She wants to lead the glamorous life!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

In the Closet ft Michelle

For our first installment of the new "In the Closet" series, we feature Michelle B.  I like Michelle's style.  It is fly, but not over done.  She describes it as classic with a twist.  "I'll pair a button shirt with a cardigan and pencil skirt, and [add] a funky bootie.  I like to be a little edgy."  Her most recent fashion splurges include an oyster colored dress and beaded and sequined mini skirt from All Saints and a leather and tweed blazer and gold sneaker wedges from Michael Kors.

Michelle's favorite "go to" item in her closet are her leggings.  "They're comfortable, easy to dress up or down and flatter my shape."  She also gets a lot of wear out of her blue button up shirt from Brooks Brothers.  "It's easy to wear, is wrinkle resistant, elevates my outfit, plus it's Oprah's 'go to' button up too."  Michelle has incorporated several pieces from her late grandmother's closet as well, including a camel colored pencil skirt, "it's flattering, it's sophisticated."

Appropriate undergarments, such as slips, bras designed for certain shirts and proper underwear to avoid panty lines is what Michelle thinks more women should be conscious of wearing.  I wanted to find out more of her thoughts on clothes and fashion.  So two Fridays ago, I visited Michelle at her Hyde Park apartment to check out her closet.  Click here to take a peak inside!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Storied Life of Amnel Massimo

Amnel Massimo via our recent Skype interview

I had the pleasure of meeting singer Amnel (pronounced Ahm-Nell) Massimo in Playa del Carmen, MX last year. What better place to get to know someone than a Mexican paradise? She was welcoming, warm and married to Perez Massimo, a deejay and good friend of my boyfriend. The first thing she said to me, standing poolside in our shared hotel’s atrium was: “I like your hair. What products do you use?” I liked her instantly. A woman who is friendly and likes to talk hair? That is a foundation for good friendships.

The story of Amnel begins in New York City, moves to the Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and lands back in the NYC. I know her story. She told it to me over drinks while we watched the men in our lives take turns deejay-ing at a hotel lobby bar not far from our hotel. She was open and honest and curious. After telling me her tale, she asked me mine. I had a hard time following suit. Amnel provided the details of her life like she had done it many times previously. I, on the other hand, found it difficult to pull together a concise retelling of my story. Who I am and how I got here. That is Amnel though. As with anybody else, I prepared 10 questions for our interview. This usually results in at least an hour and a half of talk time and lots of frantically scribbled notes. Not with Amnel. Our interview took less than 45 minutes- a record for me. Her answers were always to the point and confident. Again, like she has been answering questions about who she is her entire life. I get the feeling she has been preparing for this moment, every moment, since forever.
Amnel has been singing since before she could talk. Independent, even then, she recalls rocking herself to sleep with song. She gets her talent honestly. Her dad was an “amazing singer”, her mom, a painter, did not have the singing ability, but there was singing talent on her side of the family as well.

It was in Junior High that Amnel’s professional singing career began. Friends of hers had a disco band, and needed a vocalist. By the time she was 16, the group was touring the island (something she loved to do), performing at weddings and hotel events. Amnel also fondly remembers singing with choir of the all-girls Catholic High School she attended. The “fuffy” school, owned by the country’s Cardinal, competed and won nationally four years in a row. Performing comes naturally. Again, preparedness is the key.

Recently, Amnel’s career has surged to the next level. It is only April and she has already performed at the girlNation Relaunch party at M Lounge in New York, the Winter Music Conference's Women Man the Decks party in Miami and Le Femme Affair- a spinoff of a Private Affair, which is an ├╝ber exclusive event created by her husband, that the couple hosts in their Queens home. Later this month she will perform alongside Perez at I'll House You with Oscar P, at Bar 13, also in New York. Many artists in her position would love to have that schedule and the visibility that comes with it.

The collaborative effort between Amnel and Perez should be no surprise to those who know the couple. They are each other’s biggest fans. Amnel sites Perez as being her musical muse, teaching her about the industry and providing support. She scoffs at the idea of competition between the two, explaining that they are in “two different realms”.
Amnel’s inspiration for her music and sound comes from life itself. “God has a very big role in my life. I feel He has given me this gift to testify His glory.” She is spiritual, and an unflinching Christian. I asked if she finds it difficult creating a balance between her Christian life and the more secular music she performs. Amnel makes it clear, “it’s all in your heart- your intentions. You can clean your house and glorify God.” She does draw the line at overtly sexual music, choosing “integrity [and] dignity” instead.

Like most of us girls who grew up in the 80s and 90s, Amnel sites Whitney Houston as the singer who influenced her the most.  In her opinion the singer from the past or present with the most unmatched voice is Amy Winehouse. The terms “effortless” and “beautiful” are used when describing Winehouse’s singing ability. “[Singing came so naturally] she looks bored in some performances. She was unique.” Her favorite singer right now is Sia, “she’s amazing”.

As a Dominican, Amnel finds the folk music of her country’s past to be intriguing and something she would like to explore further to weave into her own music. She spoke of how “particular sounds from your nature have spiritual weight” and wants to continue to draw creativity from her roots, her folk language.

In the next five to ten years, Amnel simply wants to be “successful”. I asked her to describe her idea of success. Her immediate answer is touring. With further contemplation, she explains her goal is to use music to inspire others. The music means more to her than the money she will make as an artist. “The money will be good no doubt about that. But I look forward to the people that will testify that they were healed [listening] to my songs. Only God can bring success like that!” She plans on using her “voice to break chains [and] boundaries”. Is this not what real music lovers want from artists? To provide a soundtrack for our lives that will lead to breakthroughs, small and large, whether personally or globally. We want to be uplifted, but still groove. Upon hearing Amnel sing, or even speak, you are drawn in by the sound- thick like molasses, and soft at the same time. You want to hear more. The good news is there always seems to be more to give.

Amnel has a testimony, and she willingly shares it with those who will listen. If you watch closely to her performance, the way she commands the stage, you will witness it- her story. The story she has been preparing and articulating, her entire life. She is on a path that keeps winding, constantly moving her further and deeper and up, almost as if it were already written. If you are looking for a new voice, a new sound you can relate to, follow that path. She won’t steer you wrong.
More about Amnel…

“Heart Beat” by the Drumattix is currently on constant rotation. “[It] never gets old”.

She credits Trip Hop, Soul, R&B from the past, Pop, 60s and 70s Spanish Pop and Electronic music in general as her musical influences.

She considers herself a Househead, “[it] really speaks to me.”

Click to hear Amnel's cover of Rihanna's "Stay"!


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Rainy Days

Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.  Isn't that how The Carpenters' song goes?  Today is Thursday, actually.  But it is raining and has been off and on since yesterday morning.  It is gloomy outside, no doubt.  Judging by my mood and the fact that I am actually giddy and have a slight case of the giggles, you would think it is sunny outside.  Nothing particularly special occurs today.  I have an interview for the blog this evening, but beyond that, everything is pretty normal.  I do like Thursdays and have for a long time.  Growing up, Thursday was the night I got to stay up late to watch The Cosby Show and A Different World.  My parents usually kept me on a very tight, 7pm bedtime schedule all the way past Junior High.  It seems harsher than it was.  I did not have to actually go to sleep, just withdraw from the rest of the house.  My bedroom became my sanctuary.  It was there that I fell in love with music and books- the two things I could indulge in, since T.V. was not an option. 

Maybe my mood is a result of Thursdays bringing me closer to my favorite time of the week, Fridays and the weekend.  Either way, I feel nice today, despite the grey scene just outside of my window.  Which further confirms, I set my own moods. I determine how much of a funk I want to be in and for how long.  When I wake up feeling good, there is not much that can stop me from feeling that way.  My mood is kind of secure at that point.  Now if I could just bottle up this feeling and keep it always- that would be wonderful.  How are you feeling today?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Always On Time

Today, a photographer came to our office to take pictures of my co-worker for an upcoming article about him that is being published.  While my co-worker was being interviewed, the photographer asked me if I could help him test the lighting set-up by letting him take some test shots.  "Sure", I said.  After a couple of clicks he was satisfied, saying, "here, you might as well take a look."  I did and they were good.  I joked, "I could use those for my LinkedIn profile picture.  He basically responded, "well since you're here.  Step back."  Then started clicking away, taking about five more pictures.  He gave me his card and told me to drop him a line to remind him to send me the photos.

Now see, that's what I'm talking about!  I have been messing around and not updating or utilizing my LinkedIn account.  One of my setbacks was I wanted a respectable and professional picture.  Not too serious, but more "buttoned up" than my Facebook picture.  I just never got around to taking one.  None of the previous pictures I had seemed to work- bikini pictures, pictures of cocktails, pictures of me out at parties- all no no's.  The picture he took today was perfect.  I had on work clothes.  The lighting was right.  The picture was taken with a professional camera, by a professional.  What else did I need?

I like how I can think about something and put it out in the "atmosphere" and it will just come to me.  I call it, ghetto blessings or speaking to the universe.  The kind of blessings that are always right on time and seem to speak directly to you.  The $10 bill I find in an old coat pocket.  The lady at the Baskin Robbins who did not charge me for my hot fudge.  Or having my LinkedIn profile picture taken by a professional photographer for free.

I love little quirky blessings.  The small ones that sometimes seem just as impactful as the larger, more grandiose blessings.  What's the last ghetto blessing you can remember?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Friendship Expert

This morning I read an article entitled Four Ways to Avoid Unnecessary Friendship Drama on  I thought it was honest and poignant, unlike many articles about friendship.  The article, written by Charli Penn, featured friendship expert (I did not know such a thing existed formerly) Shasta Nelson who authored the book Friendships Don't Just Happen!.  Of the four ways listed, the first one struck a chord immediately.  The question posed was How can I show up a little more thoughtfully?  In her answer, Nelson asks:  "she may be jealous, and we don’t want to play smaller to avoid her jealousy, but could we affirm her more?"  POW! 

I read that quote over and over and over again.  It made me think of something my girlfriend Michele told me years ago.  I was meeting up with some friends I had known for a long time, but had only recently started hanging out with.  I wanted to look nice (that's just how I am), but was trying not to shine too much.  The article of clothing in question was my floor-length, fur-trimmed, shearling coat equipped with a big dramatic Little Red Riding Hood-esque hood and a rhinestone embellished tied closure.  I was hanging with Michele before the get-together and was telling her how I had apprehensions about wearing the coat, especially wearing it and stepping out of my "luxury" vehicle.  I did not know what message I would be sending and thought it best to play it down a bit with a more sensible and casual coat.  Michele, whom I first met when I was 19 and she was too grown to invite me to any of her parties or functions with her other grown-ass friends, said this:  "if they're your friends they will accept you just the way you are.  Fur coat and all." 

When I read the article today, I had an aha moment that reverberated from the past.  I no longer want to play smaller to avoid someone else's jealousy.  Although I already try to make a point of doing this, I will consciously affirm my friends more.  If we are friends, let's be that and accept each other, not just flaws and all, but blessings, good attributes and all.  Friendship has been on my mind a lot lately.  Mainly because of some recent shifts in my friendship-sphere.  I say shifts because I cannot fully point them out nor define them definitely as problems, but something is amiss.  My instinct is to look inward, which is always important, but that can be faulty in terms of not taking into account the other party's issue(s).  I cannot think of a better bond than the one between womenfolk.  However, with that bond, as with any other bond, insecurities can erupt.  I want to celebrate my girlfriends and have that love be reciprocated.  If I cannot be all of me around my friends, than with whom can I be myself?  Michele, as usual, was right.  Maybe she should be a friendship expert.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Mirror Mirror

Have you even known someone who, let's say, seems to mirror you?  I don't want to use the term, copy or imitate.  I think, "mirror" is a better way of describing it.  I know someone who seems, and I could be wrong or paranoid, but I think not, to mirror me.  I can point to at least three occasions when she has done things very similiar to myself.  Maybe it was a purchase.  Or idea that seems to spring up very close after the revealing of mine.  Sometimes it's the humor I use in a Facebook post that a week later will be used by her.  Whatever it is, I get this eery feeling that she is, "flattering me".  As the saying goes, imitation is the best form of flattery.  But sometimes, I wonder.  Especially if the person does not give credit where it's due.  I have been known to tell friends that I am inspired by something they have done, whether it's their style, a place they have visited or a particular action they take.  I will even go as far as let them know that I plan on copying them, by following in their footsteps.  It seems to go over well.  No one really cares, but if I did the exact same thing as this particular person, and acted like it was just another day, I think I would feel weird.  Again, maybe I am just being paranoid.  I know I cannot be the only one that this happens to, it may just be an uncomfortable thing to discuss.  I mean, it comes across conceited to think that a specific idea is solely yours.  How special must you feel about yourself to believe someone is copying your actions?  With that said though, my inner 8 year old self says, "yeah, I still think she is straight up copying".  Instead of being irritated, I will settle on just being flattered.