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JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2012

THE RENEWAL ISSUE

MARTHA WASH

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Contents: Beautiful You

Features

The Queen Grace Collection creator speaks to us about the plus industry & why it’s time for a revolution.

The legendary MARTHA WASH sits down with us to share her thoughts on the music industry, plus modeling, and renewing herself in 2012.

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All Eyez On….Marina Zelner

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Style File

Renew Your Image

Three tips on how to renew your image in 2012!

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The Vanity Table

Meet Jermaine Smith, The Man Who Wants to Make You Smell Beautiful Everyday

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The VOICE

Love Like This

Three Plus Size Couples give the inside scoop on love, marriage, and why women need to stop looking for “The One”.

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Independent Woman: Aiesha Turman

The Black Girl Project: Giving Our Girls A Voice

Visit www.belle-noir.com

Living It Up

P28 Keep It Moving Five Tips for Eating Healthy in 2012 P34 Frugalicious Diva Renewing Your 2012 Goals P30 Recipe Remix For The Love of Comfort Food

The Scene

P36 Spotlight Storm: Bringing New Flavor to Your Ear & Music For Your Soul

In Every Issue P6

Behind The Scene

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A Note From Ms. Aja B.

On The Cover Photography by Michelle Wild. Retouching by Eve Harlowe. Stylist, Jay Johnson. Haristylist, Tracey Logan. Makeup Artist, D’Angelo Thompson. Ms. Wash wears an Igigi gown, Paris Collection Jewelry.

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the

left to right: JNESS, Martha Wash, Marcy Cruz, Aja B. Stubbs

Behind The Scenes OUR COVER SHOOT

It was the collective squeal heard around the world. Or at least it felt like it to our team. When word went out to Team Belle-Noir that the legendary Martha Wash would be on the cover of our re-launch issue, even Layout Director JNESS had to squeal. While it was a rainy November day in New York City, there was nothing but sunshine and positive vibes in the Westside photo studio. Ms. Martha Wash has had the type of career where you could very well be a diva in that sense of the word. She’s had major success both as a solo artist, and as a member of both the Weather Girls and … She’s fought music labels for rights & royalties to music where her voice was featured and won. But if Ms. Wash is to be called a Diva, it is solely in the sense that she is about her business. Arriving to the studio alone, Ms. Wash greeted everyone warmly & sweetly, then immediately went into hair & make-up, eager to get the day started. You could see in her eyes, though, that she had a lot on her mind. Her manager, James Washington, explained that Ms. Wash would be performing for Bloomingdale’s as they unveiled their holiday windows that evening. “Do you need to rehearse?” one of our Team members asked. “I’ve been singing the song in my head most of the morning,” Ms. Wash said matter of factly. It was a song she had not performed in awhile, and she wanted to be sure she got it exactly right. She simply looked gorgeous in every outfit—all from Igigi. Like a true veteran, she breezed through our photo shoot with ease, even laughing when members of both her team and ours discussed the possible, um, misappropriation of the gorgeous rhinestone hoops she wears in one photo (note: we made sure stylist Jay Johnson had them in his bag before he left). Then, with a change of dress for her performance, final goodbyes all around, and a snack in hand for good measure, she was off to do what she does best: Sing like one of the best Divas in the game.

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Contributors: Marcy Cruz

Marcy Cruz is a freelance writer and blogger based out of New York City. Besides being a part of the Belle-Noir team, she is also on the production team of Full Figured Fashion Week. She loves to travel at a whim, is a self-proclaimed book nerd, loves to crochet while watching Project Runway and Audrey Hepburn is her hero. She can be reached via email at marcy@belle-noir.com. You can also catch up with her every Thursday on the Belle-Noir Magazine blog or find her on her own personal blog Fearlessly Just Me (http://www.fearlesslyjustme.blogspot.com/).

Nanthale Collins

“I get asked all the time how I got into fashion? My answer is always the same. How could I not.” Fashion selection has always come easy to Nanthale Collins. She loved the way people lit up after putting on that perfect outfit. That is when she decided to take her love of fashion to the next level. After graduating from Syracuse University with a degree in Marketing & Management, she furthered her knowledge of fashion at The Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC. While completing her Styling Certification, she worked at a retail boutique where she completed client’s wardrobes, taught style classes to in-house stylists & coordinated styles for high paying customers. Since completing her Image Consulting Certification, Nanthale has worked for retail fashion houses as a consultant, styled numerous photo shoots, worked as a wardrobe assistant on a motion picture set and participated in countless runway shows. Nanthale has worked backstage at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in NYC for the past 7 seasons as a dresser, as wardrobe consultant and dresser for NYC Bridal Week two seasons in a row, and has made Full Figured Fashion Week™ her play ground for three seasons straight. For more information on her services you can visit her company website, www.necfashionconsulting.webs.com.

Chef Jeff Rogers

Chef Jeffrey Rogers was born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y. Always having a love to share his craft; he has held positions at leading restaurants and catering companies, including Match Restaurant in Soho and Mood Food catering. Jeff became Executive chef at the BAM Café inside of the Brooklyn Academy of Music Opera House, achieving write ups in NY Times and organized Gala events for over 800 guests including the Prince and Princess of Spain. He has worked within the ranks of Sodexo as an Executive Chef and Certified Culinary Foundations Trainer. Achieving numerous write ups in newspapers and winning several awards; Chef Jeff was a part of the team leading Sodexo to 3 Gold and 1 Bronze medal at the ACF sanctioned Evening of Good Taste Culinary Salon. Chef Jeff continues his good works mentoring students in culinary arts programs in NYC High Schools and through his Brooklyn based catering company, JPRogers Culinary Creations and as Executive Chef/Partner of New York’s Nu Urban Café, a restaurant providing “Healthy food in a new fashion.”

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MAGAZINE |

Belle-Noir Magazine | Big. Beautiful. You.™ January/February 2012 Volume 2 Issue 1

Editorial Director Aja B. Stubbs

Art & Layout Director Jean “JNESS” Nerestant

Contributing Writers Nanthale Collins Marcy Cruz Chef Jeffrey Rogers Latisha Williams Danielle Young

Advertising Inquiries advertise@belle-noir.com

Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor are welcome, but may be edited due to space limitations. All letters must include the writer’s name and city/state. Interested in being featured in Belle-Noir Mag? Email us! editor@belle-noir.com Belle-Noir Magazine is published bi-monthly by Belle-Noir Communications. We reserve the right to refuse to sell space for any advertisement that staff deems inappropriate for publication. All content of this magazine including design, art, and editorial content is Copyright © 2012, Belle-Noir Communications. All Rights Reserved. No portion of this magazine may be copied or reproduced without the advanced written consent of the publisher.

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A Note from... Ms. Aja B While many throw the word “resolution” around this time of year, we are thinking about renewal here at Belle-Noir. Often times, life gets so busy that we lose ourselves in the routine of everyday. We forget about the activities and moments that are who we really are at our core, the things that bring us joy. From something as simple as trying on a new shade of lip gloss, to renewing a favorite hobby, to picking up the phone and calling that family member whom you fell out with but can’t quite remember why. A new year marks a chance to renew ourselves mind, body and spirit.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” ~ Psalms 51:10

There’s something about the calendar turn to a new year that is so refreshing. While experts and self-help gurus will say that anytime is a great time to start anew (and yeah, they might be right about that) there is something so much more fulfilling about January 1 of a New Year. What better time than January 1, when you can purchase a calendar or planner of your fancy and envision the next 365 days of working towards a better you? p.10 | Belle-Noir Magazine, January/February 2012 MAGAZINE |

January also marks a renewal for Belle-Noir Magazine. We have renewed our dedication to providing a lifestyle magazine that will help plus size women of Color live their best lives in a Big and Beautiful way. That means focusing not just on making you look good, but also on making you feel good inside and out. Maybe one of your goals for 2012 is to get your finances in order. Our Frugalicious Diva is back with some tips on how to renew your commitment to your goals and ideas on how to start to organize. Perhaps you love to cook, but every recipe you know how to make comes from your mama’s kitchen and, while lip-smacking good, is filled with the fat and high sugar or sodium contents that are bad for our health. We are pleased to welcome Chef Jeffrey Rogers with a some healthy Recipe Remixes of some classic flavors. We also are super pleased to feature music legend Martha Wash. She is currently renewing her already legendary career and doing it on her own terms, preparing to release her new CD on her own imprint. We are so happy to be back and hope you will be equally excited as you flip through our pages for our January/February issue. What parts of you are dedicated to renewing in 2012? Let me know! You can email at msajab@belle-noir.com or let your thoughts be known by following me on twitter (@msajab). Happy New Year! Peace & Love, Aja

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New and resale apparel for fashionistas sizes 14-28 We offer stylish dresses, skirts, pants, jackets, accessories and more!! www.eddyandbri.com info@eddyandbri.com (212) 706 9327 Eddy and Bri @eddyandbri

All Eyez On…

Marina Zelner

- By Marcy Cruz

I had the honor of chatting with Marina Zelner, founder and CEO of Queen Grace, a collection for the plus size woman who wants to look and feel good every day. Marina is truly a designer who cares about the plus size woman and is a pioneer in this new revolution of plus size women becoming mainstream and more accepted in society. She truly cares about her customer, even beyond the clothes. She is on a mission to educate women on self-acceptance and encouraging them to love themselves instead of loathing themselves.

Marcy: Thank you so much, Marina for doing this interview. You and I have known each other for about a year now and I am so pleased that you get to share your views and opinions with our readers, as well as talking about the Queen Grace collection, which I love. I think it is a beautiful collection of clothing that truly flatters women with curves and full figured bodies. Yes, I am biased – I totally admit it. I love you to death. <laughs>

Marina:

Thank you, Marcy. I feel absolutely humbled to be approached and people looking forward to talk to me, and setting up appointments and looking to sample our pieces. You know, it has been absolutely overwhelming. But when you said to me that you had joined the Belle-Noir Magazine team, I was so happy because it’s you and I love the magazine and am happy to see it back. It’s a rebirth. So what big things will we see in the magazine? I’m sorry, you’re supposed to be interviewing me but I’m just curious. <laughs>

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All Eyez On…Marina Zelner - by Marcy Cruz (continued)

Marcy:

<laughs> Belle-Noir’s vision is still the same, talking to the everyday woman. With BelleNoir, the goal is not to just be a plus size magazine. We’re talking to the plus size woman but we are not talking to her in relation to solely her size. We’re not just focusing on her size; we’re focusing on her everyday life as a woman. It’s just talking to that everyday woman and saying you’re beautiful in your own right.

Marina: You know, it’s so wonderful to hear that.

I have to be perfectly honest with you. Even though it is an image market, in many ways that’s how our company approaches it. This is not just a plus size woman; this is about a woman. Period.

Marcy: Right. Marina: Considering that 70% of the population

is what you and people in the fashion industry consider over a size 12 or plus size or whatever you want to call it, then why are we not talking to the majority? There is a majority. And it’s very interesting because we have, sort of, come to this conclusion as well. It was very nice to see how the African-American and Latina communities have embraced us. They are so brave. They have been very brave for many, many years. But it’s driven by the culture. [Being plus size is] accepted a lot more within those communities. It just comes from the men appreciating a more full figured body. What I have realized is that the majority of Caucasian women have very serious difficulty accepting that they are okay at a size 12 and 14 and that is absolutely average. So you shouldn’t be starving or whatever you do to lose weight. You can enjoy your life and stop beating yourself over the head everyday on how you look and how you feel. I realize that is a different approach and it has to change. Especially, the retail industry has to acknowledge the fact that when you walk into a store, there should be options Visit www.belle-noir.com

for a size 2 and options for a size 18 or a 26-30. And if you’re comfortable in your own skin, you have to have options out there to dress well and feel good. Just like any average woman, she wants to know about fashion, she wants to know about lifestyle, etc. Why is there such exclusion? Why is it so segregated? So I’m coming to that realization more and more as well. There are two trains of thought: One where I see women saying, no, Plus has to be separated. You know the whole Plus Revolution. And there is a thought where it can be all inclusive. I like that BelleNoir is looking to approach other women’s issues that concern you and me on a daily basis. It really has nothing to do with size.

Marcy:

Exactly, we’re all women, when you get down to it. We’re all different sizes but we are all women. A lot of us experience the same plights, go through the same things. I think with the plus size community, they focus so much on the clothing asBelle-Noir Magazine, January/February 2012 | p.15 MAGAZINE |

beautiful All Eyez On…Marina Zelner - by Marcy Cruz (continued) pect because that is one of our bigger problems, trying to find flattering clothes that fit us well. But it’s not only about that. It’s like you said, we need more women out there to speak to those women that are in those self-loathing states and tell them you’re beautiful too. I feel I am making a difference because I’m out here talking to women on the Belle-Noir blog weekly, not talking to just size. So I think it’s very interesting because, for me, I don’t see anyone who looks like me out there. But I’m okay with that because I recognize that we are not going to get everything in a day. One day at a time. One obstacle at a time. When it gets down to it, we’re all women. Our sizes don’t define us.

Marina:

Makes sense. I know you and I have talked about this before. We are increasing the sizes that we offer. In the Spring, we are already going up to a size 26.

Marcy: I am so excited! Marina: We’ll see. Because we also have to

keep in mind that we’re not the company that just adds fabric and calls it a larger size. We want the fashion to be complimentary to the body. There’s just a matter of researching and making sure that the fit is right, the quality of the fabric is right, the production is right. We take all of these issues seriously. So we continue our gradual growth in as far as the sizes and what the customers are looking for. And it has been an incredible journey, I gotta tell you. The important thing for us is that it’s been great and we will complete our full cycle this June when we come back to New York for Full Figured Fashion Week 2012. But 2011 was the year of discovery; it was the year of learning what the customer truly wants. It was a year of, kind of, finding our voice. And it’s really wonderful to see such a tremendous response and support from the community and more and more women. There’s been so many articles that have come out and we talk about our brands and we talk about me as the foundp.16 | Belle-Noir Magazine, January/February 2012 MAGAZINE |

er of the company. And it’s nice because we’re also involved in this whole revolution. It’s like you said, I don’t know when the change will happen or how long it’s going to take us but just to be a part of it is incredible.

Marcy:

I remember when I first met you, that’s what impressed me the most. Do you remember when we met in LA (Full Figured Fashion Week LA – October 2010)?

Marina: Yes! I was with Judge Karen. (Judge Karen Mills-Francis, TV personality/judge)

Marcy:

I was just so blown away at the fact that you were asking me questions – I thought to myself, she really cares what I think! Usually you get a lot of designers who don’t want to talk to someone my size. That’s not who their customer is in their mind. Their customer is usually below a 22. An 18 would be perfect. So when you were asking me questions and I’m with Rosie (Rosie Mercado, plus size model and actress), I was just so blown away and I thought to myself, when this woman comes out with her collection, I am going to be so supportive. I didn’t feel excluded. So thank you for that.

Marina:

Marcy, we are working on it. We just want to get it right. Because the last thing I want is to come out with pieces that you would say, well yeah, they are available in my size but what good is that if they don’t fit right?

Marcy: Exactly. So, what made you decide to become a plus size fashion designer?

Marina: Well, you don’t just wake up one morn-

ing and say, okay, I’m a designer now. And I think I approach this a lot more from a business perspective. I am the one that is growing this company and I am the one who has started it. I have an incredible creative team. And my input, as far as the design goes, is in every little element whether it’s the selection of the fabrics or sketches or the execution. Anything having Visit www.belle-noir.com

All Eyez On…Marina Zelner - by Marcy Cruz (continued)

“There’s a greater cause to our company than just selling clothes. We want to really empower women out there one at a time.”

to do with creating clothes is critical to me. But more importantly, this year I have been spending time really reaching out to the customer and getting the knowledge of what the customer wants out there. I’m the same way as every other woman. I want to feel beautiful. I want to look beautiful. And I want to have options available out there. And out of so many years of frustration, when you cannot find the clothes that fit you right and you struggle with going to the larger end of some designers, who create clothes in a size 16 on average. I am between a size 16 and 18. But I have had 3 kids and there have been times I have been a size 20 or a size 12. The range, sometimes I laugh about, because I can dress a whole bunch of girls out of my closet.

Marcy: <laughs> Marina: <laughs> You have

all these sizes and sometimes I am a clothes whore. I have a really bad problem parting with pieces that I am in love with. Even if doesn’t fit me, it becomes a piece of art, more than clothing. It was so frustrating for a while. And every time I would sit down and think about it, I would think, how come there are not a lot more options available? How come we don’t talk about it publicly? And how come we don’t get the message across to these women that it’s okay to look the way that you do? You have to stop - it’s like you said, just stop the self-loathing and stop this constant complaining about how you look. Visit www.belle-noir.com

You know it’s funny, you talk to women and they say “I can’t find anybody” or “I found a guy but he’s probably not interested in me because I am the wrong size.” Well, if you come to him with that message, if you come to him with that kind of negativity, you know he’s not going to be interested because sometimes we become our own worst enemy. And this is the kind of mentality that I wanted to change. I wanted women to be healthy, to feel great, to look great, to go out there and find options for themselves. It shouldn’t be an assignment where I have a party to go to and it’s going to take me six months to find something to wear. It shouldn’t be like that. There should be companies out there and brands out there that cater to the curves and are able to provide the looks and the fashions that women want. So when she needs to, she can pick up the phone and place an order or go to the store and pick up a style or go online and get it ordered and delivered. And every time she puts our clothes on, she feels wonderful, she looks sexy and she feels sensual. That was the mission. But of course, clothes need to feel better. A lot of things change in you when you start to feel better about yourself. There’s so many depressed women out there. They’ve been so hurt by the media, by the relationships in their lives, by their friends who continue to target them about their weight. Eventually, it catches up with you. Eventually, you feel that you are not worthy. You feel that you shouldn’t be Belle-Noir Magazine, January/February 2012 | p.17 MAGAZINE |

beautiful All Eyez On…Marina Zelner - by Marcy Cruz (continued) looking sexy or be okay with who you are and being independent and confident. That’s the cycle we want to reverse. If we’re going to start with a beautiful dress then so be it. Ultimately, what we want to accomplish is a woman walking down the street feeling confident, heads turning, not because of her size but because of how she carries herself. So there’s a greater cause to our company than just selling clothes. We want to really empower women out there, one at a time. The responses we have been getting from those who have purchased our clothing, gone to our website or read our blog or Facebook page has been wonderful and the most satisfying part of it all.

Marcy: When you feel good on the inside, you’ll want to dress yourself up on the outside. Then it’s like a cycle because when you look good, you feel good. So it’s a constant cycle. If you’re depressed, you’re not going to want to dress yourself up and then you’re not going to feel good.

Marina: <laughs> Exactly. I don’t know if you

attended some of those blogger events at FFF Week LA but I remember someone speaking up and saying that the biggest complaint in the plus size industry and why manufacturers are not putting out more plus size clothes is because women are not buying them. True, they’re not spending the money. They’re asking for clothing but then not spending the money. Well, they’re not spending the money because (A) we are not offering them the right look, right fit. And (B) because they have been so hurt and depressed. What good is it for her to go spend money on a dress if she goes out there and still feels horrible about herself on the inside? Until we change that kind of mentality, until we encourage women to feel good about themselves and be strong and stop listening to these horrifying messages that are out there in the media, it will be a vicious cycle. We really need to put all of our energy into making a change.

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to personally say that some of these plus size designers are so expensive! I cannot afford to pay $600 for a dress. Yet I hate to go to a retailer, pay $50 for a dress, wear it once or twice and then it doesn’t stay in good condition for a long time. I feel like I am in between a rock and a hard place. My budget does not allow me to spend a lot of money on clothes but I don’t want to spend a lesser amount if I am not going to have that clothing last me a long period of time.

Marina:

Right. And that’s exactly why we came out with the pricing that we did. I experienced the same things that you are describing. There’s a lot of disposable clothing out there. You know, you buy it for a season and then you throw it away. You put it in the washer and you take it out and it looks horrible. It’s that kind of stuff that’s out there. Women don’t realize this. When you add all that disposable spending up, you have spent a lot more than you could have possibly imagined. Because you constantly have to replace pieces, just the basics in your wardrobe. And it shouldn’t be like that. In our first collection, we did come back with basic pieces that will stay in your wardrobe. They’re classics; they’re pieces that you can dress up, dress down. You can wear it to the office but at the same time you can wear it at night for a cocktail party. They’re pieces that become classics where you always reach for them. We all know that we have those pieces where it doesn’t matter how you feel on this day, you will feel good wearing it and feel confident. You feel covered in the places you want to be covered. At the same time, you feel sexy and sensual because it adds that kind of sass to your wardrobe. In regards to price points, we’ve come midpoint between the super expensive designers and the disposable clothing. However, what was realized was that our pricing also needs a little bit of change. For the spring collection, we have the intention of reducing all prices because we want to be able to have more and more women en-

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All Eyez On…Marina Zelner - by Marcy Cruz (continued) joy our wardrobe regardless of their income. Women, we are such creatures that we love spending money on things that make us feel good. And part of the responses we have received from customers is that they absolutely love our clothing but they say that it takes time to save up to buy some of our pieces. Even though our price points are between $150 - $250; nothing we sell goes over $300, even our dressy pieces. We want women to have the options, so we decided as a company that we are not going to sacrifice quality, we are not going to sacrifice in terms of the production of fabrics, but we will reduce the prices in order to give more customers the opportunity to purchase our clothes and enjoy them. And that is the decision. It has not been announced yet. But I am sharing with you because I think it’s important, one more time, for everyone to understand that we’ll listen. We’ll listen to what you say. And we’ll listen to what your needs are. And we’ll do anything and everything possible to accommodate our customer’s requests. The designers that are out there, the ones who design at a higher price category, I feel that the quality that we offer is comparable or sometimes is greater because everything that we manufacture is done in the United States.

Marcy: Really? I did not know that. Marina: Yes… We oversee all the production.

We make sure every piece is quality checked. The fabrics that we use, they all contain some percentage of Spandex or Lycra. But at the same time, they are high quality. So the shape of the fabric remains the same. Especially in the plus size market, we all know Visit www.belle-noir.com

that sometimes we go up a few pounds or down a few pounds. And that’s so typical. I don’t want to have “fat” days where I walk into my closet and say that today I cannot put anything in there on. That shouldn’t happen. The clothes, because they’re curve-hugging and accommodate your body, still offer that flexibility and a little bit of stretch. So you put on a few pounds? So you indulge yourself a little bit at a cocktail party for New Year’s? You still have a full wardrobe you can wear. The quality for us is really critical. And for the price points that we offer, we also put a lot of thought into how we design our clothes. I’ve shared this with readers before, there are little tricks that we do with the clothing. Like for instance, all of our dresses are cut a little lower in the back. The hem is little lower in the back. Everytime I mention this to women, they say “Oh my God, eureka! This is incredible!” Well, this is really not that big of a deal. I have been in that situation where I would put a dress on because I am looking at myself in a straight mirror, and then I walk through the mall and all of a sudden I see the side image of myself in the glass and I’m like “Oh my God! What happened there in the back?” Because of our curves and we all have different shapes to our behinds, the dresses lift up in the back. No one accommodates for that kind of feel in a plus size market. So we said, okay, we’ll cut the dresses just a little lower in the back so it doesn’t matter how much you have going on back there with your booty, the dress will still fit you beautifully on the back as it does in the front. We want women to know that when you buy from

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beautiful All Eyez On…Marina Zelner - by Marcy Cruz (continued) us, you are not buying disposable clothing, you are buying clothing that will stay with you, breathe with you and you’re going to keep going back to it over and over again. Could be with a different accessory or a different pair of shoes to create a different look to create new outfits. In a way, it’s an investment.

Marcy: I agree. Buying clothes is an investment when you think about it. Many women don’t realize that you should be looking at a piece prior to buying and thinking how many wears you will get out of that piece. Will the fabric stay up to constant wear and tear and last the test of time? That is how you calculate the value of a piece. You can look at a piece that costs $150 and think, wow, that’s expensive! But if you are going to wear that piece a hundred times over a span of 5 years, you are getting your money’s worth.

Marina:

I think it’s also a matter of educating women, especially in the plus size market. I mean it’s very funny when we realize that women in straight sizes have had magazines and publications even back in the 1800’s to educate them on what’s out there in fashion. There was so much out there. And then, here you have a plus size girl, that hasn’t had any options available on the market. All of a sudden, retailers realized, oh, okay, there is money to be made here. The market got flooded. Flooded with all sorts of clothing. But that does not necessarily mean that pieces were created to cover your size. It doesn’t mean that they are complimentary for your size. So I think a lot of women got excited…because now, wow, we have options available! Whereas before, there was nothing. You had to go to a custom dressmaker. I know that was what my mom had to do. And the majority of women, all the generations that were larger than a size 12, they all had to go and either buy fabric to create their own pieces or they had to go to the custom dressmaker. There were no options available to them in the stores. So women got excited and the

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market got flooded. Now there’s something to cover my body and I can go out in the street. Now we are at the next level where we are evolving. Now, women say, okay, great, you have given us all this stuff, but hold on a second, it’s not good enough. We are also fashionistas and we understand about what looks good and feels right. We know what we want in fabrics, in the quality and what price points. We know who designers are and who the mass producers in China are. We know the difference. We’ve become a lot more educated. So you end up hearing more and more women protesting it and saying “Look, I’m not going to wear this. This is not for me. This is not my right size. You just put more fabric on something so uncomplimentary to my body and shape. So I am not going to go and give you my money.” So it’s the process of reeducating women. Just because it’s in your size doesn’t mean it looks good on you. Just because it’s available does not necessarily mean you need to be patronizing that designer or that store. At Queen Grace, we’re open to listening to all the criticism in order for us to create the best product out there. And so should other brands because competition breeds success. Competition breeds more satisfaction in the market. We’re all for it. The more brands that come out there, the better for the customer. The plus size customer will finally understand what works for them and what doesn’t; what they want and what they don’t want. We all have our different tastes and styles. But overall we all seek the same thing, which is quality and care in what’s being given to us. Consumers are becoming so smart about it. They see right through it. And we are not going to patronize brands that don’t do things right. It’s very visible. Education is critical. I wish more magazines and more bloggers would be open about not just saying it’s okay, here it is, here’s the brands, here’s the sizes – just go and explore. But also teaching women how to look good, how to look put together, how to accessorize, how to wear clothes where you get oohs

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All Eyez On…Marina Zelner - by Marcy Cruz (continued) “Until we encourage women to feel good about themselves...and stop listening to these horrifying messages out there...it will be a vicious cycle.”

and aahs when you walk down the street instead of getting the side eye. It’s that kind of re-education that women need. I think women in the plus category need that more than ever. It’s not that they are not as fashionable as their size 2 and 4 counterparts. It’s just more new for them so it will take time.

Marcy:

You are so right. We need more education. While it is nice to see outfit reviews and brand highlights, I agree that women need more than that. They need tips and ideas. And they need this information to come from someone who is like the everyday woman…the woman who juggles motherhood, a career, marriage, etc. She is not that woman who is wearing a sequin dress every weekend to an event. She is trying to put together flattering basic pieces together and look fashionable at the same time. I know I wrote an article in the summer about shopping from my closet and showed how you can take a simple red dress from day to night by changing the shoes, bag and adding a wide black belt to give the illusion of a defined waist and slimmer midsection. That is the type of information the everyday reader should get.

Marina:

I think there is a fashion-centric approach to the plus size market that we have not experienced yet. We’re getting there - I think it’s going to start happening. If nothing else, we are going to try to drive that revolution and try to teach women what looks and feels good on them. When I have clients come into our store or showroom, I am not going to put everything in the collection on that particular person. Instead I will make suggestions and recommendations because we are all different shapes and different sizes. Some pieces will be more complimentary than others. And we need to respect that. We Visit www.belle-noir.com

need to offer the customer that kind of education. The more we put out there, the better. And it’s our job to get it out to the consumer.

Marcy:

I have to say, Marina, I love how passionate you are about the cause, the plus revolution. You are not just a designer trying to make money by your clothing. You truly care about women and I am so awed by your passion.

Marina:

You can never take away my passion for this. It has definitely been a dream of mine to start this company. There are ups and downs. It is tough. The retail industry coupled with the state of this recession has been tough. What keeps driving me to do what I do is my passion. I believe in it more than anything else. It’s a cause for me. Aside from it being fun, my love for fashion and love of clothing, I love creating beautiful experiences for women. You’re right - it is a passion. It is a passion to change the way things are. There are so many women out there that are truly on that revolutionary path. The more messages we put out there, the more women will read it and say “Wow, people are talking what I have been thinking! This is good…let’s hop on this train!”

Marcy:

That’s right! So I wanted to know how you came up with the name Queen Grace?

Marina: People ask me that all the time and they think it has to do with Princess Grace Kelly. No, it doesn’t. Queen to me is a woman who is confident and controlled, who knows what she wants, who basically rules her world. And Grace…she’s graceful, elegant, she’s beautiful and never forgets that regardless of how much stuff is on her shoulders, she’s still a woman. And she carries herself as a sensual, beauBelle-Noir Magazine, January/February 2012 | p.21 MAGAZINE |

beautiful All Eyez On…Marina Zelner - by Marcy Cruz (continued) tiful being. When we have the idea in our minds of creating the clothes, creating the dresses…that’s the kind of woman we have in mind. But I think Queen Grace is you, Queen Grace is me, Queen Grace is a lot of other women out there who are strong and confident or learning to be strong and confident. And if we can help them look beautiful along the way, that is the greatest compliment.

Marcy: That’s wonderful. Marina: I also wanted to move away from be-

ing an idea of a company that uses the word plus. It shocked me when I first entered the industry how many clothing brands out there that accentuate the word plus or curve or fat. To me, it was shocking because that’s not what it is about. It’s about just beautiful women. Stop thinking of yourself in sizes and start thinking of yourself as gorgeous women that love fashion and want companies to create clothes for them that are on trend, that are sophisticated and that complement your body. So it was a no-brainer. I grew up in Europe so to me, the name also exudes the old kind of European sensuality. So that was how the name Queen Grace was born. We have received great responses. People love it and people remember it. It’s amazing to have this unprecedented growth in such a period of time. So I guess we’re doing something right. The response has been overwhelmingly great.

Marcy:

Yes, from here, you can just keep going and going and getting better and better.

Marina:

I hope so, God willing. I think as long as we put out there product that the customer wants, we will continue to grow. We will listen to the consumer. We were criticized for our fall collection where we came out with dark colors. But to us, it’s the idea of fall. And the sensuality of the colors…I love black. I think black is beautiful. It has nothing to do with the body or the shape or the size. I just love the textures of fall, the darkness, the sexy laces and leathers

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that we introduced that into the collection. Now for spring…for me, spring is always a rebirth and a much more vibrant season. And I can’t wait for you guys to see the colors of our spring collection. It’s gorgeous! Gorgeous leopard prints, beautiful browns, and vivacious purples. Also blues, really electric beautiful blues. I think the customers will really love it too. We are currently working on next fall as well and we are always willing to listen and hear what the customers want to see.

Marcy:

That’s great. So what are your plans for

2012?

Marina:

Oh, we’re busy! <laughs> We’re growing by leaps and bounds. We just launched our ecommerce website on November 1. And we have been doing a lot of work tweaking it to create a really great shopping experience for customers. More stores, nationally and internationally have been approaching us to start carrying our collection, which is also a new incredible feeling. Women want to walk into boutiques and try pieces on and not just order it online. So we are expecting wonderful growth. We will definitely participate in Full Figured Fashion Week in New York. We will come out with our new collection there and present it to customers. And we will continue our presence on websites and on blogs. We’ll talk to our customers. We’ll talk to the industry insiders. The important thing is we want to be here and we want to stay here. We want to dress women in beautiful clothing. Every day, in the hundreds, people are discovering our brand. Our growth has been rapid. We just feel so humbled, so fortunate to be accepted like this. I’m sure there will be wonderful events throughout the year as well where we can participate in, whether it’s empowerment events or fashion shows that support great causes. We’ll be a part of it as well. So it’s a busy time for us. I’m sure you’ll hear about us.

Marcy:

Thank you! I cannot wait for when you

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All Eyez On…Marina Zelner - by Marcy Cruz (continued) expand your sizes in your collection because I will be buying a piece. I will be investing in a piece. I am just so in love with everything in your collection now so I can’t wait. And I love leopard print so you had me at leopard print. <laughs>

Marina: Marcy, the honor is all mine. Please continue doing what you do as well. We are all in this revolution together.

Marina: <laughs> Marcy: I am so pleased

The piece of advice that Marina left with me was the following: Follow your intuition and take the risks… take calculated risks but take risks. Or else you will live with regrets of what could of have been.

that I got to talk to you and I think we covered a lot. I cannot wait to hear what our readers think. Because I think we need more pioneers in this community and that’s what you are to me. You are truly a pioneer in this community and for the revolution.

----------------------------

She lives by her philosophy and is truly an inspiration to women everywhere. To find out more information on Marina and her Queen Grace Collection, please visit: http://queengrace.com/

BN

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beautiful The Vanity Table Everyday: A Woman’s Fragrance

by Marcy Cruz

Jermaine Smith, widely known as Jay Everyday, is a self-made entrepreneur who has made a name for himself as a playwright, director, producer, editor-in-chief and internet radio station owner. He is an inspirational man, touching lives and inspiring others through his own accomplishments and projects. He is planning to launch a women’s fragrance in January 2012 and I had the opportunity to talk to him about that and his other current projects. Marcy: “Everyday The Brand” encompasses so many great areas such as radio, magazine, stage plays and now a new fragrance. What is “Everyday The Brand”? What is the meaning behind “Everyday”?

Jay: Everyday the Brand to me is like a house full

of dreams. I say that to say because I, myself, am a dream chaser, and along my travels or should I say this road call life; I want to assist others in chasing their dreams. At least, in helping them acknowledge their dreams and the ability to take small steps towards them. The meaning behind Everyday is to realize that life can be a routine; whether it’s a good one or a not-so pleasant one. We have to realize that bad habits take practice just like the good ones.

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Marcy: You are about to launch your new fragrance, Everyday for Women, which must be very exciting. I have to say, the bottle is gorgeous. It’s packaged in a way that just makes me want it without smelling it. What made you want to create a women’s fragrance as opposed to a men’s fragrance? What’s the scent like?

Jay: I always want to create and I always want to challenge myself. I had the vision of this fragrance for a few years now. I just built the concept around how I wanted to say thank you to the women that have shaped my life: My mother Sonia, my grandmother’s Visit www.belle-noir.com

Melissa (RIP) and Evelyn, my sister Tiffany and last, but not least, my aunt Darlene. They are to me what I see as “Everyday Women”. The fragrance also embodies what I would want my woman and wife one day to smell like. The fragrance is a light woodsy feminine floral blend of a special Rose note with a distinctive Amber and a few other notes that to me helps set the sensual moment. I never really contemplated with the idea of creating a men’s fragrance, but that could be something to look into.

Marcy: Will you be launching a men’s fragrance in the future? I also saw on your website that you are selling a makeup line with Theophani Style. Please tell us more about that.

Jay: As of right now, I would say no to the

men’s fragrance. I want to see how the world responds to “Everyday for Woman” before I take on that challenge. The cosmetic field is a tough and crowded one, and I chose to jump into it because I believe in myself first, I believe in Tifini (TheophaniStyle) and her product. The fact that Tifini was open to the pitch I gave her about having a “Everyday Platinum” line of lipgloss, lipstick, blush and eye shadow within her brand was a blessing to my ears. So for Tifini to believe in me when so many others rejected such a collaboration with their brand or products, I cannot help but offer and share all the platforms that I have available to her.

For more information on Jay “Everyday” Smith and “Everyday The Brand”, please check out the following links:

The Official “Everyday The Brand” website: http://thejayeveryday.com/index.php

Everyday The Magazine http://everydaythemagazine.com/

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Marcy: So what does the future hold for you and the Everyday brand? What’s next?

Jay: I believe the future is limitless, it is all

what you set out for it to be. My main goal is to protect the brand first and foremost, create jobs for others and to keep building and working like I’m losing even if I’m winning.

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Belle-Noir Magazine, June 2011 | p.25 MAGAZINE |

beautiful StyleFile: Renewing Your Image

By Nanthale E. Collins

As an image consultant I get a lot of clients that ask me to help them with their image. Within moments of first meeting a client I ask, “What is the image you would like to have?” Clients usually go into a whole laundry list of the things they don’t like about themselves, and I quickly stop them and say, “We will have all the time in this process to find out what you don’t like. I need to know what you want to become.”

That’s when I get the blank stare. People always know what they don’t like about themselves, but never know what they want to become.

If you’re ready to renew your Self Image here is your starting point to make it happen

1. “Who am I?” Does your style reflect a laidback casual and funny personality? Or do you come off as alluring and dripping with sexuality? Maybe you seem straight laced and conservative. Or maybe you look like a liberal tree hugger who is into holistic treatments. Who are you? Easy question huh? Not as easy as you think. Image is not what you think of yourself. It is what others think of you. What you think of yourself may not exactly be the image you portray. A person’s image is a mixture of style, verbal communication, and etiquette. It’s not only defined by what you wear but how you wear it. For example, if you’re a conservative woman that

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owns her own business and wears Juicy Couture sweat suits every day, it wouldn’t make sense. The image that would come to mind for a conservative business woman like that are suits and a string of pearls during the week, and a polo tee and khaki pants with flats on the weekend.

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Here is a little exercise: Pick a day when you have a few quiet moment, stand in the mirror for three to five minutes, and look at yourself. I mean really look at yourself. Ask yourself these two questions: • What would someone meeting you for the first time think of you? • What does what you see say about your who you are? If at first you give yourself one minute, shrug your shoulders and say, “oh well it is what it is”, it’s okay. The first time most try this exercise, including myself, that minute seems to last forever. As you keep trying, you will grow to five minutes. You could also take a style test to determine what you style is. Sporty, City Chic, Alluring and or Romantic a few simple answers can clue you into who you are. Having a good picture of what others see is the best way to know what your image is.

2. “What do I want to be when I grow up?” Remember when your teacher asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” How fun was it to imagine you would be a doctor, fire fighter, lawyer or even President of the United States? Now ask yourself, when did you stop asking yourself this question? Was it when you landed your first job? When you got married? Was it when society said you ARE “grown”? I believe no one is never Grown, but we are always Growing! Let this question help you to learn what you want to change into. Asking yourself this question should open up a dialog within yourself. Keep your answers definite and clear. In that dialog, remember to not mention who you are, but rather what you want to be. Women have a tendency to categorize themselves (single mother, business woman, stay at home mom, etc.) In labeling yourself, you can very well be stunting your growth as a person. Tear away those labels and explore why you wanted to be Visit www.belle-noir.com

that (fill in the blank) when you were a child. When you do that your boundaries are endless. Give yourself a good amount of time to come up with the answer. Do not rush the answer. Write it down on your wall or in a book and explore what you want.

3. Do the work! Now that you know who you are and what you want to be, it’s time to come up with an action plan. An Action Plan will consist of different measures that need to be taken to get you to that next step. Some action plans include, dream building, wardrobe planning, shopping, closet cleansing, classes and creating mock situations. It may seem like a lot in the beginning but if you stick with it, the results will give you a heads up on what most haven’t considered. Everyone’s action plan will be different. Don’t get worried. Realize that getting to your goal not only depends on what you want, but how close you are to that goal. Some will find that a simple update in hair and makeup will pull their image together. Others may need to just clean out the old and bring in one or two “newbies” i.e. new pieces to change their wardrobe.

If you find that a complete over hall is needed, then be prepared and hire an image consultant. A physiologist wouldn’t diagnose themselves now would they? An over hall is not a task you should take on yourself. Having a coach to help you through that is AICI certified and trained in working with women that have your body type will guarantee you do it correctly.

BN

Belle-Noir Magazine, June 2011 | p.27 MAGAZINE |

Keep It Moving: 1. 5 Tips to Eating Healthy in 2012

Eat more fruits and vegetables. Aim for 4-5 servings each of fruits and vegetables every day, if you consume a 2,000 calorie diet. Vegetable or 100% fruit juice counts toward this goal.

2. Eat more whole-grain foods. Like fruits and vegetables, whole-grain foods are low in saturated fat and cholesterol and rich in fiber. Whole-grain foods include whole-wheat bread, rye bread, brown rice and wholegrain cereal.

Eating healthy is easier than you might think. Add these simple healthy eating habits to your daily life over the next few weeks and youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll see just how easy it is. By making small changes like these over time, and taking them one at a time, not trying to rush into all of them at once, the changes are more likely to stick.

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3.

Use olive, canola, corn or safflower oil as your main kitchen fat. Limit how much fat or oil you use in cooking, and use liquid vegetable oils such as olive, canola, corn and safflower oils in place of solid fats.

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4.

Eat more chicken, fish and beans than other meats. In general, skinless poultry, fish and vegetable protein (such as beans) are lower in saturated fat and cholesterol than other meats (beef, pork and lamb).

5. Read food labels to help you choose healthy foods. Food labels provide information to help you make better food choices. Learn what information to look for (for example, sodium content) and how to find it quickly and easily. Source: America Heart Association Website (www.heart.org)

Go Red For Women February is National Heart Month! In 2004, the American Heart Association (AHA) faced a challenge. Cardiovascular disease claimed the lives of nearly 500,000 American women each year, yet women were not paying attention. In fact, many even dismissed it as an “older man’s disease.” To dispel the myths and raise awareness of heart disease as the number one killer of women, the American Heart Association created Go Red For Women – a passionate, emotional, social initiative designed to empower women to take charge of their heart health. Be sure to visit www.goredforwomen.org today for your free Go Red Heart Check Up and check out their shop to purchase items like this cute Red Dress Brooch ($25) with proceeds going to the AHA. Also, be sure to wear red on February 3rd, National Wear Red Day, in support of the cause and visit the Belle-Noir Mag blog all February long for heart healthy recipes, health tips and more.

BN Visit www.belle-noir.com

Belle-Noir Magazine, January/February 2012 | p.29 MAGAZINE |

living up Recipe:

REMIX

For the Love of Comfort Foods by Chef Jeff J. Rogers

I have found that food, comfort foods in particular, evoke in me the feelings associated with love. That warm remembrance of a first kiss shared across a candle lit table in a café over pasta. That first awkward dinner with your significant other’s family with the best chicken you can remember. Celebrating a first anniversary, whether 1 week, 1 month, 1 year or 1 decade and revisiting that little cafe to recreate the magic you had over that first meal (only this time you remember to kiss before biting into the garlic bread). They are called comfort foods for a reason: you are comforted by them. They touch an ancient part of ourselves, our souls. The following are healthier versions of foods that are perfect for either a Valentine’s Day, or a “just because it’s Tuesday”, dinner. Celebrate Valentine’s Day every day. Aren’t they worth it?

Original Menu:

Fried Chicken Garlic Potatoes Collard Greens Chocolate – Raspberry cake Total calories: over 1160

Remix Menu:

Flash Fried Chicken Spicy Mixed Greens Thyme-Scented Butternut Squash Mashed White-Chocolate Raspberry Mousse Parfait Total calories: 500-570

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Flash Fried Chicken (serves 4)

Flash frying is a high-heat deep-frying technique used to rapidly brown small pieces of quick cooking or par-cooked food to avoid overcooking them before browning.

Ingredients 3 cups low-fat , low-sodium chicken broth Salt Granulated Garlic / Garlic powder 4 skinless , bone-in chicken thighs 2 quarts olive oil or grapeseed oil 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour 1 cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs (can be found in most specialty grocers and local Asian market)

move from the liquid, pat them dry and set them aside on a plate. While the chicken poaches, pour the oil into a large pot with high sides, and bring it to 400째 over high heat. Set a rack over several layers of paper towels (for draining the chicken). In a shallow dish, combine the flour with half of the paprika, celery salt, black pepper, 1 teaspoon salt and the cayenne. Use a whisk and thoroughly combine the ingredients. In another dish combine bread crumbs with remaining half of dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Combine the warm chicken thighs with the buttermilk in a large bowl, coating them completely. Dredge the thighs in the seasoned flour. Then dip the thighs in the buttermilk and dredge them in the panko crumbs, to coat the chicken. Shake off any excess bread crumbs. Fry the chicken, 2 pieces at a time, in the hot oil until deep golden brown, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Drain on rack, and serve immediately. Nutritional Information Per Serving: 204 Calories, 10.9g Fat, 20g Protein, 7g Carbohydrates, 3g Fiber,

1 Tbsp. sweet paprika 1 1/2 tsp. celery salt

1 tsp. salt

Spicy Mixed Greens

1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

(serves 6)

1 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper

2 cups low-fat buttermilk

Ingredients

Directions Heat the chicken broth in a medium saucepan over high heat, seasoning it generously with salt and granulated garlic. Add the chicken thighs to the pan and bring the broth to a simmer. Cover, and reduce the heat to low. Simmer gently until the chicken is tender, about 30 - 40 minutes. ReVisit www.belle-noir.com

1 lb greens (1/2 collards, 1/2 mustard) 1 onion, chopped 1/2 cup prepared salsa (can substitute homemade Pikliz) 2 -4 cloves garlic, chopped 1 1/2 cups water 1/2 cup cider vinegar Belle-Noir Magazine, January/February 2012 | p.31 MAGAZINE |

living

up

Recipe:REMIX For the Love of Comfort Foods 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2 teaspoon salt, to taste

1 tablespoons orange juice

Hot sauce, to taste

1/4 cup sour cream

Directions:

ections

Wash the greens in a colander to remove any possible sand or debris. Roll the leaves and then, chop into bite-sized pieces. Set aside. In a large pot over medium heat, heat up the olive oil. Then add the onions and garlic to the pot. Sweat onions and garlic, about 3 min on medium heat. Add the remaining ingredients to the pot and cover. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, then reduce heat and simmer. The Greens are done when they have shrunk down and are cooked through, usually about a half hour to 45 minutes, but you can let it simmer longer. Serve with the liquid (pot-liquor).

Preheat oven to 400º. Place squash, cut side down, on rimmed baking sheet. Pour 1 cup water in bottom of pan, and bake at 400º for 35 to 40 minutes or until squash is tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from oven.

Nutritional Information Per Serving: Calories 36, Total Carbohydrate 7.2 g, Fiber 2.8 g, Sugars 1.8 g, Protein 2.1 g

While squash is baking: Place potatoes in a large pot, and cover with water by 2 inches; add 1 tablespoon sea salt. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat to low, and simmer 25 minutes or until tender. Drain, place back in pot. When squash is cool enough to touch, scoop flesh from skin, and add squash to potatoes. Melt butter in a small sauté pan, and add thyme; simmer about 1 minute. Add butter mixture, pepper, orange juice, sour cream, and remaining 2 teaspoons sea salt to squash and potatoes. Mash until smooth and well blended. Serve. Nutritional Information

Thyme-Scented Butternut Squash & Potato Mash

Per Serving: Calories 78.4, Total Carbohydrates 9.6g, Fiber 2.0g, Sugars 0.5g, Protein 1.2g

Rasberry White Chocolate Mousse Parfait

(serves 8-10) Ingredients 1 large butternut squash (about 2 pounds), halved lengthwise and seeded 2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cubed 1 tablespoon sea salt, divided 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped (stems removed)

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(serves 4) This is a light and fluffy mousse with a flavorful raspberry sauce. Serve layered like a parfait in glasses.

Ingredients 1/4 (10 ounce) package frozen raspberries, thawed 1-1/2 teaspoons white sugar

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1-1/2 teaspoons orange liqueur 1/4 cup and 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream 1-1/2 ounces white chocolate, chopped 1/4 drop red food coloring

Directions Process berries in a blender or food processor until smooth. Strain mixture into a small bowl, and discard seeds. Add sugar and liqueur, and stir until sugar has dissolved.

In a heavy saucepan on low heat, warm ½ of the cream and the white chocolate, stirring constantly until chocolate melts. Let mixture cool until it is lukewarm. Stir in 1 tablespoon of raspberry sauce, and the food coloring. Transfer to a large bowl.

Chef Jeffrey Rogers was born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y. He has held positions at leading restaurants and catering companies, including Match Restaurant in Soho and Mood Food catering. Jeff became Executive chef at the BAM CafĂŠ inside of the Brooklyn Academy of Music Opera House, achieving write ups in NY Times and organized Gala events for over 800 guests including the Prince and Princess of Spain. He is a member of the ACF and longtime supporter of the BCA. Chef Jeff continues his good works mentoring students in culinary arts programs in NYC High Schools and through his Brooklyn based catering company, JPRogers.

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In a medium bowl, whip remaining cream to soft peaks. Fold melted chocolate mixture, one-third at a time, until no streaks remain.

Layer into parfait glasses, and serve with the sauce. For an even lighter version of this recipe, you can substitute the sugar with Truvia and the orange liquor with a few drops of orange flavoring.

Nutritional Information Per Serving: Calories 180, Total Fat 13.4g, Cholesterol 38mg, Sodium 21mg, Total carbohydrates 13.7g, Fiber 0.8g, Protein 1.4g

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Belle-Noir Magazine, January/February 2012 | p.33 MAGAZINE |

living up The Frugalicious Frugaliciously Renewing Our Goals for 2013

Diva

Hello there Belles! We are so happy to be back and glad to have you here! I know you’ve been following us on our weekly blog, The Frugal Files. I truly enjoy sharing Frugalicious tips and tricks to help you be even more fabulous than you already are…and for a fraction of the price! So, now that Christmas and all that stress and shopping is behind us, let’s focus on US; our minds, bodies and spirits. Let’s enter this new year of 2012 with a new attitude about life, love, and of course our pocketbooks. It is time to settle into our lofty goals and shake off the stagnation of 2011. It is gone and we wave back at it with a feeling of gratitude and finality. It is finished. January and February are the months we get a head start on the goals and plans we have for this fresh time. We’re most enthusiastic about doing something different than last time and excited to begin anew, are more open to ideas and concepts we haven’t tried. Frugalicious Diva has some exciting things in store and I look forward to experiencing them with you. Ask yourself, what do you want for 2012? Your own business? Restoration of an old business? Less tension and drama? Let’s get started! Before the end of 2011, I wrote a list of 40 goals for the last 40 days of the year. It was my own way of revving my own engine in order to welcome the new era of 2012, as well as get in gear for it. I carefully thought out what I felt were reasonable and achievable intentions for myself. I decided on five goals for each of eight categories where I wanted to make a difference.

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Do this exercise with me. You can choose your own number of categories and goals you’d like listed in each. It is my pleasure to share some of my own areas of renewing. 1) Health & Beauty – I purposed to be

more healthy both inside and out, vowing to find and use only natural hair, body and household cleaning regimens. This was probably my favorite category, mostly because I didn’t have to spend any money, while making healthy choices.

Make

your own natural product recipes. Last month I had so much fun creating mine. I concocted a sugar scrub for my face, a salt scrub for my body and a natural growth conditioner for my eyelashes. Also, for those other Natural hair Belles, using curlformers for heatless curls are a great investment that doesn’t damage your hair.

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2) Spirituality – This

general goal helped with daily focus, needed to map out goals and realize them. Daily devotionals, writing affirmations and creating a vision board is what made up this section. Starting your day and continuing it with positive words of encouragement is sure to get us going; a healthy way of combating negative messages receive daily.

3) Family & Friends – This category was dear to me because with the everyday hustle, sometimes we forget about whom and what’s important. Family shouldn’t only be significant during holiday times, but daily. Family support and love us most, so we should make time to spend with them. Call and have a long conversation; send a card; make lunch and bring it to his or her home. My goals included inviting my parents to my newly, and thriftily, redecorated home and taking my elementary age nieces to see their first ballet, The Nutcracker.

4) Career – This is self-explanatory, but

probably the most difficult. It involves focus and creating a full plan for our financial future. What do you want to do with your life? You don’t have to wait until you have this or that, you can get started on your plan any time. Volunteer your time in your desired area; find a mentor and ask them to help with your strategy to get where you want.

5) Home – This was my second favorite category, partially because it allowed me to be creative and frugal with my funds. Most of the goals here involved me redecorating my house or decorating areas I hadn’t when I moved in. Back in December, I blogged about this experience and the art of thrifting. Feng Shui has become a part of my life and you can look forward to it being discussed in the blogs to come.

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was inspired by colors and shapes, as well as modern styles in order to put things in place. The greatest thing about it; a very frugalicious project. I got some items from freecycle, from family who no longer needed them and thrift stores. Scouring the aisles at second-hand stores will yield marvelous results. You learn when the discount days are, how to use your coupon mailers and even that you can negotiate on flawed items. My happiest moment was to find home for the miscellaneous pieces of artwork and trinkets I already owned.

I

Other goals included leisure things like joining a book club, which allows you to discuss worldly matters for a minimal cost. The club is free and you can get your book from the library. Your cost: it’s BYOB. Also, take a new class and get out of your comfort zone. Again, the library is a great source. I took a Tai Chi class and will do it again this month. Try a new hobby and stretch your imagination. Are you shy? Try a Toastmasters class. The number 12 has many significant meanings, many of them regarding women. It’s the number of space and time, as well as perfection. In one religion, it signifies the age a girl matures. So, let this be your year! A year you take on life and truly live it. Purpose to live freely of debt, deeply in love and loudly in spirit!

Affirmation of the Month: I set my goals and now I reap the benefits!

Love Always, Frugalicious Diva Only Make Room for Abundance!! For weekly frugalicious tips, be sure to visit The Frugal Files every Tuesday on the Belle-Noir Magazine Blog. You can also follow the Frugalicious Diva on Twitter (@FrugaliciousDva) for frugal tips, daily affirmations, coupons, deals and more!

BN Belle-Noir Magazine, June 2011 | p.35 MAGAZINE |

the Spotlight:

Storm Born in Brooklyn, NY and raised in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, rising talent Storm is shaking up the music world. Editorial Director Aja B. Stubbs sat down with Storm to speak with her about being an Independent Artist, being plus size in an image conscious industry, and the inspiration behind her fabulous mix of Latin Soul.

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Thank you so much for sitting down with Belle-Noir Magazine. Let’s start at the very beginning. What is your earliest memory of you singing/performing? When I was about 4-5 yrs old my mom use to have this wall she hooked up with mirrors (typical Puerto Rican 70’s fashion, I know!). I remember taking either a hair brush or my mom’s aluminum spice grinder and pretend it was a microphone, and I would sing my heart out in front of that wall of mirrors. I felt like a star. My mom always says she knew I was going to be an entertainer when she saw me do that.

When did you know that being an artist was what you wanted to do as a career? What has the transition process been like for you? I knew at a very early age I wanted to be an entertainer. I grew up in a heavily musical family, so it just felt natural that my interest gravitates towards music. I honestly felt it wasn’t a forced decision or choice. It’s who I am. There really was no transitioning process for me. My only transition, I feel, is trying to adjust my singing career to my everyday life.

we as a collective gravitate towards it. Not only that, but also the bloodline/history that Latinos and Blacks share as a community, we feed off of that shared culture. That’s why I naturally gravitated to R&B and Soul music. There’s no hiding feelings or emotions with Soul music.

On your Facebook page you state that your genre of music is “Contemporary R&B, SoulPop, Latino... A little bit of everything!” Your CD has a definitely R&B sound & flavor to it. How do you respond to individuals that see you, a Latina, and expect the album to be something else?

Last year when I interviewed Angie Stone, she said that she definitely felt pressure from music executives and record labels to conform to a certain look. As an independent artist, have you felt any of that pressure?

It’s very interesting you ask this. I was having a conversation with a good friend and fellow singer about this same topic. She is also a Latina with a very soulful voice, but is expected to sound a certain way and sing certain type of music. For a lot of us who are 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation Latinos growing up in the states, we’ve been heavily influenced by American music and culture. And growing up in inner cities, we’re constantly surrounded by urban music. So it’s only natural that

Well, just being a woman living in the society we’re in right now, there’s always that pressure. We see it every day in TV and magazines. The pressure is no different for independent artists. But it’s not as intense. Signed artists have that pressure cause they have investors with deep pockets backing them up, and these investors want to get their money’s worth. I am my own investor, so I know what I’m going to bring to the table. I don’t have to answer to anyone except God and myself, which is a beautiful thing.

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the Spotlight:

Storm

I’m happy with who I am and what I look like, and being an independent artist allows me to display that without having to conform to people’s views.

What grade would you give the music industry right now and why? Hmmmm. Good question. I really don’t know how to answer that, being that I really don’t pay close attention to radio or what’s popular now a days. What I will say is that, for once, the music industry is taking a close look at independent artists which is definitely a good thing. They’re looking outside the box. When I hear Adele, I believe that there’s still hope for “good music” to come back. So, in regards to grading, I’ll give it a C-.

the Miki Howard remake of “Ain’t Nobody Like You”. What was it about that song that made you want to re-do it? I’ve always loved Miki Howard’s voice and vibe, and “Ain’t Nobody Like You” is just one of those songs! I worked with a great producer/engineer/musician by the name of Dennis Mitchell out of Stone Brown Studios in Brooklyn. He had this awesome track, and I just started humming “Ain’t Nobody Like You” over it. It fit perfectly, and it just felt right. It’s a song for the grownn-sexy, which we’re missing nowadays. Today’s’ music is directed towards teenagers. What about those teenagers’ parents? They deserve to listen to good music, too. I want to create music for EVERYBODY!

Your album has a lot of songs about love: being in love with someone, loving yourself, falling out of love. Was this on purpose? No, it wasn’t. Love is the biggest and most complex emotion there is. It’s only natural to write about it.

Which song are you most proud of on your album as a songwriter and why? I have to say, “I Don’t Miss You Anymore” is my favorite. Musically it’s very simple, yet its message is very deep and sad. It’s based on a couple I know, or better said a couple that once was; how good they were as individuals, but they just weren’t good together. Again, Dennis Mitchell was a huge part of this song, playing the piano beautifully.

We’ve got to admit: while “Beautiful” is our favorite “girl-power” song on your album, we love

BN

Catch Storm performing live every first Saturday for “Stormy Saturdays” at Camaradas El Barrio, 2241 1st Avenue @ E. 115th Street in East Harlem, New York. For more information on Storm, please visit her Facebook Page [http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/ Storm/155081123956?sk=info]. You can also follow her on Twitter (@Storm_3000). Download her album now on iTunes here. [http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/storm/id451211310]

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The Voice:

Martha Wash by Aja B. Stubbs

“I stand alone in the eye of the storm. Pressure all around, tryin’ to wear me down. But it’s alright, I won’t give up the fight. I said, ‘Lord lift me up!’ Let me rise above. Nobody’s gonna take my pride. I won’t stop. I will not be denied. I carry on!” – Martha Wash, “Carry On” Photography by Michelle Wild Retouching by Eve Harlowe

The Voice:

Martha Wash

Achieving success both as part of groups such as Two Tons of Fun and The Weather Girls, as well as a solo artist, Martha Wash has been on the airwaves since the late 70’s moving club goers and music fans alike with her distinctive vocal styling. Perhaps most recently known for hits from her work with Black Box like “Strike It Up” and “Everybody Everybody”, if it had not been for Ms. Wash’s tenacious determination, we might never have known those boom-

more about the single, and your deciding to distribute on your own label.

Martha: I’ve Got You is my new single and is on

my record label Purple Rose Records. The song I feel is great. Everyone whose heard it, leaves them feeling so connected emotionally to the song. I’ve had the label for a few years, and always said I wanted to put out my music on my own label. No major label was knocking on my door, so to try and keep my music out there, that was it.

Aja: We can’t help but notice that the Martha

Factory used a “more acceptable” (read: thin)

Wash we all know and love from the Weather Girls days is now quite svelte! What made you decide to slim down and what did you do to lose the weight?

model to lip-sync to her vocals, Wash fought

Martha: I had lost about 75 pounds a few years

ing vocals were, in fact, hers. When C+C Music

back. She sued C+C Music Factory and won, making vocal credits mandatory on CDs and Music Videos (as well as royalties for such vocal credits and work). We sat down for a brief interview with Ms. Wash to discuss her new music, her openness to new ventures, and her preparedness for a renewed life in 2012.

Aja: Thank you so much for sitting down with Belle-Noir Magazine. We have seen you at quite a few appearances lately over the holiday season. You also have a new single out, “I’ve Got You” currently on your own imprint; Purple Rose Records. For those of us more familiar with you as the “Queen of Clubland”, the song has a different feel to it. Tell us

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back after I started having some health problems and was really tired of being the size I was. I joined a gym and decided to cut my portions. I made up a plan that worked for me. I think it took me about 8 months to lose it. I’ve gained about 20 pounds back, so you know it’s a struggle every day. But I don’t intend to gain all that weight back!

Aja: What are some of your beauty tips? Are you a loyalist to certain brands? Or is it more a routine that you are committed to doing everyday that has your skin so flawless?

Martha:

I would have to credit God and my genes for the way my skin looks. I’m not a sun worshipper and the women in my family had great skin as well which made them look younger than their actual age. I’m not a slave to brands. I use Dove cleansing cream and Olay moisturizing cream. The best thing is

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The Voice:

Martha Wash

to avoid wearing make up as much as possible.

Aja: What advice would you give a young woman

Aja: You looked like such a natural during our

who wants to create a career for herself as a music artist, but is hesitant to go to that audition because she has been told that while she is talented, she is “too fat” or “you don’t have the look”?

photo shoot. Is plus size modeling something that you would consider pursuing in the future?

Martha: Absolutely I would consider modeling.

There’s all types of models and I’m open to all avenues.

Aja: Let’s talk a bit about music and the music industry. Your legal battles with the music industry are well documented. Your legal victory over C + C Music Factory spurred legislation making vocal credits mandatory on CDs and Music Videos. However, the music industry still seems to be a very imagecentered one. Do you think the music industry has gotten any better in terms of recognizing that talent comes in all shapes and sizes?

Martha: I think the major labels are still very im-

age oriented. Why do you think there are so many independent artists out here putting their product online. I think with independent labels, you might have a better chance, because for them, most of them work towards becoming a major label.

Aja: We love listening to your music, but who does

Martha: What I would say to that young woman is, don’t let rejection stop you. If that was the case, many people wouldn’t get out of bed. You have to believe in yourself and in someone out there that recognizes that talent within you regardless of your size or your look. What I’d like to know is who is in charge of “THE LOOK”, who made them in charge and what are their credentials!!! There are billions of people in the world, and wouldn’t it be sooo boring if everyone looked, acted and thought alike. So be who you are whatever that is and be the best you, you can be. Aja: Lastly, our theme for our January/February issue is “Renewal”. How do you plan on renewing yourself in 2012, be it in terms of career, spirituality, etc.?

Martha: For 2012, I’d like to renew my commit-

ment to my health by less sweets and more fruits and veggies. To be more spiritually aware of my life and people I come in contact with. To be more open to the Universe.

Martha Wash listen to?

Martha: Well I like all types of music, but I’m a

gospel girl at heart, so I listen to a lot of gospel. It was the only music allowed in my house growing up. As I became a teenager, I got interested in Motown and different rock groups. My favorite singer is Aretha Franklin.

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IndependentAiesha Turman Woman: by Danielle Young

Reintroducing The Multi-Dimensional Black Girl In Black culture, women are often only viewed in two dynamics. A sacrificial victim whose accomplishments place her high above the rest, void of other characteristics that make her uniquely beautiful and a then there’s the liability who takes the fall for all things that are wrong in the black community.. It’s about time our real voices are heard-messages of hope, triumph, education, sex, relationships, abuse, love and the like. Aiesha Turman is a woman with the passion, vision and talents that have made this a reality. She created The Black Girl Project--a documentary--as a testament to the many layers of the black woman that always go untold or unsaid. “Black people as a group don’t go outside our community to tell anyone our business. It stays in the house. I started thinking about the way pathology recreates itself because people in our community are discouraged from getting the help they need. I thought it would be a good idea to get it on film,” Aiesha explains of her initial idea to create a documentary based on these truths. But how would she find her willing subjects?

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Aiesha’s an English college professor who started her career working in various museums, gaining knowledge on art, history and how to work with people--even though she’s a natural. Aiesha’s been working with and for people since “the time I was three when my grandmother took me to the community center to play checkers until now.” Service is in her blood and when she worked as coordinator of the Academic and Cultural Arts Internship Program, she’d found the subject of her Black Girl Project. “I was in charge of 60 students, grades 9-12 and 60%

and futures. She knew they’d be perfect subjects for her Black Girl Project. “I started interviewing them, collecting footage and doing my own research on black girls. After two and half years from my first interview, I had a film. I did everything myself because I’m crazy like that. There was no budget. It was all my free time when I’m not being mommy or working went towards making this film.”

of them were females. Some of my students had all kinds of issues--school and personal. They came to me. I started thinking about what life was like for me as a teenage girl and how much it paralleled their lives and how they all think they’re alone or the only ones with issues.” So it all started with Aiesha being a helping hand for these young girls and ended up making a film that would be a shining light for black girls everywhere.

ing this documentary, which meant many sleepless nights. “I have tons of footage and I had to condense it down to an hour. The night before it premiered, I got maybe three hours sleep and the night before that, I didn’t sleep at all. The film premiered on a Friday night and my semester began the Thursday before. On Wednesday, I was editing and I looked up and it was 6:30 AM. I had to teach an 8:30 English class. Thursday, during the day, the film was burned to DVD and I just took a deep breath and that was it,” Aiesha recalls of the marathon hours she put in all her own to make this film happen. It’s awe-inspiring that she was able to get her documentary completed. She’s been having screenings all over the U.S. and has received incredible feedback.

With her background in education, Aiesha used her strengths as a teacher to teach herself and her students how to make a documentary. She challenged her class to create their own documentary and they lived up to the challenge, creating “High School Daze” referencing Spike Lee’s “School Daze” in its 20th anniversary. After this challenge, Aiesha knew that she could create her documentary. So when she left the program, she kept in touch with most of her students because she was so invested in their lives Visit www.belle-noir.com

Aiesha was completely self sufficient when creat-

“People have brought their daughters, nieces and groups of girls, women in social services, artists-such a diverse group of women. I’m happy that men showed up too. I’ve been told that The Black Girl Belle-Noir Magazine, June 2011 | p.45 MAGAZINE |

IndependentAiesha Turman Woman: by Danielle Young (continued)

“I started thinking about what life was like for me as a teenage girl and how much it paralleled their lives and how they think they’re alone or the only one with issues.”

Project is an amazing first effort,” Aiesha beams. “The goal for me was to show there’s young black women who are people that feel, love, hurt and have joy like everyone else and based on the response, I’m feeling I’ve accomplished that.”

She’s accomplishing so much more by turning this one documentary into a movement. “As I was in the editing process and somewhat in the filming process, I felt I could do more as a person. I just felt it couldn’t sit there by itself,” Aiesha explains of her feeling to do more than her documentary. She met with the necessary powers that be and before she knew it, The Black Girl Project was also a dot org. “The goal is to reach young women and girls. We started doing outreaches in the summer about safe sex,” Aiesha plans on preventing teen pregnancies and STD’s in order to empower the next generation, rather than perpetuate stereotypes.

“This summer, we’re doubling our efforts to get out more of this information. We’ve done small symposiums on women and HIV with roundtables, goody bags and speakers. Starting in February, we are starting a one day a week program in Brooklyn after school for girls.” Not only is she trying to keep the next generation of black girl sexually healthy, but mentally and socially as well. Aiesha is also in the midst of setting up an all girls social network and magazine that will feature all of their work and not adults preaching to girls. It will be their art, work, stories and lives. “We’re just going to keep building from there. I have a great board of advisors--diverse women with education, finance, health and communication backgrounds,” Aiesha boasts of the team

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behind her that’s helping to make her documentary into a community movement.

The Black Girl Project posed one simple question to everyone that participated. Who are you? When I asked Aiesha that question, after scolding me for turning it on her, she said, “I’m a storyteller, a truth speaker, a person who believes in love and equality for all. I think my reason for being here is to share light on who were are as a people, not just women-the diversity of who we are.”

Well said, Aiesha. She’s certainly proving that she is all that and more.

Check out www.blackgirlproject.com and www. blackgirlproject.org and follow them on Twitter @ blackgirlproj and follow Aiesha @MissTurman.

Editor’s Note: The Black Girl Project (http://www. theblackgirlproject.com/)will be coming to DVD this spring. Releasing officially on March 16th, 2012, the film is being pre-sold through January 15th. A portion of the proceeds from the DVD sales will benefit The Black Girl Project (http://www.theblackgirlproject.org/) , the non-profit organization born of the film and the face of the movement to nurture and foster the next generation of Black women and girls. Interested in seeing the film that has launched a movement? visit http://www.thedvd.blackgirlproject.com/ to pre-order your DVD today.

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Belle-Noir Magazine, June 2011 | p.47 MAGAZINE |

Love

Like This by Aja B. Stubbs

Are you a single lady looking for someone to put a ring on it in 2012? Have you tried following “The Rules” and reading all of those self-help books that tell you to act one way and think another, but still haven’t found “The One”? We were too. That’s why we put the call out there on our Facebook Page looking for Plus Size Married Couples. Here are three plus size couples who speak about what they know and live every day—the ups and downs of love, marriage, what to look for in a potential mate, and why you need to stop looking for “The One”.

Mr. and Mrs. Keith (K.L.) and Tiffany Braxton Belvin New York, New York Ages: Keith 44, Tiffany 35 Wedding Date: 8/12/2007

How did you and your spouse meet? KL and I met in 1995 at York College. He was the Assistant Coach of the women’s basketball team and I was a cheerleader. Because I had two friends on the team I spent a lot of time in the gym during their practices.

How long had you been together? We have been together a total of eleven years. We dated for seven years before getting married.

How did you know that he/she was “The One”? Tiffany: This may sound really crazy, but one day I was watching a documentary on television where a husband and wife were explaining their daily routine because one of them had suffered a life-altering illness where they were no longer able to take care of themselves and their basic needs. They depended on their partner one hundred percent. At twenty-five years old, full of life, energy, and goals for my own

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future, I asked myself something that many people should before they make a commitment to marriage: “If KL became sick tomorrow would I be able to change his diaper every day?” I know it sounds funny, but I sat and thought for a long while what it would actually take to be in that situation. When I had thought of all the possibilities, I came back with the answer, yes. That’s how I knew he was the one. By-the-way the answer is still, yes.

K. L.: I knew Tiffany was the one when she gave me an ultimatum regarding my infidelity while we were dating. I was speechless. She was fighting to hold our relationship together because she could see more in me than I could see in myself. Right there something inside of me said it’s time to change and live a different life. I listened and we have been happy ever since. I knew that night Tiff was the one for me. With the Lord and her in place I have become more of a man than I could’ve become on my own.

What advice would you give to a young couple just starting out & thinking about the “next step”? Tiffany: Before considering marriage the first thing I think everyone should do is take an inventory of themselves, and because we are not always honest in our reality, I would say to incorporate friends, family members, and even colleagues in this process. Ask yourself, “Am I ready to be in a marriage?” “Why do I want to be married?” “What do I have to offer in a marriage?” “What do I expect in a marriage?”

K. L.: The advice I would offer a couple thinking of jumping the broom is to have a mutual understanding of what marriage means to each of you. Make sure your finances are in the right condition so both can benefit from the union. As a couple, have a refVisit www.belle-noir.com

eree who is impartial when you have disagreements. For Tiff and I, we use our faith. As Christians we use the Bible to be our guide. Finally, have a mutual plan for your future. You can keep certain individual aspects of who you are, but the two of you have to plan to have a mutual future. Lay the ground work from the door so you can adjust as life progresses.

What advice would you give a woman/ man looking for “The One”? Tiffany: The first thing I would say to someone looking for “The One” is stop looking. There’s so much more you should be considering about someone before marriage is even on the table. Second, I’m going to say again, do a self-assessment. You may think you’re ready to be in a marriage, but in reality you may not be mentally, spiritually, nor financially ready. Third, look at every potential “The One” and ask yourself: “Would I be able to change his diaper every day?” K. L.: I would have to agree with Tiff on this one, Stop Looking. The one is an idea more than an actual person. When you find someone you are growing closer to take time to get to know them. Allow them to get to know you completely. Make sure you’re working on the areas of weakness in your life. Be honest with your partner. Give them a chance to see the complete you.

Mr. and Mrs. Charles L. and Atosha K. Barboza Bennett Ridgeland, South Carolina Ages: Charles 41, Atosha 34 Wedding Date: June 20, 2010

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How did you and your spouse meet? Atosha: Charles and I met online. He messaged me on Yahoo Messenger back in 2006 when my Yahoo group Larger than Life BBW was going strong. We talked on the phone all night and day and finally met in person. INSTANT CHEMISTRY!! So we dated for like 2 months maybe and then parted ways. We were always friends but never saw each other again for several years.

How long had you been together? Atosha: We dated for a few months back in 2006 but parted ways. We always kept in touch via the random email or phone call from Charles but it was nothing serious. One night back in November of 2009 Charles called me out of the blue. The first thing out of his mouth was “I was in church and the preacher was preaching and I wanted to cry!” (laughs) I told him that was the Holy Ghost wanting to release some things from him. So that was it. Our conversation from that point on was about the Bible and God. We read together, prayed together and went through Consecration together January 2010. Our relationship was completely different from before because we were both saved. Charles drove through the freak snow storm on February 12, 2010 from Mullins to Charleston, SC. His proposal “I don’t care if I have a million bad days I know that it will be ok if I am with you”. We went through pre-marital counseling and that process strengthened our relationship even further. Our original wedding date was 1/1/11 but Charles took a job offer in Afghanistan and was going to leave on July 3. We got married by our elder in the Church office on 6/20/10.

How did you know that he/she was “The One”? Charles: (singing) “The way you make me feel…” Seriously, no matter how upset I am, she can always make me smile, be happy, feel good. Just being next to her I get this warm feeling. I never felt that way before. She is always smiling and cares so much for other people. That’s my wife!

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Love Like This Atosha: I always saw the greatness in Charles even when we dated that short time in 2006. There was something about him that I just could never really shake. When he called me that day all I could do was smile. He has always supported me in anything that I do. He makes me a better person and I think we complement each other well. The added bonus is that he loves Jesus and we can pray together. After being in church with me on 1/24 (my birthday) for nearly 7 hours – that confirmed it for me. He was the one!

What advice would you give to a young couple just starting out & thinking about the “next step”? Charles: Patience! Lots of patience. Things are not going to always go right the 1st or 2nd time but just be cool. It will work out. And a lot of understanding!

Atosha: Don’t rush things. Be honest. Have realistic expectations about what traits you want in your life partner. Pray. Pray some more.

What advice would you give a woman/ man looking for “The One”? Charles: I had given up on being in love and marriage after my first marriage ended. “The One” will reveal themselves to you – just be open and ready. Let go of all that baggage. Atosha: You don’t have to look.

by Aja B. Stubbs (continued)

Mr. and Mrs. Jean and Michelle Nerestant Moorestown, New Jersey Ages: Jean, Michelle, Wedding Date: March 7. 1992

How did you and your spouse meet? JNESS and I met the day before Christmas Eve 1990 on the L train in New York around 1:30am. We have not been apart since that day :-).

How long had you been together? We have been together for 22 years and will be celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary on March 7, 2012.

How did you know that he/she was “The One”? I knew he was the one because he brought laughter back into my life. He renewed my hope in love, and in myself. He nurtured that “little girl” inside of me. He had goals for his life that included me. He wanted to raise an awesome family with me being their mother and accepted every curve my body had.

What advice would you give to a young couple just starting out & thinking about the “next step”? Talk alot, nurture each other’s dreams. Involve each other in decisions. respect each other’s space, thoughts, and values. Most of all pray for one another. Prayer will get you through situations quicker than any person will.

What advice would you give a woman/ man looking for “The One”? Stop looking. Love will find you. You’ll know what it looks like when it arrives. Your life will feel complete. p.50 | Belle-Noir Magazine, January/February 2012 MAGAZINE |

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Belle-Noir Mag: January/February 2012