Kiss Me, Kiss Me. Kiss Me Not!

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 02:17 a.m. DST, 22 January 2014

Indigo Lips, Photo by Florry One When I came back to the States from Africa in the late 70's, I was thrown into a school system and culture with which, like many people from different cultures and backgrounds, I was quite unfamiliar.

There was the usual lack of cultural sensitivity that routinely resulted in children asking me if I saw tigers walking down the middle of the street, or if I "put a glass up under all those naked, exposed breast, to get my milk."

It was offensive, but not necessarily hurtful. What did become painful were the taunts about my physical appearance. All children face ridicule at some point in their school careers. For some, the taunting, the desire to fit into whatever standard of 'cool' or 'beauty' of the day, and the incessant bullying, causes them to resort to harmful and often tragic measures in search of relief.

I made it through, but not unscathed, as nearly 30-years later, I still recall how hurtful it was when classmates would point out that my lips were 'liver lips', 'big, ugly gorilla lips,' and that my mouth, like the vacuum cleaning brand Hoover, was a dangerous weapon capable of rearranging the face of any boy foolish enough to kiss me.

So, with the recent trend in the entertainment industry, and in America as a whole, to achieve a mythical standard of beauty that now includes large lips, I bemusedly thought back to my childhood days and wondered if any of the girls who once taunted me, were now through some strange karmic leading, pumping, plumping, and outlining their lips to achieve an industry contrived standard of 'today's perfection.'

We all have things that we would like to change about ourselves. I have mine. However, I have come to appreciate my lips, but even more than this, I have come to appreciate my healthy lips, body, mind, and spirit. That said, this post does not pass judgement on those who desire to change something about themselves, but only seeks to encourage due diligence, introspection, and self-awareness before embarking on a journey that can result in Don Quixote's madness of chasing down enemies that do not exist.

We begin aging the moment we take our first breath, to do so with dignity is the greatest testament to a well-lived life. The video below should serve as a cautionary tale.

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hL0CClIzgEU]

 
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Sade, Timeless

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 13:30 PM EDT, 27 April 2012 First Published: 15:03 PM EDT, 15 January 2010

Sade, Photo by OutkastedLONDON, England - Helen Folasade Adu “Sade”, 53, who was born in Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria, has come out with a follow-up single to "Soldier of Love," aptly titled "Love is Found." It is amazing to watch and listen to a woman who has been performing since 1984, and whose musical style has remained consistently outstanding and timeless.

I think in part her longevity is due to the private nature of her life, as it seems she has wisely chosen to focus her public persona entirely on her music. But for a brief moment when she experienced a terribly painful breakup, this seems little more than a blip compared to the drama that regularly plays out in the tabloids and news media about today's "musicians."

Sade is a songstress, an artist who harkens back to vocalist like Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson, to name a few. Women who inhabited their talent with grace and class. We have chosen to update this post because of the recent news comparing Sade to Adele, another British superstar, and rumors of another album release.

Sade's soulful renderings come from a place borne of the experiences of a woman who has known and lost love, who is daughter and mother, who has navigated the complexities of a heritage that is both African and European, and who has passed through the agonies of heartbreak and pain played out in the public domain.

Her commitment to her music is what continues to draw fans to listen to and buy her music which has remained relevant even with a nine-year hiatus. She is the epitome of a true artist who is beholden first and foremost to their craft.

She possesses the patience to await the muse of inspiration that has once again enabled her to deliver a song that is "classic," evocative, and boldly revealing. She remains an inspiration to those of us who seek to live boldly without artifice, to display without sentiment our triumphs and foibles, and to experience the spectrum of emotional interactions that makes us uniquely human.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15WDBuvovXo]

Music video by Sade performing Love Is Found. (c) 2011 Sony Music Entertainment UK Limited

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Music video by Sade performing Soldier Of Love (c) 2010 Sony Music Entertainment UK Limited

Watch the making of "Soldier Of Love" below.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DLxYOiXT2c]

Weyni Mengesha | Ethiopian Film Director

Weyni Mengesha | Ethiopian Film Director

Weyni Mengesha, is an award winning director who has produced and directed performances of her work all across Canada, as well as in New York and London. This young and dynamic Habesha Nesh has big dreams some of which have been realized and others that are even now materializing because of her inner confidence, courage and dedication to following her truth. Mengesha is one of the founding artists of Sound the Horn (STH). In addition to serving the local community the organization also chose to focus on raising awareness about the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa. The devastating impact of HIV/AIDS has been most severe in sub-Saharan countries. "At the end of 2009, there were 9 countries in Africa where more than one tenth of the adult population aged 15-49 was infected with HIV.

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Kabuki Theatre | Monster Ball Tour

Kabuki Theatre | Monster Ball Tour

This weekend HBO featured Lady Gaga's 'Monster Ball Tour.' It was during a channel surfing session, that I happened upon the show midway through the concert. It was a captivating spectacle beyond belief. The costumery was so imaginative and outlandish I remained riveted to the program even though the music she was performing at that moment was difficult to hear and overshadowed by the choreography. Earlier in the day news releases announced that Lady Gaga has more than 10 million followers on Facebook. According to the report, she beat out this era's other most controversial, charismatic global personality, President Barak Obama by nearly 1 million followers.

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Matisyahu | One Day

My mother constantly amazes me and perhaps many people believe this of their mothers as well. Lately, what amazes me most about my diminutive, powerhouse, sixty-seven year old, Southern Baptist minister mom is the diversity, scope and breadth of her knowledge of popular culture. The other day I was speaking with her about Russell Simmons with regard to his business acumen and how instrumental his philosophy of giving back has contributed to his ability to have amassed a personal fortune of roughly $400 million. She then goes on to mention that his brother is Run D.M.C. and that he is the co-founder of Def Jam Records.

I had to laugh, my mother knew more about the rap music industry than her daughter. It was a poignant and sweet moment that reminded me that we are only as old as we allow ourselves to be. I mention this because later in the week she called me to tell me that I should record a concert of Matisyahu's "Live at Stubbs" in Austin, Texas.

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Naija Love | 2face Idibia

2face Idibia sings a wonderful anthem to the beauty of African women in his anthem song "You Are My African Queen." It is a video that resonates with me and I am sure it will with you as well. Not only are each of us unique but the women of Africa are vastly under represented in terms of beauty and strength because the Western media typically highlights the struggle and wretchedness of the lives of these women and their children.

Though this is a reality in many parts of Africa, the women of Africa a nonetheless striking, strong, incredibly diverse, intriguing and enchanting. The African beauties most familiar to Western cultures are the Nilotic women from Ethiopia, Eritrea or Somalia. Woman like Iman and Liya Kebede who grace the runways and covers of Eurocentric magazines.

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Istanbul Fashion Week

Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 22:37 PM EDT, 21 April 2010

ISTANBUL, Turkey - Often when people think of Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country, the idea of fashion does not readily come to mind.  However, the 2010 Spring Season Fashion show in Istanbul, Turkey should have dispelled this misconception.  Turkey has become the new centre of the East meets West fashion world. It has been prognosticated that within five years Turkey's fashion week could rival that of Paris, Milan, London, São Paulo, and New York; a trend which Vogue is capitalizing on with the issuance of a premier Vogue Turkey edition.

Turkish designer Hatice Gökce, who is a founder of the Association of Turkish Fashion Designers, says: “Traditionally, Turkey excelled in manufacturing but did so without an understanding of the design process. That changed with the recession, which has had the opposite effect in Turkey compared to its impact in other countries: it has not only encouraged many more young designers to set up business, but it has woken manufacturers up to designs importance.”

What was most fascinating but not as well-known were the Islamic fashions that were featured during this week. Muslim women, especially those who embrace the Hijab which is both the head covering that traditional Muslim women wear and adopting modesty in dress, are often patrons and attendees of the Paris and Milan fashion shows.  However, with the Turkey show, some designers decided to tap into this lucrative market by designing a line of clothes that were fashion forward but met the needs of conservative women who value modesty.

What is often not known by Westerners is the fact that there are many extremely affluent Muslim women, particularly of Saudi descent, who shop, purchase and wear clothes from some of the worlds most exclusive designers. Clothes which are usually worn beneath the Burqa when in public but in private are clearly displayed with pride.

The idea of modesty is not unique to Islam.  In fact every Orthodox sect of the major religions (Judaism and Christianity) practice some level of covering for women.  In Orthodox Judaism, Tzunit governs the conduct between women and men, the tenets of modesty, and dress codes for women. Part of Tzunit is the practice of covering one's head, particularly if married, since a woman's hair is her crowing glory and should be reserved for the enjoyment of her husband.

Chaldean Catholic women among others cover their heads, and for conservative, traditional women of all three faiths, the issue of modesty, particularly when traveling to coed beaches and swimming pools remained a challenge until now.

One of the fashions featured at the show was the "Burqini", a full body bathing suit that allows a woman to maintain her sense of modesty without restricting her movement in such a way that it would be difficult for her to swim.

Bathing suits that provide the wearer with a level of modesty to which they have become accustomed are sold by a number of vendors such as Ahiida, and the swimsuit line by Stingray Bay was most appealing because they focused on all three faiths - Islam, Judaism and Christianity, as well as providing alternatives for individuals who need to cover for environmental and health reasons.  In any case, the Turkey fashion show has challenged existing preconceptions of fashion, and informed the public about the diversity that exists among Muslim women.

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