Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Gentrification of Harlem - Part 2

OMIGOD!!! I just came back from a movie screening of the documentary film "Before The Music Dies" and we (my friend Deb and I) just walked past The Harlem Grill and saw that the marshals took the place from the owners....it's totally gutted ya'll.

This is scary.

"Accountability means to be called into judgement."

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Gentrification of Harlem....Good or Bad Ya'll?

Hey Family!

I just read in the paper that one of my favorite soul food restaurants has closed it's doors after 50 years of business! Copeland's Restaurant is (was) a veritable institution in Harlem....after Sunday morning services...ALL the church kids went to either Copeland's or Wilson's (long closed) for an early dinner. Children let me tell you....I worked at Copeland's one summer while I was still in high school....lol...I was terrible in the kitchen...I kept sneaking and eating the barbecued ribs...(They were addictive!) And THE CHOPPED BARBECUE WITH JUST THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF VINEGAR AND SOME COLE SLAW ON TOP!!!!! (To absolutely DIE for ya'll!!!) but by far Copeland's had the best whole wheat dinner rolls in town!!! My monster loves whole wheat bread and I tried to get them for him whenever I could get over there! I was very disheartened at this news....after all it was only about a month ago when I saw the "Closed by Order of the Health Department" notice slapped on the windows of my OTHER favorite soul food restaurant....M&G's on the corner of 125th & Morningside...although...I gotta tell you....one trip to the bathroom...lol...and you KNEW full well you were probably putting your life at risk if you ate there! But M&G's had some of the best damn fried chicken, smothered pork chops and potato salad that I have ever had in my life!!! I (along with MANY of my friends) have rolled up to M&G's after many a long night of partying for a good old country breakfast to sop up some of that liquor in my system...(this was back when they used to be open 24 hours a day!). If you got there after 4am...you were lucky if you got a seat!!!! Those old school country ladies knew how to throw down on some old fashioned soul food...AND the jukebox was always kicking!

And now I find out that my beloved Pier 2110 has also bit the dust! Pier 2110 was owned by the same people who run Manna's (The soul food salad bar...there's 3 of them on 125th street...sheessh...Love them ya'll but do we REALLY need that many Manna's on one strip???) I understand that she just couldn't keep it going...for those of you who never got the honor of checking out Pier 2110...it was absolutely fabulous!!! I love going to places that you have to "get dressed up" to attend...no one does this anymore! The place was beautifully decorated and they used to have live bands play there as well...AND A SUSHI BAR TO BOOT!!! YUMMY! My only problem with the actual restaurant was the er...food. My mom had her retirement luncheon there last December and the dessert they brought us (it was bread pudding..which is bad enough...I HATE BREAD PUDDING!! LOL) was...I kid you not...inedible. NOBODY in our party ate it! I hear they had to change chefs at least 3 times (and that's usually the kiss of death for a restaurant....anyone remember The Soul Cafe???..Same problem!). But I knew this restaurant was in trouble when they relaxed the dress code and folks started hanging out in sneakers and jeans....it's the same thing that happened at The Harlem Grill...(remember them?)it's never a good sign....

It seems that as the "color" of Harlem changes all of our traditions and institutions change right along with it and that makes me sad...it really does. When they are done "remaking" Harlem...Besides high priced co-ops & condos that none of us can afford to live in....What will be left???? I have lots of memories attached to these places and to walk past them and they are no longer there hurts my feelings...it really does.

One more thing:

I was over at the Roti Hut on 125th & 8th (The same block that Manna's & Kentucky Fried Chicken sits on) and I heard that someone bought ALL OF THE BUILDINGS ON THE BLOCK FOR A COOL 30 MIL.....That means Manna's & Bobby's Soul Shack..the record store that has shoes for the big girls on sale in the back of the store (or whatever it's called...lol) will all be a memory by next summer!

I have been in Harlem since I was a little girl, I love my "hood" and while I know that change is generally always for the good....I gotta wonder this time...WHO is it actually good for?

Just a thought peeps!

"Assumption and presumption are the same thing....Wrong!"

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Memories of Mo'Nique's F.A.T. Chance Paris!

Greetings Family!

By now I am sure that many of you have seen the broadcast for Mo'Nique's F.A.T. Chance Paris! I decided to forego the usual "screening party" that I like to throw each year (long story short...last year I had a big party and I wound up getting my face cracked...lol) and I kept it nice and quiet by spending the evening at home and watching the broadcast with my parents and my fiance. I cooked a nice little dinner that consisted of Chicken Scampi (My mom is allergic to shrimp or we would have been eating SHRIMP Scampi!) with a mixed green salad and garlic bread. My mom brought over two bottles of Yellowtail Reisling (one of my faves) to go along with the meal. At around 7:30pm we settled down with plates of food and popped open those bottles of wine and got ready for the show. I was pleasantly surprised with the broadcast (but I will need to watch it again all alone so I can dissect EVERYTHING...lol...habit ya'll). I was particularly interested in the body painting segment....(you gotta give those sistas credit...I don't know if I would have had the balls to do that...for real!) I thought it came of nicely and I thought the picture was what it was supposed to be.....A work or art! I have been surfing the web for the last few weeks because that photo went out to all of the media outlets a few weeks ago...and I was shocked and dismayed at some of the extremely rude and ignorant comments that people chose to leave on some of the sites.

I am curious to know what you guys thoughts were (are) on the group body painting shot.....

The trip to Paris was short (3 days) but wonderful for me! ALL of the contestants as well as the models were an absolute joy to work with.

My only problem with "Gay Paree" was the lack of shopping for the big girl with big feet! I had a couple of er...food issues in Paris (They eat a LOT of pork over there...and I took pork of MY menu last year!) also the US Dollar took quite a beating over there and our money translated to absolutely nothing....by the final day I was so sick of eating fruit and cheese I thought I was gonna burst!!! After the show wrapped up on Saturday night we (some of the production crew) hijacked a van and got the driver to take us to of all things.....A MCDONALD'S!! I gotta tell you I was so damn hungry by the time we found that McDonald's I would have eaten the bags! I swear to goodness THAT WAS THE BEST DAMN FILET OF FISH AND FRENCH FRIES THAT I HAVE EVER HAD IN MY LIFE!!!!ROFLMAO!!!

Anyway, Congratulations to Miss Marcia Tarver of Dallas, TX on her reign as the new Miss F.A.T. 2007! I look forward to seeing big things from you mama! I wanna see you working on that clothing line Chica! **MUAH**!

As a matter of fact: Congratulations to ALL of the contestants...trust me when I tell you....it all gets better from here! Your bravery will inspire others!

Shout out to Miss Raymona of Just Raymona for EnV New York, who supplies all of my clothing on the show! (The jumpsuit and the Suit absolutely ROCKED mama! Thanks again!) Hey ya'll Miss Raymona's site is up and running...check her out at www.envnewyork.com

Hey guys, enjoy the photo albums and I will be back shortly cuz I really gotta tell you about all of the er...wonderful things that happened to me while I was on the road in Los Angeles, Chicago & Dallas casting this show! (MAJOR Food issues ya'll!)

See Ya'll in a few!


"If you are moved in what you're doing, what you're doing will move."

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Happy Birthday Mia Amber!!!!!

I spent last Friday evening hanging out with one of my most favorite people...Miss Mia Amber! For those of you who DON'T know the fabulous Mia Amber...Mia is the pretty big girl in the Ashley Stewart ads and a lot of people know her from the movie "Road Trip" in her breakout role as Rhonda...the plus sized sorority girl....(Sorry Mia...had to do it...lol) Mia was celebrating her birthday down at Fashion Forty in Manhattan and Mia is a big supporter of mine AND I love her to boot...so I KNEW I couldn't miss it!

Her party was an after work affair that started at 6pm...I had a phone in radio interview at 7:15pm so I couldn't make it out until I finished. I got there a little after 8pm and as I was coming down the street I ran into Jeannie Ferguson 1/2 of plus sized design team BGU (Big Girls United) on her way out....she explained that she couldn't get a sitter for her daughter (Who she brought with her) but she had to stop in to say Happy Birthday to Mia! BTW....her daughter Imani (I think?) is a little chocolate doll just like her mama!

Mia was outside the venue all dressed in yellow looking lovely as ever! We chatted for a moment and she alerted me to the cutie sitting in the window...(who everyone was checking out but nobody knew who he was)...She said she KNEW I would be bold enough to find out who he was and that's exactly what I set off to do when I headed inside. Fortunately for me, Mia's party was just inside the doorway and I was glad I didn't have to fight my way through the tons of folks in the back of the club. I was greeted immediately by Mia's fiance (and one of my favorite comedians) Mike Yard.....also in attendance where Tonya Giddens, Photographer D-Lo, Plus Model Jasmine and Miss Venita Myles who modeled with us during the Hips, Heels & Curves Tour! Miss Venita has lost like 50-60 pounds and she looks amazing....you GO Girl!!!!

As soon as I got a free moment, you KNOW I plopped my behind right next to the cutie that everyone was chatting about....he WAS nice looking ya'll...a little light-skinned for my taste...(Linda M...DEFINITELY your type mama...you shoulda been there...lol) but cute nonetheless...after his initial shock at my boldness...I found out that he was the party promoter for the evening and from the looks of things he was quite happy cuz the place was packed! Once I got the info I needed, I bid him adieu and went back to chatting up my friends. About and hour or so later...Miss Shante Gordon came in and I found out that Miss Lady has just gotten signed with The Goddess Division of Model Service Agency (The same agency I am with) Congrats Shante!

The music was really good and the DJ actually took us down memory lane for a good long while....but you all KNOW me....after he (the DJ) went to the "Dirty South" and followed that up with the er..."Reggae" set...I knew it was time for me to depart!

I had a great time and more importantly my girl Mia had a great time as well!

Happy Birthday Chica! I love you and I wish you many, many more phenomenal birthdays!


"Don't let embarrassment stop the best laid plans for your life by God."

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Full Figured & Fabulous Competition - Atlanta, GA

This past weekend I was down in Atlanta, Georgia, where I was a guest judge for "Full Figured & Fabulous", the plus model runway competition that's produced by DeVoe Signature Events. I had been long anticipating this trip, not only because I LOVE these type of competitions but also because it gave me a rare opportunity to hang out with my home girls from NYC. And let me tell you, my girls didn't disappoint me either..from the moment we all met at LaGuardia Airport the fun began......

I got early and caught the M60 Bus to the airport (laugh if you want to, 2 bucks is a helluva lot cheaper than the 20 plus bucks it would have cost me to catch a cab!)...and let me just digress for a moment to send a special message to the MTA:

WHAT IS THE DEAL WITH THOSE SMALL ASS BUSES TO THE AIRPORT???? Its almost as if you all forgot that folks going to or coming from the airport generally have....er....LUGGAGE????? THIS BUS IS TOTALLY NON CONDUCIVE TO TRANSPORTING FOLKS TO AND FROM THE AIRPORT WITH THEIR LUGGAGE!!! 20 people AND their suitcases and the bus is FULL!!!!!!! HELLO???? How about using some of those "accordian-like" buses that run on the M101 line.....They hold a lot more people AND their "stuff".

Just a thought ya'll.

Anyway I arrived at LaGuardia at 9am with "The Mogul" Gwen DeVoe and was met by the beautiful smiles of my home girls...Linda "the dancing machine" Mann, Tonya "T-Boogie" Giddens, Roslyn "Rocky" Grate and Madeline "Maddy" Figueroa-Jones, the Artistic Director for Plus Model Magazine. Everybody was amped up to see one another and that was obvious from the moment we laid eyes on one another. We managed to breeze through the check-in and got settled in at the gate as we waited for our flight to arrive.

The flight was an easy one and only about an hour and 45 minutes long. We deplaned, picked up our luggage and upon arrival at the airport we ran straight into Jennene Biggins, CEO of The Voluptuous Woman Company...I was amped up to see "Gigi" too...cuz she's just as crazy as I am and I KNEW we were gonna have some fun. After we picked up Jennene...we headed straight for our rental cars and into downtown Atlanta. I gotta tell you ATLiens that this was my 3rd or 4th trip to your city and I was apprehensive at best....my last few memories of ATL were not good ones....but I digress....

We arrived at The Marriott Marquis to complete and total CHAOS!!! lol...I quickly found out that there were TONS of events going on that weekend and almost ALL of the hotels were booked out. At the Marriott we had Dr. Ian's Million Pound Challenge going on along with T.D. Jakes "Kingdom University" or something like that and to top it all off....THE HARRIS FAMILY REUNION...and baby....I don't know the Harris family....but THEY GOT A LOT OF RELATIVES!!!!! Anyway, once we got past the mess that was the driveway of the hotel...we got checked in and headed up to our rooms. It was then that I realized that all they had at our hotel was those elevators that run on the OUTSIDE of the shaft....I HATE THOSE!!!! I have a terrible fear of height and as luck would have it....OUR ROOMS WERE ON THE 22ND FLOOR!!!! You should have seen me trying to glue myself to the doors of the elevator so I wouldn't have to look out the glass! All of my girls were laughing at me!

We checked in our rooms and I was pleasantly surprised to see that I was rooming with Maddy...(a first for me!) and we quickly got settled in and the Maddy departed to go and visit with Fluvia (who was staying at a hotel nearby). I was free until showtime tomorrow so I unpacked my things took a power nap and then headed off on foot to check out some of the sights. My mom suggested that I see a place called "The Underground" so I found out where it was and began walking the 6 or 7 blocks to get to it. On the way, I found out they were having an African Arts Festival and there were lots of vendors and live bands on the walk. It was all pretty cool and interesting....folks were just not friendly though....don't know what THAT was about. I did see, however, and ENORMOUS amount of homeless people wandering around and that always disturbs me. I reached The Underground at close to 9pm (which unfortunately, was around closing time) so I didn't get to see as much as I would have liked....I found out that Friedman's shoes was not far away and I was tempted to press on but I got a call from my friend Marco Mays (who I met on Season 1 of FAT Chance) and he told me he was at my hotel waiting for me....So I hoofed it on back.

Marco is a tall, FINE brother (who dresses his butt off!!!) and he greeted me with the most magnificent smile and open arms when I got back to the hotel. We had dinner in one of the hotel restaurants and quickly got caught up on each others lives. We hung out until late and when I saw him yawning....lol...I KNEW I was wearing him out. (Thanks for dinner Marco...it was yummy!). I walked him back to the elevators then headed to Diva's room for a little bit and then at around 1:30am went back to my room to get some sleep.

I didn't have to be at the World Congress Center until 6pm so I decided to go exploring with Maddy & Fluvia. They picked me up in the shuttle bus from Fluvia's hotel...we had the COOLEST driver...(1st friendly person I met in ATL..lol) he reminded me of "LT" from the NY Giants and he was a total sweetie! We wound up at the Atlantic Mall and we stopped at Old Navy to shop for a moment and then we decided to split up (because I saw a DSW and I simply COULDN'T pass it by...lol). I saw ONE pair of bejeweled sandals to DIE FOR...but the straps were breaking and it was the only size 12 left...so I had to leave them there....GASP!!! Anyway, I decided to have lunch at a place called BONEHEADS, where they had these AMAZING fish tacos...(I actually had a combo taco platter...1 fish taco, 1 shrimp taco & 1 chicken taco...all grilled...for $8.95..it was YUMMY!) and by the time I finished my taco and my beer...my phone was ringing. It was Maddy and it was time for us to head back to the hotel.

Call time for the judges was 6pm so I quickly showered, beat my face and put on my latest ensemble from "Just Raymona for en v New York". She supplied me with a tiqer print pantsuit that had a "St Tropez-ish" feel to it. (Thanks as always for keeping me together Raymona!). I jumped in a taxi and headed to the Georgia World Congress Center. Upon arrival I ran into Shaunda Hendricks and my girl Rhonda Wilkins, Founder & CEO of Divas Unlimited, Inc. (both of whom I had just hung out with in Dayton, Ohio for The Diva in Me conference). Shaunda was celebrating her birthday and had her beautiful daughter with her.

There were lots of vendors in the vestibule and I stopped to check out the "Mannequin Style" Models, representing different designers, who were posted on platforms stationed right outside the ballroom (See photo album below). I saw Marco (looking fabulous in all white) and he introduced me to Linda Scott, The CEO of Linda Scott 1426 Inc out of Fort Lauderdale, FL (who I will be working with in November). The judges for the event were myself, Maddy & Reggie Lee Hamet, author of the book "Pink Shorts". Positioned at the end of the table was Denise Best who was the official scorekeeper for the event. We took our seats and I got giddy the sight of the red gift boxes with the white ribbons in front of our place cards!! YAY!!! Diva always gives us presents and I LOVE PRESENTS YA'LL!!!!!! lol, I checked out the program of events and saw that a new designer "Jibri Street Couture" was supposed to open the show...I had heard the buzz about this segment and I was looking forward to seeing it.

The lights went down and the show began after a slight 15 minute delay (A DeVoe Signature Events production ALWAYS starts on time...So I knew something was amiss)the show began and I noticed that we skipped right past the opening segment to the "Introduction of the Judges"...I have known Diva since FOREVER and I knew right away that it meant that more than likely the folks from Jibri were late arriving and she "bumped' them off her lineup (note to folks: She [Diva] doesn't let ANYONE stop her flow...Whether it's 10 people in the audience or 10,000...she doesn't wait for anyone...so it pays to be prompt people!)

The show went off without a hitch and I gotta say that the contestant segment I enjoyed the most was the opening segment in which the contestants custom designed their own T-Shirts! You guys have no idea how impressed I was with what those ladies did with those T-Shirts! EXTREMELY Creative & Imaginative...Kudos to those contestants!

I also enjoyed the fashion presentation by BLUR Custom Dezigns...This is the new line designed by my F.A.T. Chance home girl from Season 2....Tiffany Jones & her partner/manager Miss Jay. The look is real funky and hot to death! Keep and eye out for them ya'll....their stuff is hot! Also on the runway, showing em' how it's done was none other than Miss Chyna McGarrity...who also featured a brief collection of her line of shirts called "Skinny Models Off The Runway Pleeeeease!!!" (FYI...I wore these shirts on the road and over in Paris and they were a BIG HIT!!!! (Check them out at www.catchtherevelation.com. There were collections from The Voluptuous Woman Company, IGIGI, JIBRI Street Couture got re-inserted later on in the show and featured Tanisha Malone, Miss F.A.T. 2006 (Who, oddly enough...didn't bother to stick around long enough to say hello...hmmmm....seems a little strange to me) and a local boutique in ATL called Merci Woman Boutique...Charles Coleman and his Bella Donna collection out of Washington DC closed out the show with Miss Donna working the crowd for all it's worth!!!

Congratulations to the winners of Full Figured & Fabulous - Atlanta:

1st Place - Davica Williams of Smyrna, GA
2nd Place - Theresa Bowman of Charlotte, NC
3rd Place - Jennifer Garner of Whites Creek, TN

I didn't get a chance to go backstage and meet all of the contestants because everything was so crazy immediately following the show. I did however take a few minutes to hang out with T-Boogie's family...they always come out in full effect to support Tonya (she doesn't know how lucky she is!). Tonya's dad is a hoot and I love him to death!!! Check out the family portrait in the photo album! Thanks for the love Giddens Family! After the show we all decided to have dinner at a local restaurant (who were gracious enough to keep their kitchen open till we got there!) and by the time we all finished and got back to the hotel...it was after 1am, so I wound up missing Comedian Mike Yard's set at the Hyatt (which was around the corner from me....sorry Mike!) and I was so tired all I could do was go to bed!!!

After barely making my flight back to NYC, I quickly settled back for the quick ride home picked up my bags and waited for my home girls to touch down (long story short...they missed their flight and had to fly standby on the next one). I collected their bags and waited for them at baggage claim. We said our goodbyes, jumped in our prospective rides and headed home....I don't know about anyone else but I came home and went right to bed....the summer cold I had been nursing all weekend was finally getting to me!

I had a blast ya'll!!! Really...the most fun I have had in a long time....can't wait to do it again!


"Courage is the ability to respond to the truth in a positive way and change."