Flaws and All Flaws and All

Flaws and All

Between working in retail for several years and being a freelance makeup artist, I've experienced first-hand the many ways in which we, as women, physically tear ourselves apart. I'm convinced that in the fine invisible print of each job description within the fashion and beauty industries, there is a duty that reads "Self-Image Therapist," for this is a role that comes without question each day. "No ma'am, you're not too fat for that dress." "Of course those jeans don't make your hips look too wide." "No way---you don't need implants. Your boobs look great in that top just as they are." My makeup clients are no better with their evaluations of self: "I know it's gonna take a lot to get this mug in order, Chels" or even "Give me the thickest concealer you've got, girl; these under eye circles are gonna need some work." At times I'm tempted to grab perfect strangers by the shoulders, and shake some sense back into their poor, self-hating souls while screaming: YOU. ARE. BEAUTIFUL.

It wouldn't work. And I'm not sure what more it would take, but after recently witnessing a woman break down into tears after looking at herself in a mirror, I knew there was something terribly wrong. Something deserving of further investigation.

I sat behind the counter at work that day, nearly in tears myself. A heart heavy knowing that no amount of positivity and bestowed compliments would change the fact that that woman could barely stand the sight of her own reflection. I thought it over until my head hurt---why do we object ourselves to such scrutiny? And after going back and forth in my own mind, I faced a harsh reality: I'd been no better. Me. Chelsea. The same one who'd been the mascot for self-love, confidence, and appreciation of our physical being without question just a couple hours prior. Nope, I'd been no better. Because as far back as I could remember, I, too, beat myself up internally and blamed the world for my seemingly misfortunate features.

I blamed my Mother, the picture of perfection she was during my younger years, for being everything I was not. Light. Short. A hair filled with curly long locks. I couldn't understand how she, my grandmother, and most of my cousins and aunts had the look---light skin, long hair. And I just had to be different, the oddball. "Why me?" I'd wonder silently.

I blamed my Father, not only for being a pitiful individual, but for tainting my being with these awkward physical realities. Darker skin (avoided the sun like a plague). Coarser hair (relaxers from elementary school, on). The height of a damn basketball player! Ohhhhhh, that wicked height. My mom is 5' 2" you see, so only he could be blamed for my always being the tallest one in the class photo. 5'9" by the time I reached 8th grade. Size 10 feet. I cursed his unspoken name when I had to go out of my way to find fashionable shoes for a teenage girl hard-pressed on following "the trends." And when I had to pay more for my Jordan's because I couldn't fit the same cute kiddie sizes that my friends wore, please believe I gave him hell.

I blamed adolescence for acne and braces---at the same time. And I wasn't quite sure who to blame for my needing glasses, but please believe they were deserving of my discontent, too.

I blamed my best friends for having video-vixen statures in middle school while I could barely fill out a bra. One was a D-cup even in sixth grade, and got all the guys' attention. The other was a track superstar, and, thus, stacked like a stallion. The only girl in the whole school with a booty like J-Lo, or so it seemed back then. When she walked by, time would stop for just a few seconds. Oh, yes, the fellas loved her too! My flimsy frame couldn't compare.

I blamed makeup for giving me a false sense of beauty and femininity throughout high school. No, I didn't wear foundation. But eyeshadow, liner, blush, and lipgloss, all became addictions. Fun, playful, and harmless to the untamed eye. But there soon reached a point at which I couldn't leave the house fresh-faced because I'd forgotten that I was pretty without all the extra fixings. Late to class, sitting in the car, applying that third coat of mascara. It was my "thing" and I couldn't have a day off.

I blamed college for blessing me with ten extra pounds each year. Thirty to date. Something about being free to come and go and eat and hang out and stay up as you damn well please begets bad habits. And, yes, they became my own. But when I transferred schools and moved to Atlanta, I blamed Georgia for having me feel that I wasn't thick enough. The figures of my modelesque friends back home couldn't even begin to compare to the shapes of these southern gals. Nope, no amount of squats and lunges could give you the hips and backside of someone who's been fed pork chops, macaroni and cheese, and cornbread since childhood. Or even someone who's had a couple shots (if you know what I mean) here and there; yes, those have nearly become the norm too.

I blame a whole bunch of people for a whole bunch of other things I have yet to come to terms with regarding my appearance, but more than anything - I blame myself. For I, like the woman who wept in front of the mirror, am to blame for how I have handled that over which I have no control. And even more at fault for measuring my own worth against someone else's natural standard; I'd always be an imperfect version of them, but couldn't see that I was a flawless version of myself. I was too young to understand that my complexion was the most gorgeous shade of brown that God had ever blended---because he created it just for me. And, even so, these days I love me a good summer tan---the browner, the better. I was too stubborn to know that my height was a blessing---something that made me stand out in a crowd---striking. Plus, it automatically eliminated all the short, good-for-nothing guys who's attention I thought I needed at the time. And I was too damn dumb to realize that I wore a size 10 so that I could always have access to the good shoes that all the 7.5-8s had to fight for at the department stores. Duh! How could it not be obvious? *Sighs*

I've learned from self-evaluation and retrospect that we will all face physical insecurities at one point or another. But you either love it, deal with it, fix it, or die inside from irrational feelings of inadequacy---take your pick. I choose to be proud of those subtleties that set me apart from the next woman, and I encourage you all to do the same. Love yourself as a work-in-progress, for you will only become more gorgeous from adopting a positive self-image. And let's uplift one another, too. Instead of being mad because the next chick has a badder body than your own---complement her and ask what kind of workouts she does. Like someone's hair? Tell her so, and just maybe she'll slip you her stylist's card. You never know, the very thing you commend her on may be the single thing making her feel not so up to par that day. Be a blessing to someone else . . .

Please feel free to share any flaws that you've learned to love about yourself, and how you reached that point!

- Chelsea Smith

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Aaliyah during TNT Presents - A Gift of Song - New York - January 1, 1997 in New York City, New York, United States.
KMazur/WireImage

Fans Rally For Aaliyah's Discography To Be Released On Streaming Platforms

As another day passes without Aaliyah's music on streaming platforms, fans are looking for answers.

Over the weekend, the hashtag #FreeAaliyahMusic appeared on Twitter in light of song battles between Swizz Beats vs. Timbaland and Ne-Yo vs. Johnta Austin. The latter opponents played their collaborations with the late singer, proving Baby Girl's dynamic relevancy in the age of modern R&B. As songs like "I Don't Wanna" and "Come Over" picked up plays on YouTube, the hashtag pointed out the tragedy of her songs not existing on platforms like Spotify, Tidal and Apple Music.

Aaliyah's only album on multiple platforms is her 1994 debut, Age Ain't Nothing But A Number. Other albums like the platinum-selling One in A Million and Aaliyah are being held in a vault of sorts along with other unmixed vocals by her uncle and founder of Blackground Records, Barry Hankerson.

Hankerson has built up a mysterious yet haunting aura over the years due to his refusal to release Aaliyah's music on streaming platforms. Reasons are unknown but Stephen Witt's 2016 investigation revealed business deals like the shift in distribution from  Jive Records to Atlantic helped Hankerson take ownership of the singer's masters. The deal was made in 1996 when Blackground featured artists like Aaliyah, Toni Braxton, R. Kelly, then-production duo Timbaland and Magoo as well as Missy Elliott.

Sadly, Aaliyah's music isn't the only recordings lost in the shuffle. Recordings from Timbaland and Toni Braxton have been hidden from the world with both taking legal action against the label over the years. There's also JoJo, who had to break from the label after they refused to release her third album. The singer recently re-recorded her first two albums.

With Aaliyah's music getting the attention it deserves, Johnta Austin discussed the singer's impact on R&B today. "It was amazing, she was incredible from top to bottom," he told OkayPlayer of working with the singer on "Come Over" and "I Don't Wanna." "I don't think Aaliyah gets the vocal credit that she deserves. When she was on it, she had the riffs, she had everything."

Earlier this year, an account impersonating Hankerson claimed her music would arrive on streaming platforms January 16, on what would've been her 41st birthday. A docuseries called the Aaliyah Diaries was also promoted for a release on Netflix.

Of course, it was far from the truth. Fans can enjoy selected videos and songs on YouTube, but it's clear they want more.

 

Aaliyah’s music is the landmark for a lot of your favs not only was she ahead of her time with her futuristic sounds she also was a fashion Icon dancer and phenomenal actress . The future generations need be exposed to her artistry and pay homage .#FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/LxZfxcqRgF

— Black Clover (@la_alchemist) March 29, 2020

Her first #1 solely based on AirPlay! She was the first ! #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/BHlANZjCGZ

— (@hodeciii) March 29, 2020

Makes no sense for someone still so influential to be hidden. Many try to emulate her. On Spotifys This is Aaliyah playlist, theres some great tracks not on her main Spotify #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/vLqLTVxqO9

— Blackity Black⁷ (@ClaudBuzzzz) March 29, 2020

Aaliyah is trending once again. She deserves endless flowers. This is true impact y’all. Her voice, her sound, her music...She’s been gone for 2 decades and y’all see the love for her is even stronger! We miss you baby girl! #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/ALDcT0ZQxR

— A A L I Y A H (@forbbygrlaali) March 30, 2020

Aaliyah said she wanted to be remembered for her music and yet most of it is not on streaming services #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/zwk0AWMCoE

— RJR (@MyNewEssence96) March 29, 2020

aaliyah’s gems like more than a woman deserve to be in streaming sites #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/mM2GWEg1pe

— k (@grandexrocky) March 30, 2020

I saw #FreeAaliyahMusic and IMMEDIATELY jumped into action! I can’t express how betrayed I felt when we were supposed to have all her music on Spotify by her birthday. Her discography is deeply underestimated and we need to make it right for our babygirl!pic.twitter.com/GfxBeJxUY1

— jerrica✨ (@jerricaofficial) March 29, 2020

Before Megan The Stallion drove the boat...

Aaliyah rocked the boat...

#FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/iXNwssD3sY

— Al’Bei (@_albei) March 29, 2020

i think we should have that conversation #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/cGl269tuTr

— AALIYAH LEGION (@AaliyahLegion) April 1, 2020

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Singers Adrienne Bailon (L) and Kiely Williams of the 'Cheetah Girls' pose for photos around Mercedes Benz Fashion Week held at Smashbox Studios on October 18, 2007 in Culver City, California.
Katy Winn/Getty Images for IMG

Kiely Williams Explains Fallout With Adrienne Bailon Houghton And Alleged Fight With Raven-Symonè

Our current isolated way of life has given some plenty of time for reflection like Kiely Williams of the former girl group 3LW and The Cheetah Girls (ask your kids). The tales of both successful groups have been told time after time by fans in YouTube documentaries and members of each collective but Williams has decided to share her side of the story.

Williams hopped on Live Monday (March 30) where she discussed her former friendship with The Real co-host Adrienne Bailon Houghton and the infamous chicken throwing fight with actress/singer Naturi Naughton. The mother of one didn't pinpoint exactly why she fell out with Houghton but did point out how she wouldn't be interested in appearing on her talk show.

"I don't think Adrienne wants to have live TV with me," Williams said. "'Cause she's gon' have to say, 'Yes Kiely, I did pretend to be your best friend. Now, I am not.' You were either lying then or you're lying now. You either were my best friend and now you're just not claiming me or you were pretending [to be my best friend."

The two remained friends after Naughton was kicked out of 3LW, the platinum-selling group known for 2000s pop hits like "No More (Baby I'ma Do Right)" and "Playas Gon' Play." Williams and Houghton were eventually picked to be apart of The Cheetah Girls with then-Disney darling Raven-Symonè and dancer Sabrina Bryan.

Williams went on to discuss her fight with Naughton, which she denies had anything to do with her skin color. With her mother near, Williams claimed Naughton called her a b***h, leading to the fight. While she didn't clear up the chicken throwing, she stated how she was "going for her neck" and was holding food and her baby sister in the process.

Apologies aren't on the horizon either. “I don’t feel like I have anything to make amends for, especially as it relates to Adrienne,” Kiely said. “As far as Naturi goes, if there was ever a reason to apologize, all of that has kind of been overshadowed by the literal lies and really ugly stuff that she said about my mom and my sister. So, no. Not interested in that. I’m sorry.”

Moving onto The Cheetah Girls, Williams also denied claims she got into fights with Raven-Symonè on the set of The Cheetah Girls films and never outed her as a teen. The rumor about Symonè and Williams was reportedly started by Symonè's former co-star Orlando Brown.

Symonè has often shared positive memories about The Cheetah Girls and their reign but did imply during an episode of The View how co-star Lynn Whitfield kept her from losing her cool on set.

On a lighter note, Symonè, Houghton and Naughton have kept in contact with Naughton and Houghton putting their differences aside during an appearance on The Real. 

Symonè and Houghton also reunited at the Women's March in Los Angeles in January. During Bailon's performance at the event, the two briefly performed the Cheetah Girls' classic, "Together We Can."

Willaims also shared some stories about the making of the group's hits. Check out her Live below.

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Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Kelis Announces ‘Cooked With Cannabis’ Show Will Premiere On Netflix

Kelis is taking her chef talents to Netflix. The musician will host a food competition show titled Cooked With Cannabis that’ll premiere on the very-fitting April 20 (4/20). According to NME, the show will span six episodes and be co-hosted by chef Leather Storrs.

Describing the opportunity as a “dream come true” since she’s a major supporter of the streaming service, Kelis took to Instagram to share how cannabis and cooking is one of her many creative passions. “As a chef, I was intrigued by the food and as an everyday person, I was interested in how powerful this topic is in today’s society,” the mother-of-two writes. “In this country, many things have been used systemically to oppress groups of people, but this is so culturally important for us to learn and grow together.”

Each episode will place three chefs against each other as they craft three-course meals with cannabis as the central ingredient. Each episode’s winner takes home $10,000. Guests will play an integral role in who takes home the cash prize. Too $hort, and El-P are just a few of this season's guests.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

I'm really excited to announce my new show, Cooked with Cannabis on @Netflix!! Anyone that knows me, knows how much I love my Netflix, so this is a dream come true. Interestingly, this was one of those things that I didn't go looking for, it kind of came to me. As a chef, I was intrigued by the food and as an everyday person, I was interested in how powerful this topic is in today's society. In this country, many things have been used systematically to oppress groups of people, but this is so culturally important for us to learn and grow together. I hope you all will tune in, it's definitely going to be a good time! We launch on 4/20! XO, Kelis

A post shared by Kelis (@kelis) on Mar 18, 2020 at 7:57am PDT

In a previous Lenny Letter profile, Kelis shared she comes from a line of culinary influences beginning with her mother who owned a catering service. In 2008, the “Milkshake” singer sought to refine her cooking skills by enrolling in the Le Cordon Bleu school. Receiving a certificate as a trained saucier, the New York native put her expertise to the test during pop-up restaurants in her native city, created a hot sauce line, and co-owns a sustainable farm in Quindio, Colombia.

“Food is revolutionary because it is the one and only international language. It’s the most human thing you can partake in,” she said in an interview with Bon Appetit. “We are the only species that cooks.”

This isn’t Kelis’ first foray into the reality-cooking television world. In 2014, she partnered with the Cooking Channel for Saucy and Sweet and published the "My Life on a Plate" cookbook a year later.

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