Category: Lifestyle Written by CNN
by Breeanna Hare
(CNN) -- Embracing the hair you're born with sounds like it should be the easiest thing in the world, but for some, it's a huge challenge.
Nikki Walton, a 29-year-old licensed psychotherapist whose own journey to hair acceptance has grown from a passion into a business, knows that hurdle all too well.
As the founder of CurlyNikki.com, one of TextureMedia's hair care websites, Walton now confidently boasts a lush, natural texture that lives up to her online nickname, "Curly Nikki." On her website, she leads the charge for a community of women seeking a resource and a space where they can let their hair down, just as it is, no straightening required.
But Walton can vividly recall the days when straight hair meant beautiful hair, and if she couldn't be seen with it straight, she'd rather not go out at all.
As a young adult, Walton would feel "gorgeous" and "ready" to take on the world when her dark hair's natural twists and turns were straight, sleek and swinging thanks to a stylist's heat tools.
But when that style fell flat and the frizz began to appear, "I would become an introvert; I didn't want to do anything," she said.
Eventually, the boyfriend who was driving her to and from hair appointments -- and who's now her husband and father to their 2½-year-old daughter -- intervened.
"He said, 'This isn't healthy. I don't know if you've noticed, but you need to step back and assess this. You're pretty, and I want you to feel pretty no matter what the condition of your hair is,' " Walton recalled. "And he was right. My hair was running my life. My confidence was in flux with my hair."
That conversation inspired Walton to take action, and she soon found herself researching ways she could work with the kind of hair she was born with. Once she unchained herself from her flat iron, she found not only a more genuine confidence but a new freedom to live her life as she chose -- not as her hairstyle mandated.
"Once you get to that freedom," she said, "you'll be very excited to help those around you achieve that as well."
Walton has been lending that helping hand on CurlyNikki.com for the past four years, and she recently compiled her accumulated wealth of hair care know-how into a book, "Better Than Good Hair: The Curly Girl Guide to Healthy, Gorgeous, Natural Hair."
Walton describes the guide as a little like "What To Expect When You're Expecting," mixed with the approachable, easy-to-understand wisdom she extends on the Web.
Depending on the person, opting to wear one's hair in its natural state can feel like a rebirth of sorts. Some women may choose to cut much of their hair off -- doing a "big chop," as it's called -- to get rid of heat-damaged or chemically straightened locks. For others like Walton, who opted to wear her hair more naturally but skipped the dramatic haircut, there's still a learning curve to figure out how to wear one's natural hair texture.
"In my house," Walton said, "any time we had somewhere important to go, if it was Easter Sunday (or) Christmas Mass, we had to make sure our hair was pressed and braided neatly. That's what my mom knew, that's what her mom knew, so we didn't even question it."
By the time she was in middle school, Walton would want to "shrink into a hole" at the salon while she waited for a stylist to blow dry her freshly washed hair.
"I didn't want people to see my hair. I couldn't even look at myself in the mirror," she recalled. "I didn't even know what my real texture looked like. ... I just knew that if it got a little bit wet, or if I sweat(ed) a little bit too much, I put my hands into my roots, and it felt terrible."
As a result, Walton had to do both a habitual and a mental shift when she decided that having healthy hair was more important.
That new way involved regularly trimming her hair herself and wearing what she calls "low-manipulation" styles, like buns, which meant she wasn't putting added stress on her hair with constant washing and styling.
Celebrity hairstylist and salon owner Ted Gibson concurs with Walton's careful, routine trimming, which he says is essential whether you chemically straighten your hair or are as natural as can be.
"Sometimes women, when they get a relaxer, they don't want to get a haircut, but that's part of the service for us," Gibson said. "Getting your ends trimmed is essential in growing your hair and making your hair so that it's in better shape. Hair will split after a period of time, and that's sometimes where thinning hair comes from."
It took Walton about a year and a half to get rid of her damaged bits, and at the time, she was simultaneously working on being able to leave the house with her new, natural 'do.
At first, "you have that spotlight effect, because you think everybody's staring at you, because you're very self-conscious," Walton said. "And most people aren't staring at you, and if they are, maybe they're thinking good things, not the negative things you're projecting onto them."
On her site and particularly in her book, Walton emphasizes how necessary confidence is to the process.
"This is your hair, and people have to accept it because you do. And when you exude that confidence, people get that from you and they don't bother you. Often, we have to fake it till we make it, because people will be able to detect that insecurity."
The phrase "natural hair" is thrown around a lot, and it can mean different things to different people. There are those who would agree with celebrity stylist Laini Reeves, for whom being natural starts with the product.
"Being a hairdresser, I look for two things: I look for performance, and I look for ingredients. It's hard to find completely 100% natural hair care that has the performance that you need, but technology is becoming so advanced that the chemists know how to alter ingredients that make it have the performance," said Reeves, who's worked with stars like Amy Adams and Emily Blunt.
For example, if you're a curly, you might want to check out coconut oil to use as a conditioner, Reeves said, in an effort to rebuild the hair and get a softer texture.
"My advice to anybody: Read the label and educate yourself," Reeves said. "I'm not an extremist. I'm not anti this or that; I just like to make more conscious decisions in my life."
Walton, too, cautions against the perception that maintaining natural hair means standing against chemical straighteners or straight hair overall.
"It's all about achieving versatility and achieving healthy hair and achieving the freedom to be able to wear your hair curly or straight," she said. "The goal that I had for myself was to feel just as attractive and just as professional and sexy with my hair curly as I felt when it was straight. I'm there in that place now, and I want other women to be able to experience that too. That level of confidence, we call it genuine self-esteem -- the kind that doesn't fluctuate."
There's also a side benefit to all of that confidence, Walton added.
"Accepting what your hair does naturally will help you attain a better quality of life," she said. "You can straighten your hair and do whatever you want to do, because we're women; we like to change it up. It's that key of getting comfortable in your own skin. My quality of life has greatly improved now that my first thought and consideration is not my hair."
Have you struggled with going natural? Share your experiences in the comments section below.
Last Updated on Thursday, 28 March 2013 09:27
Category: Lifestyle Written by Debbie Norrell
2013 NEED SCHOLARSHIP RECIPENTS (Photos by Debbie Norrell)
On March 14, at the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown, the 50th Annual NEED Benefit Dinner was celebrated. It was an extraordinary evening celebrating 50 years of achievement and paying homage and remembering fondly the late Sylvester Pace— the visionary who led NEED to become a full service college access program. A special presentation of photos of former NEED recipients and organizers morphed into a portrait of the late Sylvester Pace. Pace was the president and CEO of NEED from 2000 until his passing in June of 2012.
The evening included a lot that was new and exciting. Such as, a fabulous VIP reception, where students were presented with NEED medallions and books signed by the keynote speaker Steve Pemberton, child advocate, motivational speaker and author of “A Chance in the World.” Pemberton currently serves as the Chief Diversity Officer and Divisional Vice President for Walgreens. He is the first person to occupy this role in the company’s 111 year history. Pemberton’s message to the students was “figure out what is special about you, find your greatness and bestow it upon others.”
NEED is the oldest African-American scholarship access program in Pennsylvania. Over 22,000 students have been served in over 50 years. One of the founding members of NEED, Rabbi Herald Silver spoke about the humble beginnings of NEED in 1963. The program began after the assassination of Medgar Evers. Back in 1963 their goal was to award 67 students $250 each. On March 14, 20 students received scholarships from $1,000 to $5,000 each.
In closing remarks from Interim President and CEO Claudette Lewis; she thanked the parents of the students and all that made the evening and the last 50 years possible, which included the corporate sponsors and the wider Pittsburgh community for their unwavering support and commitment to the NEED mission—“unlocking the power of education.”
2013 NEED scholarship recipients:
Erika Drain, Aryell Heywood, Fletcher Jones, Canada Montgomery, Natasha Todd, Victoria Bush, Tamara Butler, Drew Buzzell, Kyle Chapman, Janae Fletcher, Campbell Garth, Brea Hogan, Briann Moye, Brandon Nelson, Justin Barnes, Jamel Habboushi, Alexis Lape, Kelsy Miller, Joshua Ombiri and Jerome Watts.
Last Updated on Thursday, 28 March 2013 09:53
Category: Lifestyle Written by LaMont Jones
FROM WILLIE HALL’S 2013 FALL COLLECTION
(NEW YORK CITY)—For fashion designer Brehon Williams, it all started with rollercoasters.
“I always wanted to grow up to become a mechanical design engineer, designing rollercoasters,” said the 23-year-old Virginia native. “As I began to delve into fashion, all of the research—as far as architecture goes—started to be infused in my design aesthetic. Riding a rollercoaster is an experience, and I want whomever wears my clothes to have an experience in them.”
Williams’ fall 2013 collection of menswear and womenswear was a pleasing experience at the Rogues Gallery Presents show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week last month. Rogues Gallery Presents, created and produced by Black stylist Ron Cooke, provides a platform for emerging designers to get some of the spotlight during New York’s fashion weeks each February and September. Like most other fashion events staged during the week, although not officially part of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, RGP is a chance for designers with talent but perhaps less money, connections, or clout to get their work in front of some of the many editors, bloggers, buyers, celebrities, industry insiders, and everyday fashion-lovers who converge on The Big Apple for the nation’s biggest fashion fest.
Williams and three other Black designers were among seven designers to watch who presented collections in the show at Hotel Pennsylvania. His designs are always influenced by menswear, and the looks he showed for next fall and winter were contemporary with creative color-blocking and exotic prints.
The line, he said, “was inspired by Africa—the tribes, the animals, and the color. I wanted to present a collection that was deeply inspired by my heritage without it becoming a joke and looking like a costume party.”
While Williams designs from his home in Chesapeake, Va., Mikasa La’Charles is based just north in downtown Norfolk. Her “Navajo Meets Hollywood” fall collection was full of young and sexy looks for women. She incorporated faux leather and a patchwork motif throughout the line, along with a dramatic cowl feature on several dresses.
La’Charles studied marketing at the College of William and Mary before studying fashion design and business at Parsons Paris School of Art and Design. She also studied in Europe, interned in New York City, worked with design brands such as Laundry by Shelli Segal and along the way taught herself to sketch and sew the designs she visualized.
“I’ve been dreaming about it since I was 5,” and began drawing women’s clothes at her childhood home in Philadelphia, she said.
Pursuing her passion is paying off. She debuted collections at VA Fashion Week in 2010 and 2011 and at Charleston Fashion Week in South Carolina last year, where she was named among the top 20 emerging designers on the East Coast.
La’Charles’ designs are sold in her online boutique, www.mikasalacharles.com. With an interest in every aspect of fashion, she also works as a stylist, teaches sewing classes and does freelance design work for two fashion companies – all while being a single mother to a 2-year-old son.
Becoming a recognized name is much more difficult for designers and usually takes much longer than the public realizes. Although Willie Hall of Brunswick, N.J. has been designing fashion for 30 years, she is still emerging on the scene.
She staged her first fashion show at the age of 18 and was passionate about creating prom gowns for girls who couldn’t afford retail prices. She soon began a 30-year career as a medical assistant, all the while continuing to design. In 1998, heeding her father’s advice to focus on doing what really makes her happy, she left the medical field and in 2003 returned to fashion school.
Hall volunteered for 19 seasons at the official New York Fashion Week, now Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, and has shown collections at Rogues Gallery Presents since its inception in 2008. Her chic fall womenswear collection featured elegant and edgy dresses and sportswear, from shorts and skirts to jackets and wide-leg pants.
“My inspiration came from my closet of fabrics, sourcing what you have already in front of you,” said Hall, 50. That meant a strong foundation of black and white with an infusion of vivid color. She said her philosophy is that “a woman should look elegant no matter what she is wearing. I design for women who are confident within themselves wearing a pair of pants or a gown.”
Her tailoring is impeccable, honed as a former assistant to design icon Andre Van Pier, whose creations in the 80s were worn by superstars such as Diana Ross, Elizabeth Taylor, Madonna, Prince, Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson.
Designing for celebrities is a joy Diane Linston of Cleveland has experienced. The 44-year-old Alabama native recently designed two outfits for actress Jazsmin Lewis and said she designs for “jazzy yet sophisticated women age 25 and up.”
Linston’s aesthetic is young and hip. Her strong fall womenswear collection included bold overcoats and denim separates, with creative surface detailing on every look for extra pizzazz.
She began sketching and designing at the age of 14, later graduating from the Virginia Marti College of Art and Design in Lakewood, Ohio. She was installed in the school’s Wall of Fame in 2001. Two years prior, she launched her brand, Styles of Imagination, and sold her designs at two stores in Cleveland.
Linston closed the stores in 2005 to launch her own brand, N.G.U. Designs. She showed a collection in 2009 at a show in Atlanta presented by stylist Dwight Eubanks, who since has had recurring appearances on The Real Housewives of Atlanta.
All of the designers are working toward establishing a retail presence with their designs, which is no simple feat. Williams, who won the Virginia Fashion Award for up-and-coming designers in 2009, said he “would love to get in a few small boutiques just to get my name out there.”
Linston wants to diversify into accessories and housewares and has designed plus-size blouses that she plans to pitch to department stores and the Home Shopping Network.
“My plan,” she said, “is to have the N.G.U. Collection in as many boutiques and specialty stores as possible.”
Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 10:09
Category: Lifestyle Written by Courier Newsroom
CJ’s Restaurant & Lounge presents “The Roger Humphries & RH Factor Jazz Jam Session” at 8 p.m. at 2901-2911 Penn Ave., Strip District. There will be live jazz and fun every Thursday night. Must be 30 years or older and there is a dress code that will be enforced. No tennis shoes, sweats, or athletic gear. For more information, call 412-642-2377.
The Pittsburgh Public Theater presents their MADE IN AMERICA series with the play “Thurgood” at 8 p.m. at the O’Reilly Theater, 621 Penn Ave., Cultural District. The one-man play stars Montae Russell as Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court Justice. The play tells the story of Marshall, from his beginnings in Baltimore, Md., to his rise to the highest court. “Thurgood” will run through April 7. For more information, call 412-316-1600 or visit www.ppt.org.
SUNSTARS in the Making
The Kelly Strayhorn Theater presents “SUNSTARS in the Making” from 2-4 p.m. at 5941 Penn Ave., East Liberty. This event gives young women the opportunity to explore culturally diverse stage performances and activities that bring together dance, music and theater. There will be workshops, followed by performances by the YMCA Lighthouse Project, the Alumni Theater Company and 3 Talented Girls. Kim El, also known as Dr. Goddess, will also moderate a dialogue. For more information, call 412-363-3000.
The Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company presents “Straightening Combs” at 3 p.m. at 937 Liberty Ave., Cultural District. Kim El shares a story of the repercussions of low self-esteem and overcoming depression in Urban America. She takes the audience on a journey seen through the eyes of an African-American female coming of age. This is the last performance. For more information, call 412-400-8809 or visit www.pghplaywrights.com.
Fun-raiser Benefit Concert
The Black Political Empowerment Project presents the 8th annual B-PEP Jazz Concert Fun-raiser from 5:30-11:30 p.m. at Bridges Restaurant & Lounge, Wyndham Hotel, 100 Lytton Ave., Oakland. Enjoy the music of Sean Jones and his Quartet, Roger Humphries, Etta Cox, Michelle Benson, Kenny Blake and more. Proceeds will benefit B-PEP and their Coalition Against Violence. For more information, call 412-758-7898.
The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust presents JazzLive at 5 p.m. at the Backstage Bar at Theater Square, 655 Penn Ave., Cultural District. Every Tuesday guests can enjoy hot jazz from some of the most talented jazz musicians, cool drinks and great people. April is National Jazz Appreciation Month. There will be a performance by Brett Williams, followed by Lou Donaldson at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. For more information, visit www.trustarts.org.
The August Wilson Center for African American Culture presents Solo Exhibits from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. at 980 Liberty Ave., Cultural District. This exhibition showcases fiber art, printmaking, paintings and sculptures from the artists, Leslie Ansley, Tina Brewer and Jo-Anne Bates. Each artist has drawn inspiration from journeys recalling African-American heritage, reflecting on Diaspora or Pilgrimages to the African continent. The exhibit runs through June 29. For more information, call 412-258-2700.
The P.R.O.M.I.S.E. Group presents the 5th Annual Blues, R&B Showcase 2013 from 9 p.m.-2 a.m. at the Hard Rock Café, Station Square. The evening will be hosted by The Muddy Kreek Blues Band and feature Vince Agwada Singer. The fundraiser supports the P.R.O.M.I.S.E.’s youth camps and other programs. For more information, call 412-258-0506 or visit www.promiseonthemove.com.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 10:16
Category: Lifestyle Written by Debbie Norrell
When commentating fashion shows I’ve always said that there is nothing new under the sun. I surely hope that people don’t think that drinking cough syrup to get high is new. I remember a young man who we called “Robo” back in the day. The nickname came for his love or addiction to Robitussin Cough Syrup. He always kept a bottle visible in his shirt pocket. He passed away as a young man. With all the talk about Lil’ Wayne going into the hospital for alleged seizures possibly from his cough syrup drink, I decided to look up what is called sirrzup, seerup or sirrup. There were more than 13,000 results. According to the Urban Dictionary:
Sirrup is a mixed beverage, which became famous through the postmillenium hip-hop community of southern U.S.A. Sirrup consists of Codeinesirup and lemon flavored lemonade, Jolly Rancher candy is optional. It’s most famous representative is definitely Lil’ Wayne, who is often seen sippin’ from a Styrofoam cup, filled with a purple colored liquid.
Let’s use it in a sentence: “Man, have you heard of DJ 100 percent Design? He must be sirrup sippin’ every day with those remixes.”
I remember watching an episode of “Behind The Music” about Lil’ Wayne. Towards the end of the episode he was asked about what was in the cup, what was he drinking? He got pretty upset and said no one needed to ask him about what was in his cup. Well about a week ago Wayne was hospitalized and many in the news media attributed the trip to the hospital to his codeine concoction. Not so says Lil’ Wayne’s family, they say somebody messed with his sirrup, he was poisoned. Reportedly he has hired an investigator to check into the alleged poisoning. Funny nobody said it is time to stop drinking the deadly purple drink.
If you think you want to start using sirrup here is something you may want to consider. As tolerance for the drugs in sirrup builds, higher doses are required to feel similar effects. In this cough syrup combination, promethazine can actually double the amount of codeine that affects the body. Furthermore, carbonated drinks make the body absorb even more by pushing it through the stomach lining to the part containing blood vessels.
The major danger of cough syrup abuse is the high potential for addiction. Like morphine or other opiates, regular consumption of codeine can result in chemical dependency. Taken over a period of time, the body’s central nervous system will stop producing pain killers, or endorphins, naturally because it is receiving opiates instead. Then these inactive nerve cells degenerate and when the body no longer produces pain killers on its own, the addiction begins. When a user wants to quit, it often means a painful withdrawal period or an unpleasant medically supervised detox. Even then, relapse is always a danger. People can lose consciousness and have convulsions (can you say seizure). Those with prior respiratory problems such as asthma face even higher risks.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 10:05
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