Style With Oakland: event wrap up + gallery

Celebrating the launch of its brand new Coconut Shea Line, EDEN Bodyworks made a trip to the West Coast to share the excitement with all us Bay Area beauties with its Style With EDEN event series.

Bringing together the worlds of hair and fashion, Style With EDEN featured Jackeh of HairPlay Salon and Erica Varize of popular Bay Area fashion line EVarize (whose designs you might recognize from that AWESOME piece I wore to the November EDEN Bodyworks event in Los Angeles).

Two models were styled to show of both straight and curly styles while modeling fierce EVarize designs.

I myself, well, I rocked my patterned harem pants I found while in Senegal + tube top + shrug combo topped off with a brand new haircut (and we’ll get to that more in tomorrow’s post).

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Everyone in attendance was looking delightfully chic in bright colors, patters, and ‘dos.

Special thanks to Ylorie, Renae, Sherrell and Alisa from the EDEN Bodyworks team for putting on such a wonderful event for us out here! For those of you who have not yet checked out the new EDEN Bodyworks Coconut Shea line, make sure you do! I’ve been using it for a few weeks now and absolutely LOVING IT! (Again, full review to come soon!)

And now, without further ado— the full Style with EDEN Oakland gallery!

EuroTrip Epilogue: European Black Identity and the #naturalhair Movement

I’m finally back in San Francisco, and after a three week odyssey to Europe and back it feels delightful to write this post from my bed.  I had a fanfreakingtastic trip traveling in the name of natural hair.  Well,  let’s be more specific there- I travel frequently in the name of natural hair, but the ABROAD part was truly eye opening.

The process of going natural and the experience of being natural is very much linked to the idea of black identity.  In Europe, black identity is much more closely linked to African identity as many of the persons there are first or second generation immigrants from Africa.  In the US, we call ourselves African American, but the terms “African French” and “African British” don’t exist.  Ask a black person in Paris where they are from, and they will likely answer “I was born in France, but I’m from the Ivory Coast” or “I’m from the Antilles” and when prompted, “and I was born here in France.”  Despite being born in France and 100% a French citizen, many persons of African descent in Europe have yet to embrace their European nationality.  At the same time, European countries do not necessarily acknowledge these people as their nationals.  In essence, there is a stronger link between African origins in Europe than here in the states.

The UK and French natural hair communities that I had the honor of connecting with are impressively international and with such diversity, there is also a unique cultural richness.  The ladies I met on this trip were from Ghana, Algeria, Morocco, Burkina Faso, Guyana, Congo, Martinique, Guadaloupe, Reunion, Switzerland, Haiti, and Senegal and it was beautiful to see all of these different countries represented, respected, and coming together to further the same cause.

The natural hair movement in London and Paris is in its infancy, but I see potential for it to spread as quickly and as rapidly here in the states.  I would assume that the prevalence of skin bleaching spas and weaves that I saw “Black Paris” are very much a result of attempts to assimilate to the dominant French culture.  But in a culture where African origins are held onto tightly, I see great potential for the celebration and growth of the natural hair, a piece of tangible evidence of African origin.

I made many friends on this trip and I’m looking forward to watching the growth and development of the natural hair movement across the pond.  It was an honor to unite the American and European natural hair communities, and to share our collective stories.  One thing is for certain, that despite the thousands of miles that separate us from our natural sisters across the pond, we’ve got more in common than differences.  Oh and that it certainly won’t be another seven years before I return to Europe for a visit!

 

now my only question is…where to next?

 

Well, at least I lost 15 lbs before getting to Europe…

I spent the past three months in anticipation of this trip to Europe and frankly one of the only things I did to prepare for the trip was start going to this exercise class in SF called BURN, which is 55-minutes of heart pumpin, body thumpin cardio/pilates.  It’s hard as s*it, but you know, when you see those pounds turn into lean muscle, it’s all worth it.

But in the back of my mind, I knew that I was about to be in France: land-o-gourmet food.  I tried not to think about it too much, for fear that the excitement would overwhelm me and I would run off the plane, straight to the boulangerie and start stuffing croissants into my face by the fistful.  Upon arrival, for the first couple days I dined on salads and simple sandwiches.  ”This is nice,” I thought to myself, “perhaps you’ve learned how to moderate yourself.”  Then I had my first bite of foie gras and once that fatty liver pate hit my blood system, it was like my eyes dialated, my endorphines started running and my brain was all HOLY CRAP YOU’RE IN FRANCE! IT IS TIME TO GO ALLLLLL IN ON THE GRUB!!!

And. So. I. Did.

I have basically traveled from meal to meal trying to remember things that I loved and wanted to taste again such as fresh crepes stuffed with nutella, oozing smelly cheese on crusty fresh baguettes, duck duck and more duck, tartare, kebab sandwiches, pain au chocolats, West African stews, and of course foie gras.

Duck with Fig Compote - Le Potager (Montmartre, Paris)

The obsession with foie gras has a history for me.  During my abroad program, we were taken to a field trip to a foie gras museum and factory where we saw first hand how funnels were shoved down the throats of geese who were force fed in order to fatten up their liver and create the flavorful delicacy.  This process is called “Gavage” and yea, it’s not the nicest treatment of animals, but apparently the geese love it because they get to eat all the time.  (Or so they say…)  After this lovely and perhaps a bit too realistic museum, we were taken to a foie gras specialty restaurant where about 20 American students, with visions of gavage still dancing in their head, sat still and stared at the foie gras on their plates.  Not a chance we were going to gavage ourselves on the livers of gavaged geese! Anywho, I hated the stuff until one night we came home from the Toulouse bars and that was the ONLY thing to eat in the house so you know how that goes…Since that night, I’ve had a special spot in my heart and stomach for foie gras.

It’s not as widely eaten in the states and when it is, it’s rather pricey.  However most recently, cities like Chicago and my hometown of San Francisco have passed laws banning the consumption of foie gras–quel horreur!  Why? You guessed it!  GAVAGE!  So as I explained to my French friends that I loved foie gras, but it was now “interdit” (banned) in San Francisco, they were aghast and their remedy was that with every meal, we order some foie gras.

Brunching on foie gras

I would guess that I was involved in about 10 plates of foie gras in a matter of 7 days.  That is a LOT of foie gras.  Heck, it’s a lot of ANYTHING!  But I truly love the french way of dining, where you begin each meal with an “entree” (a.k.a. an appetizer) followed by “plat principal” (main dish) and of course dessert.  I’m no alcoholic, but I also love the French way of drinking: a wine-soaked meal bookended by an aperetif and digestif (alcohols to appetize the palate and aid with digestion).  Even my host family sent me home with a bottle of home-distilled fig alcohol, complete with  customized label!

For Cassidy2.0 "because you're a blogger". Such a sweet gift!

Terrine and a foie gras/egg appetizer

 

While I was tipping the scales and leaning towards an overdose of butter, sugar, cream, and cheese, you know what my French friends were eating??  HAMBURGERS!  It was really a sight to see, this American gourmande plowing her way through a plate of fig encrusted duck surrounded by mes amies delicately consuming bacon double cheeseburgers with a knife and fork.

Hichem's brunch....and yes, he ate the whole thing.

It’s not normal to eat the way I have eaten in France and I will return to my Burn classes soon enough.  But, there is no simple way for me  to resist all of the goodness of French cuisine.  I am only human, after all.  As every one said as they cheered on my every forkful, seeing how happy I was to be dining and swilling the goodness: “IL FAUT PROFITER!” (you gotta take advantage!)  As a Friday treat, a few of my favorite eats from the trip.  Bon appetit, mes chers!

 

To each their own...dessert that is...

 

A West African Cashew Stew at Mama Africa (19eme Paris)

 

Crepe stand on the side of the street. Got one. It was delicious.

 

Cheese. And in my opinion, the smellier the better!

 

Adventures in Finding Natural Hair Products in Paris

France is considered by many to be the center of the fashion and beauty world, so it was a particularly difficult pill to swallow on my trip to Monoprix in Toulouse to see the space so far behind in curl care.  Another two bloggers, Fly and Tiga, took me under their wings for a field trip around Paris to show me exactly where it was that they did their hair shopping.  It was an awesome adventure, filled with some shocking surprises, that took us to three very different stops:

  • a natural ingredient boutique
  • “Black Paris” and the beauty supply stores and salons
  • India!

Fly and Tiga

Continue reading

Parisian Style Hunting with French Blogger Fatou

One of the best parts about the London and Paris events was that it allowed me to connect and make friends with the local naturalistas. The girls were all SUPER nice and a few of them even offered to take me around the city and show me some of their local favorite spots for shopping, hair, and beauty. Fatou of BlackBeautyBag.com offered up a day of vintage shopping and lunch to which is said an immediate OUI! MERCI!

I met her at the Etienne Marcel metro stop in the 1eme arrondissment – a very chic quartier right in the middle of Paris filled with cafes and boutiques. After greeting each other in the with the typical French two-cheek bisous, we wound our way through the streets, Fatou in her stilettos impressive not just for their height, but also because we were walking on century old cobblestones-a skill Parisian women have artfully mastered. We reached our destination, a fabulous store filled with funky chic vintage tops, skirts, dresses, and pants. I scoured the racks taking it all in, while Fatou lost herself in the skirt section pulling out some really awesome multi-colored print options for herself. We both ended up settling on a couple skirts, mine a pleated version reminiscent of the 1980′s track suits with gold chains all over them (can’t believe that print is coming back!)

Afterwards, we checked out another vintage store, this one a little pricier. I set out to find something in the sherbert orange hue that’s popping up all over the place this spring, which Pantone has labeled Tangerine Tango and also happens to be the color of the year. I’m all for it–looks great on chocolate skin!

Finally we found ourselves a tad hungry and settled on a cafe situated on an idyllic street filled with pedestrians and bikers and perched ourselves in a prime outdoor location for sunning and people watching. Over a lunch of pizza and rose wine, we chatted about life as a beauty blogger in Paris. Fatou’s blog, BlackBeautyBag, is one of the first French blogs dedicated to black beauty and has a ton of great content geared to fashion, make up, and of course hair. Her gorgeous thick fro is definitely noteworthy and she rocks it with such elegant grace in a wide variety of styles from twist outs to a blow-out fro-out.

After filling our bellies, we headed back towards the metro to a make up shop called Black Up that I had seen upon arriving. Black Up, is as you can probably guessed, make up geared towards black skin (get it!? get it?!). The chic and shiny interior is filled with brown skinned models (with a noticeable lack of natural hair) and a full range of products from foundations to lip glosses to parfum (which I LOVED). I was immediately whisked into the make up chair and received a full Black Up make over! I loved how they used a turquoise eye pencil to subtly match my I’Me earrings and while I walked out of there wearing more make up than I normally would, it looked effing HAUTE! The foundation was light and didn’t break me out, while the colors were bold enough to stand out on my skin. I’m a fan and hope to see more of this line in the states (but again, with more #naturalhair representation).

 

 

If you’re in Paris, stay tuned to Fatou’s blog for info on the event she’s having at Black Up this week.
All in all, a great day of beauty blogging with one of Paris’ best!

Toulouse: A Young Girl’s Lesson in Curl Care

Toulouse. Ahhhh Toulouse! La Ville Rose! After a 7 hour delay and arriving to a bus strike, it was wonderful to find myself back in Toulouse! It was a total trip to wake up in the home where I lived as a student and eat the family’s typical breakfast of super-super-super strong coffee and baguette with nutella..just as I had seven years ago.

Because of the bus strike, I had to walk to the center of the town on foot, which gave me plenty of time to reflect and remember all of my memories from before. I ended up getting super lost amidst the winding, twisting streets of the city en route to my lunch date, but eventually found my way. I’m seriously not sure how foreigners navigated some of these places before cellphones and even high-gloss color printed maps available everywhere. I spent the afternoon wandering around the city with Cathi, a true Toulouse historian under whom I was an intern studying the history of the urban development as a city. Like the curvy streets of Toulouse, our conversation wound it’s way around discussions of medieval architecture and of course–hair.

Cathi, who is a native Toulousaine, has had three children with an African man. The kids, who are of mixed ethnicity (called “metisse” in French), have super curly hair. Her oldest daughter, Amanda who I remember fondly when she just five years old, is the only girl in the family. We picked Amanda up from school and both of us were excited to see each other! As I asked about her day, she asked me what I was doing for a living and I attempted to explain what exactly it meant to be a natural hair blogger and as I said that I specialize in writing about naturally curly hair, I saw her eyes light up. Cathi had explained that as a white woman with straight hair, she often had no idea what to do with Amanda’s multi-ethnic hair and I knew exactly what had to happen: Amanda was about to get a little lesson in how to care for her own curls! So we set off for Monoprix, the French equivalent of Target and I perused the hair care offerings.

Aside from the usual boxes of relaxers, there wasn’t much to speak to in the ethnic hair section. Then there was the expected L’Oreal array of products and some Frizz-Ease, but I was not exactly impressed by the offerings. I was looking for two things in particular: a gentle cleanser and a leave in. Finally, I found that Garnier offered a Shea Butter line of products that included a leave in conditioner—a winner! So we grabbed that and a wide tooth comb and set off back to the house.

Amanda explained that normally she used a brush on her 3b/3c curls (sometimes even when dry) and I explained to her that while I would show her how to do her hair, it was really important that she learn how to do it herself! So she shampooed in the shower and came out so I could generously apply the Garnier conditioner and detangle. The conditioner had good slip so I was able to get the comb through easily, showing her that it was important to start from the bottom and work her way up to the roots. After she rinsed, I applied the creamy leave-in in sections and topped off her curls with a little bit of gel for formation.

The result was not bad at all and her hair ended up drying with a lot of volume. While the leave in conditioner I was actually impressed with, I really think there needs to be some a curl creme on the French product market, that would both moisturize and elongate the curls. The only options that I saw with that at Monoprix were gels that could potentially be cocktailed with a leave-in as a DIY cream.

After everything was said and done, I had Amanda write down step-by-step her new hair care routine, while Cathi looked on to make sure they both understood. I’ll be checking back in with them, but it was certainly a much needed and much appreciated lesson!

All in all, Toulouse was a wonderful experience and was far too short! I’ll have to make it back there soon enough!

Strikes and Delays: The Challenges of Travel

A day before leaving to hop on the hour long plane ride to Toulouse, we were watching the news in Paris and learned that the air traffic controllers were on strike causing serious delays and cancellations. Go figure. One thing that I have come to get used to in France is that from time to time certain organizations and groups will go on strike to make their needs and voices heard. When I was living here before, high school started a strike that was eventually joined by university students to protest the changing of the BAC (end of high school test). That strike lasted for FIVE WEEKS, meaning that for FIVE WEEKS I had no classes (and so I went to Italy for a little adventure :D). But this air traffic control problem had the potential to seriously disrupt my travel plans.

But on the evening before my flight, the strike ended and I was able to carry on with my original plan of heading southward to Toulouse! Well, almost. I woke up at 5:30 am to make sure I made it on time to my 8:30am flight and took the airport shuttle from the center of Paris (Charles de Gaulle Etoile- right at the base of the Arc de Triomphe) and took this little video saying hello:

Unfortunately that shuttle took significantly longer than expected, I was held up in security, and after sprinting to my gate I totally missed my flight. I was told by the gate agents that I wouldn’t be able to leave until the next day and for a trip that was only three days, that wouldn’t have given me much time to enjoy Toulouse! So I posted up at the free wifi at McDonalds, wondering if I should cancel the trip all together, until a dear friend of mine (shout out to Rasheed) was chatting with me on Facebook and reminded me that HELLO! I’M IN FRANCE AND I HAVEN’T SEEN MY TOULOUSE FAMILY IN SEVEN YEARS so I bucked up and wound up finding a seat on a later flight.

There was a seven hour delay still and I spent the day drinking rose and watching MadMen in the airport rather than sight seeing, but I was able to make a plane to Toulouse. Upon arrival, I was planning on taking the airport shuttle from the airport to the Centre Ville (downtown) to meet my host brother Damien. I was instead greeted by news of a strike of all the buses in the city! I somehow got a group of people to split the 40Euro taxi to Centre Ville and all was well in the world. I met up with Damien and we proceeded to drink wine, meet friends, enjoy foie gras and catch up on our lives until 4am! It was fantastic to see him. I was 19 and he was 18 when I lived here and so we ended up becoming good friends as a result. A few pictures of us having fun (he’s a big fan of West Coast rap–and yes, it’s well known here in France!)

I’m off for some adventures in La Ville Rose today so stay tuned for more news from Toulouse! Strikes and delays and hassles aside, I’m really happy I made it here totally been worth all the trouble already.

A bientot mes cheres!

UK Natural Hair Salon Owner Interview + A Literal Afro Sponge

I toooooold you I had some good videos from Europe coming your way! Things are a bit difficult to upload to Youtube as I bounce around Paris, but I’m trying to get things up and translated as fast as possible to share with you!

Here are a couple videos from the London Workshop where I had the chance to interview Margot Rodway-Brown, owner of Adornment365- a London-based natural hair salon who had super interesting insights on the natural hair movement in Europe.

I am currently posted up in a McDonald’s at one of the Paris airports going H.A.M. on the free wifi. I was up at 5:30 this morning, only to miss my 8:30am flight to Toulouse! Womp womp. I’ve been waiting for a few hours and have a few more hours to go, but I’m very excited to head to Toulouse for a couple days!

In other news: check out this funny “Afro-Sponge” we found at a little giftshop in London. For all of you who always say that your hair is like a sponge, well–here you go! And for those of you who are about to get offended about this little trinket, don’t. There was also a scrub brush made out of a dude with a mohawk and a mop-like rag made out of long straight hair. Just kind of makes me feel funny about the idea of using hair to clean dishes… hmmm…

Anywho–enjoy the vid!! :)

“Black Girl Flow” and the UK Natural Movement

I met the ladies of Black Girl Flow the day before the London natural hair event when they were interviewing Felicia Leatherwood for a natural hair documentary they were working on. I had the chance to flip the cameras on them and have them tell me about natural hair in the UK and their documentary, Kickin It With the Kinks, at the London Workshop. I’m really inspired and impressed with what these ladies are doing and am thrilled to share it with you!

Kickin It With the Kinks is still in production, but it has won a prize for the best documentary in Cynthia’s (the director) school’s film department. There is no question that Chris Rock’s Good Hair movie had an amazingly strong impact on bringing to light the the issue of black hair, and it’s great to see the specific issue of natural hair identity being explored so profoundly. To learn more about the project and to see some of the film trailers, check out this link.

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