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. 🙂

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. 🙂

Blog Stuff Positivity Stories

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

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

Fatshion Friday: What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?

I certainly hope you’ll be getting all dolled up and going out for the night! I know I am.

January 1, 2015 I was happily dancing away in a club with my friends, and I’m looking to do that all over again. Now, I told y’all about all my mishaps getting my outfit. This year, I’ve planned way better…I have my outfit already! At least, I have the basics already: I’m doing a romper, tights, and red heels. All I need now are accessories, and next Friday I’ll have a post at the ready with some great ideas for finishing off your look.

But, you need to have the look first, right? Let me show you some of my ideas for an awesome night out at any budget!

1-Fullscreen capture 1242015 55108 PM

From Ashley Stewart.

I have come a long way from that girl who refused to do a romper or a jumpsuit. I didn’t think they worked for my body type because I carry most of my weight in my belly. Key here is fit. Take the time to try it out if you can, or make sure that there’s some stretch in it if you have to get it online. This look appeals to my practical side (what if I want to twerk a little? Now I’m not gonna be overexposed!) and to my sexy side (love the cut and sparkle). Because I like to define my waist, I’d do a belt with it, but do whatever makes you the most comfortable and makes you feel the most gorgeous.

1-Fullscreen capture 1242015 54346 PM

From ASOS.

If I had to choose between a romper or a jumpsuit, I’d likely pick the romper because I love my legs. They’re so shapely! 😀

Had to have a self-love moment. Sorry, not sorry. 🙂

I love this because of the embroidery. Because it’s mixed metallics, you could do gold or silver (or both!) jewels with this and a bold shoe. I mean, what better time to sparkle than New Year’s, right?

1-Fullscreen capture 1242015 54004 PM

From Monif C.

Ok, so maybe the soiree you’re attending doesn’t call for glitz and glam. Or, maybe you’re just not that into sparkle. I love this piece because it can be glammed up or left as is for a subtle elegance that looks good no matter the venue. A statement necklace and a nice heel is all you need to make this complete.

1-Fullscreen capture 1242015 53756 PM

From Monif C.

Does your night out call for all over sparkle? (Yep, I work in extremes, folks! :D) This dress is perfect. Beautiful cut and enough glittery happiness that calls for minimal extras outside of a nice heel and clutch. I’m all about easy!

1-Fullscreen capture 1242015 53626 PM

From Jibri.

In need of something dramatic? Bring it on with this number. I don’t normally go for sheer paneling, but I have to say I love how it just gives a little extra coverage without being too heavy. I’d do a metallic shoe and bangles with this because I believe more is more, but styling as seen in the pic is perfect for just enough drama for the evening.

1-Fullscreen capture 1242015 53543 PM

From Eloquii.

Oh, this dress. Story time!

I had every intention of purchasing this dress for New Year’s, right? I’d planned out the accessories (I was gonna add a bow tie and do red shoes) and everything, and put it in my cart. Y’all. By the time I’d gotten a chance to sign in and place the order, it was all sold out. I stalked the site for a few days, but usually when an item is gone from Eloquii, it’s gone. I sniffled a bit and found something else I liked, and ordered it.

And then…it came back in stock. During a non-pay week, and I’m flying out of town soon.

Sigh.

Oh, well. There’s no reason y’all can’t reap the benefits of the restock! You could style it as I described above, dress it down with a jeweled oxford, throw on some tights and a brightly colored pump, whatever! I love this dress just for its versatility.

And there you have it! My picks for a beautiful and stylish New Year. Next week, I’m going to talk about shoes and accessories for the big night. Happy Weekend!

Retail Therapy Shopping Stories

Tales From Retail: Black Friday

I actually wanted to put this up last week, but I’m still traumatized 6 years later.

Listen. If you’ve never had to work a Black Friday before, count yourself lucky. It is some of the most dehumanizing foolery you can imagine. The customers turn to creatures possessed, and the workers end up snapping at each other out of frustration.

Let me tell you my story of the first Black Friday I had to work.

Picture it: day after Thanksgiving, 5am. I am up before Jesus and the sun and NOT happy about it. I’m working with one of the most horrible managers I have ever worked with in life (this holds 6 years afterwards. She was THAT bad, y’all.) I was volunteered for the early morning shift because, well, nobody else liked her.

I didn’t like her either, but I can get along with anybody.

The aggravation started early, as she was an hour late, so I was outside waiting for her to get there. Doors opened at 7 and we still had setup to do. And as I am that early in the morning, I’m not communicative. I am trying to get this store ready so that we can be as prepared as possible for the crowd. They had their faces pressed against the windows and doors as we worked. I might mention she never apologized for not telling me that I didn’t have to be in that early. So I’m already annoyed.

So. Doors open, and we’re swamped. It’s just two of us (why in heaven would you only schedule two people on Black Friday?! Why?!) and we’re running about like chickens with no heads. I leave the manager to run the register, and I’m helping on the floor. We have a customer who wanted a fragrance that was still in the cage. I needed the key, so I ask Snotty (name changed to protect the stupid) to hand me the key so I can get the product.

Snotty: “I can’t hear you; you’ll have to speak up!”

Ok. It’s loud in here, so I raise my voice a bit.

“Could you toss me the fragrance key?”

Snotty: “I really can’t understand you!”

She’s standing next to me now, so I don’t…*sigh* Ok.

“I need the fragrance key please!” I speak loudly this time.

Snotty: “Don’t you dare yell at me! You could ask nicely!”

Me: “…”

Snotty: “Act like you have some sense! You have some nerve…”

And it was here that I think I blacked out a little. Let paint this picture for y’all. I am on the sales floor. This foolishness is happening in front of a throng of customers and she’s getting in my face. Like, personal space bubble in. my. face! The customer I was helping didn’t know what to do, cause she saw me ball my hands into fists. I was trying to calm myself down, but it wasn’t working. Once she finished her tirade, the look I laid on her was something like this:

sljGIF

Snotty gets quiet. The crowd even gets quiet. One woman in the line goes: “This poor girl is about to snap.”

Me: “I asked you three times for the key. All three times you claimed you couldn’t hear me, so when I get loud enough for you to hear me, I’m yelling? Let me tell you something…”

Snotty: “We will talk about this later—“

Me: “Oh, no ma’am. You yelled at me out here, so we’re gonna handle this here! I am here to help you because nobody else likes you, but please know I can clock out and go home RIGHT NOW. Is that what you want? Cause you don’t ring as fast as I do and you definitely don’t know the product like I do.”

Snotty: “No. But we’ll talk about this later.”

Me: ” No, we won’t, unless you’re firing me. Now, give me the key so I can get this customer what she’s asking me for. Thank you.”

After that, I don’t know that I have ever moved as fast as I did. I kept the key, got folks what they wanted, and virtually rang up 4 customers for every 1 she helped. By the time 2pm rolled around, the crowd had thinned, and it was time for me to go. The assistant manager was so impressed with how I was working, she asked if I would stay late. At this point Snotty pulls her to the side and tells her what happened.

AM: “OMG, you didn’t make her quit, did you?!”

Snotty: “Did you not hear me say she yelled at me?”

AM: “And you started it. I swear, if you made our best cashier quit–“

Snotty: “…”

Me: “I’m not quitting. But I’m not staying late either. I’m going home. Let me know if I still have a job tomorrow.”

AM: “You do. And I’m sorry about today.”

Gotta love how the assistant manager had more pull than the store manager! I stayed with that company until I packed up and moved to NYC, but the experience scarred me. Now that I’m a manager, I schedule myself off on Black Friday despite the fact that my company doesn’t even do Black Friday deals!

Sending love to my fellow workers in retail this month. I know it’s gonna be long, but you’ll make it through. I hope your customers are all kind and the unkind ones step on their children’s Lego with no shoes.

Stories

Tales From Retail: Costume Dos And Don’ts

Halloween is upon us once again. I’ve noticed as of late it isn’t as popular a holiday as it was when I was a peanut, but I still adore the holiday so much. It’s the one day dressing oddly is actually OK. At least to a certain extent.

It can be a hard day to navigate as a make up artist…because some folks still don’t know it isn’t OK to ask to be made up as certain characters.

Especially if you’re gonna ask the BLACK make up artist to do it for you.

*side eye emoji*

So, as a matter of trying to save my sisters and brothers from snapping at the make up counters and in the costume stores, allow me to explain some things you should masquerade as this year.

Please take good note of this. I don’t want y’all to get cursed out in front of God and everybody.

  1. Native Americans. Of any kind. Yes, even Pocahontas. Especially certain sports mascots. Confused by that? Allow me to help you:

NotACostume2

*Facepalm*

THIS IS NOT OK. NO. DO NOT DO THIS. *deep breath* Listen, I get it. You want show your team spirit/appreciation for Native culture/wear a feathered headdress. If you want to wear a feathered headdress, be a Las Vegas showgirl. Do not claim to be a “Native American princess” or a “brave” (actual name of a costume I saw in the store the other day) because that is not a costume, that is culture. Culture is not nor will it ever be a costume.

2. Blackface. Of any kind. You can dress up like Beyonce’ and not put on dark foundation to make yourself her shade. This is why she spends so much money on wardrobe and makeup. You too can dress like her…and not be offensive. This isn’t rocket science, y’all. If you leave your house for a party and you thought this was a good idea:

NotACostume3

*sigh*

…then I need you to find some new friends and some good sense. Because you’re clearly lacking both.

3. Stereotypes. *rubs forehead* See, this:

1-Fullscreen capture 10242015 81239 PM

*side eye*

…is not ok. I do not care if you can buy it in a store (this is available for purchase, folks, but I’m not telling you where), this is NOT OK. There were others with guitars and oversized bottles of liquor included too. I just…listen. And this:

Illegal Alien Costume

FFS, y’all!

…also not ok. To go back to culture not being a costume: if you pick up that Geisha costume and wonder if it’s ok? It likely isn’t and you should be something else instead. Just throwing it out there.

That being said, there are ways to dress up and have a good time. Make sure your makeup is for you and pays proper homage to the person/character you want to be. For example:

Miley Cyrus as Lil Kim.

I thought this was so precious when I first saw this. I knew she was portraying Lil Kim. And she didn’t have to use blackface or anything. I’m also here for some cultural references if in good taste. For example:

“Sexy” variety aside, I swear sriracha is in everything and is everywhere (besides pumpkin spice), so this is super cute. Other options of safe costumes: superheroes, video games, and book characters.

And finally, if you decide to wait til the last minute to get your costume, please don’t yell at your cashier/customer service associate. We can’t make extra merchandise magically appear (and it’s been in stores since September, so…) but we will do our best to help you where we can.

With that, I hope y’all have a great Halloween! Coming Wednesday, I will have some great ideas for costumes for us plus sized folk–both bought and homemade. See you then

Makeup Looks Stories