Periodically, I get offers from brands, publicists, or influencer sites to review and/or promote products. Sometimes the product is relevant to my interest and audience, and other times it’s way off. With the rise of mommy bloggers, I’ve seen an increase in outreach efforts from toy and game companies targeting toddlers in particular. There are also a lot of offers for baby products: Diaper bags, pacifier clips, teething rings, etc. When they are paid promotions, I definitely regret having to turn them down. But, I don’t have easy access to children! I obv don’t have children, I don’t have family nearby, and my friends either don’t have kids or don’t have little ones. What to do?
One of my friends is a godfather to a toddler, so I thought that was a potential opportunity. Free toys sounded like a good idea to the parents, but they weren’t too keen on the idea of the child being posted on social media. For these promotions, I would likely post a photo or video of the child with the product or interacting with it.
Then, I thought about volunteer work. I could bring the toy to a child in need, and spend time with them. But photographing them would be exploitative (and probably not permitted). If I could just babysit a kid for a couple of hours, give the caregiver a break, and take some snaps, I would be golden. But would strangers let me watch their kids? What if I watched them for free?
I have some qualifications under my belt, and kids love me 🙂 I was a teaching assistant in a preschool for children with special needs, and I also taught wellness topics to students in K-12 as a paraprofessional. Both of these positions were with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. My CPR and First Aid certifications have expired, but I could easily get them renewed.
So, the caregiver gets free childcare for a couple of hours, and I get a snap or video of the little one having a great time. Sounds like a win-win to me! What are your thoughts?
Eyebrow maintenance. I started off tweezing in high school, and then graduated to waxing. Years later, however, I found that my eyebrows were a shadow of their former selves. They were thinner and shorter, and lining my eyebrows became routine when I wore makeup.
Then, a nail tech named CiCi at Annie’s Nail Spa in Jersey City, NJ told me about microblading. It’s essentially a eyebrow tattooing technique that leaves you with lovely brows for up to three years, if you are lucky. More information about the procedure is here. CiCi showed me before and after pictures of her past clients, and answered all of my questions about the procedure. Then, she drew a fabulous eyebrow on me with a pencil, and insisted that is what i would look like after the procedure. This perfect drawing was my expectation and also why I initially regretted my decision.
I made an appointment, went home, and read up on the procedure some more. After the initial session, the eyebrows go through the usual peeling that happens after you get a tattoo. A month after the first session, you’re supposed to return for another one. Women online who hated their eyebrows opted not to return for the second session, and also gave a lot of tips on how to get your eyebrows back to normal as quickly as possible. I had many more questions for CiCi after reading all of this, and she patiently answered each one. I pushed my doubts aside, and decided to keep my appointment.
First, a numbing cream was applied and left on for about 20 minutes. I couldn’t feel anything during the procedure at first, but it was about a two-hour process. I definitely felt the painful scraping about two-thirds of the way through. After all was said and done, I hated it. My eyebrows were way too dark and artificial looking. The worst part was the beginning of the eyebrow, near my nose. It was a hard, backward “L” shape, and looked very unnatural.
I did everything they told me not to do in order to make my eyebrows lighter faster. I scrubbed my eyebrows with soap and water, drank alcohol, and exercised. My self-sabotage worked, and my eyebrows did fade pretty quickly. Here are the details of my microblading journey!
Day 1-3: Absolutely hate my eyebrows. I was cursing myself and calling myself names, especially since I paid $450! I got compliments from several coworkers though.
Day 4: Ok, my eyebrows look good! This is also the day that peeling started, right on CiCi’s schedule.
Day 5: More peeling.
Day 6: Now my eyebrows look like I got fresh wax. They are definitely not full and perfect looking like I was told and shown.
Day 7: Wondering how long it will be before I need an eyebrow cleanup (wax).
Day 14: My eyebrows still look like I got a fresh wax. I’m starting to debate if I should go back for the follow-up visit. I don’t want the eyebrows dark again, but I want the full and perfect look that I was promised. I’m leaning toward skipping it so I won’t be left with horribly dark eyebrows again.
Day 21: Eyebrows still look fab. Very nice not to have to worry about them at all.
Day 30: I am happy with my eyebrows, and my microblading decision! The previously thin parts toward the end of my eyebrows are filled in, and I still have my natural arch/shape.
I decided to forego the second appointment to avoid another round of hideously dark and unnatural looking eyebrows. I got my brows cleaned up via wax by CiCi and they look amazing! I was told by one of my model friends that he has never seen my eyebrows so on fleek. I think I need to continue going to CiCi to make sure my eyebrows aren’t waxed to thinly, and that I keep getting spectacular results.
Final assessment: It’s really a case-by-case basis depending on how thin your eyebrows are, if you already have an eyebrow shape that you’re happy with, etc. If you find yourself filling in your brows often and are very unhappy with the way your eyebrows look between maintenance appointments (like I was), then microblading might be a good choice for you. This was one impulse buy that was a good decision for me.
The majority of the black men that I’ve dated have children. Their baby mamas have ranged from being indifferent, to downright evil. Rarely are they actually co-parenting. Sometimes it’s the father going the extra mile just to see their child, or dealing with jealousy and manipulation from a woman who may not even want him anymore. The issue comes, however, when HE doesn’t want HER anymore. The rejection, resentment, and bitterness can express itself in the pettiest of ways. So is it worth it for the third party (myself) to even try to make it work with the father?
I know a few people who refuse to date a person that has children. It’s a firm, no exceptions rule for them. I respect and understand the decision, but I know it eliminates too many black men for it to be an acceptable option for me. Part of it is the regularity with which I encounter the situation, to the point that it almost seems like an inevitability. Other parts of it are me giving more chances, and not wanting any regrets. It’s also my preference of stepmotherhood over motherhood or singlehood (Are these really the only options?). But the third-party road is not an easy one.
Finding someone who values you at least as much you value them is difficult enough. Falling in line behind children, his mother, and a baby mama (or two) is harder. It’s also unfortunate that some parents undermine or otherwise interrupt the relationship between the other parent and the child. As most single-parent homes are led by women, it is easier for the female to be the culprit here. This is especially the case when the father has moved on, and is no longer interested in a romantic relationship with her. We all know the adage about a woman scorned.
All of these issues compounded with the typical relationship stressors make for an exhausting situation. Everyone has baggage, but some have enough to fill a cargo plane. Regardless, you can still find someone who loves you enough to “help you unpack.” Blended families are becoming more and more common, and it is very possible to have a healthy relationship that is non-traditional. So, when weighing baby mama drama, compatibility, the future, and other factors, I’m left wondering the same question I ask in any other relationship: “Is it worth it?” Answer: TBD.
While hip-hop was born in the Bronx, its reach has now surpassed the borders of nations and even continents. In Australia, there are some die-hard fans who truly appreciate both the art form and the culture. Mugzy is one of these individuals– inspired by Tupac, Biggie, DMX, Public Enemy, and other legends, and pouring his heart and soul into each of his songs. No road worth traveling is without obstacles, however, and he eventually found himself reevaluating his expectations for his career. Now the 26-year-old is stronger than ever, and is prepping new music for his fans across the globe. Look for new music from Mugzy in 2018, and learn more about him in “The Questionnaire”!!
BROWNIEMARIE.COM: Where did you grow up and where do you currently live?
MUGZY: Live in a place called The Central Coast which is about an hour and a half north of Sydney’s central business district.
What is the Australian hip-hop scene like?
In all honesty, this is what I’ve experienced on my journey… I’ve realized that U.S. artists are very humble. They always want to network and connect with each other or whoever has a dream of being a rapper, whether it’s in the United States, or here in Australia, or wherever it may be. They always want to find ways of making this dream happen for them. That’s what I love [and] that’s why I have been given so many opportunities over there.
Here in Australia, we have so much love for the hip-hop culture it’s crazy. Whether it’s Rapping, DJing, Graffiti, Beatboxing, Breakdancing, or just general hip-hop knowledge, we want to eat it up. But in saying that, there is too much criticism here– especially with accents. Hip-hop heads here say, “Rap in your normal talking voice… don’t do this fake USA accent.” Most call it a “wacksent.”
I can understand we want to put our Australian input on the map as natural as possible, but I’m going to be 100 percent real about this: Rapping in your normal voice [with an Australian accent] has no flow. It’s bleh, plain. It doesn’t sell. To make your music strike the ears of the listeners, it has to be catchy and flow well, so putting some USA slang on it doesn’t hurt.
Now, I’m not saying go turn into an Iggy Azalea because she is as fake as her plastic surgery. I’m just saying, whatever gets put on the table, use it. This is why we aren’t making a living off our dreams and have to go out to our 9-5’s– because we don’t come together and make something great. Thats what I see in our scene… I don’t turn a blind eye to it. Thats why I made the track “Aussie With An American Attitude.”
How did you come up with your name?
When I was starting off, I used to do gangsta rap. I would write down lyrics about shooting guns, drugs, gangs, all that type of stuff– even though it wasn’t my life. I think it was because of the early 2000s; it was such a cool image. We had G-Unit who just came out, and everyone wanted to be like 50 [Cent]: Rockin the du-rag, baseball cap, basketball jersey the whole lot. My first rap name was Ryder-Reyne. My real name is Reyne Brady, as in “rain,” but spelled differently. Sounds corny as f***.
One night, I was watching the comedy movie “Soul Plane” with Snoop Dogg, Kevin Hart, and Method Man. Method Man’s character was a laid back, funny, quirky sort of guy called Muggsy. As I was watching the movie, I thought, “Wow. His character is a lot like me.” When the credits rolled up, I checked out the name, and it just clicked. Hopefully, later on down the road of my career, I meet Method Man so I can tell him that story [laughs].
What was your first gig?
The first time I ever picked up the mic to perform my material in front of a crowd was back in 2009, on my last day of finishing high school. We had [a school-wide event] celebrating that we’re finally leaving, so i decided to put my name down [to perform]. The performers (including myself) were behind the curtain of the stage ready to be called up at our times. I remember peeking through the curtain and seeing hundreds of students waiting for the show to start. I stood back against the wall with my heart racing thinking, “I cant do this. I’m not prepared to perform in front of that many people.” Just freaking out [laughs].
It was time for me to do my set… I walked out on stage, picked up the mic and just my luck the audio f***ed up [laughs]. Typical school quality. While staring at all those faces and hearing nothing but silence/awkwardness, I then thought to myself: “If i want to be a rapper and want this dream to come true, nothing will bring me down. No embarrassment, nothing.”
So I picked up the mic and performed my track “Keep On Rapping,” which is the third track on my first album, Ride Or Die. The crowd was loving every minute of it… getting into every lyric and chorus, waving their hands, singing along; it was incredible. After I finished my set, the crowd kept screaming, “Encore! Encore!” From that moment on, I knew this is what I wanted to dedicate my life to.
Who are your biggest musical influences?
Top five: 50 Cent, Tupac, Eminem, DMX, and Nas. [50’s] Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ is insane. Still to this day, every joint on that album is pure fire. G-Unit forever.
What more can i say beyond his name… there will never be another Tupac. The guy is iconic and a legend in the hip hop game. I reckon if he was still alive, he probably could of ran for president.
I know it probably sounds cliché to say because I’m white myself, but I reckon [Eminem] was the main one who broke that barrier of hip-hop which was [almost exclusively] a black domain of music. I know we had white artists before Em, like 3rd Bass, Beastie Boys, House Of Pain, even Vanilla Ice, but I don’t think they had a big enough impact on the scene like Em did. He’s the hip-hop Elvis.
I love DMX because [he combined] his raw, aggressive attitude with powerful, catchy lyrics you will never forget through his message. I feel like in my career, my flows/vibes are a lot like X.
[Nas’] Illmatic is a hip-hop classic and number one album to go to. If Illmatic isn’t in your recommendations, then I’m sorry but you ain’t hip-hop [laughs]. Go bump some Lil Yachty s**** .
What has been your biggest professional challenge?
Back in 2012, I was doing a ton of gigs. I came across a street flyer for a talent competition called UrbanStar which was catered only towards hip-hop and R&B. One of the judges was Marcus Pernell, who was a producer at Def Jam/Universal. On the night [of the competition], there were about 30 contestants and all of them did cover songs. I was the only one who did original material (I performed my track, “Keep On Rapping”). Two of the judges scored me with a zero but Marcus scored me with a 10 out of 10. It completely blew my mind just knowing someone who is that high in the industry, who has probably worked with artists I inspire to be like, enjoyed my performance
After the event we had a bit of a chat about my career. Probably a few months after that, he asked me out for lunch to talk more about my career and Def Jam. From hearing those words (“lunch,” “career,” “Def Jam”), in my mind I thought, “OMG, he has the contract for me to sign. My life is going to be changed forever. Everything I’ve been working so hard for year after year has finally paid off.”
While having lunch together, he breaks down the music industry to me and the Australian hip-hop scene, and how Def Jam probably won’t be able to sign me because hip-hop wasn’t that big here in Australia (this is before Iggy). [He also told] me if I was in the States, it would be a better shot, etc.
I remember walking out of that lunch feeling so gutted, like my world was flipped upside-down. [I was] thinking, “Should I continue doing music? Is the dream ever going to happen?” Before that event happened, I was always in the mindset of this positive high thought that you make your first release, you do a few gigs, and it will happen just like that. It’s simple.
Not realizing the long hard road, and not realizing this industry can cheat you in so many different ways that it’s not funny. So when I walked out of our lunch, it brought me back to reality… even though it was a depressing time.
What I say to artists who want to get into the hip-hop game or music in general: Don’t think it’s going to happen overnight. Watch your every move, be aware of things, and hustle ya a** off daily. I suppose my biggest challenge was overcoming that disappointment.
What are you currently working on?
[I’m actually getting] back into the studio ASAP. My second album, Understand Me, released in 2013, so its been four years since I’ve released anything new. I’ve been getting into a lot of acting but i miss music so much… especially the high/adrenaline of crafting new work. So I’ve got a ton of work to do.
For my third album, I want to do a two-disc and pile as much music/craft out as possible. That’s all I can say at this point… nothing more. Can’t wait; it’s going to be one hell of a rollercoaster. In 2018, fans will def hear something once again from Mugzy.
A long time ago, back when I was modeling, I had an audition in group interview format. A company was looking for promotional models in the Cleveland Metro area, and asked us what qualities that the city embodies. Almost in unison, we answered “resilience.” From the weather, to the economy, to our sports teams, we’ve been through a lot. It’s a collective Midwest experience, where the factories close, jobs evaporate, and there’s an exodus of people (feels like most of the people in Atlanta are actually from Cleveland).
However, Cleveland has been the butt of jokes for years– the Cuyahoga River fire, the “Mistake on the Lake” nickname, close playoff and championship losses, the LeBron James saga, the “Hot in Cleveland” television show, two viral “tourism” video parodies (“We’re not Detroit!”), and more have been fodder for comedians and haters nationwide. When I tell people I’m from Cleveland, some will respond with, “I’m sorry to hear that.” Most will ask how I feel about LeBron. It’s annoying every time. But, after years of collective disappointments and snide remarks, we’ve developed a thick skin. We also get up again and again, every time we get knocked down.
The last time I visited my hometown, I was proud to see a revitalized waterfront, vibrant downtown, and joyous people. With new businesses, attractions, and luxury housing, Cleveland is on the upswing. But, there is still a lot more work to be done. Job growth in Ohio still lags behind nationwide rates, and the number of unemployed increased by 5,000 persons from June to July, according to Cleveland.com. Hopefully, positive changes will be implemented and sustained by the politicians elected (or re-elected) in November. There are Clevelanders around the world rooting for the city to win!
Spring has sprung in NYC, and that means a new, delectable menu from Matt Levine’s Chalk Point Kitchen (527 Broome St. New York, NY). The West Village restaurant specializes in seasonal ingredients delivered farm-to-table, but it is the creativity of its chefs that truly sets Chalk Point apart. A glance at their brunch, lunch, dinner, or dessert menus and it’s clear that this is not ordinary dining. Baked Sourdough French Toast is exalted to include toasted hazelnuts and crispy rosemary, and the Devils Food Cake is crafted with raw cacao and topped with cream cheese icing. The rustic charm of Chalk Point Kitchen’s decor complements the restaurant’s honest ingredients and well-constructed dishes, and heightens an already intimate dining experience. Last week, I was invited to an exclusive tasting of their spring menu, and it is exceptional even by Chalk Point’s standards.
Up first was whipped, herbed feta with toasted baguettes. The flavor combination was remarkable! The sweetness of the feta cheese, tangy spice of red pepper flakes, and savory and satisfying crunch of the baguette were heavenly together.
While it was difficult to move on from this appetizer, it was time for the second course: a crisp and refreshing Blood Orange Vitamin C Salad. This item is also on the dinner menu, and features arugula and goji berries for a meal that was surprisingly hearty.
A surprising treat was Chalk Point’s Chicken Liver Mousse Toast. Even liver-averse diners such as myself can appreciate the goji berries and balsamic vinegar reduction that add a tart yet sweet contrast to the dish.
Though I was pretty stuffed at this point, I had to make room for the scallops. Served with purple yams and green goddess dressing, this entrée was succulent. The scallops were cooked perfectly– tender, juicy, and delicious.
Dessert was a matcha panna cotta with pistachios, cookie crumbles, raspberries, blueberries, and powdered sugar. The recipe was just sweet enough, and a refreshing cleanser after four delightful courses.
View all of Chalk Point Kitchen’s menus on their website, and follow the restaurant on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @ChalkPointNYC!
There is something about alternative rock that has always spoken to me. The angst, passion, and indie roots of the genre are just as compelling to me now as they were when I was a teen. I felt that same magnetism while listening to Stolen Apple’s album, Trenches. The 12-track project was released in September, and is a wonderful demonstration of the art that has stemmed from 70s punk rock. Listening to Trenches all the way through is emotional, riveting, and necessary. “The only thing that matters is the free movement of ideas,” the album’s EPK reads. “Each song is an expression of the independent spirit of the band.”
Former Nest members Riccardo Dugini (vocals, guitar) and Luca Petrarchi (vocals, guitar, organ, synth) founded Stolen Apple in 2008, adding musicians Massimiliano Zatini (vocals, bass, harmonica) and Alessandro Patagani (drums, piano, percussion). Based in Florence, Italy, the Rock Bottom Records artists frequently perform throughout the region and connect with fans across the world through their music and social media. Trenches is available for streaming or for CD purchase on Bandcamp. Connect with Stolen Apple on Facebook, and watch the music video for their single, “Falling Grace,” on YouTube.
Shouts out to Alessandro for introducing me to his band via Facebook. Grazie!