Saturday, July 30, 2011

I received quite a number of responses when I posted the media alert from the Pantene Model search. Unfortunately, that search was a live casting call in New Orleans which meant that many of you interested weren't able to enter.

Well here's your chance to submit your online entry to SoftSheen-Carson's Next Dark and Lovely Fashionista. The contest ends August 8. For those of you who dismiss entering the contest, think back to the feature I did on Najah who simply submitted her picture online for a similar model search and was selected!

Prizes for this contest include:

1rst Place: A trip to NYC for two, a $5,000 dollar shopping spree, a hair makeover by Softsheen stylists and an ad in Essence Magazine.

Five 2nd Place winners will receive $1,000 gift card and new Dark and Lovely products.

Twenty-five 3rd place winners will receive a Dark and Lovely gift pack.


SoftSheen-Carson® & ESSENCE Magazine Landed in Atlanta To Search for the NEXT Dark and Lovely Fashionista

Special Guest Panelists: Bria Murphy (Dark and Lovely Brand Ambassador), Johnny Wright (Celebrity Hairstylist and SoftSheen-Carson Artistic Director), and Kandi Burruss (Grammy Award Winning Singer/Songwriter & Reality TV Star of Atlanta Housewives)

WHAT: Once again, SoftSheen-Carson® Dark and Lovely® partnered with ESSENCE magazine to search for their next Dark and Lovely Fashionista. The Dark and Lovely Fashionista Model Search started off with a live casting event hosted by Dark and Lovely’s very own Brand Ambassador Bria Murphy and followed with a lively panel discussion. The winner of the 2011 Dark and Lovely Fashionista Model Search will win a trip for two to New York City, as well as a hair makeover by SoftSheen-Carson’s Artistic Director and Celebrity Hairstylist Johnny Wright, plus a $5,000 shopping spree with Celebrity Stylist Carlton Jones.

The live casting call also included an exciting and amusing panel discussion covering the hottest topics on beauty and fashion. Panelists included: Bria Murphy (Dark and Lovely Brand Ambassador), Johnny Wright (SoftSheen-Carson Artistic Style Director and Celebrity Hairstylist to First Lady Michelle Obama), Corynne Corbett (ESSENCE, Beauty Director), Carlton Jones (Celebrity Stylist), and Kandi Burruss (Grammy Award Winning Singer/Songwriter). The participating contestants spoke with our panelists, had their photo taken on site and were asked to express to the panelists Why they are Dark and Lovely?

The contest began May 24, 2011 and ends on August 8, 2011.

Ready to enter? Please visit their website for details

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A couple weekends ago, hubby and I were enjoying a leisurely walk downtown. Just as we were completing our rounds, we noticed that several vendor's were setting up a local farmer's market. My interest was immediately peaked as to what possible gem I could find among these local retailers.

We strolled between booths showcasing hand crafted jewelry, home made aprons, specialty pet goodies, etc. Then I saw it, the bamboo booth. It was this humble little stand where a woman and her daughter were offering bamboo plants for sale. We've been looking for bamboo plants forever so we immediately made a beeline to see what the cost of the plants were. The three of us engaged in conversation about how to care for bamboo plants, the cost, and so forth. Then as my husband and the vendor start chatting, her daughter (who was probably 5 years old), comes to me and says this, "my mom drinks a lot of bamboo tea and it made her hair grow." All of the sudden I was brought back to my silica post. You may remember me stating that bamboo is one of the richest sources of silica occurring naturally. In fact, bamboo is a much more potent source of silica than horsetail.

Before the little girl said anything I to me, was only focused on the the plants. I didn't even pay attention to the tea they had available for sale. How did the little girl know that I was a certified hair lush? How did she know.....

Either way, I'm glad she said that cause my very next move was to buy a bag of tea leaves. She even had some tea fresh brewed tea available for consumption. We bought two cups of tea, a bag of leaves and we were on our way.

Bamboo tea is surprisingly light and easy to drink. It's made from the leaves of various bamboo plants. Served chilled, it's a great "summer" tea because of it's light taste. I normally don't sweeten my tea so at times I've had to endure bitterness associated with other teas I've tried. Bamboo tea, to me, has absolutely no bitterness whatsoever. Because of this, I know I'll be consuming tons of this in the days to come.

Because it's a loose tea, I have to employ my little handy dandy loose leaf tea pot. The process is pretty simple, I add the loose leaves to the pot, pour in the hot water and let rest take care of itself. I can usually steep the leaves several times, meaning once I've finished drinking what's in the pot, I just refill with hot water and start the process over.

Along with the rich supply of silica, bamboo tea leaf also contains dietary fiber. It's caffeine free unlike some of the other teas on the market. Plus add the fact that bamboo is a source of antioxidants. All in all, I would say this is a beverage of choice for anyone who is looking to support their skin and hair health. By the way, I just want to say that I've only suffered 2 breakouts since I've taking silica. In the past, I was always battling acne. Now, it's a rare occurrence, it once was the norm for me.

If you aren't into the whole "tea" thing, you can still opt to get your dose of bamboo silica in pill form. To be honest with you, bamboo tea leaves aren't as readily available for purchase as green or other more common leaves. You might be able to find bamboo shoots in a can in the ethnic food section of our local grocer. Either way, I think bamboo is a cost effective way to add silica into your regimen.

Would you guys be interested in a bamboo tea giveaway? Leave a comment below or post in the discussion section of the blog.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

I celebrated a birthday recently by getting special treat for myself that I've wanted ever since I saw an Indian scalp massage youtube video over 2 years ago. You must be sick and tired of reading post after post after post on scalp massages by now but I'm just so intrigued by the possible benefits that I can't stop talking about them.

The massage treatment I received yesterday was an ayruveda massage. Which means that it involves traditional medicinal practices native to India. Prior to my session, I was asked to complete a questionnaire that had some really bizarre questions where I was asked to select one of three options to describe various aspects of my self. Based on these responses, she would identify my dosha. Once determined, she then created a special blend of herbs that aligned most with my body's needs based on the answers I provided.

Next she gave me a brief overview of the massage process and then we began. I laid flat on a massage table/bed face up. She covered my eyes with warm, damp wash cloths and talked me through a guided breathing exercise to help bring on relaxation. Soon after I began to feel the sensation of hot oil being poured to my hairline. The oil was really warm, almost to the point of being uncomfortable. I could tell by the number of times I felt the warm oil, that quite a bit of it was being used. The oil, by the way, was a blend of coconut, sesame, essential oils, turmeric and several other indian herbs.

Prior to the massage I engaged in several coaching conversations with the woman (both over the phone and in person) instructing her on how not to handle my hair during the process. My biggest concern, of course, was around tangling and breakage from over manipulation. Because of this she was really gentle with my hair during the process. I even gave her feedback after the massage that she could use a little more pressure next time. Once the massage was over I was given a towel to wipe off the excess oil from my neck and shoulders. I did as instructed and used the cloth to absorb excess oil from my hair also. Once I got up and looked at the mirror, I saw that my hair was laden with oil. I couldn't believe how saturated it was. My next move was to put in a bun. But no matter how much oil I tried to soak up with the towel, there was more.

We had a brief wrap up conversation at the front desk before I was on my way. I did have a day of shopping planned but that was sunk because I had to back and wash the oil out. I put a plastic cap over my hair to keep the excess oil away from my clothing and to prevent oil from slowly dripping down my neck. Moments before I stepped into the shower, my dogs start barking because a package is left at my door. I bring it in, open it up and smile from ear to ear. Lo and behold, the folks from Heutiful send me a hair steamer for review and it happens to get here on my birthday, seconds before I wash my hair. It's like the stars were aligned or something. I thanked God for a perfect birthday gift and immediately prepared to steam my hair. The full review for the Heutiful steamer will come later. I washed and roller set and styled as usual.

Looking back at the experience, I don't regret it. I'm sure my hair has benefited from deep hot oil treatment it received. The experience got me thinking on how I could replicate and create modified version of the massage. For one thing, she over saturated my hair way to much. Even after the wash, my hair was still slightly oily. Perhaps if I came in with extremely damaged, dry hair, that amount of oil would beneficial. The practitioner told me I experienced no breakage during the process and I examined the floor after the massage was over to validate her claims. Not a single strand was on the floor believe it or not. Overall I enjoyed the massage but I think the oil/herb mixture (while beneficial) was a bit of an overkill based on the amount of oil she used. Fast forward the video to the 50 second mark to get an idea of my experience. During my treatment, less oil was used. It didn't pour continuously like seen in the video. She applied the oil a little at a time manually.

So here's what I'm thinking. "What if I were to pull the benefits of this process and try to create a modified version to do at home?" Next wash day, when I do my dry deep conditioning, I'll seal in the deep conditioner with a layer of warm oil then proceed to sit under the dryer or steam. I bet that will be amazing! As far as the massage is concerned, I'll still continue to massage my scalp several times a week, then set aside a 20-30 minute chunk of time on the weekend to conduct a full massage session. If I do it myself, I know how much pressure I can apply and I definitely won't have to worry about over manipulation or tangles since I know how to handle my hair. I don't regret getting the massage, in fact I learned from the experience. The best part about it was when she told me that my dandruff wasn't that bad, thanks to the eucalyptus/coconut oil combination that I've massaged my scalp with for the past several weeks.

'Till next time!"

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Part 3 of my "Morning by Morning" series features a breakfast that I absolutely love. I call it my loaded oatmeal. Because this mix has so many ingredients, I had to strategize a bit on how to consolidate some of them into one container. So I decided to manage my powders by placing them in a dispensing unit. When I saw this cake sprinkles shaker at the store I knew it would be perfect.

After taking it apart I realized that I would be able to store up to four different types of powdered products into one easy to use container.

First I added chia seeds into the mix. These little guys are packed with loads of nutrition such as omega 3s & 6, protein, fiber, calcium, potassium and more.

I also added some powdered fiber to the dispenser since I happen to have some available. This fiber mix tastes slightly sweet so it also helps to sweeten my oatmeal.

Along with the fiber I also included some powdered probiotics as well.

And viola! I still have one section open. I think I may try storing a green powder blend as well. This little shaker sames me tons of time when I'm preparing my oatmeal. Here you can see a pic of the finished product. There's my chia seeds next to macca root powder.

Now that I got that out of the way, I move on to my other ingredients. I put everything in this oatmeal including coconut oil, flax seed oil (tasteless), black strap molassess (iron), sliced almonds (vitamin e).

I start off by adding chia seed to the hot water. Chia expands in water so I put it in first to absorb what it needs to before I add the oatmeal. If I add the chia seeds last, they won't have enough time to soften.

Next I add the oatmeal, macca root powder, fiber/probiotics, oils, and almonds. I also put in a little black strap molasses which drastically changes the color of my loaded oatmeal while adding a nice taste to the mix.

Finally, I may add some dehydrated goji berries to the mix. They start to re-hydrate a little as the mix stand.

I usually don't eat this right away. I allow all the ingredients to get to know each other a little first. When I eat this mix, most of the individual components are undetectable. I was really worried about the macca root powder since it has such a distinct taste. In my loaded oatmeal, I can't taste the difference. Which makes this a great way to add any ingredients that I'm not keen on but I know will give me great benefits.

This meal is probably the most nutritious that I ever created. It's such wonderful a collaboration of healthy ingredients and essential nutrients. Plus, because of it's high fiber content, I'm pretty much full for most of the day when I eat this one bowl. A co-worker of mine saw me eating this blend every morning and was really curious. I told her everything I put in there and she kinda made a slight face. A week later, she told me she started eating oatmeal in the mornings for breakfast. If you are inspired by this post but can't get down with all the wacky ingredients, no worries. Just start with a simple bowl of oatmeal and add extra fruit or nuts. Maybe it's not oatmeal at all. Prior to my loaded oatmeal, I was adding almonds and chia seeds to my favorite cereal. What I love about this mix is how great I feel about what I was able to accomplish first thing in the morning. Even if I have a fast food dinner, I know that my body received an amazing dose of nutrition at the start of the day. I'm still on the lookout for other ingredients to add to my loaded oatmeal so if you have any suggestions, please share.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

I'm continuing a series of 3 posts where I share some healthy options that I have implemented in the mornings to kick off my mornings. Often, it can be difficult to find nutritious meals during the day. Especially for those of us who eat 1 or 2 meals a day outside the home. Most of what is available to us isn't all that exceptional (nutritionally speaking). The truth is, if I were to say to myself, 'I want to have a meal that is packed with vitamins and antioxidents", I'd have to think long and hard before I came up with any viable options. That's why I chose to try and get a healthy meal in before I leave for the day.

Today, I'm sharing with you one of my favorite options. I buy a protein shake that already comes packed with lots of nutrients (according to the back label). But I figured, you can't get enough of a good thing so why not take it to the next level.

I start by opening the bottle and adding my own special ingredients. First, I mix a little flax seed oil into the drink. I love this because (unlike fish oils) flax seed has barely any taste at all! Plus it seems to be an ultra lite oil. After I mix in the flax seed, I shake up the bottle and there's no evidence of the oil. No separation, no oily taste, nothing. It's like I never even put any in there. Meanwhile, my drink is now chock full of omega 3 oils that my hair skin and nails will love.

Next I add my secret recipe for creating an ultra-powerful beauty tonic. You guys may already know about my affiliation with silica after learning about it's powerful benefits to our bodies. I purchased in gel form because I knew that I'd be more consistent mixing the silica in a liquid rather than taking the pill itself. When mixed in water, liquid silica tastes something like gritty chalk. When mixed in my protein shake, silica has no taste. The two make a perfect combination.

I'm one of those people that like everything spicy, even my drinks! Cayenne pepper is the third ingrediant I add to my tonic. Increased circulation is the name of the game and I want the protein, omega 3s and silica circulating all throughout my body as quickly as possible. That's why I always add ample cayenne. Unlike in my lemon water tonic the cayenne is a little less spicy when I add to this drink because the sugar content counter acts the capsaicin a bit. Plus it gives my drink a little bite and I like that....

These protein shakes come in a pack of four so I usually prepare all four at one time for the week. Sometimes I drink one daily, other times I have more than one in a day and there are times when I skip a day or even a week. There are no rules in this game we play, it's all about focusing on our progress. Can you ladies just imagine how beneficial a drink with vitamins, omega 3, and silica is to our health and beauty? I get all excited just thinking about it. As I said earlier, there are no rules so if you become inspired to create your own tonic feel free to experiment with what works for you. If constantly buying the pre-packaged protein shakes gets a bit too pricey, I switch up and substitute with almond milk which is loaded with vitamin e and other amazing awesomeness. If I get the almond milk, I just use my own bottle and add healthy booster just as I would normally.

I can't wait to share my part 3 of this series when I present the healthiest breakfast option I've created to date. Stay tuned....

Thursday, July 7, 2011

I'm always trying to improve in the area of healthy eating. This desire better my eating habits comes from my love of salty, fried items. I have thing for french fries, fried fish, chips, etc. I've been really focused on balancing my unhealthy ways with better eating choices. A few years ago I decided eliminate chicken and read meat from my diet. You guys are already aware that I recently started juicing in the mornings. But there are times when juicing isn't practical in the mornings because of lack of time or if I don't have fresh veggies on hand. So I've come up with some alternative routines that I can follow that are still very healthy in their own right.

Today, I will share with you my lemon water morning routine. Some of you may have heard of this method before. Basically, on an empty stomach, I pour some room temperature spring water in a glass. When the water is room temperature, the body is better able to assimilate it.

Next I take a lemon and squeeze it into the water. Basically I make a simple lemonade with a bit of a twist.

You might be asking yourself, "what is with all that speckled stuff in the water?" That, my friends, is cayenne pepper. I add the cayenne pepper to help promote stimulation which is very beneficial first thing in the morning.

In the past I would sweeten my drink with a little honey or stevia. Now my palette is strong enough to handle this spicy drink without the help of natural sweeteners. So why would someone in their right mind drink a spicy, bitter, drink at room temperature? Because of all the amazing benefits.

First off, although lemons are acidic in nature, lemon water creates an alkaline environment in the body. Being alkaline is imperative if you want to experience optimal health. It's been said that cancer is unable to survive in an alkaline environment. Stress, toxins and a diet high in sweets, meats, dairy, trans fats, fried foods, white flour, etc, can contribute to acidity in the body. When our body becomes acidic, we start feeling symptoms like fatigue, dry skin and numerous other, more serious, side effects. I've tested my acidity levels in the past using pH strips and the times when I felt the worst, my body tested very acidic. On the other hand, there were times where I was living a healthy lifestyle and felt great! It was no surprise that my pH levels were more alkaline when I tested.

For a while I would invest time and money at a health food store that sold alkaline water by the gallon. That method was a little time consuming. I'd have to keep making runs to the health store because the water would decline in pH levels within a couple of days and lose it's potency. This lemon water mix does the job of alkalizing my body but I also receive nutritional benefits from the lemon like vitamin C, B6, copper, calcium, iron, and potassium.

Things get really interesting when I add the cayenne pepper to the mix. I drink cayenne because of the increased circulation benefits. Greater circulation creates improved blood flow and digestion. Capsaicin, the active ingredient in cayenne pepper, stimulates hair follicles which promotes hair growth. Starting the day off with a stimulating drink is just what the body needs early in the morning. It's been said that the body works while we sleep to detoxify the body. A glass of stimulating lemon water helps support your body's detoxification system by helping the toxins circulate out of the body.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A few posts ago, I shared a press release where Pantene was holding a casting call for hair models at the Essence Festival. I got a few questions from a couple of you who were interested in getting into the world of hair modeling. Your inquiries reminded of a conversation I had with a real life hair model I met while attending the Curly Nikki meet up event. Just as I was leaving the venue, I asked this beautiful curly haired woman with perfect skin if I could take a picture of her. We chatted a little bit and she shared, during our conversation, that she was a hair model.

My ears perked up when she mentioned hair modeling so I decided to ask her to share a little bit of her story with us in a brief interview:

How did you get interested in Hair Modeling?

Ironically, I didn’t seek out to do hair modeling. I was very fortunate in having the art of hair modeling find me. I was online entering a hair photo contest for Black Hair Media (BHM). A few months later I received a telephone call from the owner stating that I had won the contest and they wanted to take additional photos of me. Members of BHM took a trip from Atlanta to where I reside in Florida for a full fledged photo shoot consisting of approximately 7,000 photos. It was a lot of hard work, especially for an outside shoot during the heat of the day in Florida, But it was lots of fun!

Do you have any previous experience?

I had no prior modeling experience.

Where have your pictures been featured?

My photos have been featured on my personal blog, Knotty Tresses, Black Hair Media & Curly Nikki. More to come in the very near future ....

Do you have any other projects coming up?

Yes, I have something big upcoming in the next month or so. Look out for details on my personal website at, which is still under construction.

Do you plan on following this new career path? If so, how?

This is not a career path I intend to pursue full time. I am a careered woman with a regular 9-5 that I enjoy very, very much. I perform hair photo shoots sporadically. While I do take it seriously and enjoy every minute of it, it’s something fun to do on the side.

What advice would you give to someone who would like to become a hair model?

Once you’ve become established, try to practice good hair days as much as you can because you never know who you’re going to run into! I have had a few occasions where people have recognized me from my photos, but didn’t know my name. I felt awkward and even somewhat embarrassed when my hair wasn’t looking my absolute best. (Nadege says: "this is excellent advice that I need to follow more often.")

I also recommend you take professional photos and pay the extra cost for editing if needed. Your portfolio is your license to exposure!

You have fabulous skin, can you share your skincare routine?

Funny you should mention that. The photographers and directors seem to appreciate the smoothness of my skin because it requires very little photo editing. (By the way, Najah did her own makeup in these pics. She looks amazing). Sometimes they use my photos for a quick event that may only last 24 hours or so. To put hours of editorial work into photos that are only going to be utilized for a short timeframe can be costly. Taking care of your skin is just as important as taking care of your hair. I use the following three skin products:

Neutrogena Naturals Purifying Facial Cleanser

Ambi Fade Cream for Normal Skin

Neutrogena’s Visibly Even Daily Moisture

Do you eat healthy or drink lots of water or take supplements?

Yes, I eat very healthy foods. I absolutely love dark green leafy vegetables such as collard greens, mustard greens, spinach and especially broccoli. I’ve recently added fruit to my daily diet regime. My favorite spot to eat is Panera Bread. They’ve got all my money! :-) I can probably count on one hand the amount of times I’ve drunk soda. Don’t like it at all! Not the taste, nor the acidic effects it adds to your skin which can sometimes be seen through your pores. I take a very basic over the counter supplement (but not as often as I should). Unfortunately, I have a strong weakness for sweets, which is where I get into trouble! :-/

Your hair is gorgeous, what is your regimen?

In the beginning, I was somewhat of a product junkie--purchasing almost every cutely labeled or good-smelling product on the shelves. Now that I’ve found a hair recipe that works for me, I tend to stay away from over-purchasing products and sticking to what I know works best for me. That said, I use Giovanni Smooth as Silk Conditioner, which also works as a great detangler. I comb/detangle my hair once per week. The other 6 days of the week I just get up and go, or wash ‘n go. I also like Curl & Style Milk and Curl Enhancing Smoothie by Shea Moisture. All the mentioned products are organic and sold at Target.

Thank you Najah, for sharing your experience with us. I'm sure, if lots of us could have our wish, we too would be showing off our gorgeous hair to the world (and get compensated for it). I learned from you that it's important to keep our hair on point 'cause you never know..... I also looked at your list of skin care products and decided to add a few skin tone evening products to my skin care regimen. I also was encouraged by your healthy diet which contributes to that gorgeous glow. Thanks for inspiring us!

photography credits: SMedia, LLC.
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