Tag Archives: Las Vegas

Bye, bye belly

My pouch was visible when I visited Lipari, one of the Aeolian Islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea, off the north coast of Sicily.

Close your eyes and visualize this: A toothpick that swallowed a lemon.

Now open them and you will see how I see myself, which is why I have decided to have tumescent liposuction today.

I’m 50 years and three days old. But the decision to do lipo didn’t just hit me because of my age. Those of you who know me have put up with me complaining about my belly for years. When I texted the news to a girlfriend in Chicago whom I’ve known since the 80s, she texted back:

“Awesome Girl!!! I’m surprised you didn’t do this sooner because you never liked you (sic) “tiny pouch”. lol

I eat healthy 90 percent of the time, work out four to five days a week doing weight-bearing exercises and floor work for my abs and walk the hills of San Francisco to run errands since I have no car. I’m quite pleased with the rest of my body after dropping a dress size while researching The World’s Top Destination Spas story for Elite Traveler this spring. I can’t afford to lose anymore inches. My butt is practically non-existent. My boobs have shrunk. My pencil legs are now toothpicks. Still, my belly persists to the point where it is much larger than my ass. And everyone knows you can’t spot reduce.

What’s a girl to do?

I’m 6-foot-1, 152 pounds, reed thin. My legs are so skinny I have to get all of my boots taken in. Always have.

And I’ve always had a belly too. I’ve grown as adept at holding it in as I have at breathing.

When I was in my 20s, I popped laxatives before going on vacation to get rid of my bulge. Seven, 10, 12 at a time. Whatever it took.

By my 30s that no longer worked and I went to 90-year-old nutritionist Hermien Lee, who turned me into a lean, mean, machine.

And then came my 40s. I opted for more drastic methods such as the Master Cleanser or doing a raw diet with no alcohol for weeks at a time. Being that I’m a travel writer and part of traveling is eating then guzzling lemonade for several days at a time and not eating anything cooked can only work so long for me.

Everyone knows what a foodie I am and my stomach is a bottomless pit. The way I eat, I should be 300 pounds but I’m not because I exercise regularly — plus, I have great genes. Previously, if I needed to get my belly down, all I had to do was really watch what I ate and give up alcohol. Within 10 days, I’d be looking good enough to rock a bikini like I did in St. Tropez this summer.

Kelly E. Carter, Trina Turk bikini

I rocked this Trina Turk bikini in St. Tropez this summer, holding in my belly.

But age has a way of catching up with you.

When I returned from St. Tropez, I learned that the beau would have to endure six weeks of radiation. Before he began his treatment in September I offered to give up alcohol to support him. Oh how we both love our wine! He looked at me with the most loving eyes, for it was akin to me offering to shave my head if he lost his hair. (Thankfully THAT didn’t happen.) Outside of drinking at HBO’s Emmy party, during a business trip to South Beach and in Atlanta, where I went for a funeral, I stuck by my no-alcohol edict. After the beau’s radiation ended, his belly was gone and he was down 20 pounds. My belly still stuck out like a hump in a camel, a further indication that alcohol was not what was causing me to look four months pregnant.

During a visit to the beau’s dermatologist, I spotted a brochure for tumescent liposuction. Curious, I picked it up. I thought back to a recent lipo discussion with a retired dermatologist friend from my beau’s yacht club. He tiptoed around my situation but agreed that lipo wouldn’t be a bad thing for me. And I recalled a conversation from a couple of years ago with a friend from childhood, now a medical doctor with a weight loss clinic in L.A. She told me back then that I was the ideal candidate for lipo. The brochure in hand, I looked at these before and after photos and read when the procedure should be used, the risks, how it is performed and why a dermatologic surgeon should be used.

tumescent liposuction

Liposuction is most effective for removing localized fat deposits that do not respond to diet or exercise. It is not intended as a substitute for weight loss; rather, it is a contouring procedure, and is optimally utilized in a program of exercise and weight maintenance.

I know a lot of you reading this may look at the before picture and ask “Where’s Waldo? Where’s the fat?” Not me! I looked at the photo and said, “That’s me!” I gave the brochure to the beau, who said if that’s what I want then fine, I could have it. But, he made it clear, he thinks I have a fantastic bod. We returned for a consultation with his doctor and scheduled my procedure for Nov. 30. This gave me license to thoroughly enjoy  myself during a decadent birthday trip to Las Vegas with several girlfriends to ring in my 50th.

Now, a bon vivant like me disdains buffets but Kitty Yancey, a USA Today travel writer whose opinion I trust, assured me in an email that the new, $17 million Bacchanal Buffet at  Caesars Palace was worth it and wrote that her story in USA Today didn’t give it justice. You have to go, she implored.

So off me and my girls went for my birthday lunch. With each plate, I reminded myself that everything I was eating would be removed on Friday.

bacchanal buffet Caesars palace

After starting at Bacchanal Buffet’s seafood station, I moved on to Italy, pausing to pick up a slider during my birthday lunch at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas.

At Bacchanal, I took it upon myself to gorge on fresh East and West coast oysters, prawns, shrimp and grits, mussels, grilled salmon, pepperoni pizza, meatballs, sliders, French fries, chips and guacamole, Kung Pao chicken, edamame, low mein, crème brûlée and lots more. With more than 500 dishes to choose from, I couldn’t try everything – though I wanted to.

That night, my birthday dinner took place at James Beard award-winning Chef José Andrés’ Jaleo in The Cosmopolitan. I devoured cured ham from the legendary, acorn-fed, black-footed Ibérico pigs of Spain, 18-month salt-cured Serrano ham, white asparagus with idiazábal cheese, grilled skirt steak with piquillo pepper confit, traditional chicken fritters served in a shoe and so much more, knowing that it would all be gone be in just a few days.

Jaleo Las Vegas Jose Andres

My yummy birthday dinner served tapas style at Jaleo by Jose Andres in The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas.

Before I left for the trip, I went clothes shopping in San Francisco for a couple of new birthday outfits since it was Black Friday.What a frustrating experience that was! I looked longingly at dresses that I knew were not right for my body type because they hugged the mid-section. I was nearly in tears as I went from one store to another, unable to find anything despite the Black Friday sales. I admit I do a pretty good job of hiding my belly. One saleswoman convinced me to try on a dress that she said would hide the belly that she couldn’t see. I wiggled into the cute red dress and her eyes nearly popped out when she saw my belly protruding like a beach ball. Oh, she said, before finding the one dress in her store that hid a belly. But I didn’t care for the dress. I told her I was having lipo in a few days and she said she looked forward to seeing me back in the store in a few months. I waddled further down Chestnut Street and into BCBG Max Azria, where I picked up this darling shirt dress that hides my pouch, and a couple of other items that would suffice.

Kelly E. Carter, Ghostbar Palms Casino

Me at Ghostbar, on the 55th floor of Palms Casino for pre-birthday drinks.

As much as I absolutely love, love, love this BCBG shirt dress, in a few months I won’t be limited to dresses that flow. Thanks to the beau and his generous birthday present. Even though he doesn’t think I need lipo, I do. And that’s what matters.

Check back later for updates.

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Sinning in Sin City

Kelly E. Carter and Michael Mina at American Fish in Aria Las Vegas

Kelly E. Carter and Michael Mina at American Fish inside Aria Las Vegas

When it comes to fine dining, I’ll bet that Las Vegas wins hands down over any other city in the country based on the number of fantastic restaurants within close proximity of one another. Any takers?

Since gluttony is a sin, I admit I’ve sinned plenty in the city known as Sin City. In Vegas I’ve gorged at the restaurants of some of the most notable celebrity chefs around the country (and even world in some cases), including Michael Mina,  Jean-Georges Vongerichten,  Masa Takayama, Joël Robouchon, José Andrés,  Paul Bartolotta, Guy Savoy, Shawn McClain, Julian Serrano and Pierre Gagnaire. Consider that their eateries are within walking distance of one another and you can see why I’m calling Las Vegas the dining capital of America, based on radius.

From a foodie’s perspective, the best time to be in Vegas is this weekend for Food & Wine All-Star Weekend, taking place Oct-21-23 at Aria Resort & Casino and Bellagio Resort & Casino. Food & Wine’s Gail Simmons hosts the epicurean adventure that features some of the aforementioned chefs (Mina, Serrano, Takayama, Vongerichten and Maccioni), 2011 Food & Wine Best New Chef and Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard and a smorgasbord of others from the culinary and mixology world.

Food & Wine All Star Weekend Las Vegas

Here’s the mouth-watering lineup:

Friday, October 21

8 p.m. – 11 p.m.
First Course: Kick-off party hosted by Gail Simmons at ARIA View Bar featuring a star-studded lineup of celebrity chefs and alumni from Top Chef. Guests will enjoy cocktails and passed hors d’oeuvres.

11 p.m. – 1 a.m.
Second Course: The Deuce Lounge at ARIA will be the setting for a fun after-party as each chef hosts blackjack at a gaming table.

Sit in on a game, sip delicious cocktails and enjoy a simply delectable dessert bar from Top Chef Just Desserts winner Yigit Pura.

Saturday, October 22

Noon – 2 p.m.
A New American Lunch: FOOD & WINE Contributor and Wine Expert Anthony Giglio and Top Chef cheftestant Stephanie Izard co-host this exciting sit-down luncheon at ARIA’s Sage. Delicious cuisine by Sage Executive Chef Shawn McClain and exquisite cocktail and beer pairings made exclusively by Giglio will impress guests during the afternoon, providing a fun, culinary experience at the award-winning restaurant.

Luxe Lunch: Hosted in Bellagio’s Tuscany Kitchen, this extraordinary lunch is part cooking demonstration, part three-course luncheon and part wine tasting. This exciting event will be hosted by Gail Simmons with Top Chef’s Season 5 winner Hosea Rosenberg providing a cooking demo and Bellagio Master Sommelier and Director of Wine Jason Smith pairing each course with complementary wine.

8 p.m. – 11 p.m.
All-Star Tasting: The main event takes place poolside at ARIA and will feature host Gail Simmons, Bravo’s Top Chef cheftestants Yigit Pura, Stephanie Izard, Hosea Rosenberg, Angelo Sossa and Sam Talbot in addition to the signature restaurants of ARIA: Jean Georges Steakhouse, Sirio Ristorante, Julian Serrano, BARMASA and Sage. Each participating chef will create a sample-sized portion of a signature dish for guests to taste. Cocktails, wine and beer also will be served. Many of ARIA’s award-winning chefs and restaurateurs will be in attendance including Masa Takayama, Shawn McClain, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Michael Mina and Sirio Maccioni.

Sunday, October 23

11 a.m. Champagne & Caviar Brunch: Hosted by FOOD & WINE Contributing Editor and Wine Expert Anthony Giglio, Jasmine at Bellagio will make guests’ champagne wishes and caviar dreams come true at this buffet brunch set against the backdrop of the breathtaking Bellagio Fountains. Featuring a specialty Bloody Mary Bar created by Bellagio Master Mixologist Matt Myers and brunch favorites from Top Chef Season 5 winner Hosea Rosenberg.

Bon appetit!

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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.

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