By now, you probably know Ashlee Akins was a participant on the OWN reality dating show Ready to Love. Her effervescent personality made her one of the standout ladies throughout the first season as well as her vulnerability and honesty with everyone around her. Needless to say those qualities coupled with her charm led her to the very end and to her love, Alexx.
Black Love had the opportunity to speak to Ashlee recently about her journey on the show, what led her there, what she learned about love, but most importantly, what looking for love taught her about herself through introspection, honesty, self love, and care.
BL: What truly inspired you to go on Ready to Love?
AA: Firstly, I am single, and I knew it was time to seek additional help. I had finally came to the conclusion that I was the problem. I noticed that the issues and hurdles in my life were a result of Ashlee and no one else. So, I began praying more to get the toxic people and things out of my life. This took time, and people were dropping like flies and then, there it was — I was alone, but this time I was full of Ashlee, engulfed in my fabulousness, ready for love, because now I am together.
BL: Did you have any apprehensions about trying to find love on television and in a public space where you’re open to criticism since people can see your every move?
AA: Honestly, I didn’t because I am an extrovert who loves people. Nothing is fearful when you have faith. I knew that this opportunity was for me to be transparent and I wasn’t worried about what people thought of me. I knew that if I told my story and I could help at least one person, I was doing my job. The world needs more real celebrities to relate to. We all make mistakes and lose sight of things. So this platform was perfect for me to show women and men like me it’s ok to make mistakes in life. We all just need to learn from them and never dim our light for anyone.
BL: Not only were you looking for love, you were openly competing for love. Off camera when people date and aren’t exclusive, it’s usually understood that the love interest may be seeing other people, but in the Ready to Love house you’d see that up close and personal. Did that have any effect on how you communicated with the men in the house?
AA: This concept was perfect. It was designed for people to get to know one another and mingle while openly knowing that your interest might like others. I prefer it honestly. I am a confident, fun, attractive woman, and I know how to stand out without trying. I believe it’s all about how a person behaves under pressure. Also, it’s about paying attention to details. You learn a lot by watching and listening. And that’s exactly what I did. I’m always keeping it cute.
BL: Was there any point that you wanted to leave the competition because of pressure or stress?
AA: Yes. Right after the cabin scene, I told Alexx that I was going to be his friend regardless. I saw the connection between him and Tiffany. I wanted him to know I respected his decision if he chose her. During the process, Alexx and Tiffany had more in-depth discussions and arguments, but we had easy going conversations, we gelled. I didn’t want to be in drama so I was going to bow out, but God had other plans for me. I met my best friend and love.
BL: Prior to joining the competition, had you tried your hand at online dating? If so, had something in particular turned you off?
AA: Oh, yes! There was a pattern of men only wanting to hang and be sexual, nothing more. From the fake pictures and lies, I wanted to scream. I had to pray and let it go because I knew that it was better men out there. I just had to be patient.
BL: Was it more difficult trying to genuinely connect with someone or stay true to yourself throughout the process?
AA: Definitely not. I was 100% me — authentic. I believe in keeping it real and keeping it cute. I don’t follow the norm, and I wanted each person to see the real Ashlee. So I brought out that bubbly, fabulous, real personality and gave them life!
BL: When was the moment that you knew that Alexx was the one for you?
AA: The date we rode go-carts is the day that sealed the deal for me. From the fun center to the conversations, Alexx and I just had something that was real. I felt like I was in high school again. I longed for that feeling, those butterflies in my stomach. I don’t know how important friendship is to anyone else who is looking for love, but it’s imperative for me. When we began having more and more fun, I knew that this is the type of man that I can spend all my time with. Being in love is great, but being able to be friends and lovers is amazing.
BL: What have you learned about yourself and about love through your experience on Ready to Love?
AA: I learned that in order for you to truly be ready to love, you need to love yourself first. This experience made me become honest and transparent. People often hide behind their scars; I didn’t. I exposed myself to myself first, and then I was ready to tell others. While being on this journey I evolved into a better woman. I learned how to love. I learned how to listen, be more understanding, accept my flaws and love them. I learned how to show others how to live in their light. I learned how to be Ashlee and love the skin I’m in no matter who is looking.
BL: What’s next for you in love, in life, and beyond as Ashley Akins, the woman?
AA: As far as love, I love Alexx and we are praying that God continues to heal him.
On a business note, I have my company named AA Dimensions, which is a women’s empowerment brand with beauty and lifestyle products. I will present GirlBoss Networking events and I plan to sprinkle a little Ashlee everywhere I go.
I definitely believe that I walk the walk and talk the talk. I try to set an example and practice what I preach because the world deserves the truth. I have a women’s empowerment campaign that I am working on called “Eat Makeup, Feel Pretty On The Inside” to challenge women and men to give the same amount of energy on looking great outside and direct in on the inside. We all need more compassion, self love, self awareness, and understanding in order to lead a fulfilling life. Also “Be A Leader, Not A Boss” is a motto we promote at AA Dimensions, to help encourage others after they discover their inner beauty, to help educate others on their journey of loving their inner self, reaching their potential and becoming a better person and leader.