When I was contemplating summer vacation hairstyles there was one thing I knew for sure: I did NOT want braids or twists.
Despite me being the “natural queen,” I didn’t think braids would coincide with the look I was going for during all of my tropical excursions. There’s only so many ways you can style braids, and I normally resort to a large bun because of my facial structure. With the outfits I had in mind and the skimpy bikinis I was dying to flaunt around the beach, a bun just wouldn't do my Instagrammable moments justice.
I’ve been rocking nothing but braids and crochet braids for the past four years. Prior to that, I was the sew-in guru, but decided to switch to longer lasting styles. I was eager to try another sew-in for my sun-filled travel plans, but I’d been out of the “weave world” for so long and was nervous to jump back in. I tend to prefer looks that appear as if the hair actually grows from my scalp versus the silkier weave options. So, when I stumbled upon Mayvenn’s Kinky Straight bundles, I knew it would be a match made in heaven.
I love hair that’s long in length and large in width. To give more perspective, my hair icon is Diana Ross. For the dramatic look I was going for, I ordered four bundles of the Brazilian texture in lengths 16”, 18”, 20” and 22” (one of each bundle length) for a layered and true to form look. And yes, all four bundles were installed. I’m going on vacation, so why not do the absolute most!
The bundles came with a care guide, complete with step by step instructions on how to install, wash and treat the hair for optimal use. I knew from the 8 page pamphlet that this was a good investment.
For starters, my hairstylist Cynthia was flabbergasted that I had even booked a sew-in. But when I told her the brand and curl pattern I was using, she was excited.
“Mayvenn has the best bundles,” she said. “The kinky straight is the most natural weave you could ever get. They are unmatched.”
Once the sew-in was complete, she informed me that the minimal leave out I had didn’t need to be straightened with a flat iron, but could simply be brushed or combed to blend perfectly because the hair is designed to match your natural texture. Since I was in her chair, she straightened the leave out but told me not to worry about doing it on my own; just simply brush it and lay it down with a scarf at night to maintain the look. The care guide also demonstrates how to protect the hair at night with either a silk scarf or bonnet, but my stylist gave me one tip that saved my life: section the hair into four parts and braid it into four loose individual braids before wrapping it with a scarf or bonnet. It keeps the leave-out in tact and blended properly while also honoring the natural texture of the hair. Cynthia assured me that no matter how much time I spent in the ocean, pool or sun that the hair would bounce back.
Day 1, Post Install
My vacation was 8 days - a packed itinerary that began with the Roots Picnic, an all day music festival in the park, in the sweltering heat. Next, I was headed off on a 6 day experience in the Sunshine State (West Palm Beach, FL) that included a three day cruise to the Bahamas and an extended stay in Florida. Once I returned home to Philly, I had an immediate turnaround to work at the Philly PRIDE Parade & Festival, for another whopping 12 hours in the heat. Despite Cynthia’s promises, I knew that my hair would be subjected to a ton of humidity and ocean water so I was nervous about how it would hold up.
To my surprise, it held up marvelously! As the days went by, the more natural it appeared. The hair care guide explained that when wet, the kinky straight hair is at its best and reverts back to its natural state. That proved to be true. There wasn’t one day that I did not get into the water, and to me, I was pushing it. I just knew that after diving into a chlorine filled pool in between being in sea water all day, coupled with the extreme heat and humidity (the weather did not go below 90 degrees...the humidity was even higher) that my leave-out would eventually refuse to cooperate. But following my hairstylist’s rule by brushing it and braiding it before tying it down definitely did the trick.
The lesson is this: if you’re looking for a good weave for your upcoming vacation, try Mayvenn’s kinky straight line. For proof of how amazing this hair is, look below for a peak into how well it lasted for my trip. I plan to use this hair all summer, as I have four more big vacations booked: two in the states and another two in the islands. I’ll be sure to provide all of my Mayvenn girls with an update!
Day 2, Roots Picnic
Day 3, Beginning of Cruise
Day 4, Bahamas
Day 4, Post ocean dip
Day 5, Singer Island Beach, FL
Day 5, Post Singer Island Beach
Day 6, Sunset Cruise in West Palm Beach (with my sister)
Day 8, Philly PRIDE Parade & Festival (with my mom)
While it’s a little too late to start prepping for your summer body (I mean come on ladies, it’s already June), it’s never too late to start working towards your overall body goals. With consistency, you’ll build a stronger and healthier body that’ll last throughout the year. Here are the celebs whose bodies I envy most. To be honest, if I could take a body part from each of them and combine them into one, I’d create my dream body for sure!
Lo’s body is so sickening that she makes me ill! At 49, she has better abs than girls half her age; she is dedicated to keeping her body and overall health lean and clean. I won’t even sit here and write a rave review of her body, her pictures do enough justice. Instead, I’ll share her trainer’s insight into her strict yet admirable diet and workout plan. Ladies, feel free to copy and paste into your iPhone notes for future reference.
First things first, drinking water is key in her routine. "Drinking plenty of water, especially before a workout, can help you push harder and get more out of your exercise routine," she told Hello!. But while she drinks plenty of water, she doesn’t consume caffeine...or alcohol...at all, which is advice her nutritionist provided that she’s stuck to for keeping her body tight.
For food, she sticks to a balanced, nutrient rich diet, and has cut out all processed and refined foods. It’s all organic.
Now, onto the workout. Outside of her love of dance, the gym is what she says keeps her happy. Want to try and obtain a body like hers? Welp, here’s her go-to full-body workout:
Wide Stance Squat
Plank on a Medicine Ball - 30-second plank.
Dumbbell Row to Tricep Extension - 10 reps on each side.
Overhead Slams with Medicine Ball
Torso Rotation with Resistance Band
Squat with Row and Bicep Curls with Resistance Band
Tricep Extensions with Resistance Band
Medicine Ball Sit-ups
Weighted Jack Knives
Push-ups with Glider
Let me know how that works out for y’all because this is one diet and exercise plan that WILL NOT work for me.
Wife of funny man Kevin Hart, Eniko goes hard in the gym during what appears to be daily from her Instagram posts. She worked out pre, during and post pregnancy with her son Kenzo and her body has only transformed into something greater since giving birth. Her workouts focus primarily on the lower body with a series of bench presses, squats and leg exercises, all with the assistance of weights. She believes in doing things “the natural way,” sweating it out on the Stairmaster, doing jumping lunges with weights, squats, the row machine, ball slams, ball tosses, toe-touches and a lot more. She’s a beast at it too! Her videos don’t even show her catching a breath. The results are a solid a$$ and perfect core.
Mary J. Blige
I guess divorce does a body good because after MJB left her (allegedly) trifling husband, she decided the best revenge was a snached waist and abs of steel. At 48, Mary is looking better than ever before. The Queen of Hip Hop Soul gave the 4-1-1 on her reinvigorated body and style in an interview with SHAPE Magazine. She consumes low carbohydrates through eating a healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner mixed in with protein shakes. And like most fitness and diet experts recommend for shedding pounds and keeping skin radiant, Mary also drinks a gallon of water a day to keep her system flushed out. The rest of her diet consists of meats, cheeses, greens and healthy fats while maintaining the carbohydrate levels at a minimum. Along with her diet, she also hits the gym; she utilizes my favorite workout of lifting weights three times a week and focuses on her arms, legs, and glutes. To keep her butt toned, she does a lot of squats and bench presses. She also does a serious cardio workout, running 4 miles, multiple days a week. “My main exercise is cardio,” she says in her interview with SHAPE. “The treadmill is fine but running outdoors gives me the best results. I try to log 6 to 8 miles a week. I could be in the worst mood, but when I do my cardio I feel much, much better.” Not to mention, her famous Mary bop she does on stage surely adds to her fitness routine. Go Mary!
Ciara is the second coming of Janet Jackson in my book, in terms of both her dancing skills and her fabulous body. The mother of two was able to lose 50 pounds in five months after having her daughter Sienna. She told People Magazine “I would wake up, breastfeed, then get Future [her son] ready for school. Then after I take him to school, come back and work out. Then after I work out, breastfeed and go back and get Future from school. Come back and breastfeed, then go work out again." How was that possible? Like many others on this list, she recently revealed to the hosts of The View that after struggling to lose the final few pounds post birth, despite her crazy workout routines, she drank a lot of water - enough to support her ideal weight - to flush out her system and the weight fell off. In an interview with People Magazine, she revealed she was never a consistent gym chick and focused on “spot training” in between video shoots and performing, but now she understands that daily workouts are key. These days Ciara does a combination of several workout styles, from Tabata and plyometrics to weight lifting and cardio. She often works out with her football star husband Russell Wilson to stay in shape and focuses primarily on her midsection. And of course, she puts her all into her choreography. Her abs show it.
This former Love & Hip Hop Hollywood star took Instagram by surprise when she revealed her newly toned body last year. And like Mary J. Blige, her newfound shape came post breakup in the form of a revenge body. She did so organically through daily workouts, for 2-3 hours daily. According to an Instagram post, Apryl says, “…I have trained hard for 2-3 hours per day with intense focus. It has become a little bit discouraging to have people attribute my hard work and dedication to cosmetic surgery and synthetic injections. At the same time, so many of you have been so complimentary and encouraging and have even asked for advice on transforming your own bodies. I would love for you to come on this journey with me as I continue to become the best possible ME.” Her workouts include strength and weight training, squats, and cardio in between.
Karreuche went from little booties matter to slim thick thanks to full body and weight training. She was tired of being skinny with “no meat” on her bones and decided to do something about it. With the help of a trainer, she has three major focus areas: abs, butt and overall toning. She opts for full-body workouts to get maximum results and does a mixture of squats, planks for abs and glutes, minimal cardio routines to avoid losing weight and some weight lifting. What I love about her workouts is that her trainer incorporates a lot of weightless exercises, forcing her to use her body weight as a tool to truly sculpt her body slowly, but firmly. As far as dieting, Karruche stays away from traditional diets because she’s prone to lose weight in the places that matter most to her. She happily partakes in carbs. "Diets don't really work for me. I want to be fit and have some meat on my bones. I stopped eating carbs and red meat for a month and a half, and I was like, 'Oh, no, I lost my butt!' I have to eat potatoes and rice and meat to bulk up. But I do try not to eat too much fast food."
This is for all of the skinny girls who think they can’t gain muscle, abs or a little apple bottom booty. I never thought that Destiny’s Child member Michelle Williams would ever form a “shape.” She’s always been naturally thin, straight up and down pencil thin. But through the workouts she shares on her Instagram page, you can see the toning as it forms. Her workouts incorporate a combination of weights, core fitness, use of medicine balls to increase strength and toning, and a little cardio. As a mental health advocate and someone who struggles with depression, Michelle began working out as a way to help control stress and anxiety. "I actually work out because of how I feel afterward. Yes, the physical results I see in the mirror are cool but the place I was in mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally in December (post a public breakup) is different from where I am today," she said in an Instagram post. Michelle is one who shows that working out is part of an overall lifestyle that includes great wellness habits.
For starters, Mya believes that a great body begins from the inside out and that you are what you eat. Her solution is to use food as medicine and she walks the walk through her life as a raw vegan. The 40 year old even has a line of vegan wine and a guide to transitioning to a vegan lifestyle (that you can download for free). Her workouts are versatile, telling VIBE Magazine in 2012: “Cardio is great. Elliptical, treadmill, biking and swimming, but that can be so boring. I find myself taking the stairs versus the elevator, when I can’t necessarily get to a gym. But I think keeping it fun, so it doesn’t feel like such a task, is where us ladies can feel motivated and be consistent. Grab a girlfriend or two, take a Zumba class, a pole class, go roller-skating. Have a girl’s night and play some Wii [fitness games], if the gym is not your deal. You’d be surprised on how things tone up from simple fun.” She sticks to those same workouts today, and looks great!
Angela has always been addicted to the gym. She told Vibe, “Working out is an escape from everything else I have going on. So, it’s an important part of my day for me.” With multiple trainers, she isn’t afraid to switch it up and does everything including jogging, spinning, boxing, strength training and yoga. Through it all, she has one goal: to build up and embrace her natural body, hence the hashtag she uses for her workouts: #builtnotbought, which is her new fitness movement.
Who embodies some of your celebrity fitness goals?
Summer is upon us and while I know you are eager to rock a swimsuit on somebody’s beach this summer, before you shop at ASOS (which I love), consider buying black. There are tons of black owned swim brands that are available. Some can be customized, others are already pre-made. Regardless, there’s a little something out there for everyone. Here’s a list of bad ass swimsuit lines that you can rock in all of your black girl glory on the next all-inclusive vacation:
Before expanding to other areas in the fashion and beauty industry, Senegalese beauty Diarra Bousso left her high paying job on Wall Street to pursue her love for art and design in the form of a bathing suit line. Her line is a little on the pricey side, but if you don’t mind paying for quality and intricate designs, then spare no expense!
Basketball Wives alum Draya Michelle broke the mold when she exited the show to focus on building her swimwear line. She saved up $12,000 to invest in her fashion business (one of three if I may add) which is now a $1 million company.
Looking for an Afrocentric option for your tropical getaway? Nakimuli’s designs will save the day. There will be no other swimsuit like it in sight. It may cost you a little more (over $100), but it will surely be a showstopper and favorite keepsake.
Put the slimmer girls to shame in these curvalicious two-pieces from Rue107! Strut your stuff in eye catching colors and prints, and throw on some accessories to have all eyes on you. Rue107 was designed with the curvier girls in mind.
If you’re looking for bright colors, versatile wear options, and mesh, then DestinationSwimwear is for you. Be as risky as you want with peephole bikini tops and high bikini lines, or go for a sexy one piece with a zipper option. You’re going on vacation, so why not be extra?
Will you try any of these black owned swimwear lines this summer?
If you look around, wigs and weaves are all you’ll see. They come in all lengths, textures and styles. Rarely am I fully impressed by girls’ weaves. There always seems to be something wrong. Either the texture doesn’t match their natural hair, the color is too loud, the weave is too long or too thin, or the style looks like everyone else’s. But when a girl gets it right, I must give them their props. There are some girls whose weaves are constantly flawless; I make sure to send my stylist pictures of their hair for inspiration. Here are my favorite celebs whose weave styles you should copy.
I have a fear of hairstylists. I’ve only had a couple of bad salon experiences in my life, but they were enough to scar me forever. Hairstylists exercise a lot of power over our appearance, after all, and that’s scary unless you really trust the person!
But the hairstylist-client relationship is a two-way street, and any hairstylist can tell you that clients can make their jobs REALLY hard. A lot of clients just don’t know what they want or don’t have realistic expectations (no, you can’t achieve rainbow unicorn hair in one coloring session!).
And then, there are the truly horrible clients. The ones who show up with hair that’s so dirty it compromises the hygiene of the whole salon, or who are sexually inappropriate, or who lose their minds with anger if they don’t like their haircut.
Here are 15 of the very worst client horror stories from stylists and barbers.
1. I had to call the mall cops.
“[I work] at a mall salon and [while I was left] in charge while the boss was on lunch, a guy came in who was tall and exotic. The other stylist thought he was cute and he asked for a blonde mohawk. Off they go; he pays and leaves happy. Everything is awesome.
Half an hour later, his mother rolls in like a shrieking Panzer. There is obviously a cultural difference because she screeches that I have defiled him like myself (I'm moderately tattooed and at the time had a few facial piercings - and wasn't the stylist who touched her son's head) and that he's 15, and school pictures are next week.
No amount of offers of rinses and buzz cuts was going to calm this woman down. She started knocking the product everywhere and basically howling.
I hit the speed dial for mall cops and left the receiver up on the counter while she had her back turned. The ruckus was loud enough, they got there shortly.
Everything was not awesome.”
“[I had a client whose] hair so dirty is smelled like soggy chicken nuggets and had layers of hardened grease in the scalp where the hair had naturally dreaded itself. I washed it 5 times and could not clean it or get the smell out.”
3. I spent 12 hours detangling a client’s hair… for free.
“So this woman comes into my salon with her 8 year old daughter. Apparently they were camping in the mountains for a week, and not once did they brush this childs beautiful, back-length hair. It is one giant rats nest, filled with dirt and twigs and bugs. She asks us to detangle the hair. After myself, and multiple stylists analyzed the situation, we told her it would be impossible to salvage her hair without cutting probably about half of it off, unless she wanted to sit in the chair for the entire day, and be charged a fortune. (it was THAT bad) The mother was furious, and complained to our boss for even suggesting we would have to cut some of the hair. The boss forced three of the stylists (myself included) to spend the day detangling her hair for FREE, because the woman was apparently a friend of our boss.
So we got to work, every time we touched her head, we were met with very loud screaming and crying from the child. Understandably, it hurt her a lot for us to try to get her hair straightened out. The mother would stop us every 10 minutes, take her child outside for a break, then come back, rinse repeat.
It took us 12 hours to get her hair detangled. We didn't get tipped, and being on commission, we didn't get paid as the boss comped the service.
It was such a nightmare, thankfully we never saw them again.”
4. I did a dead woman’s hair.
I work with really high-profile people, so I have definitely done people's hair while they were in the shower, in bed, or on a massage table — the list can go on! When I was starting out, I assisted someone and her client [and friend's] mother died, so she had me go with her to the funeral home to get her ready for the funeral. That probably tops it all. She looked good. But that's probably not something I would do again.”
“I showed up a little early and my hairdresser told me she’d be with me soon because she was coloring an older woman’s hair. When she finally got to me, the other woman was sitting under the hair dryer and my hairdresser leaned over the chair and told me “that woman’s been watching porn this entire time and showing me everything she’s been searching”. I thought it was quite unbelievable.....until I saw her looking at it too......and she decided to share with me as well.
The worst part was the sh*t she was looking at! Definitely can’t unsee that…”
“I have been a hairdresser for about eight years now, and this moment still haunts me. My client was a teenage girl with the most BEAUTIFUL thick and wavy red waist-length hair. It turns out she had been caught drinking beer with her friends, so her mother was making her cut and donate her hair as punishment. The mother stayed by my side as her daughter cried the entire time. I tried to be kind and leave it as long as I possibly could, but the mother kept making a scene about cutting it shoulder-length. I've never felt so sorry or so uncomfortable in my entire career."
7. Clients tell me WAY too much info about their sex lives.
“In my experience the weirdest things to happen to me are when people casually mention very personal sexual fetishes/preferences like they are talking about the weather. For instance. Me: “So did you have a good weekend?” Her: “ I guess, but I found my SO using the vacuum accessories for...” I’ll let y’all figure out the rest of that story. Definitely NOT what I was asking her.”
“This woman had dropped her older mother off at our beauty school for an appointment. During her shampoo, the client kept moaning like she was in pain, but reassured me that everything was fine. Later when I was curling her hair, she said she had to use the restroom, so we start walking to the back. Halfway there, she says, 'It's running down my leg.' In the bathroom, she pulls her pants down and has poop everywhere. I went and got a teacher and they came and changed her. It was one of the worst experiences ever for everyone involved."
Kayla Covey via BuzzFeed
9. Some clients have an extreme reaction to their results.
“We had a client threaten to snatch a stylist’s shears and stab them in the neck. We also had a lady who called the cops because the stylist refused to bleach her severely damaged hair.”
10. My client was sneakily touching himself.
“[I] had a guy start jerking off under his cape while I was shampooing him. The hilarious part, I usually do my clipper over comb work dry, finish up the hairline first, shampoo, then finish the rest of the cut damp. I kicked this guy out of the salon with half finished hair.”
“[This didn’t happen to me], but [to] one of my classmates. She was going to dye another girls hair dark chocolate brown. While washing of the dye she think it looks weird and realizes when drying it, it's purple! For some reason there was something wrong with the dye. Girl looked smoking hot in purple hair though and decided to keep it.”
12. My client’s husband micromanaged me.
"I was cutting a woman's hair in beauty school when her husband walked in, stood right next to me, and whipped out a ruler to make sure I was cutting exactly the right amount. He kept measuring every piece as I cut and instructed which sections to cut or texturize and which to leave. Hardest haircut ever."
Liz McCort via BuzzFeed
13. My client littered on my salon floor.
“I had a client bring takeout to the salon, eat it while she was waiting for me, and then when she got in my chair, she threw the empty container on the ground. I was like, ‘Excuse me?!’”
Takisha-Sturdivant-Drew via Refinery29
“This guy was going to propose to his girlfriend at the end of a scavenger hunt, and she had no idea. My part was just to do her hair and then put her in a cab and send her off to the next place. When she was in my chair, I was asking her about her love life (like I do to all of my clients). I was like, ‘Oh, are you dating anybody?’ and she said, ‘No, I’m single…’ And I was like, ‘Really, not dating?’ and she says, ‘No, totally single.’ Then she batted her eyes at me in the mirror with a big smile. And I was like, Oh no, what do I do? Do I text this guy 'abort abort'? But I sent her on her way, and two or three hours later, I [texted] her to see how she likes her blowout, and she texts back, ‘I’m engaged!!!’"
Matt Fugate via Refinery29
15. My client did her own hair while I watched.
“One of my favorite long-term clients had always booked the first two appointments with me on a Tuesday — so that we’d never be rushed. She liked to wash her hair with her shampoo and conditioner, and the haircut was usually me trimming the back to her specifications. Then we spent about 45 minutes with me standing in front of her, leaning against my station, while she used my comb and my razor and literally cut her own hair with my verbal assistance. There was a systematic and constant conversation about every single layer. It took a long time and was very unusual, but she was happy and she sent me a lot of (less particular) clients.”
Nathaniel Hawkins via Refinery29
What’s the worst hair salon experience you’ve ever had to deal with?!
4th of July is quickly approaching, and I cringe when I imagine the fashions I’ll see on my city’s streets: girls dressed in red, white and blue with stars from head to toe, trying their hardest to mimic the American flag. Ladies, fashion has progressed and there’s enough options to choose from! Please spare me this year by dressing as our nation’s flag.
There are ways to incorporate the holiday without American flag print shorts, tank tops and sneakers. Seriously, it’s an eyesore and also sophomoric. While I understand being festive, let’s merge that with looking cute too. Let’s be patriotic without being cheesy.
Here are a few ways to bring some spark to your look this 4th of July without overdoing it.
A pastel red, white and blue two piece
This denim two piece incorporates the color scheme of the holiday, but on a softer note. It’ll be hot, so shorts and a crop top will be perfect for the weather and honors Independence Day. It’s versatile enough to be worn to a cookout, festival or the beach. Throw on a fashion flop hat, a pair of cute skippy sneakers or sandals and your cutest pair of sunglasses and you’re ready to go. Simple yet chic!
Labels can work
Tommy Hilfiger’s branding is perfect as it already mimics the American flag with its deep red, white and blue colors. Thankfully, there aren’t any stars in this sweatshirt or it would be overkill. The style is simple, cute and comfy and can be worn throughout the day.
Red, white, blue and floral
Stick to the red white and/or blue color scheme with a stand out floral. That way, you embrace the theme without going overboard. Pair it with simple, neutral shoes and a fanny pack and head to your event!
For an alternative take on red white and blue, try bringing the colors together separately throughout your look. You can go for a blue and white striped shirt accented with white jeans and a pop of red with your sunglasses or lipstick. This is bringing runway to the holiday!
Which looks will you try this 4th of July holiday?
It’s been 11 years since Isis King made her debut as the first trans woman to be cast on Tyra Banks’ reality competition show, America’s Next Top Model. While it was groundbreaking and King was absolutely stunning in her weekly photoshoots, to say it was widely accepted would be a lie. In fact, it was anything but.
The backlash was quick and furious. King’s introduction was at the start of social media platforms and in addition to the various news articles and op-eds defacing her, she suffered from intense cyber bullying on message boards and social media pages. Even worse, her time inside of the house was just as isolating and vicious, with her housemates ostracizing her. There’s a famous scene from her time on the show where another model pushes King away from her while in the hottub. Her castmates often misgendered her intentionally, referring to her as “he.” However, she received major support from Tyra as well as the GLAAD organization, with spokesman Damon Romine noting "the show deals head on with the contestants confronting their own phobias. There's going to be support, and the reverse of that. It opens the door for the other girls and the viewers to get to know King and the transgender community."
Despite being eliminated in the 4th round, King pressed on and continued modeling while ignoring the hate and ignorance from her critics. Her post-show modeling gigs include becoming the first trans person to work with fashion company American Apparel, walking in various fashion shows, competing in ANTM All Stars, and scoring print work in magazines. More importantly, she uses her platform as an LGBT+ advocate, having appeared on national talk shows to bring a face to trans beauty.
She eventually transitioned into acting, appearing in The Bold and The Beautiful and Shameless, and more recently starring as Marci Wise in Ava DuVernay’s Netflix mini-series “When They See Us”. King plays the trans sister of Korey Wise, who was falsley convicted of the brutal beating and sexual assault of a jogger in Central Park in 1989. Marci serves as an important and positive figure in her brother’s life before and during his incarceration. Unfortunately, Marci’s life was cut short, a tragic outcome that history proves is a harsh reality that trans women, specifically women of color, face daily.
Despite numerous obstacles, King is making it her mission to continue advocating on behalf of trans women around the world, and pushing for all of us to recognize their importance and beauty by continuing her work as an actress and model.
I spoke with King about her thoughts on the current state of trans visibility, the progress that has been made in Hollywood, her hopes for the future, and why landing the role of Marci Wise is so important.
ANTM was over a decade ago and many may not remember some of the negativity you received while in the house. Because we live in a different time where people are a lot more liberating and accepting, your experience in the house is forgotten. Could you talk about what that was like?
When I was on Top Model, it was so different. During that time, the only trans women who were really in the industry in any way were myself and Laverne Cox, and we were black. I was in a house with all cis-women, majority of them were not women of color. I had transitioned only two years prior fully and was extremely shy. I was young, I was 22 or 23 at the time and this was being done in front of the public. Tyra was always supportive of me but my life in the house was completely opposite. The show was filmed months in advance but aired later and it was during the era where cyber bullying really began to take flight. Even after the show, I received so many nasty comments and threats. The beauty world is a lot more open to LGBT people because we naturally make up a large part of the industry in terms of hair and makeup artists and creative directors, photographers and more. But me on ANTM was new. As inclusive as the beauty industry was before, they weren’t ready for me. The audience wasn’t ready for me. On ANTM, I received very little props and love but the type of reception I have been getting lately from my work and just as time has progressed has been rewarding. But we still have so far to go.
Isis King - American next top models - YouTube
In what ways do you think more progress has to be made? And, because you are in entertainment, how does that apply to Hollywood?
There’s always room for improvement, overall. Within the trans community, white trans people need to speak up for us more publically. It’s time for them as we are in the fight together, or at least are supposed to be. But it’s normally divided because there’s still a racial issue. Even within the black community, black trans people, more specifically trans women, are outcasts. Trans men are more accepted. It’s easier for them to pass but outside of passing, they are easily accepted. My experience as a trans woman is that we are more sought out, for whatever reason, but men are ashamed of being found out. Or sometimes, we are sought out to harm. The perception of trans women is normally negative. There’s an idea that we are easily disregarded because of the stigma of us being sex workers, homeless and used for the pleasure of others. This is why images and representation matters. Hollywood is slowly doing more with incorporating trans people into the mainstream but we are still pigeonholed in many cases to the same roles. The character of Marci is so important because who she was within her family dynamic and the close relationship she shared with her brother is so unique and almost unheard of. Korey loved and adored Marci. So showing those relationships to the world shows what love is, shows what acceptance is and shows that all lives, including trans lives, matter.
Isis King as Marci Wise in “When They See Us”
In the series, Korey is close with Marci but she is verbally and emotionally abused by her mother. Marci is essentially kicked out of the home for being trans. Although that experience is not new, what was new was seeing a male figure be so loving toward his trans sister. You mention Marci’s character as being important, is that why?
There’s so many layers to why Marci’s character was important to show. Not just because it’s a true story but also to showcase this to the world as an example. Normally, men are not like Korey. There’s so much toxic masculinity that needs to be broken down and because Korey was not like that and loved his sister for who she was, they were able to have an amazing relationship. Marci also represents the idea of the “oldest” child. I’m the oldest child and so was Marci. The oldest child has it the hardest usually and I truly believe Marci’s goal was to make it easy for Korey. Marci was that positive influence of support in and out of the home who was taken from Korey. She was his voice of reason, as I am for my little brothers. When people think of black trans women, we are viewed as mischievous and not as real people and this was an example of showing something different. It humanized her, which almost never happens for a black trans woman on screen.
Isis King with Director Ava DuVernay
How do you think the character of Marci will change Hollywood, if at all?
The role happened and it’s sparking a conversation but it’s a disservice to not continue the conversation. More people are paying attention partly because of “When They See Us.” Opportunities are constantly denied to trans women and that has to change. Right now, POSE on FX is doing amazing with the way they are incorporating all LGBT people and that needs to keep going. But, it’s still kind of tabu. One of my last tweets was, “I never thought it would be ground breaking for a trans woman to play a trans woman.” It shouldn’t be. But I do think there are more opportunities being created now, whether that is on film, television or the internet, for us to be seen and be seen in a more positive light. This is why Marci being a positive influence in Korey’s life is important.
What are you doing now to continue to push a more positive narrative of trans women?
Right now I am doing the influencer thing with it being PRIDE month by teaming up with organizations who are doing amazing work in this space. My fans know that I am and will always be very vocal on social media about any LGBT or racial injustices because they are continuing, with so many trans women of color being murdered and abused just for being who they are. We have to take note and end this cycle and I think one way to do that is to continue to model and act to show the world that I am here and I am important, and to be that inspiration for someone else. When I was transitioning, I was told by someone else that I’d be a sex worker, because that’s what “we do.” I told them then that my life was destined for better and I proved it. I went to college and received my degree in design. When I went on ANTM, I didn’t think it would ever be possible being in a house with all cis women and ANTM gave me the courage to do that. The community back then wasn’t a community of opportunity as it is now and I had to figure it out as I went along and now I have the opportunity to dream outside of myself. I want to be the figure who shows the next generation what is possible and to dream higher!
In the entertainment business, there are a special handful of unicorns behind the scenes who make magic happen. Dyana Williams is in that group.
Once wife to music legend Kenny Gamble, who is responsible for making the sound of Philadelphia famous, she didn’t sit idle behind her well respected husband and play housewife. Well before meeting Gamble, she was a woman on the prowl, determined to make her dreams come true. She continuously paved her own way in an industry that has never valued women, specifically black women, on the same accord as men.
A radio personality who began her career in the early 1970’s, Williams went on to become the first African American/Latina woman rock DJ at the ABC FM affiliate, WRQX-FM. After that, she made the move to television as a contributing reporter and settled in Philadelphia to work at the renowned R&B Soul station, WDAS-FM. Other career highlights include freelance entertainment reporting for Black Entertainment Television (BET), serving as a music consultant and contributing to The Philadelphia Tribune, Billboard Magazine, and The Philadelphia New Observer, just to name a few.
Her career accomplishments alone weren’t satisfying enough. Well after beginning her broadcasting career, in 1997 she achieved a lifelong dream of earning a college degree and graduated cum laude from Temple University with a B.A. in television, radio and film. Ms. Williams was actually the keynote speaker at my 2013 commencement from Temple University’s School of Media & Communications!
Since then, Williams has continued to work to provide black entertainers with quality guidance through her work in artist development. With a resume as impressive as her’s, many still do not give her enough credit for the work she did in not only assisting in constructing the idea of Black Music Month, but making it a nationally proclaimed month of celebration. In honor of the month-long celebration that occurs each June, I spoke with Dyana about her journey to bringing Black Music Month to fruition.
Before Black Music Month came about, you were active in the local and national chapter of the Black Music Association. How did you get involved, what was your role and what was the whole purpose of the group?
My ex-husband and I co-founded the association together. I was active in the Philly chapter and then later nationally, but I was there at the core of its establishment. The inspiration behind the Black Music Association was black entertainer’s advocacy and the desire for the masses to recognize the black music industry as a multibillion dollar industry. Historically, black music, whether that be Gospel, Soul or R&B and at one time Rock-N-Roll before the gentrification of the genre ensued, took up a sizeable amount of revenue and has generally dominated the charts. Even now, if you look at the charts, hip hop music is the top selling genre of music and most pop hits are occupied by black artists in the likes of Rihanna, Beyonce and even mainstream rap artists like Cardi B. Unfortunately, despite the revenue that black music has generated, that profit has never benefited the actual artists or even the songwriters and producers of such hits. The whole idea behind the Black Music Association was always to be a catalyst for change to eventually change the way in which black entertainers were paid, advocate on their behalf and have more of us in positions of power to make such happen.
Kenny Gamble and Dyana Williams
What were some of the proudest moments of the Black Music Association?
I loved what we did with the Black Music Is Green Campaign, which was a push to make the public, as well as the music industry overall aware that the black music industry is profitable. Out of that came the unification of different parts of the industry coming together for the first time for the celebration of black music. There were artists, record executives, writers, managers, and everyone in between united for the sake of one goal. An annual conference was produced that featured the best of the best, including Bob Marley and Stevie Wonder and that conference went on for 16 years. Gamble was really the leader in this initiative while I supported his efforts. He traveled to Nashville to get an inspirational model and really used the country music industry’s Country Music Association as a template for what great could be done when an industry sticks together. That campaign was the kickoff for the surge of black music divisions within record labels that you saw booming in the late 80s all the way into the early 2000’s that we unfortunately no longer have today in the way that we once did.
It’s unfortunate that the association no longer exists. Is there anything in its place that black artists and music executives have to lean on?
Michael Mauldin, who is the father of Jermaine Dupri, recently joined forces with a few other powerhouses in the industry to form a new coalition of sorts known as BAMA, which is an effort to create unity to address the injustices that have transpired over the years within black music and how it’s impacted artistry, sales and profits at the expense of those it should benefit. At a certain point, white executives in charge of major labels where there were black or urban divisions, got rid of those units because they foolishly believed they could handle it. Slowly but surely, there was a demise of black executives and the destruction of black music with more emphasis on traditional pop. That left very little unity within the black music industry as a whole. There are instances of black folk in power today, but it’s changed drastically.
Before, there were private, black owned labels or major labels that had black divisions run by black executives. Think of Motown, Philadelphia International, or even traveling into later decades with labels such as LaFace, BadBoy, Death Row and SoSo Def. BadBoy in itself was able to create multiple sub labels and divisions under that one umbrella. Now, you have isolated companies who are in partnerships with larger labels versus privately owned black labels managing everything. For example, Jay Z, who owns Rock Nation, is a billionaire now. That’s great. But, he partners with major corporations such as Live Nation as opposed to other black owned entities. We need more black business collaboration.
The concept of Black Music Month was birthed from the association and I know Kenny Gamble had the initial idea. There was a huge event at the White House during Carter’s term and that was the driving force behind getting Black Music Month accepted as a national month-long celebration by Congress. Could you speak to that and why you took on that huge job?
Gamble and I were a couple and our visions aligned in every way. I met him when I was an MC at an OJays concert in DC and once we came together, we were a powerful force with a goal of using music to advance our community.
As a radio host, I was an up close and personal witness to Gamble’s music dominating radio. Philadelphia International was on fire creatively and was an exceptional black business. He had a vision that he shared with me while we were dating to use music for change. He was dedicated to “cleaning up the ghetto” through music and there’s even a song he wrote about it.
Dyana Williams with Philadelphia International Recording Artist, Teddy Pendegrass
Years after the first major event at the While House, I wanted to do something similar again. I wrote Clinton during his term and asked him to host a similar reception. They researched their archives and saw that the event existed but they informed me that Carter hadn’t actually signed a proclamation and they advised that I get legislation involved.
Inaugural Black Music Month Gathering on the White House lawn on 6/7/79
I didn’t know anything about lobbying but I am a talker and a skilled writer so I used those talents. I figured if I got the President’s attention then I could do this. I wrote articles in almost every publication about my dream of making Black Music Month official, spoke publicly about it on the radio and any other chance I could. That enacted the support of a Republican Senator of PA, which was surprising but I knew that was a big deal. From there, I received other political support, including from Congressman Chaka Fattah on the Democratic side. I was in and out of the White House having meetings in the Oval Office with the President to get this done. I would take my supporters, I even once took Ronald Isley of the Isley brothers and his wife Angela Winbush with me. Clinton obliged and the Bush administration followed, as well as Obama and even Trump.
Dyana Williams (L to R) with Ronald Isley and Angela Winbush
I will never forget the day I found out that Black Music Month was officially accepted. I was sitting in my office in Penn Valley and received a phone call that it would be introduced on the floor for a vote. Eventually, enough votes passed and I got word. I ran back to the White House and showed them, basically to say, “Look, I did what you told me and it’s done!”
From there, the work continued. I formed a delegation of business people who worked in the industry where we would sit and have discussions to put artist and financial advancement of black entertainers in motion. And here we are, 40 years later, with the same goal. June 7 was the 40th anniversary of the day we spent at the White House with artists like Evelyn Champagne King and Chuck Berry and an audience filled with congressional reps, industry execs, publicists etc.
Dyana Williams with The Clintons
The music industry has changed drastically. In what ways has Black Music Month advanced the black music industry?
One of the things that we have done is advocate for artists and songwriters to have greater rights and control over what they create. 20 years ago, I became very active in the Recording Academy and I’ve been on and off of the Philadelphia Board for 20 years and even served as President at one point. My tenure as President required having national meetings with movers and shakers in the industry and going to Capitol Hill to do real work.
Overall, Black Music Month advocated and educated the masses on the importance of ownership. Back in the day, signing a deal was everything and artists ended up being bound by a contract. I’ve worked with everyone from Rihanna to Justin Beiber and more at various stages of their careers and the artists today who were once eager to sign a contract have changed their minds. Artists, songwriters and producers are more interested in owning their work so that they can not just profit off of it as they should; but also create a legacy in which they can do what they want with the work they create. When you don’t own your work, you have little to no say in where it’s played, who can sample it, what films it can be featured in. Very few artists own their masters, but that is the common thread now.
The internet was the game changer. Had internet been around before, it may have been different. But now, more artists have control over how their music is shared, which is great.
Are you proud of where Black Music Month stands now?
Most major entities have Black Music Month campaigns throughout the month. Comcast, which is an international media company, has a whole dedication to Black Music Month on their various streaming, internet and cable packages, for all genres. There are also campaigns with advertisers and most record labels, including RCA and RCA Inspiration, have campaigns. The awareness may not be as prevalent as Black History Month, but it’s growing and it’s beautiful to be here to witness it. I also get a chance to see the culture and corporate impact when I travel across the country to speak about Black Music Month.
Finally, it’s clear you have a passion for black music. What are your hopes for the industry moving forward and how can we honor Black Music Month now and forever?
My soul is black music. There’s a reason black music resonates and is the top selling. We will never know the pain our people went through in cotton fields, being abused, with little breaks while working for free. But, so much came out of that pain and suffering, one of which is black music as it’s well documented that soul music and negro spirituals is what helped get them through. That’s part of the reason there’s so much depth, pain, triumph and soul in our music. It transcends generations.
In terms of re-establishing black labels and divisions, it’s important for the current generation to change this narrative and become more united. I’ve done my part. This wave of artists and executives have to assume responsibility. My generation was more willing to take risks and what I want the new school of folks to understand is that there’s a great advantage to challenging the system.
We can honor black music daily by supporting our artists in every way. Stream their music, buy their merchandise, attend their concerts; there's a myriad of ways.
My grandson will be with me this summer and I will be playing his grandfather’s music. His grandfather is a living Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee and his Nana is responsible for bringing Black Music Month to fruition. It gets no better than that.
To learn more about the history of Black Music Month, read the latest feature in VIBE Magazine
We asked, you answered! This month’s IG stories featured questions about texture-specific care tips. Mayvenn offers 8 different textures and 4 different origins, so keeping up to date on how to best care for your bundles is key. Love your hair and it’ll love you back!
I have Body Wave bundles and I want to make them last. Any basic tips?
Body Wave is definitely one of our most popular textures! It’s known for its versatility and is pretty low maintenance. One of the main things that’ll help your hair last is proper sleep care - this goes for any texture. Depending on how you have it styled (straightened, curled, naturally wavy, etc.) you can protect it in various ways while you sleep. Wrapping your hair with a silk or satin scarf and sleeping on a pillowcase of one of the same materials is crucial! Try putting your hair in two braids if it’s curled/wavy or doing a doobie wrap if you’re wearing it straight - this will keep it protected and tangle-free.
photo @beautybybb_ in our Kinky Straight
This is my first time wearing Kinky Straight.
Kinky Straight is such a statement texture and it wears beautifully! If you’re blending your natural hair with the bundles, make sure to use heat protectant and leave-ins to protect your leave out from heat and other elements. The interesting thing about Kinky Straight is that it’s actually a lot less maintenance than people tend to think - so it’s easy to use way too much product on it.
Keep oils to a minimum and wrap your hair at night time. Deep conditioning also helps, so do that every 2-3 weeks to keep your bundles moisturized. Use a paddle brush as often as necessary to detangle hair and use co-washing (“washing” with just conditioner instead of conditioner and shampoo) for the most part instead of traditional shampooing - this will also help with moisture and upkeep.
I want to wear my Deep Wave in its natural state but don’t want it to get tangled.
Deep Wave is an all-around favorite, but especially in the summer! The key to keeping your curls fresh is moisture, frequent detangling, and protection from hot tools and the elements. Use a leave-in conditioner (add light oils only when necessary) and detangle only when your hair is damp, working from the bottom up. Sleep in a pineapple, braids, or two-strand twists and be sure to protect your strands with a bonnet. Deep conditioning every 1-2 weeks can help retain moisture and softness. Your curls will be looking cute and carefree with the proper care!
photo @peakmilll in our Indian Straight
What’s the best way to care for short hair?
This is really dependent on which specific texture you’re rocking…for Straight, Loose Wave, or Body Wave textures, use the tips from the Body Wave question above. Water Wave, Deep Wave, or Curly? Use the Deep Wave tips from above but add in more moisture if you’re using our Curly bundles.
Wrapping your style at night specific to the way your shorter bundles are cut and styled is also important. With bobs or other precision cuts, you’re going to want to wrap it doobie style or cover it a scarf so that it stays sleek. Curly or wavy textures can get away with sleeping in braids or twists - but still wrap it up! And when you shampoo your style, make sure your natural hair is completely dry underneath to avoid any hair issues and keep it as fresh as possible.
Remember that we send out special care booklets with each order, so you’ll have an in-depth guide on hand as soon as you receive your hair. Have more questions? You can leave a comment here for our in-house cosmetologist, DM us on social @MayvennHair, or contact our customer service team - they’re always just a text or phone call away from 8am-5pm PST Monday-Friday.
I’ve always loved Gayle King for being Oprah’s funny, turnt up ride or die BFF. Outside of that, I honestly did not pay much attention to her. But ever since her sit down with R. Kelly, she’ll go down as the most composed, unbothered, and sophisticated media maven.
I watched a few clips of CBS This Morning, a show Gayle co-hosts, on YouTube prior to the R. Kelly interview and knew that she was an intelligent and respected journalist. However, I have not been a longtime follower of her work. Shame on me for that - I’ve clearly missed out!
That has since changed; Gayle King is my latest obsession.
In honor of Women’s History Month, I figured it was time to give Gayle the recognition she so deserves. Let’s take a look at why she’s a woman we should all admire, both personally and professionally.
World Class Journalist
Before her gig as host of CBS This Morning, Gayle King already had an impressive resume. She previously hosted The Gayle King Show, a live weekday television interview program on OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network. She was also part of the CBS News team that received an Alfred I. DuPont Award for the network's coverage of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
Before that, King worked for 18 years as a television news anchor for CBS in Hartford, Connecticut, where she landed her own syndicated daytime program. She has also worked for television news stations in Kansas City, Baltimore. and Washington, D.C.
And, let’s not forget that she is also the editor-at-large of Oprah Magazine!
Community service is important to Gayle. She’s an active supporter of UNICEF, March of Dimes, and many other organizations including those that involve children, the arts, and education. In 2017, Variety honored her at their annual Power of Women: New York luncheon. In partnership with Lifetime, she was selected by Variety‘s Lifetime Impact Honorees for her humanitarian work. They highlighted her involvement with charities like the Bowery Mission, which serves hungry and homeless New Yorkers, and SEO Scholars, which helps underserved public high school students get to and through college.
Aside from her amazing career accomplishments, what’s most important to Gayle are her two children. Like most mothers, her kids inspire her to do better. When speaking with Newsday in 2012, she said: “You make mistakes along the way. You drop balls along the way. But in the end, you do the best you can. Maya Angelou always said when you know better you do better. My thing was if you drop a ball, don't beat yourself up. Just do better the next time.”
Cheers to Gayle and all that she continues to accomplish!