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Stain of Mass Incarceration: Exposing the Wound of My Father’s Life Sentence

One woman shares her experience, struggle and thoughts as the child of an incarcerated father.

27 years ago on my 14th birthday my father took my sister, Miko, and I out for lunch. We decided to dine at the newly opened Hard Rock Cafe. The music was blaring from the sound system. The walls were filled with an assortment of music memorabilia. I sat for a good 15 minutes in awe and amazement. While Miko and I glanced over the menu, my father left the table for a brief moment. He came back to the table with 2 members from the hip-hop group Whodini & R&B singer, Bobby Brown. I was in complete shock! They all sang an impromptu rendition of Happy Birthday to me. OMG - I was floating. This was one of my best birthdays yet. I looked over at my father and he just smiled. Little did I know that in the months ahead our lives would be changed forever.

THE WAR BEGINS
Nine months later, on December 6, 1988, my father, William Underwood, was arrested. Shocked and completely numbed by the news of his arrest, it took Miko and I six months to actually visit our Dad. While sitting in a tiny visiting room waiting for his arrival, he finally appears. He was wearing an orange jumpsuit and his hands and feet were shackled. All I can remember is him hobbling over to sit down next to us. Miko and I burst into sobbing tears. We were completely devastated and traumatized by the appearance of our Dad chained up like a slave. By the time he finished consoling us, our time was up. The visit was over and he was gone – again.

After that my life became a blur. From what I remember, my thoughts were: Why was Daddy there? What did he do? When is he coming home? None of it made sense. Two years later, he was sentenced to a mandatory minimum 20-years plus LIFE without parole. In disbelief, my range of emotions were: "What? Life? Nooooo... you mean, Forever? He's never coming back? Ever?" The news of his sentence punctured a wound so deep in my heart I could hardly breathe.

SEE ALSO: Hillary Clinton Wants To ‘End The Era Of Mass Incarceration’

Feeling completely abandoned, my hurt turned into anger. I rebelled against school, my Mom and life. How could my father be locked away forever? He was a music enthusiast. He ate, slept, and breathed music. My father was a prominent music promoter from the late 70s up until his arrest in 1988. He promoted top acts such as Michael Jackson, Ray Charles, Earth, Wind & Fire, Kenny Loggins, Wham, New Edition and Guy. He managed the R&B funk band, Slave and lead singer Steve Arrington. He later went on to discover and manage R&B singer, Johnny Gill, ultimately aligning Johnny with the boy band, New Edition. All I ever saw my father do was talk about music, listen to music and hold meetings with music industry artists, executives and up-and-coming celebrities. Some of these people even testified on behalf of my Dad in court, including recording artist Keith Sweat and an Atlantic Records executive who willingly flew over from London to give testimony to support my Dad during his trial.

I remember being on the phone with my Dad after his sentencing. He said, “Ebony, this sentence means no matter how long I live, no matter how much my life has changed, no matter what steps I take to better myself, no matter how many laws have changed – I can never, ever, leave prison alive. I am going to fight this injustice." I listened intently to each devastating word. Yet, I still didn’t understand. How could anyone be sentenced to die in prison? My Dad was incredible. My Dad defied the odds and made it out of poverty. He raised my sister and I in the suburbs. My Dad was fun, not evil. He was full of life. My Dad was educated. He was an Ivy Leaguer, having studied at Columbia University. My Dad was successful. My Dad was influential and had many influential friends in the world of entertainment. In my heart-of-hearts I knew something was wrong. But, what could I do? I was 16 years old. In retrospect, there was no way I would ever understand the magnitude or severity of his sentence.

VISITATION
Visiting a correctional facility is no cakewalk. We have always had to travel at least 3 hours or more to visit my father. Over the years, Dad was relocated to different maximum-security federal prisons in several states including Indiana, Georgia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, upstate New York and a medium-security in New Jersey. I've seen grandmothers get turned away for wearing open-toed shoes, girlfriends and wives having to take down beautifully-styled hair that was pinned up because bobbie pins are not allowed in the visiting room, baby bags filled with diapers not allowed, women gathering in the bathroom to cut the wire out of their bras because you must get past the metal detectors without anything beeping, including the wire in your bra. The worst experience was a special trip my younger brother, Justin, made to visit Dad. At 5 years old, he was the only one of my 3 siblings present during my father’s arrest – a traumatizing experience to witness at such a young age. After years of not seeing my Dad, Justin flew 3000 miles from California to NY and we drove 18 hours down to the correctional facility in West Virginia that was nestled in the mountains. We arrive ready to visit and Justin gets denied visitation because he was wearing khaki pants. The prison guards tell us there was a Wal-Mart 20 miles away. There was no GPS at that time. We weren't familiar with the area. Plus, it was already Noon and visitation at the prison ended at 3pm. So, Justin waited in the car while we visited with Dad. I was gutted. After so many years of watching people being turned away, I have a standard outfit for visitation - jeans, sneakers and a long-sleeved sweater or shirt, no jewelry, no belt.

SEE ALSO: John Legend Launches FREE AMERICA Campaign To End Mass Incarceration

Nonetheless, there is a brighter side to all of this. The beauty of seeing family connection. Once in the visiting room, the prisoners have to immediately check-in with the guards and only then are they able to sit down across from their families. At this moment is when you see ALL the LOVE emerge. You see the surge of excitement arise as a child runs up to their Daddy. You see fathers hug their sons. You see fathers kiss their daughters. You see parents grab and squeeze their incarcerated sons’ faces with joy. You see wives and girlfriends embrace their men. And for a few hours, that correctional facility is filled with an abundance of real LOVE brought about by human connection. The importance of connection cannot be understated.

THE POWER OF CONNECTION
The connection we’ve maintained still bewilders me. Especially when I think about the quarter of century we have spent on this journey. My father has always remained Daddy and my Mom understood and respected that. My parents are my two greatest teachers on this planet. Both inspire me with their resilience, persistence and determination. My Dad has not allowed prison to change him for the worse. He maintains and strengthens ties with all four of his children. Although he did not have the ability to attend any of our school graduations, visit us in our own homes or witness the births of our children, he remains a committed father. For example: I was unable to visit him during my pregnancy, but the day after I delivered my son, my Dad had a big, beautiful bouquet of flowers sent to my hospital room with a special note. I cried. He sends birthday cards, Valentine's Day cards, Mother's Day cards and Christmas Cards and he calls us almost everyday. He has even developed and maintained a solid connection with his grandchildren despite never once meeting them outside prison walls. He empowers us all to continue to educate ourselves. At times, he even informs us about the latest current events and technology. For instance, he is really fascinated with Nano technology. He has been talking to us about this scientific study since 2000.

ERASING THE STAIN
The injustice that Dad promised to fight has finally reared its ugly head and it’s called Mass Incarceration. His conviction was one of the first under siege of Mass Incarceration. Thereafter, it propagated itself and STAINED the entire nation, making the U.S. the most incarcerated nation in the world. Today, there are over 2 million people incarcerated in the United States and the rippling effects are the 2.7 million children impacted by the loss of their incarcerated parents. The effects of Mass Incarceration are so severe that The Obama administration and frmr. Attorney General Eric Holder forged a sea-change of reform in the criminal justice system. President Obama even began a White House Initiative for Children of Incarcerated Parents, which my eldest brother, Anthony, and I had the pleasure of attending on more than one occasion. The issue is so pressing that the political parties have come together and Mass Incarceration has become one of the primary issues that there is Bipartisan support for. The racial disparity against black males is so prevalent that entertainer John Legend noted in his Oscar winning speech that “There are more black men under correctional control today than were under slavery in 1850.” In addition, the New York Times recently published an article “1.5 Million Missing Black Men” http://nyti.ms/1P5Gpa7 identifying the rise of missing black men with the increased prison populations. I believe, however, the biggest weapon against Mass Incarceration has been the monumental power of the worldwide web and social media. It has given my siblings and I a place to create awareness, advocate for our father’s release and share our story. We created a website, a petition, 2 hashtags: #HopeForFathersDay and #UnderwoodShouldBeHomeByNOW and we are working on a documentary, “Hope For Father’s Day.” You can view the trailer to the documentary and sign the petition on our website: www.INPRISON.net.

SEE ALSO: John Legend Wants President Obama To Get More Involved In Criminal Justice Reform

My father’s ability to maintain some semblance of normalcy and still laugh, baffles me. Especially when, for years, no opportunity for relief availed him. Interestingly enough, my father's favorite quote is from Paulo Coelho's book The Alchemist which reads, “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” As he promised me, my father fought against the injustice of Mass Incarceration and never gave up, even when nobody believed him. Yes, he made mistakes at a young age, should he be forever condemned to die in prison due to Mass Incarceration? I think not. Chiefly because my father, at the age of 61 years old sits in a prison cell with a clean institutional record and an out-dated prison sentence. President Obama is the ONLY one who can grant my father relief through clemency. I pray that Mr.Obama will help heal my family’s wound. Justice must be served!

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To learn more and support Ebony Underwood's aim to improve America's criminal justice system, visit INPRISON.net.

Photo Credit: Ebony Underwood

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Director John Singleton poses for a portrait in Los Angeles, California.
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For John Singleton

The last time I saw my friend and brother John Singleton was last year, the year 2018, what month exactly I cannot recall. But the meet-up was for me to spend several hours with him to interview John for the book I am still writing on the life and times of Tupac Shakur. John asked me to visit his production office in Los Angeles, where I got to sit in with his team of writers, including famed novelist Walter Mosley (one of John’s mentors and heroes). John was very proud of his FX network television show Snowfall, and how it was like a prequel to his most famous movie, his first, Boyz N The Hood. During my interview with John, he mentioned several times he rarely did interviews, but that he trusted me. Little did I know it would be the final time I would ever see him in person.

I first met John Singleton in 1992, when we were both 20-something upstarts, him as the creator of a critically-acclaimed and Oscar-nominated film (when John was only 23, 24), and me a staff writer for Quincy Jones’ VIBE magazine. I do not think John even remembered our first encounter in New York City, where he simply asked myself and some other heads if we dug Boyz N The Hood, being East Coast folks. Dug it? Heck, it was and is a classic of American and world cinema. What also connected John Singleton and I through all these years was our relationships with Tupac Shakur. In one of my early VIBE cover stories on ‘Pac, John said he wanted Tupac to be Robert DeNiro to his Martin Scorsese. Sadly they only did one film together, Poetic Justice. I’ve long imagined what they could have manifested, two racially proud black sons of two strong black mothers.

In an interview last year for my Tupac book, John cried on several occasions: about the lost potential of Tupac’s life and art, of the many lost black male lives. I also noticed that John sweated quite a bit. Little did I know he was suffering from the high blood pressure that would lead to the stroke that just took his life. John gave me a lot of information he has never shared with anyone and asked me to do the right thing, over and over, with this Tupac book, especially given his great disappointment that he did not get to direct the biopic on ‘Pac.

Like me, John was a fighter, to the very end, and what they called back in the day, a race man: his life and work were for black people, largely, to correct all the racist wrongs we have seen across American pop culture from the beginning to now. John was not afraid to speak his mind, to challenge, even if it cost him many career opportunities, which I feel it did. He understood he had to speak for all of us, not just himself; that he had to sacrifice himself, his art, for the greater good of real diversity and real inclusion; that Hollywood, or America, would never change without being pushed, nonstop. John was our cinematic resister, our cinematic revolutionary. He was a USC-trained filmmaker with the independent spirit of a Melvin Van Peebles and our beloved hip-hop culture. John was high art and he was also games of spades at a fish fry in the ghetto on a Friday night.

And John was not afraid of looking himself in the mirror. In that same interview I did with him for the Tupac book, he and I spoke at length about the pitfalls of fame, especially when it comes mad young, mad early. John spoke to me about how he carried guns then, how he became something he was not, and how it could have ended his life before 30, the recklessness of it all. But because we had outlived famous and not-famous black males around us, both John and I also shared this thing called survivor’s guilt. Like why me God, why am I still here? This is the question virtually every black male in America will ask himself as he sees those around him, including those more gifted, smarter, fall, one by one. John was determined not to fall. That is what I felt in my bones when I left his office that day from what turned out to be one of the best interviews I’ve gotten for the Tupac book. John and I always stayed in touch, usually by text, but John also liked to pick up the phone and just kick it voice to voice. He was accessible in a way many in the entertainment industry are not. John did not, to me, believe his own hype. He was always about the next TV show, the next film, the next thing he had to do, and he always thought of helping others.

When I first heard John Singleton had had a stroke, all the conflicting information made me think he would pull through. But today, ironically, as I flew from my city of New York to John’s city of Los Angeles, I learned it was over, that he was being taken off life support. I cried on that plane ride, I cry in my heart as I write this now. Another black man gone too soon, from something that was preventable. But given the many challenges we face in America, the ugliness of racism, the constant need to prove ourselves, over and over, it is little wonder that so many of us are sick, are walking wounded, are working ourselves, quite literally at times, to death. I am sad because I never got on that boat of John’s for a ride he was always offering. Sailing was one of the great joys of John’s life, and I spoke with him many a day when he was on his boat. I am extremely sad because just this past Saturday, I directed and produced and wrote my very first short film, about black men and black boys, and I thought about John Singleton the entire time, how I wanted to create something with him. And how I was going to ask him to support my short film entitled “Brotha Man.”

Indeed, we had kicked around some ideas the past year or so, he had quietly supported financially my wife Jinah Parker’s theater production, SHE, a Choreoplay, and John stood by me when I filed a lawsuit against the producers of the Tupac biopic, even as I was being ridiculed by some due to false media information. John, in a word, was a friend, to me, to many, a supporter, to me, to many; and because he is of my generation, of my race, of my gender identity, he also spoke for me and to me, through his films. So a part of me has died, too, with him, and you wonder every single time you see one of your peers gone how much time you have yourself before God, the ancestors, the universe, some spirit force calls on you next. I have no idea, I am not afraid, I am stunned, yes, but I have done everything I can to prepare myself for how long or how short the rest of my life will be. And it is my humble hope that like John Singleton, when I am gone, I will have left something behind for all time. Because he did, he truly did.

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Why Would Sada Baby Not Rank Eminem In His Top Five From Detroit?

Eminem is the most prolific and successful rapper of all time. His stats can’t be faded. When it’s all said and done, we’ll be retiring his number in every stadium he’s ever sold out.

With over 100 million records sold worldwide, an Oscar for Best Original Song, 10 No. 1 albums, more than 1 billion streams on Spotify, two top 100, all-time best selling albums, Marshall Bruce Mathers III is the highest selling rapper of all time. His top five status should be firmly cemented.

The respect for Em also extends to the greatest names in hip-hop. In 2012, VIBE compiled a list of the top 40 compliments Eminem has been given from his peers with names stretching from Scarface to Redman to Jay-Z. In a 2008 interview with BBC, Nas says of Em, “He contributes so much lyrically and musically. He’s amazing.” In a 2010 conversation with Hot 97, Kanye West is on record as saying, “Nobody’s gonna be bigger than Eminem.”

So why does it seem like he isn’t getting the respect he deserves in his own city?

In a recent interview with Say Cheese TV, Detroit rapper Sada Baby – when asked if Eminem was a top five rapper – said, “Out of Detroit? Hell naw. You talking about my Detroit?” While the internet took that quote and decided their varying levels of agreement or anger, there was one thing Sada said that stood out.

“My Detroit.”

While that phrase may not mean anything to outsiders, that distinction means the world to Detroiters.

Detroit is a tale of two cities when it comes to rap. Many know iconic producer J Dilla and wordsmiths like eLZhi and Royce Da 5’9”, but the D has a long, legendary history of street rappers who have helped pave the way. That’s a legacy that younger artists such as Icewear Vezzo, Payroll Giovanni of Doughboyz Cashout, Tee Grizzley, and Sada Baby are pushing forward to this day. As a native Metro Detroiter, artist manager, and digital label manager for Soulspazm Records, Eric “Soko” Reynaert sees both sides as equally important. “The different circles carry a lot of importance in encompassing the variety we have to offer. It's all important equally because it's what makes Detroit hip-hop what it is. Detroit's been running the overseas market touring wise for years, Detroit street rap is making noise in the major label market, Danny Brown's a fucking star: it's all good for Detroit hip-hop as a whole.”

The blunt, straightforward approach of Detroit’s street rappers just doesn’t mesh well with Eminem’s style of storytelling and wordplay. Slim Shady’s knack for entendres, stuffing multisyllabic rhyme schemes inside of each bar and floating between different pockets is a dense, complex style that, in Sada Baby’s own admission, most people just don’t get. “Eminem will get to saying some shit [that’s] going over everybody’s head,” Sada shrugged. “I might be able to decipher some of that shit but that nigga’s shit going over everybody head”.

That’s Sada’s Detroit. Among his musical influences are the late, great Detroit street rappers Blade Icewood and Wipeout - both murdered over the beef between their respective crews, Street Lord'z and the Eastside Chedda Boyz. If you truly want to know what a Detroit native lives by, take a listen to the Eastside Chedda Boyz’s “Oh Boy” and Blade Icewood’s “Boy Would You.” The true anthems of the city, both songs deified by their infectious hooks, blunt and deliberate lyrics, and a simplistic yet highly effective message draped in the energy that Detroiters carry with them. They’re not trying to win you over with metaphors and similes, but rather connect to their audience with honesty and directness in their rhyming. Similar styles can be heard in other 313 legends like Big Herk, K Deezy, and even Trick Trick and his Goon Sqwad click that has been active on the city’s music scene since the mid-‘90s. These are the artists that dominated the streets and Detroit radio. Not J Dilla. Not Slum Village. Not Black Milk. Detroit’s lyrical rappers tout immense worldwide respect but have always been relegated to the background in Detroit’s hierarchy, only sniffing radio play by doing jingles for local disc jockeys.

“There’s a street side and a hip-hop side to the music scene in Detroit,” says battle rap pioneer and Detroit MC Marvwon, while explaining the differences amongst the city’s musical landscape. “The funny thing is [that] there’s no difference in level of talent. The only difference is the backdrops.”

Those backdrops are also socioeconomic in nature as Detroit is a city whose residents have been denied basic human necessities. And for the Motor City? There’s no better representation of the city than the music at the most fundamental, street level. As Marv continued to explain, “The division comes from perception. The street cats believe that there hasn’t been an accurate representation of Detroit in the music world.”

Those feelings are echoed throughout the scene. Detroit MC Seven The General traverses through both worlds in a manner that the city hasn’t seen since the late Big Proof (known as Eminem’s close friend, as a member of his group D12). As Seven explains, “When I was incarcerated, we felt that the street aspect of Detroit wasn’t being heard with Eminem. But when I came home in ‘03 and heard Rock Bottom, I realized it was there but it just wasn’t receiving the same attention nationally. It had been held back and secluded to the streets for so long that people felt Eminem didn’t like it or care. It caused a resentment and caused rappers to feel like he doesn’t listen to us so why should we listen to him. It made us ask, ‘Where on the list of Eminem‘s top five Detroit artists would any of us fit?’”

When taking in these factors, it’s easy to see why Eminem doesn’t translate well for Sada Baby. However, Eminem’s impact has transcended not only Detroit but the world. Artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Hopsin, Tyler The Creator, and Juice WRLD are amongst today’s generation of rappers that all list him as a major influence. For better or worse, Em is also a catalyst for today’s druggie rap scene. Street rappers have gone from rapping about selling drugs to today’s scene glorifying the use of Xanax and Percocet - something that Marshall pioneered on his early albums with songs like “Drug Ballad” and “Purple Pills.” And with the blockbuster film 8 Mile and its hit song “Lose Yourself,” Eminem helped take battle rap culture mainstream to unfamiliar audiences.

Thanks to Eminem, Detroit’s street rap and lyrical scenes have crossed over. Somewhere at the intersection of manager/A&R Hex Murda and Big Sean, the worlds collided. As Marv states, “Big Sean, Danny Brown, and anyone else from the city mostly talk about the same things: money, bitches, and bossing up.” For every J Dilla, we now have a Black Milk who can equally rap and produce between both worlds. Where there’s a Dex Osama, there’s a Guilty Simpson and Seven The General whose blunt and brash flows hit you in the chest as hard as their lyrical ability and wordplay.

And don’t get it twisted; Em definitely sees the work that Detroit’s street rappers are putting in. “I have a personal relationship with all of the rappers around him,” Seven says. “I feel he rocks with me and has love for me. If he could see a way for us to make bread together, I feel like he’d pull me in; but D12 is actively in the streets assisting artists. I’ve personally seen what Em does for Detroit like his partnerships with (Metro Detroit sneaker boutique) Burn Rubber and (locally-founded clothing company) Detroit vs Everybody.”

He may not be your flavor but there’s no denying the skill and impact that Em has had on the city of Detroit and the genre as a whole. If Eminem isn’t top five in Detroit, you’re doing it wrong.

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Beautycon NYC: 4 Takeaways From The 5th Annual Event

For the fifth year in a row, Beautycon — an annual festival bringing together beauty and fashion brands, fans, celebrities, and influencers — packed the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan, N.Y.

On April 6 and 7, thousands of women, men, gender non-conforming individuals and more took part in the exciting, sold-out event, which saw stars such as Cardi B, Issa Rae, Yara Shahidi, Marsai Martin and Regina Hall partaking in panels, workshops, tutorials, meet-and-greets and much more. Brands like The Mane Choice, Too Faced, Sally Beauty, and Rimmel were on hand to promote and sell products, and all festivalgoers went home with a multitude of free products.

The annual two-day event’s underlying message is to highlight a more diverse, inclusive world, with hopes of filtering out judgment and negativity. Whether you’re just starting out in the beauty game or you’ve got hundreds of thousands of followers aiming to learn your ways, Beautycon aims to make everyone feel safe, welcome and ultimately beautiful in the skin they’re in.

“We are far from perfect, we are still learning,” Beautycon co-founder and CEO Moj Mahdara said during the event. “We are growing every day, and it’s really all of you that make this better and better.” Beautycon festivals are held in New York City, Los Angeles, London, and recently, the company announced that for the first time this June, Beautycon is heading to Japan.

VIBE Vixen got a chance to sit in on panels, partake in the various installations and take in all of the sights of the Beautycon NYC Festival. Here are four things we learned while at this year’s edition in the Big Apple.

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Inclusion Is Finally In, So Now It’s Time For Allyship

While makeup companies are starting to be more inclusive as it pertains to consumers of color, it’s important for brands to continue the crusade by being allies.

During a panel called “The Intersection of Fashion and Beauty,” moderator Priscilla Ono praised makeup artist Raisa Flowers for being open and honest about the disadvantages makeup artists of color face. While their work is championed online “for clicks,” Flowers noted that some of the best makeup artists of color are still unable to find work in the industry. A similar sentiment trended on Twitter earlier in the year regarding the lack of black makeup artists and hairstylists in Hollywood.

“In the industry, they don’t really bring us out,” Flowers said of the power of social media for beauty gurus. “I work with mostly black women, but I can do [makeup on] everyone, and [I’m hired] to [work with] certain people… even if it’s not on a black woman, the work I do is powerful enough to change the energy in the room.”

Of course, the importance of allyship and knowing consumers translates to clothing brands. As we’ve seen this year with luxury brands such as Gucci, it’s imperative to make sure that the history of certain communities is known, so that brands won’t make massive mistakes or exclude a group through their work or designs. This can be done by employing diverse, qualified members to these teams and taking into consideration the lives of all people who buy into these brands.

 

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My Collab with @eloquii has been a dream to create over the past year! Getting to design for sizes 14+ with a brand that knows FIT so well! And I had NO LIMITS! Something I’m so grateful for! I hope you enjoy this collection as much as I do💛#PriscillaOnoxEloquii

A post shared by Priscilla Ono (@priscillaono) on Apr 5, 2019 at 8:09am PDT

All Shapes And Sizes Deserve Representation In Beauty And Fashion

With fast-fashion brands such as Fashion Nova, there appears to be just one body type that is championed. Although the Instagram-favorite has extended themselves with lines for men and plus-sized women, it’s important that all shapes and sizes are represented in the fashion and beauty spaces.

“Across the board, there are different aesthetics [for plus sized women],” fashion photographer Lydia Hudgens explained during the panel, ‘The Intersection of Fashion and Beauty.’ “When women are plus-sized, there’s a different room for them. She’s different, you’re different, I’m different. Having a voice and a different style heard is important too.”

Beautycon’s commitment to diversity was apparent in the brands they brought to their event. Cacique Intimates is a lingerie brand specializing in sizes from 0-28. Their display and mannequin showcased the plus-sized products in their collection, which was incredibly refreshing to see. Makeup artist Priscilla Ono also debuted her clothing design collaboration with Eloquii, which specializes in eye-popping and trendy fashions catered to women who are a size 14 and up.

 

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We just LOVE our booth @beautycon in NYC. Follow the story for more! #BeautyConNYC 💕

A post shared by Cacique (@caciqueintimates) on Apr 6, 2019 at 11:44am PDT

Bright Colors Are In

If you’re committed to Yeezy Season neutrals such as grays, greens and black in your wardrobe, you’re in for a bit of disappointing news. It was clear at the Beautycon NYC Festival that vibrant fashion is the theme of 2019.

Bright pink and green pastels filled the Convention Center. Regardless of whether you’re trying to be a “Cozy Girl,” or if you’re ready to rip the runway, your best bet is to go with something as bright as humanly possible if you’re trying to make a statement this year.

This suggestion also works with accessories. Patterned head wraps were en vogue at this year’s Beautycon NYC Festival, as well as bright bundles, wigs and weaves. The energetic and fun colors helped these individuals both fit in and stand out.

 

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Struttin through #BeautyConNYC in @fashionnova 💚 @thezurisaddai

A post shared by Aliya Janell (@thealiyajanell) on Apr 8, 2019 at 11:02am PDT

 

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The cast of “Little”, @issarae in @therow, @marsaimartin in @ralphandrusso, and @morereginahall, glam up to attend BeautyCon NYC! #IssaRae #TheRow #MarsaiMartin #RalphandRusso #ReginaHall #LittleMovie #talksandthoughts

A post shared by @ talksandthought on Apr 8, 2019 at 9:56am PDT

Beautycon’s Tone Could Use A Facelift

As Beautycon co-founder Moj Mahdara said, the five-year-old company is continuing to grow and learn. While Beautycon’s motive is to start necessary, intentional conversations in the fashion, beauty and social justice realms, it seems that the NYC festival needed a little work with keeping a consistent tone throughout the two-day event.

For example, we love Cardi B’s unapologetic, unfiltered approach to life just as much as we love Yara Shahidi’s intelligence and conscious way of looking at the world. Women are multifaceted, and it’s important to show both sides. While it was amazing to have both of these figures at the event, if you’re looking at the full scope of Beautycon, the ebb and flow made the content of the panels just seem a bit all over the place.

Cardi’s explicitness during her panel “Making Money Moves” was expected. However, there were far too many children in the audience for some of the comments she brought forth. The day before, a large group of people ended up leaving Shahidi’s “fireside chat” called “Fighting the Fear of Being Yourself," which some who passed VIBE Vixen called- for lack of a better word- ‘boring.’ It was right after a twerktastic dance performance and motivational speech from dancer and choreographer, Aliya Janell.

Now, this isn’t to say that Beautycon doesn’t know who they’re attempting to reach out to. It’s clear through the brands that attended the festival that the company knows who they’d like to get the attention of. But when it comes to the tone of conversations they were trying to promote, coupled with celebrities and speakers for these particular conversations, they could use some readjusting. There wasn’t the right rhythm most of the time, however, the company continues to grow and thrive. Hopefully, they’ll figure out their tone in due time.

 

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A quick throwback to yesterday when @noor and I reunited at @beautycon to talk about media, social engagement and inclusion 😘❣️ a big merci to @moj

A post shared by Yara (يارا‎) Shahidi (@yarashahidi) on Apr 7, 2019 at 5:30pm PDT

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