Posts filed under fashion

Lessons In Colour - Lupita Nyongo Inspired Photo Shoot and Magazine Spread

In January 50 Shades of Black reported how Lupita Nyong'o dazzled in Dazed and Confused Magazine spread.  Inspired by that shoot, 50 Shades of Black featured artist and photographer of our BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE Open Photo Shoot on the campus of Emory University, Breonca Trofort, shot this amazing spread published by Afro Style Magazine.

On her Blog Trofort reflects:

Playing off of [Lupita's] editorial, I wanted to do a male fashion shoot focusing on the contrast of the elements of color, found in the make up, wardrobe, background, and prop choice. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to execute this concept “Lessons in Colour” with a collaborative effort from an amazing team consisting of African Model Kwabena Agyemang, MUA Danielle M, and Wardrobe Stylist Dallas.

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Check out the featured spread by Breonca Trofort in the latest Afro Style Magazine

Posted on July 27, 2014 and filed under art, blog, fashion, press.

From Niger With Love: Our Partners at Tamaji Magazine Release Inaugural Issue of New Magazine

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Almost a year ago, 50 Shades of Black announced a new partnership with Tamaji Magazine.  After many valuable contributions, articles, and personal stories including the exclusive story "50 Shades of Bruck" with professional model Bruck Tekle, Tamaji Magazine's founder Aminata Diop releases her inaugural downloadable full magazine issue.

Gracing the cover of this issue is Sarah Silverfield, the beautiful African Cinema Enthusiast who also shares an exclusive story as part of 50 Shades of Black | Africa, a series curated by Aminata Diop featuring stories of African born men and women living throughout the diaspora whose voices reflect a unique African perspective.

We are so proud of the entire Tamaji team and salute them as they celebrate this milestone.  We value our partnership with them and are delighted to see all that is to come.

"SHOWCASING THE TALENT OF THE DIASPORA'S CREATIVE FORCES".

Don't miss the first issue.

Posted on January 6, 2014 and filed under africa, art, fashion, personal stories, tamaji.

Sexuality & Skin Tone: 28 Years of LL Cool J's Radio

28 years ago almost to the day (November 18,1985), LL Cool J released his first studio album RADIO
...and has been at the center of conversations about (sex)uality and skin tone every since.

Tomorrow 50 Shades of Black presents a concept photo shoot (with a twist) inspired by the light skinned, lip-licking legend himself.

...in the meantime Download the Free 50 SHADES OF BLACK MUSIC Mixtape
feat music from LL Cool J to Lord Invader!  TELL A FRIEND

   Photography by Carlton Mackey   Make up by Chevon Dominique   Styling by Kari Mackey


Photography by Carlton Mackey
Make up by Chevon Dominique
Styling by Kari Mackey

Posted on November 25, 2013 and filed under art, fashion, music, sexuality, skin tone.

THE. BIRD. UNCAGED. l Pretty Fire l

THE. BIRD. UNCAGED. 
A. PRETTY. FIRE POEM. 
Photo Credit: Jared Tyler
MUA: Jrae Kilpatrick
Model/MUSE/STYLIST: Tanisha Lynn Pyron l PRETTY FIRE 

 

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See.....She was the RAREST breed of black bird. Due to the rarity of her beauty SHE was CAGED. Solitarily confined. Feathers FLEW. She knew there was more out there for her..... but little she could do. So she withdrew to the smallness of her cage. Sometimes she pecked, squawked and plucked and clawed at ANYBODY who got close to her, but she couldn't break through. SEE she was caged for HER protection cause the worlds not safe for black birds. It was for her own good. All her feathers and finery NEEDED to preserved by the bars of limitation......SHOOT. She was too fine a bird to be FREE. So she had to be Caged. Trained to sing with a MUTED voice. BIRDS LIKE HER needed to be tamed. Til they sing a new song, a familiar song, ONE WOMEN ARE ALLOWED TO SING. Preserved within an artificial habitat she was too MUCH to be released into the WILD. SEE she was sexy and smart richly adorned and colorful, full breasted; covering an oversized heart. that made her dangerous. An endangered species, hunted and preyed upon in her natural habitat. DAMAGED by the coarse hands of careless handlers who already had been give the instruction to handle with care or not to handle her at all. She was SOOoooooo small and yet grand in her beauty. It was somebody's duty to CAGE her. TAME her. Put her in a BOX on a shelf, and to teach her to sing on QUE like good little birdies do. She was too fragile in her softness. Her hollow bones broke easily........SEE She just wanted to be free. To sing. To soar. To explore. To engage the WIND, the WILD. To fly HIGH. TO TOUCH HEAVEN in her divinity, her humanity, her smallness, her splendor, her grandness, wretchedness and her beauty.

 

50 Shades of Black Announces its 2nd Open Photo Shoot

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

50 Shades of Black, the collaborative artistic and scholarly project exploring issues of race, sex, and identity, announces its Second Open Photo Shoot.

50 Shades of Black, having recently released its beautifully designed 120 Page Coffee Table Book is proud to announce that it will be holding its second major community engaged event on August 10, 2013 in Durham, North Carolina. 

The local community is encouraged to join 50 Shades of Black on Saturday, August 10, 2013 for its 2nd Open Photo Shoot to become a part of the movement! Participants will enjoy a free photo shoot courtesy of celebrated photographer Chris Charles of Creative Silence Photography and Design http://www.creativesilence.net  

Participants will be featured on the 50 Shades of Black website as well as have their photo considered for possible inclusion in upcoming 50 Shades of Black exhibits and projects including its next published printed volume.

Founded by Carlton Mackey, visual artist and Director of the Ethics & the Arts Program at the Emory University Center for Ethics, 50 Shades of Black is committed to exploring the complex relationship between race, skin tone, sexuality, and the formation of self-identity. Through collaborations with visual artists, scholars and the general public, this project hopes to offer a deeper understanding of what diversity means. It is in the recognition of this diversity that 50 Shades of Black acknowledges the historical role that race and skin tone have played in shaping the way we engage the world, how we perceive beauty, and our own self worth.

The 50 Shades of Black Open Photo Shoot will take place on Saturday, August 10 from 1PM to 4PM at 300 East Main St, Durham, NC 27701. This event is free and open to the public. Participants must RSVP online at: http://50shadesofblack-nc.eventbrite.com.  For more info regarding the Photo Shoot, please call Creative Silence (host photographer) at 919-930-5151.

About 50 Shades of Black

50 Shades of Black is a multi-faceted platform for creating an interactive global dialogue around issues of race, skin tone, sexuality and identity. Exploring these themes through visual art, literature, curated blogs, and educational curriculums, 50 Shades of Black aims to explore the ways in which our individual experiences of race give rise to the formation of our unique and often conflicting identities. For more information, please visit: www.50shadesofblack.com

Contact:

Carlton Mackey

carltonmackey@50shadesofblack.com

###

 

50 Shades of Black - Book In Production

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Ladies & Gentleman, It's official. A Book Is About to be Made.
(Tears)

ORDER TODAY AT:www.indiegogo.com/projects/50-shades-of-black/ Book Release June 22. Details to Come.
(More Tears)


My Natural Hair Journey, Debunking Natural Hair Myths and 25 Things That Bother Me as a Woman of Color #6

Can we talk about Black women and the natural hair transitioning movement for a minute?

Ya’ll already know that I have obviously come across an article or piece of commentary on the subject that has me irritated at the moment; otherwise, why else would I be writing? ;)

But before I get into the root (no pun intended) of this irritation, I want to share my natural hair story with you.

I was natural for 10 years. From the moment I shaved my head hours before entering into the year 2001, I’ve rocked everything from the low boy-cut to afro-puffs to two strand twists to locks and all the way back down to boy cuts and back to locks again.

Although it required a lot of maintenance, I loved my natural hair; primarily for its versatility. It was cool having people ask me, “Who did your hair?” “Oh, you did it yourself?” “How did you do it like that?” (My foreign friends) “Can you do MY hair like that?”

I didn’t even mind the: “Can I touch it?” and “Oh, it’s really soft!” I know that irks most women with natural hair but for seven of the 10 years that I was natural, I lived in Doha, where a lot of people had never even seen hair like mine. So, the requests for petting didn’t really bother me much.

What WAS a bother, though, was maintaining my hair in its natural state. I attribute it to the water and weather conditions in the Middle East coupled with the fact that I didn’t have access to a) the products I needed to keep it properly conditioned and moisturized in those conditions and b) a natural hair specialist to assist in this maintenance.

The first three years of my being natural, my hair was much healthier. I was in the States, breathing cleaner air, maintaining a healthier diet, using proper products. I loved when my hair grew long enough to twist because my twists looked more like tiny ringlets. Here are some photos of my hair just a few weeks before moving overseas.

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(By the way, this is my friend Alton who I haven’t seen or spoken to since 2004…if anyone knows him, knows how to contact him, let him know Kristen has been trying to find him!)

Back then, my hair was softer; more manageable and I was both in the best environment and had access to the right products to keep it up.

But once I moved to Doha, it was a whole new ballgame. I knew there was something different in the water once my hair began to lock. After about two years of twisting my hair, I’d become convinced that my hair was incapable of locking. I would leave it twisted for weeks only to wash it and pick it straight out.

Wasn’t any easy picking in Doha, though. My hair texture changed completely within the first year of living there and so began the hate portion of the love-hate relationship I developed for my natural hair.

Those who showered me with compliments had no idea what I had to go through to get my hair into that style. There was a fair share of blood, sweat, and TEARS, real tears, picking and twisting and patting and braiding that coarse crown of mine into shape. However, the end result was always well worth it, even if it did only last a couple of days.

But in spite of the blood, sweat and tears, I had a lot more love than hate for my natural hair. I loved it because was unique. One of a kind. Made me stand out in the crowd. And I had a lot of fun with it. It’s been a ton of different styles and damn near every color of the rainbow.

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Just as my hair was embraced overseas, it was also, understandably, misunderstood. Again, most of the people I encountered had never even seen hair like mine. I remember one time before a fashion show, myself and the other models went to the salon to get our hair and make-up done. You should have seen the look on those Lebanese hair stylists faces as they watched me take my hair out of the cornrows they were in.

Each of them were kind of looking at each other like, “What the hell is she doing and what the hell are we supposed to do with what she is doing and which one of us is going to do it?

It wasn’t until I’d finished taking out all of my braids and picking my hair out did their eyes light up, and what was confusion turned into a mixture of fascination and relief. It was at that moment one of the male stylists came over to me, sprayed a bit of glitter sheen on to my fro, and walked away all pleased with himself as if he did something.

Needless to say, though, my hair was the highlight of the show that night.

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There were a few other occasions where there were looks of confusion but most of my stares were of curiosity. And this is what I think I enjoyed about my hair the most…the fact that there were few if not ZERO other women walking around Doha with hair like mine; so it was like one of my signifying features.

And again, it’s been in every style. It’s been locked:

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It’s been puffed:

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It’s been braided:

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(And clearly from these photos, I’ve been drunk.)

It’s been colored:

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It’s been coiled:

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It’s even been straightened:

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Which brings me to where I am now. The photo above was taken in June 2010. It wasn’t the first time that I’d straightened my hair (I’d used a hot comb on it back in 2005; that turned out to be a horrific hair damaging experience; more on that later) but it was the first time that I began considering going back straight permanently.

Let me go back real quick, though, as I feel I need to put into perspective the events that lead to me considering such. As I said earlier, my hair locked within the first year of living in Doha. Soon after, however, these locks began to break off. I’m talking chunks at the end of the lock just snapping right on off. So in 2006, I went back to square one, chopped it all off and began the process again. Low cut…baby fro…adult fro…afro puffs…twists…and eventually locks again. 

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(This photo was taken in 2009, the last time my hair was locked.)

But theeeeeeeeeeen..once again…these locks began to break off as well. This is when I began losing my patience with my hair, and with no one there to care for it properly (as I clearly didn’t know what the hell I was doing), I gave up on locking it altogether and chopped it off one more time.

I didn’t have to cut it all off this go round. There was enough unlocked hair for me to cut it and still have it long enough to corn-row and two-strand twist it.

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And this was cool for a while, but again my patience with my hair was running low. I just wanted it to grow and just be already so I wouldn’t have to block out 5 hours of my days just to style it. I was happy when it got long enough for me to corn-row it again and for like a year, the braided pony puff became my signature style.

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Simple, not as time consuming, flattering, professional, cute.

Still, about now, we are in 2010 and at this point, my hair had been through hell and back in its natural state for about 9 years. The water damage, the lack of proper moisturizers, the heat and dusty desert air, the cutting and growing and re-cutting and growing. Not only did it all become exhausting but the Gemini in me was starting to grow bored with the entire process.

I was tired of taking two hours to braid it into a puff. I wanted to just be able to take two minutes to brush it into a ponytail. This is what prompted me to try my hand at blow-outs.

Now as I mentioned above, the photo taken in 2010 was not my first time straightening my hair; it was just the first time I’d used a blow dryer and flat-iron to do so. Back when I hot-combed it, I didn’t like the fact that when I would wash it again, it didn’t all return to its natural kinky state; there were strings of hair that appeared to be confused as to what condition they wanted to be in. Plus, I didn’t like the smell or feel of hot-combed greasy ass hair. So this go-round, I followed the online advice of using a blow-dryer instead.

And I loved it. I loved the feel of it, I loved the ease of it. I could get up, brush/curl and go! I also appreciated the fact that when I washed it, there were no longer those confused strings of hair hanging from my afro-puff.

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I continued with blow-outs for about 9 months…and pretty soon, I became exhausted with that too. It was a two to three hour process just like my braids and twists. Not only that but the heat required for me to achieve a straight look coupled with the hell-tastic temperature outside didn’t make this the most healthiest choice for my hair. 

Still, I was digging the straight look and had already had my eyes on some really funky cuts and styles I wanted to try out with my hair in a permanently straightened state. So during the course of that 9 months, I found myself leaning more towards transitioning BACK.

It wasn’t an easy decision to make and I gave myself a while to think about it. Did I really want to revert back to the creamy crack after I’d been such an advocate for natural hair all these years?

Now mind you, I was never one of those natural sisters who thought that everyone else relaxing their hair was a victim of self-hate. It is this idea that has me writing today (alas, the point of this post!) as this seems to be the mindset of transitioning/transitioned women these days.

They seem to feel as if they are a part of some elite club that has them branded as those who love and accept themselves more than those who use chemicals and other treatments to alter their look. I mean, we are not talking about breast augmentation or rhinoplasty here. It’s hair, bitches. Hair.

However, I was an advocate in such that I supported other women who chose to go the natural route. And I did so because I knew of how fun the whole process could be. Nerve-wrecking at times, but overall, exciting, experimental, fun.

But after 10 years of it, though, I personally had become all afro-puffed and kinky twisted and braided and blowed-out…out! I even went through a wig phase for a little while.

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Just to try something different. Which is exactly why I went natural in the first place. There was no desire to get in touch with my true self, etc. etc. I was just curious to see what my hair was like, fresh out the scalp, untouched; and wanted to learn what new looks I could create in that state.

I never felt “more Black” or more of myself as a result of this decision. Because I am still Kristen whether my hair is relaxed or natural. Because it’s just hair. I have a lazy eye that I refuse to get Lasik to repair because this is a part of who I am and if there IS to be any repair done on it, I’m waiting on God to do His work. My being “cock-eyed” is what is natural to me.

I still have the same size boobs I’ve had since I was 12 years old and dammit, I am okay with that, too. Should I pop out a lil’ one and finally develop an adult woman’s chest so be it, if not cool. My being flat-chested is what is natural to me.

And my lazy eye and flat-chest are things that I feel should I alter, doing so will be a major disruption in God’s design. These are the characteristics about myself that keep me humble. Plus, to alter these characteristics would require my putting trust in physicians and surgeons, and ummmm, no I don’t trust those mofos.

When it comes to me hair? Naaa, I don’t think that deep. It’s really not that serious. And what I’ve realized is that whether my hair is natural or relaxed, it’s still being manipulated into a style that is of my liking. I didn’t just let my hair grow natural without adding some form of man-made product to make it more…ummm…pliable, and none of the other natural women in the world are going 100% either. Wait, where you going with that Carol’s Daughter, girl? Unh-unh. Keep it natural. Get you some juices and berries Zamunda style and keep the party going.

Tsk. More on that in a minute.

Back to my story…where did I leave off? Oh yea. I considered my position on support for natural hair for months before coming to the conclusion of “Fuck it.” What I support is people making the choices for themselves that make them happy. Who knows, had I never moved overseas, my natural hair experience probably would have been completely different. But seven years of damage had me missing healthy hair. I wanted healthy hair. I needed to return to healthy hair.

And if going back to relaxed hair for the simple fact that at least there were products there that I could use to support it, and it would add one less thing for me to stress over (as I was at a place in my personal life that was causing me to have anxiety attacks…I needed peace in at least one area of my life…at least one), then so be it.

So I did it again. I did the big chop. But this time, I had a relaxer kit on my side. And over the past two years I’ve gone from this:

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…to this:

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to this...

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to this...

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…and as of yesterday, to this:

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I have yet to regret my decision. Two weeks after I cut my hair, I moved back to the States, back to cleaner air, softer water, a healthier diet, a stress-free atmosphere. And my hair is the healthiest its been EVER.

And what irritates me and thus has this topic going as #6 on my list is this misguided idea that my decision to go back to relaxers is a result of my hating my natural hair. Yes, I mentioned a love-hate relationship but the truth is, I loved my natural hair. What I hated was the fact that I wasn’t in the right environment and lacked the proper resources to maintain it. However, the possibilities were endless when it came to what I could do with my hair and this is what I both found most rewarding about MY experience and what I love most about natural hair, period.

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It’s beautiful. It’s versatile. It is a representation of the Black woman’s crown. So I get it. Although I didn’t feel an additional sense of righteousness with my natural hair, even prior to the stress that came along three years in, I can see how women who choose to go that route gain this overwhelming sense of self-assuredness (if that’s even a word.) Again, I get it.

What I will not stand for, however, are those questioning my sense of self as a result of my decision to relax my hair again. True, there are women who relax their hair because they “hate nappy hair”. I am actually quoting my Grandmother here. In fact, her exact words were, “I can’t staaaaaaaaand nappy hair.

Keep in mind, this is the same Grandmother who convinced my mother to relax my hair for the first time when I was only two or three years old because she felt that I was too “light-skinned for nappy hair”; not considering that given that my Father’s side of the family possess the silky straight and curly, I probably derived my stronger roots from her sided of the family tree. Just saying.

So I do recognize the existence of those who refuse to embrace their natural hair because they don’t find it beautiful. I was never that person, though. My hair was the shit! But guess what, my hair is STILL the shit!

And I am not one of those who touch-up my hair at the first sign of bushy edges. I go four to six months in between relaxers to give my new growth a chance to grow and breathe and be exposed to some protein and deep conditioning treatments before altering it chemically.

So contrary to popular belief, yes, you CAN have healthy relaxed hair. And yes, you can be a strong self-loving Black woman while walking out of Dollar General with your ORS Relaxing Kit.

So natural sisters, get off your high horse, will you? Ya’ll ain’t no better than anyone else simply because you’ve done the same thing all women do on a daily basis, which is, make an individual choice how you want to style your hair. We don’t all have to agree. Hell, I am anti-hair weave but I am not going to knock other women who wear it and make assumptions about the way they perceive themselves simply because of my personal reasons for not going that route.

It’s a matter of personal choice and I am sick and tired of this natural hair debate as it is only giving women another reason to be divided among each other.

Not all of us think we “look better” with straight hair. Not all of us are bound up by mental chains concerning our hair. Not all of us “hate nappy hair.” Most if not all of us are showing love to what God blessed us with by making our own choices as to what the hell we want to do with it.

THAT is what’s natural.

Kristen

READ 25 Things That Bother Me As a Woman of Color #5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 HERE

Posted on May 27, 2013 and filed under fashion, personal stories.

THE THOUGHT & SOUL BEHIND THE DESIGN: AN INTERVEIW WITH CHRIS CHARLE

 Chris Charles is the owner of Creative Silence and is a special featured contributor to 50 Shades of Black

Chris Charles is the owner of Creative Silence and is a special featured contributor to 50 Shades of Black

Why do you support 50 Shades of Black?

I see 50 Shades of Black as a wonderful platform to help facilitate the important conversations we as people of color have, or need to have regarding the issues of identity and sexuality we face in today's world. The use of art, articles and community building, are all things that attracted me to this project even more.

What is your overall design philosophy and how do you apply it to this project?

My design philosophy is based on simplicity, while letting strong imagery merge seamlessly with content. While looked at as a clichéd term, I still believe less is more when it comes to visually making a statement in a clean, but still artistic manner.

Has working so intimately on this project changed the way you view your own artistic process or the way you view collaboration? 

Interestingly enough, one of the things I promised myself as the year began, was to be more open to the collaborative process. Aside from direct client collaborations, I typically have not, in the past, made an effort to join artistic and aesthetic forces with other businesses and minds. With this collaboration for 50 Shades of Black, I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Carlton to help bring his vision to life, while having the artistic freedom to express his concepts visually. If anything, I see myself collaborating even more with other like minds as the years progress.

What are your thoughts about hosting a 50 Shades of Black Open Shoot in NC?  

After seeing the great amount of love Atlanta showed for the inaugural 50 Shades of Black open shoot, I am more than excited to see North Carolina represent in the same way and come out for our shoot. We are currently in the process of securing a venue, all we'll need is the support of NC to take it home.

Any further thoughts?

I just wanted to thank Carlton Mackey for having the vision to put this movement together. The talent and minds involved in this project are a sheer testament to the strength of the vision behind it. I knew when I first saw Carlton's original 50 Shades of Black graphic, that it was the start of something special. I'm looking forward to the positivity that will continue to grow from the dialogue this has created.


"Sometimes inspiration can be found as much in the individual as in the art the individual creates".

This is definitely the case with how I feel about Chris Charles.  I discovered his work about the same time that I joined Tumblr and released my initial 50 Shades of Black concept design.  I knew this brother was seeking to convey meaning through his work that was larger than himself.  I think that this is something that all great artists do.  The secret seems to be that as much as we, the consumers of the work, are convinced that they have already found it, the artist never seems to think so.  They are therefore always reaching -always seeking for the transcendent (to them) just beyond their grasp. 

To me his work conveys as much of a quest as it does a discovery.  For that I am grateful that he has decided to journey with me.

 -Carlton Mackey (Creator of 50 Shades of Black) 

UPDATE:  50 Shades of Black and Creative Silence are Partnering to bring you the 2nd Open Photo Shoot of 50 Shades of Black! 

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Chris Charles/Creative Silence | photo + design is prominently featured in the upcoming 50 Shades of Black Coffee Table Book.

ORDER TODAY

 

50 Shades of Bruck Tekle.

WAVING THE ERITREAN FLAG FROM KREFELD TO NEW YORK CITY.

My name is Bruck Tekle. I was born and raised in Krefeld, Germany, a small town in the Western region (North Rhain Westphalia) of Germany to Eritrean parents. Eritrea is a small country in East Africa. I was blessed to go to Eritrea after its independence from Ethiopia in 91 and got to experience my heritage first hand. Was it a culture shock? Yes of course, but it did not take a long time to overcome it. All it really took was to get familiar with everyone in my family from back home, whom I had never met due to being born and raised in Germany. Sure enough, it started to become interesting and fun. I actually went back twice ever since and loved it even more.

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The thing that inspired me the most back then and still does to this day is that although my people live in a third world country, they still manage to survive and yet try to discover the humor of things. If that is not inspiration at its best, then I don't know what it is. It really taught me not to have words such as "can not, depressed, discouraged" in my vocabulary. Things get rough for all of us from time to time and there are moments where it feels like there is no way out, but I tell myself that if my people manage to survive in a third world set up, I actually got a sweet deal and should not complain nor take things for granted. I have been living in NYC permanently for the last 6 years. I actually came here in the hopes to land a basketball scholarship which unfortunately did not workout. I stuck around a little longer and the next thing you know, I stumbled into the modeling world and here I am today. It’s funny how your aspirations can change from one minute to the next but I guess that's the beauty of life.

What I do:

     My career picked up momentum over the last year and I have been getting more exposure as opposed to the beginning of my career. I have been branching out into the acting world as well and can’t wait to see what the future holds for me in that field.

My dream: 

One of my dreams was to come to America and make it in basketball as you saw in my introduction and it did not happen. It was a tough bullet to swallow because I really loved the game and it’s still hard to this day to just let it go. You have to look on the bright side of things. While it may hurt that I was not able to fulfill my dream, I still got to take something out of that predicament... it molded me into the person that I am today. My dreams changed over the years as they usually do throughout the course of life and are more so about being able to help my family and loved ones. If I can take it a little further, my dream is to help others that are really in need of assistance and cannot do for themselves. If I get to be a famous Model/ Actor at the same time, then it would be a win-win situation.

Defining success and what inspires me to be successful:

I believe everyone has their own idea of success or the way one defines success. I saw this post a little while back somewhere and it stated,

"EVERY SUCCESSFUL PERSON HAS A PAINFUL STORY, AND EVERY PAINFUL STORY HAS A SUCCESSFUL ENDING",

which I think is true. People are quick to look at someone and judge their success by what kind of car they drive, the house they own, their popularity, etc. but no one really knows what hurdles that person actually had to face in order to reach that type of success. I believe that when your hard work – hard work, as in "Blood, Sweat and Tears" work – finally pays off, that success is reached. I also feel that there are many different levels of success that apply to any and every human being. My definition of success might not apply to whoever is reading this article while his or her definition might not apply to me, which is totally normal.

The word inspiration and success go hand in hand. Personally, it does not take much for me to get inspired and I do not mean this in a negative or arrogant way. I feel like the easiest way for someone to get inspired is to just take a look around you. The world has so much to offer and there are many different ways of being successful. It does not necessarily mean financially, even though we need some type of financial stability in order to live but besides that, there is a wide variety of success. For instance, if I am a better person today than I was yesterday, then that is a form of success, or if I can help someone else become a better person or create some kind of happiness in their life. 

On the concept of beauty:

Physical beauty starts with confidence, which is not a physical attribute, but you can definitely see when it's not there and that goes for both man and woman. Your overall appearance and how you carry yourself in public has a lot to do with physical beauty which ranges from hygiene to a beautiful smile etc. Inner beauty on the other hand can be found in someone who is genuinely kind, loving, caring, polite; someone who is not envious; instead he/she is happy for other people. I think that both of these particular aspects whether attributed or achieved, are equally important in today's society. But if I had to choose one of the two, I would go for inner beauty over all, for the simple fact that inner beauty is genuine and honest where in comparison physical beauty can be intriguing yet fake. To be politically correct on this matter, I would say that physical beauty lures people in but that the inner beauty will keep them there.

If I stood in front of the entire African diaspora:

I do not think that I am in any type of position to make such statements, but if I were granted this great honor, I would start by saying to strive for whatever it is you believe in, to simply do what you have to do in order to survive and to help your family, without forgetting to help each other. I am saying this with great discretion because it’s always easier said than done for the person that is looking from the outside in, especially into a place like Africa.

What needs work in our community:

There is a variety of things that needs change in our community and I could not tell you where to start because all areas of our community are equally important to me. In order to change a community, you need to change the people that are in charge of those communities and they need to be willing to make the necessary adjustments in order to help better our communities.

In order to create a positive change, one does not have to solve tremendous amount of issues, or solve world hunger and poverty. I am not saying this to minimize the importance or value of that work, but it’s more in the sense of having the willingness to roll up your sleeves and devote some time. All in all, I would like to see more activities for children in any and every community. I really feel it is important to invest into youth programs and anything that involves children so they can actually grow up and develop to their full potential.

The book I’d recommend to readers of Tamaji:

50 Shades of Black”! I would recommend this book to anybody who is open minded and interested in foreign cultures. I was told once that the more we travel and discover the world, the less prejudiced we get. If you believe in discovering other cultures and meeting people from around the diaspora, then this is the book for you.

Find Bruck on Twitter: @brucktekle; on Instagram: BRUCKTEKLE;  and on Facebook

 50 Shades of Black is proud to partner with Tamaji Magazine.  ”50 Shades of Black | Africa” is a weekly column curated by Tamaji’s founder Aminata Diop.  The column features personal interviews with African-born men and women living throughout the Diaspora whose voices reflect a unique African perspective.  This week’s feature is Bruck Tekle from Eritrea.  Be sure to tune in next week!

BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE: THE MAKING OF OUR FIRST SIGNATURE GARMENT

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I'm geeked!  Adorning my body right now is the first (fresh off the press) signature garment of 50 Shades of Black.  It's bold yet seemingly effortless design reflects the aesthetic of its designer Chris Charles of Creative Silence.  Charles is a featured artist of 50 Shades of Black and it was my distinct pleasure to invite him to create our first signature garment.  

My great friend Chaz Pope...who might appear to be my stunt double in the photos below is the owner of Di Versa Phi Designs.  Walking me through the entire process this weekend and allowing me to see this idea come to life right before my very eyes was so exciting.  I can't thank them enough.

...and I can't thank each of you enough in advance for your support.  By purchasing this shirt, you join a new movement of celebration, affirmation, and liberation.  You enable us to continue our efforts to merge the power of art and personal stories to harness a global movement of transformation.

This has been a labor of love for all of us...we thank you in advance for your support!!!

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Join the Movement | Support Local Artists | Wear With Pride

Custom Design, Created by Hand

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HALF-DRAG: DRAG QUEENS SHOW OFF DUAL IDENTITIES

 Vikki Villianese Photo by:  LELAND BOBBE PUBLISHED: 03/21/2013 8:45:38LELAND BOBBE

Vikki Villianese Photo by: LELAND BOBBE PUBLISHED: 03/21/2013 8:45:38LELAND BOBBE

These drag queens aren't afraid to showcase their dual identities, and they're getting a little help thanks to New York photographer Leland Bobbe. In a project entitled "Half-Drag ... A Different Kind of Beauty," Bobbe sets out to capture both the female and male sides of New York City drag queens, having his subjects pose only halfway in drag. Check out the amazing series of photos ...  Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/drag-queens-makeup-gallery-1.1294341?pmSlide=14#ixzz2OId942nf

One of our readers forwarded me this article today.  In a very distinct yet poignant way this offers us yet another way to examine the broader mission of 50 Shades of Black: to explore sexuality and skin tone in formation of identity.

In what subtle and obvious ways does this photo series do that?