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SEPTEMBER TO REMEMBER: Upcoming Tdot/NYC Events

Hey y’all!

It’s been a minute since I did an “upcoming events” post, but there are so many great things coming up that I just had to share! If you’re in the Toronto/NYC areas, take a peek at what’s going on in the next couple of weeks!

CaribbeanTales International Film Festival – Closing Night + Afterparty

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I recently wrote about this year’s CaribbeanTales Int’l Film Festival, and #CTFF2014 has flown by! This Saturday is the final screening date, with festival awards, a special Q+A with soca queen Alison Hinds, and an afterparty at Hush Lounge!

Celebrating the indigenous populations, Caribbean literature, LGBTQ, and many other facets of Caribbean cinema, #CTFF2014 has again thrived successfully in light of TIFF – the film festival Goliath. If you haven’t yet hit up The Royal Cinema for a screening, catch features tonight, then come back for the closing tomorrow! Get your tickets here!

3 The Hard Way Comedy Show

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If you’re a comedy show lover, you do not want to miss 3 The Hard Way going down at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Saturday! Jay Martin, Trixx, and Jean Paul will be back for another gritty and hilarious comedy show after the first sold-out 3 The Hard Way last year – but this time, they’ve got special guests! Filipino funnymen Keith Pedro, Ron Josol, and Big Norm will also take the stage, so attendees will get two times the comedy in one show! Culture clash + comedy = an awesome night! Get your 3 The Hard Way tickets now!

Secrets Of A Side Hustler

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Last year, I was honoured to be on the panel for an innovative event called Secrets Of A Side Hustler held by my friend Chivon John. The event focused on the perspectives of those of us who are juggling full-time gigs and side hustles – the ups, downs, ins and outs of how to manage it all. This year, Chivon has curated another awesome group of panelists for the 2014 event happening on September 18th! Are you balancing more than one job/passion? Are you thinking of devoting more time to your side hustle dreams after you’ve finished your 9-5? This event is for you! Get more info and tickets here!

The Toronto Natural Hair & Beauty Show

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The Toronto Natural Hair & Beauty Show is back for its 9th year, and I’m sure it will NOT disappoint! On September 20th and 21st, tons of natural hair & beauty lovers flock to the event to take in educational workshops, shop from awesome vendors, watch beautiful hair shows, and meet and greet with other people in the community! I’ll be speaking again this year on the 20th, discussing Natural Hair In The Digital Sphere: Blogs, Beauty, & Building Bridges. My talk this year will focus on navigating the digital world of natural hair, and how the digital communities and natural hair professionals can work together to strengthen alliances. Get all the show details and ticket information here!

And for the NYC massive…

Live From The Background w/ Durand Bernarr

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My homegirl Keya Maeesha is hosting yet another dope live show in NYC on September 19th, featuring Durand Bernarr with special guest Domi Jo. The premise of this event is a unique one – background vocalists are the backbones responsible for adding to the lushness and fullness of our favourite tracks, and Live From The Background will bring some of the industry’s finest to the forefront! This is also Keya’s last show until next fall, so whether you’ve never experienced one of her shows, or if you’ve been to ‘em all – this one will be special and you do NOT want to miss it. Get details and tickets here!

#CTFF2014 IS COMING: Win Tickets To The CaribbeanTales Int’l Film Festival!

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As my granny would say, “Idle hands are the Devil’s playground.” If that’s the case, ole Mr. Lucifer is having NO fun with me.

Over the past few months, I’ve reprised my role within the CaribbeanTales International Film Festival, working on film curation, programming, and more for this year’s festival. Three years ago, I sent in an email with fingers crossed, hoping I’d be able to get the opportunity to do something, ANYTHING with the festival, and I came on as a social media volunteer. In 2013 I was asked back as a film juror, and this year, I’m stompin’ with the big dawgs on the festival team! There’s another post in here around the idea of taking risks, asking for what you want, and watching things grow as you pay your dues – but I may save that for another day. On THIS day, I want to give you the scoop on #CTFF2014, and give one lucky reader the chance to win a pair of tickets to the festival’s opening gala on September 3rd!

Running from September 3-13, the CaribbeanTales International Film Festival is the David in the David and Goliath structure of Toronto film festivals. CTFF runs alongside TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival), which is simultaneously a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because CTFF and TIFF partner strategically for various programs like the CaribbeanTales Incubator – a mentorship program for Caribbean filmmakers. It’s a curse because media coverage sways like a tidal wave over TIFF, leaving CTFF to reach out to niche audiences that would be interested in its films. Jamaicans say “wi likkle but wi tallawah” (“we’re small but mighty”), and that phrase undoubtedly fits perfectly with CTFF.

The CaribbeanTales International Film Festival features films from Caribbean and diasporic filmmakers, highlighting the region as the world’s next hot film industry. The Caribbean has always been mined as an ideal location for Hollywood film, but until recently hasn’t had the infrastructure to stand on its own. That infrastructure is still being built, but CTFF does a major part in highlighting the amazing work being done by filmmakers in the region, and those in the diaspora.

The theme this year is “Our Lens, Our Perspective,” and features films on sub-themes like “Indigenous Caribbean,” “Caribbean Literature,” “Queer Caribbean,” and more. In a day and age where diversity and representation are hot topics in film and media, CTFF provides an outlet to embrace those very elements. If you’re looking for something fresh and off the beaten path when it comes to film, CTFF has got you covered!

We’ll be joined by some special guests this year – soca/calypso legend Sparrow will be in town for the opening gala for an exclusive Q&A and world premiere screening of Geoffrey Dunn’s The Glamour Boyz Again! Sparrow and Superior on the Hilton Rooftop. On the festival’s closing night – named Bajan Invasion –  soca queen Alison Hinds will be here for a Q&A and screening of thriller Too Smart, where she makes her feature film debut. In between opening and closing are a number of incredible screenings – see film lineup (including details on the FREE community screening on August 30th) here, and purchase your tickets (opening gala, closing night, single screening, and all-access festival pass) here!

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All that being said – I’m giving away a pair of tickets to the #CTFF2014 Opening Gala! One lucky reader and a guest will join me and Sparrow at The Royal Cinema on September 3rd at 6pm for the gala held in partnership with the Consulate General of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago. It’ll be a night to enjoy some delicious food, incredible film, exclusive Q&A with a Caribbean legend, and ring in the festival while rubbing shoulders with major figures in the Caribbean/diasporic film and media industries!

You’ve got two ways to win: 

1. Email me at bee@83toinfinity.com and let me know what your dream Caribbean vacation would look like. Where would you go? What would you do?

2. Tweet this in order to enter for your chance to win!

Either way you choose, you’ll be entered to win! I’ll pick a winner on August 21st – good luck!

Early bird ticket prices end on August 15thget your #CTFF2014 tickets today!

EVENT RECAP: Curls, Coils & Cocktails 2014 (+ Where Do We Go Next?)

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I’ve said it a bunch of times before, but planning an event in the tail end of my pregnancy and into the first month of mommyhood was MADNESS. However, all the hard work paid off on July 26th when my homegirl AMC and I put on the 2nd annual Curls, Coils & Cocktails event!

Last year’s event fell into our laps somewhat by fluke, but the response was so overwhelming that we wanted to bring it back this year. Held at the beautiful Uptown Loft in Toronto, we had a lovely turn out of ladies and gentlemen who came to celebrate the diversity of natural hair!

We mixed and mingled. We admired the wares of some awesome vendors. We got mini-consultations from the ladies of Curl Bar Beauty Salon. We took in a panel discussion on natural hair diversity, featuring women with varied perceptions and expressions of natural hair. We had an AMAZING performance from funk/rock/soul powerhouse Saidah Baba Talibah, and got down to the nitty-gritty of her hair journey. We ate yummy treats and had some delicious mini-cupcakes courtesy of Mellycakes. We had laughter & hugs – I got to meet some wonderful women, and the positivity was infectious – a special moment was when prize winner Carcia (from the blog It’s MusicFashionLife) shared her personal story of beauty and self-acceptance after a diagnosis of alopecia. With chunes from DJ Sean Sax, gift bags from Clore Beauty, and tons of incredible giveaways, I think we coordinated a pretty good event – and the feedback has largely shared that sentiment!

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Special thanks to our major sponsors: Curl Bar Beauty Salon, NaturalButterfly, and Clore Beauty!

Major thank yous to our gift sponsors: Shakara Natural, Luv N Locs, Ola Finesse, Toni Daley, Caheez, and the Toronto Natural Hair & Beauty Show!

Shout out to our spectacular vendors: Diana Tracy Collection and Eli’s Body Shop!

Big up our two awesome photographers who took some DOPE pics: Ngadi Smart and Sarita Louis!

Big thanks to our social media team: Anya, Nikki, and Kayla (p.s. – keep up with CC&C on Twitter and Facebook)!

And we could NOT have done this event without the assistance of Juliana, Vee, Lincoln, Alison, and Debbie!

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 See more Curls, Coils & Cocktails photos here!

Now that the event has passed, I’ve gotten past the part where I critique myself harshly about what I could have done better, and I’m settled in the phase where I set my neuroses aside and assess things with a clear(er) head. The question I pose to myself now is: “What next? Where does the natural hair conversation in Toronto go now?” It feels like Toronto has just started to get into the natural hair event game, but there’s always room to be innovative and to give the people what they want. I, like other natural hair advocates and event planners, just want to figure out the perfect equation to acquire both.

Being cognizant of those who are at polar ends of the spectrum – longtime naturals and natural newbies – is one thing. Taking into consideration financial trends of event attendees and ensuring they get their money’s worth is another. Finding supportive partners and sponsors who get it is entirely another. Once those factors are settled, the matter of figuring out how to add flair, creativity, fun, education, and all the other unique components that make an event great begins. It’s not easy, but when you get great feedback from event attendees, it gives you the best kind of challenge to do an even better job next time.

But back to my question – where does the conversation go now? Are we over talking about natural hair in the workplace/media/relationships, or is there still room for those discussions? Who are the new voices and faces on the scene, and how do we get them engaged? What do attendees want to do, see, and hear these days? Finding the answers to these questions and more will make life much more hectic, but much more interesting in the days to come.

If you have any feedback on what you’d like to see at natural hair-centric events, hit me up and let me know! And again – big, BIG thank yous to everyone who came out to Curls, Coils & Cocktails 2014!

31 FLAVOURS: Discussing The Diversity Of Natural Hair [+ Event Info]

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Dolls by Karen Byrd of Natural Girls United

Next month marks 6 years since I big chopped and started wearing my hair naturally. From my days of scouring Fotki for natural hair inspiration to being an admitted product junkie to salon (mis)adventures and more, the past 6 years have brought me eye-opening lessons in hair care, self esteem, and redefining my personal beauty paradigm. Just when I think I know all I need to know and have seen all I need to see, something comes along and shakes everything up.

This year, the running theme has circled around representation in the natural hair sphere. I hosted a panel discussion of women who choose to rock TWAs, which presented the perspective of women who eschewed the more common length aspirations within the natural hair community. Salon chats highlighted a continued problem with poor representation and acceptance of shorter lengths and tighter textures – noticed most in clients who won’t rest until they find the product that eliminates shrinkage and transforms kinks into loose curls. Twitter conversations with writer and mental health advocate Bassey Ikpi brought up the thought of loc wearers being left out of natural hair dialogue – this became an even greater conversation when Essence Magazine featured Ledisi on one of their May 2014 covers for the Beauty Issue.

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These kinds of discussions motivated me to look at my own thoughts on natural hair beauty and diversity. Admittedly, it was easy for me to see the parallels between previously chasing one beauty “ideal” (long, straight, relaxed hair), then embracing my chemical-free texture but still chasing another “ideal” (big, soft curly hair). Early on, the natural hair blogs, YouTube videos, and Facebook forums I frequented all shared the same goal of embracing your natural hair, but there was always an undercurrent of knowing that there was a hierarchy of expressions within it. Short hair, kinky and coily hair, and locs were on the fringe and seen as somewhat of an afterthought – almost giving off a vibe of  “Oh – I guess we should include one of those, shouldn’t we…” Back 6 years ago, my short hair was just a stepping stone to luxurious growth. My kinky and coily sections were interesting, but were obstacles to hurdle in efforts to blend in with my looser sections. I considered locs briefly, but decided I loved the versatility of my loose natural hair too much to part with it. However, I quickly understood the negative way locs were viewed when family members would ask “Are you going to loc your hair?” with a look that clearly meant “You better not!”

Especially over the past year, a number of women have approached me and shared that they’ve felt excluded from the natural hair world, due to not having the “right” texture, length, or style. Where were the spaces for women who had diverse hair goals, journeys, and needs? Many of them expressed being unable to find them, and some identified feeling as lost in the game as I did 6 years ago when I went natural. In my own way with the opportunities I have available to me, I featured (current and previously) loc’d women on ’83 To Infinity, interviewed a Jamaican beauty queen with an interesting natural hair journey, and hosted a Black History Month event focusing on the big chop and rocking TWAs. When plans started flowing this year’s Curls, Coils & Cocktails event, the same theme of diversity and representation came to mind, and I knew that was the angle we would have to take this year.

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Because the natural hair community is bigger than we give credit for, it was a conscious decision to use the 2nd annual Curls, Coils & Cocktails event to broaden our horizons. Our panel features 4 women – one loc’d, one rocking a TWA, one newly big chopped natural, and one stylist who has worked with all manner of natural hair. Our vendors/partners (Diana Tracy Collection, Eli’s Body Shop, & Curl Bar Beauty Salon) are a diverse bunch – female-owned businesses designed to ensure that you look and feel good from head to toe. We’ll have a new musical portion this year, with a performance and Q & A session with Canada’s funk/rock/soul queen – and dope loc wearer – Saidah Baba Talibah. DJ Sean Sax will be on the 1s and 2s, mix and mingling will abound, sweet treats and eats from Mellycakes will be available, and gift bags (thanks to Clore Beauty Supply) and door prizes will be on hand for attendees! We’ve kept up the practice of highlighting Canadian talent and businesses, and the theme of ‘Dos & Diversity will hopefully achieve the goal of inclusivity that we’re aiming for.

Do we still hang on to colonial ideals of beauty, even within the empowered natural hair world? What are the roots of some of the biases we have against certain style choices? How do we combat the irrational need to chase after styles or textures that our hair is not capable of maintaining? How do we truly begin to embrace and own our natural hair without apology? The answers to these questions and more will surely be discussed on July 26th at Curls, Coils & Cocktails – and hopefully we’ll be able to carve out the kind of space that celebrates us all, whether curly, coily, or otherwise.

Get your tickets to Curls, Coils & Cocktails here! 

BACK AT IT: 2 Upcoming Events You NEED To Be At! [R&B + CC&C]

Hey hey, y’all! This post will be a quickie but goodie – I’m taking advantage of having both hands free and a quiet baby to bang this one out, so pay attention:

As crazy as it may seem, I’m jumping back into the event saddle later this month, and wanted to let you all know about what’s going down!

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On July 19th, I’m back as co-host for the R&B: Relationships & Bullsh*t Show with my homie Lincoln Anthony Blades! The question du jour will be “Can Your Career Satisfy Your Soul Like True Love?” so you know this will be a hot discussion no matter your gender or relationship status. I saw Think Like A Man Too (sidenote: I hate sequels that try to get cute with the “too” instead of “2” or “two” especially when it feels grammatically clunky. Anyways.) recently, and one particular storyline made me think about how relevant this discussion is in this day and age – so I can’t wait to have some fun with this one! Get more info and tickets at www.rnbsummer.eventbrite.com!

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I put on my very first event called Curls, Coils & Cocktails last year with my girl AMC, and have been getting TONS of inquiries wondering if it was coming back. Well, YES! On July 26th, we’ve crafted another awesome Curls, Coils & Cocktails event, focusing on the theme of ‘Dos & Diversity! The original idea for the event was born out of a Meetup.com group I was a part of, and when the group leader was unable to continue with event plans, AMC and I stepped up to put it on. Last year was amazing, and we plan on making this year even better!

It was important for us to focus this year on the diversity of natural hair – often, my friends with locs, short cuts, varying textures, and those who are transitioning with various protective styling methods feel left out of the general natural hair discussion. We wanted Curls, Coils & Cocktails 2014 to be a more inclusive space for us to connect with and learn from each other, so we’ve been working hard on the plans!

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We’ve got:

  • gift bags for the first 50 entrants
  • mix and mingling
  • music by one of Toronto’s beloved DJs
  • carefully curated vendors
  • a mini-consultation booth
  • a panel discussion on the diversity of natural hair
  • a performance and Q&A with Canada’s top funk/soul/rock artist Saidah Baba Talibah
  • door prizes and much more!

Grab your early bird tickets until July 11th before the price goes up! www.curlscoilsandcocktails.brownpapertickets.com

Phew! There you have it – hopefully one or both of these events will tickle your fancy! Grab a ticket or two, and I hope to see you out and about later this month! Any questions? Hit me up!

AND THE WINNER IS…: 2014 Black Canadian Awards Recap

The best way for me to start off this post is by saying “thank you” – quite literally, if it weren’t for you all this past Saturday would have never played out for me the way it did.

Last summer, I was contacted by the Black Canadian Awards (run via the Diversity Advancement Network). I was going to be honoured as a Role Model in the Black Canadian community, and had also been nominated in the Best Blogger Award category for their 2014 awards ceremony. To say I was floored was an understatement. The majority of my readership and recognition in the blogging world has come from south of the border, so being recognized for my work here at home was an awesome feeling.

We were urged to solicit votes from friends, family, readers, social media followers, anyandeverydamnbody, and I’ll be honest – I kind of balked at that. I’m not the biggest fan of “Who can get the most votes?” methods of award winning, and prefer to be judged on merit and a standard of work. When other nominees have larger social media followings and connections to networks you lack, it can seem very daunting – and the competition in my category seemed fairly stiff. A later email did state that votes plus review from a nomination committee would contribute to winning the award, so I sought votes from you all, but made sure my content and work was the best it could be along the way.

Finally, Saturday June 7th rolled around, and it was time for the Black Canadian Awards! After being rescheduled from the original date of March 1st, I just prayed that Little Magician and I still fit into my hot pink Henkaa dress (doing a version of this style), but luckily we did!

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HomieLuva was my dapper date for the evening, so we headed on down to Toronto’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre and got ready to soak up the night.

Y’all know I keep it 100, so let me get this piece out of the way. There was some level of disorganization that hampered some of my enjoyment of the festivities. Having food available would have been PRIME. Having event organizers easily identifiable would have been WONDERFUL. Maximizing the media that was present and really making use of some of the perks like the nominee limo procession, red carpet walk, and Role Model recognition ceremony would have been AWESOME. The potential for prestige and the necessity of an event such as the BCAs makes these points even more crucial in my eyes, so I hope 2015 is even better.

Anyways – tons of government officials and political figures were in attendance (RCMP, Olivia Chow, John Tory and others), and they took part in the Role Model recognition ceremony. I snagged my certificate of recognition, then hurried to meet the rest of the award nominees for the limo procession, which picked us up and brought us to the awaiting red carpet at the front of the theatre.

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After a bit of schmoozing and a quick munch of some poutine that someone smuggled in provided for me, it was time for the show to start!

Hosted by Sean “Subliminal” Mauricette and Dorothy Rhau, the essence of the awards was to showcase excellence in the Black Canadian community, and I appreciated the diversity of the performers and nominees. “Canadian” events in Toronto can be awfully Toronto-centric, but it was great to see the representation from different parts of the country as well. There was a wide range of variety in the performances and the cultures represented therein, with my fave performances being a dope Azonto dance number by Esie Mensah and the Black Stars, and a wicked vocal performance from Shi Wisdom. Though at times it felt a bit too much like a concert sprinkled with awards as opposed to an actual awards show, it was very entertaining.

So. Let’s get down to the most exciting moment, for me, anyways! Near the end of the night, the Best Blogger Award finally rolled around. I was joined in the category by Nikki Johnson, Tatiana King aka Miss Go 2 GirlTeknique, Brenda Chuinkam, and Darling Nicky. As I mentioned before, I felt I was up against some stiff competition, so while I hoped for the best, I was more than prepared to hear one of the other 5 names called instead. Lo and behold, my name was called as the award winner, and I sat there for a moment still waiting for them to say someone else’s name – it wasn’t until HomieLuva smacked me on the leg and told me to get my ass up and get my award that it actually sunk in!

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I had to hit a jig in the parking lot while singing “***Flawless” at this point. Lol!

Was I even prepared to make a speech? Not at all – but I got through it without rambling on too much. That was the first time I ever accepted an award on stage, but needless to say, I’ve got the taste for it now (cue up the Freddie McGregor one time)! The best part of it was knowing that the support I received from y’all was so strong, and also feeling like my hard work is paying off in new and awesome ways. Maintaining a blog like mine – not celebrity-focused, not fashion-focused, not in one particular niche – and being a Black Canadian blogger who often gets more interaction from people in countries outside of mine, it’s so easy to feel lost in the sauce of this digital world. At least on some scale, winning this award made me see just how much people support and enjoy my digital comfy couch. As one friend said when I issued my Facebook thank you status:

You can thank us by just keeping on doing what you’ve been doing.

So that’s what I plan to do! Here’s to fresh motivation (especially coming off of my best stats day EVER over the weekend thanks to my Race In Canada post) and a continued sense of pride in creating authentic and engaging content. I hope y’all enjoy, and I hope you feel through this blog how much I appreciate the love, support, and constructive feedback.

Thank you again to the Black Canadian Awards – here’s to an even bigger and better show in 2015!

TRAVELLING GAL: Journeying To Face Fear [+ Hot Event Giveaway]

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I think you travel to search and you come back home to find yourself there.
― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Over the last year and a bit, I’ve been doing a lot of travelling. Not necessarily the kind of travelling that finds me packing bags and booking flights and arriving to stretch my limbs on the soils of new lands, but the kind of travel Chimamanda spoke about. I’ve made a concerted effort to face a number of my fears, and I’m proud that say that that journey has afforded me the ability to return home and find myself – a new and improved version – there.

One of the biggest fears I’ve had to overcome has been my fear of public speaking, and within that, my fear of voicing my opinion. Though I went to a performing arts school in my childhood, I rarely felt comfortable with the spotlight on me. I preferred to express my art in quieter ways, so writing and visual art became my close confidants. As I’ve mentioned time and time again on this blog and in other spheres, I’ve always loved writing – but I think writing became a crutch for me to express myself when I felt my spoken words were lacking. When it came to vocalizing my opinion on a topic, I found that extremely difficult as well. I was afraid of sounding stupid, of having people disagree with me, or of having people simply not understand what I was trying to say. The frustrating thing was that I wanted to be a performer. I wanted to embrace the spotlight. I wanted to engage in debate and be confident in my stance – I just…couldn’t. These fears lasted well past childhood and have followed me into my adult life.

A couple of years ago, I decided to pack up my mental/emotional baggage and take a trip that would force me to confront my fears head on. That journey was called the “Just Do It Like Nike World Tour” and the premise was simple. To go from place to place, I’d have to get there by doing the things that scared the sh*t out of me. That was the only way. And so I did. Public speaking opportunities? I took ‘em. Chances to respond clearly when someone asked me my opinion on a topic? I embraced ‘em. I made myself promise not to shy away from anything that scared me, and listen – I have grown.

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This coming Saturday, I continue the JDILNWT as I co-host The R&B: Relationships & Bullsh*t Show Live at Trio Lounge with my homie Lincoln Anthony Blades. This is the 3rd installment of our conversation party about, well, relationships and bullsh*t, and it’s been a big part of my personal journey. Standing up in front of a room of hundreds of people, cohesively managing a crowd, hosting an event, and sharing my thoughts on everything from sexual taboos to monogamy and cheating? Bee of Days Past must be in a parallel universe, watching this unfold as she chews her lip out of stress – but 2014 Bee is doing it. This time, we’ll be discussing the question “Are People In Toronto Still Interested In Serious Relationships & Marriage, Or Do We All Just Want Casual Sex?!” and guess what – as I typed this very post, I got word from Lincoln that the show is SOLD OUT. If you’re one of the lucky folk who grabbed their ticket early, I can’t wait to see you out – and just know that I appreciate your role in this journey of mine.
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Never fear – I’m part of another amazing event coming up in Toronto on May 4th at the Virgin Mobile Mod Club, and you could win a ticket! Last year, I took a HUGE leap by co-hosting Stacy-Ann Buchanan’s fashion and art show called The Mystic Effect, and this year I’ll be back in the role of Social Media Correspondent! The Mystic Effect intertwines fashion with music, poetry, dance, and film, and this year will be incredible. If you aren’t able to attend, make sure you’re following me on Twitter and Instagram at @BeeSince83 and follow the hashtag #themysticeffect for all the show details! However – if you’re in Toronto and want to attend, I’ve got the hook-up:

 To win a ticket to The Mystic Effect on May 4th (doors open at 4pm, show starts at 5pm), simply tell me about one fear you’ve overcome. Comment below, tweet me, comment on my Facebook, or email me – any way you wish! I’ll pick one winner on Tuesday, April 29th!

Good luck to all entering the ticket giveaway, and good luck to any and everyone who is working on challenging their fears. May we all travel along that journey and come back home to find ourselves, stronger, better, and more fearless!

FEEDING BODY + SOUL: #BrunchWithBee Event Recap

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Ghandi is quoted as saying “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Loosely translated into Bee-speak, I say “Stop complaining about the lack of something in your life, get off your ass, and make it happen.”

And that’s exactly what I did this past weekend with Brunch With Bee.

Back in February, I griped on Twitter about the dire need for a brunch date in my life. Visions from reality shows where women dressed up in fab outfits, munched on yummy food and sipped delicious drinks, and engaged in any level of drama and messiness danced like sugarplum fairies in my head, and I wanted to partake (minus the drama and messiness). Couple that with the dismal and harsh winter that had us in its grips, and I was thirsting for the chance to spend a nice day catching up with some lovely women over a delicious spread.

I could have waited for an invite to someone’s brunch shindig, but thought I’d get more satisfaction and immediacy out of organizing it myself. I placed a couple of calls, send a couple of emails, and pushed the details out in my new monthly newsletter (sign up here!) – and Brunch With Bee was born!

This past Sunday, I was joined by about 20 0ther women at Toronto’s Hot House Cafe for their infamous Sunday Brunch Buffet. The plan was simple. Show up, eat, drink, meet and greet with women you know and others you don’t. Attendees ranged from my mommy to friends from high school/university to women who I was meeting for the first time in real life – and it was beautiful.

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 Some of the things I learned via the brunch event were:

An increasing number of my good real-life friends were all born out of social media connections. When I went around the table to give brief introductions, the amount of women with whom I had initially connected with via blogging or Twitter was astounding. In a way, social media has helped me to find like-minded spirits more easily – and luckily for me, the majority have translated into awesome flesh-and-blood sistafriends.

I’m no longer “surprised” by the fact that women can get along. For me and my experiences, the scale has balanced between situations where women have been catty and competitive, and situations where women have been supportive and genuinely sweet. I no longer marvel at the fact that 2 or more of us can gather and foster an energy of positivity and love, though it’s taken me some time to curate a circle that reflects that. Brunch, with its familiar and new faces, was just another experience to add to the supportive side of the scale, and it was wonderful.

Different generations of women have much to learn and share with each other. With attendees ranging from the age of early 20s (my sister) to mid 50s (my mother), we had a variety of life experiences to discuss, which added to the richness of the afternoon. Talks of motherhood, career, health, and more were embellished by the different perspectives we all had, and I think we all learned lessons from each other that we may have missed out on in a more homogeneous group.

The hustle is real. I’ve admittedly gotten used to being surrounded by women who are juggling life responsibilities and their various passions – excelling in their respective areas of expertise or working damn hard towards that level of excellence. I didn’t want to position Brunch With Bee as a hardcore networking event, but was happy when connections were made and business cards shared organically. My mom marveled at the full lives many of the ladies were living, and the unapologetic way we were chasing dreams and making them realities. It was nice to take a moment from the grind and celebrate each other – the things we’ve accomplished and just the sheer fact that we wake up and we try. Hard. Very hard. Special shout out to Mika of LishauNaturals who donated a beautiful gift set – and to Fiana who won it!

All in all, Brunch With Bee was so much fun, and turned out to be better than I expected. In reality, I currently love any opportunity where Little Magician and I get to eat amazing food, but thought tying my own selfish needs into a gathering with other awesome women would feed my body and soul. What better way to end off the weekend, March, and Women’s History Month? Brunch With Bee Round 2 will be coming soon!

*Most* of the ladies who attended - thank you all!

*Most* of the ladies who attended – thank you all!

The best way to keep up to date with any special events such as Brunch With Bee is to sign up for my monthly newsletter – if you’re so inclined, sign up here!

GIRL TALK: Interview With In The Dance Fitness’ Yendi Phillipps [Video]

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Last week I got to engage in one of my first loves, and something I haven’t had the energy to do throughout the early part of my pregnancy – DANCE! I was one of the lucky few who grabbed a ticket to the sold-out In The Dance Fitness class with Jamaican dynamo Yendi Phillipps at Toronto’s City Dance Corps, and I’m SO glad I did.

First off – if Yendi Phillipps‘ name isn’t one you’re used to hearing, get familiar. I first “met” Yendi through her pageant life, serving as Miss Jamaica World 2007, and Miss Jamaica Universe 2010 (as 1st runner up, she made history by being the highest-placing Jamaican ever in the pageant). Since then, she’s parlayed her beauty, smarts, and charisma into a complex career: brand spokesperson (Air Jamaica, Digicel), Smile Jamaica TV host, foundation creator, model, actress, dancer, and much more. With her educational background (a BFA in Dance and a Master’s degree in Recreation & Leisure Management), Yendi returned to her first love – dance – for her latest project, In The Dance Fitness.

The recipe for ITDF? Mix one part love of dance with one part love of Jamaican culture, and substitute the need for a gym with the comfort of working out at home to a DVD. Using dancehall dance moves like the Butterfly, Body Basics, and One Drop, Yendi has created a fun and challenging workout that incorporates cardio and aerobic activity, core work, body toning, and fat burning all in one. I went not once, but twice to her live classes here in Toronto for the Canadian launch, and adored every minute. Yendi’s energy was the best blend of motivation, positivity, and fun, so we all got into it. Y’all also know I’m not a gym girl, so In The Dance Fitness is perfect for me – give me some good music, some dance moves, and a guaranteed full-body workout, and I’m happy – plus, my Jamaican heritage loves all the good things yaad has to offer!

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After Thursday’s media class, I got to kick it with Yendi and talk a bit about this new project and more. Here’s a taste of our hilarious and open chat:

On In The Dance Fitness…

Bee: What was the idea for this project, and where did In The Dance come from?

Yendi: So, outside of what people know me for, which is you know, Miss Jamaica and Miss Universe and so on,  I actually am a dancer. So I’ve been dancing since I was 3 years old, and I’m a trained dancer – I have a bachelor of fine arts in dance where I completed my degree in New York, and this is what I’ve done my whole life. This is what I know, right?! And then, in training for the competitions and to get ready for those competitions, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the gym – but body is a big part of it. You know, when you have the swimsuit competition and you’re only walking in front of 3 billion people [laughs] no big deal, no pressure, right? So, I have to get fit and I have to get ready! My method was dance, so what I wanted to do was merge Jamaican culture – which is the culture I know best, which is what I do – and merge it with my passion, which is dance. And so, here came the idea of putting it together, putting it in a product, and the birth of In The Dance Fitness came.

On Motherhood…

Bee: How has your daughter’s [16-month old cutie, Israel] presence shifted things in your life?

Yendi: Oh – it’s shifted things tremendously. I feel like I had a mission before, and now there’s a bit more purpose to my journey. It’s not just about trying to get to a goal, but it’s about enjoying the experience and the journey towards that goal [...] it’s actually made me more determined to leave an indelible mark, because I want her to look at me as her inspiration and no external factors. And yes, there’s a part of me that wants to make my mother proud and my parents proud, but I want to make my daughter proud to say “That’s my mom.”

On Natural Hair…

Bee: I know you recently did your big chop, and you’re still wearing your hair naturally – what was the impetus behind that decision, and did you feel anything around redefining what beauty means to you?

Yendi: You know what it was for me – and I’m SO glad you asked that question! No one has asked that question at all, so thank you for that! This world of pageantry puts out this image of what beauty is ‘supposed’ to be [...] and it was so much of not who we naturally are – it’s almost like it was a big façade. In retrospect, I kind of felt like, why is it that we as women are made to feel as though we have to do a particular thing to be a particular thing, and I wanted to almost redefine for myself what my projection of beauty was. My personal journey is that I wanted to go back to what I was created to be.

Check the video for Yendi’s additional thoughts on bouncing back after baby, motherhood, natural hair choices, being a big dreamer, work-life balance, and the top 3 famous folks she’d handpick for her dream In The Dance Fitness class! Plus – if you pay attention, you might just catch footage of yours truly balancing pon head top in the studio!

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Did you catch her face when I said I was hitching a ride in her luggage?! Lol!

Yendi’s In The Dance Fitness DVD is available at Walmart locations across Canada, and more details can be found at the In The Dance Fitness website. Make sure you keep up with her via Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and search the #inthedanceTO hashtag to see some of the real-time reviews on social media!

Special thanks to Krystal of Chris Smith Management, iShotYa Media, and Potential Films!

OUT AH ROAD: NYC & Toronto Events Not To Be Missed + I Need Your Help!

I haven’t done one of these posts in a while, but some awesome events are coming up, and I had to spread the word!

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First up, for my NYC folk: my homegirl Keya Maeesha has curated another one of her dope-ass shows – tomorrow night’s event is called Just A Taste. Featuring incredible artists like Gwen Bunn, Jennah Bell, Jamie Woods, and Sah Ril, Just A Taste is part of Keya Maeesha Entertainment’s Acoustic Soul Series. If you’re a music lover and have $15 in your pocket, head down to DROM NYC and get what your heart and ears are looking for! Or, head here —> http://www.ticketfly.com/event/459757 and see if you can grab $10 advance tickets. Either way, get in where you fit in and keep up with Keya Maeesha Entertainment for more amazing musical programming!

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This Saturday, I’ll be co-hosting the second live R&B: Relationships & Bullsh!t Show with my homie Lincoln Anthony Blades! After discussing dating in Toronto at the last R&B Show in October, this evening will be a conversation party focused on S-E-X. Is great sex a necessary part of a great relationship? We’ll be choppin’ it up on that topic all night, complete with live music, great food and drinks, and a jammin’ afterparty – all at the lovely Trio Lounge! Get your advance tickets online here —> http://www.eventbrite.com/e/rb-the-relationships-bullsht-show-tickets-9051129171 and get ready for an enlightening and entertaining night!

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On February 1st, one of my favourite parties of the year goes down at Aura Lounge – it’s Blue Bash! This is HomieLuva’s annual birthday bashment, and it’s been a stand-out party for the last 5 years. This year will be bigger and better, with music by DJ Smooth B (also co-producer of the event), DJ Niterider, and DJ Soca Sweetness - this is a party where you need comfy shoes, because you won’t be sitting down AT ALL. Jay Martin and Mr. Presto are the evening’s hosts, and Jay will be performing a comedy show to get the night kicked off right at 10:30pm. Advance tickets are $15 each, or 3 for $30 and you can get ‘em here —>  http://www.bluebash2014.eventbrite.ca so round up your people and your blue outfits, and help me celebrate HLF’s birthday!

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And coming soon…I’m working on a project with some special partners here in Toronto, and I’m hoping some of my Toronto folk, especially ladies who wear their hair naturally, can help me out. I’m looking for some info from you: what, if any, are your biggest hair challenges, and what pieces of information do you think could help you with your hair? Do you have issues with growth? Breakage? Styling? Do you want info on choosing/using the right product? Knowledge on detangling techniques? Something/anything else? Please comment here or send me an email at bee@83toinfinity.com and let me know what would help YOU. Hopefully, I’ll have more details for you soon!

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