Friday, September 28, 2012

NYC Graffitti Hall of Fame

(James top of James Top Productions) I’ve said it many times; an artist usually will choose their tools based on what is around them when they first get the creative spark. Perhaps a little boy’s father had an old guitar in the basement, or a little girl found her mother’s lipstick behind the couch. Did you go to art class in high school and the teacher only had clay around? What about being a pre-teen and your mom sent you out to buy a loaf of bread, only to find the neighborhood kids “tagging” the side of the bodega? I know growing up in the 80’s, some of my fondest memories were of the boys break dancing on the block on top of opened cardboard boxes. I remember my cousins and the older boys sneaking spray paint cans out of my garage and spray painting whatever wall they could find. I also remember them getting in trouble, and being regarded as vandals because they defaced public property. What is sad is that these were the stories heard and broadcasted publically, and it took away from the beauty of the art form that we know as graffiti. Graffiti is indeed an art, born out of the streets of New York, and other inner cities, it has had the greatest influence on what we know to be Hip-hop culture today. Originating in the New York City subways, graffiti was an expression of a culture that expressed themselves loudly and colorfully with its music, fashion, and even political involvement. By definition, the word graffiti is defined as markings, initials, slogans, or drawings, written, spray-painted, or sketched on a sidewalk, or wall of a building. Some of the most common styles of graffiti have their own names. A "tag" is the most basic writing of an artist's name; it is simply a hand style. A graffiti writer's tag is his or her personalized signature. Tagging is often the example given when opponents of graffiti refer to any acts of hand style graffiti writing (it is by far the most common form of graffiti). Tags can contain subtle and sometimes cryptic messages, and might incorporate the artist's crew initials or other letters. We don’t see it anymore on the E or the A trains. If we see it on a wall anywhere, it was artfully placed with the permission of the owner. Due to laws passed that attempted to label graffiti as vandalism and defacement, great lengths have been taken by the artists over the years to preserve the integrity and expression of the much loved and respected art form. Graffiti is urban pride, our modern day Venus die Milo, our reference to a movement that is withstanding and globally identified.
I’ve come across a movement who knows firsthand the power and pleasure of the graffiti art form, and works tirelessly to preserve its legacy. James Top Productions was created by legendary graffiti artist James Top in 1998 to create unique graffiti art experiences that focus on many areas from educational workshops, lectures, gallery, event presentations, murals, video production, tours, and graffiti artwork to community and charity projects. James Top Productions has worked with some of the world's most recognizable brands such as ABC Sports, SONY and Time Warner to name a few, along with a roster of premiere graffiti artists here in NYC and beyond. September 22, 2012, James hosted the NYC Graffiti Hall of Fame in East Harlem, New York. Located at 106 and Park Avenue, the event showcased Live Graffiti Art by the 2012 Graffiti Hall of Fame Artists. They were painting as onlookers took pictures and watched the magic happening before their eyes. The crowd was ethnically diverse, as I saw so many representing the graffiti culture. One common thing was shared, this I can tell you. The respect and love for what so many of us have been influenced by in every way here in America was evident. You could see chests puffed from the artists, and the admirers alike.
(I and the legendary Albert "Lava1&2" Mercado) Graced by the musical appearances of Mic Mania, The Legendary Grand Master Caz of The Cold Crush Bros. & Rodney “C” of Double Trouble, it really was a beautiful time of hip hop authenticity. Actually for me, being there inspired ideas for a photo shoot. The colors on the school ground walls spoke to me. The contrasts and the lines gave me a vision to do something quite similar in makeup. I will keep you posted on that….:) The NYC Graffiti Hall of Fame was a splendid display of the new generation of artists who have taken the torch and keep it lit brightly. My 17 year old was perturbed, not knowing where I had gone. Him being a music aficionado, he expressed how he would love to have been there. I wasn’t even thinking about the influence of it all reaching all the way back to his generation. Though I am quite aware it has. His responses however, solidified that indeed the movement is as strong and relevant as ever. Again, I was so grateful to be surrounded by creative souls, expressing themselves in their truest form. An artist is an artist, no matter your medium, no matter your canvass, and no matter how you chose either of the above. Art is just that. For more information about James Top Productions, visit,
(Grand Master Caz and Special K)
(We think we are models:)told you a shoot was inspired....)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Living Beautifully

Makeup, music, soul, color, life, in my opinion are all aspects of true beauty. All of the above come in so many different forms, and should be recognized and revered as special in their own individual ways. As a make-up artist, I am blessed to encounter so many variations of beauty. From high cheekbones, hooded eyes, full lips, to porcelain, olive and blue- black complexions, I have the privilege of accenting and enhancing what is uniquely beautiful about the women I service. What also makes my job easier is that there are products that allow me to do what I do, and that they perform the necessary duties I require when I use them. It is great that I know my color wheel, and that I will mix up a formula with multiple products when I need to. Especially when dealing with women of African descent, our complexions and undertones run the gamut. It’s not “one size fits all”, so I appreciate when there are products that consider the needs of all beauty types. For me, it’s a requirement, both professionally and personally. September 25, 2012, I had the pleasure of attending a monumental event, celebrating singer/songwriter Esnavi as one of the faces of Alison Raffaele Cosmetics. The line will be carried in select Duane Reade stores in the LOOK Boutique nationally and in Puerto Rico. You will see Esnavi as the the first African- American woman to represent the campaign where the products are sold. Alison Raffaele’s passion for beauty has often been drawn and inspired from music and fashion as an veteran make-up artist. Known for her work in the industry, notably working under Bobbi Brown, Alison already had the respect and trust of her clients and colleagues. As I spoke with her at MarX Restaurant(, I had gained a new-found respect as I listened to her speak about her diligence in providing a complexion line that worked amazingly, and boasts ingredients that are eco-friendly and effective. Alison clearly has a passion and love for her artistry and her clients. Putting together a cosmetic line that is paraben, talc, mineral oil, fragrance and gluten free openly displays that. Choosing Esnavi as one of the faces of Alison Raffaele Cosmetics is also a display of beautiful living in a real, identifiable form. Known as one of the hottest rising musical artists of this decade, Esnavi is known for her flair for fashion and beauty and identifying with artists that she really believes in. She won’t wear an outfit she doesn’t like for flattery sake, or shout out an artist that she wouldn’t personally stand behind. That alone says a lot about Alison Raffaele Cosmetics. For an artist to put her name and face to something, I’m inclined to believe we may be on to something. I am glad Esnavi and Alison Raffaele chose each other. A merge of two of my favorite art forms, makeup and music, and a message of true beauty behind each brand. Simply, this makes me happy. I can see a face I identify with when I purchase and use a product that really works for me. In my gift bag, I received “True Concealer Skintone 6”. I am wearing it now, I will wear it tomorrow too, because it matches my tone perfectly, hasn’t slipped during the day, and is weightless. I’ve been experiencing “Unexpected Love” lately. I cannot think of the phrase anymore without thinking of Esnavi’s hit single. All of this going on at the same time, and I feel beauty in my life right this moment. Kind of corny? Yes it is, but who can tell anyone what beautiful living is to them? -See Esnavi’s story here and information about Alison Raffaele Cosmetics at -For the latest information about all things Esnavi, visit

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Nice and Social

With New York Fashion Week Spring 2013 still in full swing, I think the fashion world is probably still teeming over with inspiration, creativity, and excitement. Wanting to bask in that sentiment, I headed to Harlem, New York to visit the new location of Sociallite Accessories, an exclusive woman’s accessory boutique located at 2084 Lexington Avenue ( I honestly lost my breath a little when I walked in. It seemed like all of my personal style was hanging on every wall. From the jewelry, to the handbags, I quickly had to remind myself my children needed uniforms for school, and that I needed running water to live. If there is nothing I love better in my accessories arsenal, is a true statement piece. Sociallite Accessories is filled with them. They cater to the trendy, fashion forward individual who loves quality and individuality, without having to forego food for 2 weeks. They even have a section catered to “Lil Sociallites”, accessories for girls. Owner Yenitza Lindsay was such a doll, accurately pointing out pieces that she thought I would like just from her quick assessment of me. She pulled out a two-finger ring with an antique shear on it. She did that after I had chosen a minimum of 12 pieces I wanted to leave with, so I just went ahead and made it 13…
Yenitza Lindsay and Yours Truly
Aside from wanting to leave an establishment with what you came for, you want to feel like you’ve made the right decision to spend your time and your money there. You get that at Sociallite Accessories. The space is intimate, the staff is personable, and they have great products. Let’s be honest, I don’t like people who aren’t nice. Period, Point, Blank. From talking with Annbeth R., friend of Yenitza’s (who I have connected to as well), to chatting it up with the supporters and customers, your shopping experience here won’t be a disappointment. I even walked out with a lovely pair of earrings that I wore the very next day, and I still had enough to pay my water bill (I’m from Queens). Head out to Harlem, visit Sociallite Accessories, treat yourself, feel good about it, leave feeling nice and social. Add a little love to your jewelry box and create a little budget to go back and do it all over again.
These are the ones I snagged, you wouldn't believe for how much... For the first person who can guess how much I paid for my earrings, I'll give them a pair of earrings, courtesy of Sociallite Accesories. To be fabulous will cost you nothing but an educated guess!!!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Team Player

No man is an island they say. Two being better than one, "We Are the World", or even asking for help, are all notions that humans aren't to be independent of each other at all times. Whether in deed or words, we all get a deeper understanding of ourselves when we share like interests, thoughts, struggles and experiences. Do I share my life over coffee; give a little insight while applying your mascara, can you give me the best of advice as you deliver my mail? Please, help me avoid some pitfalls by telling me your story, and let’s do it while working together…
I recently spent the day working with Two-Time WNBA Champion Yolanda Moore ( With the release of her book, You Will Win If You Don’t Quit, Yolanda has been quite busy promoting her inspirational text. I accompanied her to Philadelphia as her glam squad for an interview on the cable television show Enter the Zone. Aside from spending four seasons in the WNBA, and winning two WNBA championships with the Houston Comets in 1997 & 1998, Yolanda also motivates through philanthropy and speaking engagements. Yolanda shares her story to help others reach their goals and highest potential. Yolanda believes in “dreaming big and relentlessly pursuing her passion and she is dedicated to teaching others how to do the same".
I read You Will Win If You Don’t Quit in less than two hours on the way to Philly. It was an easy read; I immediately saw her story as she told it. I saw it as if I was there, and I kind of was in my own way. I saw a lot of my life in hers, the tragedy, the triumphs, and the processes in between. I have to admit that I am really not much of a sports fan, but Yolanda descriptively made it plain for even me to understand the “basketball speak” of her athletic rise from childhood to WNBA stardom. I was also engaged by areas for me to write down my thoughts about setting and resetting my own successful goals. Never one for flattery, this book honestly re-inspired me.
I always appreciate and honest story behind what people see in the limelight. Nothing worth having comes easy for most; hard work, determination, and a call on your life usually have everything to do what people see as a finished product. When these accounts are shared from and honest and generous place, people are helped and empowered to be better. When an individual is made better, all those around them get to partake of that, in turn making them better. Vicariously, or directly, we’re made to feel like we are apart of something bigger than ourselves, taking one for the team…