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Interviews with My Favorite Fashionistas

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Through the decades I have become clearer about my strengths – those areas where I excel and am sometimes a role model for others. Unfortunately, fashion is not one of them :-). While I think I put pieces together to look nice enough, I struggle with things like accessorizing, matching unconventional prints, or choosing daring pieces to add to my wardrobe. I have resolved to do my best, but continue to want to step out of my comfort zone when it comes to fashion so I consulted with my three favorite fashionistas. In the post you’ll be introduced to each of them, learn why I selected them for this post and hear their perspectives on the following statements/questions: describe your fashion style; who are your fashion inspirations; how do you shop and coordinate pieces; and what tips would you offer women wanting to be more daring when it comes to fashion and coordinating? I learned a lot and hope you do too!

I met Denny while attending college. She has always been one of my fashion icons. One thing that sets Denny apart is her ensemble is always coordinated from head to toe – literally. She changes her hair style a few times a year, experiments with colors, is not afraid to shake up the color of her make-up, and adds unique accessories to finish it all off. One of the unique things I appreciate about Denny is that like me, she is a curvy woman and constantly reminds me that fashions knows NO limits. Here are her responses:

My fashion sense is a mix of vintage and eclectic.  I’m obsessed with previous fashion eras and one-of-a-kind pieces. My fashion inspirations are Tracey Ellis Ross, Solange Knowles, Lauryn Hill, Grace Jones, Bianca Jagger, Alexis Colby, and Crystal Carrington – my favorite characters on DYNASTY – LOL! [I shop] anywhere that I go; I sift through racks and grab the pieces that jump out at me.  I seldom go for wardrobe staples.  Once I get my go to, I coordinate around it based on color and texture, usually going for the color that is least obvious.

Denny1

Her words of advice for people like me: I meet a lot of people that say “That looks great on you.  I couldn’t do it though”.  You won’t know if it’s for you until you try it.  I say go for what you like.  You’d be surprised how amazing it would make you look AND feel.  You can always add a piece that makes you feel comfy to that outfit.  It’s like bringing a friend to a party that’s not really your scene, but you promised you would attend and ending up having a ball.

Mik was a part of a crew that I called my brown version of SATC! We met during a time when I’d relocated across the country away from all of my family and friends. Mik was rocking a pixie cut before I knew what the hairstyle was and before it caught on in mainstream circles. Two things stood out to me about Mik: her ability to put any room to shame with even a $5 ensemble and her taste in shoes. A former co-owner of a shoe boutique and true entrepreneur at heart, Mik inspires me to step away from thoughts that I have to invest oodles of money in clothes to feel good about what I’m wearing. She replied in the following words:

I am a combination of bohemian chic and classic wear with a touch of vintage. I like structured pieces paired with clothing that is flowy and comfortable. I tend to mix bold/trendy with classic staple pieces. I don’t necessarily have certain individuals as fashion inspirations, [but] I do enjoy seeing what Solange is wearingJ! I [also] have favorite brands that I like to recreate depending on which look I am going for. For Boho/whimsical: Free People; Classic: Chanel, Tahari; Funky: Betsey Johnson; and Edgy: Diesel. When I’m shopping I start with a statement piece (asymmetrical top, bright color, dope shoes, bag) and I will build from there. I don’t like busy prints or “matchy-matchy”. Only one item will tend to “stand out” at a time. The rest will act as a backdrop. I am an avid thrift store shopper who refuses to pay top dollar or ANY article of clothing.

Mik1

And her advice for those like me :-): Make sure whatever fashion risk you’re considering represents you. Nothing is worse than seeing a woman uncomfortable in her clothes, i.e. tugging at garments, not being able to walk correctly in a shoe, appearing tense or self-conscious. I say get a few fashion magazines and see what catches your eye. Start small. Try a pop of color, mixing a print or two, or simply adding accessories can change an outfit dramatically [like] a ring, necklace, bag, or sunglasses.

And last, but certainly not least is Yeezy! I met Yeezy in graduate school and realized immediately that it is impossible to miss this fashionista. An avid runner and vegan, Yeezy’s style is complimented perfectly by her calm and caring spirit, infectious smile, and some sort of accessory that gives each outfit a pop. Yeezy wears chunky accessories, has a daring clutch to match, and often finishes out her ensembles with some mixed pattern. The irony is that most of my experiences with Yeezy were in the classroom – so she brings her A-game no matter where she goes. I love it! Here is what she had to say:

I would describe my style as feminine (I love playing with tulle, ruffles, lace, and bows), creative, and versatile. I’ve been told that my style is also a little retro. I have a few style crushes and Yara Shahidi and Michelle Obama top the list. For someone who is into fashion, I also feel like getting dressed is its own creative process. I am inspired by different things, whether it’s scrolling through Instagram and discovering a new designer or blogger, or traveling and exploring other cultures. I draw inspiration from different places and ideas and make it my own. In the past, I have been a creature of habit. If I found a store that I really liked, I would continue to shop there over and over again…for everything – LOL. More recently, I have enjoyed discovering new designers and brands. With the internet and social media, it is easier than ever to find unique pieces from all over the world so I have also been shopping online more for the past few years. I prefer to not wear what everyone else is wearing so thrifting is also a cool way to find one of kind pieces. When it comes to deciding what to buy, I try to be intentional. I purchase things that I love, that I am drawn to, and that I will want to wear over and over again. I can also imagine different ways I can style it, which doesn’t mean it must be something completely plain, but that you can style it in different ways – maybe it’s layering it over another shirt, wearing it casually and then dressing it up, etc. Coordination is key. For me, coordinating pieces starts with the overall look I am trying to create and then I go from there.

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Her fashionista words of wisdom: Have fun and try something new! Naturally, my style has evolved over time and there are plenty of times when I have looked at pictures from the past and have thought “What am I wearing?” LOL. At the time, I owned it though. So, do not be afraid to move out of your comfort zone when it comes to trying out new looks and whatever you wear, wear it with confidence.

You can follow Denny on her Facebook page and Yeezy on her blog: Style in Full Bloom.

Happy Birthday to Me!

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Birthday 17

If you’ve been following my blog or if you follow me on social media, you know I love a great celebration and I LOVE celebrating my birthday. This year is no different, although special in its own right. In many ways, I feel like I have come out of an incubation period. Attending school full time for the last five years has brought both challenges and rewards. I’ve grown a lot professionally and personally, made some tough decisions, re-aligned my vision, and feel ready for this next phase of my life. If you read my last post, you know it’s been almost 5 weeks since I relocated. In just a week and a half, I’ll begin to explore my new campus as a full-time faculty member. There are lots of exciting happenings so I am pausing this morning to reflect on where I am today and what I’ve learned along the way. Here you go:

  • Each year I am reminded of how much people will put themselves first. And day by day I am learning to do the same – put me first, establish and maintain boundaries, and not apologize for protecting my peace.
  • This journey has reminded me that life is definitely about grace, but also about intentions. We have the power to reshape our paths – to say yes, this is not how my story is going to end. But this requires work. It requires that we are clear about what we want and willing to stay the course until we have it.
  • Life is beautiful! More than anything else, this new journey has reminded me of how beautiful life is, how kind people are, and how much love there is out in the world. The media tries to convince us of otherwise, but my faith in humanity is restored time and time again.
  • And to that end I will close by saying I love my life. I’ve had seasons when I wasn’t able to say this and mean it wholeheartedly, but it feels damn good to say from my core that I have created a life that I love. I recognize both the blessings and responsibility that comes with that so I fully commit myself to serving and sharing my gifts with others.

Happy birthday to me <3!

A Little More Than …

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Graduation

It’s my graduation week and to say I am excited is an understatement to express all I am feeling this week. I’ve had more moments than I anticipated when I am overwhelmed with joy, but just as many moments when my eyes fill with tears and I can’t quite place the emotion or sentiment. What I am reminded of is that anytime you – I – see someone walk across the graduation stage, their experience is much more than earning a degree. Albeit important, the degree may be one of many things I and others like me reflect on during times like this. When I think about most are the sacrifices related to time and resources, the late nights of reading, writing and revising, and all the hope – without any guarantee – of what I wanted to be on the other side of my degree attainment, it’s easy to place all the unexpected sentiments. These last few years have been so much more than attending class and checking off degree requirements. They represent a belief that if I made minor adjustments and sacrifices, I would be better positioned to spend the remainder of my life doing what I love professionally. This season has been filled with saying “no” to spontaneous travel, or an impromptu get together with friends, or a community service commitment all because school-related deadlines lingered. It’s been a time of uncertainty, grief, emptiness, accomplishment, triumph, and exhilaration at the same time! I am ELATED to end this season of my life and genuinely excited about all that is ahead. I am excited about the new position I will begin in the fall, as well as looking forward to having some much needed down time this summer. I am grateful for the journey. But whenever you encounter someone who has an advanced degree, please make sure to take a moment to congratulate them – know that their return to school required much more than attending class and performing well on exams. Please don’t undermine their accomplishment by asking about when they’re going to have kids, or get married, or any other obscure standard for success. Celebrate them! Love on them! Give them a hug … I am sure they need it!

Sincerely,

Dr. …

Fertile Void: Life After …

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She Beleieved

For those of you who have followed my blog, you may recall that 2017 marks the 5th year of its existence. 5 years since my life drastically changed in more ways than I can recall. And 5 years since I recommitted to living out loud, starting with returning to school to pursue my passion of working in higher education. 5 years since I traded in the tangible rewards of a stable job with benefits for a passion pursuit with anticipated endless rewards. Throughout this time I’ve written through the ups and downs of my journey – the sacrifices and rewards, along with major shifts in every area. It’s been both the most exciting and exhausting 5 year-period of my life. And then it happened … exactly 3 weeks ago I accomplished what I know will remain one of the greatest achievements of my life – I successfully defended my dissertation and was announced as Dr. Me J! The moment I had been looking forward to, pressing towards, and focused on for much of this leg of the journey. A moment I will never forget and am working earnestly to continue to find small ways to celebrate.

Some say reaching the milestone of a successful defense is much like a wedding ceremony: months or even years for some are spent planning, organizing, saving, and deciding. But within a few hours the party has come and gone, everyone returns home, and it seems like your big event went by all too fast. For those fortunate couples, your life has changed in other ways. Maybe you are taking a fabulous honeymoon vacation, or moving into your first home, or welcoming a new addition to your family. Perhaps you are changing your name or relishing in the joy of having a forever-partner. Or maybe the thought of having new family members, opening gifts, and looking at wedding pictures serve as reminders of your new normal. I’d venture to say my defense and completion of the doctoral program parallels the experience of having a wedding in many ways. I have made small steps towards my dissertation for the last 5 years. It has been a labor of love and a body of work I am extremely proud of. I’ve spend endless hours writing, editing, researching, and refining. I’ve sacrificed attending events, celebrating major achievements, and spending money elsewhere as writing deadlines loomed or I was simply limited financially by having a part-time income.

When my big day finally arrived, a wonderful village of friends and former classmates stayed around to congratulate me after everything was official. Another close friend took an extended vacation to be with me throughout the week, forcing me to stay in the moment and not rush along to the next thing. The weeks that followed have been filled with SLEEP, catching up with friends and family, and wrapping up this semester of teaching. I feel like I have a whole new life in every way imaginable! It is wonderful to be able to sleep in without guilt of missing a writing deadline. It’s liberating to not check email obsessively as I wait for feedback from my committee. And it’s exciting to know that this is just one major milestone of many – I have so much to look forward to over the next few weeks and months.

I am so grateful for this time and after attending the Female Faculty of Color Conference last week, I am working intentionally to operate in a space of “Fertile Void.” Although I still have work to do – tasks to complete – I am focused on relaxing, resting, slowing down, and being present. One of the speakers at the conference described this as a time when we are ripe with possibility – fertile – but not filling the space with new projects. I am remaining in fertile void for as long as I can. Thanks for taking the journey with me J.

How My Friends Taught Me to Be Flaky as F*(! … and I LOVE It!

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flaky

I opened my first email account when I was a freshman in college and didn’t start texting until nearly a decade later. I grew up in a rural town so no one used RSVPs – you just stopped by, showed up, or gave your word. I share these things because I learned much of my etiquette around corresponding via email or text messages and the value of RSVPs: 1) much later in my life; and 2) mostly in the professional arena. This timing shaped how I view email, including the form in which I send emails. It shaped what, how and with whom I send text messages. And it absolutely shaped the value I placed on giving my word, verbally or via an RSVP. However, it didn’t take long for me to learn that the same value I placed on these things was not shared by others. I’ve received numerous emails with no greeting or salutation at all – simply a question or statement. I’ve had colleagues who I have a strictly professional relationship with text me late at night or on the weekends. And I’ve more than my share of experience with folks saying they will attend an event and showing up significantly later than the start time or not showing up at all. Naturally, this used to upset me and sometimes it still does, especially when someone’s RSVP requires me spending money to reserve a spot for them. But this last year has taught me get comfortable with being flaky as f*(!.

My new lease on life is in no way an excuse for me to disregard others’ time or my commitment to complete a task. Instead, it has forced me to separate business commitments from personal commitments. No, I can’t wake up and just randomly decide to take a week off from work. But I can decide that a social event I previously committed to attending no longer fits my schedule and respectfully inform the host of the change. On a very minute, but important level this change also allows me to ignore the need to reply to every personal email, text message, or phone call I receive – which is not a practice I exercise as freely in the professional arena. I have friends who reply to text messages weeks later or not at all; family and friends who never check email, much more take a moment to respond to them. The ironic thing is many of these very same people will obsessively text and/or call me if I do not respond to a message from them within what they consider to be a reasonable timeframe. BUT I’ve opted to stick with my new leaf and do as I need, when I need to – especially as I am working earnestly to balance all that comes with finishing graduate school. *Note to all: We are ALL busy juggling multiple things so your level of busyness is not an excuse to dismiss the commitments others have as well*

So thank you to all my flaky friends 🙂 – I’ve learned a lot from you. You’ve taught me that changing my mind, disconnecting from my phone, and engaging with the social world when desired is an act of radical self-care. Thank you!

Hello February …

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february

I thought about writing several times in the month of January. I sat with my laptop ready to put “pen to paper.” Clearly, my efforts failed. Between working on my dissertation, putting some effort into post-graduation plans, and simply trying to keep up with current events my blog took a backseat. I can’t guarantee that February will be any different but I am here to extend thoughts of love, hope, well-being, and healing to you and the world. February, please be good to us. ❤

Saying Good-Bye to 2016

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Image result for grateful

It’s almost time to say good-bye to 2016 so before I head out for vacation, I am posting my last blog for the year.

I started the year out in Hawaii – one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited – spending time with one of my most amazing friends. This trip created the tone for the year: intentions were set, wishes were cast, and my actions were aligned with my goals for the year. Albeit rocky, 2016 was a great year! As I scrolled through photo album on my phone, I was reminded of just how blessed I was during this year. From professional conferences and publications to an abundance of quality time spent with family and friends to so many chapters of my life ending – including finishing up my doctoral coursework 🙂 – this year was a wonderful one. I retreated more than ever and am now preparing to heard to my 3rd retreat for the year :-). I traveled; I celebrated; I cried; I laughed; I loved … real hard; I danced; I rested; I renewed and re-found me. I fell in love with my life all over again, remembering that I have the power to decide at any moment that “this is not how my story is going to end”.

As the year comes to a close, I continue to take moments to give thanks for all the ways that I received love, light, and favor.  In addition to all the memories that were created, I must say that 2016 has been my launching pad for what I anticipate to be an even better year in 2017! I look forward to sharing my world with you in the New Year and I hope that somewhere along the way, I inspire you to CREATE your best life.

Happy holidays and Happy New Year! #grateful

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