Wednesday, March 25, 2015

How do you know you're on the right path? (Africa Pt.1)

Often times I hear people question their current path. Is this what I was meant to do? Am I fulfilling myself, or the purpose I was truly meant for? We've all had these thoughts. Sometimes we think we're an enigma, alone in thinking these things. As human beings we are constantly looking to fill a void, or be defined so we feel useful. Even if we have chosen a path, excel in it, and everyone else sees us as expert...we still question ourselves. 

So how the hell do you know for sure who you are supposed to be, or what you are meant to do? Yes I know...pretty deep for a makeup industry blog article...But it directly correlates with the experiences I'm currently having as an artist. You'd be surprised how relevant it can be to you, and how important it is for you to consider.

As you may or may not know, I have been in the process of co-creating an amazing project in Africa. In fact I am writing this article from Lagos, Nigeria. The experience of working on this project has been by far one of the most inspiring, exciting, and fulfilling things I have been part of up to date. I have never been so sure in my life that I am doing exactly what I was meant to do. The feeling I'm experiencing is an unparalleled surge of energy and love. It's as though a door has opened and a rush of pure purposeful electricity is being channeled through me so I can not only carry out my role in this project, but I have all that I need to see it through with excellence. I know, sounds crazy right?! I'm not trying to figure out why it's happening to me or why now (not really relevant in my opinion)...however I have been examining the ingredients of what it took to get here, so I might share this wealth in someway with you.

The project itself  (without giving away too much detail, because the end result is kind of a surprise), is literally working to make a difference in the world. I have been working with my buddy and partner Robin R. Crespo for about 3 years now. He's the owner and head designer of INGactivewear, an organization that produces The Code Purple Event and Moskeeto Armor. Moskeeto Armor is a patented fabric that is treated with a non toxic, undetectable insect repellent. Most commonly the fabric has been manufactured as a lightweight, ventilated, fashionable purple hoodie. This hoodie has been given to hundreds of villagers in the bush country of Uganda and Nigeria. It has gone through clinical trials and has been proven to increase the prevention of Malaria by 75%. If the mosquito cannot bite you, the deadly disease that kills 1000 children a day, (one child every 45 seconds), cannot infect you. Essentially Robin has figured out how to use fashion, to literally save lives. Pretty amazing right? SO, how do I fit into all of this?

Robin is an artist, just like myself. He doesn't just design clothes, or manufacture a solution to a problem with his craft.  He thinks on a creative level of how to communicate with art that will turn heads and get peoples attention. This is also how I view makeup; It is beyond beauty, beyond trend...It's an art medium I can use to inspire others, start conversations, and evoke thought.

Robin knew there was another artistic element needed to fully encapsulate his ideas, and that he couldn't do it alone. So, he set his intention to find a solution. Simultaneously, in building my brand, I have always known that who I am and what I do must not only make a difference in the world but inspire others to do so as well. As a result, I have expanded from just doing artistry into mentoring and educating artists to bring their own good into the world as well. However, as rewarding as it is to see people stepping into their potential and living their dreams in our industry (and it truly is what gets me out of bed), there has always been something I wanted to do that contributed to making a global impact. But I really was not sure what or how. So I too put my intention out there. As the serendipitous universe will always do it's work, Robin and I met through a mutual friend the summer of 2012. Though we were not sure exactly what our meeting and friendship would lead to, we knew from the first moment something had begun as a direct result of the intentions we put out.

I tell you this because one of the essentials to finding your purpose and where you're "supposed to be" is setting and putting out intentions. Some people call it prayer, some meditation, and some visualization. No matter what you believe it all comes from the same place: an intention in your heart made clear in your mind and vocalized from your mouth will start the journey of your desire to come your way. If you can't even speak it, or believe you are worthy of it, IT will not know where to find you. True intention does not come from just asking. A lot of conventional prayer is built around the idea of asking (sometimes begging) for what you want from a higher power. But true intention is knowing you have it, that it is already coming to you. The act of these prayers is just speaking it aloud so you can better believe it and others can conspire to bring it closer to you. I really didn't ask anyone if I could have an opportunity that would contribute to making a difference in the world. I knew it would happen. I just aligned with a truth. I even said aloud in meditation "The opportunity where my passion and art will make a life changing difference is on its way to me right now. Thank you for this opportunity"

After we met, Robin and I started planning a fashion show. This show would not only showcase the versatility of Moskeeto Armor but be the first time we would work together to convey an artistic concept. We started planning for a show during SS 2013 Fashion Week, but ran into some interesting challenges. First, the venue we were slated to use would not allow us to do what we wanted to do. Plus, we would be showing with other designers, but our concept was unique and powerful that we felt it wouldn't be appropriate to lumped our work in with others, fearing it would lessen our impact. Ultimately we made the tough executive decision to not show at September Fashion Week. Having a designer miss fashion week is not recommended because of the whole "top of mind" aspect...but we felt strongly that waiting would be best for the integrity of the project. Then, Robin threw his back out in January, putting a wrench in the subsequent plan to show at February Fashion Week. At this point one (and when I say one, I mean me) would start to wonder "Is this going to happen, is this meant to be?" But it was. A plan had been put in place, one that even I and Robin couldn't see in the beginning. This plan was bigger than us, bigger than what we thought it should be. It was created by our intentions and the divine web of energy that designs the biggest possibility for those intentions. Call it what you want - God, the Universe, Divine Intervention - Our show didn't belong in Fashion Week. It belonged in its own time on April 25th, World Malaria Day.

We would not have come to that conclusion if other things did not fall apart. So my second essential key to finding your purpose is to know that when things fall apart, it is sometimes a bigger plan at work. John Lennon once said "Life is what happens while you are making other plans". Often times we question if we are on the right path because nothing seems to go right in it's pursuit. You may be so clear that your goal or passion has to look a certain way, and when things do not go the way you "planned" get frustrated, discouraged, question things or even give up. The story wouldn't be interesting if shit didn't go down and get fact if everything always worked out as planned, the movie of your life would be a snooze fest. The bigger possibilities lie just outside the realm of what we can see immediately. If we don't see with the bigger eyes of our heart, we could miss it. In the moments where you get antsy and want to bolt, Buddha says hold your seat. A bigger plan for what you are meant to do may be revealed in the right time...when you are ready to hear it, see it, and take it on.

So we had our first fashion show. It was a collaboration of art, fashion, and makeup to showcase the versatility of Moskeeto Armor fabric and bring awareness of the impact Malaria has in Africa. We also committed to World Malaria Day being the ongoing date for our future projects together. The hope (or the commitment I should say) was that our next project would take place in Africa...but so much needed to happen to get there. Ah, but we will save that for next time...

Sunday, March 15, 2015

What makes a great educator? Pt.2

In my last article, I started sharing stories with you about my best teachers, and why my experience with them was so amazing. My intention is to help you recognize what you need in an educator, so you can choose education that really supports your goals and propels you towards them.
To recap, here’s what I expressed I need from my educators so far:
-Patience/meeting me where I’m at.
-Break it down for me, one time
-Don’t let me get away with shit
And to continue…

Never give me the answer
I cannot express how imperative it is for an educator/mentor to withhold the answers to some questions. There is a teaching philosophy – The Art of Mentoring – that talks about answering questions with another question, forcing student to rely on themselves for answers. If you think about it, it’s brilliant. The student needs to trust their own intuition; What would you do if there was no master or teacher to ask? When I was learning to become a coach I worked with many seasoned trainers. The very first trainer I worked was Micky McQuaid. She reminded me of a catholic school nun who happened to be a die hard sports fan and could give a shit less if she offended you. She was intimidating to say the least. She had the job of transforming people’s lives through the trainings we facilitated, and as far as she was concerned, it not was not about us (the assisting coaches). She would give you an instruction one time, and she would make it very clear. If you dared to ask her for clarification, especially for something you could probably figure out on your own, she would scowl her face at you and ask back snidely “what did I say?” or “what do you think?” or “how do you think you would handle it?”. It was nerve racking, but we soon learned to internalize the question and figure it out for ourselves. Over time, if I didn’t take her demeanor personally, I became used to trusting myself more and more, having confidence in my coaching and my job. Micky wasn't actually being a bitch, (I freaking LOVE her) she just cared enough to know we were capable of finding answers on our own. Though she drove me crazy and scared the shit out of me, I was ultimately so grateful she did.
Acknowledge the gifts no matter how great or small

One of the side effects of being someone who tried really hard in school, but often came up short in results, is that you long for someone to tell you something you did right. The more seeming failure, the more feelings of dejection, the less confidence you have, and the less you trust yourself. I had another trainer once tell me that when she was being coached she would request that no matter how bad she was fucking up, just tell her one thing she was doing right and everything would be fine. I realized that was something I needed. So I started requesting that of all my mentors and coaches…I even requested that of my husband Charlie. Charlie is very analytical, methodical, and is very grounded where I am a passionate, creative, visionary and impulsive. Often times complex linear thinking type stuff eludes me, or take me longer to process than other things. Like doing the books, or creating systems in my business, or putting together electronics. Charlie will push me to try to do these things rather than always doing it for me. It often starts out as an epic fail. But bless my husband, he will always acknowledge even the tiniest thing. Sometimes all he’s got to go with is the fact I tried. Yeah it gets that bad. But his acknowledgement makes me feel more inclined to try again, and I do not feel as stupid for essentially making a disaster out of it. It makes a huge difference…and I always carry that into my style of teaching.
Respect as equals.

Finally, one of the things I cherish as a student and educator and make sure it surrounds me at all times is respect. There is nothing more off putting and just energetically twisted than an educator who acts as though they are superior to the student in anyway. As human beings, no matter how much experience we have, or do not have, we are important valuable contributions to our lives, and our potential is endless. To think those who have more education and knowledge (or money, or fame, or “attractiveness”) are at a level above others, is doing a disservice not only to the student, but to themselves. It’s small. The educator who thinks they have capped all that they can learn about their trade is quite honestly the dunce compared to their own student. The world constantly changes, and nothing stays the same. Thirteen years ago online marketing and social media was a commodity, not something essential. 3-D printing is now the new way to sculpt, digital photography has a whole new set of advantages, and new advantages in health and wellness has us be able to live longer. To not respect our students is chopping off our own legs at the knee. Of course respecting your mentors and those who come before you is also essential to the richest education, but it doesn't mean you give up your own self worth to do so. When I first started participating in a Native American Community for my spiritual guidance, there were so many traditions to learn and so many teachings to absorb. The elders of my community though steadfast in upholding tradition and respecting the teachings, always made me feel welcome, and respected my learning journey. As the world changes, the elders look to the youth to bring in new ideas and are always open to integrate the old with the new… And these traditions go back more than a century.
Overall the way I see it you always are at choice. You can choose to learn from people because they are popular, they have many followers, or you want to be able to say you were taught by them. You can choose to learn from someone because they make it easier for you, or because it seems they are successful. But if you check in with yourself authentically, will these attributes get you the furthest… Not just in your career, but who you are as a person. Will this person and experience develop you, challenge you, and push you to where you were meant to be. How will you know who they are? Do you research, ask questions, find referrals, listen to their style and voice…both online and in person. We didn't get the chance to choose who taught us as children, but we do now. So make educated choices, and informed decisions. Be a demand for great education, not just good.