Sex and Sexuality: Are you having good sex?

Photography, Hair and Make-up: NiaZamar 

Photography, Hair and Make-up: NiaZamar 

“Take a day to heal from the lies you’ve told yourself and the ones that have been told to you.” 
― Maya Angelou

Lets talk about sex baby? Let's talk about you and me! Lets talk about it! We don't talk about healthy sex from a feminist perspective often enough. How many of us were taught to feel shame around our bodies and the pleasure they require? 

For this episode of Sunday-Self Love we decided to have a ladies tea time talk about how we learned to have autonomy and control over our sexual experiences. We compared our concepts of virginity and how our parents impacted our understanding of pleasure and sex. Watch the full video for details but for those of you who want the basic tips for how to have better sex, here are my top 5. 

 

“The erotic has often been misnamed by men and used against women. It has been made into the confused, the trivial, the psychotic, the plasticized sensation. For this reason, we have often turned away from the exploration and consideration of the erotic as a source of power and information, confusing it with its opposite, the pornographic. But pornography is a direct denial of the power of the erotic, for it represents the suppression of true feeling. Pornography emphasizes sensation without feeling.

The erotic is a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings. It is an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire.”


― Audre LordeUses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power

1. Explore your body with your partner: In the last 4 years of life I have started having the best sex ever. Why? Because I have learned the value of playful and inquisitive exploration with my partner. What does that look like? You should self define how you want to explore but in my experience that means actually getting in there and touching all the different spots you may like and seeing how it feels. This may look like turning it into a fun game with treats for finding pleasure spots. This usually feels best when there is laugher and fun involved.  

2. Get comfortable with the truth: So many of us are taught to fake orgasms, let me be the one to tell you: Healthy sexuality requires honesty. Whether it is a long term partnership, a friend, lover or one night stand its important to be honest with your self first and your sexual partner regarding your needs. Healthy sex is part of your self-love journey. It gets better the more courageous you are with using your voice.

3. Work to heal past trauma: Many of us are survivors of sexual trauma which makes sex a trigger in and of its self. As a survivor, I have learned that the first two points are essential. I NEED my partners to take it slow with me and allow me to introduce sexual acts at my own pace in order to feel safe. I would also suggest doing work outside the bed room for healing such as seeing a therapist, spiritual healer, energy worker or implementing journaling about your sexuality into your self care. What ever works best for you, work on healing your trauma outside of the bed room to release some of that painful energy. 

4. Let go of should: Let go of value judgments regarding what is wrong or right. Many of us are taught self-love looks like withholding sex.  Or we are taught good sex is pleasing only to the other person. Often sex is taught from a very penis centred perspective. Great sex is one that leaves you satisfied, protected from HIV/STIs and feeling taken care of. It is a mutual exchange of energy between you and a partner. 

5. Your body, mind, heart and soul are top priority: Many of us are taught it is selfish to prioritize our need when in reality it is self-ful. You need to be filled in order to give or share any aspect of your self with your partner. Healthy and pleasurable sex will not ask you to sacrifice any aspect of your being to enjoy. 

 

Communication and transparency is the key to making shifts in your sex life. Hopefully these tips are helpful and support you on your self-love journey. 

 

With Love, 

 

 

International Womens Day Love Letter to the Sisters

Make-up and Photography by: NiaZamar   Model: Lereen Francois

Make-up and Photography by: NiaZamar 

Model: Lereen Francois

Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.

-Maya Angelou
 

I wondered to my self what would I say to celebrate this day, what would I share with my sisters that was meaningful enough to honour them. The answer as per usual was, Love. What I know how to offer best and honour is my own heart and the love it willing to give. This is for all the ladies who have ever felt like not enough, too much or simply didn't know where they fit. 

 


Dear sister, 

I love you. You may be wondering how I can love you without knowing who you are, but my love is unconditional. Love is not based off of doing or being anything for approval, it simply is. Love is knowing that the same divine energy that lives in me is also in you and we are forever connected as one. I tell you this because like you I have felt like not enough. Like I couldn't get it right. Nothing I did seemed enough to receive the love I was looking for. I wanted the affirmation of my lovers, family friends and peers to sooth the voice inside of me that told me that simply as I am I could not be loved. I still struggle with that voice. But I want you to know right here, right now that voice is lying to you. You have always been enough. If you did nothing more today, if this was all you contributed to the world you would be enough and so worthy of love. That smile you share with your loved ones, crooked or straight, your enough. The days you can't get out of bed because the world is too hard or the days you wake with the sun hustling hard, both those days, you are enough. Fat, skinny, tall , short all the variations or your corporal self is beautifully enough. 

Self Love is the daily exercise of remending your self you don't have to do anything to deserve love. Not a solitary thing. Self- care is the realization that the world profits off your destruction so it is self- preservation to be proactive in caring for your mind, body, soul and heart. Be good to you because you are the only human with you forever and you need you. 

With soo much love, 

Afro-Futurism, The Blue Print to freedom.

Make-up and Photography by NiaZamar 

Make-up and Photography by NiaZamar 

"Afrofuturism is an intersection of imagination, technology, the future, and liberation. “I generally define Afrofuturism as a way of imagining possible futures through a black cultural lens,” says Ingrid LaFleur, an art curator and Afrofuturist.” 
― Ytasha L. WomackAfrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture

 

I am a Jamaican born women, raised in Toronto and currently living in Atlanta, Georgia for a few months. Today is January 20th 2017 and it is the inauguration day for a president many of us have no interest in being lead by. I started the week energized by my attendance at the Rustin Lorde Breakfast held here annually in ATL on Martin Luther King Day. I write this current blog post in preparation for Black History Month to honour those who have come before me. I share this to contextualize the mental space that I am currently in. 

My experience of Black history has often been one that focuses primarily on the war on African people and the slave trade. So I have begun to think about Blackness as a whole and the freedom offered to us within Afro-Futurism. Creating art representative of a world we have never lived in before is ultimate freedom. 

Fantasy is totally wide open; all you really have to do is follow the rules you've set. - Octavia Butler  

As we prepare ourselves for a new political climate and dream of new ways to attain freedom, I think about what life would be like if we not only looked at Black History but Black Future. In so many of our Black Liberation movements we ask ourselves how have our elders done things in the past? It seems that we try to study the movements of Assata Shakur, Black Panthers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. in hopes of discovering perfect blue prints. I find myself wondering what it would look like if we began to build our own blue prints off a world we have never lived in. What if imagination guided our way to freedom?

Make-up and Photography by NiaZamar 

Make-up and Photography by NiaZamar 

"How do you know I'm real? I'm not real. I'm just like you. You don't exist in this society. If you did people wouldn't be seeking equal rights. You're not real. If you were you'd have some status among the nations of the world. So we're both myths. I do not come to you as a reality; I come to you as a myth. Because that's what black people are. Myths. I came from a dream that black man dreamed long ago. I'm actually a present sent to you by your ancestors." --Sun Ra (from: Space Is the Place, 1974

What if our main institutions focused more on the mind capacity of the people of the African Diaspora. 

If you ask me the future I am manifesting includes:

1. Health: Access to health care is not a luxury only for those fortunate enough to be born into capitalistic societies, but is equitably distributed. Grocery stores offer quality food to all neighbourhoods for affordable rates because the state understands access to quality fruits and vegetables as a human right. Diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, fibroids and so many others are no longer thrown around as casual afflictions, but are acted upon with the same urgency as cancer and other non racialized diseases. Social Determinants of health are no longer used as line items in grants but actually seen as an investment in holistic health. Indigenous and African teachings are valued as equal medical options to western medicine for those needing insurance  access health care. 

Black people are able to live free of fear that they will be attacked mentally, emotionally and physically in all institutions such as the "justice" system, health care, education and economics.  

In this future we no longer need to yell Black Lives Matter only to be responded to that All Lives Matter... The assumption that all lives matter is not used as a condescending act but one to actively create change in legislation, policy and institutions as a whole.

People as a whole are provided circumstances that allow for healthy minds, bodies and souls. 

2. Education: Education is returned back to its true roots as intended by the African people who founded the first university. Post secondary education is used as a space to cultivate true critical thought. Students spend precious hours challenged to develop new ideas instead of regurgitation. Education is affordable and not used as an elite space to further disenfranchise those who are cash poor and racialized. Entry into institutions are based off of interest and display of critical thought. Those who enrol in post-secondary education are not seen as above other forms of education such as the trades but simply part of a well organized system of skilled workers working to develop new ways of being. White supremacy, racism and misogyny have no space in education as teachers will come from all walks of life.   

3. Family: Family is no longer constructed by limiting ideals around blood and gender but the limitless capacity of Love. We will be able to self identify as the gender we choose with no questions and enter into family contracts with all parties we see fit, based on love and and not state governing policy. Socially gendered fluidity and sexuality will be accepted as part of the health of body autonomy. Children will be adopted and born into families with parents that love them ranging from same gender couples to differing gender couples and it will not be a point of ridicule. This infinite amount of love will be rejoiced within our communities and celebrated for the diverse experience and freedom it offers our children. The shift in other institutions, such as the end of the prison industrial complex; and rise in equal pay for Black women to be the same of a white man doing equal work will allow for stronger family unities with present parents of sound mind and heart. Children will be loved as abundantly as intended. 

“I am black; I am in total fusion with the world, in sympathetic affinity with the earth, losing my id in the heart of the cosmos...I am black, not because of a curse, but because my skin has been able to capture all the cosmic effluvia. I am truly a drop of sun under the earth.” ― Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks

4. Spirituality: All who practice spiritual teachings whether Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Vodun, Santeria or any other practice are free to do so without ridicule or attack. Spirituality is seen as a guiding principle to an individuals lifestyle rather then used as tools to discredit their legitimacy. Afo-sprituality and all religions that are racialized are no longer used in fear mongering tactics, people are able to see the connecting principles of each practice and build respect for their bothers and sisters based off of this. Liberation and Freedom movements are able to learn from the guiding principles of spiritual teachings and expand upon them to build a holistic approach to change. 

5. Financial:  Finacial literacy and the role of money in a capitalist society are made as accessible as learning to read and write. No longer is this information reserved for the elite but for all those living and operating within capitalism; thus giving fair opportunity to leverage healing with money relationships. Those who are owed reparations for  building North America to where it is are given what is owed. Indigenous people who have never been fairly compensated for the natural resources of this land are given capital or resources equal to what would be paid for said resources today. Those who have been generationally cash poor are given the support necessary via education, health care and policy to build generational wealth and legacy for their families. No longer is all the wealth given to the 1% but equally distributed to the 99%.  We are actively working to abolish capitalism, our critical thinkers are developing new sustainable currency. 

Make-up and Photography by NiaZamar 

Make-up and Photography by NiaZamar 

“You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness. In this case, it comes from nonconformity, the courage to turn your back on the old formulas, the courage to invent the future. It took the madmen of yesterday for us to be able to act with extreme clarity today. I want to be one of those madmen. We must dare to invent the future.”--Thomas Sankara, former President of Burkino Faso
”Without an image of tomorrow, one is trapped by blind history, economics, and politics beyond our control. One is tied up in a web, in a net, with no way to struggle free. Only by having clear and vital images of the many alternatives, good and bad, of where one can go, will we have any control over the way we may actually get there in a reality tomorrow will bring all too quickly.”—Samuel R. Delany

You may believe that much of what I have written is impossible, you may wonder how society as a whole will withstand such changes but I want to remind you that anything you are able to experience in the material realm now was birthed out of the mind of a human who dreamed of a different future. Planes that allow flight, phones distributing messages on an air frequency and laptops...  all these technological advancements would have seemed impossible at the time these humans saw them in their minds eye. In my owns minds eye I see an equitable society full of love and life has taught me that all around us is the manifestation of collective conciousness.  Human beings use their minds to develop the world they live in, if we want different we must start to dream of new systems and ways of doing things. New ways of loving and being that completely turn this world as we know it on its head.... If we want different we must start to truly believe we can have it.  

 

Please dare to see the future with me. 

 

With love, 

unapologetically- T

Black Motherhood: Living with your heart outside your chest.

Make-up, Hair and Photography by NiaZamar

Make-up, Hair and Photography by NiaZamar

Black Motherhood? I sat with this concept and wondered what it meant in 2017 when a friend of mine approached me about her maternity shoot. I thought what does it mean to bring a child into the world as a Black women in 2017.... 

"The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman."
Malcolm X

As a Black women who has not birthed babies into the world I can't imagine the great joy, the great responsibility and ultimately worry being a giver of life comes with. I try to imagine how nuanced the responsibility of loving deeply, protecting deeply yet granting your child freedom to a childhood must feel. What does it mean to personally navigate misogynoir while raising a child with a healthy mind, body and soul. As a Black women I must confess the act of staying healthy holistically is a lot of work.   

I think about the Black mothers of television, what did motherhood seem to mean to us when we were simply imagining it? How many of us wanted to be like Aunt Viv or Clair Huxtable? 

"The Cosby Show: I'm 'In' with the 'In' Crowd (#6.3)" (1989)

Clair Hanks Huxtable: When do you feel this pressure? 
Theodore 'Theo' Huxtable: Every now and then. 
Clair Hanks Huxtable: This is not about pressure. Vanessa got drunk because she and her friends were bored, although they had television, VCR, video cassettes, audio cassettes, books... 
Dr. Heathcliff 'Cliff' Huxtable: And each other. 
Clair Hanks Huxtable: Thank you. 
Dr. Heathcliff 'Cliff' Huxtable: That they call on the phone every five minutes when they're away, yet somehow they were bored together. 
Clair Hanks Huxtable: So you see, Vanessa wasn't feeling any pressure from us. The only pressure she felt was from the people she was with.

Theodore 'Theo' Huxtable: Because of what you two have accomplished, the world expects a lot more from us than from other kids. 
Dr. Heathcliff 'Cliff' Huxtable: And that's our fault? 
Theodore 'Theo' Huxtable: Think about it, you're a doctor, Mom's a lawyer, that's a lot of pressure. 
Clair Hanks Huxtable: Theo, we never said become a doctor, become a lawyer, we say go to school, we say study, we say become something.

[last lines
Vanessa Huxtable: [takes the shot glass up to her mouth, scrunches up her face, and drinks. she expects to taste bourbon, but... 
[as her face relaxes
Vanessa Huxtable: this is tea... 
Rudy HuxtableClair Hanks HuxtableDr. Heathcliff 'Cliff' Huxtable: Gotcha! 
What happens when we are sitting with the reality of what it means to be Samaria Rice the mother of young Tamir Rice taken from us too soon? What does this harsh reality look like? How do we prepare for this? How does a Black Mother prepare her self and child for an on average mediocre health care system, educational institution and justice system 
Make-up, Hair and Photography by NiaZamar

Make-up, Hair and Photography by NiaZamar

My friend in this image has recently given birth to a beautiful baby boy. He is healthy and quit honestly a blessing to those of us allowed to love and guide him. I asked his mother what did motherhood feel like, she said "Like living with your heart outside your chest".  

I usually write to offer tips of how we could be the best version of ourself. I often want to offer tiny nuggets of information that will encourage us to love our self and each other a little more intentionally and with purpose. When I first sat to write this blog entry my thought was "I am not a mother, what can I possibly say about Black motherhood?"... 

Dear beloved reader, this is what I want to offer you: 

This is a call to action. A call to love deeper, to be present for Black Mothers. To witness their greatness and offer support. Offer your time, your ears, your affirmation, your hope. Hold your self accountable to the Black Mothers in your own life. It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a village of people to support the often primary care givers mental, emotional and holistic health. Yes, I am saying you have a responsibility to the mothers of our community. Yes, I am saying show up. When that child needs someone to have a difficult conversation with, be there. When mommy needs a moment to vent or be reminded that she is a great mother, be there. We can be better, we need to be better. 

“love. she liberated me to life, she continued to do that. and when she was in her final sickness i went out to san francisco and the doctor said she had 3 weeks to live, i asked her "would you come to north carolina?" she said yes. she had emphysema and lung cancer, i brought her to my home. she lived for a year and a half ..and when she was finally in extraneous she was on oxygen and fighting cancer for her life and i remembered her liberating me, and i said i hoped i would be able to liberate her, she deserved that from me. she deserved a great daughter and she got one. so in her last days, i said "i understand some people need permission to go… as i understand it you may have done what god put you here to do. you were a great worker, you must've been a great lover cause a lot of men and if I'm not wrong maybe a couple of woman risked their lives to love you. you were a piss poor mother of small children but a you were great mother of young adults, and if you need permission to go, i liberate you". and i went back to my house, and something said go back- i was in my pajamas, i jumped in my car and ran and the nurse said "she just gone". you see love liberates. it doesn't bind, love says i love you. i love you if you're in china, i love you if you're across town, i love you if you're in harlem, i love you. i would like to be near you, i would like to have your arms around me i would like to have your voice in my ear but thats not possible now, i love you so go. love liberates it doesn't hold. thats ego. love liberates.” ― Maya Angelou

Make-up, Hair and Photography by NiaZamar

Make-up, Hair and Photography by NiaZamar


 

When you share space with a Black women who has courageously chosen the journey of motherhood, dear beloved reader I encourage you to love her deeply, courageously, freely. 

 

 

 

 

With Love, 

Unapologetically-T 

Black. Femme. Magic. : A love letter of Affirmations

Make-up, Hair, Photography- Tanya Turton   Model- Lereen S. Francois

Make-up, Hair, Photography- Tanya Turton 

Model- Lereen S. Francois

" You've seen her naked

But have you seen her Naked

Like walls broken down Naked

Layers peeled back Naked

I'm talkin' her deepest fear Naked

Her heart's desire Naked

What keeps her up at night Naked

Her embarrassing secrets Naked

The trials of her past Naked

The little girl inside Naked

Like #vulnerability Naked

I'm talkin' #Soul Deep Naked

If you only saw her naked

Then you haven't seen her at all..."

- Lereen S. Francois

 

For this NiaZamar Impact shoot I decided to connect with another local artist Lereen S. Francois, to express the beauty that is Black Femme Magik. 

If you are new to this concept the definitions are: 

Black: Those with a particular lived experience and social location rooted in the histories of the African Diaspora. 

Femme: Those who are connected to the LGBTQ spectrum community and embody their personal power through the expression of feminine energy or presentation. 

Magic: The spiritual connection with the universe that gives one the ability to make the impossible manifest. 

Recently with the rise of mysticism and spirituality many have been discussing the magical survival of women and Black people as a whole. Jessie Williams said it well when he stated "just because we're magic doesn't mean we're not real".

Black Femmes often go unseen, become erased or silenced due to misogynoir. While holding together communities through education, arts and constant emotional labour they are taken for granted and this love is assumed of them. 

As a Black Femme I have countless personal stories in which people assumed my emotional labour was theirs for the taking. Situations where I walked in a room and made shit happen while more masculine people took the credit. 

The purpose of this piece is to highlight our presence. Each image and poem is a public love letter to all the Magical Femmes who feel erased, silenced or isolated. Each image is an affirmation of your beauty and resilience. 

You are seen.  You are loved. 

 
Make-up, Hair, Photography- Tanya Turton   Model- Lereen S. Francois

Make-up, Hair, Photography- Tanya Turton 

Model- Lereen S. Francois

I am black

I am woman

I am queer

I am here

Tonight levees broke and self love came pouring

I am black 

I am woman

I am queer

I am here

The ocean bowed as confidence washed the doubts beneath my feet

I am black 

I am woman

I am queer

I am here

The ground kissed me 

The ground applauded me

The ground thanked me for saying fuck you to footsteps of apology

I am black 

I am woman

I am queer

I am here

Make-up, Hair, Photography- Tanya Turton   Model- Lereen S. Francois

Make-up, Hair, Photography- Tanya Turton 

Model- Lereen S. Francois

 

I am black 

I am woman

I am queer

I am unapologetically here

- Lereen S. Francois

 

With Love, 

T

The Power of Branding: Carefree Black Boy Project

Hair & Make-up: Tanya Turton   Photography: Tanya Turton   Stylist: Tanya Turton 

Hair & Make-up: Tanya Turton 

Photography: Tanya Turton 

Stylist: Tanya Turton 

Last year I had the special opportunity of meeting a brilliant artist, visionary and budding entrepreneur in a program I developed and coordinated at Sketch Working Arts for artist entrepreneurs . On the first day of class he expressed he wasn't sure he would stay in the program, he hadn't yet decided what direction he wanted to grow in. I encouraged him to stay, be patient with the process and let the art lead. A year later I have received the opportunity to come full circle in that connection as I work with Jega Delisca to solidify his Glow-up. This glow up is a little different then the last because this time our focus was brand development and expression. 

For those looking to Glow-up and develop their personal brand or professional look I wanted to break down the entire process for you. 

Before we could even begin to understand what the look of the brand should be we need to first understand why the company exist, why does it even matter? 

"The Carefree Black Boy Project aims to provide virtual and physical space for black males to rethink sexuality, spirituality, mental health. The resources and conversations held in these spaces support this particular group in order to build a community concerned with art, education, healing. We will contextualize the black diaspora by dismantling stereotypes, we will dismantle stereotypes by offering resources and attention to participants of this project.

A dialogue around hyper masculinity, relationships, mental illness and the overall state of black manhood, sacred spaces that are inclusive and free of prejudice will be manifested. In order to facilitate dialogue, we have begun to ask local black men about their lives. During these interviews, each participant's experience is reviewed and renewed. By talking openly about Blackness or Masculinity, we are also learining about ourselves.

A community, a tangible or virtual village, can emerge from this effort. We strive to decolonize our own minds and to celebrate the diversity of humanity especially demonstrated in diasporic minorities. From this village founded on love, compassion, and courage, black boys will be provided with the means to embrace a holistic sense of self-hood, unhindered by social norms and derogatory stereotypes, and to unapologetically embrace one's black individuality."  

- www.carefreeblackboyproject.org

 

His before and after was not one of simply changing outfits but an energy shit. 

We had to choose an energy, we had to figure out what Jegas Ideal self would look like. As an artist we wanted to stay true to his creativity but honour his church boy beginnings. This process started with Jega answering a long list of questions and ultimately I narrowed down his answers and my expertise into the vision board below. Then we went shopping! 

The question of the day is, how do you develop an iconic brand?

1. Energy: Everything on this planet carries energy. Energy is the reason some words taste sweet and others bitter, some visuals move us to our core while others do nothing. Feelings carry energy. Everything in life has the power to move us, bore us, excite us, even change us. That is what you look for when shopping. That is how you decide what look to go for. Vision your best self, feel the energy of that moment and only purchase clothing that is inline with that energy and makes you feel how you feel when you vision your best self. 

2. Storytelling: What Story are you telling? What do you want to communicate to the world about your self and your brand? Everything in life tells a story. People will make assumptions based on your clothing and you need to be clear with your self what you want to communicate so that you are taking back your power over the story. For example, I wear very feminine clothing, short skirts and thigh highs when I facilitate or work in general. I love the story of being a powerful femme in conventional ways that says brilliant things, challenging people to believe that pretty is intelligent also. That is how I tell the story of unapologetic. Jegas story of carefree for him looked more like embodying what spirituality and self love means to him while challenging masculinity. This manifested it self with bright colours, patterns and structured lines. 

Choose your story, combine it with your energy and tell it how you want to because ultimately this only works if your story is your truth. 

3. Truth: I will keep this short and say, "real recognize real". If your brand is to be successful it must be authentic. The story, purpose and meaning must be authentic. It must be your truth. Reach deep down inside yourself, figure out what moves you. The reason you get up each day must some how be present for people to see the humanity in your image and connect. Otherwise you are just a pretty picture to look at and thats boring. Your style is simply an extension of you so be true to you boo. 

4. Confidence: I want to say go head and fake that shit, but remember what I said about truth? Confidence is the difference between people thinking you are rocking the shit out of Blue hair or them saying they liked your better before... well there people may be kind of shitty but you get my point. Confidence makes the look work, YOU make the look work, not the other way around. How do you get confidence? Write Affirmations on sticky notes about how amazing you are, try one thing daily you are afraid of, power pose, I don't know what works for you, but do something that takes you out of your comfort zone and shows you your own badassery. The shirt you love and are terrified to buy, get it and wear it at home while you get use to it. When your ready dress to the nine from head to toe in that shirt and let your confidence do the rest.  

5. Freedom: No one can free you but your self. As a artist or intra/entrepreneur you may have already taken steps to do so and believe this new look will finish the package, and it may. But Ultimately your freedom is in your own ability to get out of your own way. When your shopping, pairing outfits together or any other task, it is important to get out of your head and feel your way through this. Grant your self the freedom to be you. 

If you need more support in your glow-up process please feel free to connect with us for personalized Glow-up Classes, Here

Please watch the video below for a look at our process with Jega. 

 

With so much love,

Beauty. Freedom. Power.

Photography and Make-up: Tanya Turton   Hair and Head-wrap: Kellie Asante   Creative Direction: Tanya Turton  and Kellie Asante 

Photography and Make-up: Tanya Turton 

Hair and Head-wrap: Kellie Asante 

Creative Direction: Tanya Turton  and Kellie Asante 

It was five years ago a supervisor of mine asked what quote I lived by and I said "Freedom or Death", I didn't think much of it but the alarm of this generic prep school looking white man made it clear he had never heard someone recite these words. 

Since then the concept has evolved deeper in my mind and heart, meaning something more sacred with my own personal becoming. I live by many guiding principles such as "what would love do" and "create art as a prayer". None of my other principles seem to alarm others the way "Freedom or Death" does. The most likely reason is, it is a call to action. In three simple words it makes it very clear what my options are and where I stand on any given matter. 

I believe it is extremely important each individual develop there own guiding principles in which they live by. Why? Because in moments where life is pulling you in every direction, you will need a compass to direct your actions and hopeful outcomes. You will need a grounding point. 

How does this relate to "Beauty. Freedom. Power"? It is a call to action. It is a life style choice and guiding principle. It is a compass with clear directions how to proceed further. 

My team and I wanted to recreate the famous 90s music video, Money. Power. Respect with the same raw energy and a current day compass. We just happen to know two beautiful souls who embody this principles as the founding members of Black Lives Matter Toronto. Their dedication to community and generosity in our personal friendship embodies the energy we hope to use as guiding tools to a beautiful future.  

Photography and Make-up: Tanya Turton    Head-wrap: Kellie Asante   Creative Direction: Tanya Turton  and Kellie Asante

Photography and Make-up: Tanya Turton 

 Head-wrap: Kellie Asante 

Creative Direction: Tanya Turton  and Kellie Asante

 
Photography and Make-up: Tanya Turton   Hair: Kellie Asante   Creative Direction: Tanya Turton  and Kellie Asante

Photography and Make-up: Tanya Turton 

Hair: Kellie Asante 

Creative Direction: Tanya Turton  and Kellie Asante

While we can't define for you what each of these words mean or provide you with a guiding principle to live by. We will however, tell you what it means to the NiaZamar team and suggest you choose your own principles to guide your life path, art creation and heart. 

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world....I had reasoned this out in my mind, there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other. - Harriet Tubman
 

Beauty.

Freedom.

Power.

 

With Love, 

T

 

 

Glowing Up... The process of self-discovery

Make-up, Hair, Photography and Design by  Tanya Turton   Model: Kayla Carter 

Make-up, Hair, Photography and Design by

Tanya Turton 

Model: Kayla Carter 

    Many of us now in our twenties or late teens have passed the awkward stage of life that is puberty.  We acquired the basic genetic makeup to call our selves adults but still feel we are not living or existing at our fullest potential. With social media fame becoming a viable career choice many of us are sitting at home on instagram wondering how we can personally rise to our fullest potential and Glow-Up. 

   Im not sure who first coined the phrase glowing up but the urban dictionary describes it as 

"To go from the bottom to the top to the point of disbelief. An incredible transformation."

     If you ask me personally I would describe glowing up to be a process of self-discovery and development. Glowing up is reflective of the moment we realize who we truly want to be. Glowing up is the moment many of us start to recognize that we are truly art. 

My 26th Birthday 

My 26th Birthday 

My 26th Birthday 

My 26th Birthday 

     My personal glow- started in high-school right before I graduated and entered my undergraduate program in Social Work. I decided I wanted to be grown and sexy, I relaxed my hair and started to fake the funk of confidence till it became mine. I saw results. People started to tell me how beautiful I was and my dating life was a little more interesting.  My next glow-up was 3 years later, I cut off my relaxer and returned to natural hair, I coloured my hair burgundy, started paying immaculate attention to my hair game, nails and coordination of my outfits. My nails and eyeshadow would match as I headed to my downtown Toronto campus on a regular basis. If you asked me what changed, truthfully my definition of self love did. My previous definition was based off of fitting what I thought it meant to be a beautiful Black women in university, later my definition came to be about art. I wanted to express my deepest emotions and desires using colour, texture and fabric on my body as art. That became the best way to reflect my self. Since then I have had many moments of glowing-up.

My most recent would be my twenty-sixth Birthday. I woke up that morning, lit my sage and set my crystals in front of me as I shaved my head. That moment was deeply spiritual for me. That was the moment I made a decision to be okay with letting go. 

    I tell you this story to say that most of us will blossom and butterfly many times in our life. Each new discovery of self is a new opportunity to shift your self expression and overall aesthetic. None of my past glow-ups were right or wrong. They simply paved space for the women I am today to emerge. 

 

Recently our artist educator Kayla Carter decided she wanted to shift her style. With the creative direction of Kellie Asante our Hair Care Associate we decided to make a shoot out of the experience. 

 Before 

 Before 

After 

After 

    It is back to school or the ending of summer for many, if you are personally wondering how can you glow-up, here are five steps that may be helpful. As you may know by now the NiaZamar approach is to focus on inner and outer beauty so prepare yourself for a lil bit of work.  

1. Be open to change. Glowing up requires letting go of past perceptions of self and who you thought you would be. Glowing up often means letting go of ideals and situations that no longer serve you. 

2. Heal. We all have pain that needs to be released. There is usually trauma that you need to release in order for your true self to shine. This means opening your self up to processing and conversation. Letting it out will lighten your heart, your step and allow your true self to look back at you in the mirror. Sometimes this is difficult so please feel free to enlist the help of friends or professionals. 

3. Try new things. Start experimenting with new colours, food, sports and music. Start to explore your likes and dislikes. Being fierce and fabulous is an energy that comes from self-expression. Try new things so you can understand what you want to express. 

Make-up, Hair, Photography and Design by:    Tanya Turton    Quote and model: Kalya Carter 

Make-up, Hair, Photography and Design by:

Tanya Turton

Quote and model: Kalya Carter 

4. For Real Tho, Let Go! Clean out your closet, donate the clothes that no longer reflect you. donate clothes that have painful memories or energy attached them. Change the formation of furniture in your room. Allow old energy to move away and new energy to come in.

5. Be Authentic. Glowing up is only truly successful and sustainable when you are truly being your self. Glowing up is about reflecting your inner self out ward. Become really cool with who you are and stop worrying about who you "should" be. Shine like the star you truly are. 

 

 

    Truthfully glowing-up can be a long process of self-love taking months or years. Glowing -up is not simply a make-over it is an awakening. It is a shift in perception and reality. It is completely possible but will require patience and compassion for self. 

  If you need support in your process please free to register for our one on one glow-up classes and someone from our team would be happy to help. 

Be kind with your self. 

With Love, 

5 Reasons Alicia Keys #Nomakeup Campaign is Not Resistance

If you love make-up and beauty you have likely been following the conversation Alicia Keys #NoMakeup campaign has started. I believe most of us have formed an immediate opinion based on our own personal relationship with beauty.

My intention today is not to convert the non-believers but to provide an affirming space for those who have used make-up as empowerment and would like to continue doing so. This is for the people who don't feel represented with this campaign and are struggling to find the words why. I hope this may be a space of affirmation and love. 

Many of us started our complicated relationship with beauty at birth. The moment our gender is assigned so are our beauty qualifiers. We are treated differently depending on a list of qualifications such as "good hair" or "pretty complexion". All these terms are loaded with insinuation and rules as to how we may fit into beauty.  The harsh criticism is unleashed on to small children, particularly little Black girls before they can even walk. Scroll through social media or google Blue Ivy vs North West, the ideologies within our own communities and the general media make it almost impossible to forum a healthy self-esteem. 

I appreciate Alicia Keys for her vulnerability in this discussion and believe her article in Lenny Letter raises important points needed in any conversation regarding beauty. Many of us are on our own personal journey to self-love and it is unquestionable that the impact of media is real. She reveals some of her struggles by sharing song lyrics from "When a Girl Can't Be Herself". 

"In the morning from the minute that I wake up  / What if I don't want to put on all that makeup  / Who says I must conceal what I'm made of  / Maybe all this Maybelline is covering my self-esteem "

Keys then goes on to explain her own personal process and reason this movement is rooted in her survival. 

"Every time I left the house, I would be worried if I didn't put on makeup: What if someone wanted a picture?? What if they POSTED it??? These were the insecure, superficial, but honest thoughts I was thinking. And all of it, one way or another, was based too much on what other people thought of me."

Within her journey of beauty she concluded that it would be best to free her self from the bondage of make-up and connect back to self. 

"I found my way to meditation, and I started focusing on clarity and a deeper knowing of myself. I focused on cultivating strength and conviction and put a practice in place to learn more about the real me."

Personally I found her words to be beautiful and telling of the struggle many of us have when trying to fit a subscribed standard of beauty not meant for us. These ideals are often unattainable and create trauma filled realities for those deemed "undesirable".  

My only concern is that while this movement is revolutionary in the eyes of Alicia Keys it lacks critique and awareness for the various bodies and stories of those deemed "undesirable". The #NoMakeup movement is awkwardly designed for those who have the privilege to participate without fear of violent word retaliation. 

As a make-up artist and unapologetic beauty advocate I have experienced many moments of make-up playing either a healing or confining role in a persons life. As a Black femme women who is not deemed as  conventionally beautiful but does access some of the qualifications I expressed earlier like fairly clear skin, I write this not for myself but in hopes to create space for those who feel they are able to move mountains when fully adorned in their armour. It would be naive and irresponsible for me to read Alicia Keys's article and simply assume that her beautifully put words and story are accessible to everyone. Im just not here for pretending, so shall we have some honest dialogue?

 Let me explain in Five points why while her words are beautiful they are not resistance or revolutionary.   

1. "Pretty Privilege" 

illustration by 17-year-old French artist   @benbiayenda

illustration by 17-year-old French artist @benbiayenda

I did not create this term but it describes efficiently what is wrong with this campaign. For a light skin, thin, able bodied, bi-racial looking women to start a campaign deeming her natural beauty as beautiful is almost redundant. We know media actually loves this aesthetic, please refer to all the token black ads that are actually just mixed folks. Much of western desirability is actually in line with looking ambiguous racially. Keys has all the markers of a Black women who would be deemed "naturally pretty" therefore inherently she is given permission to exist in ways many other Black women are not. 

 Recently as I was surfing the inter web I came across an article by Blackgirllonghair.com expressing concern that lil Mamas self-love journey was not as equally well received. I think its interesting mostly because Lil Mama has qualifications for "pretty privilege" like skin and eyes. But she is clearly not ambiguous, as her features are in line with predominately African- American features like bold lips and nose.  

The response on the internet makes it clear that pretty privilege is nuanced and layered but clearly a contributing factor in the response many people have to natural beauty movements. While these movements in the conversation around beauty are necessary it is imperative that we do so in solidarity. With intention of not only creating space for easily digestible beauty but also for those who are not able to access this privilege. Unless we are here for all the women with acne prone skin, dark skin, bold features, fat women, disabled women, non-"passing" trans women, lips too big women, hair too nappy women, discolouration of the skin women, this movement is not actually revolutionary or resisting anything. It is simply idealizing a standard of natural beauty we can't all attain. 

Screen-Shot-2016-06-04-at-7.27.26-AM.png

2. Mental Health

Mental health is "a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being." Canadian Mental Health Association  expresses "Mental health means striking a balance in all aspects of your life: social, physical, spiritual, economic and mental".  

Mental health does not happen is isolation. It is incredibly linked to social impacts and it is important we take those who are struggling with mental health into consideration when having a discussion about anything we hope to be relatively revolutionary.  

What are the impacts on a person struggling with anxiety and depression who have developed structured routines using make-up, if they try to join the #nomakeup movement only to get zero likes on a picture, ridiculed or even turned into a meme. This may all sound very superficial but if you understand mental health you know this can become a trigger leading to isolation and panic. Meme culture makes it socially acceptable to violently roast a stranger once their image is on the inter web. If we are encouraging people to share #nomakeup images we must prepare to rally around them with support when societies qualifiers of beauty come knocking and say "you are not naturally beautiful". While we know everyone is beautiful in their own right, we also know mental health is not about rational emotions. The impact this violent message has is not superficial, it is real and can become a chain reaction. 

I personally use make-up as a moment of meditation, calming my social anxiety and preparing me to more authentically socialize with others. The colours and brush strokes allow for me to experience the creative therapy to centre my self, therefore best reflecting my inner self. 

3. Vanity

illustration by 17-year-old French artist  @benbiayenda

illustration by 17-year-old French artist @benbiayenda

 Make-up is not just for vanity but even if it was that would still be a valid reason to wear it. Patriarchy often tries to delegitimize anything associated with femininity as being vain, shallow or overly emotional. This act makes it difficult for feminine people to love them selves which inherently makes it easier to pay us less and devalue our work. 

If you want to spend an hour on your face everyday, please do so. Please adorn your beautiful body. If you desire to be a canvas please paint your self all the colours. You can be both brilliant and beautifully adorned. Your work, emotions and existence is valuable. In the words of Kayla Carter "You deserve to be witnessed" , your make-up does not need to look natural for your contribution to be legitimate. With or without make-up you da baddest. 

The time we share together caring for our bodies is sacred and important to our socialization. deeming feminine acts as vain or superficial delegitimizes the bounds feminine people create as they paint their nails and apply make-up together. Humans need to socialize to be healthy, attaching shame to acts of socialization for many people may also cause isolation which leads back to my point about mental above. Vanity is a legitimate reason to wear make-up.  

4. Spirituality

Face painting, adornment and make-up has been sacred acts for centuries. Spirituality has informed much of what is seen as beautiful aesthetically today. Indian women would use dark kohl to protect against the evil eye (Philosophy, Make-up and Spiritual Beauty). Bodily adornment and make-up has been used in rituals and deemed sacred in ancient Egyptian cultures. While not deemed as only a feminine act make-up has been known to be used as a gate way to access the Devine Feminine Energy. 

Much of the shame attached to make-up is linked to the objectification of women's bodies as sexual. Black women are particularly hyper-sexaulized and seen as deviant when seemingly "trying" to look attractive. These ideals are used to perpetuate misogynoir and the belief that Black women should not have access to beauty, autonomy and invalidates the ways our spirituality is linked to make-up and adornment.  While sacred space also lives in the erotica, we are not here simply for the male, white , sexual gaze.

Many of us connect to our ancestors when applying make-up and could careless about mainstream media and their ideals. Any campaign that centralizes make-up from the perspective of corporate media is bound to forget that we were doing this before the white man showed up. This ain't about them, boo. 

Can we have eye liner, crystals and sage in peace? 

5. "Choose your weapon" 

Illustration by Wendy Heisler

Illustration by Wendy Heisler

Make-up has many purposes and should be honoured for the strength it has carried for centuries. Lena Peters talks about the power of "Building an Army Of Femmes" and its impact to our survival as "freedom dreamers".

While searching for self-love it often becomes a literal battle for those of us bombarded with oppressive messages claiming we are not beautiful. When we are taught our skin, features and hair are defective from the age of 5 within all institutions it takes more then will power to unlearn.   Going to battle sometimes means many things. It can mean painting your face with what some make-up wears call "war paint" or taking selfies with no make-up. All approaches are valid as long as they are rooted in self determination and collective liberation. If our means of fighting oppressive systems does not leave space for those who are marginalized to be represented also, our actions can not be deemed resistant or revolutionary. Self-affirmation is necessary in this battle but also requires self-reflection. Make-up can be empowering for many on a self-love journey, it can also be a beautiful act of socializing, healing and self-love. It is important we do not possession make-up wears or non-wears as the other because while we all choose our weapon, we need each other. 

Any campaign looking to discuss beauty needs to leave space for multiple stories, realities and survival. Truthfully if the movement is not prepared to support those at risk of violence for participating, it is simply a nice thought and gesture. Make-up is survival for many and the #NoMakeup campaign does not count for that. 

For the Symbiotic Beauty launch we wanted to capture the communities stories and experiences of beauty. With our complex Identities and intersections our survival and self love is linked to redefining what beauty it.

 

I truly appreciate Alicia Keys for sharing her journey and sparking discussion but I feel it is important we take the conversation past not wearing make-up which puts so much pressure on individuals and direct the questions to why these oppressive media outlets believe they can own us. Truthfully not wearing make-up will not solve misogyny. That is the beast we are really up against and like capitalism it is flexible. If this movement caught on not wearing make-up will simply become the new standard and all women not deemed "naturally pretty" or "wearing too much make-up" will be shamed. Wait, the "take her swimming on a first date" internet meme already happened proving society is committed to shaming women who wear make-up anyway.  Wearing make-up or not wearing make-up is not the problem. Lets address the issue its self, misogyny. 

While a Black women having any say regarding beauty is critical, important and revolutionary, framing beauty only within the limited storylines of corporate America is reinforcing their perception and not resisting it. My make-up, my aesthetic and my love are all on purpose. The idea this is not by choice is simply untrue. I'm not saying that we should all wear make-up all the time. I am saying if we are going to discuss it lets be comprehensive and not rooted in privileged ideals. We are all beautiful but we do not share realities within the North American beauty construct. 

What are your thoughts?  Please share your stories!

 

With love, 

Unapologetically T