Friday, October 5, 2007

Like A Fashion Week Virgin

A couple of weeks ago I lost my virginity! Not that kind, silly! A diva-at-large never kisses and tells. No, I am talking about the fashion week variety. I had the opportunity to attend two shows during New York Fashion Week (NYFW) for the very first time with my “sorta kinda” famous brother SK Wilbur. For those of you who are not already in-the- know, NYFW transpires twice during the year where fashion designers showcase their line of apparel that will be sold in stores the following season. My brother and I have produced our own shows during NYFW, but the unsanctioned, guerrilla sort that took place on the sidewalk outside the tents in Bryant Park. Check out some of the press coverage we received on But back to my story, I was so giddy with excitement once inside that I did not know which way to look first. Between being the object of desire for several photographers from various publications whose names I cannot recall to the amazing bar/lounge area where drinks were on the house to the rush of fashionistas to get to their seats it was all just a little awe-inspiring and FABULOUS!

First, I will tell you about the Gottex show. Gottex is a line of swimwear designed by Gideon Oberson. Elegantly designed for fabulously athletic, lithe bodies, the show featured vibrant purples, greens, black and yellow mixes and flower filled suits and wraps. Reem Acra was the second show I saw on a summery Sunday afternoon. Her eveningwear line consisted of dresses that were long, short, and some vibrantly hued. There were dresses with flowers (which, I guess, is what we will be seeing a lot of this Spring), jewels, and lots of belts; it was colorful – purple, green, red, yellow, black, and white. Both shows were beautiful, but Gottex was my favorite. And it is not because I am the type of girl that gets energized by beautiful swimsuits. But it was Mr. Oberson’s visually stunning finale that caused me and the rest of the fashion crowd to jump to our feet. It featured the two darkest skinned models – both the color of night and donning crew cut hairstyles who were poured into their snow-white bathing suits. As they escorted Mr. Oberson down the runway for his bow, my brother and I both agreed that it was bold for him to choose these women for the finale considering the absence of models of color on so many runways. He also featured a model that was not your typical gaunt-faced and overtly thin standard. She was fresh and healthy looking. I thought his taste in choosing his models was premium.

I was also able to view photographer Nigel Barker (America’s Next Top Model) from my seat at both shows – and oh what a nice view it was! Other famous names at the Reem Acra show were Becky Newton from Ugly Betty and Lisa Edelstein from House. I was also able to make a couple of connections that are resulting in business for SK Wilbur! To have witnessed the media photographers who all stand at the back of each show waiting patiently for it to begin, to see the hoopla over the superstar attendance, to view all the various eclectic and trendy New Yorkers walk in and take their seats to see the shows is both thrilling and overwhelming. I sat wide-eyed for most of the shows, taking in all that I could. To convey what it is like in person is almost unexplainable. I am excited with anticipation about the shows I will get to see in the years to come…

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fashion week virgin 2

Thursday, August 23, 2007

How The Diva-At-Large Came To Be

This month has been one of reflection because my mom is turning 65 years old on the 30th. Although I wondered what to write about in this latest entry of “This Is My Life,” the answer was crystal clear. My mom has always been a source of inspiration for me. When I was growing into adulthood she shared one of her pearls of wisdom that I carry with me every day. She said, “Ashanti, I am your best friend.” After all, her mom was her best friend. My grandmother Rolene passed from cancer when she was only 64 years old. So this is truly a milestone for us to celebrate.

I was not supposed to be. It was not until my mom was five months pregnant when she discovered that there was a life growing inside of her. And once she found out she was pregnant, she had a migraine for 1 whole month. After all, as the story has been retold countless times, she was fine with her two boys. But here I am! She was 37 years old having a baby. She had retired from the diaper duty and teething and late night feedings part of mothering almost 9 years ago. And now she was getting ready to come out of retirement. Oh my! But she has always said to me that I was a surprise, not a mistake. God wanted me to be here.

Growing up, she showed me what it was to be a strong black American woman. By example, she demonstrated how one successfully maintains a career, cares for her family and manages a household. She practically raised three children on her own – my dad had two full time jobs. At age 2, she had me potty trained so I could attend school. She instructed me at age 6 or 7 that I had to now wash dishes. I remember dutifully taking one of the kitchen chairs, pulling it up to the sink, and standing on it to soap the dishcloth and wash dishes. That was my first “family duty” chore and to this day washing dishes is my favorite household task. At around 8 or 9, I was taught about money management when she made me write out the checks to pay the bills. When I was 14 years old, my dad passed away from cancer and I learned a major lesson in responsibility. Although her job at the time was one that made her wince and gave her migraines, she had to endure for that period. She still had a teenage daughter to raise.

At 17 years old, when I joined the church, I was a little overzealous and had difficulty integrating God’s laws with everyday life. I neglected my family, especially my mom. I betrayed her and treated her poorly. Still as a mother would, she loved me unconditionally. She stayed right by my side regardless of how unhappy she was with me. As a 22 year old, I was involved in a dead-end relationship. When it ended, I am sure she was elated. But throughout the relationship, she was there listening to my drama and voicing her opinion only when she felt it appropriate.

Three years ago this coming January, my mother joined Weight Watchers. Her feeling was that she was turning 64 soon – the same age as my grandmother when she passed – and she wanted to have a long relationship with her granddaughter. So she needed to get healthy. This motivated everyone in her life including her cronies at the YMCA she attends weekly, her fellow church members, and her family. Her decision to get healthy created a domino effect that inspired others to join Weight Watchers and become conscious about what they ate. Proudly, I am also one of those members.

My mother really is my best friend. She is the most amazing woman I know. I think she is the best mom on the face of the earth or in the universe, even! But how many children say that of their mothers? I can only speak from my personal experiences. She is a phenomenal woman who has taught me so much and has always given me all of herself. I am forever grateful to her. My mother is love.

Friday, July 20, 2007

A Diva's Gotta Have Friends

Some people use the term “friend” rather loosely, sometimes to describe someone whom they have no emotional connection to or, dare I say, even care for. And all over the newspapers and magazines, celebrities are photographed shopping, dining, or laughing with their flavor of the moment BFF (best friend forever). I recently looked up the definition of friend. The Random House Unabridged Dictionary describes a friend as a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard. The American Heritage Dictionary reads, “A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts.” I have a core group of friends in the truest sense of the word.

My most intimate friend is Lolita. She is of Indian Guyanese descent. Lolita is first generation American, married to a Hispanic, with four young children. My running partner is Simona, who I took my first “girlfriend vacation” with. She is Romanian, born in Austria and raised in California. Then there is Vijaya, who was born and raised in India and moved to the states three years ago. Last, but definitely not least, is the only American friend I have, Jen. Jen is of Italian descent, but for all intents and purposes, she is white. No one in my core group is black and it was not until a family friend, who happens to be black, noticed the diversity at my birthday celebration this past January and brought it to my attention.

Since then, I have wondered about the “lack of black” in my circle of sisters. I certainly embrace my culture. I know that I am able to pursue my dreams here in America because of the sacrifice and work of hundreds of thousands of blacks before me. And I think that it is because of this work and because of my history which is rich with struggle that I am able to go beyond color and choose friends, not based on color, but because we have a commonality, a true affection, and a shared respect for one another.

It is my mother that showed my brothers and me how “chic” diversity can be. Although she is a voice from the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s and she marched and petitioned for equality, my mother taught us to be open-minded and accepting of all people and races before developing an opinion. So race has never really played much of a role when befriending people.

When my brother asked me to be his muse, part of the reason he chose me was because of how I embrace other ethnicities, my appreciation for varied musical genres, and how open I am to all life experiences. At his company, we feel like life is a party that deserves to be celebrated and we invite everyone who comes with a pure heart, no matter what their ethnicity, to have a good time and enjoy all the colors of the human rainbow. Good people are the same no matter what color they happen to be. It is the same with my friends. I seek beauty, especially on the inside. I look for people who do the work and want to be the best possible human beings they can be. I have friends who check me when I am wrong and are there for me to soften some of life’s blows. I no longer wonder what is wrong with me because I have no black people in my circle of friends. I only celebrate the fact that I have people that I can call friends. And I think we look rather good together in a United Nations kind of way.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

My First Girlfriend Vacation

On May 27, 2007, I embarked on my first “Girlfriend Vacation.” In all my 27 years, I have never had a girlfriend to just hang with. Now, I not only had my girl to hang with, but someone that I cared enough about to share in a new adventure. And part of that adventure meant leaving our boyfriends at home for some serious “girls only” good times. We cruised the Eastern Caribbean with stops in San Juan, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas (USVI), and Tortola (BVI). But just imagine two women in a small ship cabin living and breathing the same air for eight (8) days. I was slightly nervous. Not extremely or even a little – just a slight twinge of nervousness was needling at me. But my friend, Simona, is my partner in crime. I call her my “Ryde or Die B*tch” :-). And simply because her birthday is May 26th and I love her, I booked the vacation. Why not? Right??

Preparation for the vacation was a whole ‘nother story. See, I have a brother who is ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!! He is a fashion designer who is about to launch his fabulous tops on within the next couple of months. And let me tell you, it is pretty damn fantastic to be the little sister, excuse me, the only sister of a fashion designer. In fact, I am his muse. So naturally, he designed beautiful couture SK Wilbur (that is his label) outfits for me. This was a process. He was so inspired by my voyage that each day he called to tell me of another design he dreamed of for another occasion aboard the ship. So our seamstress had quite a task on her hands! She had two evening dresses (one for me and one for Simona), an elegant crisp white shirt to go with the full length denim skirt he’d designed for me a few years earlier, one casual outfit (shorts and a top), and a swimsuit with a matching wrap! She’d never done a swimsuit before. After 2 months of intense craftsmanship and my brother’s scrutiny, she was exhausted. Whewww!

Simona and I work together which means that five days a week, often more, we would fantasize about our upcoming vacation via emails, telephone calls, and text messages. We had to lay down some ground rules and dream, dream, dream about what we would do once we boarded the ship, what drinks we would have, what games we would play, and the tans we would get. As the days passed and the vacation grew closer, it was like dangling a carrot in front of the turtle. Would it ever get here?!

When the magic day finally arrived, I was loaded down with a large suitcase and a carry-on tote stuffed with SK Wilbur couture, and H&M and Old Navy basics as well as tons of shoes, purses, and jewelry. I also received strict instructions from my brother to return home with LOTS of photos. The vacation was in one word – AMAZING!! We had a blast! We kept company with each other so well and we were so vacation-compatible. Our shared laid-back attitudes and eagerness to have fun made it perfect. And let’s not mention how very fashionable we were. We danced every night until 4am and then we stayed up hanging with the ship’s crew until 6am. We got off the ship at every port and even went jet skiing! So much fun! Unfortunately, the male passengers were too intimidated to talk to us lovely ladies. Luckily enough, the young ones (18-20 year olds) exhibited more character and courage than the older men ever will. Never did we get drunk or tipsy, but we drank coffee twice a day, sometimes three times, (maybe to offset the lack of sleep) and relaxed. If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m so glad I shared my first “girlfriend vacation” with Simona. It is a vacation I will always remember.