Month: April 2012

Monday Morning Memo – Michelle Obama on “Physical Success”

monday morning memo"I tell my girls it is good to sweat. I want you to get your hair wet. I want you to run and be out of breath. I want you to feel what it feels like to be physically successful, not just intellectually successful and not just emotionally successful. It's good to win because you ran faster!" - Michelle Obama I saw this quote in the most recent issue of Ebony magazine, featuring our First Lady on the cover. This statement really stuck out to me because the exact OPPOSITE of how most lil' black girls were raised . . . at least the ones I knew. Nothing was more important getting good grades . . . and you didn't dare get your hair wet. Lately I've been stepping up my health game and I must say, it's causing a little bit of a curvy girl identity crisis. We'll talk about that more tomorrow!

The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Looking Good

morning routinePerhaps you've woken up late . . . again. Or, you're overwhelmed with preparing lunches and shuttling kids to school. Maybe, you're just not a morning person. Whatever the case, you just can't find the motivation to pull together a "look" in the mornings. I get it. Trust me, there are some days when I think to myself that the world should be grateful that I'm just up, showered and clothed; nevermind trying to "be cute" or "dress for success" or whatever. However, as cliché as it sounds, it's really true that when I look frumpy and thrown together, I feel frumpy and thrown together. And it impacts my performance as well as my interactions with others for the entire day. That's why, even if I'm running late (which I usually am) or just not feeling motivated to put a lot of effort into my appearance, I take at least 10 minutes to spruce myself up before leaving the house. I call this my "lazy girl" approach to looking good. It basically boils down to three steps: 1. Toss on a great dress. I love dresses. You just slip them over your head and *bloop* you're done! If you want to get fancy with it, you can add a belt or a brooch or a scarf. But, usually a great dress is enough to stand on its own. 2. Slip on some simple, chic flats. Again, easy, convenient, comfy, and stylish! 3. Swipe on some eyeliner, lip gloss and mascara. Unless you're not that adept at using eyeliner or mascara, this step should literally take about 90 seconds to complete, no lie. You can always use your finger to gently smudge the eyeliner to camouflage any imperfections and make them look like they're "on purpose." Also, lip gloss, by its very nature, doesn't need to be "perfectly" applied. Just a few dabs and a quick pucker should do the job. Then, add just a few coats of mascara and you're done! If you want that *extra* polished look, just use a little pressed or translucent powder. But that's it - and even though it's not a fully made up face, it brightens up your look just enough to make you ready for the world. I've turned to this "lazy girl" routine on a number of occasions. As someone who typically takes 30-45 minutes to put my look together in the mornings, it amazes me when I'm able to do it in a fraction of the time and still look good!

What’s Your Morning Routine?

morning routineI am not a morning person. Never have been. In fact, I semi-hate morning people . . . all rested and excited to start their day. Me? I live for the snooze button. Every day I have to pull myself out of bed and convince myself to get going. It ain't pretty. But, once I actually get up and get going, I am able to embark on what is usually my favorite part of the day - getting myself outfitted and dressed. As we discussed yesterday, I typically dedicate a decent amount of time in the evenings to picking out my wardrobe (down to the handbag and earrings) for the next day. So in the mornings, I get to execute my fashion plan! Usually I grab some coffee and crank up some upbeat music . . . maybe some Fred Hammond or Mary J. Blige . . . and then get to beautifying myself for the day. It's my own little ritual. My best friend thinks it's crazy, but I really value this time . . . except for the days when I'm feeling unpretty. On those days it's a little tougher to get motivated. But then I just implement my "lazy girl" beauty routine. We will talk about THAT more tomorrow. In the meantime, what is YOUR morning routine? Do you spend quality time with yourself? With the Creator? Or is it a mad dash just to get yourself fed, washed and dressed?  

What’s Your Evening Routine?

image source: rockandfrock.comWhat's your evening routine? Does it involve picking up kids from the sitter and helping with homework? Cooking up a quick weeknight meal? Snuggling on the couch with a good book or the latest episode of X Factor? Maybe some combination of all three? For me, it usually involves arriving back at my apartment, sometime between 9 and 10pm, battleworn from a 12 hour day. I might do a chore or two. Maybe watch a half hour of television. But one thing I almost always do, without fail, is to spend some quality time in my closet, conjuring up my outfit for the next day. [caption id="attachment_3443" align="aligncenter" width="291" caption="image source:"][/caption] I think about what I've got going on the next day and ask myself questions like, Will I have to pound the pavement on Capitol Hill or will I spend most of my day at the office? What's the weather going to be like? Do I have any place in particular I have to go after work? Then I act as my own personal stylist and "pull" different options. I make sure that the pieces I am thinking of wearing are (1) clean and (2) actually work together. (SIDEBAR: It's especially important to do this with black items of clothing. Depending on differences in fabric, some blacks have a more ash or gray tint to them, while others are pure black. So, even though they might look perfectly coordinated in your closet, you want to make sure that the black skirt you want to pair with a black jacket actually "go" together. There's nothing more embarassing - to me anyway - than wearing an outfit with two different "shades" of black. To make sure they match up, I always compare them against each other under the lights.) More often than not, I actually try on the outfit - just to see how it works together. Then I give some thought to what shoes I will wear, my accessories and hairstyle and even my makeup palette for the day. (Yes, it gets that deep.) I usually go through two or three outfits choices before landing on a winner. Sometimes, it depends on what I've actually got available ("Ooh, that shirt does NOT go with those pants," or "Whoops, that skirt is at the dry cleaners!"). Other times, it will just depend on my mood. By the time I'm done, however, I would've done my own mini-fashion show . . . prancing around my apartment all dolled up. (It completely confuses my cat, who ends up following me between my closet and the bedroom.) While it's sometimes a pain to go through this whole routine, it helps me to unwind and even "get my mind right" for the next day. Also, it makes things a heck of a lot easier for me the next morning.

Contest Alert! Presenza and Blueprint for Style Giveaway!

Hey Curvy Girls! Remember when we featured Jill Homiak of Presenza as one of our Real-Life Curvy CEO series series? Well, Jill is sponsoring a contest with style and image consultant Monica Barnett over at Blueprint & Style to offer a Presenza top (be sure to check the size guide!) and a month-long subscription to b-styled by blueprint through April 30. Entering the giveaway is simple and is outlined in Blueprint for Style's blog post. Basically . . . 1. Like both Presenza and on FB. 2. Then share the blog post on your own Facebook page and tell us which look you love (Deconstructed Chic, Urban Trendsetter, or Savvy Sophisticate)! NOTE:You must tag both of their pages in the post in order to be eligible for the giveaway! Personally, I am loving the Savvy Sophisticate look, which is a pink professional colorblock ensemble: Enter today!!

Monday Morning Memo – Let Your Light Shine

"...Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

- Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love

This is one of my absolute favorite quotes of all-time. So often, as women and as professionals, we shortchange ourselves and the world by hiding our gifts and talents, so as not to make anyone else feel inadequate. After living that way for a long time, I learned that all this does is make me feel inadequate. As Katt Williams reminds us (in this very funny, but very crude, very NSFW clip) haters gonna hate. So stop extinguishing your own light. Whether it be in how you dress or how you behave, let your light shine for all to see. As for me, I'm working on getting that 16th hater by summer.

Real-Life Curvy CEO: Renae Bennett

renae bennett

One of the perks of attending New Jersey Full Figure Fashion Week was the opportunity to network with lots of other divas in the plus-size fashion industry. One person that I had the pleasure of meeting was entrepreneur Renae Bennett, proprietor of online boutique Ms. Full Figured, which has the tagline, "Full Figured & Fulfilled." I was delighted to have the opportunity to interview her for what turned out to be one of the most inspiring entries into the real-life Curvy CEO series. Check out what she has to say below!

Tell me about your business. I am the CEO of RedBird Enterprises L.LC. Under this corporation, I operate several businesses ranging from media and entertainment to corporate destination event planning and retail. It sounds like a handful but these are the areas where our strongest and proven experience has prevailed.

Our retail division is the plus size online boutique called Ms. Full Figured, where we have developed a collection of trendy and affordable clothing and accessories for women between the ages of 15-55. I chose this avenue for our retail division because I have always been  approached by ladies about where to find  my shoes, my dress, my earrings something but what really pushed me into retail was women buying my things straight off my body! On one occasion, I had to go home in flip-flops  because this woman just had to have my shoes, the more I said no, she added another 20 dollars! That was my sign to get serious about plus size retail. With this boutique I focus primarily on every woman’s desire to be unique and stand out from the crowd in class, grace and fun! Our slogan is "Full Figured & Fulfilled," which means that you need to be in a mental place of happiness with yourself and your body and mind at any weight or size to enjoy all the rights of being a fashionable woman.

Currently our boutique is available to women everywhere online. We focus on providing as much information as possible to convey the fit and we are available for questions if a lady is concerned about her measurements to a particular product. We are also working on a retail venue and trying to identify the perfect central location in the Tri-State area. Women can click "shop" and support our goals to bring them the unique and lovely merchandise that we find for them!

What inspired you to become an entrepreneur? I really don’t know where the inspiration comes from for entrepreneurism but the way my mind sees the world is: I see nothing but opportunity and the ability to connect a need with a viable service or product. Both my parents are entrepreneurs as well as my grandparents so it’s kind of in my DNA, but the truth is: I  really I have been an entrepreneur my whole life. I have been engaging in business since I was 10 years old and I convinced my Mom that her cakes were good enough to be sold at stores across the Bronx. I became her delivery girl and collected the money, bought the ingredients and helped in the baking process. After that I went to Jamaica and attended an all-girls high school where that Bronx hustler met “proper Caribbean British Schooling.” It was like oil and water because I found a way to sell American candy to the proper British Caribbean School girls. While my business made me successful and popular, it also a target for disciplinary actions, so I had to disperse my products amongst other girls who were interested in working with me and we split the profits.

I have come a long way since then and would say that between that time and now I have had at least 10-12 businesses models that I have developed while working at jobs I hated, or the inability to find a job to hate (smile).  I have created businesses utilizing my education, work experience, some of my natural talents and some simply based on opportunity for marketing a particular good or service.  Now that I really think of it, my philosophies are the inspiration; I don’t think there are any mistakes or wrong turns in my life. Everything and everyone that I have come in contact with has afforded me a link to the next step in my objectives. With that mindset I have allowed myself to be driven by opportunity; therefore, wherever I look all around me, I see an  opportunity to do something different or start something new.

What has been the most challenging thing about having your own business? Honestly, this question is a lot more serious for women entrepreneurs than men. The most challenging thing is partnership in your relationships. To be an entrepreneur, you have to be committed to your goals, like, obsessed with your goals where you forget to eat, can’t sleep and will give every waking minute of your time to that goal and while you are doing that there is someone or something being neglected. It is very difficult for us as women to have that intense focus on the realization of our own business objectives and at the same time be the nurturers, the caretakers, and sometimes the second seat in a household. When you have made up your mind that your business takes first chair to everything and everyone you will have real challenges. Being a boss in your business is not easy when, as women, sometimes our partners may feel pushed to the side and at times many men are intimidated by a woman who can and will do it and get it done. So I would say the most challenging thing to me is how you balance your can-do-get-it done-alpha-female-personality with those around you.

What has been the most rewarding thing about having your own business?  There is a place between your dreams and the realization of the dream that I call G.G.H.S.S. or Grass Grows Horse Starve Syndrome. In that place you experience the miniscule growth of your dreams and you are alone in the dark with a dimming candle. In that place it is very easy to get discouraged and lose sight of your goals. You may want to give up and give in and throw in the towel and then there is a phone call, an order or even a word from an unexpected place and you realize that SOMEONE out there GETS IT! The transference of an idea, the sale of merchandise or a desire for something that began in your mind is the most rewarding experience ever! It is like the universe saying back to you:  YES, you are valuable and we need you to keep doing your thing! I feel that every time I sell a single item or make a major deal and it motivates me to keep going.

What advice would you give to would-be entrepreneurs? I have a 5 part answer to this question, but its worth the read if you are an aspiring entrepreneur!

1) START WHERE YOU STAND! Many people think that you need a lot of money to start a business, but sometimes you already have everything you need and don’t even realize it. As I said before:  I see opportunity in everything, even food stamps! For example if you are a lady with a good stove and getting  food stamps and a recipe for the best banana nut bread in America, you are more that 75% on your way! Make samples and look around you for places that need your product and get on your hustle, someone out there wants what you have to offer if you present it in the right way.

2) SELF GROOMING. Take care of your appearance! Groom yourself to look like the part you are trying to play. If you are not great at speaking publicly or approaching strangers, join your local Toastmasters. Sit in on a free seminar at your local library. It doesn’t matter what the topic is but you need to witness public speaking to emulate it. Answer some of the questions, take notes and pay attention to the speaker and the use of body language and tone. Also a few books don’t hurt either. Speak to others frequently, share your ideas and engage strangers in conversation wherever you get the chance - this will build confidence when asking for a deal. These things are essential to pitching your product, merchandise or ideas to others because sometimes you are judged on sight and sound before you even open your mouth and you need to shatter the perceptions with your use of language, charm and appearance.

3) RESEARCH! Read up on the viability of your goal or industry that you are trying to reach with your product or services. Due diligence affords us the foresight to see and avoid pitfalls before we fall into them.

4) JUST DO IT! Aft all your research, if you are still motivated and ready to get your business going, just go ahead and get it done! There is something to be said for ACTION. When you put action behind your thoughts, you begin to see your ideas take on a life of possibilities and others around you begin to see it too! It’s very easy to sit around and say “No one will help me and I don’t know how to start this business.” But if you don’t do it, who will take on your dreams for you? Remember, every business out there today, no matter how grand, started somewhere, small and humble. You need to find that smaller version of the grand thing you are thinking of and materialize that so you have a seed to grow into a mighty oak!

5) FIND LIKE MINDED INDIVIDUALS. Connect with people who are like-minded and interested who can support your ideas - emotionally, spiritually and even financially. Your family has NO obligation to GET your idea. They can’t see what you see, so you need to surround yourself with like-minded people who are experienced and qualified to encourage you or tell you plainly about the business you are thinking of starting. Getting a mentor who can throw some knowledge your way isn’t a bad idea either!

Well, there you have it! I don't know about you, but I feel like I just went through an MBA crash course! Be sure to check out Renae's shop at You can also keep up with her through Twitter and Facebook.

Chasing Stacy

The hunt is on!

If you follow me on Twitter, you already know that last week I learned of Stacy London of TLC's What Not to Wear making an appearance at a nearby mall only about 24 hours before she showed up. (Stacy is taking part in the Westfield Style Tour, which features one-on-one sessions with stylists trained by Stacy herself as well as makeovers and even a photo op.) The deal was that if you bought $100 worth of merchandise that day at the mall, you could meet and take a picture with Stacy. I never have been one who needed too much encouragement to shop, so even though I managed to quickly accumulate $100 worth of cosmetics and hair accessories (because what I really need is more hair accessories), I wasn't able to nab a photo op with Stacy. (By the time I got back to the "style tent" they'd already handed out all of the tickets.)

So, after failing to get a hook-up from brothaman behind the velvet rope, I did what any self-respecting blogger would do . . . I went to the balcony level and snapped pictures from above! [gallery link="file" columns="4" include="3395, 3393, 3394, 3396"] From what I could tell based on her interactions with those who DID get a photo op (like Alison over at Wardrobe Oxygen), Stacy seemed just the same as she is on television - funny, friendly, brutally honest but caring. [caption id="attachment_3407" align="alignleft" width="336" caption="Torrid trouser, Eileen Fisher Top, Gap scarf, Michael Kors bag"][/caption]

I did stick around to get a fashion consultation myself with a stylist who admitted right from the start that they didn't have a lot of options for plus size customers. But she did hip me to the trousers offered by Torrid (which I didn't realize they sold) and encouraged me to use scarves to incorporate some of the jewel tones that are on trend for this season (I've been meaning to try getting into scarves for a while now). She also introduced me to this GORGEOUS Michael Kors travel tote, but after blowing $100 on trinkets for a missed opportunity to meet Stacy, I figured my wad was blown for the day.

Check the look!

Whose Life IS This, Anyway?

You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack And you may find yourself in another part of the world And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile You may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife You may ask yourself, "Well, how did I get here?" ... And you may ask yourself, "How do I work this?" And you may ask yourself, "Where is that large automobile?" And you may tell yourself, "This is not my beautiful house" And you may tell yourself, "This is not my beautiful wife" "Once in a Lifetime" by The Talking Heads Do you ever look around and think to yourself, "This was not the way I imagined my life...." For better or worse, did you envision yourself in a different "place" than where you are right now in life? With or without a spouse, with or without children, with or without your dream house or dream car or dream job?  I find myself thinking that way more and more. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that (1) I have been working around the clock for the last three months so I'm basically on "autopilot" and (2) I have a birthday coming up in a few weeks. But when I look at where I thought I would be at this age (married, with kids, in a house) and where I am (single, childless, in an apartment), it makes me a little concerned...especially when I look around and see other folks that I went to school with who seem to be right on track with life while I'm doing some sort of puffy, church-girl version of Sex and the City. Now, before you try to talk me down, I fully recognize that at least part of this sentiment is a result of the Facebook effect. ("There are photos of the ski vacations, first class airline seats to Beijing, and 'Wait, is that Richard Branson with his arm draped around my high school friend? She looks fabulous. And that stoner sloth from college, he's doing ANOTHER Ironman Triathlon?'") And it works both ways. I've had former classmates who live back in my hometown with a husband and kids say to me, "Your life in DC looks so exciting! You're really living the single-girl-in-the-big-city life!" In the past, I would attempt to get over this "grass is always greener"-type of thinking by going all sour grapes. [/mixed metaphors] After all, you never know how someone else got what they have, how they're doing with it or what they've got to do to keep it. But, while all of this might be true, this type of coping mechanism is still coming from a place of negativity and lack. So, instead, I have decided to start looking at things from the place of positivity and abundance. For, as we discussed yesterday, gratitude breeds contentment, while discontentment is the spawn of jealousy. If you're constantly having to say to yourself, "Well, it could be worse," that means that it also could be better. Here's to making things better...starting with my state of mind.