#SWAAYthenarrative

All Black Everything: How Beauty and Brains Are Helping Black Creators

4 Min Read
Culture

The "All Black Everything Summit" was born out of the COVID-19 pandemic. When stay-at-home orders first went into effect, I started to do an Instagram Live series called "Conversations with Global Pros" on my personal account as a way to stay motivated and engage with my community. As a full-time professional makeup artist used to being out and about, it was clear I would be stuck at home for the foreseeable future, and my work had come to a halt. The series started to take off and was doing very well. More importantly, I was having fun and the DMs I was receiving made it obvious my followers were enjoying the content, too.

While continuing to work on "Conversations with Global Pros," I kept thinking about how the pandemic would ultimately affect Black people in the creative field. I knew it would affect us in a disproportionate way, and I wanted to find a constructive way to help combat it. That's when the "All Black Everything Summit" was born. I was already producing an engaging, inspiring series on my own channel, so why not turn it into something even bigger and better?

When we look at American culture and analyze it, it's hard not to see the influence of Black culture within this rich history. Because Black history is American history.

I decided to spearhead a virtual summit. The undertaking was huge and has since turned into my life's passion project. Initially, my goal for the first three-day summit, which took place in May, was to gather Black thought leaders within the beauty industry and host them on the platform to discuss ways to come out on top when the doors opened back up. I invited photographers, makeup artists, hair stylists, creative directors, influencers, and more to inspire and motivate our people into action during one of the craziest times of our lives.

But little did anyone know that George Floyd's murder would take place just a few weeks later, sending this country into a tailspin. Looking back, it was sort of a foreshadowing of what was to come.

Now, my vision for All Black Everything is creating a space that empowers Black artists both creatively and economically, ensuring that Black artists are negotiating from a position of power and strength. We need to feel like we deserve to be on the same playing field as our White counterparts. Over the years, I've found that we can sometimes get in our own heads about our worth and what we should ask for because society has made us feel less than, but I want us to throw that old narrative, record player, whatever you want to call it, out of the window. It's time for change and the time is now. UNAPOLOGETICALLY.

I was already producing an engaging, inspiring series on my own channel, so why not turn it into something even bigger and better?

Through All Black Everything, I am creating real, actionable steps for Black artists to take charge and create their own future. Another goal of mine? Do away with what I call the "gatekeeper mentality," which often makes people think that they need to go through someone to get somewhere and I say, NO MORE! That ideology is being challenged by the summit. My goal is to build a table AND bring chairs for others to partake in the knowledge. My goal is also to build up the community so that they can, in turn, build their own tables and chairs.

During and after the first All Black Everything Summit, I received messages from people all over the world telling me that they were so inspired and, most importantly, that they were doing something about their inspiration. It's definitely okay to be inspired, but did you do anything to move the needle? To find out that participants did made it all worth it to me. It is what makes me want to keep going. This message is too important to stop now.

My goal is to continue this initiative with actual actionable steps like providing resources, guides, and summits for the Black community and beyond. I am committed to this because my goal in life is to find a way for us, Black people, to heal from this generational trauma and any trauma that tells you that you are not worthy. And I'm tired of us feeling like we don't deserve to live a life worth living. My goal and allegiance is no longer to brands in trying to help them understand our world (even though that understanding is a part of the puzzle) but it is to my fellow Black creator. I want us to be prepared when opportunity comes knocking.

It's definitely okay to be inspired, but did you do anything to move the needle?

When we look at American culture and analyze it, it's hard not to see the influence of Black culture within this rich history. Because Black history is American history. Black creators help shape imagery in all fronts within culture, and because of that, we need to be respected and paid accordingly. Our contributions need to be valued and most importantly monetized. Out of this monetization comes liberation on all fronts. Please know that this movement is not about a handout. This is about placing value on a person's work and paying them accordingly.

It will create a domino effect. This is the time. Seize this very moment and don't look back, but don't forget to pay it forward.

5 min read
Self

Lessons Learned and the Power of Turning 50

Except for 16, I have celebrated all of my milestone birthdays in New York City.

I turned 16 in Arnold, Missouri. Arnold is a small town (though not small anymore) 20 miles south of St. Louis. St. Louis is known for the Gateway Arch, a beautiful arch of shiny stainless steel, built by the National Parks Service in 1935 to commemorate Thomas Jefferson's vision of a transcontinental U.S. St. Louis is also known for its custard, a frozen dessert that is so thick, they hand it to you upside down with a spoon inside. Something else about St. Louis you should know is that there is a courthouse just steps from the base of the Gateway Arch where one of the most important cases in history was tried: Dred Scott v. Sanford.

I'm turning 50 during what I define as a miraculous time to be alive.

Mr. Scott was born into enslavement around 1799 and, in 1830, was sold to a military surgeon who traveled back and forth between his military posts in Illinois and Wisconsin, where slavery was prohibited under the Missouri Compromise of 1820. In 1842 the doctor and Mr. Scott both married, and they, all four, returned to St. Louis. Still enslaved, Dred Scott filed a lawsuit against the doctor's wife for his and his wife Harriet's freedom. We don't know exactly why he chose this moment in time to file a lawsuit, however, he did. At the time of filing his, now, famous lawsuit, he was 50 years old. Ultimately, The Scott family did not gain their freedom, but their profound courage in filling this case helped ignite the Civil War and what we would come to know (or think we know) as freedom from enslavement for all human beings. Powerful then and even more powerful now.

My next milestone was turning 21, and I did it in the Big Apple. Having only moved to "the city that never sleeps" a few months prior, I knew nobody except my new friends, the bus-boys from the restaurant I was working at, Patzo's on the Upper West Side. And, yes, pazzo is actually the correct spelling of the Italian word, which translates to "crazy." Trust me we all had several laughs about the misspelling and the definition going hand in hand. I worked a full shift, closing out at around 11 PM, when, my kitchen team came out from the line with a cake singing, "Cumpleaños Feliz." It was fantastic. And the kindness of these almost-strangers was a powerful reminder of connection then as it still is today almost 29 years later.

I design the life I desire and the Universe creates it for me every day. I show up, keep the story moving, and work hard because I am relentlessly devoted to making the world a better place and this is how I choose to leave my legacy.

When I turned 30, I had just finished a European tour with Lucinda Childs dance company. The company had been on tour for months together and were inseparable. We traveled through Paris, Vienna, Lisbon, and Rome. We ate together, we rode on a bus together, we had drinks after shows together, and we even took turns giving company class to get warmed up before a show. It was deeply meaningful and dreamy. We ended the tour back in New York City at BAM, The Brooklyn Academy of Music. It was an incredible way to end the tour, by being on our home court, not to mention I was having an important birthday at the culmination of this already incredible experience.

So, when I invited everyone to join me at Chelsea Pier's Sky Rink to ice skate in late August, I was schooled really quickly that "tour" does not mean you are friends in real life, it means you are tour friends. When the tour ends, so does the relationship. I skated a few laps and then went home. This was a beautiful lesson learned about who your real friends are; it was powerful then as it is today.

Turning 40 was a completely different experience. I was in a serious relationship with my now-husband, Joe. I had just come off of a successful one-woman dance show that I produced, choreographed, and danced in, I had just choreographed a feature film, John Turturro's Romance and Cigarettes, with A-list actors, including Kate Winslet and James Gandolfini, who became a dear friend and had even been on the red carpet with Susan Sarandon at the Venice Film Festival for the movie a year earlier.

And I encourage all women to identify their power and choose to be fully in your power at any age.

This was a very special birthday, and I had, in those 10 years between 30 and 40, come to cultivate very real friendships with some wonderful colleagues. We all celebrated at a local Italian restaurant, Etcetera Etcetera (who is delivering for those of you in NYC — we order weekly to support them during COVID), a staple in the theater district. Joe and I were (and are) regulars and, of course, wanted to celebrate my 40th with our restaurant family and friends. We were upstairs in the private room, and it was really lovely. Many of those in attendance are no longer with us, including Joe's Dad, Bob Ricci, and my dear friend Jim Gandolfini having transitioned to the other side. Currently, that restaurant is holding on by a thread of loving neighbors and regulars like us. Life is precious. Powerful then and today even more so.

I write this article because I'm turning 50, still in New York City. However, I'm turning 50 during what I define as a miraculous time to be alive. And I could not be more filled with hope, love, possibility, and power. This year has included an impeachment hearing, a global pandemic, and global protests that are finally giving a larger platform to the Black Lives Matter movement. Being able to fully embody who I am as a woman, a 50-year-old woman who is living fully in purpose, takes the cake, the rink, and the party.

I'm making movies about conversations around race. I've been happily married for 11 years to the love of my life, Joe Ricci. I'm amplifying and elevating the voices of those who have not previously had a platform for speaking out. I choose who to spend time with and how long! I design the life I desire and the Universe creates it for me every day. I show up, keep the story moving, and work hard because I am relentlessly devoted to making the world a better place and this is how I choose to leave my legacy. Being 50 is one of the most amazing things I ever thought I could experience. And I encourage all women to identify their power and choose to be fully in your power at any age. I'm 50 and powerful. Dred Scott was 50 and powerful. This powerful lesson is for today and tomorrow. We have the power. No matter what age you are, I invite you to use your powerful voice to join me in making the world a better place.