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A Brown Girl's Top-Down Spring Cleaning Guide

Experts in hair, skincare, style and fitness offer tips on how women of color can switch things up.

Oftentimes, the phrase “spring cleaning” is immediately associated with a weekend-long spree of knees-on-the-floor scrubbing, sorting, tossing and rearranging within one’s home, but it should be a little deeper than that. Yes, pristine living quarters are an ideal way to step from one season to the next, but that same fixer-upper dedication should also be applied to the self.

Self-care in 2019, especially for women of color, has become paramount. Audre Lorde said it best back in 1988 within the pages of A Burst Of Light: And Other Essays: "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare."

In addition to caring for their well-being in terms of personal space, it’s also important for women of color to take care of their bodies and rejuvenate them from the top down as they would their closets before the summer sun hits. We tapped four experts in hair, skincare, fashion, and fitness to offer nuggets of advice for how to spring clean their habits to get to their brightest, boldest, healthiest and happiest selves for the rest of the year.

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Hair, as told by celebrity hairstylist Ursula Stephen

 

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If you have shrinkage, you might as well embrace it in heat and humidity.
You can't fight Mother Nature, but it's very important to invest in products that are geared towards shrinkage because they are making a lot of things for that. If you keep trying to make it be the thing that it's not, your hair's going to get depressed. You need to give it the love that it needs for what it's going through at the moment. Just like with your skin, your nails, it changes every season. It often changes every couple of years. I think it's a matter of paying attention to what your hair is doing and rolling with it. You have to grow with your hair and learn to understand it and work with it. Invest in a good diffuser. If you have shrinkage, after you pull out your twist outs or your braid outs, what you can do is, after you shake everything out, you unravel it. What the diffuser does is it helps to stretch the hair. It doesn't put direct heat on the hair. It doesn't move the hair around. That's another way of combating shrinkage. Another thing is just embracing it.

Don’t be scared to decorate and accessorize your 4C textured hair.
I think accessories are a big deal. I think I've been pushing accessories for years, I've been trying to get more red carpets and now finally people are using a lot of accessories. I think it's another way to excite yourself about your 4C hair because people are going through a lot. I know girls with shrinkage, [and] I think adding accessories, headbands, and scarves is a way to accessorize it and also get excited about the hair. Dress it up for the summer time.

Staple braid looks can lead to more fun, bold protective styling.
If you feel like it's something you really can't deal with [shrinkage] visually, the summertime is an amazing idea to do alternative styles like braids, and weaves, and getting extension pieces to extend your top knot. You can't hack Mother Nature, so you have to figure out how to work with it. I think long, box braids are a great way [the warm up to protective styles]. If you do long ones, and you're not used to wearing long weaves or whatever, that's your segue into your long hair but it's still keeping up with your natural self. I think doing something like braids, like long braids, or crochet braids, that still gives you movement are a good way to trick your mind, or slowly getting to a different look. I think braids are a good segue into long, box braids. You always notice girls that have long weaves, they're attached to their weaves and you know they're nervous to take it out, they always go to braids. It still gives them the natural feel, but also gives care, so it feels alright.

 

Skincare, as told by aesthetic medicine specialist Dr. Barbara Sturm

 

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When seasons swap, switch it up with skincare.
The misconception is that darker skin is bulletproof. The reality is the Achilles heel of darker skin is a greater sensitivity to the inflammation cascade. Inflammation can be easily triggered in darker skin, so it is essential to avoid inflammation triggers, such as aggressive ingredients in skincare, lasers, acid peels, inflammatory foods, smoking, sun and pollution exposure, and excessive drinking. Women of color need to remain vigilant against inflammation and all its triggers. This means in summer, or confronted with inflammation-inducing sun exposure, it is important to wear a high SPF sunscreen. I recommend a good Anti-Pollution serum year round, but springtime is filled with a natural air pollutant: pollen, which is inflammatory and can wreak havoc on unprotected skin. In warmer months, I recommend using a lighter formulation of moisturizer. In colder months, strong barrier protection is needed against harsh elements that also trigger inflammation. A higher lipid content moisturizer is recommended during the cold season. Strong anti-inflammatory skin care is required 365 days a year, and lasers and acid peels should also be avoided year round due to their inflammatory effects.

Spoiling yourself with facials is more than okay, but quick fix skin regimens can make matters worse.
A facial is a luxurious necessity. In the right hands and using the right ingredient science, a facial cleanses, nourishes, and awakens the skin, while reducing inflammation and hyper-pigmentation, evening out irregularities in the skin, and strengthening the skin matrix. The ideal everyday skin maintenance regime improves the skin matrix and avoids the need for too much “corrective action,” which if aggressive, can trigger inflammation. I would never use a peel with any skin type, but darker skin needs to be especially careful to avoid post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and other dysfunction that can result from these “quick fix” approaches. I do not ever recommend a chemical peel for darker skin. A mask can be healing, hydrating and full of antioxidants and nutrition and should be used several times a week as a skin corrector. Serums, like my Darker Skin Tones Hyaluronic Serum, are one of the most essential elements of my regime and corrects the skin immediately while combating inflammation and oxidation.

It’s still possible (and preferable) to glow without a full makeup beat.
Summertime skin care means high lipid-content moisturizers can stay in the cabinet. A lighter formulation is appropriate for the warmer months and depending on one’s own sebum production and the climate, my serum may suffice as a moisturizer, which also contains Lumicol, a complexion brightening and skin evening ingredient. I am a fan of healthy skin that doesn’t require too much makeup, and makeup itself can contain aggressive ingredients triggering the inflammation that darker skin tones are uniquely sensitive to. To make my makeup pop or even instead of makeup on a hot summer night, I use my Glow Drops, which provide both anti-inflammatory anti-aging benefits and shimmer particle-delivered glow.

 

Style, as told by supermodel Chanel Iman

 

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Revamping your wardrobe is a lot simpler than you think.
I always keep my favorites. I always put them away when it’s wintertime, then bring them back for the spring, and then mix-and-match with different accessories. That’s what I do to make it look new again. Try it with a different shoe, or instead of wearing a heel or a tennis shoe with it, try to make it different than how I wore it the last year.

 

Fitness, as told by STRONG By Zumba co-creator Ai Lee Syarief

 

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Despite the heat of summer, sneak in fun ways to stay active and healthy.
I think the most important thing is that you do something where you have fun. Don't do something where you think, I have to do it because everybody's doing it, or it's like, Oh, I heard this is good. Let's just try it. In the beginning, you do it, but if you don't have fun, if you don't really enjoy it, you wouldn't do it. Make sure you do something where you have fun. Make sure you do something with your friend because if you're two, if you're three, it keeps you motivated. If you're only, "OK, I'm at home I'm doing a workout," and then today I'm like, "Aw, should I do it or not?" Or "should I go to the gym?" Make sure you have somebody, friends, do something you really love, too. And you know the whole package—workout, good sleep. Sleeping is very, very good. Make sure that you have a really good, balanced nutrition, and then I think you're going to be fine for summer.

Pushing through crappy weather days to get a quick sweat in is a motivation booster.
Even on the bad windy days, I don't feel like it's something bad. I mean, I love fresh air. For me even if it's windy, let's just go out. Be motivated and do something you love. That is going to push you very much. I think that STRONG by Zumba, what motivates you is the music. Find a factor that you really love. When results come, whatever the results are, you will get even more motivated. You do it, you love it, you see your results whatever they are and then you go like "OK, let's push through."

Additional reporting by Desire Thompson.

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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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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.

 

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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

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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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