Month: July 2014

Real-Life Curvy CEO: Sasha Ballard, Miss Virginia Plus USA

Sasha-Miss Virginia Plus USA

In August 2014, Seattle will serve as the host city for the inaugural Miss Plus USA pageant. Among the field of contestants is my friend, Sasha Ballard, who will be representing the Commonwealth of Virginia. When I learned that she would be participating in the contest I thought she would be an ideal candidate for the ever-popular “Real-Life Curvy CEO” feature. So, let’s learn more about my girl, Sasha!

Tell my readers a little about yourself. Although I was born in Anchorage, Alaska and raised mostly in Washington D.C. and Maryland, today I reside in Virginia. I earned a Master’s Degree in Federal Program Management from Trinity Washington University and a B.A. in Mass Communications from Virginia State University. I’m a proud member of the illustrious Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and work as a Contract Specialist under the elite Fellows Management Program with the Federal Government. Recently I have started to work as a professional full-figured model. I maintain a deep passion for mentoring and changing lives. As such, I am currently working to establish an organization that will strive to help today’s youth build confidence, self-sufficiency, cultural awareness, and leadership skills.

Sasha-Miss Virginia Plus USA

What inspired you to enter the Miss Plus USA pageant? At first I was not going to enter the competition. I had never done anything like it before and really was not sure what to expect and if I could successfully accomplish what was required. I had heard about it through a friend of mine, but wrote off all interest in participating and gotten off of social media for months. I had occasionally thought about looking in to it again because it was on my heart. The very first day I logged back onto Facebook, it was the first thing I saw. I prayed about it and took it as a sign to proceed.

What are the official issue(s) you hope to represent during your reign as Miss Virginia Plus USA? My platform is Post-Partum Depression Awareness (PPD). I am teaming up with Postpartum Support International; one of the largest women’s organizations dedicated to helping women suffering from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. After I had my daughter in 2012, I had severe PPD. I felt there was a need for more events, programs, and initiatives for women dealing with PPD. There was especially a need for minority women to start talking about it.

I am working on finalizing a PPD initiative dedicated to urban mothers and children. My vision is to start dispelling one of the many taboos about mental health in our communities. I want to provide more resources in engaging women with their children and how to overcome a variety of circumstances that may be present before, during, and after pregnancy. I would like to create more opportunities for urban women to receive help without judgment and provide a key element of alternative educational methods and pregnancy prevention for young women.

[caption id="attachment_7870" align="aligncenter" width="442"]image credit: missplususa.com image credit: missplususa.com[/caption]

What has been the most surprising thing about preparing for the national competition so far? The most challenging? The most rewarding? The most surprising thing about preparing for a national competition is all the work involved. I have a new respect for people who do this. The most challenging is the balance act and making up in your mind what you really want out of it. Not taking anything personal was another big one. One of the most rewarding has been seeing how many people support you openly and even secretly. Due to my diligence and hard work, I was able to get a variety of sponsors in different things, so being able to meet different people and network and talk about your platform and who you are as a person is by far the most rewarding because you never know who you will meet and leave an impression on.

Win or lose, what do you hope to take home from your experience at the national competition? I hope to take home a valuable network of women who can pour and add greatness in to my life and allow me do the same for them. This is a huge investment monetarily, but even bigger emotionally. What I stand to gain is far greater than what I have spent.

How can my readers support you in your endeavor to take home the national title? Oh wow, there are so many things your readers can do to support me!

Email me encouragement and stories they would like to share at therealsashanicole@gmail.com - especially if they can relate to PPD or have anything they would like to share. It is great to have support in anything you do in life. They can also send me a Facebook friend request at “Sasha Nicole”. As I am coming to a close on tying the loose ends for the programs and initiatives I am doing to impact the DC, MD, VA area, they can follow the impact God has anointed me to make in the area.

[pullquote]The Miss Plus USA contest features another familiar face - former Real-Life Curvy CEO interviewee, poetess Shelly Says So aka Michel Washington who will be representing Maryland! Good luck to all of the 2014 contestants - we know that the DC metropolitan area will be WELL represented![/pullquote]Anything else you'd like to share? To keep going! There will be many people who may try to discourage your ideas and dreams, but keep going. The biggest thing that has kept me going is my understanding of the destiny laid out for me. I believe in achieving greatness. I continually try to do everything I can to stay motivated and focused on what God has placed in my heart. The more you can eliminate distractions not worthy of your time, the more destinies you will discover and achieve.

Please stay tuned and follow me down this path to help our communities and young women. I am going to do my best to not let you guys down!

Monday Morning Memo – Offer Up Your Gratitude

NEW monday-morning-memoNEW monday-morning-memo"Let's choose today to quench our thirst for the 'good life' we thinks others lead by acknowledging the good that already exists in our lives. We can then offer the universe the gift of our grateful hearts." – Sarah Ban Breathnach, author

You Know You’re a Fashion Blogger When…

think fashion

You know you're a fashion blogger when...

You don't understand when people say they're not "into" fashion.

 (source)

You get depressed when you realize that out of 57 images you made your boyfriend/husband/best friend take for an OOTD post, only 2 of them are actually worthy of posting on your blog...and even that is only after significant doctoring. (source)

You know the actual pronunciation of European fashion designers' names...and look down on those who don't.

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 Yet, your friends don't have an appreciation for this unique skill and usually give you this look when you bust out with the proper pronunciations (in an Italian or French accent, of course).

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You consider monthly fashion magazines to be essential reading.

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When you're out shopping with non-fashion blogger friends, they often try to turn the fitting room into an episode of Intervention.

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Whenever you wind up with a reasonably priced item from a fast-fashion retailer, it only takes you a few weeks to convince yourself that it's just as good as the high-end item it was modeled after.

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You usually don't get negative comments on your OOTD pics, but when you do, you don't let it phase you at all because you know that people are just hating on you.

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Even though you love your blog, sometimes you're tempted to quit because you're killing yourself in the wee hours of the night and on the weekends to crank out AMAZING content. Yet according to your pageviews it appears that only your mom and your best friend are reading. (source)

But, somehow, you manage to channel your inner-strength to remind yourself why you began this journey in the first place. (source)

And, ultimately, you decide that it doesn't matter what anyone thinks, because honey...you and your blog are simply fabulous! (source)

Poll: How Far Will YOU Go for Fashion?

how far will you go for fashion

how far will you go for fashion This poll is inspired by a conversation I had recently with a friend. We all have things we do - painful things, irrational things - in the name of looking good. From plucking your eyebrows (or paying someone regularly to do so) to spending unreasonable amounts of time at money at places like Sephora and Nordstrom, everyone can admit to something. I'm wondering - how far will YOU go in the name of fashion? Let us know in the poll below?

Is your vice not listed below? Share your guilty pleasure in the comments section!

[yop_poll id="3"]

What Are YOU Doing This Weekend?

overviewoverview You know that Curves Rock Weekend is always a major event here at Curvy CEO. (Don't believe me? Check out my past coverage here.) This year promises to be bigger than ever with celebrity host and dating coach (and real-life curvy ceo!) Tionna Small, poetess Shelly Says So, mixers, vendors, and, of course, fashions galore!!! Purchase tickets here! See you in Baltimore this weekend!!!

Event Recap: Ladies America – Women Leading the Future 2014

welcomewelcome On Saturday, June 24, 2014, some of the sharpest, most highly motivated, and, I daresay, well-dressed women across the area gathered in the Washington, DC offices of Microsoft to attend the Ladies America annual Women Leading the Future conference, entitled "Failure on the Path to Success".

At first blush, it might seem odd to have a professional development conference with the word "failure" in the title, but the day itself was so real and raw in terms of the advice it dished out that the title itself fit right in with that theme. So often, career advice is chocked full of platitudes about believing in yourself and the value of hard work. This event took those values for a given and allowed panelists cut straight to the chase.

One session that I particularly enjoyed was "Bumps Along the Way: Managing Life's Transitions Like a Champ!" featuring Caroline Cunningham, President of the Trust for the National Mall; Joanna Hoffschneider, Vice President of Business Development of architecture firm, Grimm & Parker; Tabatha Turman, President, Founder, and CEO of IFAS, a professional services firm. (Tabatha is also a U.S. Veteran!). The panel was moderated by Sonya Gavankar of ABC7. During this session, the panelists discussed risk-taking as well as how to successfully navigate unexpected twists and turns on the road to success. Here are some gems from the panel.

In response to the question, "How can you have fun, but still move forward in you career?", Joanna stated that even though people "think of networking as being career-driven, it can yield real, genuine friendships." She encouraged ladies in the audience to "find camaraderie in [their] networking." While camaraderie is important, Caroline added that it is also important to "build strategic friendships."

[caption id="attachment_7788" align="aligncenter" width="560"]"Bumps Along the Way" Panelists (L t R) Caroline Cunningham,  Joanna Hoffschneider & Tabatha Turman. Plus Moderator Sonya Gavankar of ABC7 "Bumps Along the Way" Panelists (L t R) Joanna Hoffschneider, Tabatha Turman, Caroline Cunningham and Moderator Sonya Gavankar of ABC7.[/caption]

Tabatha offered the entrepreneurial perspective, stating: "As a business owner you have to connect with people; you never know who your next customer will be. Even if you're an introvert, be purposeful in your networking. If you attend a conference, decide that you're going to connect with, say, 10 people in the room. Set goals in terms of networking. People I've networked with 20 years ago are now my clients. On social media, follow people strategically."

On the question of making transitions to move up the ladder, Caroline boldly declared: "Some people view it as the 'old boys' network.' I just view it as a network of people. They will support you in your transition." Tabatha advised participants to seek out mentors, specifically "people you can speak candidly with and who you can get honest feedback from...." Joanna quickly added: "Mentorship is very different from sponsorship. To make those big leaps, you need a sponsor. Most of us have portable softskills. Have the courage to look outside of your industry for opportunities. Superficially, they may be seem different, but in fact they may be very similar."

On the subject of starting a "side hustle," Tabatha shared, "If you want to be an entrepreneur, do NOT tell your boss that you want to go into business, especially if you will become a competitor. Wait until you have everything lined up - from investors to your legal infrastructure."

[pullquote]Be brave. What seems like a crisis now will not last forever. - Tabatha Turman[/pullquote]

Things got REALLY real when the ladies were asked, "Tell us about your most difficult transition?"

Caroline confessed that she got fired from her very first job, even though she was the top performer. The problem? She wasn't paying attention to the internal politics of her organization. "So, it's not just about the metrics of your performance," she shared, "but how well you play nice with other people. It's not just going to work and doing your job. You have to go out to lunch with people and get to know them." For Tabatha, the hardest transition was leaving a comfortable position and a good paycheck to pursue entrepreneurship.

Joanna shook up the room by reminding everyone that sometimes you don't choose to transition; life just happens. And when it does? "Allow yourself to mourn the loss. Yes, you have to get going to find the next thing, but give yourself a moment. Oh, and HAVE AN EMERGENCY SAVINGS ACCOUNT!"

The room paused for a moment. Joanna went on to say, "If having three to six months saved sounds impossible, start with three to six weeks." Blending the issues of both money and networking, Joanna stated, "You have to sort out your internal politics. If you're making a radical change without a savings account and without a network - you are crazy!" [Ed. Note: Don't you just love her blunt, tell-it-like-it-is style?] Caroline added: "Have a non-judgmental budget. Make some decisions. Then you can be strategic rather than self-critical. Having money in the bank gives you a sense of freedom. Everyone's comfort level is different." If you were a man, you would've done itAgain adding the entrepreneurial spin on things, Tabatha advised: "If you're going to start a business, ask for money before you need it. Before you charge up your credit card or borrow against your child's college fund, go to the banks with a business plan to get a loan." Tabatha specifically advised going to community banks for financing.

The ladies closed out the session by addressing the question, "How do you know if you're ready to lead?" Caroline advised participants to "use fear as a tool" and acknowledge that "you're not going to know how to do a lot of things, but you likely have a network of people who can help you." I think my favorite remark of the day: "If you were a man, you would've done it already." #truth

She continued, "Most of us DON'T know what we're doing, but we figure it out as we go along."

As part of her concluding thoughts, Tabatha shared: "Identify the company that you want to be five to ten years from now. Take lessons from those around you, but remember that everyone's journey is different."

Whew! That is a whole lot of info from just ONE session! To read more about all of the amazing info shared at Women Leading the Future, search "wlf2014" on Twitter to find more pictures and recaps!

Curvy CEO Featured on Washingtonian.com!

washingtonian logo     Recently, I had the honor of being featured in an interview on Washington.com - the online home of Washington, DC's premiere lifestyle magazine. To say I am *geeked* is putting it mildly! The interview's focus? Why, warm-weather dressing, of course! For those who have just discovered Curvy CEO via Washingtonian.com, I offer a hearty welcome and a not-so-subtle invitation to stick around for a while! Here are more blog posts about maintaining stylish professionalism in the heat of summer: You can find more style advice on my Tips & Tricks page. Like what you see? Please sign up to get posts delivered to your email inbox or via bloglovin. Follow me on Twitter, Instgram, and Pinterest. "Like" us on Facebook. I'm even on Google+ (not that I have a clue how to use it yet)! Most important of all, let me hear from you! I am always looking for new topics to write about - if you have a burning question or comment, please email me! Thanks so much!

Monday Morning Memo – Writing the Future

monday morning memo"The course of life is unpredictable...no one can write his autobiography in advance." - Abraham Lincoln   One of the most frustrating things in life is the uncertainty of the future. Yes, you can work hard and do all the "right" things that other people told you were supposed to ensure happiness. But in the end, that doesn't guarantee that you will get the guy, the house, the promotion, and ultimately the life that you want. What I'm realizing is that only deliberate action steps that you have a real shot at achieving your dreams...and even then, there are no guarantees. (Alas, the only certainty is that if you do not try, you will not accomplish anything.)   As we find ourselves in the beginning of July, I am amazed at how quickly time has flown by. It feels like just yesterday we were plotting out our goals for 2014 and battling the polar vortex. With a promotion at work and new developments in my personal life, I didn't have as much time during the first half of the year to dedicate to my personal goals as I thought I would. Although I agree with today's quote that no one can map out their future in advance, I do hope to be a little bit more intentional about how I spend my time going forward. In an attempt to do so, I'm doing to revisit the goals that I set forth at the beginning of the year and adjust my action plans as necessary.   What about you, dear readers? How are you doing with the goals you set for yourself at the beginning of the year? Are the just distant memories or have you been able to make some progress? (If so, please share and encourage those of us who are struggling!) Have a great week, everyone!