How I left High School Yaritza behind & Faced 3 life-changing curly hair beliefs

When I look through my old pictures, sometimes I can’t believe the girl I’m looking at is ME!

I shouldn’t say IS, it’s more like WAS me. She is insecure, scared to show her roots, and trying so desperately just to fit in. I just wanted to be like everyone else. I used to pray to God to make my wishes come true.

“PLEASE – make me like everyone else.”

That wish never came true. Instead, He gave me ringlets, upon ringlets, that showed just how different I am. I would wake up extra early in the morning to be sure every part of my hair was straight so that my classmates wouldn’t see my true self.

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I don’t know what was worse: that I was scared of what my classmates would say if they saw my natural hair, or that I didn’t know how I would feel if I let myself go natural.

High School Yaritza let herself be defined by her hair and the way that it portrayed her to be: Simple and Manageable. Two words that could NEVER describe me now.

 

 

Something changed. Today, I am a 23-year-old Yaritza who is striving to be complex and heard every single day!

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I’ll tell you the Top 3 Things that I strongly believed up until I went natural 2 years ago:

  1. Curly hair is unprofessional. WRONG.

I honestly believe that my curly hair helped me come out of my shell, which provided more opportunities in the workplace. It 100% helped me get the Producer job that I have on the Top Radio Morning Show in the US!! My hair makes me unique, personable and gives me a look that no one else could have. Every curl is particular and perfect! I never thought I’d ever describe my hair as perfect, but it truly is for me.

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  1. Your hair will look like a bird’s nest if you leave it natural. SEMI-WRONG.

Okay, this one is tricky! My hair definitely has a mind of its own. I wake up some days and I have no idea what it’s doing and I’m diggin’ it, but of course, there are days where I have to wear it in a bun. Either way, it’s MY bird’s nest and guess who is going to rock it = ME!

  1. My hair can offend someone. PROBABLY BUT WHO CARES?

This is the one that truly hit home. This is what I was avoiding back in high school. Being pointed out and made fun of because of my curls. OH MY GOD! How wrong was I? I don’t even care if this is all I talk about anymore.

This is me.

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This is me. My hair is part of me. If you’re offended by my hair, then you’re offended by me, which means you need to get far, far away from me because I will not stand intolerance of something that I literally should never have to change. Don’t ever pay mind to those that say something about you needs to change! NOPE. NEVER.

You are perfect in every single way, shape, and form.

I locked this into my brain over the last couple of years because it was the most difficult thing for me to realize. Like 3LW sang in their classic song, “Haters gon’ hate”!!!

Accepting myself and my curls definitely wasn’t an overnight kind of thing. I was just fed up with this façade that I was upholding for years – basically my entire life. I wanted to feel more like myself, so I started watching more and more YouTube tutorials that really helped my curls out. I got my first Devacut and the rest is history! I’ll never look back.

Now, I get to feel like myself. My true self. Unfortunately, I can’t say that God has granted me my wish to be like everyone else.

He gave me something better.

I look like NO ONE ELSE and that’s just fine with me.

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Xoxo,

That Girl with The Big Hair,

Yaritza

 

Kink in My Reflection

April 25th 2017, the day I met my hair. After 27 years, I met my hair for the very first time. “How?” you may ask. Well, for as long as I can remember I have had my natural hair manipulated using various methods including: the very hot – hot comb, texturizers, relaxers, braids, and weaves. As soon I had 1 inch of new growth it was time to top up on the chemicals. What I understood to be my hair does in no way compare to the beautiful, ferocious, curly afro that I now acknowledge, praise, love, and on occasion set-free.

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Straight relaxed hair
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Bantu Knot-Out on Relaxed Hair

Relax a little; better yet, relax it all

Getting a chemical relaxer every couple of months was a natural part of my routine. In the same way one would get their hair coloured or have their car cleaned, it was just something I did. Unbeknownst to me, the glory I felt walking out the hair salon with silky straight hair was a fabricated illusion taught to me by the society in which I was raised.

If my naps (aka kinky hairs) were controlled, I was that much closer to achieving what I perceived as the standard of beauty. It was also the easiest way to blur the lines of differences between my peers and myself. Only later will I learn that beauty lies IN our differences. This twisted perception presented itself to be true since there were few references for comparisons. The black women in my world -Tv personalities, teachers, aunts, cousins, friends, sister, mother- all conformed to the trend. What was a girl to do?

The damage was done

I have always been very adventurous with my hairstyles. I’ve cut it into short bobs, pixies, grew it long and even bleached it. After years of toying with it, the combination of a relaxer and bleach showed no mercy. After 2 months of rocking blonde-ish hair, it began to break in an uncontrollable manner – the damage was done. Every stroke of a comb, or brush against my pillowcase brought the immediate death to many strands.

Witnessing the damage that I had caused ignited my curiosity to uncover what I had been suppressing for almost 3 decades, the strength of my natural hair. And there was no time like now since that was all that remained.

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Afro
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Bantu Knot-out on Natural Hair

My unforeseeable 4C, now

Everyday is a new day on this journey and to be completely honest I am not exactly sure how to care for it just yet. It will be a steady process of trial and error until I find what works best. Needless-to-say, embarking on this journey has been enlightening in more ways than one. I’ve learned more about myself beyond the texture of my curls; yes, I confidently embrace them for what they are now. I’ve learned that my hair does not, will not and has never defined me. I am the same confident, relentless female I have always been. I’ve also learned that in embracing my hair I can be an example to someone who is fondling with the idea of going natural or a resource for answers to someone who has no idea what it means to have kinky hair. The beauty that is my hair is versatile, untamed, and 100% natural.

Seeing a kink in my reflection wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Drine

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Drine has a degree in business and currently works in management consulting. She is a young woman on the journey of self-discovery. She is a self-described foodie with a special interest in travel, animals, and investments. You can find her socializing with friends or on an impromptu trip to somewhere new.  Follow her journey on instagram [@morr_drine]

Is this Art?

I slayed as an Artist-in-Residence in Cape Town, South Africa—  and here’s how

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Table Mountain and the Woodstock Neighborhood in Cape Town, South Africa

Who am I anyway that I can give you advice?

My name is Kieran Elise O’Brien. The thing you should know about me is that I moved from my hometown of Victoria, BC to Montreal, Quebec in 2011 to get back together with my ex-boyfriend, which was exactly as bad an idea as it seems. When we broke up a year later, I ran away to Japan. In Japan, I fell in love (again) and in fairly short order I moved to Da Nang, Vietnam to chase that love (good news: we lived happily ever after). I want you to know that I have made some impulsive travel decisions (why yes, I am a sagittarius) and as much fun as it is to fly blindly into adventures: I propose that an Artist Residency is the best way to travel.  

Why?

  • Break out of your routine: You perceive time differently on vacation. I think there is nothing more inspiring than traveling. If you feel creatively stifled, If you feel bored by your day-to-day routines, then I am talking to you, dude. You don’t need to plan a trip to another continent. You can look for artist residencies in or near your own town. Look for short-term artist residencies. This one in Banff is only eight days long: https://www.banffcentre.ca/programs/winter-writers-retreat/20170213
  • Make time: You have a great idea for a novel. You used to paint and you’ve always meant to pick it up again. Take your creative work off of the backburner! Enter into an exceptional space where you can prioritize your creative work- and perhaps most importantly, where you can set yourself a deadline.    
  • Get access to resources: The architect behind Side Street Studios, Elad Kirshenbaum, was extraordinarily helpful to me. He was my host, tour guide, patron, collaborator and friend during my time in Cape Town. Through him, I had access to resources and connections that I would never have been able to source on my own.
  • Get to know a place: By setting aside a week (or four) to visit just one city, you are allowing yourself to fall in love with that place. Go for the thrill of something new and stay long enough to become a regular at your local cafe, to learn the street names, to notice all the glorious little differences made by a rainy day.

How it all began…

I had it in my head from the very beginning that I wanted to travel and be a graduate student. I am writing about my mother’s immigration to Canada from South Africa, and I study African Literature, so given my research interests, Cape Town became my desired destination early on in my academic career. I might have applied to a conference there, or applied to be a visiting student, both are good options for graduate students. Instead, I applied to be an Artist-in-Residence on the recommendation of my friend Zola (who writes a naturalist newsletter and is an all-round magnificent human being). She sent me a link to the website resartis, a “worldwide network of Artist Residencies” with a database that you can search by country. Unfortunately, there were only three residencies in South Africa listed on their site and none of them was quite the right fit for me. I decided to broaden my search. I googled “Cape Town Artist Residency” and from there I found Side Street Studios. Yes, that’s the big secret to my success: I literally just googled it.

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The Rooftop Residency at Side Street Studios in Cape Town, South Africa

Warning: Plan your trip well in advance to access travel grants

I contacted Side Street Studios by email and I sent them a project proposal. After that, the trip came together quickly- so quickly that I was not able to apply for the travel grants available through my department and through the School of Graduate Studies at the University of Toronto. I also missed out on applying for funding through my city, province and country. For example, I might have been eligible for funding through the Ontario Arts Council, which offers a “National and International Residency Projects” grant of up to $10,000. Don’t make the same mistake I did! I suggest you plan your residency a year and a half in advance, keeping funding deadlines in mind, as well as the particulars of your destination. For example, it’s a good idea to plan around weather conditions and national holidays.

Although I was not able to apply for the grants I’ve mentioned above, I did run a successful gofundme campaign. Through my campaign, I was able to raise enough money to cover the residency fee. Some Artist Residencies have fees, some don’t. Even those that don’t will certainly have associated costs like travel to and from the residency. Although some residencies have financial aid or honorariums to help you with your expenses. While you’re considering a particular residency, I recommend making a budget and estimating potential costs before you apply. It will come in handy when you try to access funding.      

40 days in Cape Town

With the help of family and friends, I made it to Cape Town. There in ‘the mother city,’ I met distant family members and I charted out a family tree that goes back six generations. I did as much sight-seeing as I could, and of course, I made art. I published a small zine that included the work of three local writers. I hosted a poetry reading and panel discussion with those same writers- and I designed a neon sign! It was my first foray into visual art. Looking back on my time in Cape Town, I am both proud of the work I did and grateful for the collaborative spirit of the many, many people who encouraged and inspired me to get creative. I hope that I can be one of those people for you. Go and get weird, my friend.

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home is no longer here. 2016. Neon sign. OneK collection. Cape Town.

P.S. Here are a couple of Artist Residencies that have caught my attention:

  • Cafe Tissardmine in Rissani, Morocco: The most important information we need is the reason you feel the desert is the right place for you to be.” 
  • The Kerouac Project in Orlando, Florida: Each residency consists of approximately a three month stay in the cottage where Jack Kerouac wrote his novel Dharma Bums.”

Good Luck,

Kieran

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Kieran Elise O’Brien is a poet and a student at the University of Toronto where she is pursuing an MA in Creative Writing. She loves flowers, ice cream sandwiches and the pond in the courtyard at Massey College. She is currently working on a collection of poems about the adventures of her alter-ego Bad Cowgirl. You can find her on tumblr, twitter and instagram.

 

The Secret to finding the Best Croissant in Paris

Un café au lait et un croissant aux amandes s’il vous plait…

A French almond croissant from my favourite Parisian bakery is parfait. I love the contrast of textures between fresh pastry and creamy almond centres.…yum.  (I am that person who makes mmm noises when I eat.) But when I eat an almond croissant at a French bakery in Toronto, I experience fleeting nostalgia; it’s just not the same.

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Paris is Special.

Why is an almond croissant in Paris so much better than anywhere else?

Taste has something to do with it, but there’s something else too.

Paris is special.

A sunny day in Paris has a certain charm – anything is possible. The city parks come alive with impromptu picnics, small groups of people with an array of finger foods, cheese of course, a bottle of wine and joie de vivre.

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…the cobblestone streets seem to have no end…

 

Being in Paris is like stepping into a storybook—the historic buildings house secrets, the cobblestone streets seem to have no end, the river Seine carries my dreams in its rapids, and I can’t stop imagining what my story will be.

When I’m in Paris, the city-of-lights, I indulge daily.

No, I’m not kidding! And let me tell you, I’m picky about which almond croissant I’ll eat (even in Paris).

Just like any other place in the world, you and I both know, some shops are just for tourists—locals won’t set foot in them. From baguettes to pastries, a boulangerie is an essential part of the Parisian lifestyle. To get in with a local, you need to be where the locals are. A bakery or cafe is a good place to start.

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French Deliciousness & The Occasional Glass of Wine

 

Here’s my first little secret, shhh don’t tell anyone. I spent 8-weeks in Paris this year and never visited a single museum. Instead, I mastered how to find the best local bakeries in Paris. And I spent many an afternoon and night in long conversation over a spread of French deliciousness and the occasional glass of wine.

I wouldn’t change a thing; and that’s why I love Paris!

 

 

Here are my secrets on how to find the best boulangerie:

  1. Long lines don’t say anything about the quality of the pastry.
  1. Notice if there are Parisians in line, or tourists. Parisians always know the best places to go. How do you distinguish a Parisian from a tourist, you ask? The classic Parisian wears clothes that look effortless, a trench if cold, minimal makeup, hair tousled naturally and moves with an air of assurance in her walk.
  1. Check the time. The best bakeries sell-out by mid-afternoon. They are busiest in the morning and early afternoon, and then quiet, with vacant shelves by late afternoon.
  1. What kind of pastry is on display? The mom-and-pop local bakeries will only make pastries with seasonal fruits. If a bakery has an array of fruit pastries and only apples are in season, the bakery isn’t up to par. (You must eat a strawberry tart in June to July!)
  1. A pastry should look like a work of art and always be baked fresh daily. A fresh French baguette tastes different and everything else, everywhere else, is just bread.
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A pastry should look like a work of art.
  1. Be choosy! Remember, your holiday will come to an end and you deserve the best even in Paris.

One last note, on your first trip to France, don’t judge French food based on past experiences.

Taste it all.

xo,

 Lola

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Lola is a dietitian who doesn’t believe in dieting. Her favourite food motto  is Everything in Moderation. Needless to say, Lola loves food, (to cook and eat it) and is lucky to have a job that involves food. Lola’s second passion in life is dance and she spends most nights dancing Kizomba, which originates in Angola. Lola Teelucksingh is currently a Registered Dietitian, at the Centre for Addiction Mental Health (CAMH), in Toronto, Canada.

5 Outfits to be Fierce, Comfortable, and Professional in the Office

Guest Post by Saneliso Moyo*

As a lover of fashion waking up every morning and figuring out what to wear is often the best and worst part of my day. How do I maintain a professional appearance while channelling my inner-Solange Knowles? Are matching sets workplace appropriate? What suit says “please hire me” but won’t make me sweat bullets when it’s 31 degrees outside?

How do I maintain a professional appearance while channelling my inner-Solange Knowles?

Beyond the superficial concerns about sweat and honoring my fashion idols, some very real anxieties about being a young, black woman in a very white and very male profession inform some of my decisions about what to wear each day. I always want to stay true to myself and my personal sense of style. However, I am also painfully aware of how my style choices can impact the way I am perceived by my colleagues, clients and prospective employers. But unpacking all of the ways my gender, race, class (or perceived class) and fashion choices work together to inform other people’s perceptions of me is perhaps a deeper discussion better left for a different day (or post)!

Being a self-proclaimed fashion girl and a new lawyer presents many a fashion related dilemmas. However, I do my best to find balance between being comfortable, fierce and professional whether it’s a day in the office, or a day in court. Check out the outfits below for a run-down of some of my favourite fashion-girl pieces, that can transform into office appropriate piece too!

  1. White Sneakers

Full disclosure, my office is probably among the more casual law offices out there. While jeans aren’t necessarily the norm, I can get away with a nice pair of sneakers paired with some fancy pants and a classic button up.

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How to pair white sneakers for work
  1. The Solange Suit

Suits don’t have to be boring! A bright suit colour may not always be courtroom or client-meeting friendly in all settings. However, it can be the perfect pop of excitement to break up the black, grey and navy suit rut we so often run into.

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Ditch the black and grey suit! Be bold!
  1. Bold Prints

Bold colours and bold prints are my favourite ways to make a statement in an otherwise ordinary piece. Try a conservative silhouette in a bold print paired with a classic shoe to mix things up a bit!

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  1. Jumpsuits

By far, my favourite article of clothing in this world is a jumpsuit/romper. I love them for everyday wear, special occasions AND work! For the summer months, try a  sleeveless jumpsuit with wide legs and some nude pumps or pointed toe flats.

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Jumpsuits for the office
  1. Chambray Button Up 2.0

A chambray top is a great piece for your work or casual wardrobe. A chambray top with beads (or any other unique detail) is even better! Pair it with slacks, or some white jeans (on casual Fridays) and a statement pump (think red or an animal print) for a fresh look.

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Chambray, chambray, chambray!

These are just a few outfits that let me live out my fashion girl dreams while pursuing my lawyer girl goals! I hope they inspire you to channel your inner [insert your fashion icon here] when you wake up for work tomorrow! 

 

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Photo: Martin Ejidra

*Saneliso is a lawyer by day, stylist by night. Known amongst her peers and friends as the most fashionable lawyer in the game, she never fails to impress. Saneliso is launching her own professional fashion blog soon – stay tuned for details! Follow Saneliso and her sartorial feats on Instagram: @saneliso_