Is That Your Real Hair?

Photo of Ebony Brown Braiding Bee

“Your, hair looks amazing, is it real, can I touch it?” Wait. Excuse me what? Did you just really ask me that?  People ask me these types of questions all the time and when I locked my hair ‘fahgettaboutit’ the question was even more rampant. It just flies out of folks’ mouth without filter, as if they’re asking for the time, like, “So is it all yours?” What? Are you serious? In those moments, my mind goes into sarcasm overload and some not so nice words just roll in and pile up on my tongue, fighting their way out of my mouth, but common courtesy and sense won’t allow my lips to  part during such moments.

Its hard for me to imagine, ever responding or approaching someone with words like, “Wow, what a beautiful smile, are those your real teeth?” or “That blouse looks great on you, did you get a boob job?” or something of that sort. No, no one ever asked me those particular questions, but they’re no different than giving a hair compliment and then in the same breath, trying to establish whether its natural born beauty or something purchased.  Its insane! To me, it comes off as some sort of passive aggressive malice whether intended or not.  If I think something or someone looks great, its really none of my business if its real, or fake or somewhere in between. If they want to offer up  the information, then cool, I’m all ears and evermore intrigued.

By the way, I do realize that its possible for such questions to be coming from a place of curiosity or even intrigue, but deep down inside of me, its hard to see it independent from some level of subconscious ego-driven inquiry. Tell me, how does knowing if something is real or fake on a person, such as their hair, teeth, breast, cheeks, arms, legs or whatever serve you, or us? What do you do with that bit of information?

OCD Box Braids | Hair By Ebony Brown

Photo | Model | Braids by Ebony Brown

I will take-out or undo a braid and re-braid it over and over again until it feels right, sometimes I feel like I have OCD when it comes to braiding.  The thing is, box braids are called “box” braids for a reason, they are parted in the shape of boxes. I have no patience for crooked, sloppy, free willy-nilly parts. I have a craving for certain level of neatness that blocks me from trusting anyone’s hands in my head as it pertains to braiding, other than my own. For this reason, I continue to braid my own hair. Do you or someone you know braid they’re own hair? I’d love to connect with them.

There was a time that I felt like I had absolutely no patience to sit and braid my own hair for hours on end, and so heading on down to Harlem’s famed 125th street to get my “do” “did” (or hair done) by the African braiders was a no brainer. Needless to say, I was up and out of that salon chair, after about seven braids that were just slapped onto my scalp, after being grabbed up and sloppily scooped together with the end of a honey colored comb. I had to get out of there, and so I stood up, thanked my stylist graciously; I put on my hat and I left vowing to never return – but I did – for cornrows. I love African cornrows. I’m sure there are great places out there where attention to detail is important, but for me and my work, it is supreme. Even with an overall “messy or tossed” style aesthetic, a certain level of clean and neat is paramount.

Above and below are cell phone photos of recent braids that I’ve done. These braids weren’t easy because my natural hair (within these braids) are dread-locked, a whole ‘nother’ story indeed!

Note: *OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)

London Braids And Double Twists | Hair by Ebony Brown

I landed in London, looking a hot mess and experienced three season changes on my way from Heathrow airport to The Thistle Hotel (non-lavish accommodations for the non-lavish pocket, but clean and well located). It was confirmed in that moment of travel, though previously contemplated, that my ‘fro’ (packed under my hat) would not be subject and taunted by the schizophrenic, British air. One minute it was sunny, then it was rainy and windy,  then it was cold and back to warm and welcoming. I was on a mission. A mission to find a beauty supply store somewhere in London, a place that I’ve never been up until that point.

I found one somewhere along my journey towards Piccadilly Circle.  Reluctant, but determined, I had made up my mind to use the rest of my first day (of seven days) in the UK to braid my hair, in my teeny hotel room; a bummer, but somewhat of a rush and good challenge. I had to think of a style that would be quick, cute and an inkling of  fashionable.  Pacing up and down The Thistle’s hall, I had a vision; a mix of cornrows and double twists with some brown and gold highlights. The fashion police made no arrests that week in London, so I suppose I did well.

Feel free to weigh in, here’s a few photos:

(Above) My “BEFORE” photo upon arrival in London ( No braids, just my ‘fro’ under the hat)

Got all my braiding and twisting done, my first night’s stay at The Thistle Hotel.

Here’s a another angle, a full length view of the style from the left(ish) side.

This is another full length view of the style, but from the right(ish) side.

Here, I’m pictured with London’s DJ Sarah Love (and her beautiful locks) and friends. To learn more about her, check her out here.

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I Braid. My Mother Made Me Do It! | Hair By Ebony Brown

My hair was a HOT mess from 13 to 16 years old, a bully’s playground. At 13 my mother taught me how to braid it and after that I was on my own. She  actually ended up braiding my hair one last time, for my High School Prom and this was a big deal, as it was a pivotal moment in both of our lives.  There’s a lot more story there, but I’ll leave it at that, for now.

My friends dubbed this hairstyle “Goddess Braids” so it stuck. The style was inspired by Janet Jackson’s mane in the movie “Poetic Justice” where she co-starred with hip-hop great, the late, Tupac Shakur.  I remember watching the movie and thinking,  “I can do that, I could braid my hair like that”  and so I went for it, the photos in this post are the result. I’ve done variations of this style at least three or four times.

While I don’t foresee doing my hair like this again, I’m quite happy to pass it on, and braid someone else’s hair.

Janet Jackson in the movie, Poetic Justice | basemagazineonline.com

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When Love Wore a Winter Coat (Part 1)

When Love wore a winter coat it could not feel the cold, neither did it know what it was getting into. The lining on the inside  was strong, it kept Love warmer than anyone ever did. It protected Love’s embers, and nurtured its sparks, like cuffed and careful hands carrying a flickering tea candle. The coat whispered  the most beautiful things into Love’s ears and promised Love that if  it kept it on – kept wearing the coat, then their shared warmth would eventually give rise to new forms – a force, and not just any force but one that would glow with blissful fiery and its name would be, Passion. Love’s eyes widened, reflecting a smiling violet sky. The coat told Love that no one would ever be able to see it,  few would be able to  feel it, and many would ignore it, the force that is, and so Passion would have an experience almost like its mother. This saddened Love, and even scared Love, so it went days, and weeks and months, even years without answering the phone, or the door, or incoming letters…

To be continued….

[Image: absolutely-free-pictures.com]

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Finding Balance

The sound of the rain soothes me in ways that the sun could never, but I’d still let it kiss me, I’d let it kiss my skin until it glows, creating a blushing, brown, plumping, beautiful, self renewing surface. My skin – wet, sips rain drops that are beading and swelling on it, while my mind, body and spirit  meditates into a full eclipse.

Finding balance is important, and so I’m on my way.

Sometimes, words flood my mind during the craziest or most inconvenient moments and I am compelled to free them and write, this  has been a rarity until recent.  I had reached a point where my words no longer sought exit, so I left them all alone – inside to their vices and now they’re ready for release, to see, to breathe, and to finally fly and be free again.

I’m finding balance.

[Image Credit: unknown. copyright remains with originating source.]

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Can’t Die With This Music Inside Me

Open up your mouth and sing!  Louder. Smoother. Move. Your. Lips! Singing isn’t as pretty as it seems, take a deep breath, don’t hold it, control it, bend your knees,  relax your shoulders and just feel it!  Breathe. Listen, said my vocal coach.  AND SO….I did. Exhale. So, I’ve  decided that I MUST sing, NOT that I just want to sing, or that I  should sing but that I NEED to sing, and WILL sing BEYOND shower curtains and super market aisles, or street curbs – to myself, under my breath, on the bus and train and whatever New York apartment/closet/thing I end up in. Stacey Francis (from xFactor) said, “I don’t want to die with this music locked inside of me” and man, those words broke my heart into a million pieces and OPENED it up at the same time.

So bring on the Music!  Aretha Franklin, Regina Bell, Mahalia Jackson, Jennifer Holiday, Jennifer Hudson, Sade,  Lauryn Hill, Nora Jones, Tracey Chapman, Bette Middler, Jill Scott, Celine Dion, India Arie,  Me’Shell Ndegeocello, Joss Stone, Corinne Baily Rae, Sarah McLachlan, Amil Larrieux, Paula Cole, Zap Mama, Goapele,  Teena Marie,  Lisa Fischer, Cassandra Wilson, Etta James, Nina Simone, Sara Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, oldskooL-Mariah Carey, oldskooL-Whitney Houston, Heather Headley, Estelle, Adele, Patsy Cline, Laura Izibor,  Pink,  Alicia Keys, Christina Aguilera, Yolanda Adams, Kelly Price, Vivian Green, Monica, Aaliya, Ani Difranco, Bjork, Alanis Morrisette, Yes – Beyonce, Ms. Dynamite, Robyn, Tamia,  Fantasia, Robyn S., Portishead, Esthero, Morcheeba, Yael Naim, Drew (from xFactor),  Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, James Brown, Prince, Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Herbie Hancock, Donny Hathaway, Brian Mcknight,  Rock Wilk, Frank Sinatra, Seal, Gil Scott Heron, Michael Bolton, Kenny Rogers, Claude Chalhoub, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, David Gray, Joe Cocker, Chico Debarge, Eric Benet, Bob Marley, Boys II Men, Pete Malinverni, Immortal Technique, Jay-Z, Matisyahu, Shai, Justin Timberlake, Robin Thicke, D’Angelo, Maxwell, Aly Us, Arrested Development, Digable Planets, Color Me Bad, Green Day, Counting Crows, Art of Noise,  Pussycat Dolls, C & C Music Factory, City of Angels Soundtrack, A Bronx Tale Soundtrack, and  more. These folks inspire me to sing, to move, to dance,  to cry, to write and just take it all in and honor it somehow.  Here’s a sample of my voice from some time ago on Reverbnation. http://www.reverbnation.com/ebonybrownbast

Here’s some songs that I dig in no particular order:

Portishead – Roads (…this song reminds me of my college days…)

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Regina Belle – Dream In Color (…encouraging & spirit lifting…)

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Etta James – I Rather Go Blind (…strong, fearless and  a vocal powerhouse)

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Paula Cole – Feel’n Love (…hot and sexy, this song is dripping wet…)

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Eric Benet – Sometimes I Cry (…vulnerable, heartfelt and bitter sweet…)

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Lisa Fischer – How Can I Ease the Pain (…simply magnificent, I think she left her beating heart on stage… )

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Aretha Franklin – Ain’t No Way (…raw, honest and effortless…)

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Joss Stone – Bruised But Not Broken (…sassy, raspy and soulful, love her vocals and the message…)

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Zap Mama – Damn Your Eyes (…an awesome interpretation of this song…)

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James Brown – I feel Good (…let’s just say that my neighbors know when I’m in a GOOD mood…)

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A friend posted this song (below) on his facebook page and I was blown away by the chops on this woman. Seeing her video and hearing her sing, catapulted my desire to embrace and hone my gift of voice even more…

Ava Gaudet - (Eric Clapton’s) “Change the World”

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[Top/main graphic/image: stockphoto.com, copyright remains with originating source.]

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