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.

Entertaining the Carolinas: Mason Entertainment

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When three strong angles come together, they form strength in a perfect triangle.

Each corner serves as an anchor for the others.

Mason Entertainment is that perfect triangle.

Made up of three musicians, the Columbia based group hopes to bring their local low country style of hip hop and R&B to the mainstream.

LB, a transplant from Buffalo New York, founded the group after realizing he didn’t want to be put into a box.

He didn’t want his music to fall under a certain genre.

He named the company after his son who shares his love of music. He wants it to serve as a platform for local artists.

His musicians each have that Southern South Carolina Swag that’s indigenous to the area.

The soulful R&B, mixed with rap and hip hop, and sang with a southern twang makes for a unique South Carolina beat.

Shnook is the only member born and raised in the area and his roots run deep. He pulls from his life experiences, good and bad, turning them into songs.

He brings to the group over ten years experience in radio.

Though he’s content with being more behind the scenes he is also the groups Hype Man.

His angle is fun. He is the life of the party and gets the crowd going at their shows.

Hearing his distinctive country drawl in their songs makes one want to hear more of this emerging music style.

He is a true son of the Carolinas and puts his all into representing his state.

The addition of actress/rapper Erica Von completes the triangle.

The Philadelphia native is known as ‘The First Lady of Mason Ent’. She is the groups secret weapon.

Her organization and leadership skills keep the group focused and on track. She also runs their social media. She is the definition of BOSS BABE.

The goal of Mason Ent is to promote local talent. To establish a place in the music world for their unique South Carolina Low Country beats. And to give back to the community that supports them.

Their members are required to attend practices and weekly meetings. They must provide content and be able to market their skills.

LB is focused on accountability. And for giving back. Members must volunteer in their community.

He told me “If you live a life where you have a platform, it’s important that you use it for something other than selfish reasons”

Mason Ent continues to grow and branch out.

Check out their social media to catch upcoming performances!

https://www.masonentsc.com/

My Papaw’s Foxhole: A Lesson In Humility

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My Papaw was the most decorated war veteran to ever come from our county.

He was a successful farmer that planted according to the moon. And according to his heart. While others were following the Farmers Almanac he waited. And when those farmers lost their crops from an unexpected (to them) rain or freeze, he would feed them and their families. Despite the fact that they had ridiculed him for waiting.

When neighboring farmers started planting soybeans to sell to the government he insisted on growing what he had always grown. And gave away more than he sold.

He was not only a war hero. He was a hero to the whole community. They even named a neighborhood after him.

He was also a superhero to a little girl who grew up to be the Designer Diva.

He taught me how to pick a ripe juicy watermelon.

He taught me the right way to pick fruit from a tree.

He taught me to study the moon and stars and let them guide me.

And recently, he taught me a lesson from beyond the grave.

I’ve always struggled with envy. Coveting has always been the hardest Commandment to keep.

I’ve always wanted what I don’t have. And I’ve had trouble realizing everything isn’t for me.

That event I wasn’t invited to. The promotion I didn’t get. The blogging opportunity I wasn’t even considered for.

It could be someone taking a parking spot I’d patiently waited for. Or the shoes I wanted that were sold out in my size.

We’ve all had an occasion that didn’t go as planned. A relationship that we thought would be perfect. That job we just knew we’d be perfect for.

I’ve slowly been realizing that if I were to get the little things I thought I wanted that I may miss something big that I was really supposed to be doing.

But still, I couldn’t help being feeling envious. Feeling like if only I were better, younger, prettier, skinnier etc…

Last week on Veterans Day my cousins and I were discussing our beloved Papaw.

One told of a war story he recalled hearing as a boy.

During World War I my Papaw and his troop were being bombarded by artillery. He ran for cover toward a foxhole but another soldier beat him to it. He kept running until he found another one. As soon as he jumped in a shell fell directly into the hole the other man got to first and blew up right before my Papaws eyes.

Hearing this story shook me to the core. If it weren’t for that one moment I wouldn’t even exist.

As Thanksgiving approaches I’ve decided to be thankful. Thankful for missed opportunities. Thankful for closed doors. Thankful for disappointments. Thankful for unanswered prayers.

Yes, everything isn’t for me. And I’m so thankful for my Papaw’s Foxhole.

Decking the Mall with Suzanne Libfraind: The SouthPark VIP Personal Shopping Experience

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Opening an email from Suzanne Libfraind is like a kid opening a gift on Christmas morning.

I just knew whatever inside was going to be spectacular!

Suzanne is the Personal Shopper for Charlotte’s upscale SouthPark mall.

I’ve previously attended her shopping events and each time she outdoes herself.

This event had a twist. Normally we gather in the center of the mall and sit as she presents us with her current favorites.

This time we were going to be on the move. Going from store to store to see what she chose from each place. It was like a fancy field trip!

After a farm fresh brunch from Gusto we started our trek through the mall.

Our first stop was only steps away. Louis Vuitton. Why not start with the most luxurious, right?

Sipping mimosas at Louis Vuitton before noon??? Yes please!! I could get use to this.

Classics such as the Keepall and the monogram wallet were favorites. She mixed in new trends such as the Initial belt and the sock shoe. And the Empreinte bag in a pop of color is perfect for the holidays. It can be worn as a ladylike shoulder bag or a cool, hip crossbody.

We moved on to one of the newest stores in the mall, Tommy John. There are only two stores in the country.

It started as a line of underwear being sold in Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus. The undershirt was designed to prevent untucking.

Memory material stretches and goes back to its original state.

Comfort and versatility are the best way to describe this line. Lifestyle driven clothing.

From the breathable, lightweight underwear to the Go Anywhere Pant, comfort was the key word.

The Stay Tucked Shirt with its elastic hem and hidden snaps will be sure to please any guy on your gift list.

On to make up Heaven…Bare Minerals. Known for clean beauty, this makeup line is perfect for the ladies on your list. Or yourself.

Showcased were the Custom Brush Kit, Lashtopic Mascara(which I have used and can claim as a favorite), a 12 piece ‘Best Sellers’ collection and the Hyperglow Mask.

And the drool worthy, steal of a deal, Stellar Glow Highlighting Pallete that will find it’s way into my makeup bag soon.

This blogger turned into Buddy the Elf at the sighting of this guy. It’s Santa!!! I know him!!!

Trina Turk was a huge hit at Charlotte Fashion Week. With the launch of the Mr. Turk line, couples outfits can compliment each other for a classic look for any occasion.

Belt bags, ascots and bow ties or a ‘Mr. Ice’ ice bucket will please any dapper guy you know. The buckets are made from retired patterns. So you know they will be a chic addition to any home.

While the fashionistas will love the fuzzy alpaca slippers and leopard print beret. And everyone loves a good coffee table book.

You had me at Pumpkin loaf, champagne and shoes.

We nibbled on sweets and sipped champagne at Stuart Weitzman as we ‘oohhed’ and ‘aaahhed’ over suede sneaker shoes, knee high boots and sparkly heels.

Johnny Was….

Was what??

A good man according to the Bob Marley song that inspired the stores name. But Johnny was…anything you want him to be.

And that fits the boho chic vibe of the store.

Suede bucket bags and blankets, silk scarves, velvet joggers and more coffee table books were among the favorites.

It’s not like we were hungry again. But who’s going to turn down gourmet cuisine from Sur La Table??

As we ate small bites that had been smoked by their Smoking Box and sipped exotic coffee drinks from their JURA E8 coffee maker, we watched demonstrations of their Miyabi knives and Coravin Model 2 Wine System.

Restaurants and homes can keep bottles of wine fresh with the Coravin.

Cookbooks and cooking classes make wonderful gifts.

How are you holding up? I know this is a long blog. But we’re almost finished.

We moved on to the colorful Vera Bradley Store. They’re more than just purses. We did see purses though. Tote bags and cross bodies. As well as travel cases, pill boxes and jewelry cases.

Including a new, not yet released to the public pattern.

I even won the drawing for an item I had been eyeing for one of my daughters!

All that food, drink and holiday cheer can lead to one thing…exercise.

At Athleta we saw the latest in stylish, comfy athletic wear. As well as samples from Clean Juice and info on various cleanses.

The Cozy Karma pullover with its rose gold zipper and the Stash Pocket Salutation Tights will keep you fashionable while working off those holiday pounds.

We ended the Shopping Experience with wine and Frye.

Frye has much more than boots. Belts, socks, bags, wallets and travel kits provide an array of gift ideas. Again we see a trendy sneaker.

My favorite was the Sacha Chelsea Boot with removable harness. You can wear them with or without the harness and even switch the harnesses.

Wow, we shopped til we dropped!! But it was an amazing experience.

Coffee table books, sneakers and crossbody bags made several appearances. Along with new, unique gift ideas.

We were treated to a day of luxury by Suzanne and SouthPark Mall. We came away with generous gifts from each store as well as the mall itself.

SouthPark Mall is the goto place for your holiday shopping. They have stores from every price point.

And they are unique in the fact that they have a personal shopper.

Suzanne Libfraind will help you shop for everyday basics or an important event. Or help you pick out gifts for others. And her first session is free for up to three hours!

Contact her for your own VIP Shopping Experience.

http://wardrobeconsulting.biz/

https://www.simon.com/mall/southpark

https://instagram.com/bareminerals_southpark031?utm_source=ig_profile_share&igshid=6ebyzb2n9tni

http://www.eatgusto.com/

For The Love of Money

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Love and Money. Two words that can be the basis for many heated arguments.

And this event was no exception.

I met Troy Spry when he was a panelist on the “Ask A Man” series I’ve covered in previous blogs.

https://livinglavidadivablog.wordpress.com/2017/12/07/man-oh-man-2/

https://livinglavidadivablog.wordpress.com/2018/05/31/awww-man-ask-a-man-part-ii/

When he asked me to cover this event I knew it wouldn’t be tame.

He combined his relationship expertise with financial guru Russell Stewart. Making for an eventful evening.

After everyone arrived we were encouraged to play board games, take pictures, get to know each other and even eat candy.

Troy then gave us instructions for the evening.

“Be honest.”

“Give short answers and don’t hog the mic.”

“Stay off your phone! Except for the Designerdiva she’s working!”

“Have fun and meet someone new.”

And the most important one…

“This is a conversation, not a confrontation!”

Someone at the next table wondered why he would say that. But I knew! I already knew how this was going to go.

The first topic was men making less than their partner.

Basically we learned it’s not what he makes but how he manages it. And how much of the day to day household duties he takes over.

“All areas can’t be lacking.”

And how the female handles it is important. Immature women will throw it in his face. It’s a respect and maturity issue.

Engagement is too late to discuss finances.

This brought on the gold digger discussion.

If a man tells a woman right off how much money he makes does it influence her?

If the man lies at first and later comes clean about being in the NBA how does the woman feel?

Which led to even more questions.

Do you look at their social media?

How much does that play into whether you go out with them or not?

A man in the audience responded “Don’t assume I paid full price for my designer clothes. Do not judge. You don’t know if I’m just trying to create an image or this is just me.”

This is where the ‘conversation not confrontation’ rule came in handy.

There was no set answer. Eventually everyone agreed to disagree and moved on.

http://www.virileworld.com/

Lanard Wentz, Founder of Virile Magazine, was another familiar face from the ‘Ask A Man’ panel. He took part in ‘Love and Finance Triva’.

We learned that 41% of couples in debt argue regularly.

And 33% hide purchases from their spouse.

We moved on to ‘Who pays for the first date?’

Everyone agreed it’s whoever asks.

And that’s the last time everyone agreed.

The men believe that if you can’t finance a date don’t initiate it.

Start small. Or else you will be expected to outdo yourself each time.

The women feel it’s about effort not cost. The men do not believe that.

Men think women want time and money put into dates. Woman voiced time is more of a factor.

“If you pay attention to our conversations you will know where to take us” one woman stated.

At what point should the woman pay for the date. The average answer was the third date.

How many times does a man pay before the woman is deemed selfish?

The men said they want the woman to at least offer. At least reach for the bill.

The women came back with ‘Men shouldn’t assume we will offer.’

Yet again the ‘conversation not confrontation’ rule came up.

But let’s look at the woman’s point of view.

What if the woman is constantly doing little things for the man?

Buying him little things she knows he likes.

Surprising him at work with a home cooked lunch.

Driving him to the airport when he goes out of town.

Stop keeping score. Everything evens out. As long as equal thought is put into the relationship who pays for what shouldn’t be an issue.

Again everyone agreed to disagree.

Russell had us draw a picture of a house.

Our finances should be like the house. The foundation is ‘Protection’. This is insurance. Health, disability, auto and life.

The first floor is an emergency fund. This is a reserve so that one emergency doesn’t send you into debt. The plan is to have 3-6 month of income put back.

The second floor is to have a debt elimination plan.

The attic is your Retirement Plan. Your income determines your Quality of Life.

And the roof is your goals and dreams. These shouldn’t be overlooked and money should be put aside for them.

Women and men will never agree 100% of the time. But as more and more events provoke discussion we can at least begin to see each other’s side.

Troy and Russell left us with these words…

Know where you stand financially.

Inspect what you expect.

Better people make better communities.

http://xklusivethoughts.com/

https://instagram.com/russellqstewart?utm_source=ig_profile_share&igshid=nng1b8mguum

YCFW:Behind the Scenes Part XI-The End of The Beginning

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It was finally time. After months and months of hard work. Conference calls, meetings, model calls, press conferences and model classes. Fashion Week came to York County, South Carolina.

The brainchild of NaTasha McNeil was finally happening.

Our fearless leader saw the need for the fashion community in her area. York County is rich in independent boutiques and designers and it was time to focus on that.

Online shopping has become such a norm that we sometimes forget all the treasures in our own backyard.

We began with a ribbon cutting and Media Night. Our host Ryan Jor El interviewed everyone from our founder to the youngest of models.

The second night began with pure luxury. VIP guests took a cruise across Lake Wylie to a lakeside mansion for a pre-show cocktail hour.

Freeze Models were lined along the shores, providing an even lovelier view than the sunset.

https://clickmy.info/i/2F9D95E43F4CD876373B819FDCE13BAB?sh=85ZI

We were then shuttled to Camp Thunderbird for the show.

Our third night kicked off with a cocktail hour and Bridal Gown Display.

The grounds of The White Home in Rock Hill were beautifully decorated for fall.

Stylists put the finishing touches on the models as they prepared for the show.

https://clickmy.info/i/2F9D95E43F4CD876373B819FDCE13BAB?sh=85ZI

Wedding dresses from different eras were displayed on our models .

The gravel pathway leading to the front of the house made for a perfect runway.

Night number four began with a relaxing cocktail hour at our Red Carpet Affair at the Southern Charm Events Venue.

The show featured over 100 models and represented designers and boutiques from several states.

From formal wear to street style and everything in between. This show had something for everyone.

https://clickmy.info/i/2F9D95E43F4CD876373B819FDCE13BAB?sh=85ZI

Saturday was all about the kids. The Kids/Teens Showcase took place at The Glennon Center in Tega Cay.

https://instagram.com/blissfuleventsclt?utm_source=ig_profile_share&igshid=qw7c6ip9klnw

It began with a Snap, Crackle and Pop themed ‘SNACKtail Hour’.

All good things must come to an end.

Ryan Jor El heads to his podium on the tarmac at York County Airport for our closing ceremony.

Private jets were taking off in the background of our cocktail hour as we prepared for our final runway show and Fashion Awards.

Simply Jane Formals owner Beth Vanderwalker received an award for best boutique. She is a dedicated supporter of YCFW and provided many beautiful gowns for our shows.

And Jillian Blankley was awarded for most improved model. I watched her grow throughout this whole process. And I truly enjoyed working with her.

I gained a lot of knowledge during the making of this fashion week. And passed this knowledge along to my readers.

I made new friends. Spent time with old friends. I learned the unique personalities of several models. And made important connections.

Our founder NaTasha McNeil and director Ken Sings outdid themselves.

I’m looking forward to the second York County Fashion Week. Even though it is over I don’t see it as an ending.

I see it as the end of the beginning.

We’re Here For It!!

Designerdiva1103

https://www.yorkcountyfashionweek.com/

Happy Blog Day!!

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Today my blog, Living La Vida Diva, turns three years old!

Last year I was really proud of how far I’d come. As I look back over the third year I see how much I’ve truly grown.

There were food blogs. And blogs on authors. And musicians!

Rap artist IV Montana remains my most read blog.

He continues to send me people to write about. I even wrote about his mother.

I did a few more collabs with fellow bloggers Reagan and Megan.

I met the greatest group of young people with Inspire the Fire and even interviewed their leader Dennis Reed.

I attended brunches sponsored by the Charlotte Observer.

And I discovered so much talent while covering the Queen City Awards.

I stepped outside my comfort zone and covered some controversial events.

And met some people with amazing stories.

I was there when Ryan Jor El brought his dream to life with the first inaugural Black Fathers Rock event.

And I traveled to Columbia, South Carolina to watch designer Laddie Howard create his beautiful bags.

I covered Fashion shows.

And I walked the runway myself in a show benefitting women’s mental health.

I met with a fascinating young man Francisco Cauldron. I’ve received a lot of positive feedback on his blog.

I took inventory of my closet as I chronicled my move.

I’ve worked hard this year building my brand. And the last two weeks have been a result of all that hustling.

I became part of the media team for Charlotte Seen and provided front row coverage for Charlotte Fashion Week.

And I became the official blogger for the first York County Fashion Week in South Carolina. Providing behind the scenes coverage from beginning to end.

I had two weeks of back to back fashion shows.

My blog has grown so much this year. And I’ve learned so much while Living La Vida Diva.