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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!

HAIR & THE HUSTLE: How I Embraced Natural Hair In The Workplace

Photo via Elizabeth Dungan

Photo via Elizabeth Dungan

Natural hair in the workplace is a discussion I haven’t had in quite some time. In all honesty, I’ve almost completely forgotten about (ignored? remained indifferent to?) outsiders’ perceptions and the intersections of me, my professionalism, and my physical presentation – but I was reminded of it all last night.

Thanks to Toronto’s humidity and recent torrential rains, I haven’t really been fighting whatever it is that my hair wants to do. A dry twist out from Sunday has grown into a majestic explosion of strawberry blondish kinks and curls that stretch for the sky instead of swinging down low, and I’m rollin’ with it. Some days, my hair will accept slight taming with a bit of water and a few bobby pins. Other days, my hair literally spits the bobby pins out onto the bathroom floor before I finish getting dressed. Today was the latter, so I went about my day and night with the big-ass ‘fro I’ve come to know and love.

My dope, smart, and hilarious cousin and her wife are moving away at the end of the month, and last night I met up with them and their friends to send them off well. It was a compliment from a new homie named Zee that got the conversation flowing.

She loved my hair. She asked how long I had been natural. She asked how my hair was received at work. And it was at that moment that I realized…I had pretty much stopped caring about what most people had to say.

During the time that I’ve worn my hair natural, I’ve held fairly senior executive/management positions. In my transitioning days, friends, family, and that little voice in my head all wondered if this new choice would have a negative impact on the way I was viewed at work. I moved from relaxed hair to kinky twists to a TWA with trepidation, always waiting for the moment where a comment or look would confirm that, yes – this choice DID have a negative impact on how I was perceived. It never came from the people I thought it would come from (see: older White men in leadership positions), but when I decided to apply for an internal promotion, I definitely got an earful from an unexpected demographic (see: other Black women). The position I applied for was a senior client-facing role that required the utmost in professionalism. If I had a dollar for every time a Black woman told me I’d never get the position “with your hair lookin’ like…THAT” – I’d have a lot of dollars. Despite their thoughts, I did win the position and went on to enjoy my new role. However, the idea of natural hair and professional perception stayed on my mind.

via naturallyrandom.com

via naturallyrandom.com

For my first few client meetings, I’d conveniently be in the mood for a flat iron. I didn’t want to admit that I was afraid to present myself to my clients with a head full of carefully coiffed kinks and curls, but that’s exactly what it was. Deep down, I knew I was concerned about “scaring” people or drawing extra attention to myself, and wanted to control the one thing I could to avoid all of that. Due to my name and telephone work voice, most people assumed that I was a White woman. When they’d later meet a 6ft tall Black executive who was often around the same age as their children, the reactions are jarring enough. I didn’t want my hair to be an additional She’s Different! red flag, so I consistently controlled that aspect.

Since those days, I’ve grown. I’ve learned to become much more comfortable with myself – the girl who’s almost always the tallest, youngest, brownest person in the room. Once I was able to accept and embrace the things I can’t change about myself, I learned to accept and embrace the thing I willingly chose to change – my hair. My hair has become part of the package of Bee – a thing I’m recognized by and known for, a thing that just is. I’ve changed my mindset around natural hair and professionalism, and no longer go to the default “straight hair” setting for formal or professional moments. I now know that my natural texture can be polished just as much as it can be wild and free, and find that my increased self-confidence hasn’t allowed much room to think otherwise.

Do I get questions? Sure. Do I get stares? Hell yes. Do I get people who are distracted by my hair and talk to my tuft of curls instead of making eye contact? Yup. Do those things make me say “Damn – next time I’m just flat ironing this sh*t and calling it a day!” or make me second-guess the way I chose to present myself? Not anymore. I’ve been known to stop business discussions and address the curly elephant in the room. I’ve been known to politely inform someone that the timing or phrasing of their question/comment is inappropriate and keep it movin’. I’ve been known to walk into business meetings with a sun-blocking Afro and not have anyone question my abilities or professionalism. I’ve grown lucky enough to reach a point where I am not oblivious to the implications of being a Black woman with natural hair in the workplace, but I’m not controlled by them either.  If anyone has ever assessed the intersections of me, my professionalism, and my hair – and had a negative reaction – I’ve been none the wiser, and they clearly haven’t been powerful enough to stop me from anything I’ve ever wanted to achieve. That pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it?

How do you view natural hair in the workplace? Have you ever felt the need to conform or change your look to a more “acceptable” one? 

EVENT RECAP: Curls, Coils & Cocktails in Toronto

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I am STILL on a high. This past Saturday, in partnership with my homegirl Ann Marie from Soulafrodisiac, I held my first event called Curls, Coils & Cocktails – and it was AWESOME.

Since I started this blog, one of the most common questions I’ve received has been “When are you going to start organizing some events and meetups?” We’ve all been witness to the incredible events that bloggers like Curly Nikki, Afrobella, and others have thrown in the States, but here in Canada (and specifically Toronto), we’ve seen much less action. Thankfully, this is starting to change – and Curls, Coils & Cocktails was my addition to the offerings of natural hair and beauty events in the city.

photo credit: Toni

photo credit: Toni

Held at the lovely and unique Saviari Tea & Cocktail Lounge, the event kicked off with time for mixing and mingling. If you haven’t hit up Saviari yet (on King West), you’re missing out. Amazing tea-infused foods and drinks in an intimate atmosphere – I’ll guarantee you’ve never had an experience quite like the one Saviari offers. The Trendsetter martini was our signature drink, and we saw everyone partaking of the yummy appetizer platters circulating the room. We had two amazing photographers on deck – Tanya Petraglia and Ashton Chambers – and they expertly captured all of the beautiful women (and a few fellas!) who came decked out in all of their gorgeousness.

About an hour into the event, the only emotion I felt was overwhelmed – in a good way. We had received a great response for our advance ticket sales, but the amount of women who still came through and paid at the door had us at standing room only. The sheer number of attendees who were in the house was one thing, but the vibe itself was incredible. I saw women laughing, smiling, talking, hugging, shaking hands, air kissing, complimenting, and just genuinely showing love. Many reflected on how nice it was to be in an environment filled with women without the shadiness, side eyes, and screwfaces, and I had to agree. I make an effort to surround myself with positive people, so I wasn’t at all surprised that a room full of lovely women were getting along – but it just felt nice. A big shout out to Juliana and Vee who held down the door for us like champs! Working the door at an event is rarely as simple as it seems, but these ladies kept things moving smoothly.

Thea Mitchell from Cocoa Bloom Cosmetics and Trudie, Karlene, and Dixie from Curl Bar Beauty Salon were on hand to offer free mini hair and makeup consultations, and the women in attendance didn’t waste any time taking advantage of their knowledge! I recently coloured my hair for my birthday, so any compliments I got on my hair colour and style were directed to Curl Bar’s way – Karlene did my amazing summer colour, and Trudie and Dixie both tag-teamed me the morning of the event to hook me up with a gorgeous twist-out.

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It was soon time for our panel discussion on natural hair and diversity in beauty – moderated by myself and featuring panelists Yemi of the awesome blog Shakara Natural Tips, Thea from Cocoa Bloom Cosmetics, Trudie from Curl Bar Beauty Salon, and Deb from the En’tyce Your Beauty product line. I have never in my life moderated a panel, but I think it went well! We discussed topics around the new views of Black beauty in the media, natural hair and the corporate work environment, how to deal with the frustrations of accepting our natural textures, the importance of healthy hair (regardless of style), natural hair and relationships, and much, much more. With the panel, I wanted to illicit more of a discussion than a straight Q&A feel – I often feel that we too easily want someone to give us an answer or solution to an issue, but I wanted to encourage more thought, debate, and new perspectives. The panelists loved the segment, and we got great feedback from attendees, so I was happy!

photo credit: Jaeda

photo credit: Jaeda

photo credit: Monique

photo credit: Monique

photo credit: Christine

photo credit: Christine

We also did a product swap, where attendees came up to the mic to discuss the gently-used products they had purchased that just didn’t work for them. We got a great response and had some awesome products that were then up for grabs for anyone else who wanted to try them, free of charge. We also made sure to highlight the various stylists (Hair by Glenna, Curl Bar, independant stylists) that were in attendance so that women would know what resources were available to them for their hair care needs. Finding a trusted stylist can be so difficult, but more and more options are becoming available to us in Toronto.

Ann Marie and I also wanted to make sure we highlighted a very special woman – Christine Tonkin. Christine is the creator of the Curls, Coils & Cocktails Meetup.com group that inspired the entire event. Months ago, she had reserved the date of May 18th for a special event, in order to mark International Natural Hair Meetup Day here in Toronto. However, due to some family health crises that needed her time and attention, Christine was unable to continue with plans. She asked if I would be able to take over the reins for the event – Ann Marie jumped in right away to partner with me, and we ran with it. Christine is an amazingly strong and faithful woman, and Ann Marie and I wanted to make sure that the event was true to her vision. Christine told us that we had created exactly what she had envisioned, so we were so happy to make her proud.

Toni and Christine (top) Toni and Ann Marie (bottom) photo credit: Toni

Toni and Christine (top)
Toni and Ann Marie (bottom)
photo credit: Toni

Oh – have I mentioned the FABULOUS giveaways we had on deck? We’re so thankful to all of our generous sponsors who went above and beyond to contribute to the event:

A big shout out to the bloggers/media coverage that were in the house! We did interviews with Caribbean Vibrations TV and Toni Daley, and had Noni and Winnie from Three Naturals (we missed Juli-Anne, but she has a beautiful new baby keeping her busy), Jacqueline from Anancy Magazine, and Carcia & Telly from It’s MusicFashionLife out as well! I saw a ton of other folks conducting mini photo shoots and interviews with attendees, so we can’t wait to see all the photos and event recaps!

photo credit (top): Christine (bottom): Toni

photo credit (top): Christine
(bottom): Toni

When I started organizing sponsors for the event, I was reaching out across the border to American brands – but didn’t get much response back. No one seemed to value the consumers here in Toronto, and it brought to mind my discussions with brands at a conference last year in Philly. The shock and surprise that so many displayed when they asked “There’s BLACK PEOPLE up in Canada?” was telling. While we’re a much smaller number than the Black population in the States, we’re still a relatively unknown consumer group in their eyes. Thankfully, the Universe started opening my eyes and led me to find the amazing resources and talent we have right here in the city. Our mission was not necessarily to host an event filled with vendors expecting attendees to buy. We wanted to create an environment of interaction, engagement, and awareness – getting to know who’s here, what they’re doing, and how you can find them was paramount.

If you’ve made it this far in the recap, I thank you. I knew it would be a long one, but there’s so much to say! All in all, Curls, Coils & Cocktails was a success, and I’m so proud of what we were able to accomplish. In my typical perfectionist way, I’ve spent mo’ time than a lil bit critiquing myself on what I could have done better, where I flubbed certain things, and chiding myself on areas where I can vastly improve. However, I take those self-critiques as learning lessons to make the next time (yes – there will be a next time!) even better. Curls, Coils & Cocktails exceeded all of my expectations, and I’m so thankful to everyone who supported in any way. Like I said at the top of the post, I’m still riding the high – thank you, Toronto!

Were you in attendance at Curls, Coils & Cocktails? Let me know what you thought! If you’ve got any photos you’d like to share, please feel free to email me copies to bee(at)83toinfinity(dot)com! Professional photos will be coming soon! 

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