Historically Black, Culturally Significant

Still coming down from homecoming high, where we stood shoulder to shoulder with other black people gathered together for the chance to just be in the midst of us and our culture. There is something special about these spaces called HBCUs. They provide a space for us to grow and learn without the fear of being too anything. Or as my friend says, “gives me the freedom to be the black that I am”. If you’ve ever worked at a predominantly white organization, you know how hard it can to just change your hair in peace, or use certain terminology without thinking someone will judging you. These campuses cultivate so much culture and provide skills and knowledge that prepare us for the working world. There are discussions on diversifying these campuses and on why all black colleges and universities are important in today’s society. Don’t let the times fool you, any space that allows the blossoming of individuals, the gathering of knowledge, and Fried Chicken Friday will always be relevant. So why else are HBCUs still relevant:

 

1. Synchronization.

Where else can you learn to move in perfect synchronization with your classmates?? HBCUs are the one place where we all stand for our national anthem: Swag Surfin’. From the left to the right, we ride the wave of the turn up at every event possible.

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2. Birthplace of Black Excellence

These college campuses are the place where culture shifting, dynamic individuals attend. I know our greatness is not bound by these campuses but they certainly help shape individuals we admire today. Notables like Oprah Winfrey to Common to P. Diddy to MLK Jr. all attended HBCUs. Historically these campuses were havens for activism during the Civil Rights Movement. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee or SNCC was founded at Shaw University. Four students who attended North Carolina A&T State University led a sit-in at a lunch counter that sparked a movement. Culture-shifting people from HBCUs did this!

And today these universities are shaping the same type of people. Stacey Abrams who shook up the Governor election season, attended Spelman College. We have schools like North Carolina A&T State University that is the #1 producer of Black engineers in the country. And tons of other accomplishments.

stacey Abrams spelman college

3. Your people are here

There is nothing like be surrounded by like-minded individuals like yourself. This pertains to all colleges; this is where you find your people. They may not be your bffs or your future husband. But college is where you find solid people who are invested in the same game that you are. Or as some of my Instagram follows put it:

“It feels like family” -Taylor, NCA&T
”The people I have met have enriched my life, and made me a stronger individual” -Karlton, Morehouse
”The friendships and support are unmatched” -Nalani, Spelman

4. The Greatest Homecoming on Earth

Whether it’s Howard or what we call the GHOE, Homecoming is a big deal. It’s a chance to dip back into a culture that shaped and grew us. To wave and catch up with old classmates. But mostly a time to laugh and act up with your favorite people. So here’s a tribute to the greatest homecoming on earth. Shots from GHOE 2018.

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Authentic Growth and Content Strategies

How can I remain authentic to myself, but stay relevant and interesting to my followers and customers?

This is a question we should all be asking ourselves if we are a brand. Our growth and content planning should be strategic and intentional. So when I was questioning what were the next steps for my blog, I had to take a systematic approach to it the same way I do at work.

In school I studied Industrial Engineering, which is a focus on processes. We manage process, improve processes, and sustain processes. Whether that involves people, machines, or money. Currently I am in a continuous improvement position that requires me to constantly look at our data and metrics and make sure we are improving and constantly getting better. And there are tons of tools we use to make this easier. You may be familiar with some of them since a lot of them are no longer exclusive to manufacturing and engineering. Things like working lean or six sigma are big ones. I have all these tools on how to approach and view problems that applicable to any industry, including the creative space.

Understanding Business Expectations

So when looking at a problem or concern, you have to understand what to expect from yourself and your business. And usually these should be measurable metrics if you want to track improvement, even though I think it’s okay if it isn’t in the creative space. This concept is called Voice of the Business. For blogging this is: daily Instagram post, weekly blog post, compose three tweets a day, edit photos for two hours a day, monthly photoshoots, etc. Other ones can be: be influential, be a voice for women like me, but these are hard to measure, therefore difficult to show improvement or success. But that’s okay, success is defined differently in different spaces.

Understanding Customer Expectations

Same thing again but from a different perspective. What does my customer expect from me? Customers can be Instagram followers, subscribers to your site newsletters, or the people who buy your products. You define who your customer is. Now what do they expect from you? Examples: Relevant Instagram content, engaging blog post, responses to emails and comments, quality products, or products shipped on time. Think of what the people who follow you want, avoid thinking of whats trendy at the moment because these are two different things. My customer may like how I edit all my pictures with bright colors and tones, but what may be trending at the moment is desaturated warm toned Lightroom presets.

So now that I understand what the business expects and what my customers wants, these things should mostly match each other or the business expectations should help lead to what the customer expects. The customer definitely cares that you expect your brand or business to post weekly on your blog, but they do not care that you edit for two hours. They just want the content.

Now how does this play into authentic growth and content strategy? Let’s use me as an example:

Problem/Concern: I want to grow my brand authentically with great content but I just don’t know what to post.
Voice of the Business: Post daily content on Instagram, weekly blog post, weekly newsletter, design visuals, moods boards, and graphics for newsletter subscribers, one photoshoot a month, practice editing in Photoshop weekly, showcase photography on social media at least once a month, post two fashion related blog post a month, post two faith related blog post a month.
Voice of the Customer: Daily Instagram post, weekly blog post, post content showcasing editing and photography, write pieces highlighting my experiences and perspectives, cute outfit post, funny Instagram stories.

Sidenote: VOB is determined by you and what you deem as important an necessary for you business to be successful. VOC is determined and gathered by customer surveys, interviews, and other methods depending on the industry.

So if I don’t know what to post, I should focus on content that is expected from my customer, but is aligned with what the business deems important and necessary. Or in other words, I care about what my followers want, but it needs to be authentic to me! I ask a lot of my friends and followers what they like about my blog or what they think, and one thing I hear the least is, “Girl, you slay us with all these bomb street style looks and outfits. You are total style goals”. As a fashion blogger, I had to take a step back and really ask myself am I going to accept that or challenge it. I chose to accept it. This is because there is still plenty of space to give my customer what they want and stay authentic to me and my brand.

Most people love me for my content. The quality is good, the editing is nice, and it gives them vibes they enjoy. So if one of my business expectations is showcase photography monthly and my VOC is post and showcase my editing and photography, I have the perfect solution to my original problem. I can gear more of my content towards my photography and maybe change the frequency of my fashion post. PERFECT! And this is by no means an exhaustive approach to problem solving, because this can be broken down in so many more ways. But instead this is just using one tool to better understand where your problems and solutions may be.

I was thrift shopping one day with a friend. I held up this blue Alaska tee and asked her if I should buy it, and it was a solid no. But something in me knew I had to have this tee. Good thing I did because it matched perfectly with the outfit you see here. I say that to say, VOB and VOC can be drastically different. Your customer wants one thing, but you are not willing to provide it. This is where you can decide to care or not care. This would probably be were a business rebrands to make what they do and provide clearer, or rebrand to redirect their product or content to a different audience.


Some of you may be thinking I did not need to do all of that just to come to this solution. And sure maybe, but when you want sustained results, you need to be looking at data. Every practical problem has several metrics or data points behind it. And a solution can on be found when we understand that data and optimize the data, which leads to a practical solutions. Example:

Practical problem: I do not get enough engagement on my blog.
Data: From Q1-Q3, my blog has only received x unique visitors and only x comments and x likes.
Data Solution: Increase blog viewers by x percentage and create x more reasons to comment and like.
Practical Solution: Utilize SEO to drive traffic to site, post to social media platforms with direct links x amount of times a week, create more calls to action.

When you understand what is causing your data to trend up or down you can better attack that specific issue. But perhaps I’ll save the details on how to do that for another blog post. Hopefully this has helped you gain a better understanding of how your business expectations and your customer expectations can drive improvement for your brand.




The Female Body

When I walk into certain rooms, the strangest thing happens to me. Everyone looks down at my butt. Or if I walk past a guy in a grocery store and I turn my head I can see he did a double take to check out “what I’m working with”. There have been times when I have been walking around minding my own business and people stop me and comment on my body type. I once told a guy I was going to the gym to lose weight, and his actual response was “just don’t lose the butt”. How strange is all of this. That we engage in conversation based on body type, we place expectations based on body type, and get told we can’t do something based on body type. Why is how we are shaped so important?

Somewhere, we started to let the world tell us what our bodies meant. Media showed us only curvy black women, so now everyone is doing squats just to get a little something back there. Then enter women like Michelle Obama and Serena Williams, and their attractiveness is questioned because of how physically fit they are. As is being toned is not beautiful. The black body has been celebrated almost to the point of misuse. But I want to remind you of a few things.


There is not one person, or magazine cover, or man that can tell me how I should view my body. My worthiness and purpose is always rooted in what scripture says. To identify our womanhood by our bodies and not by God’s word is our biggest mistake. Scripture tells us we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Nothing can change that. Once we we start claiming the real women have curves or real women are petite then we exclude and isolate a part of God’s perfect creation.

 
 

This may be a personal one, but I have always felt that my curves put me in a category I didn’t ask for, or a catergory that shouldn't exist. When you see curvy girls they are IG models, video vixens, the attractive distraction in the office, the Kardashians (eye roll). And I felt that if I wore something that flaunted my curves it put me in those categories. The distraction. The girl who just loves to flaunt it in IG. I’ll start by saying these boxes probably don’t exist but if they did, it honestly shouldn’t matter because it has nothing o do with me. And it really shouldn’t matter because our body types do not imply anything about out character. This is hard to swallow. Especially when I go to a mostly white church. If I wear something a little more form fitting, I feel like the people there don’t get it. I feel like I’m doing the most. I don’t want them staring but I also need you to know I’m trying to come down the aisle, you got to move ALL the way out the way, not just a little bit. I think what I’m trying to say is I feel like people see my curves and think a certain thing about me. And I’m not sure if thats me or them. TBD I suppose.

 
 

Like I said before, people say some crazy things when they see how you look. If you do not know someone then to comment on their body first is WEIRD. Stop it. Please. I can’t count how many times someone I did not know or barely knew said they wished they had my butt. And keep your comments about what you think I should be wearing to yourself. Because a women does not have a perfectly flat stomach or toned thighs does not mean she can’t wear shorts and a crop. That is up to her.


So here’s the takeaway: Your body is beautiful. Your body is doesn't define you. You were made perfect and purposeful. Don’t let this world tell you otherwise.

 
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The Beauty Series | All About the Skin

“COME THROUGH GLOW” “YASSS SKIN!” “YES! BEAT” “ALRIGHT BROWS!!”

The hype is real when the skin and makeup is popping! And I’m here for it! I love a slayed face, but sometimes it’s hard when you wipe the makeup off and you have to deal with acne and acne scarring. I have dealt with problematic skin for all of my adult life. I wanted to share the products I use to address my problem skin and my favorite makeup products.

SKINCARE

DISCLAIMER: When discussing skincare its really important to know you skin before listening to the advice of others. Know what type of acne you have and what types of products treat it. Otherwise you will be me, rubbing honey on my face for months, seeing no results.

 
 

So here’s a little skin history. I have had moderate acne since middle school. White and black head on my forehead, cheeks, and chin. And very little body acne. When I first treated my acne, I used Proactiv. This worked but one year they stopped sending me product (long story) so I decided to switch it up. I began using Acne.org, which also works for me, although it is a bit harsh. The product actually cause my eyes to tear up. And there were too many steps. Apply product let dry, add another layer. It wasn’t’t simple enough for me to want to continue. I still use in case of a bad breakout because it is really effective. Finally I use the custom skin care service called Curology.

It’s really important to know the cause of you acne, before treating. For me I have acne prone skin. So if I do nothing I’ll break out. No foods trigger my acne (except dairy). But a good portion of my acne came from dirty skin. I invested in a Clarisonic to make sure I was cleansing properly. I use the Acne.org cleanser. This eliminated all of my forehead acne. I always used to rock a swoop or bangs with my natural hair, so a lot of oils sat on my forehead with being properly cleansed caused most of my forehead acne. To this day, I do a mask and cleanse on wash days to avid breakouts. Y’all, did you know dairy products are full of hormones and extra stuff we didn’t ask for that can trigger acne in our skin. I try my best to avoid dairy products for the sake of my skin (and my stomach). Nothing else, give me acne. So if I keep my skin clear and avoid dairy products I can have moderately good skin. To deal with breakouts in general, I use Differin Gel and Curology, which really has minimized breakouts.


MAKEUP

I am alway here for a good face beat! I have tried and tried several foundations. But once I found these productions, I haven’t strayed.


MAC STUDIO FIX IS BAE! It gives me coverage and is mattifying enough for my oily skin. The shade is a perfect match for me, which is why I stay loyal. If I get a tan in the summer, I use CoverFX custom cover drops in a. dark shade to tint my makeup to exact color of my tan. I also use MIlani’s foundation. This stuff is so waterproof! I went to an event where I sweating my life away on the dance floor, and every little bit of my foundation stayed in place. My infamous wing eyeliner is all thanks to Maybelline! This felt tip liner gives me all the control to create wings that cut!.

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A Teeth Whitening Review That Will Give You A Reason To Smile

I consider myself a self-proclaimed selfie queen. So getting the perfect picture is super important to me. The perfect lighting, the perfect background, the perfect smile. All necessary and important. But what happens when you check out your selfie and see that your smile is less than perfect? You do what I do, you pull out your photo editing apps and edit those yellow stains away. We’ve all done it, there’s no shame in my game, But what if I told you, that you don’t have to rely on editing apps for the perfect smile? Let me give you one reason to smile that will change your selfie game forever!

At-home teeth whitening can be expensive and scary. I’ve wondered around the aisles of the dental hygiene aisle just wondering which kit actually works and which one is best for my teeth. Usually leaving empty handed in fear of getting a product that will produce bad or no results. So here I am to save the day *puts on cape*. Smile Brilliant is a dream. I have a better smile because of them. So get into the deets and get ready for a brighter smile.

 
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When you receive your Smile Brilliant kit it will come with everything you need to make your custom (yes, custom!) trays for your whitening experience. All the specifics will be in the included brochure, but when you make your mold you’ll send it off to the lab for tray creation. Best part is, if you make your mold incorrectly they will send you another set of materials to remake you mold. Talk about feeling cared about! I made my first set incorrectly, so I was resent material and got it right on my second try.

 And this was my favorite part of the entire process because you get to create a mold for your teeth so the trays will fit perfectly. Fun fact: your girl has a major overbite. And when deciding to whiten, trays were never an option for me because of that. Once, I used a store bought kit  that came with one double sided tray that you bite into. And I had to put my jaw in the most uncomfortable position just to get the tray to fit my teeth. But with Smile Brilliant, these two custom-fitted trays made it a comfortable experience.

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So with custom trays in hand, time to whiten! The brochure provides exact details on how long to use the trays for each use. But after 7 uses you should have a noticeably whiter smile! One  thing to keep in mind during this process is teeth and gum sensitivity. I was instructed to use vaseline on my gums if I experience sensitivity. When I whiten back to back I would experience a small amount of sensitivity. But when I switched to whitening every other day and using the appropriate amount of gel, I had no issues! Also super convenient because the trays are clear and you can carry on conversation and do work while whitening.

 

dreaspeaks teeth whitening
 
 
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Seven days later and it’s time to smile bright!! My results were subtle but noticeable. Most of my discoloration were at the base of my teeth near my gums. After using Smile Brilliant I was left with an even tone that was not as yellow. Was I left with teeth as white as Ross from Friends? No. But I received a smile that made me less worried about taking selfies and laughing in public.


So here’s where your smile gets even bigger! Thanks to Smile Brilliant one of you will have a HUGE reason to smile. I’ll be giving away $149 Smile Brilliant credit, which is the value of a T3 Sensitivity System. So yes, I’m basically giving you a brighter smile!! And it’s super easy to enter to win. Just click the link below to enter. Your smile will thank you! And if you just want to purchase a kit use my coupon code “dreaspeaks15”

Flex On Em One Time

For some reason I am SCARED to show people things I am working on. Or to even tell people I am trying to develop a skill. There's this fear that people will think I'm weird or think I'm dumb for pursuing a certain career. For example, I was worried to say I wanted to be a photographer. I was convinced people would question why or think I wasn't capable. The other day I wanted to show my friends a picture I edited, but I was actually nervous because I thought she would think it was weird. But I'm here to say. GET OVER IT AND FLEX ON EM ONE TIME!!! Sharing your art is scary and takes vulnerability but you have to do it.

 
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This is an important point, The fear of being good or bad at something cripples us. How will we ever know how far our minds and skills can go if we never practice. Practice provides clarity! I spent a whole 24 hours sitting in bed editing pictures, creating images I probably would never actually use or post. But with the practice, it gave me clarity on what I like, what editing techniques would be good for other projects, and how capable I actually am.

 
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And here's the scary part. SHARE YOUR WORK. Find someone who can see it for what it is. Who can give you constructive criticism and feedback. Want to test it on your audience? Drop it on your Instagram stories instead of your feed. The 24 hour focus group for us with commitment issues. I know its nerve racking to think people can see your work, but people need to see your work. Whether it's writing, makeup, singing, photography, or graphic design. People need to experience your work. And don't forget there are plenty of eyes out there, so just because you post a bomb logo you designed and the person who is a beauty blogger doesn't like it DOESN'T MEAN ANYTHING. Maybe there's a artist, or business that's been looking for something similar to what you just created. So keep showing it off!! Hit em with that flex.


The point is, develop your craft. The day you decide you want to start going to the gym isn't the same day you automatically get in shape. You have to run and FLEX those muscles. Do not be afraid or worried of what anyone has to say about it, just do it. And let your friends in on what you. So you can practice on or with them. Recently I've been messing around with photography and photo editing. I'm not sure if I'm good or average, but I'm going to just keep practicing until it feels just right. And if the spirit of taking my own advice heres a gallery of all the random stuff I've been working on and some recent shots from photoshoots. Give me some feedback, but be nice lol. Let me know in the comments and are you want to develop!

 
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SUMMIT 21 - Conversations on Money, Beauty, & Impact | RECAP

Can I just say how HAPPY I am that I decided to attend this year's Summit 21 by 21 Ninety and Blavity. It was just the boost of encouragement I needed this time of year. People traveled from all corners of the country came to gather in Atlanta, Georgia for the meeting of the most bomb people you will ever meet, Summit 21! I'm not sure how 21 Ninety sent invites to heaven, because the most angelic, melaninated, stylish women showed up! Not one moment went unslayed!

The weekend started with a Wakanda themed mix and mingle event hosted by Sally's Beauty Supply Store. I got the chance to sip cocktails while chatting with fellow influencers and looking at some new products from several beauty brands. We were entertained by a bomb DJ and a dance routine that had live drums and everything! Best part? I won like ALL the giveaways! Well just two, but I received  some awesome stuff!

Top: whowhatwear @ Target
Skirt: H&M
Purse: H&M
Shoes: Target

Now get into the schedule for the rest of the weekend! Each day was crammed pack with sessions centered around three topics: impact, beauty, and money. Isn't that all we really want anyway?? (and God's never ending love and grace but you get the point). During Day 1, my highlights was heading from Brittany Packet. She talked about honing your power message. As someone developing a brand and trying to impact women of my generation, I actually had no clue I needed a message. This session really taught me to be aware of the message I am sending to others. Key Points from her session about your power message: 1. Is it authentic? 2. Is it responsible? 3. Will it activate? 4. Is it accessible? Good stuff right?!!

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On the first day I rocked a pair of H&M jeans and a white tee layered with a cheetah print tank, and my new favorite pair of orange heels from Target! 

And just when I thought Day 1 was good, day 2 got eeeeeeven better! And mainly because I got to see my girl Sarah Jake-Roberts. When I tell you sis preached and prayed us down!!! It was honestly just beautiful to see a woman of God have such relevant impact on people like me. She is actually #goals.

sarah jake roberts at summit21
 Dress: Zara Sneakers: New Balance Glow: God's Grace

Dress: Zara
Sneakers: New Balance
Glow: God's Grace

I absolutely loved all the things to do while at the conference. They had the cutest FREE pop-up shop called Chateau 21! It had a range of hair and skin care products that we could pick from. And yes, it was totally free! And the resources areas was equally bomb! An entire bookstore full of black authors!! It was absolutely beautiful! I really can't wait fro next year! Check all of it out in the gallery!

 
 
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Gift Giving Tips + Holiday Gift Guide

Gift Giving Tips + Holiday Gift Guide

We all know there is a reason for the season (GO JESUS!!) but we have all come accustomed to spreading cheer by giving gifts. Its stressful, people are hard to buy for, and others are just too picky. Well I got y'all covered. Here are some tips for gift giving and a SUPER-SIZED gift guide for every type of human in your life.

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