Filed In: culture

Meet Rob Charles, Owner of The R. Chvrles Brnd!


I first met Robert Charles or Rob, as I call him, through a mutual friend (Hey Peter!) at a New Orleans social gathering. We chatted it up, shared a few laughs and quickly became good friends. Rob is one those people that has a magnetic energy. If you’re not drawn in by how gorgerous he is, then you will definitely notice his incredible sense of style. Either way, you will want to know who’s that guy and what’s his story? A trait Rob believes has helped advance his career as a designer and stylist.

In the matter of a few years, Robert Charles has gone from an up-and-coming New Orleans designer, to a solidified style-maker that has had his designs worn by artists like Daley to Xscape. His career is a true example of what can happen when you not only tap into your greatness but also own the hell out of it.

Recently, Rob took some time out of his busy schedule to discuss his brand, ideas, and clothing company R. Chvrles with me. Be sure to read my interview with Robert Charles now. I know it will leave you feeling incredibly inspired. Enjoy!

*Robert Charles and I on-set for the “Dev Takes LA” DATC photoshoot.

Deveney Marshall: Tell me about your journey as a fashion designer, what was the inspiration behind the R. Chvrles brand?! 

Robert Charles: My journey on this road of fashion & design has been a very long one. In the beginning, I can honestly say I don’t think there was any real inspiration behind the brand I just knew i wanted to create & maybe tell a story with those creations.

DM: When did you first know you wanted to be a designer? 

RC: I learned at a young age how alter clothing from my great-grand mother (may she Rest In Peace) thats when I was taught how to hand sew. It wasn’t ‘til I was in high school and coming into my own (as we all do as we get older) figuring out what works for us and what doesn’t as far as looks and styles. I always loved the suited tailored look and still do. I got my start by making bow-ties as time passed, getting the reaction I got I knew if I could do this I can definitely make and construct full garments…that’s when I knew.

DM: How did growing up in New Orleans influence you as an artist? 

RC: Growing up in New Orleans was possibly the best thing that could’ve happened to me besides being born *laughs*. New Orleans has a vibe that really can’t be put into words. I believe we are a different breed of people almost like telling a story but you had to be there to really get it ya know? It has influenced me as an artist in many ways from the music, the art, the food, there’s no place like it so when I create I do it in such a way that you know you like it but you don’t know why. It’s intriguing and it’s doing something for you but you really can’t place your finger on it.

DM: You are someone I would consider to be a grand fashionisto! How is your personal style reflected in your designs?

RC: Thank you I really appreciate that! I push boundaries with my personal style, I feel like I reflect that in my designs when you see not so ordinary pieces like the jacket I made with fabric made of roses, a fabric that’s traditionally used for wedding dresses I just saw something different in it.

*R&B singer Daley wearing R. Chvrles Brand.

DM: Speaking of that fabulous piece, r&b artist Daley wore it for a few of his performances, which was huge! That is a testament in how much your career has truly blossomed. You’ve also designed for Dawn Richards and her back-up dancers, and most recently you designed for the legendary r&b group Xscape, how did those opportunities come about? 

RC: Although I do feel like there’s much more to come (I hope *laughs*), I honestly feel like I was granted those opportunities by speaking up for myself. By not being afraid to speak on my talents and laying myself on the line. I’m a firm believer that you are your own biggest supporter, outside of family & friends no one can or will grind for you like YOU can. So I believe if you want to be in a certain place you have to work for it put yourself in THAT place.

DM: Amen to that! I know for sure there is more to come for you, but how does it feel to know your career has grown to such a level? 

RC: Honestly, sometimes I’m still in shock as to how far I’ve gotten. We all want a seat at the table, we all want to make a name for ourselves, but it only makes me want to work and push harder to not only get to the table, but not have to introduce myself when I get there. I want to be known I want my name to ring bells in many ways there’s much work to be done.

DM: Your “Heaux Is Life” apparel makes such a bold political statement, what lead you to designing those?

RC: It started as joke. [Well] really [but] not really, because it’s such a real statement to be applied to life or at least life the way I view it. Basically I was leaving out for work one afternoon and before leaving I said “time to go be a heaux for the man, and heaux is life when your on the schedule everyday” *laughs.”


DM: What does “Heaux Is Life” mean personally to you?

RC: I know normally when you hear the term “hoes”’or “heaux” it is usually associated with the lights of a prostitute or someone selling their body, but thats not what I meant. For me “Heaux Is Life” is getting up working that 9-5, it’s selling yourself so others can buy into that brand that you’re trying to build, it is doing what you have to do to get what you want. Something like a “hoe” or “heaux” would do.

DM: I love that! If no one understands that, I definitely do. What advice would you give someone looking to get into designing? 

RC: Simply don’t give up, trust in yourself and vision because not everyone is gonna feel it but it doesn’t mean it’s not good. In many ways some people don’t like or don’t support what they don’t understand.

DM: That is one of my favorite sayings, it’s beyond true. So what can we expect next from the R. Chvrles brand?!

RC: I’m working on putting together a pop-up shop in New Orleans as soon as I can, but as far as designs all I will say is stay tuned beautiful things are in the works.

*To learn more about the R. Chvrles Brand visit www.rchvrles.com and follow the brand’s IG: @rchvrlesbrnd

Xo,

*follow thedevandthecity.com IG page: @thedevandthecity

The Birthday Playlist! 


♫ Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me! ♫ In case you didn’t guess the obvious, today is my *drumroll* birthday! Yes today is the day this queen first graced this world with her presence. Coincidently, today is also #MusicMonday on DATC. If you’re an avid reader of this website than you know how much of a music lover I am. So in honor of this celebratory occasion, I’ve decided to curate the perfect birthday playlist. It will be sure to put you in a festive mood, and make you excited about gaining another year of life. View it below.

#1. Party x Beyoncé ft J. Cole

#2. Golden x Jill Scott

#3. Birthday Bxtch x Trap Beckham

#4. Birthday Song x 2 Chainz ft. Kanye West

#5. Rake It Up x Yo Gotti ft. Nicki Minaj 

#6. Four Door Aventador x Nicki Minaj

#7. Liquorice x Azealia Banks

#8. Happy Birthday x Stevie Wonder 

I hope you enjoyed the list! What songs are on your bday must listen list?! I would love to hear about them in the comments

Xo,

*Be sure to follow thedevandthecity.com’s IG page: @thedevandthecity ?

NOLA Made, NOLA Soul: 3 New Orleans Artists That Should Be On Your Radar


New Orleans is one of the most unique cities in the world. It’s filled with a magical essence, distinct beauty, and some of the most talented souls around. One of my favorite things about the city is all of the beautiful creatives you meet at every turn. From musicians to dancers to visual artists to actors, you’ll find them all here. New Orleans serves as the birthplace to greats like Fats Domino, Master P, and Frank Ocean and so many other artists that are on their way to becoming greatness.

Being a native New Orleanian and a music lover,  I am always scrawling the city to follow the careers of the next big thing, and there are 3 artists that I’m sure will be on everyone’s radar very soon.  These eclectic group of musicians are breaking boundaries, and bringing real talent to the music world. Recently, I got a chance to catch up with them and we discussed all things New Orleans and (of course) all things music. Be sure to view my interview featuring Willie Dropkick, THELIKWIDLIGHTEXPERIENCE, and Pernell Cook below.

Meet Willie Dropkick

I randomly meet Willie Brooks or Willie Dropkick in the mall one day. He was pushing himself as a new artist and told me I had to give his SoundCloud a listen. I remember thinking “Great another over confident SoundCloud rapper,” but after actually listening to his music I realized there was some real talent that lied within his confidence. Willie can actually spit, and to say he is a super talented lyricist would be an understatement. His raps cover a little of everything from the political climate to the typical “turn-up” lifestyle of a touring rapper. Back in April, Dropkick independently released his debut album “Legendary,” a project he calls a testimony of his life.

♫ “What A Day” x Willie Dropkick

Meet THELIKWIDLIGHTEXPERIENCE 


I’ve known LIKWID for some years now. He is one of those artists that you would call an all-around creative. Not only is a talented musician that sings, plays the piano and the guitar, but he is also a skilled photographer, songwriter, and producer. LIKWID’s artistry is just as his name says, an experience. His futuristic and funkadelic sound is not only sonically stimulating but he makes sure his listeners are visually pleased as well, as he’s currently working on a film to compliment his newly released album “Sex Droids.”

♫ “Washed Away (Acoustic)” x THELIKWIDLIGHTEXP

Meet Pernell Cook


I go as many people would say way back with Pernell, we both attended the same high school (Shoutout To Warren Easton). Pernell is what I would say is an artist through and through. Everything about him screams dope ass artist, from his style to his vibe to (of course) his sound. Pernell’s sound is sensuality embodied at it’s finest. He is the perfect mixture of Lenny Kravitz meets Maxwell.

♫ “Ready, Set, Go” x Pernell Cook

The Interview

DM: Tell me about your journey as an artist, what has it been like? What inspired you to become one? 

Willie Dropkick: My journey has been great the ups the downs all the late nights. I couldn’t ask for anything better. My dad [inspired me], he would always bump the 90s hip hop and r&b everywhere we went. I used to steal all his cds and bump it alone in my room. Growing up watching rap city, seeing artists freestyle in the basements seeing artists go freestyle with flex and sway. I always had a knack for writing, after awhile I started rapping to random instrumentals myself and developed a love for it.

THELIKWIDLIGHTEXPERIENCE: My journey as an artist has been one of constant learning. Music is a world with no end. Being from New Orleans I was inspired first by the local musicians and my surroundings.

Pernell Cook: I’ve always been a vocalist. My mom once told me that as a toddler, instead of yawning, in the morning I would sing. My family is full of singers and musicians; They first inspired me to want to sing. Though I’ve always loved to sing, I was super shy about it as a kid. My family helped me get over the bashfulness and I started, slowly, to embrace my gift and began to want to hone my craft as a musician. I’ve been singing for a while, but I’ve only recently-within the past half decade- began to consider myself an artist. The journey, thus far, has been self-enlightening. Personally, art is something that is supposed to take you out of your conform zone; in doing so, you learn a lot about yourself. It’s great that being an artists and my journey is allowing me figure out a lot about myself, which I feel reinforces my art. 

DM: Describe New Orleans in one word?

WD: Culture.

LLE: FREAKY!

PC: Gumbo!

DM: How has being a New Orleanian influenced you as an musician? 

WD: From from New Orleans can either make you or break you. I can guarantee it made me be a better man and a way better hustler. Seeing what I saw makes it easy for me to write songs. Always hearing and being around live music made me become way more creative.

LLE:  There are so many brillant musicians here I guess its made me push myself to be excellant in it. Im always trying to take things to the next level.

PC: Music is such a huge part of the city’s culture; it’s really hard to be here and not have music be apart of your life. Literally, there’s a musician on every street corner, when you’re downtown. It’s like the city is a huge stage. Being here has, for the most part, made me more comfortable with myself as a musician.

DM: Describe your artistry is one word? 

WD: Soul.

LLE: GENIUS!

PC: Transparent.

DM: What would you say sets you apart from other artists in your genre? 

WD: I may have a deeper feel than other artists, these songs I write comes from a lot of pain, problems, good times. You can really tell by my tone that i’m not just doing this music thing for a wave.

LLE: I’m crazy enough to do something no one else would think of or dare to try. 

PC:  It’s really easy to fall into being a “type of artists”. Just because I’m a RnB singer doesn’t mean I have to be what people perceive as an “RnB singer.” Simply being myself sets me apart from other artists. I’m putting a lot of my experiences, thoughts, and perspective into my music; those things are unique to me and will continue to set me apart from other artists because no one else can be me.

DM: Who are some of your big influences? 

WD: My biggest influence is knowing what failure feels like, knowing what I’m working toward…me taking that risk and following my passion doing what I love and remaining real. As far as a busines stand point artists like jigga, rick ross, curren$y, and some others just help me grow as an artist, a person , and just a boss period…from their music to their interviews.

LLE:  I would have to say Prince, James Brown, Meshell N’degeocello, Stevie Wonder and Bowie. I’d model my career off of James Brown and Prince; they took control of there business and revolutionized music.

PC: Most of my biggest influences are artists who have commanded their creative space and are confronting convention simply through their unapologetic sense of self and the earnestness in which they express themselves. Artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Little Richard, Andre 3000, Young Thug, Lady Gaga, Cher, Lenny Kravitz, and Solange are a few of the bigger names that I feel have done that and have inspired me to do the same. 

DM: What has been your experience as an New Orleans musician? 

WD: In order to be recognized in your own city you have to make your power moves in other cities first, do a couple tour runs, drop music on a consistent level. Yes, I do get love from my peers maybe not as much as other artists around, but it’s because i’m still under the radar. I’ll give it some time…my 1st album did drop only 5 months ago.

LLE: I overall have a good experience here. I’ve been for the most part well received but I know who my audience is and it’s not necessarily the locals.

PC: New Orleans is a great place to be a musician because of the general appreciation of music here. People here readily embrace new artists just out of their pure love of music, it’s extremely encouraging. Networking here has been really exciting because this same embrace is shown, even more so by other musicians and people in the music circles. I definitely feel I am being received well and I am super excited to push my music.

DM: The current political climate is heated to say the least, do you feel the need to reflect that in your art? If so, why? 

WD: Yes and no…I hate politics. I do talk about police brutality on blacks, I do talk about all the hatred being spread around between our own people, I do talk about the senseless killing going on in my city…but I know deep down it’s going to take more than me and my music for my people to come together.

LLE: Yeah I do! My lyrics were always social political and spiritual too. It’s just something I do when I fill a certain way about the world.

PC: I’m putting a lot of myself and my perspective into my music, so it’s difficult being apart of society [and] not to have social phenomenon be reflected in my music. I have an opinion, a voice, and I want to use my art to express my opinions and perspective. The political climate has affected me as a citizen, as a person and if I’m to be completely transparent in my art I have to let how this climate has affected me be reflected in my art. 

DM: What legacy do you want to leave behind as an artist? 

WD: I [want to be] the artist that made a difference. The artist that had a journey with a message saying that you really can do what you love and chase your dreams it just all matters on how bad you want it. For me it was either chase my dream or be 50 years old wondering what if.

LLE: When it’s all said and done I hope people realize the power and importance of my music as a tool for elevation. If I have my way i’ll change the whole game.

PC: I want my legacy to be that I was unconventional and unapologetic about it. Sometimes it’s hard to be yourself in society because we’ve been taught to be a certain way. I want my legacy to inspire people to be comfortable with themselves and not convention. 

DM: What can we expect from you next as an artist? 

WD:  More growth, more energy, and more stories I have yet to tell [with] more feeling. I’m dropping a joint album with my producer titled “Business & Women,” “Too Legendary” the album and more tour dates coming soon.

LLE: Films, a tech partnership and definitely alot more music. I hope everyone like surprises.

PC: I’m really excited about the projects I have been working on. I want my next project to really introduce who I am as an artist to this city. I’ve been curating this package of music and visuals to do so. I am my own creative director and it’s forcing me to do to a lot of things outside of just singing. I can’t wait to finally show people and let people hear what I’ve been working on. The beginning of next year will be an explosion of material from me and I’m super excited.

*To learn more about Willie Dropkick follow him on IG: @williedropkick 

*To learn more about THELIKIDLIGHTEXP follow him on IG: @thelikwidlightexp

*To learn more about Pernell Cook follow him on IG:  @__kravitz (double underscore)


*Legendary and Sex Droids available now on all digital music platforms. 

Xo,

 

“The Labor Day” Playlist: 5 Songs That Will Help You Say Goodbye To Summer! 


Photo | mariefrance.com

Happy Labor Day! Cookouts will be taking place all around the country on today. People will be feasting on BBQ, sipping on their favorite fruity cocktails, and taking dips in the pool today. I’ve always looked at Labor Day as the official end of summer. Today, I will be relaxing, soaking up the remainder of the chill summer vibes in the air, eating lots of BBQ, and of course listening to awesome music! Below I’ve listed 5 songs that will help curate the perfect Labor Day playlist. Just put these songs into Google Play,  Pandora, Tidal, or Apple Music, hit radio and enjoy! 

#1. Rake It Up x Yo Gotti ft. Nicki Minaj

#2. Bam x Jay-Z

#3. I Get Around x Tupac

#4. Party x Beyoncé 

#5. Before I Let Go x Maze 

Have a happy and safe holiday!

Xo,

Don’t Call Her a Side Chick: My Review of @SZA “CTRL”


The first time I heard “Ctrl” by SZA, I knew it was a classic. The hip hop undertones combined with her raspy vocals create an environment that many of us have thoroughly enjoyed.

Many people however, find this album and proclaim that it is a outcry against men and a statement that “men are trash” (see Dev’s: “Men Are Trash: True, False, Draw?“). In the words of Jill Scott “Well, if they had listened to the lyrics in the first place, they wouldn’t have any questions”. What I find today is that many people hear albums but don’t listen to the messages and stories that the artist tells. As a warning, I am very pro-SZA and this is a album review.


This album is so intricately interlaced with itself it’s amazing. What I gathered was that: “I can be everything you want and desire if you desire so. However, for some reason you still seek other women.” (Point 1). “Where is a man who wants to know all of me, the quirky and interesting side in this world of women that I differ from?”  “ I could be a lot of things but I’m me.” Before I go any further I want to jump to point 1. Did anyone else catch the reference in “Love Galore” to “The Weekend?” Ok. I wanna stop there because the song “The Weekend” is being heralded as the side chick anthem, when in actuality I never once got that vibe. That song continues the narrative of the album. “I am me and I’m in control of my decisions, regardless of how other people feel about them.” “People have so many bright ideas. (Point 2). When in actuality, you can observe but your opinion isn’t necessary.” Point 2 refers to the amazingly placed interlude which when you initially hear it, sounds random but fits into the narrative of the work. “Go Gina” immediately became my favorite with it’s Martin Lawrence with what I gathered to be Pam saying “Damn Gina, why don’t you just live a little and let me live”. The rest of the album flows very soothingly with the stand out “Wavy (Interlude) Feat. James Fauntleroy” and the amazingly worded “Normal Girl.” It’s the perfect album for us “20 Something’s” out there just living life and finding our own way forward. I applaud SZA for crafting this album and can’t wait to see her live.

I typically tell people to listen to a few tracks outside of the normally discussed ones and ask for feedback to open up listeners to the rest of the album. Let me know what you think: Tweet me at @b_rockz_

 #DefinitelyDownload:

1. Doves In the Wind Feat. Kendrick Lamar

2. Go Gina

3. Normal Girl

Meet Paula Bland, Owner of The Love of People Hair & Skin Care Brand!

I had the pleasure of meeting Paula Bland at the Rizos On The Road event back in May. She was this fabulous lady, with long flowing braids and gorgeous dewy skin.  I went over to her table and introduced myself. She began to tell me about her hair and skin care company “The Love of People,” in that moment I knew I had to feature her on this website! 

As I listened to her speak, I quickly realized Paula was more than just an advocate for natural hair, but more of a person that wants everyone to see the true beauty within themselves. As if speaking with her was not amazing within itself, I left Paula’s table with a bag of goodies as well. I could not wait to get home and try them. I instantly fell in love with the TLP “Whip It” Skin and Hair Butter. Not only does it moisturize and hydrate your skin but it beautifully coats and nourishes your hair also. Plus it smells simply divine!


*TLP “Whip It” Hair and Skin Butter

I recently got a chance to catch up with Paula Bland to discuss all things The Love Of People. After doing this interview with Paula I learned there is so much more to her than meets the eye (which is already pretty awesome btw). She is not only the owner of a natural hair company, but a woman that intends on using her brand for activism all around the world. Be sure to read this inspirational and incredible interview with Paula below. Enjoy! 

DM: I know The Love of People (TLP) was created right before the natural-hair movement, what made you want to start a natural hair care line?

PB: I had just finished my degree in Biology and Chemistry after Hurricane Katrina and a rigorous 18-month long accelerated Nursing program; I had made a conscious choice to go natural while in my Nursing program. During this time, I always say that, “I lived under a rock.” *laughs* With the knowledge that I received with these multiple degrees under my belt, I was determined to live a more holistic life to decrease health comorbidities for myself and my family and friends around me. Other than going natural, cutting out certain foods was also a focus of mine at that time. When I decided to take my hair out of braids and truly experience it in a free and natural state, there was nothing out there to tame what I had growing from my scalp and that is how TLP came to be. Bettering others lives and not just being another product in the cabinet became our focus as a brand.

DM: What inspired the name of the company?

PB: The Love of People derived initially from the initials, T.L.P. which stand for my sisters and myself, Tara, Liza, and Paula, in that order. Shortly after I started on my natural journey, my two older sisters followed. None of us had ever seen our hair without some type of processing added to it. When we “Big Chopped” and really got to experience our hair we saw so many different curl patterns and textures in each of our heads! My oldest sister would say, “We have all people right here.” So, from our initials and that concept, The Love of People was born.

DM: I love that! Let’s discuss your natural hair journey a little more. Besides the choice to live a more holistic lifestyle, what else would you say influenced you to embrace your natural hair?

PB: I was influenced to start my natural hair journey to truly see what God gave me and to embrace my natural state. I was newly married and I wanted to share my true self with my husband and the world. I wanted to know how I looked with my God given texture and I wanted to see if it was truly all that bad, which wasn’t the case.

DM: As black women it’s so important to openly accept ourselves and appreciate our hair, especially since society constantly tells us that we shouldn’t. Why is it so important for black women to embrace their natural hair?

PB: Embracing your natural hair is so much more than just that. It is hopefully a shift in our consciousness. The natural hair movement to me is to embrace the differences that society has tried to deem as negative and ugly and take those things back. To start to see our uniqueness as beautiful again, from our crowns, to our big lips, to our hips and butts. Every inch of us is beautiful! The quicker we see that the quicker we become more comfortable in our skin and move on to more pressing issues like world hunger and equal education.


DM: I hear that! One thing I love about The Love of People brand is its’ emphasis on being hollistic and natural, how important was it to create a product that reflected that?

PB: The Love of People knows that what you put on your body is as important as what you put in your body. Your body still has to filter all the things that we apply to the outside of our bodies as it would what you ingest. That in itself is a big deal to TLP! Your skin is the biggest organ on your body and we put it through so much on a daily bases. From air pollutants, to water toxins, to product toxins, and on and on. It is no question to why we have so many health issues that plague us. Holistic management of self is something that TLP would love for everyone to embrace and take very seriously.

DM: What impact would you like TLP to have on the natural-hair community?

PB: The Love of People is so much more than a natural hair product line. It is a brand that truly has the consumer at the heart of production. Placing the consumer at the driver seat of what products are made is what TLP strives to do. The Love of People takes our research and the consumers needs into each and every formulation to make products that truly service your needs. 

DM: What advice would give to naturalistas about caring for and maintaining their hair?

PB: Firstly, you should always have 2-3 product lines in your arsenal. Your hair gets used to the coating mechanisms in products and they can cause the hair to appear dull. Secondly, you also need to switch products because your hair needs certain things based on the season, climate, hormonal shifts, etc. Thirdly, you should always use a product for at least a month before making a decision on whether or not you like it. Last did bit, always clarify your hair before switching between brands, this will stop your hair from rejecting a product, i.e. it will stop/decrease product balls/flakes. 

DM: Noted! What would you tell anyone contemplating on “going natural?”

PB: Do it, it is totally worth it! Most naturals that make the change for the right reasons also make a conscious shift that is usually a positive change and it reflects in all aspects of their lives. From what they eat and drink to the people and things that they allow in their space. 

DM: What can we expect next from The Love of People brand?

PB: The Love of People, like I said earlier is more than a brand of products. TLP will become a household product but it will also become a brand that professionals use in their shops. TLP is enjoying it’s organic growth right now but plans about future products and collaborations are in the works so just continue to follow us throughout this journey.

* To purchase products and learn more about The Love of People brand and Paula Bland visit: theloveofpeople.com and be sure to follow the TLP instagram for tutorials, giveaways, and more!

Xo,

Meet Malena Crawford, Author of A Fistful of Honey

I met Malena Crawford at a book signing during the 2017 Essence Festival a few weeks ago, she stood out from the other authors that was there. She had this radiating glow about her, the kind someone has when you know they’re not only beautiful on the outside but have an amazing spirit as well. As we briefly got acquainted I could tell Malena was more than just an author but a true story-teller. One that God had chosen to tell a grand message. 

After reading her debut novel A Fistful of Honey, I can confirm I was right. This book tells the story of a woman that finds herself in turmoil, trying to gather a solution to escape it all, only to find that the real answer lies within her and the divine power she was born with.
Be sure to read my empowering interview with Malena below. Enjoy!
DM:  So I hear it’s your first time visiting the city of New Orleans, how are you liking the city thus far?

MF: I love New Orleans, it has a lot of heart! The people here have been so welcoming and of course the food is on point.

DM: Yes! There is no place with delicious food quite like ours! Let’s delve into your novel, which is AMAZING by the way, I know your main character Alena’s life is based on your real-life experiences tell me about that? 
MF: Thank you! Alena Ford is actually a play on my name, M-Alena Craw-Ford. She is an old part of myself that I released to become the woman I am today. Now, “A Fistful of Honey” is work of fiction, not all of her experiences mirror my own, but a great deal of them do. Or the experiences of women I have known. What Alena and Malena have in common without a doubt is the journey that the character takes from not knowing her place in life and feeling broken, to moving into purpose, forgiveness, and self-love! 

DM: Well you definitely expressed that journey throughout the book. One of the main reasons I was intrigued by your novel is the mysticism throughout it. It’s very similar to New Orleans mystic culture. Why did you feel it was important to include this component in your book? 

MF: It was important to me that women of color, black women especially, could themselves in God; to be validated as the image and likeness of the Divine. I found in my experience that we were largely missing from mainstream ideas of who God is and what holiness looks like. So having Osun, the Yoruba Goddess of Love, a black Mary Magdalene, and Isis as key characters was only natural for me. 

DM: I loved how you gave an authentic account of the Black Woman’s Experience by showcasing how powerful yet taxing it can be. How does your experience as a Black woman relate to the characters in the novel? 

MF: At the heart of A Fistful of Honey is the truth of black women: that we are powerful and divine. This truth was something I had to reconnect with in a major way, and it changed my life. It is a truth that Alena Ford has to reconnect with. She tried to find solace from racism and mainstream acceptance by denying her power and divinity as a black woman. She has to accept herself and get to her joy just like I had to. Not long before I began writing, I realized that in my experience as both black and woman, I was spending so much time in fighting and survival mode that it was distracting me from the joy of living. It was an “aha” moment for me. I made the choice to live the grandest life I can despite the onslaught of challenges and injustices hurled our way. We and only we define ourselves and create our lives.

 


DM: Wow, those are such powerful and true words! As a fellow storyteller I know we often learn a profound lesson about ourselves by sharing our art, what did you learn about yourself through this process? 
MF: Writing A Fistful of Honey has absolutely changed my life. I learned how to surrender and be led by God, this was the only way the story would be told through me. I learned that vulnerability is power. Vulnerability makes you a pliable and whole vessel for miracles. I cannot tell you how many readers have written in or come up to me sharing how this novel has changed their life. That has nothing to do with me and everything to do with God.

DM: I totally understand when you say that. I believe God is the storyteller and we are just the vessels that are used. Besides the idea of the Divine often shown throughout the book, what else would you say makes A Fistful of Honey different than any other fantasy fiction novel out right now?

MF: A Fistful of Honey is different because our protagonist is a black woman who is in her 30s and also a mother. This is something almost unheard of in fantasy fiction. Also, it’s what I would call “hybrid fantasy”. The story has fantastical elements, but it also has a rich and layered emotional story of literary fiction with a little dash of hot romance.

DM: What do you hope to bring as an author to the world of fiction novels?

MF: I want everyday women to see themselves in my stories and get inspired by them! I stand out as an author because I’m not afraid to be a pioneer or the underdog. I write characters that come from my life, fuse together genres, and pose non-traditional or even controversial ideas for a new and juicy experience.

DM: I definitely can concur with that. I was able to see my journey in this story. What can we expect from you next as an author? Will there be A Fistful of Honey novel series?

MF: You can definitely expect a sequel to A Fistful of Honey for sure! You may even see some nonfiction how-to books since I am so passionate about self-development and living our best life.

DM: That sounds great! I’ll be looking forward to it. 

*Malena Crawford currently resides in Washington, D. C. Besides being an author, she is a transformation coach and motivational speaker. She studied at George Washington University and holds a BA in Psychology and Neuropsychology. Malena is also the founder of the Black Divine Feminine Reawakened movement; a revolution dedicated to the way black women see and experience themselves. Her novel has received phenomenal reviews from renoun authors such as Iyanla Vazant, and has been featured in magazines like Blavity, Rolling Out, and Uptown.

*To learn more about Malena Crawford visit: www.malenacrawford.com and to purchase her novel A Fistful of Honey click here

Xo,

“Snowfall” Review: John Singleton’s Brillant Tale of the Crack-Cocaine Epidemia

This past Saturday I got a chance to attend a private screening of the new FX series Snowfall, created and executively produced by John Singleton. The show chronicles the life of character Franklin Saint, a naïve yet street smart African-American teen that finds himself wrapped up in the violent world of cocaine dealing.

I have to admit I went to the screening having a few reservations. I was worried the show would not tell an authentic truth of how the crack cocaine epidemic began or the severity of it. An epidemic that to this day has detrimental effects on the black community.

As I watched the series, I realized Snowfall was not just another show about impoverished black people and their stories. Rather it tells a relatable tale of people’s lives we think we know all about, but we rarely get to ever see.


*John Singleton discussing the show and it’s events. 

As viewers we often go into watching something with an already construed idea of what the series will be. So when I heard the ingredients for this show: black boy, crack cocaine, and Compton,  I had already made an assumption that this would be just another show that depicts us in a negative light. Oh how I was wrong.

In this show the protagonist Franklin, a young black teen that has all of the attributes to fall within a black show’s character stereotype is everything but that. There is a sense of innocence that the character possesses. He is intelligent enough to know this world is flawed, but still not wise enough to comprehend what he is truly getting himself into. Yes, he may be smart enough to grasp that this country is disproportionately structured for black teens like himself to fail, he still doesn’t understand the magnitude of what being a crack cocaine dealer will entail. I found that I once took away all the stigmas about young black teens, I was left with the idea that they are still teenagers. Teenagers make mistakes, and find themselves in faulty situations all of the time. Franklin is just that, a flawed teenager with hero syndrome who just happens to find himself in a highly faulty situation.

I left the screening with a new insight on how I viewed “stereotypical black shows.” Maybe if we stopped viewing them all as that and began to see them as great stories about individuals with flaws that happened to be one particular race, we would gain more of an appreciation for shows like Snowfall.

John Singleton did an excellent job of showcasing the characters as humans first, then expanding them and the many intersections of their lives second. I was able to empathize with a lot of the characters, being that a lot of them displayed characteristics of someone I’ve crossed paths with. I’m excited to see the direction in which he takes the show. I can promise you this, if the rest of the season is anything like the first episode then Singleton has perfected the recipe for the makings of a remarkable show.

*Snowfall premieres tonight for 10PM/9c on the FX Network.

Xo,

8 Songs That Will Get You Through The Week! 


Photo|Bing Images

It’s the first Monday of the month which can only mean one thing…a new 8 Songs That Will Get You Through The Week playlist! Since we’re mid-summer and everyone is feeling those chill summer vibes, below are 8 feel-good songs that will put you in the mood to jam out while soaking up the summer solstice. Listen to them now!

1. Crew x Goldlink ft. Brent Fiyaz and Shy Glizzy

2. Legendary x Joey Bada$$ ft. J. Cole

3. Ride Of Your Life x Tinashe

4. Keepin’ It Real x Mack Wilds

5. Prom x SZA

6. Borderline (An Ode To Self Care)  x Solange ft. Q-Tip

7. Got Her Own x Syd

8. 4AM x 2 Chainz ft Travis Scott

I hope you all enjoyed the list! What songs will you be listening to get you through this week?!

Xo,

*Please note: some links do not contain full length songs. 

#LearnFromYesterday: Timeless and Underrated Albums of the 1970s


Usually, the term underrated is associated with a body of work that was never acknowledged to its full extent. Experts comment on the importance of that piece including the ironic twist of its influence yet lack of acknowledgement. These pieces of work tend to grow a cult following. Often, this work is praised amongst the who’s who of the industry. Moreover, those who recognize the work add a level of sophistication to their artistic taste. Nevertheless, the masses still ignore the body of work. (more…)