Coffee Rhetoric: Beauty
Showing posts with label Beauty. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Beauty. Show all posts

February 26, 2012

Coffee Rhetoric Redux-- If You're Black, Get Back!

In the wake of the latest foolery courtesy of a St. Louis-based promotional company, involving an ill-conceived marketing idea, themed: "Battle of the Complexions" pitting dark, brown, and lighter complected Black women against one another, I'm re-posting an essay I did in August, 2011 about Shadeism or what's also known as Colorism; which is still very much an issue in the Black-- (and other minority)-- communities, despite denials to the contrary. 
In perhaps, an equally as foolish attempt at insulting the collective public's intelligence, the promotional company responsible for the event released a convoluted apology (below), chalking up the idea as a tribute to Black History Month... 

If You're Black, Get Back!  
Originally posted August 8th, 2011

No rap lyric has incited Black women to chorus the way the beginning of Lil Wayne’s verse in Every Girl in the World, in which he expresses his desire for “a long-haired, thick Redbone, who opens up her legs to filet mignon” has.

Hair and skin-color continue to haunt my sistren. Deeply rooted issues of Colorism are extensively blogged and written about by mostly Black female bloggers and writers, who take rappers to task for preferring racially ambiguous looking, seemingly non-Black women to frolic with on and off the sets of their videos.
Recently controversial novelist, Kola Boof sounded off at Wale via Twitter, in a long, sometimes expletive-filled tirade about his video Pretty Girls not featuring enough Black women… that eventually culminated in a feud of sorts. Kola berated Wale (whose parents are Nigerian)- accusing him of prompting young Black women in Nigeria to want to bleach their skin in order to compete: “Wale is doing more than just dig light women. He [sic] selling AFRICAN CHILDREN on skin bleaching … making them feel BLACK is ugly…”

Additionally, Actor/Singer Tyrese also felt the backlash of frustrated darker-skinned women, confused as to why his video was seemingly devoid of obviously Black women. “So I’m getting tweets … why aren’t any “Black Women” in your video.  I had a 2 days audition.[Sic]  I welcomed ALL women and went with the BEST.” he tweeted exasperatedly.

When framed within the context of entertainers and their sex lives, Colorism is undeniable. I acknowledge that it thrives within this realm and influences the aesthetic of many Black men, however, I’m a bit flummoxed as to why Black women continue to look to entertainers and athletes to validate their worth and personal brand of beauty. I understand wanting to see more honest and diverse examples of Black beauty in music videos; But when do we stop holding rappers responsible for how we essentially should view ourselves? When do we stop allowing Lil Wayne’s preference for a “long-haired, thick Redbone” to bother us and realize that when Black men (many of whom are also darker-complexioned) punctuate their preferences with disdain for dark women, it’s their deep-seated issues… and has nothing to do with us? When some Black men reach the pinnacle of financial success, they get to dictate who keeps their mattress warm and comfy… and for some, darker skin just doesn’t suffice.  As frustrating as their self-loathing is, that’s just the way it is. Quite frankly, when I look in the mirror, I’m not wondering whether heavily tattooed rappers with platinum dental work and several children by several different women, think I’m too dark to be considered attractive. Black men who look down on women for having darker complexions… have soul searching to do. Black women who agonize over and doubt themselves on account of a troubled individual’s superficiality… have soul searching to do.

This is definitely not an attempt to trivialize the impact of Colorism… My hope is that Black women with darker complexions move away from seeking acceptance in empty, cold places and hold themselves in high regard, despite the odds stacked against them.
Prolific film director Bill Duke eloquently explores the issue in this 9-minute trailer for his documentary,  
Dark Girls

Original post

              Recommended Reading:  

October 25, 2011

These and Those: Coffee Rhetoric Makes DIY Eye-makeup Remover

Sometimes when I get home from doing whatever... I get easily distracted. I immediately delve into the  the drama free (not really) lives of the Basketball Real Housewives of Anyplace I'd Rather Not Be, U.S.A. and then will start texting, browsing my Twitter timeline, or on Google+ (Facebook is slowly becoming a moot point to me, so I don't invest much time over there). Before you know it, my eyelids start getting heavy and I've only managed to change into my ratty, not-really pajamas clothes I sleep in. My mind tells me to get up and wash the makeup and day's elements from my face, but my body doesn't really register that command. I take a pre-sleep nap, telling myself I'll wash off my eye makeup and drag when I go to bed FOR REAL! Before you know it, it's morning... And I've woken up with my eyelashes clumped with day-old mascara and eyeliner smudged around my eyes. Wiping it off presents more of a challenge as there still tends to be residual eye makeup... even AFTER I've thoroughly cleansed my face.

Alas I've come across an easy and brilliant recipe via a YouTuber who goes by the name, SheSingsLovely, for a gentle eye makeup remover (that can also double as a toner for your face)...

In a plastic squeeze bottle (which can be purchased at any beauty supply store for about 99 cents), mix about 3 parts Witch Hazel (can be found at CVS or some other drugstore), and 2 parts olive, grapeseed, almond, or Jojoba oil. I used olive oil. Cap the bottle, shake the mixture, and use! It worked great and it's very gentle on the eyes... it didn't sting at all! My day old eye makeup came right off sans incident or residual leftover. And have I mentioned how absolutely EASY it is to make?

October 12, 2011


Anyone who knows me personally has come to understand my passion for skin. In fact, I wish I were an African Goddess skin-fairy, gifted with the rare ability to exfoliate and moisturize the ashy and flaky masses as I see fit, with the wave of wand. Caring for my skin isn't merely a seasonal thing. I pamper my skin with fatty (read: thick) crèmes and butters and swear by raw, unfiltered African Shea butter (Raw shea butter is usually beige or yellow, with a nutty scent). I lubricate, exfoliate, and moisturize the hell out of my skin.  People will painstakingly treat their favorite leather jackets and shoes... taking care to treat the cow hides with leather oils and treatments... but will adopt a certain laissez faire attitude with their own. Skin is similar to leather hide... If you don't lubricate it, it doesn't endure or retain its elasticity. It dries out and cracks over time, and and it starts looking aged and worn. It never ceases to amaze me, when people merely step out of the shower or bath without having moisturized or exfoliated in some way, shape, or form. Also like leather, when skin gets wet, it dries and develops cracks; especially if it remains unconditioned for an extended period of time. If I'm being frank, the reason why so many people of color tend to have unmarred, seemingly ageless skin that snaps back into place when poked, prodded, and pinched is because it has been steamed of impurities, exfoliated, and moisturized

I've always been intrigued by age-old, Do-It-Yourself beauty methods; and so don't believe in spending a fortune just retain great skin. During my research, I've broken down primary ingredients in some purported "miracle creams" and have realized some of the elements that truly work. I've been asked numerous times, what exactly is it I use to retain my youthful glow, and have even been jokingly accused of having "work" done. Aside from not emoting often ... the secret of The Butters, kitchen remedies, slathering myself from neck-to-toe in oils as if I'm an Egyptian goddess, in addition to cheap tried-and-true pharmacy brands have helped sustain me in my quest to sustain relatively supple skin- especially during the cold and sometimes harsh winter months. I’ve decided to share a series of easy-peasy recipes and suggestions, to help protect skin during the fall and winter. 

 Here's a quick and recipe I whipped up in five minutes! 


  • Raw/unfiltered African Shea Butter
  • Coffee Butter (optional) 
  • Cocoa Butter, Almond, and/or Olive Oil(s)
  • Scented perfume/Essential oil
  • Recycled/Plastic Container(s)
  • I scooped 4-5 heaping tablespoons of raw Shea Butter into a container I recycled and set it in hot water until it either melted or softened... 
  • I added 2 teaspoons of Coffee Butter (or your favorite butter... Manoi, Mango, etc
  • Swiftly stirring the Shea Butter and Cocoa Butter oil with a spoon (the easiest method) or using a handheld whip, I stirred in a few drops of Cocoa Butter and Olive Oils respectively; whipping until smooth. 
  • I then added a few blended drops of Black Coconut & Black Woman perfume oils to scent
  •  Refrigerate for about fifteen minutes until crème solidifies. 
I personally like to use Raw Shea and melted Cocoa Butter or Palmers Cocoa Butter Oil, due to their effective healing benefits for the skin. Also, Coffee Butter (because of its caffeine) aids in firming and tightening the skin and reducing cellulite. Coffee Butter also reduces wrinkles. 

The skin crème I concocted, melts immediately upon contact with the skin and is so rich, that a little goes a long way and is perfect to use on damp skin, immediately after a shower or bath. I use just a little after washing my face at night, as well! 

Here's another, extended version of my butter if you have a few extra minutes (I made mine in less than ten minutes and it's still as effective)... 

September 25, 2011

TypeF Negative

A series of online videos apparently produced and endorsed by Tyra Banks for her new fashion and beauty channel, TypeF have struck a flat chord with the natural hair community. JoAnn Robertson, who describes herself as a licensed hairdresser, is featured in a chain of How-To videos where she dispenses natural hair care advice such as "How to put your afro to the side" and "How to put an Afro down." While demonstrating how to "loosen a tightly-coiled afro without straightening," JoAnn both half-heartedly and carelessly rakes a paddle brush through her dry, disheveled afro and waves a blow dryer throughout the base of her hair sans a heat protectant... before modeling her attempt in a cheesy, overly saccharine smile and pose...

Needless to say, the natural hair community was *not* pleased. 
"Remove your afro hair videos- RESHOOT the videos with quality content-- REPOST the new vids and ensure that the #naturalhair community is as healthy as it can be!" demanded one commenter.
"Tyra you disgust me you BITCH!!!! Make us Black women look so bad >_< " insisted another. 
Of course Twitter, Facebook guru fan pages, and blogs were incited to chorus as well... keeping a close eye on the channel, posting any new developments... including an acknowledgement from TypeF, duly noting the outrage in a statement:
Dear YouTube viewers,  
Thank you for voicing your concern about one of the hairstyle playlists found on this channel.  We have disabled the set of videos in question and will have our editorial team review each one based on your feedback. If you have further concerns, please don't hesitate to contact us directly. 
typeF YouTube Team 
The playlist is still up by the way...

 As a woman who has worn her hair sans chemicals for more than ten years, I was initially flummoxed by JoAnn's process. I watched it, and then I re-watched it. I read the shock, dismay, and outrage from the natural hair community and weighed-in on one forum. I went to TypeF's website and perused its YouTube channel in search of other videos showing JoAnn mussing up her natural hair and while acting comically pleased with her work... posing and stretching her mouth in what seemed like a mocking smile. A brief Google search of JoAnn Robertson's name quickly turned up proof of her legitimacy as a neatly coiffed stylist and professional. I quickly went from bewilderment to amusement, and guffawed my way through more of her brief, flinch-worthy natural hair tutorials, as I quickly came to the realization that JoAnn was busting chops. Let me explain... 

With the rise of natural hair gurus making their mark on YouTube and the blogopshere, some of these natural hair divas have become newly minted entrepreneurs and happy collectors of free swag from well-known to up-and-coming cosmetics companies peddling natural hair care wares and looking for free advertisement. Natural hair maintenance has become big business... cosmetics companies and  the media has definitely taken notice. A frosh crop of new-found naturals undoubtedly see how lucrative sharing their natural hair care regimens can be and have gotten in on the action. 

There're definitely a few natural hair care forums and YouTube videos I genuinely enjoy watching, for fresh new ideas and to know other perspectives on natural hair care in other countries. However, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out how insufferable some natural hair wearers can be in their approach. The lingo, the dictatorial and condescending attitudes toward other naturals about what they should or shouldn't be doing in their personal hair care routines, the time consuming routines, the product junkie-ism, the obsession with hair typing, the daily length checks, and the hair envy... It's overwhelming and exasperating. Whenever someone looking to go chemical-free asks me for advice, I simply tell them how I began my journey back in 1999, suggest that they learn the basic do's and don't's of  natural hair manipulation, realize what's best for their hair type, and to defer to YouTube for ideas, making sure to take the valuable suggestions; while not considering them to be the sole words of wisdom, as everyone's needs are different.

Regardless of what TypeF's and JoAnn's motives are behind this particular playlist... It comes across as parody to me and it was inevitable considering the hubbub from naturals about which natural hair techniques are acceptable. Not to mention the outrage and attention seem to have encouraged TypeF on in their antagonism towards the natural hair community, as recent videos have been uploaded... including several featuring a different woman named Tanya. As frustrating as it might be for some to watch JoAnn Robertson seemingly mock natural hair maintenance, I wouldn't take it as a personal affront. I'm finding the videos hilarious and quite possibly a brilliant marketing scheme by TypeF... It appears they also seem to know whom to broach for free advertising... (Wink)

September 15, 2011

Black Glah-MOUR
This is the sort of post I'd usually reserve for my tumblr page, but I absolutely love this vintage ad for Noxema and wanted to provide a little commentary on my fascination with vintage glamour photos featuring women of the African diaspora. 
I've always been curious about any possible vintage ads featuring Black pin-ups, products for afro-textured hair, and various other beauty products. My searches have usually turned up less unfulfilled whenever I Googled information featuring Black women as pin-ups. Recently and much to my surprise, I stumbled across information about a pre-Black Tail, pre-King Magazine periodical called Tan N' Terrific (undoubtedly considered to be exploitative smut back in the day) - via the site Vintage Sleaze, which features a treasure trove of vintage photos showcasing Black women in various stages of photography. Despite the seemingly... sordid nature (and I write "sordid" sans judgment or scorn)- of Tan N' Terrific, I'm even more intrigued and interested in learning about the history of periodicals that predate Black Tail and King, and whether they were Black owned publications. I've a feeling Tan N' Terrific wasn't and the person behind the periodical saw an opportunity to capitalize on this particular brand of adult material, as I'm sure there was a niche that hadn't been filled yet, due to the sign of those times.  
Google Images
I'm quite impressed with the work of prolific Black photographer, Howard Morehead, however; who died in 2003. Morehead was one of the few legitimate Black photographers who did consistent and steady work in the entertainment industry, shooting iconic jazz figures such as Ray Charles. Just as importantly, Morehead set out to capture the beauty of Black women during the 1950's, in a less explicit fashion than Tan N' Terrific, despite proclamations that Negro women weren't attractive enough to be captured on photo or featured as models in reputable publications. Howard Morehead did extensive photography for both Jet and Ebony magazines and was instrumental in promoting the Miss Bronze California pageant, in which Marilyn McCoo of Solid Gold fame (don't act like you didn't watch it) placed first, in 1962 . Unlike Tan N' Terrific, Morehead presented the beauty of the Black female form in a more artistic way, while still managing to maintain the allure of the Black female form. This work was collected in the rare 1964 book of photography, Gentlemen Prefer Bronze, which Jet Magazine described as "a photographic tribute to Negro beauty... featuring a wide range of camera moods, from portraits to figure studies..."  
Howard Morehead's work can also be seen at the California African American Museum
I'm overly excited but per usual, any issue having to do with women of the African diaspora as they relate to our image (good, bad, and ugly), current and past marketing campaigns, beauty regimens, or the arts, is near, dear, and important to me. 
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August 08, 2011

If You're Black, Get Back!

No rap lyric has incited Black women to chorus the way the beginning of Lil Wayne's verse in Every Girl In The World, in which he expresses his desire for "a long-haired, thick Redbone, who opens up her legs to filet mignon" has. 
Hair and skin-color continue to haunt my sistren. Deeply rooted issues of Colorism are extensively blogged and written about by mostly Black female bloggers and writers, who take rappers to task for preferring racially ambiguous looking, seemingly non-Black women to frolic with on and off the sets of their videos. 
Recently controversial novelist, Kola Boof sounded off at Wale via Twitter, in a long, sometimes expletive-filled tirade about his video Pretty Girls not featuring enough Black women... that eventually culminated in a feud of sorts. Kola berated Wale (whose parents are Nigerian)- accusing him of prompting young Black women in Nigeria to want to bleach their skin in order to compete: "Wale is doing more than just dig light women. He [sic] selling AFRICAN CHILDREN on skin bleaching ... making them feel BLACK is ugly..." 
Read the rest over at The Intersection of Madness & Reality! ... 
Recommended Reading: Don't Play in the Sun by Marita Golden 

July 14, 2011

Au Naturale...

Anyone who reads this blog, knows my affinity towards Black hair being in its natural state - (without ever throwing shade to anyone who chooses to relax, straighten or weave their tresses. Makes no never mind to me how someone choose to wear their hair, but I realize women in my community are still very sensitive when it comes to hair... regardless of how it's worn, and feel the need to be combative and defend their choices ) - In keeping with expressing my love and appreciation for natural hair and hairstyles...  wanted to share this video of lyricist, Sa-Roc's visit to It's A Natural Thang Salon in Atlanta, GA, as she gets her locs maintained and styled into an awesome, futuristic-type 'do.
I'd also like to share this video of a UK Natural's visit to a natural hair care spa in Milton Keynes, UK called Mahogany, as she gets a fancy, cornrowed hairstyle. And yes these sorts of videos have the capacity to hold my attention for at least an hour or two... It's how I spend my Sundays. (Don't Judge!)

July 06, 2011

Shea Butter Exploitation

I write about the myriad of topics as I see fit on Coffee Rhetoric. Many of those posts may feature local people, places, and things I'm stoked about introducing readers to, issues having to do with race and gender, my lackluster dating life, and vanity. Basically hot-topic issues that are important to the Committee of Me, Myself, and I. That being said, I've written a few posts about my obsession with relatively old-school DIY beauty regimens and moisturizing with oils and butters... especially raw Shea Butter. 
Today, I read an interesting article on The Atlanta Post's site, detailing how Shea Butter production is a multi-million dollar industry that virtually never trickles down to the women who harvest the Shea nut, subsequently making it into the butter many of us swear by and that many cosmetic and hair care companies use in their products. 
Despite so called Fair Trade methods of exporting Shea Butter, the women of sub-Saharan Africa still live in poverty... virtually never seeing a dime for their labor. Fortunately ethical  cooperatives and businesses such as Shea Yeleen and Shea Butter Cottage (based in Sonning, Reading UK) help African countries such as Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Mali to empower women and teach them the actual value of their hard work.  
I'm an avid user of unrefined Shea Butter, that I usually get from a distributor or vendor. The fact that many so-called Fair Trade NGO's aren't doing the ethical work to help women in Africa earn a fair wage for their work is disheartening and definitely will prompt me to be more mindful of how I acquire the product. I think folks should also do a little research (beyond "old wives tales" as stated in the article) before using Shea - (if they've never used the product save for the filtered, unscented version sold for a grip at L'occitane En Provence) - especially unrefined Shea Butter, to ensure they aren't getting swindled and being sold a rancid product. I think it's also beneficial to know the difference (although they work similarly) between actual, unrefined Shea Butter and Kpangnan (also called African) butter--> which is the yellow butter most commonly sold and marketed in the U.S. as being from the Karite tree. And is best explained in this video, in case anyone is as intrigued and obsessed with the production of African and Shea butters as I am...  In any event, I'm a firm believer in women in sub-Saharan Africa being fairly compensated for their hard work and not being exploited by greedy exporters. 

Read the Atlanta Post article HERE

May 17, 2011

Voted Least Likely To Matter

This morning while scanning my Twitter timeline, I noticed folks getting up-in-arms about something relevant I hadn't figured out yet so I scrolled down further, attempting to piece events together myself... and now I wish I hadn't. I promised myself I wouldn't wax philosophical about any articles or studies undermining my right to co-exist with everyone else on earth, but the most recent quasi-scientific study published by Psychology Today's and penned by evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa, whose shtick seems to be to promote racial and gender stereotypes - (the article has since been removed due to the furor and utter ridiculousness of the evidence presented, I presume)- got my mind working and my fingers itching to get it over with and type this entry... perhaps in an attempt to speculate why this man (an obvious misogynist and bigot), continues to get money to conduct such drivel.
I'm no expert on evolutionary psychology, but I assume if conducted critically sans: bias, motive, a mostly Euro-centric view of how the world should function, or an antiquated belief system; it's helpful with studying human behavior and allowing us to acquire a better understanding of the myriad of cultures. Most people seem to agree that Kanazawa is incompetent at conducting research effectively sans bias and of understanding and objectively reporting on race and gender matters. In 2006, The London School of Economics found itself under fire after Kanazawa wrote a paper reporting that Africa's ills were due to low IQ rather than disease and poverty... that Africans were less intelligent than people in wealthier countries, which explains without a shadow of a doubt, why many suffer. Satoshi Kanazawa seems to be trying to resurrect the racist pseudoscience of Eugenics, so his attacks on anything female and non-European seem par for the course. This time the man sought to prove why Black women are less attractive than women who are White, Asian, and Native American women via Psychology Today. This one set the interwebs on fire... bloggers, Tweeters, forums, discussion boards, other psychologists and Toure X on MSNBC (why'd they defer to him?) sounded off. Satoshi used little charts and graphs to surmise the following (among other things):
 "It is very interesting to note that, even though black women are objectively less physically attractive than other women, black women (and men) subjectively consider themselves to be far more physically attractive than others."  
"... For example, because they have existed much longer in human evolutionary history, Africans have more mutations in their genomes than other races.  And the mutation loads significantly decrease physical attractiveness (because physical attractiveness is a measure of genetic and developmental health).  But since both black women and black men have higher mutation loads, it cannot explain why only blackwomen are less physically attractive, while black men are, if anything, more attractive."  
So forth and so on it goes. Apparently we're unattractive, mannish about the face, and are in denial about it, because we're somehow deluding ourselves into thinking we're anything but ugly.
Initially I was agitated and weighed in on Twitter and Facebook (the link on my wall generated some interesting comments, all varying degrees of outrage (funny, awe-struck, and angry). But realizing Kanazawa's propensity towards racist and partial research, my irritation subsided. I became more annoyed at Psychology Today for removing the article without explanation. As if they never made the decision to post it for all to read and get hyper over, to begin with (many people on comment boards questioned whether the article even existed). And while many well-intentioned men (mostly our brethren) suggested that there was an overreaction amongst the Black female masses, regaled us with compliments to placate our ire, then patronizingly (in just a few instances) advised Black women to "just ignore" the study for its obvious nonsensical findings, I think it's important to get to the root of why Black women continue to take a beating in the media as of late. Most of us are not seeking to have our looks validated ... I don't believe that is what incited many of us to sing a chorus of jeers, but rather, we're looking to be taken seriously and not marginalized as if we aren't relevant in the grand scheme of the landscape. Just like Black men are justified in feeling the same way about infractions against them, their livelihood, and very being. 
One commenter on a blog post regarding Psychology Today-gate said it best when she opined: "Its like black women have caught a case of the “leasts” ... Least likely to be married... Least likely to be taken seriously... Least likely to to NOT have AIDS …and now least likely to be even remotely cute..."
Even Black run blogs have gotten in on the action penning foolish articles about why we're supposedly losing to why we should covet or even care about Kate Middleton's induction via marriage, into The British Monarchy 
The dead horse has been exhumed and kicked repeatedly, making it an old and boring topic.. yes... but it's still annoying. If there's an issue or national crisis, Black women and people of color as a whole are always worked into random, negative equations whether we like it, did nothing to warrant negative press, or not. When does it eventually stop?
Read the Google Cached "study" here

May 10, 2011

Why, Yes... You May Sniff Me Now...

Some weeks ago, I opened my Yahoo! Mail and found this message in my inbox:  
I recently came across some of your reviews on Yelp and thought of someone I was introduced to a few years ago a real nice guy who lives in Hartford who sells fragrance body oils, shea butter and interesting novelties right here in Hartford. I have even seen some of their business ads posted on bus stops mostly in the Northend. His company is called Exotic Fragrance and his website is  I've purchased their China Musk (euphorious), Egyptian Musk and Baby Powder oil and they were wonderful. I thought of your review of Noor's body oils in Manchester, who I've also purchased from and this other business came to mind. Maybe you can request his samples (he sends them out free from his website or follow his contact link- I know their email is  He says he's going to expand his natural body care to include more natural hair and skin care! Thanks again for the witty, insightful information on your blog!
Intrigued- Firstly, because I'm stoked that folks actually read and enjoy my Yelp reviews  (a local business owner or perhaps one of his cronies did try to have a review I wrote  flagged once, to no avail but I digress), and also because I wear perfume oils everyday and go through tubs of raw shea butter as if the end of the end world were imminent... deeming it necessary to go out with guns blazing and supple skin- I visited the website via the link provided in the email. I was excited because I usually order my perfume oils off the internet from a supplier in New York, as it's hard to come across street vendors (at least around here) who sell quality oils... or who don't cut or water down their products (I'm a perfume oil connoisseur... I cannot and will not be tricked... I know a dupe when I smell it), so being made privy to the fact that there's a local person in the business of selling quality scents and other products, I emailed the vendor, Zaahir Qawi. I explained how I found his website and asked if he'd be willing to send me a few smellies to sample and so I can possibly feature his business on my blog (as I'm all for endorsing interesting local people, places, and things particularly if I become a fan). Zaahir promptly responded offering to mail me some samples... And so I waited... 
Fast forward about two weeks later... This past Saturday, I got a text from my visiting sister saying that a man had dropped off- (Yes, much to my surprise, he hand delivered it himself)- a small package with "Coffey" written across the front and that her husband had received it in my absence. "It smells really good too!" she texted.  I immediately knew what it was... and sternly instructed her to promptly put it away and not to open it. Needless to say, upon getting home I was highly impressed by what I received...  Zaahir also provided me with a small container of unrefined Raw Shea Butter. The oils are definitely high quality, heavily scented, and they last throughout the day... all good signs because, this past Monday, I went to one of my offices (The Market at 21's cafe), to do some much needed writing when a man sitting nearby interrupted me and asked, "Excuse me... I'm sorry to bother you, but what scent are you wearing??" Pow! The Egyptian Swirl was undeniable. 
I called Zaahir to personally thank him for dropping off the samples and was told he was hoping to, at some point, open up a shop in the Hartford area. In the meantime folks can order his custom blended perfume oils (he'll blend any combination you want) at "We get new scents everyday!" he assured me. If you're looking to provide an Exotic Fragrance experience to someone's olfactory organs (whether you're a Hartford local or not) I'd get on it... I know I plan on ordering more!

June 24, 2010

V is for Victory

 I recently engaged in a discussion about the trials and tribulations of dating and sex with a male acquaintance and I used the word "vagina" to describe a ... vagina. Alarmed, he asked, "Why do you have to call it that??"  
 "Because that's its government name. It's a VAGINA! VAAAGIINAAAA! Say it with me... say vagina!" I prodded and teased. 
"Noo, I can't!" He insisted. 
People's aversion to sounding out the vowels and consonants that make up the word VAGINA has always amused me. Without hesitation; Cookie, vajayjay, vaj, poon, poontang, punany, kitty, kitty cat, carpet, bush, and the 'P' word will spill from the mouths of women and men without incident... without so much as a chuckle. The moment I say vagina aloud however,  hands cup over mouths muffling sheepish chuckles; which incites me to find any excuse to use the word "vagina" in a sentence, because I've often wondered what's at the root of people's discomfort with using the clinical term for a woman's genitalia, during a friendly discussion.
Quick research (read: Google search) showed that the term "vagina" isn't favored by major broadcasting companies, as evidenced by news that three networks rejected a funny Kotex tampon ad - (which actually mocks the sterility of said ads, selling menstrual products) - for using the term. Kotex later re-shot the commercial substituting "vagina" for "down there." Which still didn't placate two out of the three networks. This is interesting, especially when you consider that major TV stations have no compunctions of conscience when the term "Erectile Dysfunction" is used to sell Cialis and Viagra. 
Owning and appreciating the word VAGINA and all it entails discourages the indifference many women (and some men) feel toward what's best for the sensuousness between their legs, because how one feels about her vagina dictates the impact of her sex life, how it's treated, and how she feels about her body overall. 
A recent study of more than 2,000 women found that those who had the most positive image about their vagina (its natural, healthy smell included) had better orgasms and reported stronger sexual energy. Women, (unlike men, who see and touch their penises everyday, several times a day, to relieve themselves in many instances), don't see or even bother to look at the intricate detailing that goes into making the vaginal area function. I'm reminded of the Ace Ventura type reactions I got when during another discussion (amongst other women) about the vagina, I opined how worthwhile and important it is for a woman to hold a mirror and strong light underneath or before her vagina and vulva (the other 'V' word) - to self-examine and make sure nothing's amiss or funky looking; i.e. sores, unsightly warts, discharge, etc. I stood alone that day, as no amount of explaining my petition made the suggestion anymore palatable... so I changed to another course for fodder. 
In answer to the Yahoo! Question: "Why are we so afraid and uncomfortable with saying the V word?" there were a myriad of responses to why "vagina" just wasn't a desirable word to say versus the slang terms for it. One man suggested: "I think it's because vagina has 3 syllables so it sounds like a long word and it's as if you are trying to make it sound wrong even though it isn't. I have no problem saying penis." 
While not particularly sexy sounding in the throes of passion (I get that), generally saying VAGINA several times won't cause one to be sucked into an abyss like the Bermuda Triangle, never to be heard from again or an even worse fate as illustrated in the black-horror flick, Teeth
The latest craze (endorsed by Jennifer Love Hewitt)- in female vanity known as Vajazzling, which is the strategic bedazzling of little Swarovsky-like sparkles on the lower hypogastric region, makes appreciating one's vagina a lot more fun and brings women that much closer to looking at the actual thing while mouthing the word VAGINA out loud. I liken Vajazzling to playing the choo-choo train game with wee ones while feeding them, in order to get them to eat their food. Whatever works. 

April 02, 2010

The Persecution of Ms. Badu

I don't have cable. The delectable bits of trash I do get to watch are courtesy of my mother's digital cable box, when I have the pleasure of visiting for the weekend.
Ofttimes, I shake my head (while still watching) at the train wrecks colliding on the screen: Young women on "reality tv" jumping into hot tubs... obscured nudity jiggling in the wind or clawing one another's eyes out in a fit of rage as their boobage and delicates burst through the seams of too tight clothing for all the world to see. Thonged asses and commando-ed vaginas (aye-aye captain) flap free amidst the chaos. Not a problem. Ratings booster!
I also love to watch music videos, most of which are par for the course... The grandiose donks  (read: big butts, fake or otherwise) gyrate and twerk in the camera, struggling to stay contained sheathed behind dubiously fitted hot pants... some parts of their bikini-ed bottoms distorted just enough to make it past the network's Standards and Practices department. All of this current comehither lasciviousness notwithstanding, I am reminded of the furor Janet Jackson caused during her performance at Super Bowl XXXVIII when her adorned breast popped out for the briefest of brief moments. After which she found that same dirty pillow branded with a piping, hot scarlet letter. People were not pleased, despite her pleas for forgiveness, regardless of the fact that the media and the very network looking to air her immodesty out at the public square took a blink and you'll miss it moment, slowed it down, and played it repeatedly, despite being offended by the moxie of the act: A tit breaking loose from its harness for the briefest of seconds.
Flash forward a few years since Ms. Jackson's "Nipplegate." We've seemingly evolved even more where the grandeur of the female form in all its voluptuosity,  is par for the course...  considering several petulant nipples, butt-cheeks, and vaginas have cried out in protest since that incident in a united front in public under the glare of public scrutiny, and for pop starlets who are taking a queue fromn the Video Vixen book of trickery... succumbing to re-marketed aesthetics at the suggestion of male record executives and managers... winding their hips and carefully manicured poontangs in nothing more than a skimpy top, taut thighs, and heels in an effort to sell more records. Pants be damned! We've evolved... or perhaps not, since creative mind, beautiful eccentric, keeper of the 'izm that snakes upward like a cobra ... allegedly causing men to swoon, and accomplished musical artist Erykah Badu's new video for her single, 'Window Seat,'  has incited the public to chorus. Erykah cites guerrilla filmmaking as a method, as she methodically walks through downtown Dallas, stripping away layers of clothing until she's completely naked, in the name of art and near the same location JFK was assassinated ... but some naysayers aren't feeling it.
Please get into my argument....
Why is it when a woman (especially a Black woman) takes charge of her image and body, and projects it in a way she sees fit... particularly when it's in the name of art, the public finds it obscene? Lest rappers are asking challenging questions and making demands like "How Low Can You Go?," and  "Gimme that Becky!, or the likes of Hugh Hefner doesn't put you on the cover of Playboy or make you 1/3 of his harem, a woman's body will never be beautiful, unless the rules are dictated by the patriarchy and the media.
I'm still struggling to find the obscenity in Erykah's message and visual: Which essentially, is to break free from societal norms and to formulate your own thought process.
Perhaps if she were stripping within the subtext of Playboy or King Magazine ... bent over in a teeny-weeny bikini... hands placed over bare breast to titillate and cause massive erections for the male populace and/or being violated/beaten/brutalized on film, she wouldn't be facing charges for "public indecency." America seems to be okay with the exploitation and violence shown toward women, but we're damned if we dare have orgasms on-screen (see the documentary 'This Film Is Not Yet Rated'  or express the splendor of our bodies via our own visions, on our own terms, shouted through our own voices.

That is all.
*Perhaps due to its controversy, video links are no longer readily available. 

January 18, 2010

Hair Today, Hair Tomorrow

People who know me personally-- those that've read posts here, on Coffee Rhetoric, realize or have come to realize how passionate I am about Black women's issues. Specifically those having to do with our unique brand of beauty, our image, and our hair. A little more than 10 years ago, I opted to stop using chemicals to straighten my hair. I wear my hair "natural" if you will. That's a personal choice I maintain til this day. I love my hair in its natural state and tend to not care what anyone else thinks of my hair's type and texture. Natural hair does NOT a militant make... nor is it me trying to make a political statement. It's me, being at peace with myself. I did not come out of my mother's womb with a chemical relaxer. And I don't answer to or flinch over the negative connotations of the phrase "nappy."

While I don't subscribe to altering the state of my hair via relaxers, weaves, lace-front wigs or what have you... I don't begrudge any other Black woman the right to do what she sees fit to do with her hair regimen. To each her own. I am only concerned with my own hair routine. And while I would LOVE to shrug and say, "It's just hair," and move on... unfortunately for Black women... it isn't that simple. Women of color will always be embattled over the texture of our hair and skin shade. Unfortunate. Multi-layered. Complicated. And rooted in a painful history. And lately, I'm discovering it's not as cut and dry as relaxed hair vs natural hair vs hair that's beweaved vs that which is bewigged.
For the past 2-3 years or so, there has been a huge influx of natural hair care products, YouTube tutorial videos, online forums, and websites celebrating the beauty and versatility of afro-textured hair. But even within the natural hair community, there is a lot of controversy.
There are "naturals" who are obsessed with texture and so will swear by a hair system/chart to determine their "hair type" -- or to aspire to a 3C hair type, most commonly associated with mixed race people. Some naturals are more concerned with length and so will find ways to stretch the hair to its maximum- (preferably "bra strap long" some women on various forums will brag).
I've come across blogs where there is petty squabbling in the comments section over which natural hair care method is the best and only way to treat afro-textured hair or whether or not the blog's host features enough women with kinkier textured hair, versus women with "mixed race" hair.
It's maddening. While I do enjoy discovering new ideas, products, and recipes for my own hair, I've made a conscious decision not to concern myself with dictatorial methods of natural hair care. I run my hands through my hair everyday, and so know what does and does not work.

I find it most unfortunate that even while Black women reach their epiphany and "free" themselves from eurocentric hair and beauty expectations, many still can't make peace with themselves, even within the confines of the natural hair community. When will this "Good Hair/Bad Hair/Not Good Enough Natural Hair conflict end? These natural hair mandates are exhausting. I've read debates over whether or not First Lady Michelle Obama "presses" or relaxes her hair straight.  Or whether EVERY natural will experience major consequences if some of us choose to blow out our afro-textured hair using minimal amounts of heat. If we'll experience major growth if we take this vitamin, or that vitamin. If our White co-workers and dating prospects will like or accept us if we style our natural hair a specific way. All hell broke loose on the Black (and some predominantly White) celebrity blogs, when Solange Knowles stopped wearing wigs and cut her hair closely to her scalp. Listen, who cares? I would LOVE to see and for us to seize the day when hair will just be considered that. Hair. And when we can truly and really, for real, be happy in our own skin and with the depth of our hair's texture, without this seemingly constant need for validation.

January 04, 2010

New Year and What not

I rang in twenty-ten on a low-key tide. With a great friend and her family. Full of rum punch, sparkling wine, some other mixed stuff and mirth. I'm not one for making resolutions, as I think it ridiculous to wait ONCE A YEAR to resolve to improve upon the quality of life and relationships. However, I am coasting into this new start, with stronger resolve. The bolts in the steel rod, that make up my spine, have been tightened. I'm ever more alert... and focused on bringing personal projects to fruition... for real.
I've been spilling open since 2004, and intend to do so until the juice has finally been sucked dry through the straw (slurping noise and all). I want to continue to share my insights, dating woes, and other dirty laundry... in addition to promoting, promoting, promoting... when I deem it *necessary*. Necessary is if I'm inspired to do so, or something has prompted me to chorus.
What has me singing this new year? The influx of Black women choosing to be their natural selves. This includes wearing their hair the way it materialized and grew, shortly after developing in and then exiting their mother's fallopian tubes. Chris Rock's documentary, "Good Hair" has thrown open the gates... offering some insight into a topic that has plagued Black women for years... the dynamics of our hair... its texture... its styles... and how others interpret it. I stopped chemically processing my hair a little more than 10 years ago... and I've never turned back---
I am always on the prowl for new, wonderful, fatty/rich products that help my hair look its best...
Amongst those items? A 4 oz container of rich, homemade loveliness by Alexandra Smith of Safi Natural Hair Care. The fact that naturally proud women with entrepreneurial spirits, are going to great lengths to keep Black hair looking its best, with products made with only the best, organic ingredients and care, makes wearing kinky/curly/afro textured hair, so much fun.
Safi Natural Hair Care's Avocado Shea Butter is rich in texture, it smells lovely--reminiscent of unrefined cocoa butter, sensuously rich French cooking butter, and chocolate. I'm excited about it, because having just used it, it made my hair feel great. I would never use this forum to recommend something, unless I was truly impressed with it. So goes this blog post... to promote healthy, natural, curly/afro textured hair. I will holler from the confines of my apartment about anything that promotes people being their true selves and if it involves someone trying to grind and hustle something independent of mass media or celebrity endorsements ... Despite being basement level... despite my storm windows being down and closed. I shall holler and suggest...

May 16, 2009

The MYTH of Good/Bad Hair

This Saturday has been spent lazily drinking coffee, massaging my hair with coconut oil, twisting it, and pinning it up. While doing so, I caught up on some of my favorite "natural hair" blogs and YouTube videos, when I stumbled across this rambling discourse courtesy of this young woman who was adamant why she went natural, and how it wasn't to placate those of us women she deemed "Pro-Black" who are Happy to be Nappy. She flung her hair (she says it's natural, but it looked like a wash-and-go relaxer to me) to and fro, the whole time, much to my annoyance, "Becky" style. She said she went natural after she discovered that her own texture was "pretty" *insert side-eye here*. Then she railed against women who "denied" that there was such a thing as "good" and "bad" hair. "C'mon now, we all know the difference, so stop acting like there isn't a such thing as good hair and bad hair" she spouted off annoyingly. The rest of her rant, more or less emphasized how much she still enjoyed wearing hair weaves and she continued to perpetuate the Good vs Bad hair struggle Black American women can't seem to come to terms with. (There are three parts, but pt. I was more than enough for me. A commenter also took her to task over a few of her remarks). I agreed with most of what the commenter said... namely that Pretty Hair needed to visit this woman's YouTube page before she continued to toot her own texture's horn. Listen, I've worn my hair natural for about 10 years. My journey en-route, didn't come without a few bumps. When I first came back home from school, with my newly UN-RELAXED hair, I got some major side-eyes from other Black women whilst walking down the street. I was happy. I was proud. More importantly, I felt FREE. Going natural (while it can be just as high maintenance as maintaining straight hair) has truly be a LIBERATING experience for me. Initially I was a bit confused by the shade being thrown in my direction from other Black women. Eventually I stopped caring. I took this trip to please one person. MYSELF.
Listen, I love everything about my being (I have insecure hips and thighs days just like the next person), overall there is NOTHING about my Black-ness or self I regret, hate, or curse. I enjoy my complexion, I love that we span such a vast and wide spectrum of ethnicities, shapes, sizes, countries, languages, and shades, and I LOVE my hair existing in its natural-ness. I would never chastise another woman for choosing to relax, be-wig, or be-weave her tresses just like I wouldn't expect her to begrudge me my right to be who I am, NATURALLY... however, I think we need to get over this Good hair TEXTURE vs Bad hair TEXTURE debate, because essentially all it is, is a MYTH!!
Yes, I said it. It is a MYTH... at least it is, within the context of texture and length. Everyone has the ability to have GREAT hair, despite its length or texture. I've gotten nothing but positive feedback from people, who compliment me on my hair and the way that I style it. I get so sick to death of OTHER BLACK WOMEN who feel the need to validate WHY they straighten their hair or sew/glue in weaves, spouting off rhetoric and propoganda generated by the media about a specific STANDARD when it comes to beauty. Beauty is universal. There IS no standard as far as I'm concerned. Often, while browsing these hair forums and videos in search of new ideas and styles for MY type of hair, I'll come across the video of some poor, misguided soul talking about how unattractive, matted, uncontrollable, ugly, and unmanageable "nappy" hair is. While this way of life isn't for the faint of heart, I've seen some busted, bunk ass relaxers in-need and weaves myself, so the grass isn't always greener. Trust, I've been there! (On the relaxer side). I've also visited forums that showcase perfectly coiffed and well maintained natural Black hair.
We need to get off this kick already... "Oh my hair is sooo pretty, cuz it's sooooft and curly. It's not kinky and nappy and it straigtens with the flatiron so easily..." So effing what? The only person concerned with the texture of our hair is US. It's JUST HAIR. If you want to burn the life out of your hair follicles keeping it straight or wear weaves, it's your prerogative, but don't think for a minute that there is ONE SPECIFIC way that is BETTER than the other. It's neverending. I would actually die from shock, if we all sighed a collective, "fuck this" and decided not to give this issue a second thought. To stop letting men, insecure women, one dimensional hairstylists and experts tell us we aren't worthy if our hair isn't straightened or cascading down our back, because trust, most MEN won't kick a woman out of the sack bald, natural, or weaved!
While I didn't see this episode in question featured on Tyra Banks' talk show recently(thank goodness), I did find a clip and commetary regarding the themed What Is Good Hair? The woman who opined that her relaxed hair had a "white girl flow" was an ignoramus and I feel sorry of her ilk, because they're obviously grappling with coming to terms with loving and living for themselves and quite frankly, I don't want or desire to have a "white girl flow" thank you very much, and KUDOS to the loc'ed woman in pink! I also feel bad for and am amused by Black women who think wearing your hair loc'ed or natural doesn't translate to the corporate/working world successfully and that it's inappropriate. Many of the Black women I work with are loc'd and natural. Their hair is braided, puffed, worn in buns, and curly. The textures are different, the styles are well-maintained and we are glorious. My hair is hot. I take good care of it. It's clean, and I keep it neatly done in all its grand kinkiness. Natural hair is just as versatile as relaxed or weaved hair.

We need to figure out how to get over it and learn how to care for our natural hair (whether you choose to straigten it or not). At the end of the day, having "good hair" is the least of our worries as Black women. Please yourselves and stop trying to feed into the B.S. and flagrant smear campaign against us, telling us our beauty isn't universal, multi-faceted, and vast... straight and nappy. Give it up! Because if we don't start accepting who we are, the others are going to continue to dictate (successfully) how we should look, and they're going to continue to tack on prerequisites when describing Black beauty, telling you that you aren't bad looking for a "DARK girl" or "She's pretty for a BLACK girl"also, "I'd date a black woman if she looked like Halle, Alicia, or Beyonce" ... as well as my personal favorite (usually from my own),

"Your hair is so cute! Even though it's natural, it's not all nappy and matted. It looks soooo cute!"

and foolishness of the like. My older sister, who has a relaxer, has always kept her beautifully coiffed hair short. And it suits her wonderfully! I couldn't imagine it any other way. In the past, she has heard some backhanded comments from other Black women, who aren't confident enough to wear there hair short, so they made stupid remarks about sporting short or closely cropped hair. If you want to wear your hair a specific way, do it without apology or explanation because at the end of the day, when European and White-American women are bleaching the hell out of their hair, they aren't giving a DAMN What WE or their folks think, they're solely doing what pleases THEM and theirs. Just let it GO ladies!

*Smoking woman painting by Sandra Knuyt

April 27, 2009

Make-up Booty

Most people who've read this blog know that I'm a hardcore product/cosmetic/toiletry junkie, foodie, and self-described Sensualist, who partakes in Spa Days on a consistent basis, and is obssessed with skin among other things. If I find something that works well (for me anyway), then I like to share what I know. I've used a wide array of products and haven't really mentioned anything as of late. Well, let's get back into sharing ...
I recently acquired Sephora's new (to me at least) Color Play Palette. For $22.00 (they claim it has a $120.00 value), you get 36 eyeshadows, 12 different lip glosses to play with (I like to mix), 3 blushes, and bronzer. Applicators are included, but I would disregard those and use your own brushes if you have them. Free applicators rarely ever do anything but frustrate you. In any event, I'm impressed. It's a cheaper alternative to M.A.C.'s and Bobbi Brown's respective limited edition palettes, and the eye colors work similarly to Cover Girl's Eye Enhancers. A couple of which I also own. For $22.00 I think they work pretty good, and you get a lot of product to work with. I'm a firm believer in finding cheaper alternatives to the expensive brands of makeup. The drugstore has a wide array of options... particularly Loreal's H.I.P. line... There is actually a Loreal boutique at one of my local mallss, and they offer more than what you'd be able to find at the drugstore. Anyone who whines about not liking makeup or wearing makeup, or liking anyone who wears makeup etc., please kindly put a sock in it. Cosmetics are fun to play with and there's nothing wrong with a woman experimenting and enhancing her best features. It's not about hiding or covering anything up. It's about proper application and having a great time with different colors. Sometimes I watch the YouTube makeup tutorials, and the comments are ridiculous. People will watch all 10 minutes worth of a woman applying eye makeup and then will opine "She wears waaay too much makeup, she still looks ugly" or random foolishness of the like. Anyway, I tend to focus on my eyes, usually with black mascara and liner (sometimes dark navy blue cream liner), and am just getting back into wearing sheer but highly pigmented eye colors, because I'm finding the options fun and they're better than the basic matte options, plus they look great... especially on darker skin. Sephora's play palette is hot and great for the Spring/Summer. That is all. Enjoy!