Tag Archives: www.Alyscia.com

Acceptance

I Am More Than My Hair: Bald and Beautiful Me
Photograph from Alyscia Cunningham’s photography book, I Am More Than My Hair: Bald and Beautiful Me

“I am NOT my hair because I have accepted and EMBRACED he fact that I AM so much more.”
~Jameelah, 46

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.

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My Encounter with Beauty…Reflected Through My Lens

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.

Amber-17

I Am More Than My Hair: Bald and Beautiful MeThrough 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.

My Bee Experience

Lately, more than ever, my animal encounters leave me wondering if the meaning is deeper than the surface. In other words, there must be a message connected to my meeting with these animals and insect.

My realization is in no doubt contributed to the interview and conversation I had with Ann Quasman, founder of Woman Talk Live. Ann brought together myself along with Natalie Forest and Mare Cromwell on her show titled “Listen… The Messages Are There for You

The show was simply about the power of messages.

“A nudge.
 The cardinal that shows up on your patio every morning.
 
The person who calls you just as you are thinking of them.
 The hand you feel on your shoulder when no one is there. 
The energy you feel from a certain place.
 The meeting someone for the first time and feeling you’ve known them for years.
 Hearing just what you need to hear at the perfect time. 
The song on the radio that answers your question.”

These are all signs. Or as I would say, direct messages.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been connected with Spirit. They have in some way or form communicated with me for one of two reasons; To give me a message in order to guide me on the right path (stay focused) or to pass a message on to someone else. This may sound strange to some but for me it’s the norm.

A recent experience literally left me speechless.

I was in my back room enjoying the warmth of the sun while staring out the window (this room has huge windows from corner to corner – the sun room). I happened to look down and noticed a bee on the floor, about a foot in distance from where I was standing. The fuzzy yellow and black texture looked discolored and the little bee looked as if it were dead (looked very dry).

I kneeled down to get a closer look (not sure why but I did). The bee was leaned over to the left side of it’s body facing away from me (about 60 degrees). Within a few seconds this little one stood up then turned abruptly and faced me. Startled in the moment, I jumped back and stood up, thinking to myself “WTH”!

It just stood there, staring at me.

Tempted to flee the scene, as a bee sting was the first thing that came to mind, I made myself calm down. I kneeled down again (at a further distance this time) and stared back at the bee.

As strange as it may sound I got the sense (a message?) that the bee was dieing and wanted to go outside. So, I picked up the cutlass (the closest thing to me that had some length to it) and gently placed it about one inch in front of the bee. To my surprise the bee slowly made it’s way towards the cutlass, walked on it and settled there.

I open the door and placed the bee right next to the ladder beside my door. It walked off the cutlass and climbed onto the ladder but somehow lost strength and fell on top the soil below.

At that point I honestly didn’t know if the bee got up and flew away but by looking at it’s condition, I believe it died transitioned there. Our encounter was just that, but I wondered if there was a meaning to it.

After that experience, I decided to do some research on a possible meaning of my bee experience (I often search on a Native American animal totems site). According to the site my experience with the bee is noteworthy to my life-path.

Bee’s wisdom includes:

  • Connection to the Goddess Diana
  • Understanding female warrior energy
  • Reincarnation
  • Communication with the dead
  • Helping earth-bound spirits move on to their proper place
  • Concentration
  • Prosperity
Close up of yellow flowers.
No bee here but I love the flowers.

I’m not sure who is the Goddess Diana but everything else makes complete sense. With it in mind, I was able to relate with my bee connection. In turn, I am very thankful that the bee and I were able to assist one another during our encounter.

I say all that to say, sometimes the signs are right in front of us. In many cases, very direct. I can go on and on about other encounters, particularly my hawk dreams that eventually turned into real hawks following, circling above me and even flying beside me as I was driving.

Now, I pay more attention as I know the messages are more than meets the eye. That very conversation I had with the wonderful ladies on Woman Talk Live, was a message for me to understand it all. I am truly thankful.

Feminine Transitions: A Photographic Celebration of Natural Beauty

As young as I can remember, my father always made it a point to tell me I was beautiful, just as I am. He was completely against me altering my hair from its natural state and wearing make-up as a necessity.

Image of girl looking in the mirror

Despite my Dad’s positive reinforcement, I went through a period of not feeling very beautiful. I was at the beginning stages of puberty and it wasn’t an easy time period. Besides that, when I looked in magazines and viewed TV the “pretty girls” didn’t look anything like me.

After a few years I grew to see the beauty that my father embedded in my head. And although I did perm my hair as a pre-teen, 5 years later I cut it off and went back my natural.

Hearing such positive reinforcement from the first man in my life, prepared me for what I believe would have most likely destroyed me. Society.

My project, Feminine Transitions: A Photographic Celebration of Natural Beauty, is a photography book that promotes the importance of self-love for our authentic selves as women.

I started off photographing younger girls before moving on to increasingly older women. At the beginning of each photo shoot, I asked the models to pose without accessories such as earrings, necklaces and nose rings with the exception of a few, since they recently received a piercing.

My objective was to truly express the bare beauty of each model without distractions.

I vividly remember looking at one of the older women through the lens of my camera and feeling displeased.  At that moment, I was unclear about the issue.  It took me awhile to realize that my hang up was with her makeup.

I couldn’t see her skin. Her makeup filled in the natural lines on her face, and gave her an unrealistic appearance.

Realizing that her cosmetics hid her face, I politely asked her to remove it so that I could see her authentic beauty. From that point on, my project embodied a new focus.

ImageMy original idea for Feminine Transitions was to simply create a photo book celebrating the beauty of females young and old. The topic of make-up never occurred to me prior to this day.

After that day, it became a requirement that all models remain bare, free of makeup, accessories, or wigs for the photo shoot. All images are also free of digital enhancements (NO PHOTOSHOP).

Unfortunately, this prerequisite became the deciding factor to those who chose not to participate.

It was then I realized many women had serious issues with their self-image. For several, not being able to put on their “face” was a huge problem.

My intent was not to cause any discomfort. I simply wanted to create a photographic celebration of womanhood in their organic state.

Those who decided to participate despite their hesitation seem to discover a part of themselves on a deeper level. As they took off the mask they had been wearing for most of their lives, they felt the sensation of freedom.

To make each woman look as subtle as possible, it was necessary for them remain simply bare. So I requested that they pull their shirts down below their shoulders.

Some of the models felt comfortable enough to take off their top completely. When they did, they felt a growing sense of release. Quite a few of them said to me, “I felt like I took a load off my back.”

ImageThere was an emotional significance attached to the bareness in the photographs. The women became vulnerable. There was only the individual and the camera — nothing in between.

It is quite obvious that our society plays a major role in perpetuating a negative attitude towards aging. Commercials, magazines, advertising, and even doctors do an effective job of marketing “age defying” products.

I will never understand why growing old is considered taboo, particularly in the United States.

In spite of this, even while being bombarded with such negativity, we must take responsibility for embracing our true selves and not look to the media to do it for us.

When we do, we will help the younger generation develop a healthier view of aging.

Thankfully other artist and some companies are promoting material to encourage positive self-esteem. I believe we are at the peak of a natural beauty evolution.

It is my hope that Feminine Transitions will be an aide in this progress by bringing forth a movement of change in the confidence of females in all age groups.

As girls and women we experience the bulk of pressure when it comes to accepting our physical appearance. We’re constantly told by society that our bodies, our faces, our skin, our graying hair, our weight and height are not good enough.

My mission is to foster a woman’s love for herself and encourage women to believe in their own beauty, despite what we are being fed. We must also acknowledge that our mind may be our own culprit.

ImageUpon reflection, I know now that Feminine Transitions is a tribute to that little girl who is constantly told by society that she is not beautiful. I want that girl to know that she is beautiful, just the way she is.

And for the older woman who hides behind her makeup and colors her gray hair, I want her to take off her “mask” and be free to celebrate the changes that come with aging.

ImageAnd finally to the senior woman who feels that her wrinkles are a negative reminder of growing older, I want her to know that each line is a story map of her soul and her wisdom. I am not alone in honoring you and looking up to you for guidance.

I want every woman, young and old, to know that you are beautiful, just the way you are. Let the radiance you were born with shine through.

Adapted from “Let your Light Shine Through: Celebrate Your Natural Beauty,” published in Advocating Creatively: Stories of Contemporary Social Change Pioneers.

Above image of girl looking in the mirror copyright: Image from http://blackhairmedia.com/beauty/black-women-mainstream-society/

It’s Finally Here!

Feminine Transitions books and shipment box
Feminine Transitions books have arrived

After 4 years from the start of my project, 3 years of fundraising (yes it’s been that long-both crowd funding and on my own) and many challenges  I’ve faced… It’s finally here!

I am so very thankful for those who showed support, having no clue who I was, yet still believing in my vision.

Grateful for everyone who helped make this possible by funding my dream, sharing my posts and pointing out what needed correcting.

Most of you simply stepped in, again not knowing me personally, and asked “How can I help you?” You can’t imagine the appreciation I feel for ALL of you.

Over a year of sleepless nights and my – OUR persistence has paid off.

I can now say with conviction that when you don’t give up, you simply cannot fail.

You may fall and get a few scratches along the way but it’pushing through is more than worth. The price is seeing your dreams unfold. #priceless

Thank you!

If you purchased a copy of Feminine Transitions, your book will be on it’s way this week. If not, you can purchase a hardcover on my website (scroll to the bottom of the page) or ebook from Amazon.

Do send me your feedback after receiving it. Better yet, take photos and tag me on your social media pages. I’m on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google +, Tumblr and Flickr.

Feminine Transitions Media Kit

Feminine Transitions cover design
Newly designed cover for Feminine Transitions.

My press kit for Feminine Transitions is visable on www.Alyscia.com. View it on my website.

I am now working my media contact list for interview opportunities.  My focus for this week is also to connect with agents. I am keeping my options open. I will be able to obtain more information if I did decide to work with a publisher and if one decides to work with me. The least I can gain is more information and understanding. You can’t beat that with a bat!

I’ll keep you posted!