Tag Archives: India

Eat Pray Love: Take Two

Count me among the over six million people to buy Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love. And count me among the many who didn’t finish the  New York Times bestseller. My gold Oleg Cassini bookmark is right where I left it three years ago. On page 72.

It would seem that I, of all people, would be able to relate to Liz’s story for I too had moved to Italy on a quest. But unlike Liz, who embarked on a “search for everything” after her marriage failed, I went to eat, drink and pray for love. And she, unlike me, had a finite number of days she wanted to spend in the boot-shaped country before moving on to more serene pastures in India and Bali. I went in 2003 with the notion that I’d never leave Italy, which I ended up calling home for just two years due to the weak dollar and failure to find a Count worth marrying. Still, I was eager to read about her soul-searching journey and saved the book until a three-week sojourn to China in spring 2007. During a brief solo stay at the desolate Red Capital Ranch, where I hiked alone along a crumbling and non-restored Great Wall, I struggled to get into the book. Although I dog-eared some pages and put stars next to passages that resonated with me, it wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as I had hoped. Finally I gave up.

I thought it was just me who couldn’t get through the book but over the past few years oodles of people, mostly writers, have confessed that they didn’t finish it either. Just before the theater lights dimmed at last night’s screening, a colleague seated nearby told me that neither she nor her boss cared for the book either. (I’m sure Liz doesn’t care any more than, say John Grisham or Dan Brown, two commendable storytellers whose prose don’t match up to their book sales.) My failure to connect with Liz’s words didn’t stop me from wanting to see Julia Roberts, whom I adore, portray the author on the big screen for in the end it is the subject that fascinates me most.

Rarely is a movie better than the book on which it was based but even those who couldn’t stomach reading Eat Pray Love should enjoy the flick. I know I did. With my recent month-long stay in Tropea and few days in Rome still fresh in my mind, I salivated at the Italian scenes. The days of dolce far niente (the sweetness of doing nothing) and outings with female ex-pats and local men were reminiscent of my time in Firenze and Positano when lengthy dinners like the one in the photo above taken in Positano were common. Brava to Julia for nailing the Italian accent and the filmmakers for capturing the essence of my adopted country. (Although I’ve never seen such chaos in trying to order a cup of coffee anywhere in Italy.) Most of the dialogue isn’t memorable and another round of editing is needed. But the acting, characters, colors and cinematography captured my attention — and made me want to book a flight abroad.

Outside of my visits to several spas, I didn’t fall in love with Bali when I visited in 2000 but maybe that’s because I didn’t meet anyone as sexy as Javier Bardem.

I’m willing to give Indonesia another try. And despite having a visa for India in my passport, I never took the trip. I’m sure I’ll get there. Some day.

And maybe one day I’ll finish reading Eat Pray Love. I promised myself I would and now that I’ve seen the movie, I’m more inclined to do so. It says something that I moved the book from my Upper East Side apartment to Harlem then to L.A. If I didn’t want it, I would have tossed it when packing my belongings for each move. When I opened the book last night after returning from the screening I found the Oleg bookmark with the words, “To be well dressed is a little like being in love.”

Two people who can attest to that are Liz Gilbert and Felipe.




Filed under Beauty, Dating, Dining, Fashion, Harlem, Italy, Travel, Wine

My hair is good enough for me

Kelly_Shaun party 2

It’s apropos that I saw Chris Rock’s new documentary/comedy “Good Hair” on a day when I wrestled with what to do with my natural hair. Should I straighten it for a  two-question television shoot to make myself more acceptable-looking to viewers or be myself?

First of all let me say that I really enjoyed the movie, which opens in theaters in October. There are some things I would have changed were it my movie but it’s not. And I understand why Chris did what he did. I don’t want to get sidetracked though. This is about me and my hair.

I’ve been wearing my hair in its natural state since the fall. It was a big step for someone who was as addicted to the weave as a strawberry is to crack, just like so many other Black women these days. But I decided to go au naturel not so much to get in touch with my roots (no pun intended) but in part because I was unhappy with the weaveologists in New York. They were either too expensive, too slow, too unprofessional or a combo of all three. And then there were those who were expensive and lacked talent. I timed my visits home to L.A. to when it was time to get my weave done. I lucked up when my weave lady, Traci, moved to Las Vegas from L.A. last year because I had a business trip to Sin City in June, just days before I was to shoot some more shows for the Travel Channel.  Perfect timing!

When it came time for my weave to be redone in September, I decided to get my hair pressed instead. This meant I couldn’t work out but what the heck. For many Black women, we choose between having a tight body or a ‘do. I chose the latter. One day while sitting in the chair at the salon, I looked in the mirror at my wet, natural hair and liked the image I saw looking back at me. “Hey, I look kinda good,” I said to my stylist Everton. He agreed and told me what to do if I wanted to wear it natural. I let him finish his job, wore it straight for another week then started rockin’ a natural look. Except for a week or two here and there, I’ve worn my hair wild and woolly and for the most part enjoyed the freedom.

Fast forward to yesterday. I received a last-minute request to appear on camera as a travel expert for an international media outlet that I have never worked with before. The shoot would take place at the most prestigious hotel in Beverly Hills. I accepted. Since I already had an eyebrow appointment at Damone Roberts right before the shoot, I arranged to have my makeup done there too since I don’t own foundation or blush and Lord knows I need my face done properly. Then there was the question of my hair. Could I convince a stylist to do my hair at 7 a.m. so I wouldn’t have to go on camera with my wild hair? Last night I debated whether to make the call to a stylist. I finally decided, hey, this is me. I wear my hair natural. Why should I spend a few hours in a beauty salon having it straightened to make myself more palatable to viewers? Tanika Ray wears her hair natural on Extra and no one has made her change. In fact, she gets tons of compliments on her beauty. It’s high time Black women stop buying into other people’s standards of what is beautiful. I took a stand and decided I would wash my hair in the morning so at least it would be a little tamer. I went to bed proud of myself for not giving in to the temptation.

As it turns out, the shoot was canceled so I didn’t get a chance to see the producer’s reaction to my wild coif. Therefore, my hair was in its  usual natural state when I went to the 2 p.m. screening of “Good Hair.” Chris touches on an array of topics relating to Black women and hair, including the high cost to maintain a good weave and who pays for this, sex with a woman who wears extensions, the damaging relaxers Black women use to straighten their hair, how Black girls as young as three are getting relaxers, Al Sharpton’s hair, how other folks, especially the Koreans, are making beaucoup bucks off the Black hair industry and how society looks at Black women who wear their hair natural. Chris even traveled to India, the country that produces the hair I used to wear and still have bags of, to show how women there allow their hair to be cut for God during a tonsure ceremony and have no idea someone is selling their hair to Shenequia back in the States.

One segment that starts out as humorous actually is very sad. After accompanying an Indian man to the Elgin Charles Salon in Beverly Hills (sidenote: Elgin did my first weave back in the 90s and swears that without the Italian hair he did such a great job of  attaching to my hair in 1997 that I never would have landed a job on CNN-SI.) and realizing that the man’s suitcase full of Indian hair was worth around $10,000, Chris decided to see what he could sell Black hair for. He took a huge bag of hair to various beauty supply stores and no one wanted  Black hair. One black woman said, “No one walks around with nappy hair anymore.”

“I do,” I said aloud in the screening room.

And I’m proud of it.

Sitting in the screening room with primarily Black women with various hairstyles, including natural and weaves, I felt very good about myself for not begging a hairstylist to get up at the crack of dawn to run a hot  pressing comb through my hair and then being forced to skip my noon spin class just so I could answer two questions on camera later that afternoon.

I had my hair pressed a couple of weeks ago and loved the way it looked and its silky feel. I took some new photos of myself and updated my photo on Facebook and on my website’s home page. While I was ready to go on camera with my natural hair, I’m not ready to change my homepage photo on my website to one that shows me with my hair natural. I guess I still have a ways to go. But I’m getting better.

One of my favorite lines in the movie is delivered by actress Tracie Thoms, who wears her hair natural.

“There are so many pressures to straighten your hair,” she says on camera. “To keep my hair the same texture as it grows out of my head is looked at as revolutionary. Why is that?”

We all know the answer and it’s a sad one.


Filed under Beauty, Entertainment