If there’s one moment in Ryan Destiny’s new music video “Do You” that encapsulates the song’s message, it occurs in the first few seconds, when she slams her flip phone shut. She’s presumably hanging up on a lover irritating her on the other line. The next scene finds her lying down on a couch as waves flow outside of the Malibu mansion she’s holed up in, reminiscent of the one where Beyonce performed her fiery breakup anthem “Ring the Alarm.” While both singers put their men on final notice in each song, “Do You” does so without the teary eyes and SWAT team of “Ring the Alarm.” With just a simple proclamation, Destiny informs her beau he royally fucked up: “Yeah, do you/Cause I can do you too.”
Premiering exclusively on ELLE.com, “Do You,” featuring vocals from Rook Monroe, is a slurry, nocturnal R&B track doused in airy synths and enough Instagram captions to get the point across to a distant, stubborn lover scrolling your feed. “Rather be with my dawgs, being a dog, just like you/Rather leave you on read, saying my text won’t go through,” she sings in a sultry coo. Destiny isn’t bitter, but she’s frustrated. Rather than stay in the gray area of the relationship, Destiny makes it clear she’s not the type of woman whose silence can be bought and has no issue giving her man a dose of his own medicine. At first listen, “Do You” comes off as a lovelorn ballad, but the singer says, it’s based on her finding her independence after a failed relationship.
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Independence also serves as the overarching theme of her upcoming album On One’s Own. Crafted over the past four years—following a split from her Detroit-bred R&B trio Love Dollhouse in 2015 and in between shooting Lee Daniels’ Fox’s musical drama Star where she played Alexandra, one-third of the fictional girl group Take 3, until the show ended in 2019—On One’s Own serves as Destiny’s coming of age story. Ahead, Ryan Destiny on “Do You,” being Black in Hollywood, and her signature brown lipstick. (Spoiler: It costs less than $10.)
What inspired you to write “Do You”?
Honestly, I’ve been in a situation within a relationship where I felt a guy was on his own time and not really taking me or my feelings into consideration and not being upfront with what he wanted from the relationship. It’s me saying, “Love me or lose me.” This is one song where it does feel a bit more vulnerable in that way, I’m just more straight up with my feelings. I say, ‘Do you boo,’ all the time. But it really is me being OK with being by myself. You want to do you? OK, you can do you. I’ll do me. I’m always going to be good.
How did you come up with the concept for the video?
I wanted to do something that was a bit more intimate, not too much of me trying to make a different world. I felt it would be a moment to literally just talk to the camera and make it more intimate. With us being in quarantine, I had no other choice to shoot it this way. I shot this very, very early on in the quarantine process. But I love the simplicity of it because it is more simple—we did a lot of camcorder shots and rented out this Malibu house and stayed in that house to shoot the entire day. Quarantine has helped me to be more creative and we were able to create a vibe that I don’t usually do.
How have you been holding up in quarantine?
I think I’m holding up like everyone else is holding up. It’s been tough, but interesting. I try to use this time to be productive without being too hard on myself and adding pressure. Those little moments of being around my family and then the times where I have been able to dip my toe into the water a little bit, go out, eat outside or just have little interactions with people made me appreciate life more. I’m such a homebody that before I’d be in my house most of the time and be like ‘I’m fine with this.’ Right now, it’s made me see how much I took for granted in a way. I know it’s cliche, but I’m thankful that I’m healthy.
What do you make of this shift happening in the world following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor?
During that time, it was so amazing to see us all come together, protesting, sharing information, being active on social media. This time feels different. This shift feels different then other times in the past. For me, I used the time to hold myself accountable, trying to do as much as I can to learn as much as I can while also trying not to go too insane with everything that was happening. It was a lot to take in as Black people, and definitely took a toll on me. I wanted to go to more protests, but then it was just a thing of feeling, ‘OK, we are still in pandemic. So what’s really the smartest thing to do right now?’
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You shared a letter on your Instagram about your experience as a Black woman in Hollywood. What compelled you to post that?
I was over everything. The letter was a result of built up aggression, built up feelings, never being able to feel like I could really speak out and be free to speak my mind out of fear of jeopardizing my career. Samantha Ware, who is an actress, when she posted about her experience on Glee, that sort of propelled me to do what I did, and Amber Riley as well. [Amber] texted me and assured me that I can speak up, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself, and do it on my own time. I appreciated that.
This is what I always have to go through, and we need to address it, and we need to not try to hide it anymore. A lot of black girls have to go through those types of situations in the entertainment industry. So hopefully by us speaking out and saying, what our experiences were, then it could hopefully inspire the next person to know what the red flags are and know what they need to look out for and what they don’t have to tolerate anymore within the workspace.
Do you feel pressure being one of the “role models” for Black women?
It makes me feel I have more of a purpose and more of a mission when I do set out to do certain things. And getting messages and everything from young girls telling me how I’ve inspired them, it does make me feel really good. I feel like it’s our duty to create more room for us. So, I don’t want to be one of the few “dark skin” entertainers. And it’s not something that I want to take over my whole image, if that makes sense. But I understand how important it is. It is a part of me. It is who I am. There’s more to me and there’s more to other girls than just other colors as well, but it is still a piece of us.
One last question: How do you achieve your signature brown lip look?
It’s nothing fancy, but it’s one that just works. MAC Chestnut lip liner is such a great lip liner. So I line my lips with that. As far as the lip, my favorite is this one by Milani, which you can get at Walgreens, CVS, Target. But it has this orange tint to it and a deep chocolate color. But when it’s combined with Chestnut? Magic.
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