Your Mindset is Your Testimony

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I met someone today whose daughter was just diagnosed with breast cancer on Monday. It was still fresh and new to her and her family, and since her daughter is 25 with a young child it was difficult to see anything but sorrow. I understood exactly what she was feeling and shared my testimony with her. I stressed to her the importance of a positive mind throughout her fight.  Even with so much negative around you: doctors, treatments, chemo, pain etc, your mindset will be your strongest weapon in any fight you have ahead of you especially when it comes to your health. When we left each other she was thanking me for my help, encouragement and prayers and said that that I made her smile in spite of the news that she was given about her daughter.

When I left her, I felt l helped somehow and it made me feel good to be able to help someone with my testimony. This is one of the reasons why I choose to walk this journey a little different than other folks with Cancer. I choose positivity. In our conversation, I could have very easily told stories about how treatments can sometimes not be pleasant or you can wake up not feeling great somedays. I could have left her saying “it’s going to be a rough road, hang in there.” but what kind of help would that have been to a woman who just found out her youngest child was diagnosed with breast cancer and the tumor they found is aggressive? She was already in tears when I was talking to her, now is not the time to add fuel to the fire. I wanted to give her hope, some sort of positive note to help her and her daughter to start this journey together and keep moving forward with a strong mind. I’m glad I got to share my story with this lady. I want to leave a better impression of cancer for someone than what they had before they met me. They need to know that the word “Cancer” not always the death sentence that you initially think it is.

I want those of us fighting this battle to know that even though that word “Cancer”  can be very scary and sometimes life threatening, you CAN beat this. As long as you keep your prays up, your body healthy, your thinking positive and your mind strong, you can get to remission and total healing. In the beginning of my fight, when a true diagnosis seemed impossible, I could have very easily given up. I had everyone, even people I didn’t know praying for me, but it was up to me to fight. Physically, at the time that wasn’t possible, but my family keep speaking scriptures and positive things over me, saying “WHEN you get better” and “WHEN you get your strength back.” Things like that make a HUGE impact. Constantly saying things like “IF I get better,” or “IF the treatment works” leaves room for doubt something that we don’t have the luxury of having. We need to speak positivity in all things, no matter how small or large the battle is in front of us. It is truly the only way.

I am determined to be a positive light and an inspiration to those around me and I won’t settle for anything less. I am More Than A Conqueror, I truly believe that. Yes, I have my bad days, of course I have times when I have to fight a little bit harder than other days, but I don’t dwell on it for a long time. I start that morning saying “Okay, I don’t feel good today. That means I need to be a little more positive and push a tiny bit harder.” No, I don’t push myself over the limit, and put my health in danger, but I keep my mind strong, even when my body can’t be at that moment. It is what is going to get me through and to the point where I meet N.E.D (No Evidence of Disease)…and I WILL get there. No matter how long it takes, I will continue to work towards that goal. So I leave you all with this note, yet again: REMAIN POSITIVE in your fight. Somedays I know it is hard to do so, but you MUST keep your mind and attitude strong. It will absolutely be your testimony!

Thank you for taking the time out to read my blog post and taking this journey with me! It means more than you could possible know! To my friends and family, I love you past the moon and stars! And to my fellow Zebra’s and Cancer Fighters, keep fighting and supporting each other, don’t ever give up hope, no matter what the doctors have to say! WE WILL BE VICTORIOUS!

-Cerise Jackson

Mind of A Conqueror

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The Mind Of A Conqueror

 When I was diagnosed with Carcinoid Cancer, I knew right from the beginning that it wasn’t going to be easy. I felt a variety of emotions at once: numb, disbelief, fear, and confusion. But the one thing I never felt was defeated. Not one time did I feel like this was something that I can NOT beat. It would take work, dedication and prayer but I knew that I was strong. I’d fought through tough things before and even though I’d never had a diagnosis of “Cancer,” this was just one other thing that I would be able to look back on one day and say “I went through this and I came out victorious.”

From the beginning I was on a search for answers: why did this happen, how can I fight it, and even searched for support groups to help me answer questions that I had. Naturally, I headed to Facebook and found a few that were helpful. While it was extremely comforting to know that there are others fighting with me on this rare disease, I found that the comments, post and some of the information were mostly negative:

“I feel bad today,”

“I’m in so much pain,”

 “Going to the hospital,”

“Another procedure, more medicine, another round of chemo or more injections”

and sadly sometimes even “We lost another Zebra today. RIP _____.”

After about two months it got to be maddening. There was so much negativity and it wasn’t often that I came across a positive post. This was not the support I needed so honestly, I stopped going into the groups. I needed positivity and encouragement.

See, I was raised in a Christian home, where you don’t “claim” your sickness. From day one, my family’s attitude has been “This is what they are saying, but WE believe you are healed.” That way of thinking got me through those four months of painful stomach aches, not being able to eat, the depression I went through, the major surgery I had. It has absolutely been essential in getting me to be able to be as healthy as I am today. No, I may not have reached N.E.D. (No Evidence of Disease) yet, but that is my goal. My positive way of thinking is going to get me there.

People tell me all the time that I’m so positive, and I don’t look like what I’m going through. I call that a blessing. Positive thinking means Positive results which brings Positive outcome. There are, of course, some days when I don’t feel well but I have learned to keep going. Don’t focus on how you feel, focus on getting out of bed, on going to work, doing your job, running errands, go grocery shopping, see a movie, whatever you have to do that day, KEEP MOVING. The more you lay in bed, thinking about how you bad feel, the more you allow yourself to feel that way. Psalms 18:21 tells us that death and life is in the power of the tongue. That has never proved more real to me than it has throughout this experience. I learned to say “I’m feeling better and better every day” when people ask me how I feel. I could be crying, or having stomach pains, and nauseous but I will refuse to speak life to that.

During this journey I am on, I have come in contact with a lot of people, many of which are in their own journeys and fights through Cancer. I choose very carefully who I talk to though. There are some that constantly talk about how bad they feel, how they heard bad news at the doctor’s office today, they are in so much pain, they have this procedure or that exam, they need more medicine, more chemo or more injections, this hurts, that hurts etc. I try to stay away from this kind of talk because it brings me down. There’s no hope in those words. I have also been very blessed to come across folks in this journey who say “I feel great today,” “You have to keep moving, keep fighting, keep pushing,” “I won’t give up,” “Every day is a new day, a new opportunity to be an inspiration,” or as my very good friend says “Strong Mind, Strong Body.”  It is all about what you choose to feed your spirit and your mind during this fight.

Negativity will always bring negative results. If you constantly talk about how bad you feel or how bad your situation is, that is EXACTLY how you will feel…BAD. However, if you feed your spirit with positive thoughts, surround yourself with positive people, focus on a goal to make yourself stronger, your body stronger I promise you, my dear friends, that positivity will bring you better results. I learned the lesson first hand when I was in the hospital, right after my surgery that your mind is the strongest influence over your body. You can read more about it here. It took the doctor who performed my surgery to come in a talk to me to encourage me to eat. He said something powerful to me: “Why do you THINK you can’t eat…the only thing that is holding you back from eating is you.” Once I got it through my head that I was holding myself back, and I needed to push past that, I was able to eat again, get stronger, healthier and gain my weight back. The mind is very powerful. What you feed it will determine your outcome that is guaranteed.

I have been given the nickname of The Conqueror, A Worthy Opponent by my family, so that is the mindset that I choose to take on. I choose to fight in every aspect: mind, body, and spirit. I make sure that when I am asked about how I feel I say “Better and Better every day” because that will begin to come true the more I speak it. When I am having a challenging day I listen to my Elevation Worship music, or music from my favorite Christian artist like Israel Houghton or Jonathan McReynolds. If I have a day when I don’t feel as confident because of the weight loss I went through, I listen to what I call Girl Power music from artist like Pink, Ne-yo or Beyoncé that talk about feeling good about yourself. Those times when I have a chance to tell my testimony about what I have been through, I tell people that it’s all about what you choose to say and who you choose to listen to that determines the direction your journey will go in, whether that is good or bad. The direction is your choice.

Throughout this time in my life I want to be an inspiration. I want those who have cancer to read my story or hear my testimony and say “If she can do it, I can do it.” I want those who do not have cancer, who may not know what it like to go through something like this to understand why I choose to stay positive, and not focus constantly on how I feel. I don’t tell people right away about my having Carcinoid Cancer. I don’t want people to associate me with Cancer and think “She’s helpless,” or “She can’t do it by herself.” I want them to see me as strong, courageous and powerful. More than anything I want the young people in my life to know no matter what life hands you, you can make it through, and as long as you believe you can.

In closing, my friends, I will leave you with this. Your attitude and your words will be your biggest weapon in this fight that you have ahead of you. Surround yourself with positivity and encouragement as often as possible and you will start to see the outcome. You will feel better, your days will be brighter, and your reports and doctor’s visits will be more positive. This fight will become a testimony and your life will become a blessing to those around you. Think Positive! Never Stop Smiling!

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I’ve Got A Story To Tell…

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I wasn’t going to say anything. I was going to carry this secret of mine until the very end, only letting my family and a few choice friends take this journey with me. But then I thought about it. What if I cheated myself out of the chance to change someone’s life? To educate someone on something they knew nothing about? Bring awareness to something that is rare and misunderstood? Or worse, what if I could have encouraged a doctor to dig a little deeper and possibly find the cure that is needed? I didn’t want to look back one day and think, I could’ve been a part of the cure, and I could’ve helped someone. So, that’s why I’m choosing to tell my story now…

A year ago today, June 26, 2015, I got some news that changed me, my family and my best friends. After 4 months of an intense sickness and a major surgery, I was diagnosed with Carcinoid or NET (neuroendocrine tumors) Cancer in my small intestine. An estimate of about 12,000 individuals are diagnosed each year. NET’s are described as “Cancer in slow motion” and is thankfully not aggressive in a lot of cases but not all. My case it is not aggressive, but still detective. Many times, when trying to find the real cause, a patient, like myself, is misdiagnosed several times before getting a true, accurate diagnostic. In my case it took 4 long months, however, in some cases it can and has taken longer. November 10, NET Day is about spreading awareness in hopes to get doctors and physicians to consider NET as a possibility to get to an accurate diagnosis quicker. The most recognizable color for cancer is pink, but the color(s) for Carcinoid are Zebra Stripe and the mascot a Zebra. Just like our fingerprints no two zebras have the same stripes. Every NET Patient may have the same Cancer, but there are no two that are exactly the same, or have even had the same journey! As I join my dazzle of Zebras, I wear my stripes proudly to help get that word out for those who are going through the same thing I did in the beginning of my journey.

 

In the beginning I was scared of course. I mean anytime you hear the big” C” word the first thing you think is the worst possible thing you can possibly imagine. But I was scared that you guys would look at me different. You would see me as sickly or weak instead of strong and fearless as I’m often called. You’d think I was fragile instead of the fun loving “Reesie” you all know so well. I didn’t want you to be thinking “Is she okay?” watching my every move. I didn’t want you to be afraid because I was already terrified.

I also kept the secret because I didn’t want any negative rumors…

“Oh my God, did you hear? Cerise Jackson has cancer! Can you believe it?!”

“Well, I heard that….”

“Yo, lemme tell you what I JUST SAW on Reesie’s page…That’s CRAZY right!!

“Oh, well you know so-in-so had something like that and they died…”

 

A lifetime of gossiping, nosey, negative, non-praying individuals will make you think that way. I needed warriors, I needed positivity, I needed laughter, and smiles and joy. More than anything, I needed hugs and kisses and “I’m praying for you” and “Don’t give up” and “Keep fighting’s.” I needed my friends and family. Now that it has been a year of nothing but love and support from the strongest, loving, God-fearing, prayer warriors and believer’s I know, it doesn’t matter what kind of reaction I get from sharing my news. All that matters is that my Oncologist says that my scans show the tumors are getting smaller, and every visit is positive and I’m improving. I’m getting more and more energy every day and it’s getting easier and easier to get back to feeling like myself again. It’s giving me more courage to see this through to remission or NED as us Zebra’s call it. If that isn’t enough to shut out the nay-sayers then you don’t have the kind of faith I have grown. That’s why I was chosen to carry out this journey.

My family, Dr. Vallathucherry Harish and I have FULL confidence that I will see this through to NED (No Evidence of Disease). As I am “More than a Conqueror,” my family has dubbed me a Worthy Opponent for the journey I have set before me. I’ve often been called a Superwoman because of the strength people see in me. Well, Superwoman’s cape is been colored in Zebra prints. Armed with Joshua 1:9 and Romans 8:37 as my left and right hooks, I plan to KO Carcinoid Cancer. I aspire to be an inspiration. Especially so that I can set an example for my nieces, nephews, and Godchildren to look up to and follow. I choose to be a fighter, and nothing less, keeping a smile on my face at all times even when I don’t feel like smiling. You just never know what difference you might make in someone else’s heart that way. Hearing the word “Cancer” as a diagnosis is very scary. My goal is to help bring awareness about Carcinoid Cancer. That being said, I ask that continued prayers and positivity be the means for support. Thank you for your prayers, it does not go unappreciated.

 

With thanks and love,

Cerise Jackson

*Never Stop Smiling*

*If you would like to take this journey along with me, don’t be afraid to head over to my blog “Diary Of A Fighter“*fb_img_1481514143347.jpg

Christianity does not give you the right to judge

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Christianity does not give you the right to judge

The recent controversy involving Gospel singer Kim Burrell and everyone’s favorite daytime talk show host (she happens to also be gay) has been gaining lots of attention over the past couple of days. NBC News article states that during her one of her sermon’s Kim talks about how homosexuality is perverted and has a spirit of delusion and confusion. This sermon comes after she booked an appearance for Ellen’s show to sing “I See The Victory” with Pharrell Williams to help promote the upcoming movie “Hidden Figures.” My first thought was if that is how she truly felt about the gay community, why would she book the appearance to begin with?

“That perverted homosexual spirit is a spirit of delusion and confusion and has deceived many men and women, and it’s caused a strain on the body of Christ. You as a man, you open your mouth and take a man’s penis in your face, you are perverted … You are a woman and will shake your face in another woman’s breast, you are perverted.”- Kim Burrell

So, let me get this straight. You are against homosexuality, but you were okay with booking an appearance on a talk show who’s host is THE most highly known lesbian in the industry who has NEVER been shy about her sexuality, her beliefs or support of the LGBTQ community?! You were okay with Ellen when she was going to write you a check for appearing on her show, but you don’t agree with the way she lives her life? Were you planning on sanctifying that check and soaking it in hold oil before you deposited it in your bank account? I see….because the check is going into the Love and Liberty Fellowship Church ministry, and the movie is bringing light to Black Women and a story that needed to be told its okay this one time. No Kim, it’s NOT okay.

I’m a Christian woman myself. But prior to me becoming a Christian, it always bothered me how people of the church seem to justify their judgement against other people with scriptures, sermons, morals and pointing fingers completely forgetting the fact that nobody has a heaven or a hell to put anyone in but GOD himself. I could support this statement by quoting all types of “cast the first stone” or “judge not lest ye be judged” anecdotes, but at the end of the day, my question is: Who are you to say or call people out on their life choices? Again, when we pass on and transition on to heaven, will it be Kim Burrell’s final word, or any other preachers for that matter (including my own) to let us into the kingdom? No, it won’t be. We are human first and Christians second. What kind of testimony does that show for those individuals that we want to minister to and bring into the kingdom? Your way is the right way and everyone else is wrong? Every disciple on the bible had their own sins and wrong doings prior being called by God. How can we be Godly examples if we are constantly pointing fingers and putting people down for what we think is wrong or sinful?

I grew up in a church where judgement on those who were not Christians flowed freely. A number of sermons warned us about watching shows that had fornication, worldly music, and bad words. We were told to stay away from wine and alcohol because it was a doorway to hell and sin. Oh, and if you were going to dance, it better be to a Christian song, but don’t bop along too hard…don’t want to give the devil his place in the kingdom if you put TOO much feeling into that dance move. As I got older, I just didn’t feel comfortable with the way that these ‘lessons’ were drilled in my head. It was like if you were living your life in any other way than what was being preached or taught, you were doing it wrong. If you didn’t know the bible inside out, pray every chance you had throughout the day or listen to anything other than Christian music, you might as well be a sinner because it doesn’t count. The kind of pressure to live right by their standards is unbearable, but I had to learn in my own way on my own time that my walk with GOD is just that: my walk with GOD. It’s not right or wrong, no sin is greater than the other, and it’s simply about my walk and my convictions.

Kim later says in defense of her sermon quote during a Facebook Live post that:

“I never said all gays were going to hell. I never said ‘LGBT’… I said ‘SIN’,”

“To every person who is dealing with the homosexual spirit, that has it, I love you and God loves you but God hates the sin in you and me. Anything that is against the nature of God.”

“Have I ever discriminated against them? Have I ever outright told them ‘I don’t love you and you going to hell?’ Why would I?” she asked. “Who gives me the right to say that I’m telling someone that they’re going to hell? I don’t get that call?” – Kim Burrell

While Mrs. Burrell is 100% entitled to her opinion, I don’t support her way of bringing her message in her sermon and Facebook Live post, especially after she had initially booked the appearance in the Ellen DeGeneres Show. That was simply in bad taste. With the weight her name holds in the gospel industry, and her pending appearance in the show, she should have probably used better judgment with her words during that sermon or just shouldn’t have ventured to the subject to begin with. There’s no way she could say that she didn’t know who Ellen is or what she stands for, even though her sexuality is just a fraction of who Ellen is as a person (and what an amazing person she is!) For her to try and clean up her words by saying God loves “those dealing with the homosexual spirit” but “hates the sin in you and me,” just isn’t right and doesn’t help her point in any way, shape or form.

I really hate the bad publicity that this situation is bringing to the movie “Hidden Figures.” I am so excited about going to see this amazing story in theatres. The fact that we are now going to associate the song for the movie with this situation is very unfortunate and could have been avoided had Mrs. Burrell considered her words, actions and example before she spoke. Looking at this from Ellen’s possible perspective, she was probably feeling disrespected,with good reason. How can you not agree with her lifestyle, yet book an appearance on her show? Those words from her sermon must’ve been very hurtful fer her to hear especially since she offers no apologies for her words. I don’t blame her one bit for cancelling her appearance. Going forward I hope that she has taken something valuable from this situation. In today’s social climate coupled with Social Media, anything you say can be put out there for the entire world to see within seconds for the media to get a hold of. She has to consider how this may affect her career, church home and reputation in general in some extreme cases. In her own words “God doesn’t like the Sin in you” when talking about her opinion on the LGBTQ community, he also doesn’t like the sin in her when she is judging other people. I really hope this has been a learning experience for her, with all sincerity.

God Bless you, Kim Burrell.

Black Mirror Project = Black Girl Magic

Black Mirror Project = Black Girl Magic

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I’m scrolling through Instagram one day and I happened to come across this amazing photo series called #BlackMirror. The series was done by a model named Debbeh Howard and her boyfriend Raffael Dickreuter to help bring light to the lack of diversity in the modeling industry. She takes the imaged of well-known model’s like Kendell Jenner, Gigi Hadid and Kate Moss (to name a few) for major name brands like Gucci, Calvin Klein, and Victoria Secrete and recreates them to show that not only black women but also all women of color could have done these ads just as well, if not better than the model that were in these campaigns. She wrote a blog about is called Black Mirror and put, in her own words, her experience with this issue:

“Not to long ago it happened to me that I would walk into various fashion model agencies and I would immediately be compared to that one or two black model that they had on the roster. Even though I was told by those agencies that I have an amazing look and wish they could represent me, they already have a black model.  Besides having an abundance of white models. It seemed as if one or two black models on the roster are enough to represent us all. When you are told that, trust me, it feels bizarre”

Here wording is elegant as she brings everything to perspective.

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I really love what she has done with this series. Not only has she used her platform of modeling to showcase diversity, but she has also used it to show girls all over who are trying to find their way into the modeling industry that it doesn’t matter what color your skin is, you show go for your dreams no matter what people tell you. After being told over and over by these talent agents that they couldn’t sign her because they had basically met their quota of black models, she could have handled this issue in a whole different way. She could have caused a protest, written an angry blog, called these agencies names…anything. I LOVE the fact that she used her voice to in a POSITIVE way and as a result she has gotten so much positive feedback from her Black Mirror Project. I’m sorry but that is BLACK GIRL MAGIC all day, every day. In case you aren’t aware of what #BlackGirlMagic is, don’t worry, Reesie is here to enlighten you!

Black Girl Magic is a term used to illustrate the universal awesomeness of black women. It’s about celebrating anything we deem particularly dope, inspiring, or mind-blowing about ourselves.

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I love when we can bring light to issues, topics, and grievances about diversity, prejudice and racism in a positive way. I’ve always felt like doing destructive things is just not the way to go about doing these things. In fact, it does more hurt than harm by adding to the stereotypes that we are trying to overcome. Debbeh Howard will probably get so many deals from this, and it will be well deserved. As a photo personality (yes, that’s what I call it), I really love everything about what Debbeh is doing. I can see how the color of someone’s skin can make someone hesitate from trying to persue their ambition to become a model. And I can understand the feeling of severe disappointment one can have from being rejected over something like your skin color, something you cannot help but you are proud to be in. I’ve seen and heard people go to agencies and be truned away because their ears are too big, or nose is too wide, or eyes are too close together, their too heavy, too short, too curvy UGH!!! ENOUGH!!! A person is beautiful for who they are no matter what color, race, shape, height, type of hair whatever!bmpic3.jpgbmpic2.jpg

The amount of respect I have for this young lady is unmeasurable. The more attention she gains from her choice to speak with her voice in a positive way the better.  I hope that everyone who comes across this series is as inspired as I was when I saw this. It’s nothing short of absolutely amazing.Respect, Debbeh!

#BlackGirlMagic

#BlackMirror

Not Black Enough For You

Not Black Enough For You

 

hey-black-girl.jpg.jpgSo, I’m on my way to work this morning, and I stop at a McDonald’s to grab a cup of Caramel Hot Chocolate. (SN: If you don t know about this, it is absolute heaven.) As I begin to order, I hear this voice behind me say “Damn, she talk like a white girl. What, she don’t want to be black or something?” (This coming from another black woman) I. Was. PISSED!! I wanted to whip my neck around, call her out her name and show her that even though we got out of projects when I was little, I can still pop off like I still live there. But, instead of whipping around and cussing them out, proving to these two A-holes just how “Black” I am, I decided to calmly write a blog and get out my frustrations in the best way I know how.

First and foremost, what the hell does “talking like a white girl” even mean?! Since I choose to talk in whole sentences, acknowledging the subjects, predicates, nouns, verbs and adjectives that make a complete thought?! Is it because, I talk like I say in someone’s English class, paid attention and actually LEARNED how to talk? Perhaps it was because my speech will be the most helpful in a job interview or in an office environment….which is exactly where I want my career to take me. I could come up with 1,000 reasons why my particular speech is important, and how I got to talk this way, but the truth of the matter is because (and let me say this in a way fellow “Black people can relate to) my gra’ma taught me how to talk!   I spent a while lifetime being corrected when I spoke. I heard “No, say it like this,” or “That’s not the proper way to say that, or the more impactful “I know I taught you better than that!” Yes, it for in my nerves, of course I just wanted to be able to talk and not be corrected, but it had always stuck with me.

See, in my eyes, when I hear the words, “You talk like a white girl” or “You tryna act white,” I’m not offended by the implication that I’m trying to be white (just want to make that clear for any Caucasian fiends reading this post.). It pisses me off that I have to sound a certain way to solidify my “Blackness.” Like if I’m not talking in broken English, or every other word isn’t a curse word or a reference to a rap lyric, I’m not worthy to be labeled as a black woman. If I’m not talking in slang or dropping letters at the end of words, I need to mail my “Black card”  off to Deborah Lee with a letter of apology or if I don’t roll my eyes or pop my neck, my ancestors didn’t originate in from The Motherland of Africa. The implication that because you say I “sound white” means that in order for my speech to identify with being black, I need to speak like I wasn’t given the opportunity to sit next to a white person in my English class, or I didn’t get my Diploma and I’m not working hard for my degree, or my mind can only fathom rap lyrics, Ebonics, broken language and attitude. The implication is that I have to talk ignorant to be black and I BE DAMNED if I will let you talk about my black heritage that way. We have come too far, fought too hard and lost too many for us to stay so closed minded or talk behind the back of a person who isn’t trying to be anything but the best that they were meant to be.

So, as I collected my hot chocolate and left, I just smiled, politely said to her “I was taught to be well spoken, it’s gotten me far in life. And I love being black, Happy Holiday’s though! I could’ve gone head to head, line for line trying to “out ghetto” these woman, but for what? To prove to them I’m a black girl too? As if the melanin in my skin wasn’t proof enough. Or my natural hair wasn’t ethnic enough. Even though I was super-hot under the collar, I wasn’t going to give them the satisfaction. Besides, this Caramel hot chocolate was tasted WAY too good, and I wasn’t going to let two chicks that don’t affect my paycheck ruin my day.  When I walked away I heard them cackling “She ain’t talking to me, shoot. I’ll beat huh ass, AND it’s Christmas! Shoot,” high fiving one another as if the battle had been won. And maybe in their eye’s it had been. I have no complaints about my speech. It’s gotten me to where I am now and will get me to where I need to be in the future. I’ll continue to talk the way I do, live the way I do. If that makes me a white girl, then call me Becky…with the Good Hair, or course 😉

Naked Is Not Talent

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While I was at work today, one of my coworkers came over to me to show me the latest images from her photo shoots. With the biggest smiles on her face, she scrolled through on her phone of the different looks and outfits that she styled for herself. And she looked really pretty, her hair was flowing, her makeup was cute, she looked like an Urban Model. In fact that’s exactly how she describes herself—an up and coming model. She talked about the photographer, and she critiqued her shots. It brought me back to when I began shooting….

I will admit, that when I started out in front of the camera, I wanted to be as sexy as possible. The shorter or tighter the outfit the better. I would have the sexiest look on my face, hair tussled, with that come hither glare in my eyes. Because I thought that was how a model was supposed to look. So my first few sets of photo’s that’s exactly what I was: Sexy. But then I took a break. I stopped shooting for about a year because I had to regroup. I realized that I was trying to be sexy because that was what I thought was expected when you do photoshoots. And I didn’t always feel comfortable with sexy. I remember thinking in the back of my head “I can never let my parents see this….what is my grandmother going to think?” There was maybe three shots that I really liked. But only one that I was really proud of. It wasn’t until I did a shoot for my 31st birthday that I really truly fell in love with doing photoshoots. That day, I did it for fun.

I remember I has on my favorite red birthday dress, and my hair was perfectly curly. I’d always gotten compliments on that dress and I felt good in it. I felt pretty, and confident. My makeup was flawless, my shoes were on point, and I had a cake with the number 31 on top. I told my photographer, James Williams, that I wanted to do a shoot with the cake so that I could post it up as my profile picture on my birthday. We did a few shots with the cake and we decided to do a couple shots outside. I remember while I was shooting on the street, a few guys walked by and complimented me, calling me America’s Next Top Model. A car even drove by, and the driver shouted “You look beautiful!” That’s when James, got one of my favorite shots of all time. You could see it in my face, I was having totally in the moment, in my element and the result was amazing.  He sent them to me on my actual birthday, and I have never looked at myself in a picture quite the same. I looked amazing because I FELT amazing. It takes a true photographer to see that in the model and capture that, thank god for James, because that day totally changed the way I do shoots.  That feeling came through in that image and he caught that moment. I’d saw what the “Confident Reesie” looked like. Ever since then, I decided, if I can’t feel good in it, and have fun doing it, I’m not going to shoot it. The images from my shoots have never looked better since that shoot. But that’s the decision I have made for myself.

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One reason that I don’t really like to tell guys that I do photoshoots is because they always expect the photos to be naked shots or bikini shots. Why? Well, when you think Urban Model you think of things like King Magazine, XXL, Hype magazine etc. where the centerfolds are some of the sexiest woman you will ever lay eyes on. With hair down their backs and curves that are so dangerous they need yellow tape around them, men are lined up around the block the first day those magazines are on the stands. Bikini’s, lingerie, or completely nude, these women are what definition of a Man’s Fantasy. And they look great. I really admire women who can be that sexy with seemingly no effort. But that’s just not me. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to do those photos, I think it is the attention that comes with it that I do NOT want. The comments under the photos on social media can be crazy. Now, while some people might love the “WooHoo’s” and the “Damn you sexy” or my personal favorite “You got talent girl, look at that body, DAYUM,” (Like having a nice body is a certified talent or something)  I would rather hear things like “That’s an amazing shot,” “I love that concept” or “Wow…that’s beautiful.”

I can say that there is one particular gentleman that had a major effect on this decision. Prior to seeing this shoot, he saw me with respect. Never crossed the line with the comments, compliments were genuine and sincere. I did a shoot in a cat suit, which I absolutely love. To this day I feel like I truly nailed that shot. It showed that I can be versatile, I can be sexy, be a woman and be a little feisty and still have class while I do it. It was breathtaking and it is definitely, without a doubt one of my pride and joy’s. But after he saw that picture of me, it seems like everything he has said to me since then has been disrespectful and just…creepy. Now everything he says has a sexual undertone, comments are dirty and I nearly throw up every time I see him look in my direction. Now, needless to say, I’m very careful about who sees what photos or where they are posted. While that shoot is one of my absolute favorites, it will never be on FB where my family members can see because of that one man’s sudden change in attitude. It made me see how quickly a person’s opinion of you can change once they see you a certain why, and how you can almost never get them to change that perception back. In the end, I finally had to lie and tell him that I quit doing photoshoots altogether, along with defriending him on Facebook and getting a whole new URL for my online portfolio. It got weird. And although I know that not every guy will take it to that extreme and make you feel uncomfortable, it still made me think about what images I allow other people see of me.

While there are model’s and celebrities that get a bad rep for posing nude, I feel like if they feel confident when doing their shoots, more power to them! Sometimes it can be pretty amazing. The Boudoir Shoots that I have seen have been a true celebration of Women, and one that I might consider, for my personal collection. But I don’t think that should be the only thing you shoot. While you can be beautiful and sexy wearing a bra and garter belt, don’t let that be the ONLY identity you have. Don’t let that be the only talent you have. You want to be taken seriously when you step in the studio, and not just be seen as another chick who likes to get naked for the attention that Social Media brings. Anyone can be an Instagram Celebrity, but if you take your portfolio full of bikini and nude shots to a credible agency, that is exactly how they will see you. So while you’re doing those shoots, make sure you also do some shots fully clothed as well. Let that agent know they can put you on the cover of Playboy and King as well as the cover of Time, Vogue and Cosmopolitan. Don’t limit yourself and most of all, make SURE you have FUN!