“Hair is just an accessory. Not a defining trait. I don’t have to have hair to be beautiful. My hair doesn’t justify who I am. Beauty comes from within. A beautiful heart and soul makes a beautiful person. So through my life’s journey, I have learned to love all the things about me that I once thought imperfect.”
For the past few years I’ve been seeking to learn more about my family’s stories, wondering and questioning about their personal thoughts and characteristics. Including those in the midst of transition.
Although little-by-little I am connecting the dots, one thing that have become distinctively clear to me is my yearning to know the stories of people. Given my own experience with beauty, it’s a topic I tend to focus on but in general understanding the view points and backgrounds of others is incredibly intriguing to me.
Through the process I’ve learned that although our deepest personal experiences shape how we see ourselves and others, we are ALL in the process of learning. We are all on this journey called life simply doing our best to figure things out.
This week I received news that I wasn’t expecting. Ms. Yvonne Johnson, a participant in my first book, Feminine Transitions, passed away. On the same day, I received an email for a link to a blog post about the passing of Debbie Osarere, a participant in my upcoming book, I Am More Than My Hair: Bald and Beautiful Me.
The culprit? Cancer.
For privacy purposes I won’t get into the details of their diagnosis, but I will say Cancer is an epidemic and it is taking the lives of too many of our loved ones.
We Can Stop the Cancer Epidemic, by educating ourselves, our families and knowing what to avoid. Although it’s hard to completely avoid all chemicals such as chem trails sprayed in the air by our government and pesticides in our foods, we can reduce our rate of cancer diagnosis by eating healthy (try growing your own food), exercising daily and doing your best to have a piece of mind (no stress).
I’m not a doctor, neither is this a diagnosis. Just like everyone else I’m fed up of the epidemic taking the lives of family and friends.
I ask to please keep Ms. Yvonne Johnson and Debbie Osarere’s family, any of your loved ones that have passed or holding on for dear life and those that are alive and well, in your thoughts and prayers. May these two beautiful souls continue to rest in peace.
“I am NOT my hair because I have accepted and EMBRACED he fact that I AM so much more.”
What that comes to mind when I think about Jameelah is she has an undeniable strength and sincerity. I met her just a few weeks after I had the idea for my project I Am More Than My Hair, at a book fair.
I spoke excitedly about my plans and Jameelah reciprocated the excitement as well. I asked if she could recommend anyone for my project and she looked at me and said, “I have alopecia.” And she’s also the Founder of SWAG (Sisters With Alopecia Group). Most of my participants thus far have come through Jameelah.
She has been one of my biggest cheerleaders and encourager. I am so grateful for Jameelah because if it wasn’t for her, through my frustration I would have given up. And so I continue.
This sweet baby was just 7 weeks when I took her picture. She is now 5 years old. This was the only picture I was able to take with her looking into the camera. Her mama was behind her ducking down and holding her up while she was wobbling and looking around.
I love the purity of babies. That’s before they are affected by the craziness of the world. Beautiful she is and I hope she will always be reminded.
“The thing I’m most passionate about in life is music. There are so many different types of music that includes singing and instruments. Music makes me happy and want to dance.”
Zoe is my oldest niece, now 16. When she was a baby I played music (I’ve always loved music) hoping she would stop crying…and she did as she would stop and listen to it. I’ve never seen a baby do that before. She always connected with music and danced to EVERYTHING. I would play CDs in my room and Zoe and my 2nd oldest niece would dance non stop. We were obviously connected by genes, but in music there was another relation. To my amazement she memorized the words in songs before the age of two (it started off as a toddler mumble then actual words as grew older). Although we may not hang out as often as when she was younger (those darn teenage years) I’ll always have these memories and we will forever be connected. #FeminineTransitions#naturallybeautiful #naturalbeauty#selflove#giveyourselflove #allnatural#DontPhotoshopMe #memories#music #dance#BellHooks
Last week I received an email from an editor at HuffPost Women. She asked if I would be open for an interview about Feminine Transitions photo series. I thought to myself, “But of course!” After the Huffington Post article “Unretouched Portraits Illustrate 19 Bare, Bold And Beautiful Women” went live, I received a handful of emails and phone calls from other media outlets requesting an interview for their website. I am so grateful for this unexpected opportunity!
I would love to share a few of the articles with you. You can read Cosmopolitan, Daily Mail, and even IASK, a Chinese news source. You can also read the interviews on the media page of my website. Feel free to leave a comment in the response section after you’ve read it.
I vividly remember questioning beauty at the age of 10. There weren’t any examples of little brown girls that looked like me on TV, magazines and definitely not on billboards. As I went through the early stages of puberty my body, as well as my mind, went through the transitions.
At the time, and for the first time, I questioned beauty. I wondered if I fit the picture of “pretty. As I was going through these changes an encounter with my aunty lead me to believe I truly wasn’t beautiful. It lead me to doubt my worth.
My aunty looked me directly in my eyes, as my face was full with pimples and discoloration, and said to me with her distinct Trinidadian accent, “You’re getting ugly.” Although my father made it a point to always tell me that I was beautiful, on that day my father’s words had no significance.
I allowed those three words to make me lose sight of loving myself unconditionally. My confidence crumbled in a few seconds.
Eventually, and as I went through adolescence, my father’s positive affirmations became constant reminders of my worth. Then I began to understand what the true meaning of beauty…and I was her.
Once I became a mother I found myself consistently reassuring my child of who they are and made a point to create a space of feeling comfortable in their own skin. I came to the realization that I do this with my children because I didn’t want them to be negatively impacted by outside influences as I was.
I do however recognize that they cannot completely avoid this reality. School and family can be the biggest influence of our own self-perception. Positive or negative. Regardless, I have faith that with the support of my husband and myself, our children can and will overcome self-doubt.
Through this journey I recognized I created projects that in some way are a reflection of my personal experience. In some way I believe I am speaking to the little girl inside me that was affected as a child. I unconsciously focus my photography to represent raw and unaltered (without Photoshop) beauty.
Through my photography I gave birth to photo books that celebrate the natural beauty of women and girls. The first being Feminine Transitions and my current project I Am More Than My Hair. In the near future my hope is to also create documentaries that reflect the same concept in a video format.
It’s a start on creating positive change and it’s a blessing for me to be a deliverer of a healing revolution.
It was a pleasure to return to California for the second time this year (my second time thus far). Once I arrived, my reasons for falling in love with this place the first time, immediately came back to me.
There’s something about the sunshine, beautiful landscape and laid back energy that soothes my soul. I simply connect with the land innately.
The best way I can explain is to say California connects with my spirit.
I don’t believe in perfection, so as anything else, it has its ups and downs. One of the biggest downs being the lack of cultural diversity on the south side of Cali (San Diego), which is the area I adore in particular. However, I haven’t visited northern California as yet. That will be my next trip.
My children, being in a classroom where they are not singled out as the only black is very important to me. All things considered, before making the leap I realized I have some planning to do. That word “planning” is a bit foreign to my spirit. I almost always get up, go and know it will all work out.
At this point, however, I realize that for the sake of my children and sanity (this mama will be at the school everyday if there are issues) planning is our best option.
Regardless, I still breathe spontaneity :).
My reason for visiting this time around was to speak at the Green Festival in Los Angeles. The organization selected me as a presenter and I spoke on the topic “Embrace Your Natural Beauty”. As always, the audience was receptive to my message.
It was eye-opening to hear a man’s perspective of beauty at the end of my presentation. He asked for the mic to thank me for my appearance then went into a brief personal story about his experience.
He said he struggled for many years with low self-esteem, was over 400 lbs while in his 20’s-30’s and pretty much lost hope. He then mentioned how much of a blessing it was to have met his lovely wife (pointing her out in the audience). The love she showed him gave him hope once again.
She saw past what HE thought was unattractive and loved him for who he was. From then, learning to love himself in his own skin, and gaining a different perspective, led him to loosing close to 300 lbs. He also worked through his issues of low self-esteem.
How wonderful was that!
Although I am sure there are other men/boys who have encountered similar struggles, this was the first time that I’ve personally heard a man openly express his experience of self-imagery, challenges and triumph.
I realized that men have trials of self-acceptance as well. Unfortunately, I believe they do not have the opportunity or platform to express it as they should.
Our society tends to focus on women and girl empowerment. Although it is vital (this is my focus as well), sadly we forget our boys.
The fact is, just as a little girl learns how a man should treat her by the relationship she has with her father, our boys learn from us their mothers. And in many cases (not all of course – just putting that out there for my sensitive debatable folks) how a man treats his significant other is a direct reflection of the relationship he had with his mother.
My point is, we tend to forget our boys but we can’t afford to. We need to hear more of their stories and aid them through their human experiences.
So maybe it’s time for Masculine Transitions? Something to think about.
Back to my story…
After the Green Festival, I met up with a few of the ladies (and a husband) of Black Female Photographers (BFP). That Saturday, September 14, 2014 was the 3rd Annual National Black Female Photographers Day (#NBFPD). It provides an opportunity for our sisters in photography to reach out to their communities and with them, explore the beauty of their cities through photo tours and to share their love of photography with others.
Not only was it nice to connect in sisterhood, but was wonderful to associate off of social media (I joined via Facebook over three years ago) and learn about the history of that particular area of LA. Fellow BFP Ysa Adams, was a wonderful host. Much thanks and admiration for Kym Scott, the founder of BFP, for organizing this annual event!
I had to depart from the group earlier than the others since I had to get ready for a meet and greet with WAM!LA (Women, Action & the Media, Los Angeles). Before the Ladydinner with WAM! I met up with Angela McCrae, a friend who move to LA from MD. Angela and I went to elementary, Jr high, high school and college together (the 2 months of college I bared at Morgan State University before dropping out and going to Montgomery College – the university scene just wasn’t for me).
I first met Angie in the 6th grade (when I first moved here from NY). After 23 years, she still possess the character traits that I believed connected us from the very beginning. We were always cool. That’s true sincerity. I always say, little people are simply that. LITTLE PEOPLE. Their personalities don’t change, it only develops. With that in mind, make sure your raising good people.
Nonetheless, it was great seeing you Angie!
Later (yes my day continues) I finally meet up with the ladies of WAM!LA as the special guest for the Ladydinner at Lula Cocina in Santa Monica. I was invited to talk about my book Feminine Transitions.
First off, I truly believe in the core values of WAM! and feel it is in line with my message of social change that I currently and will continue to promote.
That night, I networked with an amazing group of women, had great conversation and a delicious meal. Special thanks to Melanie Klein for organizing such a wonderful event! We shall meet the next time around.
Overall, and once again, I had such an exceptional time.
Weeks before leaving for California, I connected with two San Diego Meet Up groups. Black Women of San Diego and Women Hikers of San Diego. I’m sorry I didn’t capture any pictures of the Meet Ups but the memory will always remain.
One thing I cannot deny is the power and connection we create as women. I am a firm believer in the “village” saying as well as the power of sisterhood. Unbiased, trustworthy, loving, lean on me type of sisterhood love. Despite our situations, status and decisions we make in our lives, when we get together we connect on a level that relieves stress and ignites inner strength.
We create life, calm the beast, kiss a cut, make it feel all better and are the true nurtures of life.
Together as girls and women, WE ROCK THE WORLD. So let’s rock!
With that in mind, I am learning not to judge as we are imperfectly perfect. At this point in my life, I choose who I allow the privilege to be a part of my life. However, I understand that we are all human and our current circumstances are in most cases an outcome of our past. As long as one is willing to listen and be honest, completely honest, with one another (something I always say…if you don’t want honesty, don’t ask me for my opinion), our experience in this world will be much more rewarding.
I give thanks for the light of the universe for always granting me favor (even if I may not see it at that very moment).
Thanks to my Uncle and Kiva Zip contributors for making my trip to the west coast possible. Thank you my dear Sister Trista Hendren for your dedication in support of my campaign and spreading the word like wildfire. You consistent posting helped to make it a success! I have nothing but love for you.
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Wishing everyone healthy family relationships, genuine friendships, and true love and happiness.