern twist.

If you buy one thing: Large Tan Shopping Bag, $257

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53

Christopher John Rogers

When Christopher John Rogers made his runway debut in 2019, it was a spectacle. Really, his designs create the spectacle. Never one to shy away from voluminous silhouettes and blinding colors, CJR is perfect for anyone who wants to stand out in a crowd.

If you buy one thing: Drape Silk Tafeta Skirt, $1,975

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54

Victor Glemaud

Haitian-born designer Victor Glemaud focuses on knitwear that marries sporty and sexy together. Think runway-ready cut-out knit maxi dresses or cozy sweaters that appeal to everyone.

If you buy one thing: Maxi Dress, $595

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55

Fear of God

Fear of God is in the upper echelon of streetwear. Founded by Jerry Lorenzo in 2013, the brand remains a classic in wardrobes for its timeless designs and sophisticated basics.

If you buy one thing: Hooded Raincoat, $648

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56

Hanifa

Regardless of your location, Hanifa’s pieces will make you feel like you’re on vacation. Founded by Anifa Mvuemba, the brand’s vibrant colors and addictive designs are affordable and one-of-a-kind, especially its offshoot Pink Label.

If you buy one thing: Kinshasa Dress, $369

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57

Tracy Reese

Tracy Reese dresses are the kind you wear to prance around a garden of gorgeous flowers—think breezy, bouncy, and dipped in beautiful floral prints.

If you buy one thing: Abstract Floral Tie-Back Dress, $328

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58

Nude Barre

No need to settle for your local drugstore’s cheap tights when Nude Barre has every flesh-tone shade imaginable.

If you buy one thing: Mocha Convertible Opaque Tights, $22

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59

Nubian Skin

For many years, it was difficult to find undergarments that matched deeper skin tones. Nubian Skin, founded by Ade Hassan, makes it easy for women of color to find hosiery and lingerie in their skin shade.

If you buy one thing: Reversible High Waist Bikini Bottom, $100

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60

Andrea Iyamah

Nigerian fashion designer Dumebi Iyamah launched Andrea Iyamah to celebrate the colors, cuts, and designs of African culture. Andrea Iyamah’s pieces are simple and modern—perfect for the adventurous traveler.

If you buy one thing: Wasuki High Waist Bikini, $163

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61

Cheyenne Kimora

The du-rag is a loungewear staple used to protect Black hair and usually worn inside the home. But Cheyenne Kimora’s iteration deserves to be displayed in a museum.

If you buy one thing: Pink Short Du-Rag, $175

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62

Romeo Hunt

When you see a Romeo Hunte piece, you see luxury and sophistication—which makes sense, since his pieces have graced the backs of women like Michelle Obama, Beyoncé, and Mary J. Blige.

If you buy one thing: Olive One-Leg Pant, $600

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63

Aminah Abdul Jillil

You can probably spot an Aminah Abdul Jillil shoe from a mile away. Racy, strappy, and bedazzled—what more can a woman want?

If you buy one thing: Soleil Sandal White, $498

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64

Oma the Label

Oma the Label began by providing basics with an elevated flair. Now, the brand is pivoting to luscious gold jewelry for everyday wear.

If you buy one thing: Ori Hoop, $79

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65

Sincerely Tommy

Sincerely Tommy is a fresh breath of nostalgia. The brand is a cooler, updated version of your mother’s old wardrobe; think chunky ’90s slippers, high-waisted trousers, and sharp tailoring.

If you buy one thing: BYM White Slides, $105

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66

Fenoel

You haven’t experience luxury until you slip on a Fenoel piece. Influenced by her Grenadian culture, founder Felisha Noel created a line that exudes glamour, culture, and femininity through rich color pairings and prints.

If you buy one thing: Mace Half Sleeve Tie Dress, $698

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67

Jade Swim

Jade Swim designs simple bathing suits, but they’re anything but boring. Each piece is carefully crafted using luxe fabric that hugs the body and protects against chlorine and other factors that could prevent long term wearability.

If you buy one thing: Apex One Piece, $198

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68

Edas

Edas creates art for your ears. All pieces are made from home goods and refurbished elements hand-crafted with love by artisans.

If you buy one thing: Around The Way Ring, $58

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69

Tia Adeola

Designers love to look to the past, but Tia Adeola’s fascination with the Renaissance period is the driving force behind all of her collections. Adeola began designing in her dorm room in 2017, creating frothy two-piece tulle sets that have become her signature.

If you buy one thing: Blue Reflective Ruffle Set, $60

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70

Yam NYC

It all started with a jewelry-making book Morgan Thomas’s mother gave her when she was younger. After her mother’s death, Thomas launched Yam NYC to continue her legacy. Now, she makes upcycled jewelry both nostalgic and inventive.

If you buy one thing: Bonar Pearl Choker, $112

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71

ReLove SF

ReLove is a San Francisco-based vintage retailer offering a mix of vintage, designer, and independent labels at an affordable price. If you can’t swing by its brick-and-mortar location, you can always shop online.

If you buy one thing: Pairs Well Poplin Dress, $98

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72

LemLem

Supermodel Liya Kebede launch the brand following a trip to her native Ethiopia. LemLem partners with artisan groups across Africa to expand production and provide jobs across Africa.

If you buy one thing: Eche Cascade Dress, $325

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73

Goodee

Goodee was founded by twin brothers Byron and Dexter Peart who wanted to create a platform that introduces customers to talented artisans. Every single item on Goodee’s site is approved by the brand’s in-house sustainability team to ensure all the items are made with ethical materials.

If you buy one thing: The Goodee Hoodie, $100

SHOP NOW

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What We Can Expect From A Potential ‘Outer Banks’ Season 3

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Spoilers ahead for Outer Banks seasons 1 and 2.

Outer Banks loves to seal each season with a (ridiculous, yet undeniably delightful) bang. Dramatic cliffhangers have long earned teen dramas their pedigree, and the Netflix fan favorite following a crew of young misfits chasing riches along the North Carolina coast doesn’t reinvent the wheel. If you’ve ever watched a teen soap, you know the drill: Set aside your misgivings. Buy into the asinine. Only then can the real fun begin.

Season 1 accomplished the fireworks in its finale, in which orphaned fugitive John B Routledge’s wild attempt to evade police capture led him to crash his boat directly into a tropical storm. But he and his rich-girl flame, Sarah Cameron, were soon revealed to have survived the wreck—and not only were they alive and well, they were rescued by a boat that just so happened to be headed to Nassau, where $400 million in gold awaited them.

But wait—season 2 ups the ante by a hair-raising degree. There are car chases! Heists! A stolen ambulance! Boat explosions! Alligator attacks! A dubious doctor and his even more dubious approach to stitching up bullet wounds! Allergic reactions to wasp stings! Sewer floods! A murder in the pouring rain! Don’t think too much about whether any of it makes sense—just soak it in. By the time the second season ricochets to a close, it’s impossible to remember all that’s happened, but you’ll be too drunk on adrenaline to care. And after that major reveal in the final seconds of the finale, all you can do is clap dumbly for an encore.

Rest assured, an encore there almost certainly will be. As you wrest your brain back from your OBX acid trip, here’s a look toward the future—and everything we know about the Pogues’ next chapter.

Is a third season confirmed?

Netflix has not yet announced whether Outer Banks is officially renewed, but given the show’s popularity and that season 2 cliffhanger, it’s all but guaranteed to happen soon. Creator and showrunner Jonas Pate has previously revealed that he envisions four or five seasons of the show in total.

“Ever since we started, we always viewed it as something that was probably like a four-season, maybe five-season show, but definitely four seasons,” he told Entertainment Weekly in April 2020. “We’ve sort of long-arced it out pretty far. I’m just hoping that we get a chance to actually tell those stories.”

He also revealed that “before [season 1] even came out, Netflix had greenlit us to write some [season 2] scripts,” which means the same could have happened for season 3.

When will it be released?

Outer Banks debuted its first season in April 2020, right as Americans were settling into lockdown. Season 2 dropped in July 2021, even with the COVID-19 pandemic shaking up typical production timelines. It’s likely that, barring any delays, the show would shoot to release its third season along the same timeline next year—perhaps in early summer.

What will season 3 be about?

Netflix hasn’t announced any official plot details yet, but it’s safe to assume the third season will continue the treasure hunt of the first and second. That $400 million in gold is still nestled in the Bahamas, and now there’s a bejeweled cross in the mix as well!

Ward Cameron, Sarah’s villainous father, is injured but alive, having officially passed the baton to his increasingly erratic son, Rafe, who no doubt will be gunning for revenge against John B and his crew. Meanwhile, John B and Sarah are once again sort of married (?), and Cleo from Nassau has joined the Pogues, shipwrecked (presumably without food or water?) on an island in the Caribbean. We can expect season 3 to feature their journey home, as well as their big plan for stealing back the cross and the gold. But most important will be the presumed reunion between John B and his long-thought-deceased father, who apparently knows something about the sacred garment the frightening Limbrey seeks to heal her mysterious disease.

Does any of this make much sense? Of course not! And, frankly, that’s the best part of a show like Outer Banks. Nothing matters more than friendship in a world where every near-death experience is survivable.

What has the cast said about season 3?

In an interview with ELLE, season 2 newcomer Carlacia Grant revealed she has plenty of plans for Cleo in season 3—including a romance.

“I’m really interested in seeing this whole Cleo and Pope thing happen, if it does happen,” she said. “And I would love to see more of Cleo’s backstory. I, personally, really want to see more of her, more of where she came from. And I want her to be more bad-ass, definitely more bad-ass.”

Asked if she thinks Cleo will enjoy living with the Pogues in North Carolina, she said, “I think she’s going to have a few hiccups. I think not being able to carry a knife on her waist might be [a struggle].” More seriously, Grant added, “I think she will learn to adapt, but I know she’s going to have hiccups because—how is the Outer Banks going to take to her? She does talk with an accent. She is used to doing things her own way. There’s going to be some things that maybe Kiara and Sarah and the Pogues are going to be like, ‘Yo, you can’t do that.’”

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