Image via Instagram (@patricejwill)
When I was in high school, I saved my allowance to buy a banging new outfit for the Bayou Classic. It was a pair of black jeans (as tight as my mother would allow), a matching black denim cropped vest and a black and white striped top, all by Bongo Jeans and all from The Body Shop, which was THE shop for teenage girls when I was growing up. I was so excited to go to Pensacola’s Cordova Mall and buy this outfit, then wear it in New Orleans and to school.
Imagine how I felt when soon after I’d worn it, a classmate went out and bought a nearly identical outfit, down to the shirt and belt with a big buckle–in hunter green. If there were hundreds of kids in my school it might not have mattered, but there were just about a hundred kids in each class. So if we showed up wearing them on the same day and had the same class(es), it was awkward.
I still wore my outfit but it didn’t feel quite as…special. I never let my classmate know her blatant imitation did not feel like flattery.
I’m a grown up now. And I don’t think anyone is out here trying to copy my looks from head to toe anymore–if they are, good luck with that. What has become impossible to ignore though is people who are, shall we say, heavily inspired by what I’ve written, posted and shared. These are people who stop just short of clicking “Control +C” and “Control +V.” Inspiration is great; many people inspire me. But what you won’t see is me coming out with a Pink Lemonade album, or singing “When Swans Cry” and acting like I thought of it myself. I won’t ever try to be The Jenesaisquoi, J.Crew is My Favorite Store, Atlantic Pacific or Demetria Lucas D’Oyley, because I’d be a poor imitation. I love them. But it’s much more fun just being me. And if I were going to be inspired by them I’d at least give them props in print (like I just did). Or via video.
I don’t copy because it’s taken me a long time to be totally comfortable being Alexis, and writing in my own voice. That’s why I have to put up this post today. I’ve put too much time and effort into what I do not to defend it. So for those who are leaning heavily on or who are so deeply inspired by my posts, graduate work or journalism (and I know you’re reading this), that you use it to attempt your own low budget versions, know that I see you. We all do. E for Effort, darlings! I’m just thankful my family of supporters know the difference between cheap imitations and the real deal.
Make sure you don’t ever get so sloppy and desperate that you directly plagiarize my work, though, because then we’ll have a problem. Let me be explicit: my work is original content that is protected by copyright law*, and I take my intellectual property as seriously as I take getting dressed every day.
Keep it chic,
*i.e. That’s what the fine print at the very bottom of this page means.
Images via Giphy (<—Here’s another way to attribute work you didn’t do or dream up by yourself. You’re welcome.)
Are you wearing clothes you love? Why in the world wouldn’t you? I’m not suggesting you go to work dressed like Tinkerbell-unless that is in fact your job. But why keep a closet full of things that don’t fit your body, taste or lifestyle? Who does that serve? Let it go.
Stop forcing yourself into clothes that don’t fit, literally or otherwise. Pretty soon you might find you’re forcing yourself into other areas of your life that really don’t fit either.
“A strong spirit transcends rules,” Prince said.
His music was for the nonconformists, the dreamers, the mad poets, the unapologetically funky. The first music I bought with my own money was a Prince cassette tape that I had to keep hidden because my Mama literally did not play that.
Prince’s fight to control his catalog and own his image and presence as TAFKP set the stage for what we know now as intellectual property. He made it ok to be different, to be strange, to be artistic and creative and answer only to the muses in one’s head. I used to not get why people lost it over Elvis and The Beatles. But I’ll admit I felt some type of way when Johnnie Taylor and Luther Vandross died. I got it when Michael and Whitney died. But now I REALLY get it. I wanted to be Appollonia Kotero. I wanted to be Vanity. I would’ve been ok with trading lives with Lisa and Wendy (who played in his band and got to wear awesome pink furs and go on stage when he won an Oscar for Best Original Score in 1984). But I REALLY wanted to be Sheila E. When I was a little girl, I would dance and lip sync to “The Glamorous Life” in my babysitter Laura’s kitchen. I wanted to live that life when I grew up.
When I became an adult I realized that in writing the song, Prince was reflecting “cynicism for the decadence and materialism of the song’s protagonist, referred to in the third person, who “wants to lead a glamorous life, although she is aware that without love, it ain’t much.” (Wikipedia) And in some ways, maybe you get a sense of that on this blog. I could listen to his music–or Whitney’s or Michael’s–and be five, ten, or fifteen years old again. Yesterday the music died for me.
Maybe I’m not just crying for Prince. Maybe I’m crying for my aunt and my grandmother too, and the many ways in which the familiar, the beautiful, the precious, the irreplaceable and well-loved elements of my life are being erased and eroded. Prince’s music was always part of the soundtrack.
“Until the end of time/I’ll be there 4 U/U own my heart and mind/I truly adore U/If God one day struck me blind/Your beauty I’d still see/Love’s 2 weak 2 define/Just what U mean 2 me…”-Prince/”Adore”
Image via feelnumb.com
Oh, y’all thought you were going to survive Super Bowl 50/Mardi Gras/the weekend without getting your wig snatched? In the middle of our Saturdays we were all blessed with a new song+video from Queen Bey. If you’ve been living under a rock on an undiscovered planet, the clean version is provided HERE.
Now let’s discuss. The Internet is on FIRE trying to deconstruct what it means, such that I am experiencing analysis paralysis while I bounce to the beat. The song unapologetically celebrates Mrs. Carter’s proud heritage and motherhood. It also makes a pointed statement on race, class, work ethic and creativity. What she’s been serving all along–and the side she let us see in her self-titled surprise album in late 2013–comes into even sharper focus. And is baby sis Solange driving the getaway car???
Bey’s “Formation” is getting on folks’ nerves for the same reasons Cam Newton’s dabbing does. The thing is, they don’t care whether we’re here for it or not because they both have a radical sense of self-acceptance that doesn’t depend on our opinions. Even more radically, she’s raising a precocious little black girl to love herself, baby hair, Afro and all. And she doesn’t give a pot of Mama Tina’s red beans what we think about it. She rocks multiple hair styles in this video and celebrates her “Negro” nose and dares you to suggest she alter (or contour) it. She’s gonna make us ALL dance to this message, and maybe we’ll start loving our own uncommon beauty, unique backgrounds and unusual tastes–our weird, wonderful, conflicted, contradictory selves–whoever we are, wherever we come from and however we’re made. We’ll go off, “go hard/get what’s [ours]” no matter what our haters say or do. That’s why there’s a church scene: because Bey just gave us all Gospel. Then she turns the “BlackLivesMatter” movement on its ear, with a little black boy dance battling a line of policemen–easily my favorite part of the video. Has she always been “woke,” i.e. totally self-aware and/or socially conscious? Have you? Is she here to speak for or even save the African-American experience or community? Are you?
Reflect on your own emotional, physical, social, financial, and spiritual evolution. Are you the same person you were fifteen years ago? I hope not. I am not even the same person I was a week before my last birthday! When you free yourself, you too will slay, swerve, serve, second line, toss sequins and twirl regardless of how other people respond–if they respond at all. You’ll do it on your own timeline. And you won’t need anyone’s permission. As for me, I’m headed to Red Lobster…and yes, I have hot sauce in my bag. Bye!
Images via Vogue and Hypable
This year, I held two internships, commuted between three cities, completed graduate school, started three (!) new jobs, covered the First Lady’s commencement speech at Tuskegee University and a story in my own backyard, published my first fashion piece for a magazine and my first essay for a major women’s-interest website, interviewed a Maasai chieftain, survived some serious shenanigans with my car, learned to live with hypoglycemia, raised some serious money for the United Way, took my first trip to New York City, appeared in Glamour magazine and got to share lifestyle expertise on 95.7 JAMZ and ABC 33/40 (a dream that was decades in the making!). The unexpected loss of an aunt and my grandmother during the last two months of this year have been sobering reminders to take absolutely nothing for granted. I am more determined than ever to drain every bit of positivity and purpose from 2016.
Throughout all the ups and downs, twists and turns, dead ends and roundabouts, this creative space has been a constant source of joy. Sometimes it’s been my escape. It has been the launching pad for so many special experiences this year that some of them will run over into next year’s posting schedule! I don’t make resolutions, but I will say it’s my intention to continue living life with a little bit of sparkle and a whole lot of gumption. And I’m especially excited about a couple of things coming up next month–but for now you’ll have to stay tuned! Thank you for sharing the journey with me; I can’t wait to see where 2016 takes all of us. I’m sure it’s going to be fabulous.
P.S. What are you looking forward to next year? Drop me a line in the comments!