Monday, December 20, 2010

"Tis the season to"

All my life I had been looking for something, and everywhere I turned someone tried to tell me what it was.  I accepted their answers too, though they were often in contradiction and even self-contradictory.  I was naive.  I was looking for myself and asking everyone except myself questions which I, and only I, could answer.  It took me a long time and much painful boomeranging of my expectations to achieve a realization everyone else appears to have been born with:  that I am nobody but myself.

~Ralph Ellison, "Battle Royal"

While I love various holidays for various different reasons, I must admit that Christmas is my favorite.  I love that it bring friends and family together to share joyous moments, but I think I'm more drawn to the creativeness that it brings out in people.  People who could care less about the latest designer trend, all of a sudden find themselves designing how their house will look once fully lit up with thousands of lights.  They're out at the stores buying inflatable Santa's and snowmen to put on their front lawn without a second thought to whether or not they're going over the top.  I both appreciate and applaud these people since it enables me to keep the tradition that my Mother started when we were younger. 

Every Christmas, she would pick a day that we would all pile into the car and drive around and grade every one's works of arts.  She didn't care how long we were in the car or how far we had to go.  She loved seeing our faces light up when we would see the granddaddy of all houses lit up and would only repeat the word "wow" over and over. It was the simplest gift she gave to us and without knowing it, it was the simplest gift we were giving her.  We were giving her the gift of revisiting her own childhood wonder of Christmas.  It was something that couldn't be wrapped up in pretty paper with a nice shiny bow on it, but it was appreciated just as much as if it were.

With the new year fast approaching, I, like many other people, have felt the daunting task of figuring out what my New Year's resolutions would be along with trying to find that perfect gift for people on my list.  One year, I had myself and my boys write down what our goals were and then we would open them up the next year to see what we actually accomplished.  It was great to see what goals two young boys had and shocking how grown up some of their resolutions were.  But this year, I'm less inclined to write down what my resolutions are.  I think I've come to a point where instead of saying what I will or will not do in 2011, I would rather just live in 2011.  I would rather find a way to keep that feeling of excitement and wonder in me all throughout the year and not just dust it off and bring it out during Christmas.

Between all the hustle and the bustle of the holiday season, I want to take time to remember how it feels to see snow for the first time and actually enjoy the beauty of it instead of dreading how slippery it's going to be.  Instead of seeing a long line and getting frustrated, I will practice the art of patience and maybe even throw on a smile while I'm waiting.  Instead of rushing here and there so I can get as many things done in one day, I'll take my time and enjoy the moments I have in the car with my boys where they seem to say the funniest things some times. 

But the most important thing I will do is to love being me.  I'll love the way I can turn down sweets at work and then find myself rummaging through my cabinets once I get home.  I'll love the way that I laugh at myself when I trip over myself sometimes and can't figure out how I managed to do so.  I'll love the way I'll miss my boys while at work and then have to play referee once I pick them up and then start all over the next day.  I'll love that I have a ton of ideas but sometimes get sidetracked easily and wind up accomplishing only to just move things around from one place to another.  I'll love that a good day for me involves being curled up on the couch watching Matlock or Murder She Wrote.  I'll love that some days my hair does what I want it to do and other days it looks like it has a mind of its own. 

While some of these things may not be appreciated by others, it's who I am and what makes me unique.  So my gift to myself is to go easy on me.  If I decide to do something one day and change my mind the next day, I'm entitled.  That's the great thing of being a work in progress.  You can find out what works and what doesn't and make adjustments along the way.  So in the spirit of giving, I'm giving myself the memories of what it feels like to not put boundaries on myself and just live life.  The gift that keeps on giving all throughout the year.


(Conquering the world, one stylish step at a time)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

My Life: Present Day, Take: too many to count...ACTION!

"I always wanted a happy ending... Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity!."

~ Gilda Radner

So, after shaking my head a few times after noticing the last time I updated my blog, I decided to cut myself some slack given that I've been just a tad bit busy...and it makes it easier for me to just jump into this post without wasting time being disappointed at myself.

Everyday, I send out motivational quotes and in doing so, I come across some that inspire me to either act, think or take a moment to reflect on where I am, where I want to be, and how i plan on getting there.  I've had this quote for quite some time, but felt it would be a great way to start this post given all the recent changes in my life. 

To know me is to know that I tend to put a lot on my plate.  I have a hard time saying no, even if I know it means me losing out on what little bit of sleep I already tend to not get.  I love helping out, especially if it involves anything creative.  The problem is that in order for me to be creative for someone else, it almost always takes away from me being creative for me.  Why?  Because I give so much of my creative energy to whatever project I'm helping out on, that I push aside my own creative needs since I would be all over the place if I didn't.  I never thought it was a problem until I recently got sick and couldn't shake it.  I had a horrible cough that seemed to get worse even after I was prescribed medication.  I kept pushing myself because I felt that if people thought I didn't want it bad enough, they would write me off as just someone trying to make it.  The problem is that what I thought in my mind and how my body felt were out of sync. 

It all came to a halt at a fashion show of all places.  I hadn't been feeling well and against the advice of those who could care less about what shows I did or not attend, I forced myself to put on a smile and get dolled up for the camera.  The people dressing me commented at how pale I looked (I just added more blush), how I felt feverish (I just put a cold facecloth on my face) and how tired I looked (MAC concealer works wonders).  I rushed out and headed to the venue thinking that the way I looked outside would help me to feel better inside.  It all started out fine until I started coughing and couldn't stop (sorry to the poor woman sitting next to me who sat through my coughing fit before kindly moving during intermission).  My cough was so bad, I was almost in tears.

So for once, I did what I always have a hard time doing, I said I just couldn't do it.  I gave my apologies and left.  I walked back to my car still coughing and in tears because even though I knew I did what was best for me at the time, I still felt like I was letting people down.  The drive home felt like the longest ride ever, but seeing my house and knowing I was that much closer to being able to lie in bed, made me happy.  It took me about another month of just resting and taking it easy for me to finally get over the cough. 

I took a hiatus from everything and tried to slow down as much as possible.  That didn't last too long since I can't keep still and the thought of not doing anything creative is like a death sentence to me.  But instead of diving back into everything that I was doing before, I took time to really figure out what I wanted so bad that I was willing to let my body suffer for it.  The underlying theme in everything that I was doing, was my love for fashion.  I love fashion.  I always have and for some reason, it's the one thing I tend to avoid when it comes to doing it myself.  I talk a good game, but always tend to let myself get sidetracked when it comes to me focusing on me doing fashion.

So after taking the time to think and realizing what I wanted and what I was willing to sacrifice to get it, I decided to learn to say no.  Not a flat out no to people and then I go on about my way.  I decided to say no to myself.  I learned to tell myself no to all the distractions that I had become such an expert at creating or getting involved in.  I no longer give myself the option to get so caught up in helping someone else be creative that I deprive myself of my own creative energy.  It's easier to be creative with someone else since you share in both the applause and the possible criticism.  On your own, you have to learn to experience both and not let the first go to your head, or the latter destroy your passion.

Until the next act,

(Conquering the world, one stylish step at a time)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Health Matters: Weight and Wellness in the World of Fashion

"People often say that 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder,' and I say that the most liberating thing about beauty is realizing that you are the beholder. This empowers us to find beauty in places where others have not dared to look, including inside ourselves."

~ Salma Hayek

On Monday, March 22nd, I attended the forum entitled "Health Matters: Weight and Wellness in the World of Fashion" by the Harris Center at Harvard University.  I was excited to go given that it would give me the chance to say that I was in the same room with American Fashion Designer Michael Kors, Vogue Editor-In-Chief Anna Wintour and Russian Model Natalia Vodianova.  Not a bad way to start the week in my book.

The forum started with an introduction by David B. Herzog, M.D., founder and director of the Harris Center for Education and Advocacy in Eating Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital.  He gave an overview of what the panel would be discussing as well as a recap of a recent health initiative event by the Council of Fashion Designers, where he also served as moderator.  After a reference to the movie, "The Devil Wears Prada", he introduced the first speaker, Anna Wintour.

Dressed in a champagne-colored capelet jacket with black-heeled boots and a necklace that seemed to catch every light in the room, Ms. Wintour gave us insight into the world of fashion and how the usual standards of hiring models that are extremely thin, has changed given that their health is now at risk.  She stated that Vogue is now making more of an effort to ensure that all models are of a healthy weight and mind before allowing them to be photographed and placed in the magazine.  Ms. Wintour said that part of the problem in the past has been that designers, in an effort to keep the same aesthetic from the runway to the magazines, have sent them sample sizes that have been as low as a size 0.  If you are a model that is not naturally a size 0, you can imagine the pressure they face in order to get to that size with the hopes of being in Vogue.  Vogue has made a commitment to be the leader in ensuring that going forward, that designers are more flexible in terms of what sizes they send.

After a brief video that was sponsored by Michael Kors, he then took the stage and gave us his perspective on the current state of fashion and the eating disorders that have so long plagued some models.  He gave a heartfelt speech which included him stating that "real women are back".  One of the most memorable moments of the night involved him recalling an encounter with a young model who barely spoke English.  She was young, beautiful and the perfect designer size.  While she wore the outfit he chose for her perfectly, he could tell that something was wrong.  He said that he took her aside and in broken English, stood listening to this young girl who summoned up the courage to say that while she was happy to be in the show, she was uncomfortable being an outfit in which her nipples would be showing.  He gave her a more age appropriate outfit and said that the smile she gave when she walked out that door is still burned in his memory.  He still uses her in his current shows and always remembers that day where he as a designer had to make sure the model felt good, not just looked good.  With the end of that story, he also pledged that he no longer books models under the age of 16 given that they are still developing their sense of self and need more time to know who they are before being put in the spotlight and expected to perform.

Next up was model Natalia Vodianova, who was also featured in the video.  She gave a heartfelt perspective of how the pressures of being a model at a young age had caused her to have a an eating disorder.  She echoed the same sentiment as Michael Kors in that no model under the age of 16 should be booked.  She also stated that when a designer notes that a model appears to be unhealthy and ultimately decides not to use her for the show, that they should also follow-up with the model's agency and alert them as to why so that they can get the model the proper help that she needs.  With the help of therapy, Natalia was able to reconcile within herself the issues that caused her to have an eating disorder.  She is now making it her mission to ensure that other models are given the help that they need and that models of all sizes are given a chance to participate in runway shows.  While well spoken, there were moments within her speech, where you couldn't help but feel that you were watching an innocent child forced to grow up before her time. 

Once the panelists had given their speeches, there was a brief Q&A, where we as participants were given the opportunity to submit questions in advance that hopefully will be asked during the session.  One couldn't help but notice that all questions seemed to have come from high school students.  One such question was for Natalia and referred to her other women perceive her given that she is tall, beautiful and despite having children, model thin.  I loved Natalia's response where she stated that while she may be all of those things, she still has her own issues in which she struggles to deal with on a regular basis and that young girls and women need to find happiness within themselves.  I couldn't agree more.

As I start to enter the world of modeling, I am often reminded of my own struggle with my weight.  As a young girl, I was barely over 100 lbs despite eating anything and everything in site.  I was often asked if I was anorexic, which I thought odd that even complete strangers felt the need to know.  It got to the point that I wanted to carry a certified Dr's note stating that the only thing I suffered from, was having a high metabolism.  After having two children, I found myself at weight that was more acceptable to those around me, but left me feeling uncomfortable.  I began the process of finding a healthy balance of a weight that was both physically appealing to me and healthy.  I now find myself in the position of hearing close friends and family saying that I shouldn't lose anymore weight since I don't want to look like I did before.  The only problem I have with that is that I never had an issue with my previous weight.  I think as a society, we are so quick to put our own fears and insecurities on someone else and expect them to carry that burden.  We need to instead help those that are struggling and embrace those who have embraced themselves.


(Conquering the world, one stylish step at a time)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"Alright, Diallo, I'm ready for my close-up."

"A great photograph is a full expression of what one feels about what is being photographed in the deepest sense, and is, thereby, a true expression of what one feels about life in its entirety."

~Ansel Adams

Bear with me for a moment as I take a quick trip down memory lane to when I was ahem "younger" and looking through magazines to see the latest fashions.  While I was always mesmerized by the clothing and amazed by the talent that the designers displayed, I couldn't help but notice that it was also the model(s) who helped bring life to the clothes.  With every design that I sketch, I'm always imagining how I would want the layout to be in a magazine.  I'm always thinking of the story I want to tell that not only highlilghts why someone should purchase my clothing, but that they are able to appreciate the details.  Part of that story involves making sure that the model can convey in pictures what cannot be conveyed in words.

On Sunday, March 14th, I had the chance to help designers tell their story when I stepped into the role as model with Diallo Ferguson serving as the photographer.  Although I had been told before that I should model or was often assumed to be one when I was at a fashion event, modeling was something that I just avoided and admired from afar.  But since I've been on the path of trying new things and not letting my own fears stop me, I figured it was time to give it a try. 

Despite a few setbacks such as the high wind, constant rain, change in location the day of the shoot and the task of trying to make everyone happy, my first photoshoot was fun.  Out of all the models that were there, I was a newbie.  Keeping that in mind, I took time to talk to the other models and hear about things they've done and any tips they had to offer.  We all had a chance to bond given that we were all housed in a public bathroom changing, doing each other's hair and makeup and sharing beauty products back and forth.  It was like getting ready for the prom, with a little more lifting, tucking and modesty thrown out the window.

While in our makeshift dressing room, jewelry designer Kendall V. Bretto, CEO of Chandler Jewelry, came in to handpick models that would be wearing her custom made one of a kind jewelry.  I've seen her work in some recent runway shows and was honored when she chose me to model some of her pieces.  As a special thank you for modeling her jewelry, she presented me with a custom ring that she made on the day of the shoot.  I will post that when I'm done sketching the dress that it inspired.

For my next look, stylist Janeen Williams of Contrast is Key, assembled a fashion forward outfit with clothing and accessories provided by MOD Boston.  This shot required me to loosen up a bit and really play it up for the camera.  Luckily music was playing in the background and with a little help from the song "Stanky Leg', I was able to let loose and make it work.

As the day went on, I was able to find my groove and feel more comfortable creating my own poses for the camera while also taking direction from Diallo and Janeen.  Whether I was draped across a couch trying to make sure that I highlighted the jewelry and shoes that I was wearing, or sitting on a piano bench, the poses started to feel more natural and I was always happy to hear when Janeen thought a shot was hot.

One of the best shots of the day came from something so unexpected that it at first had me questioning Diallo.  I was getting ready to leave and had put back on my rain gear which consisted of thermals, a pink sweatsuit and boots.  I had neatly tucked my hair into my hooded sweatshirt and buttoned myself up hoping to keep out as much rain as possible.  After a quick hug and high-five for doing a great job, I was turning to leave when Diallo and another model thought that taking a picture of me from the neck up would look like a high fashion pose.  I thought they were kidding and was grabbing my umbrella when they insisted that I let him take the shot.  After a few different poses, Diallo let me see the pictures and I must say that I was impressed.  Who knew that something so simple could be turned into something that makes you say "wow".  Lesson learned...that's why he's the photographer :-).

Overall, my first photoshoot was great.  Yes, there were moments where tensions got a little high and people had to walk away while biting their tongue.  That's bound to happen when you have creative people trying to work together to complete a vision.  With that said, I met a lot of new people that are now Facebook friends as well as people I hadn't seen in a long time and was able to reconnect with. 

With each new venture I get involved with, I learn how important it is to get out of your comfort zone and try new things.  It's easy to live in the world of "someday" and "now isn't the time".  But living in those worlds keeps you stagnant while the worlds of "why not today" and "right now" continue to not only revolve around you, but without you.  I have a lot of new projects coming up and although it will require me to learn the art of balancing family and work more than I ever had to do, I welcome the challenge since I always welcome the reward.


"Conquering the world, one stylish step at a time"


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Evolution O.V.E.R.D.O.S.E.

"In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

~Martin Luther King Jr.

On Friday, February 26th, 2010, I attended the 4th annual Evolution O.V.E.R.D.O.S.E. (formerly Sensory Overload), presented by the Black Student Union of Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.  The event, held at Massachusett's College of Art"s Pozen Center, was a celebration of music, dance, and of course, fashion. 

The evening began with a pre-shower mixer that included a live band.  While guests were eating and mingling, artwork of notable African-Americans hung on the walls helping to remind us all of those who came before us to make this event possible.  Guests whose attire ranged from "college campus chic" to "I'm dressed for the after party", were then ushered into the main seating area to vie for one of the more desirable seats.  We were all then treated to a live vocal performance of the National Black Anthem by Soul4yoSystem.  After an introduction of Andrew Kuforiji who would be serving as our MC for the night, the show began.

Designer Sparkle Thames opened the show with her collection of swimwear and red, white and blue themed ready-to-wear. 

The collection was then followed by poetry which included "I Rise" by Maya Angelou while Michael Jackson's "What About Us" played in the background and a poetic explanation behind the meaning of Evolution O.V.E.R.D.O.S.E. 

After a ballet performance, designer Perpetual Anastasia was next with her collection of handmade jewelry.  With Maxwell's "Butterflies setting the tone, models hit the catwalk with black leotards and buttefly wings on their backs.  Unfortunately, this didn't play well in terms of letting you see the actual jewelry  The use of a larger screen that focused in on the jewelry as the models were walking would have made it easier for everyone to know that the collection was for jewelry and not for a repeat of black leotards in varying sizes and styles.

We were then given a history of R&B starting with Earth, Wind & Fire and including artists such as Alicia Keys and Angie Stone.  After a piano solo, a student from Berklee College sang "Redemption Song" which seems to have become the staple piece for shows in which proceeds are donated to Haitain Relief efforts.  There was a bit of confusion as to whether or not we were in intermission when a few minutes had gone by and there was no activity on the runway.  Guests had begun to make the usual run for the restrooms when our MC for the night appeared to introduce a guitar duet with songs inspired by Haiti. 

After intermission, designer Ty Scott opened his show with a model carrying a sign with the word "justice". The collection was well-received and was followed by a presentation on the History of Rap, which included a live rap performance followed by a step performance.

For the final designer of the night, the audience was wowed by an opening featuring a man voguing in a tutu.  His performance set the tone for the Prajje Couture collection, which appeared to be a crowd favorite.  Prajje's skill in selecting the right fabric and fabricating the right cut, is a formula that always adds up to a great collection that has everyone asking where they can purchase his clothing.  He is definitely on my list of designers to watch.

The show was a success as evidenced by the the filled to capacity seating that then became standing room only.  It is always nice to see people who are not only following their passions, but are coming together to help spotlight each other while sending a positive message that coming together and showing support for one another will always be more powerful than tearing each other down and not giving back.  The Evolution of the human spirit was on full display at this event and I look forward to attending the next one.


"Conquering the world, one stylish step at a time"

Sunday, February 14, 2010

ARISE and Shine at Bryant Park

"Be careful what you water your dreams with. Water them with worry and fear and you will produce weeds that choke the life from your dream. Water them with optimism and solutions and you will cultivate success. Always be on the lookout for ways to turn a problem into an opportunity for success. Always be on the lookout for ways to nurture your dream."

~ Lao Tzu

Not too long ago, I was attempting to organize some paperwork and came across some short stories, essays and poems that I have written through the years. One of the essays that caught my attention was the one I had written to go along with my college application. I began the essay describing the scene of a fashion show. I made sure to give vivid detail in order to have the reader feel like they were actually there when they closed their eyes and let the words penetrate their imagination. Tonight, I felt like I was seeing my essay come to life.

The scene was set at Bryant Park in New York for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, under a tent filled with people from all walks of life with one common thread amongst us all...the love of fashion. It's amazing how when something you dreamed about since you were a little girl comes to life and the overwhelming emotion that takes over you. Driving in the car, I was excited, but calm. The closer we got, my heart started to beat faster and my mind started to race. Walking through the entrance, I felt like my knees were going to buckle leaving me to depend on my killer six inch heels for support.

Once inside, I felt like a kid in a candy store. I barely noticed the cars that were on display. My attention was being diverted to the outfits that people chose to wear. Anyone can wear clothes, but it takes a certain skill to be able to add your personal stamp to it and own it. Being able to see the confidence that these people had made me realize that I need to branch out a little more when it comes to dressing. Time to shake things up a bit :-)

With only a few minutes before we were to be ushered inside to take our seats, my business partner and the man working magic behind the camera, Diallo Ferguson, left to take his position in order to record the show. Oh, did I mention that I'm now a Fashion Correspondent for "A Passion 4 Fashion". It's still in the early stages, but given what we were able to accomplish at our first event, the best is yet to come!

After some more "you look fabulous", we were ushered past a crowd and led into where the ARISE Magazine African Collective Fashion Show would take place. One woman I met was so overwhelmed, that she began to cry. It was endearing to see that I wasn't the only one who was filled with emotion. After what seemed an eternity, the lights dimmed and music began pouring through the speakers. It was a hypnotic blend of drums and voices calling out to the heavens.

And then the spotlights came on and models for Black Coffee put their stamp on the runway adorned in quilted coats that while oversized, looked like they could be worn by anyone. Immediately following their collection, Loin Cloth & Ashes took the stage and showed us that a little splash of color is sometimes the accessory that seems to just complete an outfit. And for the finale, designer Deola Sagoe had the crowd jumping to its feet to celebrate her collection that included pieces with strong silhouettes, beading and fraying. At one point, the models were so in sync with the heavy beating of the drums, that it felt like the crowd would explode from the intensity.

The models made one more go on the runway as the finale. With the last model safely tucked backstage, the rush to the runway began with everyone either trying to accidentally bump into the celebrity that they have been eyeing during the show, or just trying to exit and head to the after party.

As part of my new endeavor as Fashion Correspondent, I was rushing to interview Boston-based designer Prajje Jean-Baptiste of Prajje Couture, to get his views on the show. Standing on the steps outside the tent with a mic in my hand and the wind trying to become my best friend, I gave my first interview and loved every minute of it. Videos and tons of pictures will be posted soon, so stay tuned for that.

With more shows to cover and more designers to interview, this trip is only the beginning of more things to come.


"Conquering the world, one stylish step at a time"