Candidly Elle

I'm just a girl in love with words and sentences.

More than a skin tone…

Earlier this year I had a very thought provoking conversation with some of my girlfriends about color. The book Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg was the encouraging factor, behind this conversation for me at least. We as woman were accomplishing many things in life professional, only the one barrier we still couldn’t leap over still was the racial barrier.  We have a stigma in our youth on what is right in life and for some the dream of a bright future has been deferred.  We are still living in jaded times.  Some of us may never live that American dream or move on up to have that deluxe apartment in the sky. The color issue is still alive and well, it’s about time we hash it out and move forward.  It’s the 21st century now we have an African-American President, color boundaries should be nonexistent.  This blog is based on my thoughts and a great conversation with my friends: Veronica, Juwana, Erin and Andrea. I hope you enjoy.

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As a young girl growing I never noticed the differences in color and culture.  My mother raised my brother and I to love everyone the same and treat each person with respect.  It never bothered me when my cousins nicknamed me “Hilary”(Will Smith’s proper cousin from the “Fresh Prince of Bel Air”) or the fact that I loved “No Doubt” and my cousins liked “Tupac”.  So when I recently watched a documentary called Dark Girls it made me look back and reevaluate my views on color, role models and life itself.  Growing up I was schooled primarily in a white district, with the black children always in the minority.  I was completely color blind and slightly clueless.  Looks didn’t become a focal point until high school.  I was a drama geek; my close friends were blondes, redheads and brunettes.  Lanky with not so manageable hair, at that time I couldn’t embrace my brown skin, slanted eyes and constant acne.  I wanted to look like the girls on the cover of Teen People, Seventeen and Cosmo.  Helena Christensen was my idol, beautiful model with eyes the color of ocean.   I remember the first time I saw her in Chris Isaac’s Wicked Games Video, 1991. I thought she was gorgeous. I wanted to look just like her; it was impossible my color didn’t match hers. It was the first time I ever felt different.

Chris Isaak’s Wicked Games Video, 1991.

To fit in with my friends I straightened my hair and add hair extensions to add more length.  I was pretty, but not beautiful and I could accept that. So, I enhanced with makeup to feed my poor self-esteem.  Vanity has always been the key, looking better than the next woman; while harboring self-doubt subconsciously.  But for some reason black skin has always been made to feel inferior. It was as if there weren’t black models to look up to like Iman, Beverly Johnson or the fierce Naomi Campbell.  Black women wanted straight hair and the light eyes and the models emulated that type. For Veronica color and beautiful has never really been a factor, her school was predominantly black and she never had a stigma or saw anything different.  But things are different for her daughter  “I see it with Des though. She only has one full black friend, the rest are mixed.  The other little black girls says ‘she thinks she cute’.”  In reference to Destiny’s color, she’s half Puerto Rican and African-American.  I then went on to reference that the lack of self-esteem in the physical appearance that is wavering in this culture. Destiny’s appearance is notice, because she is inherently beautiful but different due to no fault of her own.  Everyone wants to look like someone else, instead of embracing his or her own wonderful flaws.  Erin a white woman with two bi-racial son leans toward the thought that “Beauty comes in all shades.  It breaks my heart to see any woman not love her beautiful self.” While that assumption is true, it’s not easily believable for some.  The discussion then switched to a heavier tone and I was really excited, because the sugarcoating was out the window and we were getting to the root of the issues.  Why do we focus on color? Can we ever get past it or is this some that is nurtured?

To fit in with my friends I straightened my hair and add hair extensions to add more length.  I was pretty, but not beautiful and I could accept that. So, I enhanced with makeup to feed my poor self-esteem.  Vanity has always been the key, looking better than the next woman; while harboring self-doubt subconsciously.  But for some reason black skin has always been made to feel inferior. It was as if there weren’t black models to look up to like Iman, Beverly Johnson or the fierce Naomi Campbell.  Black women wanted straight hair and the light eyes and the models emulated that type. For Veronica color and beautiful has never really been a factor, her school was predominantly black and she never had a stigma or saw anything different.  But things are different for her daughter  “I see it with Des though. She only has one full black friend, the rest are mixed.  The other little black girls says ‘she thinks she cute’.”  In reference to Destiny’s color, she’s half Puerto Rican and African-American.  I then went on to reference that the lack of self-esteem in the physical appearance that is wavering in this culture. Destiny’s appearance is notice, because she is inherently beautiful but different due to no fault of her own.  Everyone wants to look like someone else, instead of embracing his or her own wonderful flaws.  Erin a white woman with two bi-racial son leans toward the thought that “Beauty comes in all shades.  It breaks my heart to see any woman not love her beautiful self.” While that assumption is true, it’s not easily believable for some.  The discussion then switched to a heavier tone and I was really excited, because the sugarcoating was out the window and we were getting to the root of the issues.  Why do we focus on color? Can we ever get past it or is this some that is nurtured?

Super Models Circa 1990, Photo Courtesy of Vogue

Super Models Circa 1990, Photo Courtesy of Vogue

“Real talk and I hate to say this about my people…The little black girls come to the bus stop with weave and make up on at 8-9 years old. They’re failing in school. It’s the parents’ fault. The white people (in my area) are teaching their kids at home and wanting more for them.”  Exclaimed Veronica who will always state the truth and I love her for it. For young girls it’s an issue and I wholehearted concur with Veronica.  I also have a light skin/hazel eyed daughter who is going through issues in the third grade regarding color and hair type; however education is promoted in my house not how you look on the exterior.  My daughter has curly hair (she’s multiracial) and is constantly asking me for a blow out so she can look like “Barbie”.  I explained to her that she is beautiful the way she was born and its knowledge that will get you ahead in life.  But an eight year old doesn’t want to hear that. Children are influenced by the surroundings they are nurtured in, if that includes a white Barbie or Selena Gomez that’s the visual interpretation will want to emulate. “I grew up in an all white neighborhood.  So I was black no matter how brown I was.  My mom looks white; I was the darkest one in our household.  I actually like to tan to look darker.  Skin color means absolutely nothing to me. Some people are awesome, some people are assholes – no matter what color or how dark or light they are.”  Juwana said.  “I think it’s mostly girls.  My sons have a wide variety of shades in friends, all races and all shades. And its not ever brought up as far as I can tell.”  Erin replied who has two biracial sons.

Me in 1999 at 17 and at 33. Courtesy of Elle Henry

Andrea another friend said “I think that there is a serious divisions amongst black people based on skin color.  I’m a caramel color and my sister is white as snow.  Same mom and dad but our skin tones are different.  I remember being asked so many times growing up if we had different fathers, if my sister was mixed and all kinds of dumb stuff.  I realized as I grew up that we as black people are trained to dislike darker skinned people.  Dark skin is associated with ugliness and evil.  The slick with the images they show us and our definition of beauty comes from them.  I had a complex about my skin color all the way to high school.  It wasn’t until college that I realized that I had beautiful toasted skin and other ethnicities went through great effort to look like me.  Brown girls aren’t obsessed with light skin.  Everybody else is.”  She also states  “We teach our kids to love themselves.  Show them images of beautiful black women and men light and dark.”  She pointed out that when we grew up there were a greater amount of books published for African-Americans.  She did not realize that she was “the darkest in my family” but she wasn’t out casted either.  Her family did a great job of making her feel beautiful.  She is also one the strongest women I know, which reflects on her up bring.

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Iman (Cover of Cosmo), Naomi (Black/White Fashion Spread) and Beverly (Cover of Vogue).

I pondered why there was a stigma against women of color.  We are always secondary on the scale when compared to the creamy white skin.  A lot of it has to do with the fact that for many years there weren’t enough sufficient black female role model for young black girls.  Then when there were they weren’t equal to the white counter parts.  The bad always outweighed the good.  We had Whitney Houston, but she will forever be known for that Diane Sawyer interview Diane Sawyer Interview (“Crack is whack” & “Show me the receipts!”).  Not for the beautiful voice that calmed a nation during the Gulf War with her rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner at Super Bowl XXV (See video link below). That is a moment in history worthy of a lifetime of respect no matter what her personal transgressions were.  But Whitney will be memorialized for substance abuse and that’s unfair, when others like Elvis are hailed as the “King of Rock n Roll” and not for his prescription drug problems.  We have role models to look up to like the late Whitney and Mariah Carey, However we focus on their failures instead of their accolades.

Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston

Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston-National Anthem Super Bowl XXV

Too many young black girls are living on a dream deferred, when we should focus on a future of plans.  Yes, we should all work hard in life, but we are still judged by the color of our skin and not by the content of our character and what we have to offer to society. We are more than just girls with weave in are hair and big butts.  When we learn that beauty truly lies within each individual and that we are made uniquely one of a kind from our creator beautiful as is. Then we can celebrate our chocolate brown skin for it’s many tones, because black is in fact beautiful. We are not inferior to the color of our skin anymore and it shouldn’t hasten the promise of what we can become.  I hope that this inspired some or even one.

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Thanks for reading,

Elle

This is dedicated to Juju, Roni, Erin and Drea .

 

 

Tis the Season to be Thankful…

 

Courtesy of Nbc Universal

Courtesy of Nbc Universal

Tis’ the season to be disrespectful, forget exactly it is why we are thankful and the real spirit of the holidays.

I your new friend Elle, just so happens to be a lover of all things Christmas and Thanksgiving; however it’s the people in the malls and the inpatient nature of the sales clerks that really tear down the joy of the holidays. Here’s my top reason’s the holiday’s can truly suck and a few reason’s it can be wonderful. I love the holidays in Florida; it’s my favorite time of the year here.

Best:

1. Macy Christmas Tree and the Grinchmas at Universal Orlando. It’s like having a taste of New York City right here in Orlando, with that big beautiful Tree and who doesn’t love the Grinch!

2. The weather. I’m a Florida girl born and raised. I love having beautiful weather on Christmas to celebrate my beautiful family.

3.DISNEY!! (Need I say more?!) Everything about Disney is beautiful during, Christmas including the parades!

4. Random acts of Kindness.

Peeves:

1. Black Friday starting on Thursday…REALLY? As if thanksgiving isn’t enough of a stress (You try cooking a 20 pound turkey) I have to worry about people with no lives getting all the good sales first.  Thanks a lot crappy economy now I have to force my food down early so I can trade places in line with mom at the Coach outlet!

2. Black Friday…It should be renamed “Terrible Friday“. I have never seen such mean, evil nasty human being on one day and that’s just in the parking lot at Millennia Mall.  You will get that go spot in the front that you stole and Satan is smiling down on you.

3. Long lines everywhere for everything.

If we all just remembered the real reason for the season…Family the holiday will be a lot brighter. That’s my rant.

Yours in words,

Elle

Follow me @AvidWriterElle

Like me on Facebook.com/AuthorElleHenry

Hometown Glory

Current School, Courtesy ocps.net

Current School, Courtesy ocps.net

I remember the last time that I visited 6000 S. Winegard Rd. it was May of 1999. It was sort of a Daphne Du Maurier “Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again…” Rebecca moment. I was there one last time to pick up my high school diploma. I didn’t even bother to park as I pulled up in front of the administration building. I bolted inside, grabbed my freedom, and jumped back in my car speeding away. That was almost sixteen years ago. Most alumni savor the memories of their hometown glory when they visit the old campus; however my revisit was a little bit different. My campus was no longer present. I never thought the school that held so many memories the four years I attended from August 1995 until May of 1999 would later be rebuilt into a multi-level campus resembling a college with a new address and brand new history. The school spirit was still there, but the motto was different. There was no old motto “Failure is not an option”, No more green and gold “I passed the HSCT” t-shirts and no more Mr. J. Richard Damron our old high school principal sitting on the bench next to the 900 building, urging everyone to get to class on time. Not really knowing how I felt about the new campus. I could only savor the memories I made with the friends that I made during my time at “MY” school and pray the new kids appreciated the schools history and took a little piece of old traditions as they made new ones for their years to come.

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Courtesy of tumblr.com

Here I am now, the year 2014. I’m visiting the same school for our homecoming game. The football team was playing in the district championship game. Plus, the school was celebrating the 40th anniversary of the 1974 football team’s district title win. It was a big night at Oak Ridge High School and the “Joke” was no longer at “The Ridge“. It was great to be a “Pioneer” with Facebook announcements for all alumni from 1974 to present day to show to up for the homecoming game in “Green and Gold” our school colors. I was excited, because I wasn’t much of a joiner during my years at “The Ridge” I was a drama freak and proud of it; however I loved my school and I wanted to see the new improvements that were made. I didn’t expect a different school and a totally different address. I guess it seems realistic, the school was named “Oak Ridge“, but did it warrant a change in address? I knew that the school district was making changes in all the schools. I had seen the transformations in Jones and Edgewater High School, but that still didn’t calm my heart. When we arrived there was nothing for me to reminisce upon. Gone were the memories my best friend Deidre and I made. The days we laughed down the corridor, taco salad Wednesdays or the $5 I paid to carve my name permanently in the cement next to the 700 (petty I want my $5 bucks back! :-) ).

Oak Ridge H.S. 1999, Photo Courtesy Elle Henry

 

But for me…

No hometown glory, I’ll just try to hold on to the treasured days of the past that I have.

Elle

My Passion

My Passion

Heart Adrift

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I wanna go away on the blue
Away from the lies
Away from you.
But, I’m undecided.

Like the wind
My heart is conflicted
The red that flows in my soul
Loses all control whenever
You are near…

So I must go.

I wanna follow the breeze
I need it to
press against me

Use me
Protect me.
Savor me.

I wanna float on
the burnished bronze
As it sails away
Through the ocean green
With your fallacies…
Leading me to a new.

Setting my spirit free.

©Elle Henry

This is what I do for a living. My life as a writer, the joy that flows in my heart. Here’s a poem I wrote, I hope it provides some inspiration for your inner writer. If you have poems or short stories you would like for me to read and share email me at avidwriterelle@gmail.com.

Don’t forget to like and follow me!

@AvidWriterElle

Facebook.com/AuthorElleHenry

Happy Writing,

Elle

Photo Courtesy of NaNoWritMo.org

NaNoWriMo-Orlando 2014

Are you ready Orlando Novelist?

I can honestly say this year being my second year I am more equipped than the previous. Last year I was stressed, nervous and unprepared. I didn’t understand that National Novel Writing Month or “NaNoWriMo” for short is all about writing and that’s it. This competition is about finishing your rough draft and worrying about the revision of your story later. Here’s a few tips that I learned to help with from burning out.

-Outline your story, trust me it helps with time management!

-Set a daily word count that you can achieve (50,000 is a lot in 30 days) and increase as you go.

-Utilize the NaNo forum there’s ton of information and many writers feeling the same anxiety.

-Again just write…this contest is celebrating your inner writer, remember that.

-Find a writing buddy (Add me AvidReader81), get to know people in your region and participate in the write in’s.

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You and Your Writing Buddy

If you are in the Orlando region the first write in is:

Saturday, November 1st,

12am – Sun, November 2, 12am Starbucks,

6075 W Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy, FL 34747

I will be there that Saturday afternoon from 10am-5pm, you can’t miss me. I’ll be the one hovering over the Macbook in braids in red glasses. Remember just grab a pen and write, don’t stress about the critics. When it’s all said and done someone will love it.

Happy Writing,

Elle

Follow me on twitter @AvidWriterElle

Like my Facebook page at Facebook.com/AuthorElleHenry

Avid Writer Elle

I’ve always had the urge to be a writer. Reading and creating stories has always been the pleasure against my pain. Leaving the profession (steady paycheck) world behind and deciding to write full time was brave. Why might one ask? Well in writing, you’re throwing yourself to wolves for a critique. Open to judgment and thick-skinned you must become, because it’s not for the faint hearted. I myself had to do some deep soul searching to make sure I was up for the challenge. Whether this was something of a fad or a trend or was I really ready to immerse myself fully in my silent passion and that answer was yes. I was ready to share my private writing and thoughts with the world and also educate myself in all forms of creative writing. Writing was always an outlet for me as a way to express feelings, and I wanted to write professionally because doing it made me the happiest. It didn’t matter if I sold 50 million copies, or a number one on the New York Times bestsellers list. All that sounds nice; However, If my writings touched or inspired one soul than then my mission was successful. I know some may deem that a lie, but it was the words from Sylvia Plath’s “Ariel” that I read back I’m high school, which made me believe this silent pastime could be my reality. So, yes I believe small gestures can turn into big dreams and I dream big. This is one dream that I am glad that I shared, because it’s now my reality as “Avid Writer Elle” and this is my life as a writer.

Writing became a form of coping for me during a time in which I thought the rug was being pulled from over me. I was under a great deal of stress that caused my health to decline. Two surgeries later, I was very complacent needing an outlet. I began to journal again it was a big release. It became a way to escape into to my imagination. For the first time in years I had a voice again, my creative mind was finding it’s way to paper again. But, I wasn’t ready to share, that was the end of 2011. It would be another year before I would find the courage to believe in myself and fight for my work.

As I headed into 2013, I began to see things clearly and I realized that life was too short. Yes, I was in fact a dreamer; I had yet to achieve my goal. I decided that my destiny and my decisions are not determined by others. Writing was the passion that gave me joy and happiness. In mid July 2013 that passion became my career fulltime with my backing of my husband. Soon thereafter I started on the manuscript to my book titled “Epiphany”.

I remember that day last July like it was yesterday. My mind is always busy; however that day everything was calm. Although, the weather was arguably different, it was raining. I was at my mom’s house, sometimes I would go over just to set on the porch and watch nature do its work. I love rainy summer days and this day didn’t disappoint. I remember the bronze clouds roaring across the pages in the sky. The water pouring down musically droplets on the green earth and I thought I should capture this moment with words. Taking out my journal that never left my side. I began to write about a woman desperate in her life and lonely for love. That day I envisioned Allison Jacobs the main character in my story. It was almost as if the day I created Allison Jacobs was in was the day I started my rebirth as a full time writer. Thinking back about it now, it was my “Ahh Ha” moment of clarity. The voice of suppressed was no longer it had begun to soar.

It’s my true belief that anyone can become a writer if you have the voice. That’s why I always advocate for independent authors, we have a voice and we deserve a chance.  Additionally, I would like to inspire others to seek the impossible. I’m still editing that manuscript, but throughout that journey I self-published a book of poems and stories titled “Pieces of Me” now that’s not a plug. It’s a testament that you can do anything if you have determination and a dream.

That’s me…Elle