30 March, 2010

180 Posts ... And That's All She Wrote

So 180 seemed like a good place to bring our conversation to a close. A million 'Thank you's to all my friends & readers for sharing in this experience with me. (Gratitude to folks like the sweet-as-pie Korean gals at my local coffee shop who decided I shouldn't pay for pastries when they discovered I was a writer.)

Your kind words of support and encouragement were deeply appreciated, whether in the comments, giving me digital love, or on the streets.

If you found something here that was interesting enough to spark a feeling, a thought, a plan ... I'm delighted. But if it was just soulful enough to entertain you on occasion, then know that I'm smiling as I walk out the door.


29 March, 2010

Can't Knock The Hustle: This is 'How To Make It In America'

You know they're on to something when a scripted drama unfurls a scene set in the L.E.S. to the sounds of Digable Planets' "Pacifics (N.Y. Is Red Hot)". (If you know about baggy Guess and Timbs, then you know about DP.)

HBO's "How To Make It In America" is a grand, poetic celebration of the hustlin' spirit that brings people to New Yawk City, year after year.

Some sink, finding they're simply not cut out for the pace, the energy, the beat to which we natives in particular, walk. Others find their groove--and thrive, becoming essential ingredients in our melting pot.

"HTMIA" features pitch-perfect, comic writing and a stellar cast that includes Bryan Greenberg (a crush since I spotted him years ago on HBO's little-watched "Unscripted"), the up-and-coming Victor Rasuk, Shannyn Sossamon, and all-around Renaissance man Scott "Kid Cudi" Mescudi.

Add to that a shooting style that feels like scrolling through some of my fave street style blogs and gallery shows.

Ben (Greenberg) and Cam (Rasuk) are best friends determined to launch a premium denim business. "F**k a downtown loft, it's about Uptown luxury," says Cam, when they take a meeting with Ben's childhood classmate, a geek-turned-Hedge Fund big.

These cats remind me of my ultimate fictional hustler, Horsemouth, the Kingston drummer who battles the grimy music biz in Rockers (1978). I've been playing my Rockers DVD practically on a loop since '02, when I found myself transfixed by it at a loft party.

All grist for the inspiration mill. Here's to "Jettin'" (wink).

Secret Garden

What about a floral harem jumpsuit for Spring? Fashion is in Full Bloom.

The End of Shame

When your claim to fame is participating in a Hollywood "bling ring," which gets you arrested, but also lands you a reality television show of your very own, then the social boundaries for what's acceptable have really loosened. That's pretty wild.

26 March, 2010

Strike a Pose

I don't remember now where I came across this photograph, but it reminds me of TriBeCa, where I toiled for some time and an area I really dig.

I'm just aching for real Spring weather in New York, ballet flats and sandals, and sunshine to greet the morning.

25 March, 2010

'Body Marked Up Like a Subway in Harlem'

At the hair salon I went to regularly until it closed shop (market forces), the stylists were largely of Dominican descent and the clients were, like me, very old school about hair, e.g. no weaves, extensions.

We generally wore our hair long/longer and subscribed to the benefits of the bi-monthly roller set. Anyway, one summer day I made a bank run mid-wash with my rollers and net.

On my way back, noticed a handsome, heavily-tattooed guy in jeans and a white tee. He had that Irish coloring and his head was shaved close.

Leaning on a hydrant outside the salon door, I looked around and wondered whether he was just people-watching. The midtown salon full of well-coiffed girls often drew stares.

Soon, a very pregnant black girl with light brown hair stuffed her Apple laptop into a tote and strode right into tattooed guy's arms.

They made such a beautiful pairing but I admit I was initially surprised. And yet, I shouldn't have been. I appreciate the artfully tattooed body and am often drawn to guys with that look. Of course, not all ink is made alike (hip-hop has appropriated the parlor look and some rappers and athletes give it a bad name).

But Pittsburgh rapper Wiz Khalifa's needle-work is aite, as is Cali's own Tyga.

(Top, "Glamour Break, Harlem," Ruben Natal-San Miguel, 2009)

Bad Romance

My name is Becky and I'm a Romantic.

I cried during the scene in Love Story (pictured, top) when Ali MacGraw's Jenny brings a jar of peanut butter and sliced bread for lunch with Ryan O'Neal's Oliver because they're newlyweds on a budget. I buy $0.99 writing notebooks covered in hearts.

But I also reject fantasy, end relationships when they're toxic, and don't believe there's such a thing as happily ever after. So, no 12-steps here.

Over the years, men I loved--and sometimes men I barely knew--tagged me like blog posts with easy labels: You're a romantic, you're on some poetry sh**, you think too much, you ask a lot of questions ...

Never meant to be complimentary, the words were tossed at me like hand grenades. But once you begin to truly settle into your skin, become your own fan, so to speak, the intended limitations of those labels just ring false. You're defining yourself.

Recently, I read a feature about Ali MacGraw in Vanity Fair, in which she detailed how she abandoned her scorching Hollywood career just as it was taking off, because her on- and offscreen love, the volatile leading man Steve McQueen, insisted.

McQueen was a serial cheat, abusive, and controlling. Yet, still, MacGraw said she struggled with feeling like she was good enough for someone as iconic as McQueen. Hollywood deals in well-crafted fiction.

Real love is about integrity and connection (and, yes, a dollop of romance).

Made You Look: Rachel Roy for Spring

While covering fashion for a daily New York newspaper, I had the chance to attend and cover a Rachel Roy Fashion Week presentation, which are more intimate than runway showings, if less theatrical.

But I was often harried and sent instead one of my colleagues, who was a pro in her beat covering New York's social circuit. Still, I always regretted missing that appointment because I love all things Rachel Roy.

The theme of her Spring 2010 Lookbook is "What To Love" For Spring, and the designer of Dutch-Indian descent asked a handful of gifted gals to share what love meant to them.

What's amazing is that Rachel tapped a few of the chicks I'm inspired by, including Trinidadian renaissance girl Vashtie Kola, an artist, director, and designer, who proves you can do it all-and do it well. And the duo that comprises Nuyorican Queens band Nina Sky, Natalie and Nicole Albino.

With my locks shorn, people often teasingly call me Rihanna, but I was inspired last summer by Nicole's edgy 'do.

"Everything I do involves love and I don't commit to things that don't involve love," says Kola.

We should all live that way.

22 March, 2010

Go Ask Alice

Just the other day, my cousin G and I were discussing literary heroines, namely Jane Eyre. G is 15&3/4 and currently immersed in what she considers a torturous, too-close reading of Charlotte Bronte's work.

But that got us talking about another English girl confronted with an undesirable marriage proposal, who holds out for real love.

Lewis Carroll's Alice, in Wonderland or Underland, as re-imagined on film by director Tim Burton, is another kind altogether.

Alice sorts dilemmas in her head; sprinkles "two teaspoons of wishful thinking" into concoctions like a distance runner shaking electrolytes into bottled water.

While I wasn't particularly bowled over by Burton's cinematic creation--I expected more of the "one pill makes you larger, the other makes you small" madness--I do appreciate that his Alice (talented Aussie Mia Wasikowska) is a headstrong 18-year-old, determined to do things her way.

Spoiler Alert: Alice refuses her red-headed suitor (he's rather boorish and beset by gastrointestinal issues, lol) during what turns out to be a lavish, surprise engagement party.

Instead, she takes up her late father's business, making expansion plans that will allow her intercontinental travel. I like to think she meets her prince along the way.

17 March, 2010

Lover's Rock

Helen Folasade Adu. The queen.

Sade is not only famously reclusive, but she's also, yes, a soldier of love. In the late 90s, the Nigerian-British songstress fell in love with a Jamaica-born Rasta and musician with whom she later had a daughter.

She moved to Montego Bay and lived in what the press there teasingly called a commune, but was according to her, just a very open environment for her man and his entourage of musician friends and local Dreads.

Regardless of where she lays her bags and effects, her sound is always spices and flavorful. And when I hear the pounding, aggressive, "Soldier of Love," it sounds like the music of right now.

Stealing Beauty, Lagos Style

I've been listening to a lot of Seun Kuti & the Egypt 80 lately. Fela's youngest son assembled most of the members of his father's band, taking up the mantle. Seun lives still in the rather run-down compound in crime-ridden Lagos where the Nigerian icon and his many wives resided and made music.

During performances, Seun's backup singers are decked out and made-up much the same as were their musical forebears. I'm dying to replicate this make-up look for a night...

(Pictured, a Fela woman, c. 1970s)

She 'Paints' Pictures, You Just Trace Her

When we were in college my friend Justine Reyes would paint these achingly lovely, pastoral scenes of forlorn figures with drooping eyes, on snatches of unstretched canvas.

Hard to describe, but imagine Henri Matisse commissioned to illustrate the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series.

I've met many 'artists' over the years, but she is a true artist in the anachronistic sense. If you've ever been to Paris and visited the Montmartre district, with those winding roads, where struggling Van Gogh, Monet and others kept cramped studios, you'll understand.

There's nothing of the dilettante, rather she conquers whatever medium she's selected through a mix of innate creativity and rigorous training. Her photography, which is the focus of her personal and professional output, has a painterly quality.

Perhaps never more so than in her recent series, Vanitas, which references the 16th and 17th C. Dutch Masters. But the objects are gathered from personal effects.

You can catch a glimpse at Affirmation Arts, where her work is on view as part of the fresh group show 31 Women in Art Photography, co-presented by Humble Arts. (Through April 10.)

Still life paintings representative of Vanitas--Latin for "emptiness"--often incorporated skulls or rotting fruit and other objects meant to serve as commentary on the fleeting quality of life and life's pleasures.

(Pictured, "Still Life With Suitcase," and "Still Life With Banana, Purse and Change," Vanitas, 2009, courtesy of the artist. Nice work to amani olu.)

Scary Spice Lives Up to Her Name

I'm always perplexed when celebs swagger-jack each other.

There's always some element of dipping into the same styling pool (stylists invariably pull from the same designer racks), but you expect oft-photographed entertainers to align first and foremost with the cult of individuality.

Not only is scary spice girl Mel B sporting Cassie's look, but the style just feels so dated now. Any edge or shock value it was supposed to evoke is nil. Moreover, I think the utter lack of fuzz on the shaved side gives Mel B a bald eagle quality.


16 March, 2010


"You, as well as anybody I've ever seen, has been able to hold onto the space inside yourself," host Oprah Winfrey said to Alicia Keys on the March 5 episode of her talk show.

Keys appeared on that edition, as did ABC's Diane Sawyer, who allowed cameras to follow her into the newsroom as she prepped for the evening news, to my ridiculous delight. Two women who exude not just a luminescence but a certain unshakable quality that I believe you get when all of your aspects are in alignment.

Work, love, intention, all flowing from the same place.