A Year In Selfies

A little over a year ago, I posted an ode to the first year of my thirties, toasting what was to come.

Then I took a break.

Halloween 2016. I was a Spider Queen!

Year 31 was a year of growth, both personal and professional. It was a year of putting myself out there and dating, a year of expanding my makeup artistry into freelancing, a year of honing my writing skills and creating projects I am happy to work on (and can’t wait til they’re finished to share with y’all!) It’s been a year of being honest about where I see myself as a professional, what I want in my personal life, and really having the best time experimenting in between.

Game Night Selfie!

It has been a year of being social, and actually taking time to enjoy life and not making work my be all and end all.

Quite a bit of that was finding my new love, who encourages me to rest and enjoy the fruits of my labor. I’ve done more traveling this country in the last few months than I have in years, and it’s been amazing to have these new experiences. Naturally, having her by my side to experience it with me was doubly amazing and made it even more special. In finding her, I found more of me, and that’s been valuable.

New Year, Same Fabulosity!

I brought in the new year with my closest friends, good drinks, and loud music. I had the best time and needed a day of sleep to recover (alas, I don’t bounce back like I used to.) I’m still evolving my personal style. I’m still experimenting with colors. Still loving my frohawk. Still taking up space unabashedly. Trying to remember to take my own damn advice sometimes. Trying to remember to call people more, let folks know that I love them, let folks know that I care; no matter where my life takes me or how busy I get. Doing my best to support my friends’ events when I can make them, and sending them love, light, and good vibes when I can’t.

Valentine’s Day Slay

I’m still loving and recognizing my beauty. I am still remembering I deserve love. I am enjoying celebrating myself, and happy to have someone to spend holidays and love with.

It’s basically been a year of finding and nurturing love and relationships of both the romantic and platonic nature. It’s been a year of growing professionally and trying to find a space where both my soul and wallet are fulfilled equally. It’s been a year of trying to find balance.

I’m still working on the balance, but it’s definitely getting better.

Birthday trip to the National Aquarium in Baltimore!

By the time I was ready to celebrate year 32, the growth of the past year was at the forefront. The work I’ve done on myself, both by myself and with my therapist, has put me in a place where conflicts roll off my back. Uncertainty is always going to be present, but I have learned how to deal with it and keep moving forward. I’ve had to learn to forgive my past mistakes and let them go. I’ve had to constantly remind myself that “no” is a full sentence that does not require explanation or apology. I’ve had to be honest about people and situations that are toxic to me and give myself the space and permission to let both go without guilt. It’s work that has carried through to my personal new year.

Birthday dinner slay! Top and necklace from Old Navy.

Year 30 was good to me. Year 31 was even better. I welcomed year 32 with open arms, with open heart, with anticipation of the most wonderful times yet to come.

I’m back, y’all. Happy birthday to me. ๐Ÿ™‚

Positivity

Sunset on 30

I’ll be 31 in three days.

Hmm.

fb_img_1461722540901.jpg

Sunshine and melanin.

Last year, I was getting ready to turn 30. I had a lot of expectations for myself that I was supposed to reach before I turned 30.

I was supposed to be a lawyer.

I was supposed to be married.

I was supposed to have children.

I was supposed to have a Master’s degree.

fb_img_1461722588314.jpg

But do I HAVE to take this pic, though?

Since I’d done none of these things by 30, I felt as though I really didn’t have too much to show. Like, what am I even doing with my life?

I’m not a lawyer.

I’m not married.

No children.

Can’t even decide what to study to get a Master’s degree.

fb_img_1461722526182.jpg

Smile!

However…

I made new, wonderful friends.

I co-own a business.

I’m getting published.

I’ve tapped into my creativity in ways I’d never done before.

fb_img_1461722162475.jpg

Grass + bare feet= happiness

Most importantly…

I’m happy. I’m the happiest I’ve been in a while.

I’ve learned that success is measured by different factors.

I’ve learned that all accomplishments should be celebrated.

I’ve learned it’s important to never stop believing wonderful things can happen for you.

I’ve learned how to really embrace me and all of my facets.

fb_img_1461722125737.jpg

Here is my fierce. Let me show you it.

30 has been so good to me. I can’t wait for what 31 brings.

Happy birthday to me. ๐Ÿ™‚

Photo credits go to my wonderful business partner, friend, and lil sis Stephenie Valentino. See more of our work on our Instagram!

Positivity Stories

Introducing: Roses In Concrete Photography

So, I promised y’all on Wednesday that I’d give y’all a little more info about where I’ve been the last month.

Short answer:

Longer answer:

Drawing

Fancy!

So, remember when I had those pictures done in January? My wonderfully creative and talented friend Stephenie and I thought that we would do a photo project (we’re still doing it. but that’s under wraps and construction!)…and then thought…but we’re awesome photographers. Why don’t we just make it a business?

And there you have it.

It’s been weeks of paper work and planning and meetings, but we’ve made it official.

We’re entrepreneurs!

This has been a serious undertaking (and we’re still getting things together,) but for those of you that are local to NY or NJ: we officially open for business beginning next month. Feel free to contact me personally using any of the methods here, or you can get hold of both of us via the Roses in Concrete Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

Don’t think that I’m abandoning here. This blog and all of you that read it mean the world to me, and I don’t want to leave y’all! I would say you’ll have to get used to the once or twice a month posts until we can get our business a bit more steady, but I’m not going anywhere.

Hope y’all hang in here with me for this ride! Have a wonderful weekend, y’all. ๐Ÿ™‚

Blog Stuff Positivity Stories

Metallic Neutral

*taps mic* This thing on?

Hi!!!!

Did y’all miss me? I sure missed y’all!

More info on my radio silence to come Friday, but first: can we talk about my nails?

I feel like it’s been a million years since I’ve really had time to paint them up all pretty. Since I had some time on my last day of mini-vacation, I figured I’d treat myself to a nice manicure.

And…it’s in a neutral color. Aย pinkย neutral color!

I know, right? Who AM I!

๐Ÿ˜€

Now, of course there had to be some sparkle, because…well, this is me we’re talking about here. But it’s suprisingly subtle.

And I absolutely ADORE it.

20160307_152529_richtonehdr.jpg

20160307_152447_richtonehdr.jpg

Such a fresh, spring manicure!

The pink (pictured) is Julep’s Abby, and the silver is Essie’s Apres-Chic. I used some chevron stickers to help make the design and topped it all off with some tiny pearls. I love this manicure. It’s fancy without being too much and it hides nicks well (because working freight is hard on a manicure, honey.)

See y’all Friday for an awesome announcement!

Nail Adventures

Philosophy in Blue

Although I pursue photography as a creative outlet and enjoy taking pictures of others, I hate having pictures taken of myself.

1-DSC_0023

That’s hard, considering I’m a makeup artist and kinda, well, have to take pictures of myself in order to sell my services. Selfies are easy, though. It’s just my face. My skills are pretty good. I’m pretty much the selfie queen! I bet y’all don’t know how many I take before y’all see the two or three I ultimately post, though.

It’s a lot more than just two or three, let me tell you.

Is it a confidence issue? Maybe. I was always one who hid as a teenager. Even with all of the work I’ve done to help build myself up, I still use the fact I have such a fancy camera to stay out of pictures.

I mean, someone has to take the pics, right?

At any rate, it’s hard to proclaim myself a fashion blogger and y’all rarely ever get to see me in any fashion.

1-DSC_0021

I can’t keep allowing myself to hide like this. Even with the strides I’ve made to put myself out there, go out and socialize, make some new friends and have some new experiences…I still shy away from something as simple…as a camera.

Something’s got to give.

1-DSC_0033

I figure that in some cases, the best thing to do to combat something that scares you is to just do it. I called up a talented photographer friend of mine to come and take some pics of me for the blog. So y’all could see me. So I could really see myself.

And maybe not be so scared.

1-DSC_0036

Don’t get me wrong. I got some hangups. I looked at the shots like…but my belly. But I’m so wide. But, but, but. Just all types of self-depreciating thoughts flowing through my head. I wouldn’t let anyone close to me speak about themselves like that, but that’s the fun part about internal dialogue. No one knows how I was ripping myself down but me.

1-DSC_0027

1-DSC_0029

When I got home and got a good look at things, though? I won’t tell y’all I did a 360 on my thoughts. I didn’t. But I can say what I love about myself. I can say I looked amazing. I can say that, when it’s genuine and I’m truly amused, I have a nice smile. When I showed some folks the pictures, I was surprised that the ones I didn’t think were the most flattering were the most popular.

1-DSC_0035

Like this one of me smiling. Cause with these braces, I don’t. I’m still very self conscious about both them and my teeth. Stephenie, my photographer, said “Okay. Let’s get one of you smiling.” Me: *stare* *skeptic look* Her: “I know, I know. But come on, smile.” I gave her the most half-assed smile I could come up with. She took the pic, and it looked just as tortured as could be. I hate smiling on purpose, I really do. A few minutes later, however, I’m cracking up at something Stephenie said. She seized the moment and snapped.

C says: “Your smile is radiant!”

J, my coworker, goes “That is just a genuine smile! You look so good!”

My coworker looks at the pic and goes, “Your niece has your smile. That’s so cool!”

My niece does have my smile. She’s just adorable.

1-DSC_0024

Maybe I’m pretty cute, too. I’m getting there. Slowly, but surely.

Outfit details: I’m wearing a really, really old (6-7 years?)Lane Bryant sweater (here’s something similar), Lane Bryant Genius Fit Trouser Jeans, and Nike Sneaker Wedges (on sale!)

Photo Credits: Stephenie Valentino’

Makeup Looks Positivity Stories

Liberation

2015 was a year of major changes for me. Outside of finally getting my septum pierced (a thing I’d been dreaming of for years!), I finally got my first tattoo.

I also decided to finally live life as queer. I don’t think I’ve ever shared that with y’all before, but there it is.

I still tingle when I write that. When I say that. Because it is and continues to be so affirming to live freely.

New Year’s eve, I decided to do one more modification. Something I had never done because I’d gotten so much push back. So much: “OMG, but whyyyyyyyy?!” Or “Maybe you should braid it instead to get a different look!”

I heard every reason known to humankind as to why I shouldn’t cut my hair, but I only needed one reason to go for it.

Cause I’m grown and I do what I want. ๐Ÿ˜€

Honestly, my hair has been such a source of contention when it came to professional life (“You have to be marketable to future employers and make sure to adhere to a non-threatening look for work!”) and personal life (see damn near everyone I’ve ever dated that has been more attached to my hair than I am). Even when I transitioned my hair to natural, instead of doing the big chop like I wanted I just transitioned my hair. My boyfriend at the time loved my hair. And I loved him. So I kept it.

Fast forward to December 22, 2015. I’m catching up with a good friend of mine, C. She sends me a pic of her hair, shaved on one side, and I think it’s so beautiful. I didn’t think I would ever be brave enough to rock that. I mean, everyone loves my hair, so I should keep it, right? Then C shocked me.

“As much as I love your hair, this haircut has changed my life. I bet it will change yours too.”

Hmm.

She gave me the info of her barber and I made an appointment the same night. I didn’t know if I would go through with it. I didn’t really tell folks I was cutting it, either. I did warn my coworkers the day before, and my friends S and C knew. ย I just didn’t want anyone to try and talk me out of it.

December 31, 2015: I did it.

I cut my hair.

20151212_125841.jpg

I went from this….

20151231_184740.jpg

To this!

20151231_184753.jpg

Design and all!

20151231_185952.jpg

Close up of the swirls. Haircut by Khane at Camera Ready Kutz.

If you would have told me I’d cut my hair (into a Mohawk, no less!) I’d have thought you’d lost your mind. When I tell you I feel free, though? As she buzzed my head every expectation attached to my hair fell away. I feel lighter.

Liberated.

Not just from what people expect when they look at a Black woman’s natural hair but from society’s rules. Yeah, it’s a bit cliche, but I look like the cool, queer, aunt. I happen to BE a cool, queer aunt. It’s awesome to be able to show outwardly the freedom I feel within.

Liberated.

Happy New Year.

Hair Makeup Looks Positivity

Happy New Year

I just want to take a moment to wish you all a happy new year! I hope you rang it in safely and that you have some time to recover (I’ll be at work by the time this post goes live.) Thanks so much for reading my work and all of your comments. I love all of you!

HappyNewYear

Oh, and I cut my hair Thursday. I’ll show y’all those results on Monday! Have a great weekend!

 

Blog Stuff

Fatshion Friday: Finishing Touches

Before we get into the meat and potatoes of this post, I’d like to wish all of you that celebrate a Merry Christmas. I hope that you’re spending it with people you love and that you’re in a loving environment.

For those of you that don’t do holidays: I hope that you’re able to spend the day doing things you love with people you love (or if you prefer solitude, that you’re able to indulge in some self-care), and that you’re someplace warm and safe.

And finally: to my sisters and brothers in retail: solidarity to those of you that are working today and I hope all of your customers are pleasant and that your workday goes quickly. ๐Ÿ™‚

I’ve gone over some clothing ideas and some shoe suggestions for New Year’s, and now I’m going to share my picks for the finishing touches. This is always my favorite part, because I definitely believe that more is more.

I know. Coco Chanel said to take one thing off before you leave the house, and I’m liable to put two more things on. I say if you love it, rock with it. Confidence has a way of making all types of fashion decisions look sexy.

On to the good stuff!

1-Fullscreen capture 12182015 45152 PM

Cowrie shells and glitter. From Rachel Stewart Jewelry.

1-Fullscreen capture 12182015 45025 PM

Shells and shine! From Rachel Stewart Jewelry.

I love a statement earring! I’ve discussed that I don’t really do well in unfamiliar situations with a lot of people, and that goes for going to clubs. My introvert self has a hard time sparking conversation, but I find that I’ll eagerly discuss what you’re wearing or what I’m wearing…hence these lovely earrings! They give interest to whatever you’re wearing and have people ask you where you got them from. And just like that…you’ve made a friend. A lot of her pieces tend to run on the larger side (which I love.) Some of her pieces I’m wearing below to get an idea of some of the sizing.

IMG_20141215_11574620151212_130002.jpg

I’m such a fan of her work!

1-Fullscreen capture 12182015 44647 PM

Let me draw your eye downwards…From Lost Queens.

Necklaces are something I’m getting back into. I have eczema, and sometimes having things on my neck (including clothing, which is why I rarely wear button down shirts) irritates me. But I love the drama of this necklace! If you have on a low cut top and a good bra, this just helps to accent all of that lovely cleavage. I am always here for that!

1-Fullscreen capture 12182015 44750 PM

Arm candy in my fave shade of blue. From Lost Queens.

Bracelets! I love bangles because they jingle. I’m a fan of anything that glitters and makes noise when I move. I figure that’s a more subtle way to draw a little attention, especially when they’re mixed in with a bright color. Blue is bright and soothing, and I adore this set of bangles. Either wear them all on one arm or split them between both (which is how I’d style them.)

1-Fullscreen capture 12182015 51057 PM

Sexy fringe. From JustFab.

Fringe has been everywhere this season, from shoes to belts. Honestly, the quickest way to up your outfit’s chic quotient would be to add a touch of fringe, and this little clutch fits the bill. Bonus: black and white goes with just about everything so it’s a piece you’ll be able to use again and again!

1-Fullscreen capture 12182015 51148 PM

Wearable pop art! From Love Cortnie.

I am such a comic geek! The moment I saw this I was ready to change my outfit so I could buy this! Sadly, this doesn’t go with a blessed thing in my wardrobe (as much as I love yellow, I don’t look good in it), but I love the wow factor! This is another ice breaker piece–you’re sure to be asked where you got this from as you’re working the room in your fabulous outfit.

Next week: let’s talk makeup looks and fabulous products! Have a wonderful weekend!

Retail Therapy Shopping

New Year Shoe Candy

So, last Friday I gave y’all some ideas for really cute outfits for New Year’s Eve.

Now, y’all can’t go out barefoot, right? Unless you’re headed to a beach or something (if you are, take me with you!)

So: here are a few choices for some really pretty shoes, from heels to loafers. Let’s go!

1-Fullscreen capture 12182015 54348 PM

The front…

1-Fullscreen capture 12182015 54400 PM

And the back of these beauties from Aminah Abdul Jillil.

These aren’t two toned, by the way. The front view only came in the blush color, and the back only in the black. But OMG, how glorious are these?! These are way too high for my ankles to handle, but honey, you’re gonna turn heads in these bejeweled beauties. Wear these with a dramatic side slit gown or even a cute romper that needs a little jazzing up.

1-Fullscreen capture 12182015 54505 PM

Ankle tie flats, also fromย Aminah Abdul Jillil.

If you feel like you need a little more stability, how about these little pointy toe flats? I love that something that can usually be too plain to go out is given a little extra oomph by the bow tie on the side. So cute!

1-Fullscreen capture 12182015 54834 PM

Pop of floral brightness. From JustFab.

I like a quirky statement piece. This is perfect for either a big night out or a low key house party. Bonus: the heel isn’t too high!

1-Fullscreen capture 12182015 54916 PM

Glitzy, because it wouldn’t be me otherwise! From JustFab.

Bring on the dramatic high sparkly heel! Alright, these are again to high for me, but oooh, how pretty! This is for that girl going out for a glam night out on the town and they need their shoes to shine!

1-Fullscreen capture 12182015 55247 PM.bmp

Booties. From Nine West.

I love a bootie to go with a jumpsuit or a pair of pants. I mean, not everyone wants to wear a dress on NYE. What if you need to drop it like it’s hot? You need some coverage, and this pair helps to add to the sleekness of a pantsuit or romper.

1-Fullscreen capture 12182015 55430 PM

Sparkly flat! From Nine West.

You can never, ever go wrong with a glitter flat. Makes any outfit ten times more glam and you’re comfortable! I did a pair last year, but they cut up my poor toe by the end of the evening. They were still cute though!

1-Fullscreen capture 12182015 55646 PM

Loafers. Yes! From Nine West.

I adore a loafer, especially when it’s this sleek and chic. I also adore menswear, and am now incorporating more masculine elements into my dress. I would do this shoe with a black jumpsuit that’s tapered at the ankle, and one of those gorgeous cape-style blazers on top. Such a classy way to bring in the new year!

Next up: let’s finish off your looks with some jewels and bags, shall we? See you Friday!

Retail Therapy Shoes Shopping

Makeup Monday: Take It Off!

The title tells you the best tip in the world about having great skin: take your makeup off at night!

It’s advice I would do well to practice consistently. But don’t be me, y’all. Be better than me!

Anyway.

I’ve gotten questions about my skincare regimen for a while, and since we’re in the middle of holiday party season, let me give you some info on how I keep my skin looking good.

First: some background.

My skin has not always looked as good as it has now. This face has seen some unfortunate times due to puberty. When I tell you my face looked like a Nestle Crunch bar? I am NOT exaggerating. It was all broken out, full of dark spots, rough, and it hurt. Acne hurts, y’all. If you’ve never had it, or only had one or two, count yourself lucky.

Mine was so bad that there’s a span between 7th grade to senior year of high school that I didn’t have my school pictures done. I wouldn’t bring the little folder home. Senior year I discovered the glory of Photoshop and had them edit the hell out my face to smooth everything out and remove the shine.

When I first moved to NYC, and got my current job, my problem skin was still hounding me. It had cleared up a bit, but my face made me so self conscious. I didn’t really do makeup on my face, thinking that would make the problem worse. When you work as a make up artist, it’s hard to sell your services when you don’t bother to put any on yourself, right?

Yeah.

So, one of the vendors came to me at work and brought me some of their product to try. After years of trying EVERYTHING (Proactiv is a waste of damn money in my humble opinion), I tried some fancy, new to me company called La Roche Posay.

Y’all. I texted my mother a pic of me and she wondered what the hell I’d been doing up here. My skin had never been that clear in…ever. I’d found my magic bullet.

I use Effaclar from La Roche Posay. It’s rare you’ll hear me talk about something I sell at work, because here and there I like to keep separate. But I love it so much I just have to share it. I use the Gel wash, toner (the regular one), Duo (best acne treatment ever!), and mattifying lotion. Lo these many years later, I still use it. I’m confident enough now to share all types of makeup free selfies on Instagram, and I took a favorite one without filters a while back:

IMG_20140216_132426

No eyebrows or anything! Just lip balm.

That’s my skin story, and trust me, it takes some diligence to keep my skin looking as good as it does. If you’re looking for a flawless makeup application, the first step is making sure your skin is on point. To that point, I have some suggestions for all skin types to keep your skin beautiful, or to even help you heal your face if it is as problematic as mine. Please know: there is a solution for every skin, even the most sensitive, acne prone face. It will take time and patience, but I’m telling you: your silver bullet is out there.

So, let’s get started.

The basics of a good regimen is all about cleansing, toning, treating, moisturizing, and sunscreen. No, just because you have melanin does NOT mean you don’t have to use sunscreen. Black folks have the highest rate of malignant sun cancer because we have this false sense of security. If you have skin, you need sunscreen. Period.

Now that’s off my chest:

Cleansing: You’ll need to pick something that’s for your skin type. If you aren’t sure what kind of skin you have, try this. Wash your face, and then leave it alone for a few hours after. Don’t moisturize or anything. Take note of how your skin feels after a while. Does it feel tight? Then it’s dry. Got an oil slick happening all over? Then you’re oily (that’s me.) Shiny on the forehead, nose, and chin while your cheeks feel like a desert? Then you’re combination. And if you don’t feel any way at all? Congrats! You’re normal. Oilier and combo skinned folks will love a gel cleanser, as it helps to remove the excess oil from the skin and give a squeaky clean. Drier folks will love cream cleansers or oil based cleansers. Normal skinned folks? Use whatever makes you feel the best.

As a part two to cleansing, you may want to do a scrub too. I will say that anyone who has a reaction to too much scrubbing shouldn’t use a mechanical scrub (that’s with scrubby bits) and should stick to a mild (emphasis on MILD) chemical exfoliant (like glycolic acid) instead. Whichever you use, keep it to twice a week at the most. You’ll find your moisturizers and treatments sink in better. My favorite is from Vera Moore Cosmetics…best scrub EVER, I swear!

Toner: Again, choose based on skin type. Also: don’t think you need to skip toner–this really helps to get the deep down dirt that cleansers can miss. I love the toner I use because it unblocks and tightens my pores as well as controls oil. Drier and normal skins will love a hydrating toner (yes, they exist!) because it helps keep your skin nice and supple.

Treatment: These are fun and vary depending on what you need! Ok, a treatment is anything from an acne treatment to an anti-aging serum. Depending on how much dedication you have to regimen, you can do as many or as few as you like. I stick to just one acne treatment for day, and an anti-aging serum at night. My current serum is from Lierac, and I love the radiance it gives.

Moisturizer: I switch this up depending on the season, and you may find you need to do the same. Warmer months call for a mattifying lotion (I use this one) and colder months I love something with a little more moisture. I switch this up every year, and I’m loving this one from Lierac right now. And again, sunscreen! Pick a moisturizer with a sunscreen and save a step.

Bonus: I like to treat my face once a week to a mask, and I say pick a mask depending on what you need most: whether its radiance or clarifying, it’s a nice treat for your face and some well deserved self care.

If you’re not certain what brands you should try, I suggest putting some money into a subscription box to try different companies. I’ve done Glossybox in the past, and I’m looking to try the Essence Beauty Box soon.

In future posts, I will explore more of the favorite brands I love, and not just the high end stuff. Don’t worry, there’s some good stuff right in the drugstore you’re looking over, and I’m bringing that to you next week. Any questions on regimens? Leave them for me in the comments below or tweet them to me!

 

Makeup Looks Reviews Shopping Stories