You can find me here on my 32nd birthday, snapping portraits and giving out hugs! Come dressed like Mother Nature or in your sexiest formal attire, and let’s mingle!
Peace and Blessings,
I’m still beaming with excitement from seeing my very first published interview in Lucy’s Magazine. Maurizio Pecoraro was SO kind to take the time to answer a total stranger’s questions, and I will forever be a fan of his because of it. I love his designs, and the story behind each piece.
As I grow as a journalist, I’m sure my interviews will become more and more in-depth, and I plan to really dig deeper (in the most respectful way) each time. I have to say, when I receive my copy in print, I’ll probably scream, and be inspired all over again!
I really love what I do. In this ever changing world of fashion and beauty, there is absolutely no way to get bored!
It’s always a joy to work with photographer Kelsey Arrington and an amazing group of talented models. The backstory of this shoot actually came from a quote Kelsey shared with a few of us in a group chat.
“Black girls are flowers that go unwatered and still blossom.”
With all of the political changes our country is experiencing lately, it’s almost as if there has been an explosion of “girl power” among all races. Regardless of what people say, everyone “sees color,” but we have all reached a point where we recognize and celebrate our differences. When walking through one of the departments at Trinity University, I saw an adorable bookshelf labeled, “FREE, TAKE ONE!” My eyes instantly landed on a tattered red book titled, “The Psychology of Women.” I immediately picked it up and carried it to my office to read it.
As I casually flipped through the pages, I landed on a chart of stereotypes. The particular chart divided women into categories by ethnicity, and highlighted the stereotypes about each of us in columns. I was horrified to see that black women were the ONLY women to have negative stereotypes associated with us. We were labeled loud, sassy, angry, and it even dared to say masculine! White women were “desirable or elite,” and Asian women were “passive, scholarly, soft-spoken.”
Granted, this is an older book, but have these stereotypes changed at all? I remember plenty of men “complimenting” me by saying “You’re not ghetto like other black girls.” I always wondered if they expected me to say “Yay! Thanks!” I thought long and hard about why we are seen that way, and it’s really quite simple. At a young age, black girls are often divided between light and dark, good hair and nappy hair, “bougie” and ghetto. All of these labels come from people who look just like us. Naturally, anyone being labeled or discriminated against since elementary school is going to have some sort of guard up. It doesn’t mean that they are angry, just self-protective. I can’t imagine this is anything but human nature, to protect yourself from being hurt by building a wall.
This healing process has to start from within, and we have to love ourselves and each other. If a boy doesn’t think you’re cute because your skin is dark, screw him! Who cares what he thinks? His mother is probably your complexion or darker, and he probably doesn’t even realize what he’s saying. Fast forward about twenty years, and he’ll be searching for you on social media, wanting to take you on a date. See the beauty in yourself daily, and remember that we all have flaws. Use your strength to make it through, being strong is one stereotype that is actually TRUE: use it.
Us black girls can be found in ALL parts of the world (hmmm, wonder why?). We may have some things in common, but our culture varies depending on how and where we were raised. It was very important to me to celebrate the beauty of three totally different women of color, and to showcase them as flowers. I kept the makeup trendy, and Kelsey styled the models in beautiful floral dresses to push the message of renewal and blooming even further.
The icing on the cake was the fact that we were able to shoot at this location for free, The Locale Workspace provided the perfect backdrop for our shoot. On National Women’s Day, the venue gave out complimentary day passes to all women. We were able to use ours for the shoot, and we were treated with such kindness. After all, you could have the greatest makeup, wardrobe, and technology, but if your team doesn’t spread love, it shows in the photos.
Kelsey used some unique editing tricks for this shoot that were really fun and anything but predictable. She may love fashion as a guilty pleasure, but her passion is always to use different mediums to tell a story. Afterwards, we all went for tacos and talked about politics and culture. One of the models, Sadhana Singh, is actually a first generation college student from Guyana, and decided to give modeling a shot with us for the first time. She aspires to share stories of social justice through journalism, and she is a force to be reckoned with. We couldn’t have appreciated her presence more…beauty and brains. Please see the previous post to read academic story. All three of the women have made their mark in their community, and the fact that they’re beautiful is simply a bonus.
There are so many negative stereotypes associated with millennials, that it often makes it hard to admit that I am one. I thought about some of the things people like to say about us, and cringed. Millennials are typically viewed as lazy, impatient, and fickle. One of the most common stereotypes is that millennials are unable to hold meaningful conversations, due to an overwhelming amount of time spent using texts and social media to stay connected.
While these stereotypes may be true for some, there are so many of us that are simply not that way. Many of our parents wouldn’t allow for us to be sucked into an entirely digital culture, or to expect success to just fall into our laps. I wanted to take some time and truly reflect on some of the things that really affect us as a generation. The majority of the people I spoke to battled with anxiety. As I researched further, I began meeting people that felt not only anxious, but as if they didn’t fit in. Anxiety is one of the most common mental illnesses in our country, and some people do an amazing job masking it. It doesn’t make it any less painful or present, but we may never know unless we are extremely close to the person experiencing it.
With incredible celebrities like Laverne Cox and Chaz Bono bringing an immense amount of positive attention to the transgender community, many people with non-binary genders began to feel comfortable truly being themselves. It’s not as though this was something that had never been done before, but when shared on such a large platform, people everywhere became more open and accepting of others and themselves. With that being said, some areas are still going to create some anxiety. Bathrooms for example, can be an uncomfortable space for people that don’t limit themselves to one of two genders. Their safety is often put at risk, and they often feel as if they don’t fit in anywhere.
Lastly, an overwhelming majority of people I spoke to seemed to view love as a way to fill a void. So many of us, (myself included) sought love in other ways. Whether it be sex between relationships, staying in a relationship with someone we knew was wrong for us, online dating, having a secret relationship with someone taken, or hooking up after the club, each one of us had our bout with lust in our own way. Lust is the watered down, temporary version of Love, and as a generation I believe we deserve so much more.
Not only were the beautiful people I interviewed open and generous with their personal experiences, they also happen to be talented models. As a makeup artivist, it’s always been about more to me than just makeup. This particular series tells a real story, of real people, and the emotions radiate from their faces in the photos. Kelsey Arrington nailed yet another shoot in under an hour, and captured so many amazing angles in the blink of an eye. I will never forget the energy on set that day, and I look forward to creating more beautiful projects in the future with her!
I gave each model the opportunity to choose one of three emojis, and it worked out perfectly as each of them chose a different one than the other. I asked them to briefly explain why they chose the emoji they did, and I was blown away by their responses. I can’t think of a better way to close this post than with the words in their own voices. xo
“I always feel different from everyone, almost not in society because society doesn’t recognize my identity. I’ve always been the ‘weirdo.’
In a world that so strongly believes there’s only two genders, being non-binary feels like being an alien. I come from a different planet where we don’t gender clothes or colors or activities or bodies…When I was little, I used to get bullied for not fitting in with the boys or the girls. To this day I don’t feel like many people really see or understand me. Other areas of my life are alien too – I’m the engineer who’s artistic and “out-there,” and the artist who’s systematic and loves math. I’m polyamorous and a minimalist, and having a house and kids is not my dream. I’m an adult and my favorite activity is hula-hooping. I’d rather spend my life being me than trying to follow society’s strange rules.” – Emory, alien emoji
“Anxiety is a personal emotion.
As a daughter of an Asian immigrant, perfection and external achievement were paramount to your worth. I was loved profoundly by my mother and my family and always will be. But Asian mothers are competitive and expect greatness from their children. It contributed incredibly to my discipline/ambition, and it was also damaging. It translated into an anxiety to always be the best and seek out external achievement. I have taken many years to carefully unlearn the self-impalement that comes with seeking ultimate perfection and competition for greatness at the cost of healthy relationships with others and myself. Now I love loudly and generously to heal the past and say thank you to my mother for teaching me to never back down on my dreams. I do this in a way that is healthier for me and teaches others to love themselves while still being steadfast to what they want out of their life.” – Kelly, fearful (anxious) emoji
“I chose this emoji because I resonated with it the most in comparison to the other emojis. It represents blindly falling in love, but also lust. I believe that with either of those two, it requires a sense of vulnerability and courage, which is one of the most beautiful things to me. Whether it’s the vulnerability of giving love everything you’ve got, or giving lust everything that love stole, this emoji conveys what I believe is life’s greatest purpose: to love and be loved.” – Jonalyn, heart eyes emoji
Peace and Blessings,
It is absolutely insane how many amazing women have come into my life because of the Women’s March on Washington. The day of the march, this wonderful artist named Katie Pumphrey used Instagram as a platform to request assistance with holding her large scale art piece. As soon as I saw it, I knew that I had to meet her and hopefully work with her some day.
Like most of the women I’ve been meeting lately, Katie was super warm and welcoming in our direct message conversations. Finally we met at her studio, and she made me feel so comfortable. She shared her work with me, both in progress and completed, and I instantly fell in love with the paintings. The conversation was great, but I couldn’t help but get lost in the images hanging on the walls. Each brush stroke told a story, and the movement in her pieces truly drew me in.
When she told me that she was exploring mass and movement, I thought it would be perfect to collaborate with her on a photo shoot. I was particularly drawn to a painting of a school of fish, with swirls of blue and white. It was so hypnotizing, and I immediately thought, what if Katie represented flowers this way? Initially when I mentioned it, Katie shared that she hadn’t thought of using flowers before, so I did more research to make sure we could all benefit from this experience. I began searching for flowers that grew in clusters, or groups. The flowers became more like her other masterpieces, a more delicate version of the bulls she painted, smaller in scale and still powerful.
I created a list of flowers for her, and in honor of my Nonna’s favorite, I threw in a bird of paradise. To me, they represent movement with their elegant height and angles. I had just met Katie, but I had so much faith in her. I knew she was going to blow all of us away. I partnered with my photography sister, Kelsey Arrington and invited her to participate in a shoot where we would create a blend of paintings, photography, fashion, and beauty. We would call it “Floriography: The Language of Flowers,” and it would be perfect.
Katie loved the idea, and to my surprise, she got to work right away. She created a portfolio for me to transport the paintings to the photo shoot site, and shared this incredible beet dip with me while she created our contract. As busy as I was that week, all I could think about was getting this shoot started! I couldn’t wait to share our vision with the world! Kelsey’s amazing photographic eye literally brought my vision to life. She captured the movement of the paintings, my makeup artistry, and the models poses in such a short time. So incredible. Thank you. xoxo
For info on purchasing Katie’s beautiful pieces, please visit her website: http://katiepumphrey.com/
Peace and Love,
The gorgeous Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour was everyone’s valentine last night at Busboys and Poets. Her talk was one of the most uplifting experiences I’ve had in a very long time, and what makes it even better is that she made time to speak to all of us afterwards.
Somehow, my friend Kelly and I ended up on the stage directly behind her, and we were able to hear every word and feel every emotion. She turned around once and apologized for having her back to us, but I was so engrossed in her words, I truly didn’t even notice. That apology speaks to her character though, and you can tell that she truly does care about EVERY HUMAN BEING.
Founder and CEO of Busboys and Poets, Andy Shallal started the evening by stating that President Donald Trump served as a catalyst for this surge of positive change in our country. It was a beautiful analogy comparing our nation’s current state to Chemistry, in which a catalyst is dropped into a substance, and things begin to crystallize. His words couldn’t be more true, as the change literally began less than a day after Presidential Inauguration. As Linda stated at the Mpower Love event, “Agent Orange, you’re going to be on watch from day one.”
All kinds of topics arose as Linda spoke, and each one was of equal importance. Much like the Women’s March on Washington, Linda’s speech addressed multiple issues. She reminded us in activist and womanist Audre Lorde’s words, “We do not live single issue lives.” Many people commented that the causes women were fighting for that day were “too scattered,” but the march was for WOMEN. Women come in all different shapes, sizes, colors, and all live for a unique passion all their own. As Linda shared with us last night, “You can’t talk about reproductive rights if you can’t talk about race and class.” With that being said, if we are fighting for women’s rights, we are also fighting for everything they love. Therefore, we come together to demand support for all things women represent.
Now that we know President Trump’s campaign was not all talk, we see firsthand that fascism is here. We see that these changes have already been implemented or currently in progress, and the next step for us is to love and protect one another. Linda made a very gentle suggestion that really made me think: “How can you protect your neighbor if you don’t know who they are, if you don’t know what their names are? Introduce yourself, let them know you see them.” A big part of the problem is all of the people that see something awful happening, and look the other way. I may not always have the answer, but I try my best to be available to help. I am the perfect balance of introvert and extrovert (I’ve got Psychology Today quiz results to prove it!) so I may not always be the person to reach out first. Hearing Linda share that advice made me want to be more open, so that people can see my heart. I want people to know that I have never been someone to follow the masses or believe something just because someone told me. I always seek the information that is true, I seek out what is right. I started last night by simply smiling at strangers. I will continue by staying on the path I am…hosting events to raise awareness, and continuing with my photo books. I have found my niche, and now I can use my gifts to “plug-in.”
Just as Linda shared, I like to “organize from a place of hope and evolution.” With every event I plan, every photograph I take, every makeover I complete, and every blog entry I write, I strive to gently raise awareness. I want people to know their worth, and find their strengths so that we can fight back. With consistency, organization, creativity, and above all LOVE, we can totally create a positive change. In the meantime, I plan to stand my ground and stand up for what’s right; which is treating every human being with love and respect.
We were all placed exactly where we were supposed to be by a force much greater than us, and we all belong here. xo
Peace and Blessings,
February 12th, 2017 was one of the most special days of my life because my Mommie turned 60 years old. My Mom has not only been my best friend my entire life, but she is quite the Renaissance woman. She is the reason I am open minded, flexible, creative, loving, compassionate, understanding, patient, and well, FUN! I always remember her going above and beyond in every way possible. Even when we didn’t have the financial freedom we may have liked, she made every experience feel like we were the richest people in the world.
From ants on a log in my lunch, to heart shaped sandwiches, to REAL “green eggs and ham” for breakfast, my Mom has always made every day activities seem like a Disney sitcom. She made a tiny breakfast for my favorite teddy bear, Ginger, and when there was a Carbon Monoxide leak in our town home, she got all of my pets out of the house safe. This does not exclude my guinea pig, Dusty…and she hates rodents. She named my pet lizards “Liz and Ed…get it? LIZED!!! *laughs maniacally*” and always had a funny story or an amazing idea to share.
My friends have always been utterly obsessed with her unexpected, amazingly warped sense of humor, and everyone always asks me “How’s Donna? Any new stories?” She’s always been quite the storyteller, starting with the actual written series she would add to my lunches in fourth grade. My friends would gather around me at lunch asking, “Did your Mom include part three yet?!”
Every time I had a dream or career goal, she sat patiently and listened. She would splurge on me and buy suits and pumps for important interviews and meetings for me, she would write me letters with cartoons on them, and she would always support my health and wellness aspirations. She made me feel like I was ENOUGH, just as I was, and that all I had to be was Dayna in order to be great. When I cried, she would sit patiently until I was no longer upset, and usually interjected with something totally unrelated that would make me laugh and forget why I was sad in the first place.
When I was sick, she made “magic soup” that she shared the ingredients for, but I could never seem to get it just like hers. When she gets into her fancy kitchen with all her Williams Sonoma, Martha Stewart, and Sur La Table utensils, she cooks with LOVE, and there’s no meal like a meal from “Mom E.” She baked a rum cake for the sisters at my university, and had them buzzing (literally and figuratively) about it for days.
Her hugs are healing, her laugh is contagious, and she’s beautiful inside and out. She’s never afraid to be herself, and I love it. It’s a trait I’m glad to have inherited, because it’s incredibly liberating. She’s my favorite person in the entire world, and I can’t imagine I would be as successful and optimistic if I had anyone else as my Mom.
For her birthday, I wanted to make her feel as special as she makes me feel. She not only shares this healing energy with me, but with everyone she meets. I had to make sure that I made her feel as gorgeous, as regal, as legendary as she has always made me feel. For my Mom’s 60th birthday, I turned her into the goddess that she’s always been. “Soixante” was my favorite photo shoot I’ve ever done, and my Mom is now my favorite model. Turning the camera around so she could see her photos and hearing her say…
At the end of the shoot, when all the makeup came off, and her hair got swept back into her “Mom bun” I could still see that same radiance. I hope she knows how much we ALL love her, and that the world needs Donna Lucille.
Peace and Blessings,