I’ve Always Loved Two Things: The Written Word and Beauty

As a teenager I would look through the magazine section at our local grocery store on a regular basis – I’d hold the glossy pages in my hands and take it all in. Her outfits, her makeup, her hairstyles, the ads. As I thumbed through Vogue and Vanity Fair I realized I was less interested in the words, something that was unusual for me, but the beauty was something to sit in awe of. Looking back on it now, I’m sometimes surprised to think that the poor, small, rural town I’m from even had these little creative windows available for us to buy. Sometimes I’d even spend the five dollars to own one – an escape from reality, 1,000 suggestions on how you (a woman) should look, props to collect dust in the salon, someone telling you what to buy to be her. For some reason, I didn’t care about any of that. It was just art to me. That lifestyle was so inaccessible in my world that I couldn’t even focus on what I didn’t have – the thought never even crossed my mind to want what they had. Because creating art is free.

As a young adult, getting a degree in news / editorial journalism, waiting to graduate to start my career in beauty, I thought I might “grow up” to get that job everyone in movies seems to want: beauty editor of some major magazine. I knew I wanted to be a writer and I knew I wanted to be a makeup artist, so logically the simplest choice of career path would be to become the makeup artist version of Carrie Bradshaw. No problem. Grow up to be The Devil Wears Prada version of Meryl Streep; again no problem.

Step one: go to journalism school. As a journalism student I was required to pick up three newspapers a day before classes began to review them for major news. The two local daily papers (yes this is unusual, and since then one has folded) and the San Francisco Chronicle. We’d have to show up to class ready to talk about anything and everything that was in those three papers – we’d almost always be quizzed on something too. This is before smart phones. Last minute googling of who died this morning or what weather event was printed above the fold on the Chronicle wasn’t an option. You had to know it. You had the physical copy in your backpack. You spent at least thirty minutes prior to that first class skimming and picking out anything that seemed to be important news, just in case. Then we’d write about it, and we’d be timed. I loved it.

In my “free time” I’d see my less serious woman on the side: magazines. I worked in the mall, and on my breaks I’d walk over to Borders, a now defunct bookstore chain, to spend an entire hour’s wages on a caramel latte and a Vogue. Back then I never subscribed to anything – I loved going in person, drinking my coffee and touching the pages. It’s amazing how nostalgic that feels writing this now, in a world where we can’t touch anything, where bookstores are a dying breed. You’d open it and smell the perfume samples; ads would fall out; back then Keira Knightley would be staring back at you wearing something that engulfed her, her giant smokey eyes vacant but beautiful. That signature pouty lip, her boney shoulders. And all I could think about was going home to recreate that makeup look with whatever products I could scrape together.

Somewhere along the line I lost interest in that type of art because reality set in and it became harder and harder for me to see those photos as isolated innocent projects. They became small pieces of a bigger system. A beauty politic problem. A body politic problem. A capitalist, racist problem.

However, I was a resourceful person – I worked at Victoria’s Secret so I could “afford” the glamorous fashion, and I got myself my first makeup job at an Estee Lauder counter where I made decent enough commissions to earn almost all the makeup I could ever want or use. Step two: become a beauty professional. I’ve worked in beauty ever since. Up the chain. Practicing. Now for myself. Now more clearly understanding the framework we all participate in to maintain these systems of power. Understanding it’s evils while participating in them to survive. The reality of needing to work selling makeup for several hours to buy one mascara from the brand I worked for wasn’t lost on me. Now I work one hour and can buy at least ten mascaras. The reality that if I were to graduate and actually become a writer at our local newspaper I would be paying off my student loans into my forties, was also not lost on me. Instead, I could become a makeup artist and pay them off a decade sooner. I feel like I’ve spent my life trying to play the system, positioning myself in a world I was priced out of, until someday I could afford it. Sometimes I feel like that’s business, sometimes I feel like there’s more to it than that.

So I graduated from journalism school, and beauty school and took a decade-long detour away from magazines and newspapers, toward entrepreneurship and learning. But I miss it. The art part. The simplicity. The ease and joy of turning the pages and just looking.

A year ago I started a “digital declutter” experiment and as part of my efforts to minimize online time, I subscribed to print publications. Beauty magazines weren’t even on my list of options. The stories about “how to please your man” are just as disappointing as the half-hearted articles on “how to please yourself.” The “You go girl!” and “Girl power!” undertones are just different sides of the same misogynistic, patriarchal coin. Sometimes a decent story is thrown in but mostly, it’s all just what you should buy, simple content, abysmal representation. Perpetuation of stereotypes, norms and capitalist “culture.” So instead I decided to subscribe to The New York Times, Veg News Magazine, Rolling Stone, and Esquire. I feel like the stories and interviews in Esquire are extremely well written and the ads are almost entirely for men, so I can enjoy them without thinking too much about it. The others are obviously for news, some pop culture, and food. But I still missed makeup, and hairstyling, fashion and stories about women. Where women are the center.

Then I found CRWNMAG on instagram, and their feed was everything I love about beauty without the over simplification and lack of representation. I ordered every issue they have available on their website and could not be more thrilled to finally be bringing editorial-style print beauty back into my life and regular rotation. The about section on their website explains that CRWNMAG

“exists to create a progressive dialogue around natural hair and the women who wear it. We’re reaching beyond trendy clickbait and #BlackGirlMagic to address the whole Black woman; a woman who is more educated, well-traveled and sophisticated than ever before – largely because generations before her have fought to ensure her seat at the table. Through beautiful content, thoughtful commentary, hair inspiration and resources; we’re telling the world the truth about Black women by showcasing a new standard of beauty – and documenting our story in tangible, premium print form.”

The magazines themselves are amazing quality, thick and durable like a book. The pages are matte and have that library book smell – that good paper smell. But inside, the content is more than I expected. Because I respect the creators, writers, and artists featured, I will not share specific examples of articles or projects but I will say that although I am not a Black woman, I have an appreciation for a print magazine that centers women and issues that mainstream beauty magazines ignore or barely include. The ads are different, the art is different, and the stories and interviews take a more analytical and intersectional approach to reporting. I feel like I can actually enjoy the magazine because it isn’t ignoring the things mainstream beauty ignores, if that makes sense. It’s like opening my VegNews and realizing every ad is for vegan food. I don’t have to look at ads for meat or dairy, I can just enjoy the content and it actually applies to me. Not that every article or editorial piece in CRWNMAG applies to me, but I appreciate the beauty and the perspectives and feel like I can actually learn something. It’s time to bring that beauty magazine ritual back.

______

@crwnmag

https://shop.crwnmag.com

Christmas Time is Here!

Today is the three year anniversary party for my business Two Beauties Skincare & Makeup Artistry. My official opening date is November 1, 2016 but because Christmas is my favorite holiday I made it a tradition to celebrate in December during my favorite night in old town Eureka. Every first Saturday of the month businesses in the historic old town section of Eureka stay open late for shopping, snacks, and art displays. When I moved to northern California and first started going to “Arts Alive” nights I always looked forward to the Christmas edition of this tradition.

Downtown is decorated, it’s cold out, and that special holiday spirit is in the air. I’d walk around in awe of how beautiful Eureka and it’s small businesses are – all lit up and glowing. The street lights shining through the mist and fog rolling in from the water. Like a glimpse into the past – what shopping for Christmas must have looked like before malls and the internet. Buying presents from people you know, watching them gift wrap your trinkets, knowing you’re supporting community. I love how many people come together to support our little town and it’s traditions. Back then I never would’ve dreamed I’d have a store front on second street, that I’d be a small business owner and a real part of this tradition. And what a journey it’s been already.

Today, as I prepare for my one big party a year – a way to celebrate my wonderful clients, our beautiful small town, and the magic of Christmas, I decided to show you how I decorate. At work and at home. For those of you that know me personally, maybe you’ve seen my shop and my home and can use this blog post for decorating and shopping inspiration. I’ll share the local vendors I used for my beautiful Christmas Arts Alive display at work, and then show you how I set up my house to reflect my love of the holidays. For those of you that may not know me, or have never visited my studio, I hope that this post is a way for you to get to know me better – an inside look at the things that make me happy.

While I’m aware that “things” are not what the holidays are about, I do recognize that I am very connected to the environments that I create for myself, and the feelings they evoke. When I take the time to create spaces that look and feel magical, that helps me to feel happy and content to just be and exist in the moment. Last night I locked up at work, about an hour and a half later than usual at the end of an eleven hour day, and I took the time to stand on the quiet sidewalk outside my front window and just look. Cardboard boxes full of décor in hand, I just let myself stand there and feel gratitude for what we’ve made. Local businesses are truly a creation of an entire community.

And I had a thought. As the years go by and I learn, grow, and get to know myself better, I realize that Christmas is my favorite holiday because of the magic that is easier to see. I’ve always been someone who notices the whimsical in the ordinary, the reality in the imaginary and the fairy-tale in every day circumstances. I’m given two ordinary options, and often times I’d rather create a third more extraordinary one for myself. I know Santa Claus isn’t real, but really, isn’t he? And why not believe? I’d lost that part of myself for a while – the part that insisted on believing – and lately I’ve been recovering it. Bit by bit. Because being solidly grounded in logic is good, but when that’s all you see, life becomes boring and soulless. And after all, reality is subjective anyway.

And so I’ve discovered that Christmas is that time of year when almost everyone is willing to recognize and believe a little more in magic. The trick is to learn to see that magic around us every single day of the year, because I know it’s there, somewhere.

_____

Work Display Vendors:

Photography: The Studio by Kimberly Ann

http://www.photosbykimberlyann.com/contact.html

Hair: Trimmed & Pinned Hair Studio

https://m.facebook.com/Trimmedpinnedhairstudio/

Wardrobe: Shipwreck Boutique

https://m.facebook.com/shipwreckeureka/

Florals: Flora Organica Designs

https://www.floraorganicadesigns.com

Display Stand & Sign: Barri Jean Designs

https://www.barrijeandesigns.com

_____

Notable Etsy Shops For Holiday Home Decor:

CreateYourOwnGift https://www.etsy.com/shop/CreateYourOwnGift

MyRusticHomeBoutique https://www.etsy.com/shop/MyRusticHomeBoutique

StardustBySeiko https://www.etsy.com/shop/StardustBySeiko

_____

My Favorite Local Shops For Holiday Decor:

Ferndale Emporium http://www.ferndale-emporium.com

The Farmer’s Daughter https://m.facebook.com/pages/category/Home-Decor/The-Farmers-Daughter-110728025661214/

Golden Gait Mercantile https://www.goldengaitmercantile.com

Land of Lovely https://landoflovely.com

Pierson’s https://www.thebighammer.com

Sekoya Botanicals https://sekoyabotanicals.com

Main Street Gift Co https://www.mainstreetgiftco.net

We also do a fair amount of holiday decor shopping at Michaels, and at a store called Paddington Station in Ashland, Oregon. https://paddingtonstationashland.com

My Digital Minimalism Experiment Part 1: Why

I’m becoming a digital minimalist. Simply put, I’m doing this experiment because as a business owner my goal is to maximize my return on time invested. I want to get the maximum possible value out of the media and tech I use, while using the minimum possible amount of intentionally-spent time to achieve that. In my personal life, which is tied to my blog and my Real Life Vegan Wife social media accounts, I want to do the same thing, but with the goal of becoming more effective. I believe that when we step away from the constant distractions, deep, introspective thinking occurs and original work can be created. Better quality, thoughtful work.

Up front it’s an experiment but overall, it’s a lifestyle change.

I’ve been struggling with media and technology use since I opened my business, and to be honest, I hate it. My business inbox always has thousands of emails; my personal email is a joke, filled with junk I have yet to delete. I have messages on Instagram and Facebook that need to be returned, and when I look at my phone I get anxiety looking at the steady stream of texts coming in from clients, family, and friends. I leave messages unread so that I will remember to return them, and the little red numbers just add stress to my already full schedule. I am extremely grateful to have steady clientele, but the feeling of looming dread is a cloud hovering over me. The stress and anxiety caused by this constant state of needing to get back to someone is counterproductive to living a positive and effective life. The time I spend attending to this open stream of communication and NOT being an esthetician, makeup artist, or writer is astonishing and clearly not an efficient use of my time. And because the distractions are constant, flowing, and always accessible, it is almost impossible to sit quietly with my own thoughts for a time period long enough to produce something meaningful. There is a reason why I write at 5am.

But we feel trapped, right? At least I do. I know that many of us who grew up without social media and smart phones long for simpler times – quieter times. Nostalgia for the days spent in the college library doing research because that was the only access to the internet I had. Going on a weekend away and only thinking of responsibility after checking your answering machine when you return. Emailing someone for fun. Working during business hours. Using technology for it’s intended purpose, without being tied to communication 24/7.

But the thought of stepping away is terrifying, especially if you’re running any type of small business. You’ll miss important emails, client texts, forget to pay something – your opportunities for social networking will be diminished. You’ll be less visible, and therefore less successful because clients can’t find you, or talk to you as easily (so they’ll go with a different option), and other professionals can’t collaborate with you. And this simple assessment doesn’t even take into account how potential clients perceive you based on your social media presence, or lack thereof. As a small business owner we are very aware of the real implications of not being available. Losing potential clients, and missing out on opportunities that could help grow our careers are very real possibilities with huge life-altering consequences for our reputations and bank accounts. Without clients we don’t stay open.

I’ve lived in this stressful limbo for about three years now. Wearing all the hats of small-business-owner while also maintaining all my communication streams, website updates, and social media accounts. It’s exhausting, and takes up way too much time. I constantly feel like I’m failing at it. Maintaining and growing my blog and corresponding social media is currently enjoyable, but I want to keep it that way and be efficient with time spent. And I’m guilty of scrolling during the “free” moments. But for me it’s not as simple as quitting cold turkey, and I can’t maintain this lifestyle much longer. So what’s the solution? If we acknowledge that technology is neither inherently good or bad, but how we choose to use it is what matters, then how do we learn to exercise autonomy over our own attention?

Recently I listened to “Cal Newport on Digital Minimalism: Why Focus is the New Superpower” on the Rich Roll Podcast. And then I did more research, and listened to him on other podcasts, and ordered his books Deep Work and Digital Minimalism, which I will read for part two of this series. I am completely hooked on his ideas – he’s a computer scientist explaining that we spend too much time with tech, and I can respect that. He posits that for the first time in history humans have completely eliminated solitude from our lives and that this state of constant communication and never-ending cognitive demands is impacting our work quality and creativity, but also our physical and mental health. I agree completely. We’re walking, talking balls of anxiety and stress who fill every moment we used to spend in our own heads coming up with our own ideas, with someone else’s thoughts instead. We’re constantly interrupted or distracted. We’ve banished solitude, and with it our peace, our time, and our potential to produce our best original work. We’re also using tech as an escape from reality, which doesn’t remedy any of our real problems, but instead distracts us from them.

Cal Newport’s solution is a “Digital Declutter,” which he likens to the idea of “Marie Kondo-ing your digital life.” A thirty-day time period in which you only use technology and media if absolutely necessary. Obviously this is a broad term with a lot of gray area for interpretation, so this is where his books come in, and I will report back with more information and my personal action plan. During those thirty days it is absolutely essential to the success of this project to do some real “soul searching” to determine your “why.” Without a set of guiding principles or a framework for self discovery or improvement, most people will either struggle to finish the thirty days at all, or will revert back to all their previous habits as soon as the declutter is over. Think of it as a lifestyle change instead of a crash diet. He argues that we should be spending this time getting back to those “analog activities” that make us happy. Do what our grandparents used to do for fun. Go on a hike. Build something. Read a book. Sit in the sun. Do a craft. Enjoy a dinner with friends. You get the idea. Find yourself in a world where your phone or computer is no longer a crutch – find solitude. Realize what truly makes you happy. Rediscover your own powerful and influential thoughts.

After the thirty days are up, decide what technology and media actually works for you, improves your life, and gives you value. Then add it back in if you want to. If you’re happier without it and have determined it’s value was perceived and not actually real, then don’t. Don’t keep anything that doesn’t “spark joy.”

My next step in this process is to read his books, and then report back to you about my own detailed thirty day digital declutter. And then in January, I’ll disappear.

_____

Headshot Photo: The Studio by Kimberly Ann

http://www.photosbykimberlyann.com/contact.html

320 2nd Street, Eureka CA

@thestudiobykimberlyann