30 March 2013

The Pursuit of Genius

It's been a long time since I've really thought about this but it's been on my mind lately, and you know where things like that end up.

I once thought I might be a troubled genius, brilliant writer and creative thinker. It's quite possible that in the ever thickening fog of my pubescence, this was just a way to cope with the fact that I was really just an ordinary child looking for a way to be 'normal'.

Have I ever mentioned how much I despise that word? What the heck is normal anyway? But that's for another post.

It's weird that people never stoop to such heights of hubris as to proclaim themselves 'genius', and for a long time I've believed that the designation is subjective, anything that can't be applied to you by your own thinking is in my mind essentially irrelevant (who knows you better than you do?), but in my youthful urge to differentiate myself from the increasing 'pack mentality' of my formative years, I (perhaps wrongly) assumed on a subconscious level that my serious nature, and reticence to participate in more 'traditional' teenage past-times was a demonstration of genius.
pic: keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk 

I took my writing seriously back then, I was going to be a journalist and an author, and the world would understand that my pseudo 'punk' attire and patently stubborn and-at times- obnoxious angst ridden persona masked a brilliant mind.

What happened to that self-confidence?

When did I stop thinking that I might be a genius? And why should I not suspect myself of latent brilliance? What's so wrong with that? It's amazing isn't it, that as we age we lose the ability to give ourselves superpowers at will?

When i thought I might be brilliant, in a weird way, I was...

Re-reading my writing from back then, I cringe a lot. Not gonna lie. It's not all great, but there are some hidden gems, a line here or a phrase there, even a paragraph or two that are simply inspired. It seethes with the confidence of the young, the intrinsic knowledge that no one could write this particular thing better than me, and should I deign to let you read it, you'd be impressed.

Where did that go?

These days, my writing cowers. It hides underneath a rock made of missing information, half hearted attempts to be clever, and obvious struggles with inspiration and originality.

My confidence is gone. Now I need to get it back.

As a child, writing was fun: it was my 'talent', my single 'natural ability' (or so I believed) and it was mine to command at will. Since reaching adulthood, it has increasingly become my paycheck, my future happiness, my personal fulfillment, and my ambition.

It fills some weighty roles in my life, but at the core, at my core, I know that the only way to make it fun again is to remind myself of what I used to think way back when: I am a writer. There has never been a time in my life when I wasn't, or didn't write.
pic: dlkoontz.com

I am the bane of stationary shops everywhere, the owner of many pens, and the fastest keyboard fingers in my household.

I am the user of vibrant verbs, astounding adjectives, and nefarious nouns. I am a lover of onomatopoeia, a word that I can spell without using spell check thank you very much.

I am subtle with alliteration, verbose with grammar, and excitable when it comes to sentence structure.

I am a writer, and by heaven a writer I shall be.

16 March 2013

Budget Beauty Quick Tips #2: Clean Your Brushes!

Budget Beauty Quick Tip #2: Using a make-up removing face wash to clean makep-up brushes

I'm a masters student currently, so that means skint. I'd been meaning to buy some brush cleaner for ages, but never seemed to have the money (read: spent it all on contact lens solution- that stuff is so expensive!)

Using my face-wash to clean my brushes gets the job done: they come out clean and still soft and flexible. The best part is, my extremely sensitive skin doesn't get irritated because its the same stuff I already use on my face.

Take a little face wash- preferably one that contains make-up removing ingredients. (It should say so on the bottle).

Soap up your brush! I used Neutrogena face wash (I'll do a post on my skin care routine eventually) and I didn't need a lot- just a tiny amount, even less than you'd use to wash your face with. I rubbed the face-wash into the hairs of the brush without splaying them out.

Now rinse until the water runs out clear.
Important: try not to bend or scrub too hard at your brush. You don't want to mess up the bristles! I just gently soaped mine and held it under the faucet to rinse.

And you're done! All you need to do now is dry your brush and it'll be ready to use next time. I used a paper towel to soak up the excess water first

Then wrapped it around the brush to dry for a full day before using it again. Be sure you aren't going to need your brush until the next day before you do this- you want it to be completely dry before you use it in your make-up!

15 March 2013

D.I.Y: Studded Clutch!

I picked up this leather clutch when I was charity shopping, and it looked like the perfect 'project piece'. I had some bits and pieces at home that I knew I could use to jazz it up a bit. A little black bag is always  a good accessory, and this one cost me £1.75 at Oxfam Dalston, on Kingsland Rd.

Budget Beauty Quick Tips #1: With the help of some plastic studs, you can take anything from basic to blinged up!

What you'll need: 

My hot glue gun has two settings: hot and third degree burns. Ouch!

- Some plastic or metal studs (I happened to have these ones laying around waiting for a project)

- A hot glue gun, or other glue that bonds firmly *note: if you are going to use hot glue, pay attention to the type of material that you clutch/bag is made of: hot glue isn't always the firmest bonding agent! Also- watch your fingers, I burnt mine a little!

- A project piece: (n). any item that you can use for crafting- easily replaced, and if you mess it up, it's not going to upset you too much. In this case, it's a black leather clutch purchased for £1.75 at Oxfam in Hackney.

Get your studs out and ready and heat up your glue gun so you're ready to go:
I got these sparkly little crystal studs on eBay for around £0.50? Cheap and cheerful!

First, I laid out my studs in a pattern I liked on the clutch. I like to know exactly where I'm going to put them before I start messing around with my high temperature glue gun.
This wasn't my final pattern, but it gave me a good start!

Next, I started glueing. I glued down all the studs in the pattern you see above, and then I decided to lay out a few more studs and add and change the pattern a little.
I cleaned up any residual glue afterwards- make sure you do as well!

The final result was this:

Tre chic!

12 March 2013

I Cut My Hair (Big chopped)

There's a long, long, looong history between me and my hair. We've been friends and we've been enemies, and for the last few months we've been distinctly at odds, but now we are one.

I cut my hair. I did what black women slowly growing out a relaxer describe as a 'big chop'- I cut off the remaining relaxed ends and now all of the hair on my head is 17 months old. Amaze right? Tots Amaze.

Now I didn't chop down to half a centimeter or anything, 'cuz I'm definitely not that bold.

But I ended my transition and am now sporting the long dreaded short fro.

I hated the thought of wearing a fro a year ago.

That was when I was convinced that my hair would form perfect round 2.5 centimeter spirals all over my head.

I was wrong.

My hair forms perfect, round, .5 centimeter spirals all over my head.

Am I disappointed? A little.

But do I love it?

You bet yur arse.

11 March 2013

Beyonce is Strong And Marilyn is Feminine?

A friend of mine said this to me once, and it stuck in my head though at the time I didn't think anything particular about it.Weeks later I realised why this innocent little statement was knocking around in my brain like a drunk on a bus.

Beyonce is strong and Marilyn is feminine?  Aren't they both feminine, womanly women?
Beyonce: Yeah. She'll totally break your face.

Beyonce is one of the few celebrities today- one of the only female celebrities left- that triggers world wide recognition. Her concert tours sell out, her albums always chart near the top or at the top, she's worshipped as one of the most beautiful women on the planet, and yet she's always tagged with adjectives like 'strong' and 'fierce'.

Donyale Luna: epitome of grace
I don't think there's anything at all wrong with being a strong woman - in fact, I think it's a must. But as a black woman, I sometimes feel like 'strong' is the kindest adjective they can give me.

If our women aren't ever described as 'feminine' or 'womanly' or 'graceful', then in the minds of our heavily male dominated, vaguely misogynistic culture, we're not fully women. 

Black models are described with all kinds of adjectives like 'exotic', 'powerful', 'evocative' etc etc, but how often are we tagged as just plain beautiful? Womanly? Graceful?

Why are the women who are most associated with these terms: Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, Vivenne Westwood, and of course the indomitable Marilyn- all white? Maybe it's because of the era: the words are almost archaic now, as is the image conjured by them, but the residue sticks in all our minds.

Another friend told me how terrified she is walking home at night in her area. She had every right to be afraid of the drug dealers and shady characters lurking around the streets that sometimes actually accosted her, but I wondered, if it was me, would people be that sympathetic? Are black women allowed to go all wide-eyed in terror at the thought of walking home alone?

It annoys me to no end that western culture turns black women into angry, brawling, I ain't afraid o' nothin'!  type stock characters. That kind of misinterpretation downplays our very real fears and anxieties as women who live in a world run by men. We're no less afraid of being bothered on the way home, of being mishandled, bullied, and shouted at on the street- but we're supposed to be 'strong black women', so society can do what it wants, and we're just going roll our necks and keep on walking?
Joy Bryant: girl next door.  
 I disagree with the idea that women should have to be 'one' thing- but by assuming that all black women are of the 'break your damn face' persuasion, they're doing exactly that- making us all 'one' thing. That kind of assumption means that as a young black woman who is quite often afraid, I look around and wonder If I screamed, would anyone help me?  That's a scary thought when you're walking alone at night.

Alex Wek: Womanly woman and feminine beauty
I think A. Wek is GORGEOUS- look at that
skin! I'm so jel. I LOVE HER!

If I was a white girl, as evidenced by all the seriously high profile cases of young white women that decorate our news-feeds, if they didn't, there'd be hell to pay later.

All women - ALL WOMEN regardless of race, have the right to be strong and feminine. Most of us have grown up watching our mothers, sisters, aunties and Grans do just that. Racism is emasculating, and women of all races tend to bear the brunt of their men's let downs. So why I ask you, do we warrant a loss of femininity when we are women too? When we come in 'beautiful', 'womanly' and 'graceful' just like other women do? Maybe it is time to redefine the terms, and embrace what is truly the beauty and strength of WOMANHOOD full stop.

10 March 2013

6 Of the Best: Hair Conditioner Stash

This is by no means my whole stash of hair products- I can proudly put my hand up and say I'm a product junkie, but when I counted and realised I had this much conditioner, I figured it couldn't hurt to tell you guys what I use 'em all for (because frankly, I needed to sort it out myself... o.o)

Tresemme Naturals: There are a few different kinds of this particular one - I go for the 'moisture' one for consistency's sake, but I don't really bother to differentiate. Of the six, Tresemme is one of my staples. I always have a bottle handy- and if I don't, it's top of the list for replacement.

  • Uses: A 'combing conditioner' and de-tangler: my hair just seems to melt apart with this, and I love it for my monthly combing sessions with my Denman D3 brush. 

Kiehls Superbly Smoothing Argan Oil Conditioner: This one is the most expensive, and comes in the smallest bottle. As such, I only use it in my hair spritz. It's one of my staples, and I make each bottle last as long as I can.
  • Uses: A de-tangler and moisturiser: I put in in my hair spritz and it keeps my curls juicy and soft as a moisturiser. I also like to make a slightly heavier use of it as a pre-wash detangling spray.

Twisted Sister: This one isn't my favourite. It's a so-so moisturiser, and a so-so detangler. It doesn't have much slip, and it doesn't really add anything to my hair. Plus, I think it smells weird. Not going to buy it again. 
  • Uses: I'm basically just trying to use it up. It goes into the deep conditioning mixture as a 'thickener'. 

Dark n Lovely Deep Conditioning Masque: Another staple- although I wouldn't normally buy a product that's got petrolatum in it. Still, there are no silicones in this bad boy- which is odd as it's what I consider a 'shelf brand'- i.e., you can find it on any shelf. I've even spotted it in the tiny black hair section at ASDA. 
  • Uses: Just what it says: Deep conditioner. I use it as a base, and then add my oils, glycerine, egg, banana, avocado, coconut milk and or whatever the heck else I want to it. It's nice and thick so it takes the lot quite well. 

Aunt Jackie's Conditioner
  • Uses: I screwed up here. This product has silicones. That's right- the 's' word. Probably going to be sold/palmed off on someone who uses a sulfate shampoo. I can't use it at all. 

TruZone Herbal Complex
  • Uses: This one looks great. For starters, it was like £3 for a full litre of the stuff. Yes. And for seconds, it's silicone free, smells nice (a bit soapy though) and feels like it might have some good slip. I picked it up to use as a rinsing conditioner. 

*Credit: Terms 'combing conditioner' and 'rinsing conditioner' are borrowed from Hair Like Me by Terry LaFlesh. My first, last and only hair book! 

09 March 2013

Mini Make-up Travel Bag

My very first Mac collection. How I love thee.

Okay, so I know everyone has those days when the thought of having to put on a full face of make-up just makes you go uggggghhhhhhhh no. But have you ever run into those moments when you need to look a bit snazzier and lo and behold, you are not wearing make-up?

Example:  you run to the shops enjoying the feel of the breeze on your happily make-up free face and then suddenly, out of no where, your so-called best mate is like, 'heya! let's go for lunch! I'm gonna bring guy-you-like and his friends and it'll be so fun!" 


Or, you skip merrily to your local cafe/canteen/place that does food and as you near the till, you realise super hawt guy is working today, and you are not facially prepared because you didn't have time to do your usual make-up routine. He picks this day of all days to strike up witty banter. 


Worse still, you decide to meet friend A for lunch. She turns up with friends B, C, and D. You don't really like friend C that much but you hang out with her anyway. You don't know D at all. You aren't wearing any make-up. They all look freakishly beautiful and snazzy. You are annoyed. 


Right, so how do you prevent the above scenarios (all of which may have happened to me *cough*)? 

By carrying the mini make-up travel bag! A quick dash to the loo and all your "I'm not wearing make-up" related problems are solved. 

Here's what I keep in mine: 
Click the pic for a larger image!

All items are mini-sized for convenience and fit neatly in this little bag: 

With everything I need for a quickly snazzied up look safely tucked away in my handbag, I now only have to worry about sticking my big fat foot in it. :) 

06 March 2013

Charity Shopping Mega Haul: H&M, TopShop, J.Crew

Over the years, I've given a massive amount of clothes to charity: usually stuff I wasn't going to wear ever again, or things that didn't fit or were out of season. Because of that, I usually pass charity shops with a slightly raised eyebrow and a shrug thinking what could I possibly find in there?

So when I got the opportunity to go charity shopping as part of a project for my masters course, I was all "this is gonna be haaaaard" complete with whining inflection perfected by yours truly at the age of 3.

We hit like, 6 different places. I'm still reeling. I can't even believe it- but I was there so I have to admit it:

There was loads of good stuff- seriously, loads. 

I ended up burning through my alotted £25 budget, and got around 7 lovely, well made, stylish pieces.

Here's four of them:

I like cute T-shirts, and this is a cute T-shirt. The bows around the collar were icing on the cake.

One of my best finds: an all-in-one from
TopShop. There are loads of high street brands
like this, particularly in the shops in Hackney... This J.Crew blazer made my day. Not only is it Velvet (and therefore snazzy) but it's pretty much like new, and it just happened to be my size. Score.

We took some pics of ourselves showing off the loot, and these are mine:

A shot of me in the jumpsuit- I love it!
I didn't realise one of the trouser legs was doing that 'gangsta' thing
and rolling up more than the other though... 

I'd probably put one of my skirts with this in future- but I love this blazer sooo much.
The top is recent H&M as well- another good find.

It's official: charity shopping is now a 'thing' for me.