First off, I want to preface this conversation by saying that this post is NOT paid or sponsored or endorsed by Dove. These are my personal thoughts and opinions, and although I am an ambassador for the brand, I was in no way obligated to post this opinion piece. I’m writing this because I pride myself on being open and honest with all of you about everything from my current lipstick to my bouts of depression. My ride-or-dies know this already, but in case there’s anyone new on here – this is my 100% real and authentic point of view. Whether you agree with it or not, I respect you. I hope you return the sentiment.
I’ve always struggled with my self confidence. One of the reasons I have loved maintaining LoveBrownSugar over the years is because it gave me a platform to connect with you guys, my audience, to share my personal style evolution. From posting outfit posts that reflected my complicated relationship with my curves, to writing about embracing my brown skin and my natural hair as beautiful. Much of my journey to overcome confidence issues has started with addressing them here, and hearing from all of you that I’m not alone. That’s one of the many reasons I’m so passionate about storytelling in the media. It is so healing and inspiring to see other people who are pushing past their fears and thriving.
So in March when Dove announced that it would be partnering with Shonda Rhimes for its #RealBeauty Productionsinitiative, I thought it was absolutely game-changing. Their specially commissioned production team would accept stories from real women across the country and find riveting ways to tell these stories through film. There’s something so special about seeing a reflection of yourself in the media, so I knew this would be empowering for women. A few friends and I got together for a Twitter party on Thursday, March 30th during Shonda’s big TV night to tweet all about the partnership and it was awesome.
Now, about a month later, the Real Beauty Productions team has produced their first film – telling the story of Cathleen Meredith, founder of Fat Girls Dance. Check it out here:
So Cathleen’s story resonated with me for a few reasons. One, because of her curves. As someone who has always been curvy and on the heavier side, I totally identified with her stark realization that society simply does not appreciate, embrace or encourage plus size women. I still remember my first time being teased in elementary school for being big. It was a startling realization and it can have a lasting impact on you into adulthood.
The second reason I identified with Cathleen is because she loves to dance and so do I. I’ve always had a sincere passion for dance. I was in my school cheerleading teams from Junior High into High School and then joined a dance troupe in college (which happened to be one of the highlights of my time in college). Dance has always been so close to my heart, but I do recall times I felt out of place doing it because of my size. Like when I first found out that my dance troupe, who specializes in West African and Afro-Cuban dance, dances mainly in a bra & cloth around the waist. I was terrified of dancing in front of the audience with so much skin showing.
(Above: Pictured with a friend & fellow dancer in college before a performance)
But eventually I had to overcome that fear if I wanted to perform. It was tough for me, and I always wonder if I would’ve felt as uncomfortable if my size didn’t play a role.
I applaud Dove for taking the charge to help boost self-esteem for women everywhere by sharing our stories. I can’t wait to see which stories they product next. Think you have a story worth telling? Enter to have your story produced over at DoveRealBeauty.com.
What are your thoughts on this first production? Did it inspire or empower you?
This post is sponsored by Dove. All opinions expressed above are my own and not those of the company.
How does that title make you feel? I Cry Myself To Sleep Sometimes. Does it make you uncomfortable? Are you shocked or surprised? Does it make you feel sorry? Or sad? However it makes you feel, hold onto that. Welcome to a day in my life.
6:00am I open my eyes and say a brief prayer, thanking God for waking me up but simultaneously asking Him why I’m here. “What do I have left to accomplish on this earth? What do You have for me to do?” I take a mental inventory of my day. Get up, pray, set out Cadence’s clothes, pack Cady’s bag for her weekend at Daddy’s, make sure her homework is in her backpack, make sure her toothbrush is in a Ziploc, and don’t forget her leave-in conditioner and hair butter because God forbid Daddy has to brush those curls tomorrow morning without it.
6:30am I’m in the bathroom, staring in the mirror. My eyes are huge and one looks slightly bigger than the other. I squint to exaggerate the difference. I have dark circles. I need to lose 20 more pounds, maybe 25. I want my teeth whitened. I like my boobs but I wish I could wear strapless tops. I walk over to the closet. A sweatshirt and leggings will do today. And a red lip so people take me seriously. It’s a travel day. Again.
6:45am Time to get Cady up for school. I run my finger down the side of her chubby cheek. She still has a little baby fat, even though she’s growing like a weed. I feel mommy guilt creeping in. Today, I’ll be gone for an entire 4 days on a work trip. I can’t cancel the trip. It’s being sponsored. It’s work. I need all these coins to pay for this expensive private pre-K she’s in. I am a bad mother for going. But I am an even worse mother if I don’t go. Cady has to go to school. I have to go on work trips. Still, I wish I could lay here with her a little longer.
7:30am We’re off to school. Cady wanted pancakes but we don’t have time for Aunt Jemima. So yogurt, fruit and a cereal bar on the way to the car, it is. Mommy guilt is hovering again. Brush it off, girl. You have 20 minutes to spread 4 days worth of love, kisses and hugs on baby girl before you drop her off at school. Pull yourself together. Be stronger.
8:00am Back at our apartment and feeling overwhelmed. I have 3.5 hours to catch a flight. I have 2 projects overdue with a client. I have nothing to wear on this business trip. My curls are dry and badly in need of a deep condition. The dishes are piled up like Mount Everest.
Suddenly, I get a text from an old friend. It’s a screenshot accompanied by “I saw your commercial on Bravo last night during Housewives! Way to go!!”
For 5 seconds I’m excited. Maybe I’m not a failure. Then, my eyes fixate on the dirty dishes. I sure wish that friend was here to help me clean and pack. I wish for her help more than I wish for her “congratulations” text right now. I’m being ungrateful. I muster up a “Thank you SO much!!” I’m sure she’ll tell her coworkers we were once good friends. I’m happier for her than I am for myself.
9:30am One project down and one load of laundry left. I pause to clear my inbox. Mom texts me “Safe travels!” and I realize I haven’t called her all week. I’m a bad daughter, too. She’s probably packing Dad’s lunch and waiting for him to come home from dialysis. What a failure I was for being too fat and unhealthy to give my Dad a kidney last year. I hope he gets one. I pray everyday that he gets one and he can get off dialysis. I shed a tear, thinking about it, and then I realize I have 2 hours until my car arrives to bring me to the airport. I don’t have time to be emotional. I text mom back “Thanks! Love you.” and I go on clearing my inbox. If I can just get to a clear inbox, life will be a little better. I’ll be less of a mess, if I don’t owe anyone an email response.
11:30am I’m on board my flight. I text Cadence’s Dad to remind him where her leotard and tap shoes are for dance class this weekend. I dread this 3 hour flight and at the same time I feel guilty for resenting an opportunity to fly. “You and your first world problems,” I say to myself. “Some people don’t even have clean water.” I close my eyes and whisper a prayer to God. “God, please don’t let me die on this flight,” I say to Him. Most of me means it, some of me doesn’t. And then I ask Him for peace. I ask Him to cover my family while I’m gone. I ask Him to remember that I’m now 30 years old and by this time I really wanted to own a home with a white picket fence, I really wanted to be married, I really wanted TWO kids and I really wanted to be 30 pounds lighter. I also really wanted to be best friends with Oprah, sipping tequila in her backyard in my spare time. I hope He still hears me. “But thanks also, God, that to the outside world I’m a success. Please help me to be better at this gratitude thing. I love you. Amen.”
3:00pm My phone is ringing off the hook. I’m getting a flood of texts. A huge celebrity told all of her cult followers to follow me and now I have another reason to be super excited for these blessings on blessings, but I’m also overwhelmed by the pressure. Should I repost it? I’m really not that interesting. Why are people following me again? They shouldn’t.
My horrible memory can’t currently recall what hotel I’m staying at tonight, so I look at my driver in bewilderment when he asks me where we’re going. “It should be in the app,” I respond, annoyed. I mean what’s the point of entering the address into the app, if the driver actually expects you to know where you’re going? I’ll repost it. I mean, I can’t NOT say anything. Right? But now all these new people are watching me. I’m really not that cool. Am I? “God, this is not what I asked for,” said in my most ungrateful voice. “Ok, sorry God I take it back.” I post. I get likes. I apologize to the driver for being absent-minded. It’s a great day.
4:30pm My assistant managed to find a photographer to capture my first day in this city. Back at the hotel, I change up my makeup and put on a new outfit. I meet the photographer outside my hotel to catch the last few hours of sunlight. These will help me “do it for the ‘gram”. I can’t go somewhere and not document it. That’s unheard of. It’s like a betrayal, to go somewhere beautiful and not share it with social media. So I pose and smile and act like there’s nowhere else in the world I’d rather be but here. Even though I’d much rather be on a beach somewhere with no internet, Cady sleeping in my arms and not a care in the world.
The lighting is perfect. I post the best pic. I get likes. It’s still a good day.
7:00pm The last email is answered. I’m rummaging the mini bar, hoping there’s a bottle of Pinot in the back to go with my room service. Need wine. Must have wine.
Jackpot! I spot the Pinot. I pour a glass. I close my laptop and I hear that familiar tune on my phone. Cady is Facetiming me from her grandma’s phone. I hide the wine. “Hi mommy!” I see those adorable chubby cheeks and I wave. She tells me about her day. That her classmate Emily at school played blocks with her. That she learned about the letter “S” today. And that she misses me. “I miss you too baby! I love you so much.” I wish I could be there with her. *Sips more wine*
9:30pm Here I am again – incredibly aware of my loneliness. In a hotel room, on a business trip on the verge of “taking over the world”, so everyone thinks. But why, then, do I constantly feel like I’m not enough? I’ve finished off the mini bottle of Pinot and now I’m contemplating the Cabernet, too. I check Instagram. The likes and follows are still stacking up. A few tears start to fall. I’ll just cry and close my eyes and when I wake up in the morning this will all be over. Maybe I’m putting too much pressure on myself. “God will you help me? I need your help.” My last plea before I call it a night. I look at an old photo of me and Cadence. For her, I just can’t give up.
11:00pm I can’t sleep. I open my laptop back up. I start to write. I write about myself. I write stories about others who inspire me. I start to plan out an event series that I can produce that shows other people that they don’t have to be perfect to be successful. I respond to that email from that girl in Missouri who told me she was starting a new business and needed a little advice and encouragement. I write my hopes and dreams down on a small hotel pad of paper. Suddenly I feel hopeful, instead of hopeless. If I just keep empowering others, I’ll figure this thing out. I’ll continue to be blessed. I say a brief “Thank you” to God for giving me an outlet for my frustration and pain tonight. One that will hopefully inspire others and give them hope. I close my eyes and brace for another day.
In honor of International Women’s Day, I wanted to give you all a peek into my life, as a woman, as a mom, as a human just trying to make it day to day. A transparent look at my thoughts, my actions and why it’s so important for us women to admit that we’re not perfect so we can get over the stigma of “perfection is necessary” and step into our power as flawed, but beautiful beings.
Here are 4 ways you can make a shift and embrace your power:
1. You’re a super woman, but you are not Superwoman. Be honest with yourself and with others when you need HELP. Don’t think you have to do everything yourself.
2. Do not feel bad about crying yourself to sleep. We all do it, sometimes. Including me. It doesn’t make you weak. It makes you human. The key is to go to sleep happy more times than not. If it’s the other way around, seek counsel and don’t feel bad about it.
3. Get up each day and use your talents and gifts to pour into others – that alone is a sign of your super power and strength. Your unique gifts are to be shared with the world. Don’t hide or hoard them because you don’t think you’re good enough. You are enough.
4. Find your purpose and cling to The Source. My source is God. He gives me strength, peace, joy and everything I need to make it through the day. Whatever your source is, hold onto it firmly and understand that you’re here on Earth to serve a purpose.
I really hope this helps someone. Even just one person. Feel free to leave a comment if this helped you, and please share words of encouragement with another woman today. We need it.
Racism does not merely present itself in cases of blatant hatred. It is the airline employee who assumes you’re not in first class, the coworker who’s compelled to tell you how “well you speak”, and the fashion designer who refuses to acknowledge your culture within his vision.
Recently Marc Jacobs sent models down the runway sporting faux-locks in shades of pastel. Models included the “it-girl” models of the moment but very few women of color. When asked by New York Magazine’s “The Cut” how he was inspired by the Rastafarian culture from which locks originate, he replied that he was not. Some media outlets cited his inspiration as a return to “raver culture”. Where did these ravers get their initial inspiration from? They neglected to say.
Read more about the reception to Jacob’s spring presentation below:
There are several things I just didn’t expect to see in my lifetime that have now taken place- a black president, Beyonce’ with a pixie cut, and now average sized models at a “traditional” womenswear show. While the presence of normal women on the runway of a show intended to promote and selling clothing to normal women shouldn’t have been shocking for me it was. I couldn’t hold my applause as Sabina Karlsson, Precious Lee, and Marquita Pring each emerged gracefully from backstage this season at Christian Siriano and the rest of the crowd seemed to feel the same way.
In the face of a world that is quick to co-opt our style why shouldn’t women of color say to themselves and one another “I appreciate you”? Once referred to by Zora Neale Hurston as “the mule of the world” the expectation of the black woman to be perpetually courageous, solid and strong can be infuriating. But the celebration of the strength, stability, courageousness, and beauty of black women should inspire and not offend.
Much has been said about the phrase “black girl magic” – some of it whimsical, some of it trite, and some of it willfully ignorant, but none of it has struck me more than Linda Chaver’s scathing rejection of the term. Her description of it as “smothering, and stunting” and “restricting rather than freeing” totally missed the mark. While I respect Chaver’s experiences as a woman of color, her insinuation that the term deprived black women and girls of their humanity by drawing connections to police misconduct, violence, and depravity attempted to diminish a movement so large it spans economic backgrounds, religious beliefs, and educational levels. This phrase expresses a simple yet remarkable sentiment that is appreciated just as much by the nineteen year old single mother in Irvington, New Jersey as it is by the Ivy League graduate from P.G. County, Maryland. Black girls are magic not because the world does not see us as equal but because we sparkle in spite of it.
Read more about why I support black girl magic and movements like #mobilizingcolor below.
This post is a follow-up to The Truth About NYFW, an opinion piece penned in February 2015. Sentiments below are my own and do not reflect the sentiments of any brands or entities I’m affiliated with. Just keepin’ it 100.
I often get lauded as a lifestyle blogger of color for having a platform that caters specifically to women of color. I created the LoveBrownSugar brand and its sister brands (BabyBrownSugar and BrownGirlsLove) because of the lack of diversity I saw in the media industry. I wanted to create spaces where women who looked like me and who were proud of their skin tones, their curves, their curly hair and everything in between that made them unique, could come and dish on all things lifestyle. My platform and my brands have always been primarily for women of color, and I’m not the least bit apologetic about that.
What has surprised me though, about having a quote on quote “niche” audience in the lifestyle space, is that it comes with very interesting labels and subsequent treatment. You’d think, considering platforms for women of color, by women of color, are typically created with positive intentions and also to help encourage diversity, that they would help usher in and open up broader conversations about the importance of black dollars. Sometimes they do, and when that happens it’s awesome. We jump up and down. We twirl in a circle. We stand in formation (thanks Bey). We millie rock on every block. But then. Then, there are the days like Monday. When we scroll through Instagram only to find a fellow influencer of color like Jessica Franklin of HeyGorJess post something like this:
Appalled? Shocked? Blown? I’m not. It’s sad and incredibly unfortunate but when I saw Jessica’s Instagram post yesterday I was angry but NOT SURPRISED. I said to myself,
“Wow. Somebody finally owned up to not wanting to market to black people.”
It may surprise you but what I’ve grown to accept in my former 6 years as a digital influencer is that many of the companies that we, as consumers of color, support on a regular basis really could care less about marketing directly to us. This response from ShopLondon-LA boutique is proof. Granted, there are quite a few speculations about the background (and mental sanity?) of the owner behind this company but that’s beside the point. The company reached out to Jessica about a partnership with her blog, then when she declined the opportunity, subsequently deemed it a mistake stating that they “are not looking for a black audience”. Her audience is black. And not what they wanted.
This is real life when blogging while black.
It has become strikingly clear to me that some brands appreciate our money but don’t want to be affiliated with us. And it’s an incredibly sad but true reality that some marketing departments won’t even reach out and offer opportunities to “niche” bloggers because they don’t want to cater their brands to diverse audiences. They don’t want to sit with us. So why should they spend marketing dollars on us?
You become incredibly aware of your blackness when you work in this industry. In my post The Truth About NYFW that I penned exactly one year ago, I expressed my sentiment about this. You start to realize, when there are only one or two fellow black girls in the room at press events, backstage at shows during NYFW, on the runway or on set for photo shoots for national campaigns, how different you really are and how little the fashion industry cares about diversity and representation.
Approaching my 13th consecutive season here in NYC during NYFW, it’s a sad reality but I am attending and supporting less and less runway shows and doing way less backstage coverage than ever before. “I’m over it” is an understatement. Controversial situations like Jessica’s demonstrate a mentality that is not discussed but that is widespread in this industry.
So, I can hear you asking me – well, what do we do? How can I help? How can we change things? You know I would never come to the table with a problem without a solution.
The solution is to be the change we want to see. That has always been my solution and it should be yours as well. I hated the fact that women of color have so much spending power but companies don’t care about us. So, I created the Shop LoveBrownSugar holiday pop-up shop to help support black and female-owned businesses annually during the holiday season.
I hated that after years of working in the fashion and beauty industries, it was still a FIGHT to get invited to shows by designers who could care less about reaching my audience. So, this season I’m bypassing all that and instead I am proud to be a Social Media Hostess for Texture on the Runway – NYFW’s premiere textured hair fashion show that caters specifically to celebrating diverse women with curly hair.
It’s being presented by NaturallyCurly with exclusive retailer sponsor Target and myself and many of my favorite influencers (including HeyGorJess!) will be in the building. The brands represented at the show (like Cantu, Design Essentials, Creme of Nature, Dark & Lovely and Garnier) celebrate diversity and inclusion and I am proud to be part of something during NYFW that makes me feel good and will empower and unite women across the board.
I created LBS because I couldn’t stand reading print magazines and online media that didn’t cater to me. So now, I align only with publications that I feel stress and encourage diversity. That’s why I’m a proud ambassador for magazines like People StyleWatch and their digital property TheOutfit. They’ve placed a great emphasis on making sure women of different sizes, skin tones, and backgrounds are represented in their pages. Something that the rest of the editorial world can take a cue from.
The sad reality is, brands like ShopLondon-LA will ALWAYS be around and the people behind them will continue to be closed-minded and prejudiced. Be mindful of who you give your support to and know that every dollar counts.
In a time where overwhelmingly negative information flows through our feeds on a constant basis it is up to us to be the change we would like to see in our communities. It’s not enough to gripe about how we need to support small businesses we actually have to do it and that is just one of the reasons I choose to shop small.
Read more about why I support small business owners like Desiree Verdejoand Dana Bly below.
I’m Kayla Lawrence, summer intern here at LoveBrownSugar.com. What an amazing year to be a part of the LoveBrownSugar team.
Being an intern for LoveBrownSugar has been an amazing experience, and being able to assist in celebrating its sixth year is even better. I applied for the LoveBrownSugar Summer Internship not only because I was eager to learn about the Social Media and Marketing industry, but also because I enjoyed the relativity of the blog. It is rare that you find a blog that speaks to the financially conscious fashionista while personally connecting with the experiences of black women. To contribute and learn from a brand that plays such a prominent role in the fashion and beauty industry for African American women has only been a dream of mine. However, this summer that dream has become a reality. I hope to not only learn necessary skills as a career woman but also to grow as an individual throughout this interning experience. I will always love LoveBrownSugar for taking a chance on a girl without interning experience, and allowing me to do what I love.
In its six years, LoveBrownSugar has had the pleasure of working with women of various backgrounds and personalities, but with one thing in common – their love for LoveBrownSugar. You see, LoveBrownSugar does not only leave a lasting impact on its readers, but its contributors as well. Check out some of the reasons we love LoveBrownSugar:
Plus. Extended. Womens. No matter what you call the section of a store that caters to size 12 and above, it’s separate.
And when I walk into the Mall at Short Hills with a slim friend I know I’m preparing for a separate but not so equal shopping experience. As we enter * insert the name of your favorite department store here* the escalator will foreshadow our fates as she is led to the area for “ladies” and I’m left to languish in the limited offerings of whatever is on the sales floor for the full-figured and fashionable.