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Virginia Lowman

Writer, editor and social media strategist based in New York City. Editor and Creative Director for Cose Nudo.

IG: @VirginiaLowman Twitter: @VirginiaMLowman

Nurtitionists Say these Simple Steps will Tame Your Sweet Tooth

When it comes to fitness and wellness, there is no such thing as an “overnight success.” As you ween yourself off of your less-than-healthy eating habits, you may find that you still have what I like to call “supersize me” cravings—you’ll still want the burger and fries combo with a shake on the side, and, occasionally, you’ll ditch the personal pizza and just opt for the medium (or large) instead. Sometimes, these cravings will be unusually intense and your sugar cravings will spike. For the most part, however, you’ll groom yourself to become comfortable with—or tolerable of— the word “no.” But, if your sweet tooth gets the best of you and begins to impact your health, or you start to develop acne or other skin conditions that were not there previously, then you may need to take additional steps to curve your sugar habit. Lucky for you, nutritionist Cherie Calbom has some tips to help you detox and cut back on satisfying your sweet tooth:

1. Pick the right day to start.
Let’s be real: A birthday or celebration dinner is not the best time to commit to a new diet. You’ll eventually develop the willpower to navigate through special events, but it’s not a good idea to start with an unusual challenge.
2. Go cold turkey.
Studies show sugar is as addictive as cocaine and heroin, so it’s not something you can ease 70AFADE4-5AD8-4161-8C26-F8849E4FDB3Finto or pursue in half measures. If you eat a little less to gradually eliminate it from your diet, you’ll keep getting triggered into wanting more sweets. You have to completely let it go.
3. Scrutinize every label.
We are naturally inclined to crave sugar, which is why manufacturers try to smuggle it into their products. C9DA6D15-E110-42AF-9C1B-780A2A082454The only way to root out sugar in all its forms – soups, condiments, breads, etc. – is to read grocery labels carefully. The sooner sugar is mentioned, the more that’s in there.

4. Make emergency snack packs.
Whether shopping, traveling or at work, you don’t want to be caught hungry without a healthy option. Plummeting blood-sugar levels will make it that much harder to resist sugar-laden treats. Nuts and seeds, veggie sticks, turkey jerky and apples are among the healthy options.
5. Take time to de-stress.
Stress causes spikes in cortisol, a hormone that makes you irrationally hungry, leaving you susceptible to sugar-laden snacks. When stressed, take a long, deep breath in for five seconds, hold, and then let it out to a count of five. 342558F9-7F6A-4B04-9F1E-C115B16A4016Deep breathing is said to activate your vagus nerve, which properly regulates metabolism.

Even if you aren’t a “sugar fiend” by definition, it is likely that your diet chock-full of products that are packed with sugar without your knowledge (think: orange juice, “natural” fruit chews, and countless other packaged foods you eat on the go.) If diet and breakouts aren’t enough to convince you to slow your sugar intake, then maybe these recent finds will: recently, the British Journal of Sports Medicine referenced a study that found that too much sugar may lead to or trigger “brain disease, liver disease and breast cancer.” Calbom asserts that, “the toxicity of excessive sugar consumption is well-documented, yet it’s so prevalent in our packaged foods that we may be digesting it without knowing it.”

Going forward, pay closer attention to the nutrion label on your food. Some of the “healthy” snack bars you’re giving to your kids, or those 100 calorie treats you’re eating to prevent weight gain, are loaded with sugar—or sodium—and may actually be working against you health wise. Remember, a low caloric count is not always an indication that a product is healthy.
For more tips on nutrition and taming your food habits, visit Cherie Calbom’s website, check out her book, The Juice Lady’s Sugar Knockout and take her Sugar Addiction Quiz, here.


6 Stunning Sweaters that Transition Easily from Fall to Winter

You’ll notice after grazing over this list that I don’t really do color. After about a decade of trying to convince myself that I like patterns, florals, and vibrant color in general, I’ve finally decided to call it quits. And, though it pains me to say it, my style definitely leans more towards the French aesthetic than it does bold and vibrant Italian. Somehow all those years I spent growing up in Italy have been overshadowed by a sea of neutrals in the wake of moving to New York.

sweater weatherThe older I get, the more I find that I’m drawn to minimalism with a hint of flare. I love solid neutral color blocking with a really great embellished shoe. I also really love contrasting fabric weights against one another. Below you’ll find bulky sweaters with unique shapes to pair with everything from leather skinnies to feminine midi skirts. And, though winter may be swiftly approaching, there’s always a place in my wardrobe for something a little sheer. Much to the surprise of my inner 6-year-old, turtlenecks are one of my favorite pieces to use a base for layering or to wear along under a leather bomber. The sheer number below would actually pair really well with the off-the-shoulder moment I’ve included in this list. After all, who wouldn’t carry over the off-the-shoulder look into winter if they didn’t have to worry about getting cold?

Because I haven’t completely given up on color, I still make an effort  to venture beyond my go-to tones of navy, cream, olive, and grey—albeit, the effort is very minimal. I’ve included a gorgeous red embellished Anthropologie sweater that I could pretty much live in all winter long. Every once in a while, I surprise myself and fall in love with dramatic sleeves. Anthropologie has definitely mastered the art of balancing rustic cool with just the right amount of drama.

Living in New York, I definitely have a love/hate relationship with the months— including and those that fall between—December through May. Sweaters are great until you need six layers and a fur-lined coat just to feel like you’re still roaming amongst the living. I am committing to letting the pieces in my wardrobe meet one another this year, so come May I expect to be a master of stylish layering. If you’ve got any special tricks for wearing pieces in your wardrobe year-round, feel free to share them!




Anthropologie Layered Off-The-Shoulder Pullover

ANTHROPOLOGIE Layered Off-The-Shoulder Pullover, $98 at


Urban Flossy High Neck Jumper

FRENCH CONNECTION Urban Flossy High Neck Jumper, $138 at

Endless Rose Ruffle Sweater

ENDLESS ROSE Ruffle Sweater, $88 at

David Lerner Knit Turtleneck

DAVID LERNER Knit Turtleneck, $84 at

Free People Fiesta Jacket

FREE PEOPLE Fiesta Jacket, $228 at


10 Over-The-Top Heels That Are Totally Worth Breaking the Bank For

It is not a secret that I am shoe obsessed. One of my earliest fashion memories dates back to 1996 when my mother and I lived in Naples, Italy. On warm summer Sundays, we’d walk from our house in Pozzuoli to a small neighborhood trattoria on Via Montenuovo Licola that—to this day—still prepares the best pizza margherita and penne all’arrabiatta that I’ve ever had. It’s called Da Bernardo, in case you’re ever hungry in Napoli. After a healthy serving of bruschetta, pizza and pasta (carbs, carbs, and more delicious carbs) and of course the obligatory serving of coffee drenched lady fingers (tiramisu), we’d continue our promenade down to the flea market.

Italian flea markets are nothing like the weekend bazaars of America. They’re far more adventurous and riddled with treasures and gems of the premium and luxury fashion variety. One Sunday, after dinner at Da Bernardo, we ventured once again to our coveted treasure trove and were greeted by the usual hoard of bustling vendors yelling prices in sing-songy voices “Cinque-mille Lire! Dieci-mille Lire!”— this was before the Euro was the national currency. And that’s when I spotted them: cream Valentino lace-up woven wedge booties, size 37. They were gorgeous and I have to have them.No 21 Mustard Yellow Elaphe Heel Sandal w: Pom Pom Tassel Fringe I pleaded with my mom to buy them for me and after lots of bargaining with the vendor, they were mine. My first pair of designer shoes and I loved them recklessly. At six, I wasn’t old enough to wear heeled wedges and at size 37, the shoes were still way too big for me, but I cherished them. They were my prized possession and I couldn’t wait to grow into them.

We moved back to America a year later and our weekend flea market excursions were no more. Side note: were I ever to run for fashion office of America (if that was actually a thing), the first order of business on my campaign agenda would be to increase the number of luxury flea markets. I mean, hey—we’re in a recession and bartering is a necessary skill in every culture and in every corner of the world.

Anyway, upon moving back to America, I was grounded for something and our home, being grounded was always represented by losing some sort of fashion privilege (image has always been a big deal for me. I could have cared less about losing my allowance). I was nearing the point where those gorgeous Valentino boots were beginning to fit so my mom took the boots and a few other choice items from my wardrobe and put them in a black Gucci Embellished Cutout Leather Pumpstrash bag and “gave them away.” I found out later that she hid them in the garage. After a few months in the garage, I sort of forgot about them. When I went to retrieve them, to my surprise the bag was gone. My mom had forgotten she’d bagged them and mistook them for donation clothing and gave them to the Salvation Army. My shoes were gone forever. I was heartbroken and some lucky shopper was one glorious, life-changing, Earth-shatteringly beautiful pair of Valentino booties richer.

My mom still apologizes about those shoes but the damage has been done. I am forever scared, and twenty years later, I still think about their shoes and shudder at their absence. So, yes— I take shoes very, very seriously.  Every year, I lie to plan my life around a theme. Last year was my year of travel— fitting because I turned 25, so I spent five months traveling around Europe and the US alone as a sort of coming-of-age trek. This year I focused on image and appearance and decided to curb my shopping habit by only buying investment pieces. In the shoe category, I committed to only buying shoes that double as art —ordinary shoes have no place in my wardrobe. I like this because it allows me to wear really basic pieces and dress them up with a fabulous shoe, cutting my morning prep time in half now that I don’t obsess over mixing and matching pieces.

In honor of my oath of “shoes as art,” here are 10 seriously stunning shoes that are so gorgeous they could double as room decor.

1. No.21 Mustard Yellow Elaphe Heel Sandal with Pom Pom & Fringe ($456, at

2. No.21 Satin Wrap High Heel Sandal ($858, at

3. 3.1 Phillip Lim Kyoto Silver and Malbec Leather Ankle Knotted Sandal ($650, at

4. Pierre Hardy black and White Leather Lola Sandal ($358, at

5. Proenza Schouler Black and White Leather Open Toe Sandals w/ Chunky Wooden Heel ($426, at

6. Tabitha Simmons Flouncy Linen Heel in Red & Ecru ($279 , at

7. Loeffler Randall Nicolette Multicolor Fox Fur & Suede Ankle-Wrap Sandal ($450, at

8. Gucci Embellished Cutout Leather Pumps ($1850, at

9. Maison Margiela Mirror Leather Heels ($545, at

10. Alexander Wang Ellery Studded Leather Block-Heel Pumps ($995, at

Meet Miller, The Muse

Artist of the Week: Miller

In her debut song, “Take It Off,” Houston native singer/songwriter, Miller, delivers depth and range uncanny to those who are rookies in the game. Far from conventional pop music, Miller is an R&B artist–true to form– who sings with gusto and soul-barring emotion. Keep up with the rising starlet via her Instagram, YouTube, and Soundcloud channels.

Brazilian Wax 101: Grooming Below The Belt

While the whole world is tuned into Rio for the Olympics, I’m channeling Brazil in my own way courtesy of the European Wax Center—it is summer, after all! And who wants extra foliage down there when you’re trying to show off a new bikini or flex on the Gram? If shaving just isn’t cutting it (see what I did there?), and laser hair removal is a little too pricey, then waxing is probably your next best bet. And, while the process may not be the most comfortable, the end results are well worth it. Last year, I wrote an article for depicting my first “trip to Brazil,” and with the Olympics in full swing and the mercury steadily rising, I think it’s only fitting that I share it with you here. So, consider this an act of charitable giving if you’re considering going bare down there, but you’re unsure of what to expect. Here’s a play-by-play. Thank me later!

In many respects, getting a Brazilian is a rite of passage; a leaving behind of one’s childhood and entering into a smoother, sleeker future— one paved in wax. I have a theory that waxing below the belt is a very metropolitan thing to do. There’s something about New York, LA and certainly Miami that make waxing a lifestyle. Women in these areas simply don’t do hair “down there.” In fact, upon leaving the European Wax Center, I felt a lightness of being—or perhaps it was more of a sleekness given my newly acquired ‘do. Either way, I felt as though I’d joined a tribe. I was also just pleased that I’d actually gone through with it.


Art Credit: Manrepeller

I should note here, that at this point I have literally bared it all in the name of beauty—my body having served as the site of many a social beauty experiment. But, it was still somewhat nerve-racking to walk into a room and be asked —very politely— to “strip down from the waist down.” If I’m completely honest, I’ll admit that I paused for a moment to give my wax specialist, Ambure, time to leave the room while I undressed. I also waited for her to hand me a robe, but when she turned away and began stirring a vat of wax, I realized very quickly that privacy was obsolete in this setting. After all, hadn’t I come —quite literally— to “bare it all” anyway? I took a moment to breathe a grateful sigh of relief for the serendipitous chance that I’d worn a tunic that day, so I wouldn’t have to mount the waxing table bare-bottomed.

Tip: If it’s your first time or you’re a little body conscious, wear a tunic or long tee the day of, so you can cover-up leading up to and immediately after waxing.

Memories of the Waxing Fiasco of 2012 flashed across my mind— that time in college when I tried to give myself a Brazilian because my roommate told me she did her own all of the time. It was then that I learned the meaning of “everything ain’t for everybody.” I tugged the slightest bit on that wax strip, decided it wasn’t worth the pain and spent the next 30 or 40 minutes gently peeling the strip off with coconut oil. (For the record, coconut oil, you’re the real MVP!) I mounted the table, laid on my back and tucked the bottom of my tunic between my legs to shield myself from both the wax and the waxer. I still had a chance to escape, right? Shaving isn’t so terrible. And there’s always laser hair removal.

When asked to press my feet together and spread my knees, I instinctively pressed my knees together and spread my feet.bikini-wax-nsfw-1490748

“Don’t be shy. Take a breath and relax, this will be more uncomfortable if you’re tense,” Ambure assured me.

A few things kept me on edge: Do wax specialists compare their client’s “situations?” Had I trimmed enough this morning to make this process as painless as possible? Winter’s coming, do I really want to do this? I still had a chance to escape, right? I was still clenching my tunic.

Tip: Your hair should be the length of a grain of rice before waxing. Any shorter and hair removal may be difficult. If your hair is on the longer side, trim down to about a quarter of an inch. 

“On a scale of 1-10, what should I expect pain-wise?” I asked out of curiosity, but also desperate for conversation to draw attention away from my oddly decent, indecent exposure. She explained that pain receptors are located near pressure points, so the more pressure she applied during the waxing, the less likely it was that I would focus on the pain. By the time she’d finished that statement, she’d already prepped my skin with body powder and applied the first two strips of wax. In other words, it was too late to escape. By the time I’d finished my request for a landing strip, she’d already waxed and applied two more strips of hard wax. “This isn’t so bad,” I thought to myself. It wasn’t comfortable, but I could tolerate it. Four strips down.

“Almost done. You’re doing great!”

Wax and needles are two things that cause people to revert back to their childhood, making statements like, “you’re doing great” necessary. She applied more wax and the few undisturbed follicles left below my navel wept as Wait. There’s more? scrolled through my mind. Two strips later, I was hair free and then I was asked to flip over. Surprisingly, the backside waxing is seemingly painless. If anything, I focused more on the warmth of the wax than the waxing itself, but the anxiety of waiting for the strips to be removed is almost overwhelming since you can’t watch as it happens.

EWC Ingrown SerumTip: Exfoliate the skin around your lady parts 2-3 times a week to prevent in-grown hairs and slough off dead skin. It will keep your skin smooth and make waxing easier, as the pain experienced during waxing is often caused by dead skin built up around the hair. We recommend this product.

In 10 minutes, I was the newest member of the care-free, hair-free tribe. Ambure followed the wax treatment with EWC Ingrown Hair Serum ($25), an oil-based serum chock-full-of gentle exfoliants and hydrating goodies like glycolic acid, tea tree oil, and berry extract. I slipped into my pants, left a 20% tip (it’s only right!) and prepared to make use of the European Wax Center‘s motto, “walk in, strut out.”

I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that I felt like a new woman. I may even have texted a friend something to the tune of “Honestly, it’s so smooth I just want to dance in the street… naked!”giphy-2 Needless to say, I’m a convert. Two things are certain: Shaving is out. And I’m introducing all of my closest girlfriends to my waxologist-turned-unofficial BTBB (below the belt bestie).


Virginia Lowman originally wrote this article for

Considering baring it all for summer, but scared to try it? Share your concerns and send me your questions!

Social Media Obsessed: Living for Likes

During my freshman year of college, a male friend asked me via text one evening if I thought I was beautiful. It seemed an unusual question to pose and so it gave me a moment of pause—not because I was unsure, but rather because my answer made me feel guilty and a little vain. “Yes, I’m beautiful,” I answered, and quickly followed it by stating that answering otherwise would imply that I didn’t find my mother beautiful—that I considered her genes to be flawed or lack-luster in some way resulting in my dissatisfaction with my appearance. And, while I do think that I’m beautiful, I found it troublesome that I felt the need to justify my thoughts with a safe “if, then” scenario.

In an interview with TODAY, Northwestern Psychology professor, Renee Engein, addressed the issue of mixed messages, which dictate what is acceptable and desirable for women stating, “We still live in a world that isn’t quite comfortable with women who [do] acknowledge their worth.” In an age of transparency and authenticity, and with the advent of the selfie, social media has proven to be bilateral in its effects— encouraging women to claim and flaunt their beauty, but equally discouraging as the face of beauty has morphed into something that is becoming increasingly more difficult to achieve.

023_Virginia_Solange_Fashion_shootSomewhere during the transition from dark room SLR film to digital cameras, beauty lost its way. And though the concept of beauty has always been framed by men from a point of authority and possession, beauty in its most perfect form has become a paradoxical concept fashioned after that which is created by a filter or cosmetic surgery—photoshopped or otherwise. While society has always used beauty as a tool for critique and treated it as a private gentleman’s club—elite territory reserved for men’s folly where women are sex objects that are bid on for pleasure—some women still accept this as the norm and vie for entry, though everyone is not granted access because not everyone possesses a beauty that is delicate, diaphanous or traditional.

The crux of social media is its ability to deceive. Once upon a time, print and television outlets were reserved for the uncharacteristically beautiful—or those who had access to professional airbrushing and teams of people who made them appear perfect. Today, the tools for beauty are no longer limited to makeup, but technology as well. Filter-filled social media and photo manipulation apps have expanded that once limited pool of perfection to everyday people creating a virtual auction block for Millennials and Gen Z-ers, where double-taps and likes are used in place of currency. This new man-made beauty is impacting the way that women view themselves. In a recent Dove #SpeakBeautiful campaign, a study revealed that “82% of women feel that imposed beauty standards are unrealistic.”

In lieu of Donald Trump’s interview with the New York Times in which he stated that supermodel, Heidi Klum, is “no longer a 10,” I asked a few close male counterparts about their qualifications for a “10.” Of the many answers that I received, one stood out in particular, “The perfect 10 doesn’t wake up as a 10; she wakes up as a solid 7 or 8. Social media has changed the game,” stated 27-year-old music industry professional, Trevor Washington*. While this statement is interesting for a number of reasons—namely the judgment of women based on a point system—it is equally intriguing because social media has played a role in altering beauty standards for some modern men. This should not come as a surprise considering that a recent study revealed that the average millennial spends “18 hours a day consuming media, 5.4 of which are spent on social media.”

In January of last year, The Renfrew Foundation Center conducted an online survey of 1,710 millennial men and women and found that nearly 48% of those who post photos to social media sites enhance their looks. Seventy percent of women admit to photo manipulation— everything from removing blemishes to changing skin color and weight. “All this taking and posting photos has become an obsession of sorts. We feel pressured to edit and alter our images so we look like what we think of as our ‘best selves’ instead of our real selves”, said Adrienne Ressler, Vice President, Professional Development, The Renfrew Center Foundation, and renowned body image expert.

As shallow as Trevor’s* “perfect 10” comment may seem, the thought process behind it is far from unusual. Social media has exacerbated the pressure to fall within this new “traditional” standard of beauty i.e, clear skin, prominent features, slim waist broad hips,  and feminine facial features. We’ve acknowledged that beauty is power and social presence is becoming increasingly more prevalent. Since its genesis, Instagram has become much less of a photo diary and much more of a curated experience. We’ve recognized that people often follow lifestyles that they aspire to, which often require beautiful photos. Personally, I use three different apps before posting any picture on my Instagram account, selfie or otherwise. And, while I do not discredit my worth and I still consider myself to be beautiful, were my college friend to pose that same question to me today, my answer may be a little different. Instead of falling back on an “if, then” statement—if was I being completely honest—my answer today may be something along the lines of “Yes, I’m beautiful; but sometimes I like myself more on Instagram.”

*Names have been changed.

Virginia Lowman originally wrote this article for

How to Apply Mascara Like a Pro

I’m typically a minimalist when it comes to makeup, but two things are certain when I leave the house: my brows are perfectly groomed and my lashes are lengthy and feathery. In fact, I have a running joke with my friends that outside of skincare, my eyes are the most important part of my face. Friends—my boyfriend in particular—know that when I’m doing my lashes or filling in my brows I am not to be disturbed. They understand that this is a process. I typically use three different kinds of mascara applied in timed intervals for various parts of my lashes. To be frank, often times, it’s less about the formula and much more about the brush. Although, I will say that I tend to prefer smoother mascara over the ultra-creamy ones because those tend to clump more and they also feel heavy on the lashes. Read on to discover my lash routine and my top picks to nail my signature feathery, bright-eyed look.

1. For your first coat use a lengthening mascara. The spooley should be long and should not have densely packed bristles. Apply one coat of this mascara to clean lashes wiggling the brush upwards from the base of the lash. Be sure to coat all of your lashes once, but double-up on the center lashes.

2. Using the same mascara coat the back of your lashes drawing upwards from mid-lash to tip


GETTY images

3. Alternating to your second mascara— preferably one with a densely packed brush— hold your mascara at a vertical angle and focus on the outer lashes, drawing your mascara wand outward from the base. You want to be sure that your outer lashes are as separated as possible.

4. Keeping with the same mascara, focus on the lashes on the inner corners of your eyes and repeat step three.

5. Switch to your last mascara and hold your arm at a 90-degree angle keeping your mascara wand parallel to the floor and run the wand over the tips of your lashes.

6. Coat your bottom lashes with a single coat of the mascara that you used in step one, drawing the wand from mid-lash to tip. Avoid touching the base of the lash to keep your lower lash line clean.

Virginia Lowman originally wrote this article for

I Have Three Years to Make Forbes 30 Under 30 List

I turned 26 this year. Not exactly a milestone, but definitely a reminder that I’m closer to 30 than I am to 20 (a blessing). No biggie, but I’m not exactly a “spring chicken” anymore and if I’m serious about making any 30 Under 30 lists, Forbes or otherwise, I need to crack down on this whole working towards success thing. Starting with this blog/vlog series that I’ve wanted to get off of the ground for some years now.

I’ve never been one of those fervent Beyhive fans, but I have always admired Beyoncé’s discipline and dedication to her craft. It’s evident in every performance, interview and project that she does. And, while as a reporter/editor in media, it is always tough to get a good soundbite from someone so media trained, I appreciate who Beyoncé is as a brand and as a Black woman overall. So, when I double tapped an Instagram post of a cup that read “You have as many hours in the day as Beyoncé” it actually resonated.

Gbeyonce_mug_01.jpgranted, Beyoncé does have an entire team of people that ensure that the “Bey” brand is a well oiled machine—the statement still remains true. You have the same 24 hours that Beyoncé has everyday to make something great or legendary of yourself.

When I first moved to New York to pursue a career in publishing, interning at Marie Claire magazine, I remember listening to the the editor-in-chief, studying her perspective and thinking, I can do that. I distinctly remember having a conversation with my mom and telling her that I too can make $1M a year making a life of bringing women’s issues to the forefront, telling their stories and adding to the female voice as told in the human situation narrative. Somewhere along the line, within the past three years of working in publishing, I lost that fire and that “I can be a millionaire” mentality—work, lack of sleep and seeing the difference in budget (and respect) between working at a Black brand and the more Anglo-Saxon brands tend to put a little bit of a damper on that inner fire.

Alas, turning twenty-six hasn’t re-ignited that “millionaire” fire, but it has definitely helped me to refocus my attention on building my brand, establishing myself as an expert and triggered that desire to make my mark and live a life I’m proud of. I live in New York, so money is always a factor; and, if I become a millionaire in the process I certainly won’t complain., but for now I’m just focusing on branding and building myself up to make that aforementioned 30 Under 30 list and make the most of each set of 24 hours that I’m given. I’ve got three years to go and I fully believe that it’s doable.

I’m curious about you. What do you want you mark to be? Share in the comments below.


Lipstick Might Be the Quickest (And Cheapest) Way to Enhance Your Mood

One of my earliest memories from childhood is watching my mother get ready for the day. I remember standing on a stool next to her in the bathroom, staring in awe as she leaned into the mirror over the sink and gracefully applied a burgundy wine stain to her lips. Watching her put on lipstick was an event. Her quilted cosmetic bag held what seemed to be every shade of red in the color spectrum. It was a party that I could not wait to be invited to. So, as she painted her lips red, I attempted—with minimal grace—to apply my strawberry flavored Lip Smackers balm in the same fashion; it was sheer and offered a barely-there shimmer, but it made me feel grown up at the time. I think back to those days of standing on stools next to my mother in the mirror, and I realize that the contents of that lipstick kit were sacred not because they made me feel grown up, but because of the transformative power of lipstick to turn me into the woman I chose to be for the day. Now, at twenty-five, I too have an all-access pass to that once exclusive party that is the world of cosmetics, and I have since learned from first-hand experience that lipstick is about much more than just being pretty, it‘s about tapping into a well of confidence and being yourself fearlessly.

Tom Form Matte Lip Color in Black Dahlia, $54 at

Few women will contest the notion that lipstick can enhance the power of a smile. Of course, if you’re wearing a gothic black lipstick and donning a smile, the effect just is not the same. The proper shade of lipstick, however, can be flirty, seductive, and powerful.  Personally, my lipstick is always based on my mood. Very rarely, if ever, do I attempt to match my lip shade to what I’m wearing. My go-to shade of choice is Tom Ford “Black Dahlia,” a deep, blood red that allows me to tap into my inner vixen, and is best paired with stilettos. It’s sexy and sophisticated, and in my opinion, perfect for any time of day. Typically, I shade the corners of my lips with a lip liner that is one shade darker than my lip color to give dimension and a bit of a boost to my pout.  On the days when I feel coy and flirty, my lipstick warrior of choice is always Dior Addict Extreme in shade 536, “Lucky.”  This glossy pink hue is fun and feminine and offers a dewy shine without looking greasy. Lastly, for an “au natural” look, I love “Naked” by CK One, a moderately sheer nude color with pink undertones.

In the morning, as I trace my lips with my color-mood for the day, occasionally, I will catch my boyfriend staring at me with the same doe-eyed wonder I had years ago. When asked what he thinks about as he stares, he smirks and says, “You don’t want to know.” So, whether you’re feeling vampish, or coy, there is a head-turning, gaze-inducing shade for you. Have some fun and play up your features with a lipstick that speaks to how fabulous you are.

In Transition: Why Going Natural is More than Just Physical

naturalI have spent roughly $16,200 on extensions over the course of the past six years. This figure does not include hair care and styling products; this reflects the cost of extensions alone. Approximately $450 every other month for wefts of hair or full lace wigs with foreign origins—Malaysia, China, Italy, Egypt, and Brazil. In college, I used to joke that where I was from changed every other month depending on the origin of my hair.  I was Egyptian for the better portion of my junior and senior years.

For over a decade, I have relied upon someone else’s hair to make me feel beautiful; to have a place in this standard of beauty set by society that seemingly never meant to include people of color. Like most women, my serial use of extensions began as an interest—a simple desire for a different look—that quickly turned into a necessity. Soon, I was not confident leaving the house without 14” of hair flowing down my back. The state of health of my own hair began to decline and was seemingly less important than the health of my extensions. As far as I was concerned, I presented the weave as my natural hair, so its’ health was all that mattered. Never mind that my own hair was thinning, breaking, dull, and uneven.

In 2010, I began to wear human hair lace front wigs. I liked the freedom that wigs provided in that I could take them off at night and let my natural hair breath. They also seemed more sanitary, as I was now able to thoroughly wash and deep condition my hair, as well as tend to my scalp on a weekly basis. However, because I had been gluing hair in for so long, I really hadn’t developed a regimen for caring for my chemically processed hair outside of perming it every 6-8 weeks. I should note here, that perming is not considered a form of hair care, in that it does not improve the health of your hair.  So, after transitioning from weft extensions to wigs, I was still unsure of how to really care for my own hair. My mother would advise me to wrap my hair at night, oil my scalp, and tell me to comb my hair only twice a day—when unwrapping my hair in the morning, and when wrapping it at night; “the less you manipulate your hair, the more it will grow,” she advised. My hair still continued to experience breakage. It was dry, severely damaged, and the constant friction from the wig created split ends, and the clips caused thinning around the edges of my scalp.

There was a cultural boom of people going natural in Houston, Texas—where I went to college—that began around 2009. Many of my girlfriends were saying no to chemical processing and embracing their naturally curly locs. It was around this time that a sub-culture of “Natural Speak” began, emerging with its’ own language. My girlfriends were speaking in acronyms using terms like “TWA,” and “ACV rinse,” and asking one another if they ever “co-washed” or “pre-poo’d” their hair. They spoke of things like “pineappleing” and “twist outs;” it seemed more of a vocabulary for Kamasutra than a method of hair care. All I knew was that there was a movement occurring, and black girls were defining beauty on their own terms. It was refreshing, and terrifying at the same time. Refreshing, because it seemed like an act of revolution, saying no to Western standards of beauty achieved through chemical processing and embracing our natural state as beautiful. Terrifying, because soon my peers would apply for internships and jobs in [predominantly white] corporate America, and how would their natural hair be received? Aside from locs, wearing natural hair had not been popular since around the 70s, and even locs and braids were often met with adversity in the workplace and seen as unprofessional.  As far as I was concerned, blacks did not need another hurdle to jump over on the road to corporate success.

If I am truly honest, my adversity and hesitance to going natural was rooted in years of believing long, straight hair was the only look men found to be attractive on a woman. However, because my hair was so damaged, in 2011, I decided to go natural long enough to return my hair to a state of health that I hadn’t had since sixth grade. I had every intention of perming it again. Going natural seemed to be the best way to re-gain strong healthy hair. I transitioned for a year using sew-ins, and an extension process that I loved called “Urban Twists,” done through an Atlanta-based stylist at The Damn Salon. I even modeled in a few natural hair shows. After a year, when stretched, my hair was chin length, and healthy so I went to a salon and permed it again. And again, because I had not developed a hair care regimen, and because extensions were such a quick fix, I returned to wigs, and the damaged ensued.

Last March, I committed to going natural again. This time with a different mindset, and a willingness to learn my texture. This being my second trial run, I knew what I was in for and began to approach my hair with child-like curiosity, and a willingness to discover this hair that quite frankly, was foreign to me, having received my first perm at the age of five. It has been just over a year now, and I am only just now discovering the products that work for my hair, that don’t leave my locs feeling dry and brittle. While I still wear lace units on a regular basis, my natural hair is no longer being overlooked, and after ten years, I’ve finally begun to view myself as beautiful without someone else’s hair. I was aware that going natural would require a mental shift in regards to standards of beauty, but I was unaware of how emotional the experience would be. Transitioning to natural is indeed a “journey,” in every sense of the word.