Archive for December, 2008


th_2009It’s the eve of a brand new year.  2009 to be exact.  Yesterday I signed up for a giveaway for a ticket to President-Elect Barack Obama’s Inauguration. In addition to the typical name and address info, they also asked “What Does this Inauguration Mean to You?”  I thought about it for a moment and then responded from the heart.  Whether or not I receive the ticket, I’m already signed up to volunteer for an Inauguration event because being a part of this historic occasion means just that much to me.  The question lead me to take it a step further though, and think, “What Does the New Year Mean to Me?”  I thought I’d share…

2009 means so many things to me.  It will be my first full year of life without my mother – the first time that I will not receive a “Happy New Year” phone call from my mother.  Of course she will always be in my thoughts and her presence will always be felt, but not being able to see her, touch her or hear her voice is still so painful. So in that regard, 2009 brings me a degree of sadness.

2009 also means newness to me. New experiences.  A new job (not sure where it will be yet, but I’m trying to think positive.) New people. New books to read. New thoughts. New ideas.  A new President!!! How exciting!

2009 also means uncertainty. The economy is in a shambles. Crime is up. Unemployment is up. Foreclosures are up. Problems abound. I’m sure that the problems affecting America as a whole will also impact me personally, but not quite sure yet all the ways in which they will manifest.

Overall, I’m welcoming the new year with a mixture of excitement and trepidation, but since I have no idea what the future holds (Where’s that Magic 8 ball when you need one?) I’m just going to take it one day at a time.  I encourage you to think about what the onset of a new year means to you.  Feel free to share…

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!

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Will Smith has come a loooooong way since the days of telling us that “Parents Just Don’t Understand.”  He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper (his classic album, yes – album, with partner, DJ Jazzy Jeff) produced some of my favorite songs of all time (and, yes, I still have the album,) but Mr. Smith is no longer the Fresh Prince.  He’s matured into a King.  Husband. Father. Movie Star. Philanthropist. World Citizen.   Will Smith has become all that and more – and it hasn’t been by accident.  Below is an article from USA Today which offers us some insight into how and why this transformation occurred.  I believe that these seven points can be applied to any one, in some variation.  It’s a quick read but nonetheless inspirational. Take from it what you will.

                                                                                    

willsmithx‘Seven Pounds,’ Seven Keys to Will Smith’s Success

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Will Smith, photographed at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles, plays an IRS agent on a quest for redemption in Seven Pounds, opening Friday.

By Donna Freydkin, USA TODAY
NEW YORK — Spend seven seconds sitting across from Will Smith, and you’ll never wonder why he’s a superstar.

He’s charming and attentive, observant and clever — without ever seeming to try. When he talks, he makes eye contact; when he laughs, it takes over his whole body.

“You gonna put that in the article, that you’re playing footsie?” cracks Smith after feet collide under a table at the Mandarin Oriental hotel.

Though he seems happy-go-lucky, the former Fresh Prince of Bel-Air didn’t end up where he is by accident. Like Ben Thomas, the painfully orderly and painstakingly wary IRS agent he plays in Seven Pounds, opening Friday, Smith, 40, is consistently in charge, on point and thinking ahead.

“That’s one of the elements that attracted me to this idea — how much control you can have over your life, but how much you don’t have once you relinquish it,” he says. “I make choices in my life after working on this film. I found myself walking down the stairs and it’s raining, and I found myself grabbing extra-hard on the railing. Just think, one slip — and that’s it. You have to be conscious. You don’t have control after you’ve set these dominoes in motion. Your control point is before you make this crucial mistake.”

Seven Pounds may have made him think consciously about navigating slippery steps with care, but he has nurtured his career with nary a misstep, amassing $2.45 billion in box office in North America alone. Here’s how he does it:

1. Think globally

Any film Smith makes, as a star or through his Overbrook production company, “has to be extraordinary, it has to be entertainment, it has to be art.” And be “delivered to all people of the world.”

Not every film fits neatly into that mold, including Seven Pounds, a non-linear story about his character making amends that has a shocking ending. It’s “a bit of a stretch for us. The extraordinary entertainment art is easy, but because you can’t actually talk about the movie, the delivery to all people of the world is slightly more difficult,” Smith says.

He thinks about pitching everywhere from Peoria to Paris from the start. “If we don’t know how to sell it, we’re not going to begin — no matter how extraordinary I think the entertainment art is going to be. All I need is one visual, and I can sell that anywhere on Earth.”

2. Talent at the top

Smith handpicks his directors. For Seven Pounds, he’s re-teaming with Gabriele Muccino, who directed him to an Oscar nomination for 2006’s The Pursuit of Happyness. The holiday hit starred Smith as a homeless man who breaks into the elite world of finance.

“He takes me to places that I’d never choose myself,” Smith says. “It will be the biggest departures from who I am when I work with Gabriele. He sees me similarly as Michael Mann (Ali) does. He knows all my tricks. They erase all the Will Smith-ness.”

Muccino, for instance, went so far as to alter the way Smith naturally makes eye contact. Smith’s Ben Thomas never looks away, almost glares.

“He’s trying to look under people’s masks,” says Smith. “I’m physically trying to look under people’s masks. For me, it’s a common courtesy to look away for a second when you’re talking and you let people have their privacy for a second. This character never breaks eye contact. It’s uncomfortable for me.”

3. Mix it up, to a point

For every bombastic audience pleaser like Hancock, Smith tries also to release a more thought-provoking film like Seven Pounds.

“I have to challenge myself and push myself,” Smith says. “My only job is to make sure I don’t leave anything on the table, that I maximize what a young dude from Philly can do in the world of cinema. There’s no telling what I can create at this point.”

Two scripts he’d love to star in that Overbrook is developing are the stories of Nelson Mandela and Marvin Gaye.

“I’m not certain I’m actor enough yet,” Smith admits. “I love both of those, and I need to make sure I’m man enough.”

4. Preserve the Smith brand

Smith doesn’t get busted for DUIs or punch or scream at paparazzi. “Not any more, not any more,” he jokes.

His parents and grandmother instilled in him the belief that with privileges comes responsibility. Smith doesn’t moan about the attention he gets, kvetch about the lack of privacy or lash out at reporters for asking personal questions.

“By being famous, you’re afforded rights that other people who aren’t famous aren’t afforded,” he says. “If I’m going to walk to the front of the line (at the restaurant) because I’m Will Smith, then I have to sign all the autographs. If I don’t want to sign any autographs, I don’t walk to the front of the line. It’s that simple. Stand in the line with everybody else.”

His image remains one of the most unblemished in Hollywood. The only question that surfaces is whether, because of his close friendship with outspoken Scientologist Tom Cruise, he, too, is a member of the controversial church. Smith repeatedly has denied it, saying he’s a student of all religions.

Hitch co-star Eva Mendes says that off-screen, Smith is a bit racier than the clean-cut guy most people see. “He’s funnier in person because his jokes get a little more daring. To this day, he doesn’t call me Eva. He calls me Reva Melendez. He has this character he does named Redondo, an interviewer who never gets anyone’s names right.”

5. Cross color lines

With the exception of 2001’s Ali (his other Oscar nomination), most of Smith’s roles could have been played by him or Brad Pitt or Robert Downey Jr. The IRS agent he plays in Seven Pounds could have very easily been Caucasian, as could the bitter superhero in Hancock.

And that has been by design. Growing up in Philadelphia, Smith attended a mostly white Catholic elementary school and a mostly African-American high school. He lived in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, attended a Baptist church and admired the Muslim girls who lived one street over.

Along the way, Smith learned that laughter is collective and unifying. “Those universal elements became really clear in my experiences growing up.”

Race is not something Smith dwells on in interviews, and it’s not something often addressed in his films. “Being an American, this is the only place on Earth I’m even possible. My life is not possible anywhere else,” he says.

It’s a sentiment often echoed by President-elect Barack Obama, with whom Smith identifies.

On Election Day, Smith says, he didn’t even have a beer. “I wanted to be totally sober. I wanted to see and feel and remember everything. The whole family was there. It was really fantastic — either way I knew it would be a historical evening. I wanted to be there and be aware,” he says.

6. Be master of your domain

Eighteen years ago, Smith charmed audiences as the fast-talking, appealingly glib Fresh Prince. Today, his films gross an average $136 million. And Smith says he finally feels he’s starting to own his profession.

“I was reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, and he talks about the concept of 10,000 hours. That you don’t really settle into any level of mastery until 10,000 hours, and I feel like I’ve just completed my 10,000 hours of story structure and filmmaking.

“Paulo Coelho in The Alchemist, which is my favorite book, he talks about the whole of the universe, and it’s contained in one grain of sand. For years I’ve been saying that, and now it’s really starting to expose itself to me. My own grain of sand has been story. The next 10 years will be my peak of innovation in filmmaking and just as a human being.”

Since 1996’s blockbuster Independence Day, Smith has generated a movie a year, sometimes two. When he signs on, he’s fully committed.

“He’s very firm with his own ideas and considerations about things,” Muccino says. “He doesn’t change his mind easily. If he says no, it’s no. If he says yes, it’s yes. He’s a man of his word. In Italy we call them men of honor.”

7. Leave nothing to chance

That includes his 11-year marriage to Jada Pinkett, with whom he has two kids: son Jaden, 10, and daughter Willow, 8. Smith also has son Trey, 16, from his first marriage.

“We did a business plan,” Smith says. “Listen, everyone should do a marriage business plan. Why are you together? What’s the point? Because he’s cute? That’s not going to hold up. It can’t just be sex and somebody can cook. That’s a really good purpose, but not for 40 years. Jada and I have connected to the purpose of our relationship, to teach and to continually learn about human interaction. Our marriage will have purpose for other married people.”

Smith always wants to know the conclusion. Because if you know the end, you know precisely where you’re going and how you’re getting there.

“Jada and I sat down and asked, ‘Where do we see ourselves?’ We went to 40 years from now. We see ourselves some place where there are seasons. That’s a big thing for Jada. We think there’s mountains. We think we live on a golf course. We don’t have more children — we have grandchildren.

“We are the greatest philanthropists that America has ever seen. We’re going to try and get up there with Bill and Melinda Gates. We talked through all the elements of where we want to be so we can start, in this moment, designing our life toward that.”

Yes, Will Smith has a plan for everything. But for people like Mendes, his success is the result of something that doesn’t need so much preparation.

“Of course he’s talented, of course he’s sexy, of course he’s got a body to die for, but who cares?” she says. “He’s so full of light. We all want to be next to him and root for him. People want to be around it. He’s a light force.”

taraji-bootsWomen (and certain men) are  used to wearing peep-toe shoes in the Spring /Summer.  Depending on your location, you may even be able to wear them year-round, or at least wear a nice peep-toe pump into the early Fall.  In 2008, the script has officially been flipped.  Toes are no longer in hibernation for the Winter.  Shoe designers, in all their infinite wisdom, have introduced us to the peep-toe boot and ankle boot.  At first I thought, “Interesting. But what’s the point? It’s going to be cold.”  Until I saw the Steve MaddenMidory.” 

It was shoe-love at first sight! I suddenly realized just how much sense a peep-toe ankle boot really makes.  Talk about versatile! Mini-dress, capris, jeans, slacks….barefeet or tights…the possibilities are endless.  And the “Midory” is amazingly comfortable for a 4″ heel.  This is definitely one of my favorite shoe purchases of 2008.    

This trend is not going anywhere just yet.   The super-hot  Steve MaddenMarrvel” has yet to be released.   Peep-toe and studded? Wear these and to paraphrase Kanye West, “They can’t tell you nothin’!”

Steve Madden doesn’t corner the market on the peep-toe boot, but the line has my favorite styles, by far. 

Check out It-Girl of the Moment, actress Taraji P. Henson (shown with actress Jill Marie Jones) rockin’ the style.

 

 Shoes Mentioned Above:

marrvel_black-leather_zoom3

SM Marrvel

midory_black-leather_zoom2

SM Midory

SM Martiny

SM Martiny

 

Three Degrees of Separation

linkedin I have become slightly obsessed with the professional networking site, Linkedin.  I created my profile on there a while ago, but just recently began to really use it.  It is absolutely addictive.  The Q & A section alone makes it worthwhile.  Being able to reach out to so many people in your same field, worldwide, to ask and answer questions is amazing.   There is a Group for almost everything which allows you to connect with people with shared interests and the Applications help to make your profile more interesting and give the people on your network more insight about you (i.e. your blog, books you’re reading, etc.)

I have found it especially interesting to realize the connections that I have in common with my connections – ” I didn’t know that my colleague Steve Banks knows my former co-worker Tonya Smith.”   

My new-found obsession begs the question – can you be TOO connected? Can you be TOO networked? Can you be TOO “on the grid”?  TOO easy to find?  I’m still undecided on that.  I am still surprised when I meet someone who doesn’t come up in a Google search.  I’m also a little envious.  I’ve been Google-able for a while now.  Not necessarily by choice, but it is what it is. Typically it’s not a bad thing, but the worldwide web is just that – worldwide.  Sometimes you don’t want certain people to find you and not because you are doing anything wrong, but simply because you have no control over it.  It’s too easy to find out too much about people these days.  That being said, Linkedin has set certain safeguards to try to prevent misuse and it’s much more of a professional networking site than a social one, which makes it much more appealing to me.  It’s also very easy to use. 

The old saying goes “It’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know” and these days that’s probably more true than ever with the abundance of qualified candidates (abundance in relation to the number of jobs for them to fill.)  So whatever your view on networking, it’s necessary and Linkedin is certainly one of my preferred methods of connecting.  Try it out for yourself and let me know what you think: Linkedin

Also of interest: Linked Intelligence, 100+ Smart Ways to Use Linkedin.

sweater12It’s that time of year again!  The temperature has dropped and we (in certain places anyway) have to put away the sleeveless tops, capri pants and pretty much anything lightweight.  Although I hate frostbitten toes and fingertips, I almost welcome the change because I much prefer my fall/winter wardrobe to my spring/summer one. 

For the past few years I’ve been obsessed with sweaters.  First it was turtlenecks.  I just had to have one in every color (well, every one of the colors that make up my slightly monochromatic wardrobe and a couple others thrown in for good measure.)  Now I’m into cowl/drape-necked sweaters.  There is something so fabulous, yet functional about them. 

I came across this Nicholas K black wool ‘Grady Drape’ scarf tunic sweater on Bluefly and fell instantly in love.   If it weren’t for the recession, I’d buy it but I’m trying to be fiscally responsible.  It’s versatile and even with the full coverage, it’s still sexy.  I own a sweater similar to this and it is also super-comfortable.  No reason why we can’t look good staying warm, right?

Additional Views:sweater33sweater22

dominoDomino: The Book of Decorating: A room-by-room guide to creating a home that makes you happy by Deborah Needleman, Sara Ruffin Costello, and Dara Caponigro

I am an avid fan of Domino magazine, so I had to get this book as soon as it was released. Thankfully, it was worth the money. The book is simple, but it has fabulous color photos and great suggestions that anyone can incorporate to enhance their environment. I definitely recommend this book.

obamaI am not a political person.  I don’t watch the news (unless you count the Daily Show and The Colbert Report.)  I rarely read newspapers or  news-related  websites.  I have enough going on in my life without being constantly innundated with negative information.  But this year I often tuned in to CNN, MSNBC and Fox News and checked CNN.com and MSNBC.com.  Why? I can tell you in two words  – Barack Obama

Barack Obama’s candidacy for the President of the United States FINALLY got me interested in politics.  I’ve always voted for President, but I tend to have little confidence in politicians in general.  It’s always been kind of “the lesser of two evils” thing for me.  But this time was different.  This time there was a candidate for the Democratic nomination, then the Presidency, who was saying something that I actually wanted to listen to.  Obama’s campaign even inspired me to read his book, “Dreams from My Father,” which had sat on my book shelf for over a year.

Barack Obama ran on a platform of change, and not just change, but positive change.  Change designed to benefit the majority of Americans.  This intrigued me.  So when I saw Obama on TV, I paid attention.  When I heard his name mentioned, I paid attention.  I talked about the candidates’ campaigns with friends.  Obama hadn’t even won yet and I had already been changed! 

As the months went on and Obama’s battle against  Hilary Rodham Clinton went on…and on..and on..I began to lose interest.  I just wanted it to be over already!  But then he finally won the Democratic nomination and I had a renewed inspiration.  On November 4, 2008, Barack Hussein Obama II became the President-Elect of the United States of America.  I am STILL in shock.  Up until the very last minute I had my doubts that it could really happen. 

So now it’s time for Phase II.  What happens next?  Will Obama stand by his promise of change?  Will the American citizens support him as he works to repair some of the damage that has been done to this country over the past eight years?  I truly hope so.  There’s a part of me that will always believe that politicians say whatever they have to say to get what they want.  I think it’s just the nature of the beast, even if you are an inherently good person.  So we’ll see.  Maybe Obama will change my mind about that too.  After all, he got me to watch Fox News….

I can appreciate the magic of beautiful skin (and of makeup) as much as, if not more than, the next person. But beauty is more than skin deep. I believe in the beauty of helping others. Whether it’s via money, time or talent, it’s important to give back.   Nonprofit organizations are the glue that hold the world together.  They fill in the gaps with missions that address issues ranging from abused women and children to wildlife rescue. 

Below are organizations that I have been involved with via volunteering.  These organizations have missions that are near and dear to my heart.  I am not always able to give of myself as much as I would like to, but I definitely try to stay engaged in my volunteering efforts – life permitting.   Whatever issue is near and dear to you, whatever you believe in – I encourage you to find an organization that focuses on that mission, and do something. Like I said, whether it’s money, time or talent  – I’m sure your effort will be greatly appreciated.  

dfs_logo_618x86 Dress for Success‘ mission is  to promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.

 

dcrcc1DC Rape Crisis Center is dedicated to creating a world free of sexual violence. The Center works for social change through community outreach, education, and legal and public policy initiatives. It helps survivors and their families heal from the aftermath of sexual violence through crisis intervention, counseling and advocacy.

                                                                    

nstreetN Street Village empowers homeless and low-income women to claim their highest quality of life by offering a broad spectrum of services and advocacy in an atmosphere of dignity and respect. The Village also provides affordable rental housing for low and moderate-income individuals and families.

alek-wekI was reviewing my old MySpace blog and came across my entry regarding MAC Cosmetics’ 2007 collection “The Stylistics.”

Alek Wek was the model for this collection and this black & white shot is breathtaking. Alek Wek is my favorite model. I love her look, her style and her story. Of course the collection is no longer available, but I felt inspired to re-post this pic just because it is absolutely beautiful. Enjoy.

(Excerpted from my MySpace blog, Nov. 2007)

We must all realize and know our own worth! And act accordingly! Your self-worth directly correlates to how you are treated. I’m not talking about being conceited, arrogant or vain. I’m talking about your worth as a person first and secondly as a friend/lover/service provider/whatever the case may be. 

Admittedly, I have been guilty of not doing this, but that is all about to change. People in this world will try to take advantage of you, personally and professionally, and if you don’t realize that you are worth so much more than the BS that people will try to feed you, you will always be caught up in negative situations. And you will always have regrets.

So take it from T., in your relationships,know your worth! Don’t let that man/woman that you are involved with take you for granted. In business dealings, know your worth! Don’t let supervisors, colleagues, partners, clients etc. take advantage of you, devalue or try to underpay you, especially if it’s your own business. In friendships, know your worth!Don’t let someone who calls themself your friend mistreat or misuse you. Most importantly, when dealing with yourself – know your worth! Don’t take yourself for granted. Know that even though you aren’t perfect, you are the best you that you can be at this given moment and you deserve the best from those around you.

Another pearl of wisdom – I’m on a roll this week – you can only control yourself!You can not control how other people treat you or what other people think of you. The only person whose thoughts and actions you have control over are your own. So if you’re in a situation you don’t like, you’re there because you put yourself there and you continue to remain there.

I know that it’s not always easy to get out of a situation. Sometimes you have to bide your time for whatever reason.  But while you’re biding your time, make a plan.

So as you go about your day today and everyday, remember these two key things: Self-worth, if you don’t have a sense of self-worth, please work on developing one. It’ll take you farther than you can imagine and not having it will take you lower than you’ll ever want to be. Self-control, that’s all you’ve got. You can’t control anyone else. So work on making your thoughts and actions reflective of your inner self.