A Thousand Words

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I’m a firm believer in signs. I look for them everywhere. And my soul pulls me to people that belong in my life.

This is how and why I met Photgrapher Don Harris. Or ‘Nikon Don’ as he’s known in the industry.

I had a media pass for a fashion show and when I walked in I was unsure where the media was to set up.

Although I knew several people in the room I approached Don and asked for info.

We immediately followed each other on social media and he clicked on my latest blog.

“You wrote about sickle cell” he said.

I told him how I connected with a local podcast host because our children have the disease in common. And although my daughter has had minimal symptoms I wanted to learn more and bring more attention to an illness most of the world overlooks.

He said to me “I have sickle cell. I just got out of the hospital last week”.

I then realized why, out of everyone in the room, I was drawn to him.

The 35 year old suffers from the most severe form of the disease and spent a great deal of his childhood in the hospital.

He knew he was different from most kids and hated being seen as ‘weak’.

“This disease is both a gift and a curse” he explained.

The weakness actually gave him strength.

Meditating as a child without even knowing the meaning of the word.

Looking back he sees the front he put on. Channeling his pain into his creativity.

Art was an outlet for him. And drawing led to going to college for graphic design.

However photography was always a part of him.

He took his first photo at his mother’s work function at age 10 and soon became the family Photgrapher.

He went from borrowing a Nikon camera to being sponsored by Nikon.

The opportunity for his own studio fell into his lap. He uses Hardpress Studio not only for his own work but for all the talent in the community.

It’s a platform to help others achieve their dream.

His illness has caused him to miss important shoots. But you can never tell when you see him. His energy and smile take over and he is not defined by his disease.

Being in the fashion scene I’ve witnessed photographers working with models.

I’ve never seen one interact with them like Don does. He makes them feel at ease. And it shows in the final product.

When he talks people listen. He teaches instead of instructing. He demonstrates instead of directing. And the results are amazing.

I soon discovered we have a mutual friend, celebrity designer Stevie Boi. I was honored to attend the photo shoot for his Pink collection shot by Don.

They work in unison. One knows what the other is thinking. And you can witness this by being in the room with them.

They call each other ‘brother’ although the only DNA they have in common are the sickle shaped blood cells pulsing through their veins.

Neither remembers how they met. But I know that we three came together for a reason.

Our souls connected us. And together we will form a tight bond that Sickle Cell will have to face. Three stubborn, determined creative minds that will one day outsmart this disease.

He is more than his illness. He’s more than a photographer. He’s more than an artist. He’s more than a brother, father, friend…

A picture is worth a thousand words. But it takes more than a thousand words to describe Nikon Don.

https://instagram.com/nikondon?utm_source=ig_profile_share&igshid=qh0vhlmgzd9h

https://www.hardpressstudio.com/

Pick 6

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No, I wasn’t playing football. I was playing dress up at one of Charlotte’s most charming boutiques.

My blogger friend Reagan and I spent the afternoon at Apricot Lane trying on half of the store.

What started out as a ‘Top 3 Picks’ turned into a Top 5, and eventually and Top 6. Well 7 if you wanted to go for the field goal and include the cute clover shaped necklace.

Pick #1:

This dress will be living in my closet soon. It’s soft and comfy and will look great paired with my over the knees boots or some tights and flats.

#2:

Why wear your heart only on your sleeve when you can wear it all over?? This distressed sweater would be perfect for Valentines Day.

#3:

Anyone that knows me can tell you my closet is a jungle. Full of leopards. They say leopard print is back in style but to me it never left. I consider it a neutral.

Since it has the same distressing as the heart sweater I think it would look best paired with some tailored black trousers. Or if you’re really adventurous try some red or fuchsia leggings!

#4:

This sweater was one that I was unsure of but took to the fitting room anyway. It’s so soft and a beautiful color of pink that this redheaded blogger can pull off. It can be worn with jeans or skirts. Try wearing it off one shoulder with a cute bra or cami strap showing.

#5:

I was struck by the color blocking stripes. And surprised by the softness of this sweater. To be honest, everything in the store is incredibly soft. This would look great with jeans and a beanie coordinating with one of the stripes.

#6…ok and 7:

This sage green top complimented my hair and skin tone so well. It can also be worn off the shoulder and can be dressed up or down.

The batwing sleeves hide the parts of my arm I don’t like emphasized.

And makes a perfect backdrop for the icy silver necklace.

Now can you see why I couldn’t just pick 3? Or 5??

I’ve never been to a more welcoming, friendly shop. And the clothing really compliments my figure.

They don’t try to sell you something that doesn’t make you look and feel great.

Your smile and your style are their calling card.

Every shopping trip is a Touchdown!

https://instagram.com/apricotlanecharlotte?utm_source=ig_profile_share&igshid=qd0lo1qxemkk

https://www.facebook.com/ApricotLaneCharlotte/

https://www.reaganinmyownworld.com/blog/blue-velvet-and-wine-red

Unloc’d

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When my friend and mentor Ryan Jor El told me he has something he wants me to blog, but he couldn’t tell me what it was, I immediately said “yes”.

Now I wouldn’t go in blindly to a situation for just anyone, but I trust Ryan. His input and support have helped me build my brand, so I knew this would be something big.

I honestly thought he was announcing a sequel to his ‘Fashion & Fatherhood’ book, or expanding his line of pocket squares.

I don’t think anyone anticipated what was about to transpire.

Guests were intrigued by the addition of a barber chair to his living room.

Perhaps he developed a new hair care product?

Maybe he’s helping launch the career of a barber friend.

But I had a feeling. I cornered him and asked “Are you cutting your hair off??”

His eyes darted to the side. And he turned away from me as he confirmed my suspicions.

I was stunned.

I watched as thirty or so of his closest friends and family filtered in.

Only a few had figured out what was happening.

Ryan announced to us all that after fourteen years of growing his locs it was time for a change.

He invited those closest to him because he needed our support.

“I would cancel a hair appointment but I’d never cancel a party” he told us.

In his true ‘Go big or go home’, over the top fashion, Ryan threw a party for his hair.

Although this was his ‘big day’, the room was filled with talent from various arenas. From photographers to graphic designers, chefs to project managers, party planners to event hosts, and even a guy who operates his own mobile phone charging stations!

Of course he surrounds himself with creative minds. And we came together to be his support team.

We watched our friend completely consumed with emotion. Struggling with his decision. Almost hoping we would try and stop him.

His wife Cashmere has never seen him without his signature dreadlocks. She stayed close through the process, stepping in when she sensed his wavering.

His three year old daughter Peyton couldn’t quite understand her fathers announcement and was full of questions.

“What’s daddy doing?”

“Does it hurt?”

And ultimately offering her own words of support.

“Daddy now your hair will look like mine.”

There was a collective gasp as Ty, his longtime loctitian, snipped the first strand.

He sank lower and lower into the chair. His once strong build seemed to crumple before us. And although he assured his daughter it wouldn’t hurt, it was in fact hurting him inside.

India Arie famously sang “I am not my hair”.

But are we, in fact, defined by our hair?

The ancient Greeks considered long hair on men as an ornate sign of power.

Native Americans believe long locks can contain certain sensory abilities. Much like the whiskers in a cat, hair can serve as a sixth sense.

And of course no one can forget Samson. The biblical Superhero who’s powers were tied to his hair.

Would our friend lose his powers as well?

This was one of Ryan’s biggest concerns. The brand he has built is associated with his long locs. And he questions whether it will suffer due to the change.

But one by one we each shared what strengths we see in him.

Upon first meeting him I didn’t notice his hair. It was his beaming smile and his ability to talk to you as if you’re the most important person in the room.

A former colleague from his corporate America days remembers his professionalism and confidence.

Fellow fraternity brothers recall the flack they endured when Ryan refused to cut his hair upon joining. They supported him then and they’re supporting him now.

Ty Nelson was shocked when her longtime client told her he’s cutting his hair after fourteen years.

She cried because she was so attached to her client and didn’t want to see her work undone.

As she and his barber Tavares Green finished up, he slowly realized perhaps his strength really doesn’t lie in his locs and his demeanor changed. The strength he had all along began to resurface. And he sat up straight, steadfast in his decision.

He saw, as did India Arie, ‘Its not what’s on your head, it’s what’s underneath.’

He didn’t want to see it until the end. So the reveal was surprise to him.

Then Ryan, being Ryan, fell in love with himself all over again.

He’s still adjusting to his new look. He can put on a shirt without moving his hair. And it’s cold without hair! And he will continue to notice little things day after day until he’s content. And life without locs will be his new norm.

I was honored to be a part of my friends emotional journey. And even though I’ll joke with him about it I realize how hard it was.

Why do we put so much stock in our locks? Why do they hold so much power?

Will the mysteries of our hair ever be Unlocked?

https://linktr.ee/ryan_jorel

*** I’ve used both LOCS and LOCKS interchangeably throughout this blog. It was intentional. Locs when referring specifically to Ryan’s hair and Locks when referring to hair in general.