Category Archives: My Journey

My book launch was amazing!

To celebrate the journey (joys and challenges) we celebrated of the release of I Am More Than My Hair, on Sunday September 9th, at the Hyattsville Busboys and Poets.

Rather than the typical author talk, I decided to set the tone for a panel discussion. I gave a brief background on how I came up with the idea for I Am More Than My Hair. Several participants (Janice, Martina, Nicole, Doretha, Jameelah, Shae and Holly) introduced themselves and spoke about their #HAIRstory. Dermatologist Dr. Sharleen St. Surin-Lord clarified the meaning of alopecia and the importance of identifying the root cause.

IAmMoreThanMyHairBookLaunch-58

Jeff Woytovich, Founder of Children’s Alopecia Project (CAP), was gracious enough to travel here (MD) from Pennsylvania and share his organization’s mission and available programs for children.

I honestly couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate the release of I Am More Than My Hair . It was so much bigger than a book release. It was a gathering in celebration of the beauty and diversity of girls and women. See The Umbrella Syndicate’s photos on Facebook.

Keep Smiling: Bald Edition Book

 

Ken Rochon, Founder and CEO of The Umbrella Syndicate and creator of the Keep Smiling movement, has captured beautiful images at the Bald, Beautiful and Bold Fashion Show as well as this past Sunday at my book launch. If you missed the opportunity to be included in the Keep Smiling: Bald Edition Book, Ken would love to take your photo at his studio for the book. This is open to women, men and children. If he took your photo and you’re interested in purchasing copies (once finalized and available), please contact Ken at (202) 701-0911.

New Retailer!

Bluestockings Bookstore now carries my book. If you’re in the New York City area please help me maintain a retailer/author relationship by purchasing a copy during your next visit. Bluestockings is located at 172 Allen Street, New York, NY 10002.

You can also purchase a copy of I Am More Than My Hair on Amazon or any of these retailers near you:
BookWoman (Austin, TX), Politics and Prose (Washington, DC), Sandy Spring Museum (Ashton, MD), Vroman’s Bookstores (Pasadena, CA), Women’s Museum of California (San Diego, CA).
*10% of sale proceeds will be donated to Children’s Alopecia Project.

Have a bookstore suggestion? Contact me.

Film Fund

If you would like to support and help me finish my film, please consider making a tax-deductible donation via Docs In Progress.

Tax-deductible donation - I Am More Than My Hair

I was interviewed on Fox5 Morning News Good Day DC!Alyscia-Cunningham-Fox5

Thanks for your support!MTMH-launch-sponsors

About Alyscia: Personally, Alyscia is a mom, wife, artist, advocate, writer, Pisces, dreamer, truth seeker, positive thinker, adventurer, traveler, and hiker. Professionally, she’s an entrepreneur, author, speaker, filmmaker and photographer who has contributed  to National Geographic, Discovery Channel, AOL and Smithsonian Institution. She’s also the CEO of a Maryland Home Improvement company, Uprising Builders, LLC, and AC Media, a production and publishing company. To find out more about Alyscia, visit www.Alyscia.com.
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The proof is here!

20180509_132238.jpgI received a proof copy of I Am More Than My Hair book. How exciting!

After review, Robin Benson, my Designer, made a minor change then I gave the OK for printing. All copies are expected to arrive by or around July 23, 2018.

In the meantime, I’m working on plans for distribution, marketing, speaking/book tour and of course… grant applications.

This time around, I’m applying finishing fund grants. And in a few weeks I’ll launch…

iFundWomen crowdfunding campaign

I discovered iFundWomen last month while attending Light City Baltimore. How cool is it to have a crowfunding platform dedicated to women only. Amazing!

After speaking with one of the coaches I decided to launch a crowfunding campaign to help cover the finishing cost of I Am More Than My Hair film. I’m almost there. I just need one more push to complete it.

At this point, I will edit the film on my own (rough-cut) and will hire an Editor to complete the fine-cut. As much as I tried to avoid it, I’m guessing the Universe wants me to edit this film. 🙂 I’ll keep you posted.

Pre-order your copy

If you’re interested in pre-ordering a copy of I Am More Than My Hair book, you can do so via PayPal. It will also be available on Amazon but won’t go live until I receive the shipment of books. Pre-order your copy here.

 

HuffPost covered the Fashion Show!

HuffPost Editor, Jamie Feldman, covered the Bald, Beautiful, & Bold Fashion Show. If you missed it, read more here.
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The Fashion Show Was A Success!

Five months of planning, a set venue, a dedicated team of professionals, everything was ready to go. Just 2 weeks before the show…we hit a bump in the road.

We had a challenge. A canceled venue location due to circumstances beyond our control – AKA given false information. As devastating as it was when we first got the news, the new location worked in our benefit. We can fit more of an audience and the show went on.

If there’s one thing I’ve always been clear and upfront about, it is the fact that in life we always face adversities. Especially when it’s a cause you feel most passionate about. As much as I’d love for my journey to always be smooth, I’ve learned that the bumps in the road prepare you for greatness.

Never let a stumble in the road be the end of the journey.”

Carolyn Phillips hit the road (literally) and connected with the Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran Church who willingly provided us with the space to hold the show. Woohoo! The thought of canceling was eliminated.

Words cannot express the gratitude I feel for Carolyn and team of people who came together to make the fashion show phenomenal.

Thanks once again….

Carolyn Phillips, Joan Carter-Smith, Lakisha Ellis, Wain Jenkins, Sharon Diggs, Barry Page, Londa Msanii, Lauren Stewart, Artartus Jenkins, April Clark, Nora Bonds, Erica Strong, Rue Medley, Lou Fields, Nora Yolanda, DJ Hardpoint Entertainment,  (if I missed someone please know it wasn’t intentional)

Designers – Londa Msanii for Designs by Londa Msanii; 13-Year-Old Samalie Kabenge; Donna Henderson for Flowerbaum; Aristotle Bouvier for Bouvier’s Creations; Simone Ashley For Simone’s Designs; Carissa Bernard For D’kultered Kunsepts; Ola Raphael For Ola Raphael Designs

Models – You were amazing! Absolutely stunning!
Brenda Alford, Toni Jessop, Isaiah “The Model” Branch, Thurman Jones, Sharon Alford, Verne Johnson, Cornelius Bryant, Troy Mitchell, Tondalaya Dunn, Shalonda Mitchell, Tea Copeland, Michael Nwachukwu, Kathie Ehrmann, Nicole O’Brien Dupee, Sin Gabriel, Ty Sydnor, Tammy Flake, Carolyn Phillips, Steve Golub, Prentiss Hakeem Watson, Deborah Gray, Wain Jenkins, Paula Hart, Lillie William

SponsorsThe Umbrella Syndicate, Anu Essentials, Turban Diva, Miss Jessie’sEmmanuel Lutheran Church

Cheers to all hostess and volunteers for making this a successful event!

Here’s a sneak peak of the Designer’s creations. Did you know there were two young designers in the show? See the creativity of 13-year-old Designer Samalie Kabenge, and 17-year-old Designer Simone Ashley.

     See more photos on The Umbrella Syndicate’s Facebook page and Barry Page’s Dropbox.  And how amazing is it to have a project from this project! Ken Rochon, Founder of The Umbrella Syndicate, and 5K sponsor for the Bald, Beautiful, & Bold Fashion Show, is going to publish a new book from his Keep Smiling series titled, Bold, Beautiful, & Bold. View a sneak peak here.
     We’d love for you to share but please remember to keep the photographers caption/copyright info on the photos. If cropping is necessary please include the photographer’s credit. Thank you!

I Almost Threw In The Towel

As much as I love to give good news, I always want to be open and honest about my hurdles along the way.

I’m exhausted.

It’s as simple as that.

I excitedly reached out to my grantor to inform them that I finally use my grant funding as planned. Keep in mind, the remainder of my grant was supposed to have been released, but because I did not use my previous year’s grant as yet, it has been withheld. {It’s only fair but this is my first grant award and I’m learning that there’s a lot more logistics to the entire process than originally thought it to be.}

My excitement quickly turned to disappointment when I receive the response…

“Is your project complete?”

They can’t be referring to having to the 1,000 copies of I Am More Than My Hair, printed and available for sale? Or so I thought.

I assumed that using my grant money was sufficient for releasing the remaining award and moving on with my project. I thought wrong.

Damn it, another hurdle!

Not only has a set back been obtaining the stories necessary to accompany the photos of all the women in my book, but also obtaining the funding needed to complete it. That’s why the grant was so vital.

My initial response (in my own head)…

“I can’t do this. I’m done!”

It has been frustrating, to say the least, working as a one-woman show. As much as I don’t like to admit this, unfortunately, I’ve had to eliminate multiple women from my project because they either haven’t sent their stories to me on time or have been unresponsive.

If there’s one thing I understand, it is that we all have lives and sometimes making the time to complete “another task” isn’t as urging as our daily routines. Then add the challenges the Universe throws at us from time-to-time.

Today, I made my last attempt to collect the story of one individual, whom hasn’t respond to my emails in over a year. I finally figured I should Google her name to see if her contact info may have changed.

Instead of finding any updates, I found an obituary.

Katie had passed away and I didn’t even know it. I was so stuck in tunnel zone I never thought to reach out to her in another way before this day.

Katie was the first individual to respond to my call for participants {outside of the first groups of women from SWAG and NAAF‘s Facebook post}.  Despite her diagnosed with breast cancer, Katie happily volunteered and often sent positive words of encouragement, especially when I lost the patience with myself and my project. She was never critical and never questioned my timing.

Instead she said…

“It will happen when it’s supposed to. There’s no rush.”

So today, I had to pull myself out of my pity party, say prayers for Katie to rest in peace and the condolences of her family, and remind myself why I started in the first place.

To use my creativity as a pedestal to cultivate awareness, and dispel the myth of a “beauty standard”. I Am More Than My Hair aids in the awareness of alopecia.

And…

I am the vessel given the opportunity to bring it to life.

It has been undeniably challenging, which I am sure is no different from anything you give as a labor of love.

So I move forward knowing that I have to work 10 times harder, but believing that it can and will be done. And although not having the grant on-hand has caused a delay, I can’t give up.

Actually, I take back, because I can.

I won’t.

I thank you for your patience and belief in the work I create, that in some way contributes to social-good, through art.

Enjoy the Holiday!

I Am More Than My Hair -  Katie

Katie… May you continue to Rest In Peace. To her family… I send my condolences and lots of love and light your way.

Peace & Blessings,
Alyscia

Taking Flight

As I sit here in the waiting room of my Docs office, I thought to myself… what should I name this newsletter? I turned my head towards the window to think, took a deep breath in, then exhaled.

Just then a flock of geese took flight off the ground into the air… and I thought to myself…

Taking Flight!

It’s a perfect fit. It also connects with the where I am at the moment.

I’ve most definitely had my challenges, and had to step back and take breaks from time-to-time, but my progress is evident in my consistency.

(“Just keep swimming!”)

It’s a bit surreal knowing that I’m closer to completion and now having to consider locations for film screenings and a book launch. On top of that, I’ve decided to host a private event for all of the participants of I Am More Than My Hair so they’d be able to see a rough cut before it’s released to the public.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve visited a few venues to hold my events. It’s a bit more costly than I imaged but that’s the way business goes. In my heart, I know a way will be paved to make it happen.

So, in this very moment, I am in the process of taking flight and excited about the possibilities it will bring.

My goal is to have an ALL FEMALE CREW. This means, a female…
1. Film Editor
2. Literary Editor (for my book)
3. Colorist
4. DVD cover designer
5. Music Composer
6. Sound Tech
7. Marketing/PR Agent
8. Fiscal Sponsor – (Docs In Progress) was co-founded by a woman, Erica Ginsberg!

Although they are men, I’m in luck with a great Book and Layout Designer. Robin Benson, designed my first book, Feminine Transitions, and he so graciously offered his services for I Am More Than My Hair. Thank you Robin!

In the meantime, I’m still raising funds through my fiscal sponsor, Docs In ProgressIf you’re interested in hosting a fundraising event at your home, or a public arealet’s chat. I can show a video short of I Am More Than My Hair work-in progress along with a Q&A. Feel free to forward this email update or link-   https://docsinprogress.nationbuilder.com/hair

Thank you for your support!

 

Connect with me via Facebook, TwitterInstagram and YouTube.

I’ve been shot at and was setback… Maybe or maybe not.

I’m sure you’re wondering… Maybe?

Reading the first 4 words in this title is unsettling for me, and although I wish it were different, unfortunately it’s true.

On July 17, in the wee hours of the morning, a group of individuals did a drive-by shooting on my home.

I woke up to the sound of bullets shattering through the walls, the sight of sparks as it ricocheted throughout the room and the smell of gunpowder as the bullets exploded. I swore I was dreaming.

Not in Montgomery County, Maryland… or so I thought.

My husband and I are hard workers, both entrepreneurs, and have never been involved in any form of criminal activity and fought our asses off for the past 12 years to maintain our home (renovating it little by little all by ourselves).

So the question we were left with was…

Why?

And…

Who?

Who in the hell would drive-by and shoot up a family’s home and for what reason?!?

Since then I’ve felt different emotions, anger being most prevalent. Although I’ve been frustrated and had moments of fear, tears and prayers, I’ve had to do my best to shake off the worry and prepare myself spiritually, mentally, emotionally and most definitely physically.

Thankfully, I planned a trip to California months before and was able to clear my head, take in the beautiful sights and get a change of scene for a few days.

Alyscia takes photos of La Jolla Cove in San Diego, CA

During my visit, I had the opportunity to film Mary Marshall, founder of Bald Mannequin Project and International Alopecia Day Facebook group, as well as a drummer, dancer, and diver among so many other wonderful qualities.

We connected two years ago about my project (I Am More Than My Hair) and I told her I would film her during my next visit to San Diego. At that time, I wasn’t sure when it would happen but the time finally came in July 2017.

During the interview with Mary, she mentioned a moment in her life that she literally had to “fake it to make it”. In her example, she was referring to her concerns while facing alopecia (hair loss). She went on and on with so many powerful statements about her experience and how she conquered her emotions.

Mary didn’t know of the shooting incident.

There I was… in Beautiful San Diego… still worried about what happened back home.

I choose not to tell Mary because I didn’t want to spoil the mood. She also didn’t know that her comments during my interview with her, empowered me and gave me strength.

When I returned to my hotel, I reached out to several of my spiritual communities, rehearsed certain Psalms and chanted for peace of mind.

I needed to get my sanity back.

After returning home, I connected with a priestess in an indigenous spiritual community I am a part of , and spoke with her about the incident. She made a comment that helped to put things into perspective. Her response was…

Haven’t you wanted to move for a while now?“… her question gave me goosebumps. I replied, “Yes, but…”. She responded, “So why are you still here?”

She then went into a discussion about how the Universe, although sometimes harsh, forces movement. Especially if we’ve made it known to the Universe that we’re ready for a particular type of movement in our lives.

In that conversation I had an AHA moment…

No matter how difficult the circumstance, there is a reason for everything and there’s always a bright side. 

theres a reason - oprah - alyscia cunningham

I’ve wanted to leave Maryland the first day I step foot here from Queens, New York back in the 90’s. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve learned to love and appreciate where I am but always felt there was something more, something better, a place I truly feel connected and can call home for my family and I.

In 2014 I traveled to San Diego for the first time and feel in love. In my soul, I knew that California was the place for me and my family. I just haven’t figured out exactly where (the city). Though San Diego is beautiful, I know it’s not the place for us. The biggest reason being the lack of diversity.

And today, as I type this blog, I open my email and see the subject “The Universe’s Plan for You” by Madisyn Taylor, one of my favorite writers. A section of the article reads…

Nothing happens without a purpose. Whether we attract success or repel it depends on our willingness to stay open to a wide range of possibilities and to embrace concepts like synchronicity.” ~Madisyn Taylor

I must be honest with you and myself and accept the fact that this situation changed my life. At first, knowing that I was just a few feet away from a bullet, left me in fear of my life. Given that my children didn’t sleep sound for a few weeks because of the constant nightmares, broke my heart.

Afterwards, considering those “few feet” saved our lives, I gained a different perspective and felt grateful.

In that moment of gratitude, The Farmer’s Luck came to mind (a wise tale I’ve read to my children since they were all very young). My afterthought was, although situations may sometimes look like bad luck, it could actually be good luck for a future time.

And in that I also learned, time passes and we often find ourselves “busy”. In our “buziness” we may have missed an opportunity to connect with a friend/family who may need our listening ear or support though a rough time or challenge.

I truly appreciated the small handful of people who were genuinely concerned and kept in touch to make sure my family and I were OK.

And to those who who knew my previous hurdles and considered this event to be another setback, my response is… Maybe… Maybe not.  It could be a blessing in disguise.

As for now, I have some serious work to do in figuring out my next move and having faith and trust in the process.

I took a break to gather my thoughts but I won’t allow an obviously unhappy and miserable person to make me unhappy and miserable. That goes for family, friend or foe.

I’m excited to  finish the filming and photo shoots for I Am More Than My Hair and finally now in the post-production phase. I’ll continue to keep you posted. Until then, please continue to support my fundraising efforts by sharing and contributing via my Fiscal Sponsor, Docs In Progress – https://docsinprogress.nationbuilder.com/hair

In the meantime, enjoy this short clip of my interview with Mary during my visit to California. May the solar eclipse bring positive energy to you and our world.

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The Oprah Winfrey Network’s In!

Anyone who’s worked hard and dedicated much of their time to creating and continuing on a path that they feel most passionate about, knows that failure is a part of the journey. And without the periods of falling, one would never know what it truly takes to withstand the many storms that comes your way and still and rise to the occasion.

You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. Please remember that your difficulties do not define you. They simply strengthen your ability to overcome.” ~Maya Angelou

I’ve reached out to several media outlets for licensing or collaboration in order to use segments of filmed footage in my documentary. Most (knowing their guilty of the not so positive imagery they’ve produced) have denied consent. But I’m very excited that my first “Yes” of approval was given by OWN TV!

FYI, it is not an endorsement (just to be clear) but it’s a blessing to know that my documentary was provided with permission after thorough review of my character and the work I create as an artist. Although it was disappointing to not reach my campaign goal on Indiegogo, the love and and support gained, is an affirmation.

Every no brings me closer to a yes.” ~Mark Cuban

Donate to Alyscia's fundraiser via Docs In Progress

See the list of everyone who supported my campaign. As I persevere with I Am More Than My Hair, I ask for your continued support to help raise funds for my project by donating via my fiscal sponsor, Docs In Progress using this link – https://docsinprogress.nationbuilder.com/hair

I Am More Than My Hair is a passion project that has honestly been an extension of Feminine Transitions. It is about the transitions we experience as women that we feel necessary to cover and remain silent because we face a tremendous amount of pressure within society to uphold to a certain “look”.

What I know for sure is…

Beauty has no dimensions and the definition of what it exemplifies does NOT fit in a box. With that in mind… know that you are beautiful (handsome)!

I’ve been in hiatus, with filming, editing and photo shoots. Here’s a trailer I put together. It’s a honor to keep you posted… and I continue with with my journey.

I Am More Than My Hair trailer from Alyscia Cunningham on Vimeo.