LIVING

Representation Matters

11.09.18

The 2018 midterm elections are finally over (sort of), and I don’t know about all of you, but I really, REALLY needed to take a moment to recover. The current climate of this country has taken a massive toll on my both my physical and mental health, and I woke up post election feeling extremely sad – hello ANOTHER mass shooting?! Yet, I also finally feel a little hopeful. Among other major firsts, for the first time in history, over 100 women were elected to the US House of Representatives. Out of these 100, there were Muslim women, and Native American women, and Black women, and gay women, and young women! You see, out of the many negative things that have surfaced with this administration, one thing in particular keeps nagging at me- the overwhelming backlash against immigrants, minorities and women in our country. Depending on the day, it seems one disenfranchised group or another is being attacked. And it has completely defeated my soul and my spirit. Some days it feels downright criminal to just exist in my black, immigrant, female skin. One look at the powers that be made it clear- people of color, especially women, needed more representation in order to make a change. For me, I feel the dire importance of this not only personally, but professionally as well.

As most of you know by now, I am a black woman who decided to take my appreciation for color and love of painting, and turn it into a profession as a hair colorist. For some reason this still throws some people off. Though my clients are comprised of women (and a few men) of every race and color, it still somehow surprises people that someone who looks like me decided to take this career path. Looking back, I suppose I can see why- there were no other examples.

When I was first hired as a shampoo assistant after beauty school almost 2 decades ago at Frederic Fekkai in New York City, there were less than half a dozen black employees out of hundreds of people. Two of us were shampoo assistants, one a styling assistant, and two were in management. None were actually elevated at the time to the position of stylist or colorist. While getting my license at the Aveda Institute in Soho, I determined that if I were to actually try and make a career out of hair, that my focus was to be in color. I was a strong stylist and I could do a mean blow dry (still can BTW), but I was a terrible hair cutter. I would literally hide in the bathroom whenever haircuts came in on the days we took client models, and wait until someone walked in requesting hair color or highlights. Though it was required that we be competent in both, when describing it to my teacher I would compare it to forcing a painter to be a sculpture. I simply didn’t easily have access to that skill of being able to see a clients face and determine what shape would best suit them. But I can immediately and innately take one look at their hair, see a canvas, and know what picture I wanted to paint. Combined with the fact that chemistry had always been one of my strongest and favorite subjects to study, I was immediately a hair color nut. I had found my gift. I was meant to be a colorist.

My teachers saw this passion, and encouraged it. Even all those years ago, barely in my 20s, I knew that I had a special connection to haircolor. It came effortlessly, and it gave me so much joy. So when career day came and a representative from Fekkai came to our school to recruit assistants, even though we were told it was a lofty goal being it was the best salon in NYC, I knew that I had to try and expand on my love of color and attempt to get hired there. And what really sealed the deal? The recruiter mentioned that colorists made way more money than stylists. He basically had me at hello. Saddled with debt and student loans from undergrad at Spelman and beauty school, my mind was made up. I would do anything in my power to become a successful colorist at the top salon in the country at the time. Because at Spelman, we were taught that our rightful place in the world was wherever we wanted to be. So, you know, aim low. LOL.

I got hired, was totally pumped, and thinking I was well on my way. Imagine my horror when on my first day, I was promptly handed a horrific nylon (read:plastic) navy-blue vest/apron thing that signaled to all the posh upper Eastside clients that I was the lowest person on the totem pole- a shampoo assistant. And the pay? About $3.36/hour, plus tips and commission on product sales. To this day I still don’t know how that shit was legal. Talk about a rude awakening! For months I was taught the specific shampoo technique that Fekkai wanted us to use on clients. And I was told the only way to get a shot at the next level of assisting was to sell products and meet goals that for me were next to impossible. Any of my clients will attest that the last thing I would be described as is a product pusher. So it was with mortification that I realized the only way to get to be a color assistant was to sell sell sell. You also had to wait until there was actually an opening in the color department to be an assistant there, and that only happened if one of the assistants got promoted to colorist. The assistant program was rigorous and they made it clear – a promotion was never guaranteed.

Between all the hurdles, the heavy feeling of defeat before I even began, and NEVER seeing anyone who looked like me elevated and promoted to the position I one day dreamed to attain, some days that mountain seemed impossible to climb. Even though I forged some of my most fulfilling friendships during that time with all the other assistants (many of us are still in touch today!) and have beautiful and hilarious memories, my frustration was endless, and they were many days I went home in tears. It was actually on one of those tear-filled, feeling sorry for myself walks home that I ran into Myka on Madison Avenue, and reconnected as friends. My eyes were literally so blurry from crying that I didn’t see her and I walked right into her! To this day it is still one of the best examples of your worst day turning into your biggest gift;)

Fast forward almost 20 years, with a ton of hard work, 2 incredible mentors- the color director of Fekkai Constance Hartnett and then Serge Normant, taking a chance and putting their faith and trust in me, many friends in the industry trusting my talent and willing to share and grow their businesses with me, and fighting for myself every step of the way, I can say not only did I finally get that first promotion, but now have a career that fills me with endless pride. There are SO many crazy things that happened along the way, and one day I will write and blog about them all, but for now I will say that it was never easy. In fact, some days it was downright maddening. I got huge pushback from the higher ups at Fekkai, who I’m certain just couldn’t picture someone like me as a lucrative member of the color department. One in particular spent so much time scowling and looking down at me while clutching her clipboard that I always felt if I made one wrong move I would be tossed out on the street. (Sidebar- to this day I think about that clipboard and wonder what the hell was on it.;)).

I fought like hell to be taken seriously, and was extra hard on myself if every single client I did was not a perfect outcome. I just knew that once I got the opportunity, there was no room for error or anything less than excellence. I also got constant surprised and/or skeptical looks from some clients who were put on my schedule who were not expecting their blonde specialist to be a black woman. In one particular incident, I was sent on an emergency job to match the hair color for a body double that needed to stand in for a client that was shooting a commercial. After driving in extreme heat and traffic to the body double’s apartment in the Valley, I stood at her door with all my supplies while she questioned rudely “YOU’RE her colorist?!” After I stood in shock and finally responded with a simple, “sure am”, she reluctantly let me into her apartment so I could begin what ended up being one of the most horrific nights of my career. She questioned every move I made. “What are you mixing? What are you doing now? Are you sure that’s right??” 5 hours later I sat slumped in my car unable to drive home completely mentally and physically exhausted from it all. (I’m also still traumatized at the level of filth that was in her place. Her 7 cats basically made her studio apartment their bathroom and I’m pretty sure I gagged the entire 5 hours I was there.) Thank goodness THAT no longer happens. Because of Instagram, there’s no longer that mystery and everyone knows who they’re about to meet.I also had some assistants along the way that I know had to get used to working for a black woman. It was a power dynamic that just wasn’t seen in many high end salons, or the world at large for that matter.

With all of that being my personal experience, it definitely threw me off guard when a few days ago, my current assistant of over 3 years Ashley, who is an amazing Latina woman of Guatemalan heritage, also from a family of immigrants, expressed how grateful she was for her job and to have someone take a chance on her. It was the first time in almost 20 years that I realized that I had reached a true full circle moment. It was also the first time one of my assistants acknowledged and recognized that by working for me, it was possible for someone like her to make it too.

I share all of these personal memories to say, representation matters. We all need to acknowledge that this country consists of many people of beautiful, varying cultures. And we all need to see ourselves reflected, whether in a job in a senior position, or on the TV or movie screen. We need to feel like we are part of the story too, and that we all matter. That it’s not such a far-fetched idea to want to exist, and succeed, in places where there is literally no sign of us or examples of us. Newly elected US Representative Ayanna Presley said it best Tuesday night after becoming Massachusetts’ 1st Black Woman elected to Congress. She stated, “In order to be a 2nd, there has to be a first.” Here’s to all those working together to pave the way for many more 2nds.

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BEAUTY / LIVING / WELLNESS

LEVEL UP: SAKARA DETOX

10.23.18

If you follow us on Instagram, then you know that I did a 5 day detox last week from New York based Sakara, an organic meal delivery program based on a whole-food, plant-rich diet. Their philosophy is that it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle and I’m totally down with the lifestyle they are promoting.

You can order their 3 day or 5 day  Signature Program or do their Level II Detox an expert level cleanse that eliminates meat, dairy, gluten, all sugar (including fruit), nuts, soy, nightshades (white potatoes, bell peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, chili peppers), pesticides, harmful chemicals, GMOs, toxins, alcohol and caffeine. In addition to the programs above they just released a 10 Day Reset which contains supplements and recipes for your to do a DIY Detox at home for about $20/day.

photo by Sakara

Because I already eat organic and plant based (unless I’m in France), I chose the Level II Detox. After a fun filled Summer fueled by French wine and cheese, I needed a quick reset before the Holidays come around. You see I have a thing with always being able to fit into my skinny jeans. They are my  weight barometer. I don’t care how much I weigh, I pay attention to how my clothes fit and how I feel. Once they stop fitting or I start to have brain fog I know it’s time to dig deeper and do a clean out. Read More

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LIVING

GO WITH THE FLOW

10.11.18

Periods. I’ve been having one for 31 years. And during those 31 years I have used thousands of tampons and had countless situations where I bled all over something that I should not have bled on. Be it bed sheets or bus seats chances are if you talk to anyone who is female she has at least one memorable period story that involves her having to tie a jacket/shirt/scarf/whatever around her waist whilst backing out of a room.

Meanwhile here we are going around like “no big deal”, complaining about our periods while still attempting to keep up our regular routines. We’ve been told that we can (and should!) do it all during our periods. Sports tampons, invisible pads, period panties…It makes me wonder what we really should be doing during our periods. I mean it’s a pretty significant thing that’s happening, why the effort to make it seem like it’s not?

Any woman can tell you that it is a big deal. A huge one in fact. Trust me when I say that if men had to bleed 5 days out of every month there would be time off, private clubs designed for just that purpose and insurance would cover the cost of tampons and Advil.

So, how did we, as women, become disconnected from the sacredness of our  cycles, and how can we change the way we experience our periods?

The word menstruation is derived from Greek and Latin words meaning month and moon. Menstruation not only ties us to nature, but it gives us insight into our health and chakra systems. Early cultures respected and appreciated this time of the month and it’s connection to nature. They paid attention to the effect of the lunar and seasonal cycles on our emotions, energy levels and psychological states and learned how to create balance in all three. There was a focus on self care that empowered women of all ages to honor their bodies and make choices that put self first. It was a time of purification, rejuvenation, creativity and rest. In some cultures women were relieved of all duties and instead gathered together, elevating their collective energy, resting and connecting to their divine feminine energy.

Prior to electricity, women ovulated according to their physiological and hormonal response to the amount of light in the night sky. Our biological blueprint is to ovulate when there is the most light in the night sky – during the full moon. This then leads to us bleeding with the new moon. We have a physiological feedback loop in our bodies that regulates our melatonin production, which influences many things including the hormones that ripen and release an egg from our ovary. With the introduction of electricity and the resulting light pollution, as well as the physical stresses of modern life and chemical pollutants in the environment, women now bleed and ovulate not only at different times to each other (unless they live together), but also at different times to the moon’s signals.

Women go through four distinct hormonal trends every month just like the moon, which also has four phases. Some weeks we’re more creative; others are best for planning while some call for rest and retreat. Although they don’t alway sync up, knowing what phase you are in can be helpful and can help you better harness your energy.

The four phases are:

Menstrual (New Moon): Rest, reflect and set intentions

Follicular (Waxing Moon): Begin taking action, initiate creative projects

Ovulation (Full Moon): Present, be in front of people, collaborate. Shine.

Luteal (Waning Moon): Complete tasks, stay focused, finish projects

If you aren’t sure how your cycle relates to the moon you can use the  My Moontime app to chart it or click here to see the moon phases for each month. To find out more about the menstrual phases and how they affect mood you can download the MyFlo app.

The two most common cycles are:

New Moon (White Moon) Cycle

The New Moon is viewed as a time of reflection and introspection. Women who have their periods around the new moon have historically been linked to having strong intuition and the urge to withdraw from the world. They feel that they’ve already given the world all they can give, energetically, over the past month and choose to withdrawal for the week, focusing on themselves and their needs. If this is you, you follow the natural cycles of the earth. Your body and spirit withdraw into rest and inward focus when the moon goes dark, and when the moon is full and bright, so are you.

Full Moon (Red Moon) Cycle

Women who get their period around the full moon are on the Red Moon cycle. Historically, the Red Moon cycle belonged to the medicine women, the midwives and the wisdom keepers of the community. If you bleed with the full moon, your energy is focused on self-actualization, and on using that self-actualization to empower other women.

Don’t fret if your cycle doesn’t fall into one of these two categories. As I mentioned earlier, due to our modern lifestyles, and staying up late scrolling Instagram, checking emails, binging on Netflix exposure to light women tend to bleed at different times during the months, so if your cycle isn’t synced up with the moon phases don’t despair. There are lots of ways you can bring yourself back into sync.

  1. Pay Attention 

Start noticing the cycles of the moon and pay attention to how you feel during each cycle. Sometimes just this simple acknowledgement creates a shift and a stronger connection with the moons energy. Keeping a chart of your period and the phases of the moon is helpful. You will start to notice a pattern of emotions and physical changes that occur at the same time each month that will show you your cyclical nature. Knowing what to expect allows you to plan accordingly and create situations and rituals to support yourself.

2. Stop Sleeping With Your Phone/Computer/iPad

It used to be that humans were only exposed to sunlight during the day and to the moon at night. With the invention of electricity, our exposure to light and dark shifted and now we can be exposed to light 24/7. One of the biggest disrupters are our devices which emit endocrine disrupting blue light. This light exposure compromises the pineal glands ability to create melatonin which can throw off not only our ovulatory rhythm but our circadian rhythyms making it difficult to get a good nights sleep.

3. Sleep in the Dark

I mean can’t see your hand in front of your face darkness. The darker your room is the more melatonin release will be triggered. Then if you’d like on the full moon leave a nightlight on and your blinds open to let the light of the moon in. This will encourage your body to ovulate on the full moon.

4. Adopt A Moon Ritual

I am a big believer in rituals around both the new and full moons. It doesn’t have to be a big ordeal – lighting a candle and writing in a journal is plenty. Sometimes my moon ritual is simply to be present in gratitude while snuggling with Harris. Typically the New Moon is a time for reflection and intention setting while the Full Moon is a time of gratitude for all that you have created. Look back on your intentions you have set on the new moon and see how far you have come. Release anything that is no longer serving you while bringing forward all that is serving you well. Full moon is also a great time for moon bathing – sitting outside under the light of the moon and soaking up all her energy.

As for myself, I have found a tremendous benefit in going along with the natural energy of the our environment. Instead of pushing myself outwards during the times when I feel withdrawn, I listen to my needs and adjust accordingly. This in turn makes me more productive and focused when I am naturally supposed to be. Having a period is just part of a cycle, but knowing when it’s coming and what phase I’m in when it’s here empowers me to embrace my intuitive feminine nature and literally go with the flow.

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LIVING

a bit about us

09.13.18

We recently realized that some of our newer followers might not know that much about us and Highbrow Hippie so we figured it’s a good time to reintroduce ourselves! Kadi and I have been friends for over 15 years and were both sales associates at the same clothing store in Atlanta, where we attended Spelman College.

Both of us have spent the past two decades in the beauty industry. After finishing at Parsons School of Design in Paris I got my start in beauty working for the worlds only Beauty Futurologist doing trend forecasting. Kadi started her journey at the Aveda Institute in New York where she first fell in love with hair color. In reality our roots in beauty began long before that. Kadi was always doing hair in her dorm room at Spelman and I spent childhood summers in Pittsburgh with my cousin taking trips to Pharmor; the local pharmacy. We’d stock up on Neutrogena and nail polish and spend the afternoon painting our nails with masks on our faces watching The Young and the Restless with my Grandmother.

After not seeing one another for years, one night in 2002 we ran into each other on Madison Avenue. I was working with the beauty trend forecaster and Kadi was assisting at Frederik Fekkai. We discovered we lived around the corner from each other in Brooklyn, made a date the next night and have been drinking and creating together ever since…

Oh snap. Baby Harris is home with Daddy! We out in ‘dese streets’. ✨✨ (we’ll be home in an hour ). #girlsnight #holidays #highbrowhippie

Since that time we’ve both gone on to launch businesses in the beauty space – after living in Europe for 4 years, I came back in 2009 and opened WAX, Atlanta’s first all natural waxing studio and then BUFF, it’s first non-toxic nail salon. Kadi made a move to LA from NY where she quickly became one of the most in demand colorists in the city creating enviable shades of color known for their natural look.

We started Highbrow Hippie in 2012 as a lifestyle blog focused on beauty, wellness and living. We both had clients asking us so many questions about what we were wearing, where were we going and our thoughts on various things we decided it would be fun to blog about it. We were really enthusiastic about it at first, posting weekly and writing a lot, but then life kicked in and things slowed.

Between me running WAX and BUFF and Kadi being busy building her clientele, time for blogging moved to the bottom of the list and before we knew it months would pass without a post. Then we ramped up blogging again, only to be slowed down in 2014 when we decided to open a physical location and were approached by an investor. That was a massive project (read more about it here!) and there was barely enough time to manage our day jobs while dedicating time to our potential new space at 1346 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, let alone blog.

So we decided to pause on blogging (hello Instagram!) since part of our launch plan was to redo our website and poured all of our energy into our new opportunity.

Sadly at the end of 2017, our investor decided to sell the building that we had secured, rezoned and designed for her along with the building permit we had secured. To say we were devastated is an understatement, but 8 months later we were finally able to settle with our old investor and now are free to follow the path we set out on 4 years ago, but this time we get to hold the pursestrings and thus make all the decisions ourselves.

It’s been a huge learning experience for both us as. As seasoned entrepreneurs we made sure that we dotted every I and crossed every T, but we learned that people with nothing to lose have a tendency to act that way and that just because someone has money does not mean they should be an investor in your business. In the end, the person who should have been our biggest supporter ended up being our biggest detractor. Only she knows why, I gave up trying to figure out why people do what they do years ago, but bottom line we’re better off without her.

In the meantime, we’re back to blogging again, picking up the pieces of our attempt to work with an investor and going it alone in the meantime. We hope you follow along to see how we navigate living life perfectly undone being entrepreneurs, being besties, being women all while being our Highbrow Hippie selves.

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BEAUTY / LIVING / TRAVEL / WELLNESS

c’est la vie

07.24.18
Biafine - A staple in all French beauty cabinets. A plant based cream used to treat burns, it’s multi purpose and can be used to sooth dry and irritated skin by stimulating new skin growth. I use it on my heels at night. Patyka - Energising Eye Gel smooths out wrinkles and fine lines and brightens the eye area. Have never tried, but I like the fact it has a metal roller ball applicator. Dermobianae - Hair vitamins. Stay tuned to see how these work…. Nuxe body oil - Because Summer glow sometimes needs assistance. Plus it smells great. Nuxe - Am a fan of natural deodorants (see post about my faves here!) so am always on the lookout for a new addition. Homeoplasmine: A homeopathic ointment made for skin irritations. Formulated to relieve irritation of the nasal mucous membranes associated with colds and rhinitis, scratches, grazes, bruises and cracks of the skin—especially dry, chapped lips. I use it on Harris whenever he gets a bump or a dry patch of skin.
Biafine – A staple in all French beauty cabinets. A plant based cream used to treat burns, it’s multi purpose and can be used to sooth dry and irritated skin by stimulating new skin growth. I use it on my heels at night and/or after any chemical facial treatments. Patyka – Energising Eye Gel smooths out wrinkles and fine lines and brightens the eye area. Have never tried, but I like the fact it has a metal roller ball applicator.  Dermobianae – Hair vitamins. Stay tuned to see how these work. Nuxe Body Oil – Because Summer glow sometimes needs assistance. Plus it smells great. Nuxe Deodorant – Am a fan of natural deodorants (see post about my faves here!) so am always on the lookout for a new addition. Homeoplasmine: A homeopathic ointment made for skin irritations. Formulated to relieve irritation of the nasal mucous membranes associated with colds and rhinitis, scratches, grazes, bruises and cracks of the skin—especially dry, chapped lips. I use it on Harris whenever he gets a bump or a dry patch of skin.

 

 

Back in 2000 I lived in Paris for a year while studying at Parsons School of Design. On the weekends (okay, not EVERY weekend), instead of recovering from being out at one of the various clubs, I would spend the day wandering all around the city. Popping in and out of shops, brassaries and of course, the pharmacy.

French women are some of the chicest around and their beauty game, while nonchalant and uncontrived, is unparalleled. European women in general know how to do it. They don’t obsess over every little line or imperfection, preferring to age with grace and stand strong in the knowledge that true beauty comes from within.

They focus on living with enjoyment and savoring life.  Pausing to enjoy a coffee with a friend in the middle of the day, taking time to spend with family on Sunday’s when the only things open are museums and restaurants. Participating in all the culture and beauty that surrounds them on a daily basis.

Being dropped into that culture in my twenties was a gift. I knew no one and spoke just a few words of French. I had only been to Europe once before, but I knew it was my kinda place when I saw there was a smoking section on the back of the plane.

You see, at that time, this girl smoked Gauloises, stayed up until all hours of the night, sketched perspectives of rooms and had decided that an MBA at Columbia or Wharton wasn’t the path I wanted to take. I wanted to explore the world, be creative and try something new. Paris gave me all that and more. So I left my job, my family and my boyfriend and headed to Paris looking for adventure and ended up finding myself.

I got comfortable with a lack of personal space, of not being understood and being okay with it and of being stared at while I waited in line at the Tabac in my Birkenstocks. Apparently they weren’t deemed chic then, but I’ll just claim being ahead of the pack.

Living in Paris taught me the following things:

  1.  All things in moderation.
  2. Smoking might not kill you.
  3.  Fishnet tights with trainers can be chic as long as you are wearing a trench coat.
  4.  Eating dinner before 8 PM makes no sense.
  5.  A diet of bread, cheese and wine is okay sometimes. See #1.
  6.  Use a cloth napkin at every meal and never let another paper napkin enter my home.

But most of all it taught me that true beauty isn’t found in potions or serums, but in experiencing life with all it’s twists and turns and unexpected challenges. Real lasting beauty comes through self knowledge, confidence and the freedom found in being yourself.

So don’t worry so much about the bags under your eyes, or the extra wrinkle that wasn’t there last year. Believe me when I say that there will be more and with each one know that you have lived another year,  expressed yourself freely and if those laugh lines deepen, so be it. At least you were smiling.

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