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BEAUTY & THE EASE: My Return To Braids As A Protective Style

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In the last month of my pregnancy, I made the careful decision to get some braids installed so that I would be cute, comfortable, and low maintenance going into the hospital.

I consulted with my girl Glenna, plotted out all the details, and set up my appointment – precisely 2 weeks before my Little Magician was due. However, LM had her own plans and decided to show up earlier than expected, precisely one day BEFORE my scheduled hair appointment. Glenna and I rescheduled, spent a lovely day chatting and doing hair, and I was left with one of the best braid experiences of my life.

You see, prior to this set I’m rocking now, I hadn’t braided my hair in probably close to 10 years. Braiding – especially with extensions – was never a pleasurable experience. I had just come to expect the pain of installation – edges literally snatched, hairline pulled into a pseudo-facelift, contorting myself in order to attempt to fall asleep at night, and stiff braids that took seemingly forever to loosen up. After the same experience over and over, I figured that was just the price to pay for beauty and ease – eventually I’d be able to coax my braids into a bun, and life would be good.

However, the last braid experience I had was TERRIBLE. 14 hours of braiding when I was told no more than 6. Needing more bags of extensions when I bought what was originally quoted to me. Tears in eyes as the finest hairs were pulled and twisted around thick fingers – “It needs to be tight to keep for a long time!” I was told. As my head got more tender and my butt got more numb, I just kept reminding myself of how good it would look when it was done. That dream was short-lived.

Once we were through, I had SO. MUCH. HAIR. My head felt so heavy, and I was told that I just had to get used to the weight. What I couldn’t get used to was the way braids would slip right out of my head from the root and land in my lap at the most inopportune times – well, scratch that. When IS it an opportune time to have your hair fall out? Never.

My hairline started weakening under the weight of all the kanekalon, and each fallen braided soldier sent me a clear message: either these braids go, or WE go. Your choice.

I painstakingly took down the braids and vowed never to do them again.

Twists became my go-to protective style, and while I adore them (and even learned how to do them myself), they never have the lifespan that a good set of braids do. When the time arrived to decide on my preggo/new mom low-maintenance ‘do, I knew I’d get more bang for my buck if I went for the braids. I was hesitant, but through her particular magic, Glenna hooked me up with beautiful, light, pain-free braids as promised.

Here are the simple steps I follow with my braids:

1. Use an ACV (apple cider vinegar) rinse to cleanse your scalp. 

I mix about 1/4 cup of ACV with 1 cup of water in a spray bottle, spritz liberally over my scalp, massage it in, then rinse in the shower. This clarifying ACV rinse really helps to remove buildup from my scalp without disturbing the braids. I ACV rinse once a week and shampoo every 3rd, and my scalp seems happy so far!

2. Moisturize with castor oil.

I moisturize my scalp with castor oil all the time, but when my hair is sectioned into braids, I’m really able to get in there and ensure every spot is covered. Castor oil has always helped me with hair growth and thickness – I’m not sure if I’ll succumb to postpartum hair loss, but I’m getting that castor oil in to see if it helps.

3. Mix it up!

When I braided my hair in the past, I didn’t do many styles other than all down, or all up. This time, I tried to have a bit more fun with my braids:

Faux-hawk/pompadour look

Faux-hawk/pompadour look

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Side-swept and pulled back at the crown

Sleek bun

Sleek bun

Not the best shot - but this was a cool freestyled fishtail braid

Not the best shot – but this was a cool freestyled fishtail braid

Thank goodness for the extra headband I found in my dresser – that thing has faithfully kept my braids up in a trusty bun on a nearly daily basis. Added bun bonus: Little Magician finds my bun hilarious for some reason….so it’s a good distraction when she’s about to start wailing.

What my hair looks like most days at home

What my hair looks like most days at home

4. And most importantly – find a braider who knows what they’re doing!

For me, word of mouth is key – if you see someone with a beautiful style, ask who did it and what the experience was like! I ask all kinds of questions: How long did it take? How much did you pay? How was sleeping on it? When could you manipulate them without too much pain? I gets it in. Granted, we’re all different and have varying pain/comfort thresholds – but asking questions is key. Do your best due diligence to find someone who will care for your hair as they’re styling it – and don’t be afraid to speak up during your styling session if things aren’t feeling right to you.

Though I miss my hair, the ease of waking up and not having to do much at all with my hair is a blessing. I’ve got my eye on another protective style, so stay tuned!

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!

LOC LOVE: Interview with Rowena of NubianSoulsLocks

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Recently, I realized I was missing something on the blog. Though I’ve been having hearty natural hair convos and documenting my current hair journey on social media mediums like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, it’s been a while since I’ve written a good post on life as a kinky/curly chick. Today, I bring you a little something special.

Rowena of the blog Nubiansoulslocks is a lovely loc’d lady who balances her work in provincial government with her passion for health and wellness. She’s also one of my good sista-friends, so I admit to being a bit biased in wanting to show her off! You’ll quickly see that she’s more than deserving of the feature – get all the way into her gorgeous locs and the hair knowledge she’s acquired on her journey!

Without further ado – here’s my chat with Rowena!

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Bee: What’s your hair story? 

Rowena: For as long as I can remember, I was always on the search for the perfect hairstyle that would be my “signature” style. Every month I would run into the local drug store and purchase the latest Sophisticate’s Black Hair magazine in the hopes that I would find that hairstyle that screamed “Rowena.” I wanted to find something that was synonymous with my personality as well as my face shape, etc. Over the years I went back and forth with relaxers – I relaxed my hair for the first time in the 8th grade, I stopped in the 12th grade and decided to try and grow my hair out. I went back to the creamy crack the summer before I went off to university. I wanted to try something “drastic” and did a short bob. My biggest regret was relaxing my hair; I didn’t have an idea how to take care of it at the time, so my hair would fall out. Texturizing my hair gave me similar results, so I continued to have a hard time trying to find a style that would make me feel and look good. I toyed with weaves and wigs for a short period but I felt extremely uncomfortable wearing something that did not fit my face, or my personality.   

Bee: How did you come to the decision to rock locs? 

Rowena: After my relaxer fiasco, I decided to wear twist extensions as a means to grow my natural hair out. I knew how to put extensions in my own hair so I decided to try this out without realizing how well the style suited me. I remember putting in the twists and immediately receiving compliments from my friends and family on how it suited me so well. I continued wearing the style, playing around with different textures of the kinky extensions, until someone suggested that I try locking my hair. I thought about it and considered trying it out, but it took me a couple of years to actually take the dive and start my loc journey because I was afraid of the “commitment and process” of having locs. It has been a little over 7 years and I definitely don’t regret my decision….this style definitely suits me, my lifestyle and my personality. 

Bee: You work in a corporate government environment – has your hair had any impact on your career or your relationships with coworkers? 

Rowena: In the beginning of my loc journey I was very conscious of the way my colleagues would react to my new hairstyle. Fortunately for me they were very supportive of my decision which I am very grateful for. Overall I have had a positive experience – a lot of colleagues (from all races) would ask about my regimen, how long it takes me to style my hair, how long would I want to grow it, and how I make the style look so versatile, especially after I cut my locs into a shorter style. I haven’t received any negative comments towards my hairstyle as the majority of the people of colour in my office wear their hair natural, and two others have locs as well. We all make a conscious effort to look presentable in the office and I feel that’s what matters here. There are days that I feel that my overall appearance has an impact on my career, especially when I read articles about individuals facing hardship with their natural hairstyles – but I make a conscious effort to focus on my work ethic rather than other’s thoughts about my locs. 

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Bee: You recently cut your locs into a cute shoulder-length bob – what made you cut them, and do you regret the decision at all?

Rowena: I’m going to be honest and say that I had that 7-year itch where I briefly thought of the decision to completely cut my locs off. They were getting very long, and because of my active lifestyle, it because increasingly difficult to maintain. Some of my locs started breaking off as well so I had to make a decision on what to do. I was getting very frustrated with my locs. I loved the progress that I had made over the years but that length was just getting in the way.  A few years ago I saw a hairstyle in Essence magazine (and I wrote a blog post about it) that I instantly fell in love with, and I told myself that if I decided to cut my locs,  I would cut it into a bob similar to the picture that I had seen. I felt that I needed a change; as a way to start over, and to fall in love with my locs all over again. It also made my loc maintenance/exercise regimen a little easier so I went to a stylist in September and cut them off. I was in complete shock when she gave me that first batch of locs, but seeing the results afterwards, I was extremely happy with my decision and I have NO regrets. 

Bee: What’s your current hair care regimen? 

Rowena: Because I am always in the gym, I wash my locs twice a week. I don’t use as many hair products as I used to, so right now I either put coconut oil on my scalp, or I use the Mizani Coconut Souffle Light Moisturizing Hairdress. In between washings, I like to use the Carol’s Daughter Black Vanilla Moisturizing Leave-in Conditioner to prevent my scalp from getting too dry. I prefer to keep it really simple these days. 

Bee: People often aren’t aware of how versatile locs can be. What are some of your favourite loc styles?  

Rowena: I love side bun hairstyles. When I had longer locs, I would always wear a side sweep because I found them fun and feminine. I also love to wear my locs in curls, and pin them up in various ways. I never realized how versatile locs can be until I checked out YouTube. There’s a vast amount of video blogs available that provide tutorials on loc hairstyles, for all lengths. My favourite go-to for hairstyles would be Chescalocs. If I wanted to try something fun, I would go to her YouTube page.   

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Bee: You’re very physically active and health-conscious – how do you maintain your locs during frequent workouts, and how does your hair choice fit with your healthy lifestyle choice? 

Rowena: As you know, I am a Socacize instructor, and since it is a high impact aerobic exercise class, my locs are drenched after every workout. What I have learned is that when it comes to product use, less is more. Your hair (and skin) will thank you when you put less product in your hair, especially when you work a sweat more often. Aside from the length that I had earlier, I found that having locs while maintaining an active lifestyle is a lot easier for I don’t worry about sweating my locs out at all. Because I value my active lifestyle, I had to get over that “I’ll ruin my fresh twist/I just washed my hair” mentality and just exercise. Having a healthier lifestyle is more important than sweating out my freshly-done locs.  I have become more aware of the foods that eat as well; I have committed myself to cleaner eating and I have definitely noticed a change in the strength as well as the growth process. I eat a lot of leafy greens throughout the day and I feel as if this has positively contributed to the health of my locs. 

Bee: What are some pieces of advice you’d offer to someone who is contemplating or has just started their loc journey?

Rowena: Patience is key! Locs will not form overnight so be patient with its growth and development. Document your monthly progress and you’ll be fascinated with the progress you have made as the months go by. 

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Bee: Where can people find you? (FB, Twitter, blog, etc.) 

Rowena: I can be found at the following:

Facebook: Nubiansoulslocks

Twitter: @Nubiansoulslocs

Blog: http://nubiansoulslocks.blogspot.com

Instagram: @Nubiansoulslocs

If you have locs or are contemplating them, I’m sure you got some piece of info or inspiration from Rowena! If you have any questions for her, feel free to comment here or contact her directly!

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!

LENGTH LUST: Thoughts On Natural Hair Health & The Pursuit Of Length

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So, I’ve been a proud, natural hair-wearing chick for the past 5 years or so. Just as I start to get comfortable in my regimen, comfortable with my look, and comfortable with what my hair choices mean to me, something always comes along to shake things up.

Here’s the scenario I’ve been facing lately:

Random person: “Wow – I love your hair!”

Me: “Thanks so much!”

Random person: “How long have you been natural?”

Me: “Oh, about 5 years.”

Random person looks at my hair again with slight disappointment.

Random person: “Oh.”

I often don’t have to guess at what that “Oh” means. Sometimes, they’ll come out and say with a tinge of pity, “Oh – your hair grows slowly, doesn’t it?” or “Did you recently chop it off?” or something to the effect that tells me that my hair length and length of time being natural don’t match up in their head. And there’s that word: length. These days I find myself thinking about fixations on hair length, and what it all means.

Now, to be honest – I did recently cut a lot of hair off. 2013 wasn’t a great year for hair health, and it really started to show. Stress levels, poor nutrition, and lack of proper time/effort all led to my hair being probably at its worst since I’ve gone natural. It got thin, stopped growing, broke a lot, and generally let me know how poor of a caregiver I was. And if that wasn’t enough, I decided to go all out and colour it for my 30th birthday – and then I continued to fail on the TLC tip.  An appointment at Curl Bar a couple of months ago was all I needed to get back on track. I went back to black, cut off a lot of the damaged hair, and recommitted myself to letting my hair flourish in all the glory I know it possesses.

However, the responses and discussions around my hair have been interesting of late. My hair doesn’t look like 5 years of growth, I guess. 5 years of growth should mean a humongous halo of hair, kinks and curls as far as the eye can see, and a massive, beautifully uncontrolled spillage of locks – right? In an ideal world, that’s what I’d have. But I don’t, and it’s OK.

Well, it’s OK most of the time. I’ll be honest – I’ve had my share of fixation on my hair’s length, width, and thickness, and have often looked at myself in the mirror with disappointment when I felt I haven’t hit my mark. In the natural hair community, we tend to focus so heavily on length, for a variety of reasons. One being the beauty ideal that states that femininity is related to long, healthy, gorgeous hair. Another being the fact that we’re so amped to prove those wrong who think natural Black hair can’t grow. Both of those points have mattered for me, and while it’s great to have ambitions towards beautiful, big hair – I have to remind myself that there’s more to it than that.

Before I can focus on length, I know I have to focus on health. I really and truly have to do a better job of taking care of my hair from now on, and I can’t allow myself to slide like I did this year. I also have to let my length goals be secondary, and not allow others’ judgements to get me down.

Being that I’m a blogger who is a strong advocate of natural hair, I remain conscious of the fact that my hair is almost a representation of my work. Have I felt in recent times like I’ve disappointed people who’ve met me in real life? Call me sensitive, but yes. However, I have also become more of a supporter of the variety of hair choices we have at our fingertips. Grow it, cut it, loc it, colour it – the most important aspect for me right now is to take care of it.

Are you fixated on length? Have you ever caught yourself judging someone else’s hair based on what you think it should look like? 

P.S. – if you’re an aspiring or current blogger in Toronto, get your tickets for The Syndicate this Saturday! 

NEW TINGS: Bee’s Yarn Braid Style

Continuing with my 2013 theme of doing new sh*t, I have a brand new hairstyle, AND – I’ve done my first vlog to show it to y’all! Big ups to Hair By Glenna for giving me this new yarn braid ‘do, and big ups to YouTube for not giving me too many hassles with this video. I like mixing it up a bit, so I might give myself some more practice and post some more videos every once in a while!

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Have you ever worn yarn braids? Are you due for a style switch-up? Let me know! 

TWISTED SISTA: My Latest Twist-Out Success

I’m not sure what it is.

It might be the wonky summer weather. It might be the fact that I haven’t been eating as well as I should be. It might be due to the colour job I did on my birthday back in May. It might be stress. I’m not 100% sure where the blame lies just yet – but my hair hasn’t been acting right, and it’s boring me to tears. This past weekend, I looked myself in the mirror and sighed. I can’t do much about the weather. I’ve started seeing a naturopath to get my body back on track. I’m halfway over this red/blond colour I’ve got going on.

All that aside, this hair was still on my head, and it was sick of being neglected in a bun or lazy updo. On a night when I could have been out dancing on a table top hanging out with friends, I decided to actually take the time to do a really thorough wash and twist-out – and the results were great!

First, I dry-detangled my hair using my fingers and a wide-tooth comb. This is usually a step that I skip solely for time’s sake, but properly detangled hair is the foundation of a great twist-out. I didn’t utilize conditioner during this step or do any kind of pre-pooing (treating the hair with various oils prior to washing), but will remember that for next time.

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Once my cotton candy ‘fro was thoroughly detangled, I jumped in the shower.

Sidenote: I recently had a chat with someone who said their solo drives were their prayer/talk to God/pseudo-meditation time. For me, it’s the shower. While I love being pampered by having someone else put their hands in my hair, there’s nothing like the clarity I get during a shower where it’s just me, the water, and my thoughts. Bliss!

I used a new shampoo and conditioner this go-round. I was lucky enough to receive a bottle of Alaffia Authentic African Soap from Canadian online boutique Love Thy HNS and have been using it as a face wash for the past 2 weeks. The bottle stated that it could also be used as a shampoo, so I tried it out! It has a great tingle and citrus-y scent thanks to the tangerine, orange, and lemongrass essential oils in the mix, and it felt great on my scalp. After my shampoo, I utilized TREsemme’s Moisture-Rich Conditioner – a rich product with vitamin E, sunflower, hazelnut, and almond extracts, and great slip. While loaded with conditioner, I brushed through my hair section by section with my Denman brush, pinned it up, and went about my shower.

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Products used: Alaffia Authentic African Soap, TREsemme Moisture Rich Conditioner, B.U. Coconut & Vanilla Elixir, Beautiful Textures Curl Definer Styling Custard

To rinse, I turned my dial to the coldest temperature I could tolerate, and rinsed my hair. The verdict is still out on whether cold rinses actually seal your cuticle, reduce frizz, and increase shine as often touted – but my hair loves it. I took the cold rinse a step further and borrowed a move from Tracee Ellis Ross by cold rinsing my entire body:

It’s like the cold water rinse you get when you go to the spa. Yes it’s painful, but here’s the thing that changed my relationship to the pain. That cold water rinse, it’s actually really good for cellulite! [laughter].  Have you ever been to the Korean spas and seen the open fist pounding they do?  Well, I will sometimes do that in the shower, under the cold water, across my rear and my legs.

There are apparently some great benefits to cold rinses, and hey – if it’s good enough for Tracee, it’s good enough for me!

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T-shirt dried curls, and my multiple textures! The front bit of my hair is very loose, as is my nape. The middle is a mix of kinkiness and curls of various sizes.

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Roots. My colour was on May 10th, and I’m going to have to figure out a new gameplan soon…

Finally, it was time to twist. I moisturized my hair with my B.U. Coconut & Vanilla Elixir, then set about 20 twists using Beautiful Textures Curl Definer Styling Custard. The custard was light, but my twists seemed to dry with a nice hold. I was excited to see the results, so I slept on it overnight then took them down the next day.

Voila!

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Three things I learned in this twist-out journey:

1. My new place has horrible lighting for photos. I’m still trying to find my sweet spot.

2. I have to be patient. I like my hair BIG. I tried to ruffle it up a bit, but ended up disturbing the looser curls instead. I have to leave it alone and let it grow into the Day 2 and 3 hair that I love.

3. Every once in a while, my hair needs to get out of its comfort zone with new products, or products I haven’t used in a long time. Must. Not. Get. Lazy.

So there you have it! I’ve been enjoying this twist-out over the past couple of days, so I’m hoping I can stave off the boredom for a while. Fingers crossed…

Do you have a bonafide bomb-ass twist-out or braid-out routine? Let me know what works for you!

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