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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!

AND THE WINNER IS…: 2014 Black Canadian Awards Recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FEEDING BODY + SOUL: #BrunchWithBee Event Recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TO THE POLLS: Vote For Bee In The 2014 Black Canadian Awards!

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If you’ve followed me on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram over the past few months, or if you know me in person, you’ll likely be aware that I’ve been nominated for a Best Blogger Award at next month’s Black Canadians Awards. Well, the day has come for finals voting to commence, and I need your help!

The Black Canadian Awards are hosted by Canada’s Diversity Advancement Network, and aim to showcase success stories and range of achievements across the Black Canadian community. March 1st is the big night – the awards will take place inside Toronto’s gorgeous Queen Elizabeth Theatre, and I’m so excited! Please make sure you visit the site to get more details and to purchase your tickets to the awards!

Being nominated for this award back in the summer was HUGE. After starting this blog in 2011 as a personal outlet, it’s continued to grow and surprise me in ways I could never imagine. In the beginning, I looked at ’83 To Infinity as a way to indulge my love of writing and shift the trajectory of my mind after I came home from work. Unlike my previous blogs, I decided to actively share this one with friends and family, never once figuring that people would pay much attention to my random musings about things like natural hair and newlywed life. Looking back, what’s the biggest lesson that ’83 To Infinity has taught me? That I have a terrible habit of underestimating myself. Little by little, my self-deprecating practices of second-guessing myself, playing small, and selling myself short have started to chip away – now I’m ready to step out of my shell and go for what’s mine!

So, why should you vote for me? I’m up against some stiff competition, but here’s why I’m claiming the Best Blogger Award as mine:

Bonus? Blogging has gotten me speaking engagements at conferences, TV features, interviews, event hosting gigs, freelance writing opportunities, and more – and has enabled me to embrace my passions and make some coin on the side. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been a blessing.

It may sound odd, but I can truly say that ’83 To Infinity has changed my life. I’ve embraced a new level of transparency in my writing, and have worked hard to grow in my skill as a writer. I’ve been able to dedicate myself to a project that (until recently) had no real monetary reward – I’ve been doing it for the love for over 2 years. I’ve stretched myself beyond what I thought I was capable of – working on my public speaking fears and trying new things like video interviews and TV spots. And now, I’m on the threshold of stepping into official entrepreneurship – all because of this blog.

I’m also incredibly touched when people take the time to share my pieces, constructively critique, comment, and let me know one way or another that something I’ve written has resonated with them. With such an influx of bloggers in the blogosphere, I almost talked myself out of starting ’83 To Infinity – what would make THIS any different from the millions of other blogs out there? Those moments when readers show their support make me so glad I pushed past that defeatist thinking.

So – let’s get down to business! Please visit the Black Canadian Awards nominee site and scroll down to the Best Blogger category. Click VOTE, select Best Blogger, and enter Bee Quammie as your favourite to win! Your email address will be required for validation, but no spamming after the fact should occur. You can vote 2x per day per email address, so use ‘em all! You can also share your support by clicking the Twitter bird to tweet the following (right click to open in new page):

Tweet: My vote goes to @BeeSince83 for the @BlackCanadians Awards! #BeeQuammie4BestBlogger! Vote for her here: http://ctt.ec/s5W9Z+

 My vote goes to @BeeSince83 for the @BlackCanadians Awards! #BeeQuammie4BestBlogger! Vote for her here: http://ctt.ec/s5W9Z+

I can’t say enough how much I appreciate the support you all give me on a regular basis – winning this award will be icing on the affirmation cake (and I’ll get to put mine on the mantle beside HomieLuva’s), but win or lose, I’ll still keep rolling on this fun and challenging ride. Thank you!

xo Bee

UP NEXT: SisterTalk – A Celebration Of Sisterhood [11/16/13]

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“Sisterhood anchors you.”

That was a tweet I read the other day – utterly simple, yet so powerful. Sisterhood is something that has been crucial for me and my development as a young girl and a grown woman. From my blood sister to my chosen sisters, being embraced by a positive, loving, and empowering circle of femininity is one of the most important things to me. Ain’t no time for the “Ugh – I just don’t get along with women” paradigm or looking at women with distrust before love. Like that tweet read, sisterhood anchors you – it gives you strength, understanding, and another place for your heart to call home. There’s truly nothing like it.

This Saturday I get to put sisterhood on a pedestal at SisterTalk: A Celebration of Sisterhood at One King West, hosted by my girl Karlyn Percil. What started as a monthly meeting between a close-knit group of women has grown into this, the first public SisterTalk event. What is SisterTalk?

A platform where women meet monthly to have real and honest conversations about life, love, career and relationships. Through open and honest dialogue, women tackle the things that prevent them from leaning in and creating the life they love and deserve. The SisterTalk group has been meeting for over a year and a half and in September 2013, Karlyn and some of the members appeared on Oprah’s Lifeclass.

Via SisterTalk eventbrite page

Via SisterTalk eventbrite page

After that dynamic appearance on Oprah’s LifeClass show, plans were solidified to bring the essence of those monthly sessions in sisterhood to the masses – and the event goes down tomorrow.

It’ll be an afternoon of meaningful conversations, inspiring connections, and activities to bring out the authenticity of what happens in those monthly SisterTalk meet-ups. I’m looking forward to discussing the multifaceted aspects of life as a woman – integrating self-care + family + career+ more, and I’m excited for performances from spoken word artist Nadine Williams and keynote from Diane Clemons. I’ll be doing double-duty as a Table Host with my girl Chivon John, and will also be the Social Media Correspondent for the day!

I’m ready to pamper myself with hair/nails/fly outfits, but I really can’t wait to connect with the other amazing women in attendance. As if the personal gains from the event aren’t enough, I’m ecstatic that proceeds from ticket sales and online donations will go towards Break The Silence – a partnership between UNICEF and Bellemoun Community Youth Network aimed at ending the stigma and taboo of child sexual abuse. At $100 per ticket, the price may cause some to feel they have to miss out this time around – but the ladies behind the event have sponsored tables and tickets for women who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford the entrance fee. Looking good, feeling good, and doing good – SisterTalk: A Celebration of Sisterhood will encompass it all!

If you’re a last-minute kinda gal but think you want to come out, hit up the eventbrite page – tickets may likely be sold out, but it doesn’t hurt to try! If you’re looking for me, I’ll have a fruity drink in one hand and my phone in the other, but my arms will be open and available for a hug! If you’re not going to be in the house, never fear – stay tuned to my Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook as I share live, behind-the-scenes coverage of the event!

Whether you’ll be at the event tomorrow or not – take this as a reminder to anchor yourself in sisterhood this weekend!

What else is on the go? Next Tuesday, I’ll be on the panel for Secrets of Side Hustler, then on November 30th, I’m co-hosting my first blogging event called The Syndicate! Y’all know what to do – click the links for more info! 

EVENT ALERT: The Syndicate – Toronto’s Blogging & Social Media Forum

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TORONTO! I’ve got something for you!

After attending blogging and social media conferences both in Canada and the U.S., I’ve been intrigued at the variety of discussions, information sharing, and collaboration that comes out of the events. To be completely honest – I’ve been a bit let down with some of the offerings I’ve experienced closer to home, and wondered what I could do to add something different to the Toronto blogging/social media scene.

Enter: The Syndicate.

The Syndicate is an idea that I’ve had for a LONG time, that came to fruition with the help of my friend Chivon John. We both discussed the need and desire to have an event that highlighted diversity in the city; that pushed collaboration over competition; and that provided attendees with the kind of information they REALLY want and need. If you pay $200 for a conference, and the most valuable thing you walk away with is a cool swag bag, something is off.

With The Syndicate, I wanted to provide an afternoon of information, collaboration, and networking that would actually help someone – like the multitude of people I speak to about starting/maintaining/growing a blog, or finding better ways to maximize their social media presence. If this sounds like you, keep reading…

At The Syndicate on Saturday, November 30th at the IndustREAL Arts Room (688 Richmond Street West) from 1-5pm, we’ll have an interactive panel discussion and break-out sessions with a number of “experts”: in addition to myself and Chivon, we’ll be joined by my friend Lincoln Anthony Blades of the awesome blog This Is Your Conscience, and Monique Daniel, a PR Coordinator from Porter Novelli Canada. Do you have questions about monetizing your blog, working with PR agencies and brands, transferring from blogging to freelance writing, figuring out how to translate blog readers to customers and event attendees, and more? We’ll be there to discuss from our learnings and experiences, and to give you the info you need. In addition to the panel, we’ll also each host breakout sessions where you can learn a bit more about our various areas of expertise, and all attendees will leave with a guidebook filled with tips from all of us.

So, set aside the afternoon of November 30th, and get ready to come out and learn, be inspired, and get connected! There are too many awesome people in the city who don’t know about all the other awesome people in the city, and we want to bring everyone together so that we can all learn from and support each other! Whether you’re considering starting a blog, figuring out how to go full-time with one, or just wondering how you can maximize social media in other ways, The Syndicate is here for you!

Get your $25 tickets on our Eventbrite page: http://thesyndicate2013.eventbrite.ca/

Any questions? Don’t hesitate to reach out to me: bee@83toinfinity.com

See you on November 30th!

ARTSY FARTSY: Interview With Camille Lauren + Toronto Natural Hair & Beauty Show Giveaway

Arta Gallery, Distillery District

At Arta Gallery, Distillery District

Sometimes, you’ve just got to say no.

I found myself in a rut with this blog not too long ago – I was getting a lot of requests to either post things on my blog or do blogging favours for other people, but when it came down to it, the other party always fell through. I shunned the idea of partnering with anyone else for a while, then I got an email inviting me to an art gallery event in the Distillery District. I had met one of the featured artists before, and her publicist invited me to the event with the hopes that I would feature her on the blog. I was so ready to send my “thanks, but no thanks” email – but first, I satisfied my curiosity by going to her site.

That “no” turned into a “yes” with the quickness.

Camille ‘Ciel’ Lauren is a Toronto-based, Curacao-born visual artist currently studying at OCAD (Ontario College of Art & Design) – her company Art of Ciel is inspired by sea and sand, a nod to her Caribbean upbringing.  As the Branding Director for the multi-arts production company Spoke N Heard, she was a driving force behind the creation of the Emanate Gallery Exhibit held at Arta Gallery last month. I fell in love with the art on her site – from her commissioned pieces to her inspired artwork to her live event paintings (yes, she will capture your event live and on canvas), I could see the talent and beauty that radiates from her pieces, and couldn’t wait to see them up-close.

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Brown Sugar Steaming by Camille Lauren

NaturalistaGlam by Camille Lauren

NaturalistaGlam by Camille Lauren

I was lucky enough to do a quick interview with Camille where she told me more about her work and inspiration:

On how her love of art was born…

“Art was just my most natural response. It’s been a way to express myself ever since I was 4. When I came to Canada, it was a thing I used even more to…maybe like a shield in my younger years. I was very shy, so if I was moving to a new school, I’d always have my sketchbook – and even if I didn’t make any friends, art was my way to interpret the world. It just continued – in high school I started painting on canvas, and I loved it. ”

On her biggest inspiration…

“My inspiration comes from conversations, stories that I hear from people – they make me want to reach in and depict that. I like to create an eternal moment to share. You can have a feeling about something, and maybe you tell it to someone and they forget. When you paint it, it’s there for everyone to see.”

How she got involved with Spoke N Heard…

“Three years ago, Spoke N Heard’s creator told me about his vision to unite the arts. Over time I found myself doing graphic design and promotion, and then I became the Branding Director. With this show, Celia Wilson (Creative Director & Curator) and I worked really closely to refine the theme, and the team brought it together. We sent out a lot of different artist submission calls on the web, as far as we could go.”

What her 5-10 year plan is with regards to her art…

“I’m starting my own business, Art of Ciel, to reach further with my art. It’s growing into much more than just art, but I’m taking it one step at a time. I’m looking to art merchandising, and clothing embellishments and design – just trying to broaden it out a bit.”

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Camille and I

Camille and I

To say I’m happy I didn’t decline Camille’s invitation is an understatement. Her art really spoke to me with her use of colour, texture, and movement, and it was amazing to see them up-close and personal. It was also wonderful to hear her tell her own story about her inspirations and aspirations – and sidenote: her hair is DOPE. Now…all I have to do is start saving my pennies to get a piece or two!

Check out Camille’s website, and follow her on Twitter – and stay in touch with Spoke N Heard to support amazing art and artists!

P.S – Don’t forget that I’ll be speaking at the Toronto Natural Hair & Beauty Show this weekend! I’m giving away 2 sets of tickets to the show – one full weekend pass and one Sunday pass. Saturday is all about informative workshops (including mine called ‘Navigating Natural Hair in the Online World’), and Sunday is workshops + vendors + hair and fashion showcase and more! Comment here and let me know why you want to go the TNHBS – bonus points if you follow me on Twitter and tweet me to say that you entered! The winners will be drawn and announced on Friday! 

FASHION MOJO: Vintage Shopping at Vintage Vibes Boutique

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While writing a new piece for UPTOWN Magazine on getting my fashion mojo back (inspired by Kerry Washington’s quote in October’s issue of Glamour“I’m missing a really important tool. If I am the CEO of the Kerry Washington Corporation, my marketing department is really lax.”), I decided to take a work break and put my plans into action. Vintage shopping is something I always wanted to dabble in, and thanks to my homegirl Glenna, my sister and I took a trip down to Toronto’s Leslieville area and visited Vintage Vibes Boutique.

I have a confession to make. In my proud Jamaican family, it was somewhat of a taboo to wear second-hand clothing. There was a lot of pride behind the ability to afford brand new clothes and shoes, and thrift shopping was met with nothing more than a kiss of the teeth. Needless to say, I never invested much interest in the practice. Fast forward a few years later to my current stay in Toronto: I decided to stick my toe in the waters of vintage shopping, and was immediately turned off. I was either referred to places with great finds but exorbitant prices, or spots that redefined the word “cheap.” Lately, I’d been hearing a lot of great things about Vintage Vibes Boutique, so I figured I’d give vintage/thrift shopping one more go.

Located at 717 Queen Street East, Vintage Vibes Boutique is owned and curated by Debbie Parks – the self-proclaimed ‘Chief Treasure Hunter’. Parks was raised by a British mother who trained her up in the ways of vintage shopping, and she leaned on those lessons when she moved to NYC years later. Surviving in style with great vintage finds, Parks eventually settled in Toronto and decided to recreate the same experience here.

Almost immediately after stepping foot inside, I felt at ease. Debbie greeted my sister and I and gave us a quick tour around the store, which houses vintage furniture, clothing, jewelry, and accessories. The jewelry tables immediately caught my eye – big baubles, sparkly earrings, gorgeous detailed necklaces – and I was in heaven. Once I saw the price points (nothing over $15 in the jewelry section), I felt like I had found what I was looking for – a vintage shop with unique, quality items that wouldn’t drain my bank account.

The clothing section, however, would be the real test. There, I found awesome secretary dresses, sequined sweaters, jumpsuits, fly heels, and much more – the majority of which were under $35. “Nothing in the shop is over $100,” stated Debbie. Creating a store where people could find affordable, good quality, and one-of-a-kind pieces was her ambition – and from my eyes, she succeeded. The next 2 hours were spent wading through the racks, trying on clothes, having a mini-fashion show in the middle of the store, chatting with Debbie and the other customers, and generally having fun.

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Debbie Parks (owner of Vintage Vibes Boutique) and I

I ended up leaving with 4 pieces – the yellow & blue silk top and sequined sweatshirt in the photos above, plus a dope black patterned dress and high-waisted midi skirt. The most expensive piece was the dress at $35, so I walked away with a happy (and only slightly less full) wallet. Debbie advised that she finds new pieces on a nearly daily basis, so I’m excited to head back soon and see what else I can snag! Thanks to Vintage Vibes Boutique, I feel like my fashion sense got a much-needed shot in the arm. Being fly and frugal is possible, and I’m glad that I’ve seen the light! If you’re in Toronto, visit Debbie at Vintage Vibes Boutique and tell her Bee sent you! VVB will also be featured at the Toronto Natural Hair & Beauty Show on September 22nd, providing fashions for Hair By Glenna’s hair show – I’m also speaking at the show, so make sure you grab your tickets asaptually!

Follow Vintage Vibes Boutique on Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook – and be sure to stop by the store at 717 Queen Street East from Thursday-Sunday, 12pm-6pm! 

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