Empties: The B.O.M.B. Edition

The spirit of Black Lives Matter, or a peachy, rose-toned echo of it, is taking hold onYouTube and Instagram, as #B.O.M.B. makeup tutorials make the rounds. For those of you who don’t follow popular Black beauty vloggers, or their friends, #B.O.M.B. stands for Black-Owned Makeup Brands, and it’s a creative way for vloggers to practice and demonstrate their craft while raising consciousness of high-quality Black-owned beauty brands. They are bigging up Blacks who excel in makeup artistry, instead of recycling videos of Black people’s violent and often deadly encounters with the police. Hello!

The smart cookies Alyssa Forever and Alissa Ashley probably had no idea that their tag would last all summer and keep going. Funny thing is that Jackie Aina, the Queen of Black Beauty vloggers and overall Grand Duchess of Color Layering, (in my opinion, anyway) had done a Valentine’s Day tutorial in February. In honor of Black History Month she featured as many Black-owned beauty brands as she could find in her vast, vast makeup collection.

This is great. This is all great, because while this newfound pride and support of Black brands was taking over, my containers of empties was piling up. For months, I figured I’d do a blog post on empties from Black-owned companies. You see it’s one thing to be a beauty vlogger who jumps on a trending tag to raise awareness of your channel, and quite another to be an Afrocentric consumer. To deliberately to search for Black producers of the products one wants and needs, instead of clicking the first thing that comes up on a Goggle search, or making a mad dash out to Walgreens and Target to stock up on the Black-owned brands you know of for a video tutorial. But are the products good enough to stand up next to the well-known high-end beauty brands that Black women are willing to pay so much for? Are they so good that you will hit pan, pump out the last drop of foundation, or scrape the insides of the tube of lip gloss to get every last bit of product? Fortunately for Iman, Shea Moisture, and Black Opal (more on their Black-owned status later) the answer is yes! So here is my rundown of B.O.M.B and Black-owned body brands that have stood up and delivered time and again.

Shea Moisture: Manuka Honey & Mafura Oil

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Owned by Sundial Brands, this line says it delivers deep and restorative moisture to dry hair. It does! I put a few drops of the “Intensive Hydration Complex” oil into my hot oil treatment or massaged it into damp hair after stepping out of the shower, and it went a long way to hydrating and sealing my hair for at least a couple of days. That empty jar is the intensive hydrating repair mask, which I used as a deep conditioner once a week.

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The Coconut & Hibiscus line work wonders on Baby’s biracial hair. Her curls need as much moisture, care and attention as mine, or they will dry out, tangle and make grooming a frustration for both of us. We go through these regularly, and just the other day we were in Shop-Rite and she put a bottle of their moisturizing spray into the cart. I think I’m going to stock up on Shea Moisture while I can, because you never know when the Dennis family will cash out and head for the sweet life of early, wealthy retirement. Hey, it’s the American way. The Bancroft family did that when they sold The Wall Street Journal to Rupert Murdoch, who owns Fox’s parent Newscorp … oh, wait. When is the next sale! Outta my way!

Pooka Pure and Simple

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To put it Pure and Simple: I love the Pooka products from my head to my toes. Based in Newark, New Jersey, the company sells its mists, butters, bath bombs and candles online and from its boutique in downtown Newark. Last year Baby came up to me with a box of scrumptious surprises from the store, and said: “Happy Valentine’s Day!” Everything came in a beautiful red box with a white and red polka dot ribbon. This is what’s left of the tins of body butters that they got me, and I’m still working on the Sugar Body Wash, which is in my shower. Matter of fact, I might treat myself to a fragrant scrub down tonight before turning in!

IMAN Cosmetics: BB Creme, Mascara and Foundation Stick

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This one is my favorite! Iman makes luxury, high-end quality makeup for women of color, and they are accessibly priced. I’m not a makeup artist or socialite, so I can’t possibly justify owning enough makeup to stock a spare room — and then make an indulgent video on “how I store and organize my makeup.” Beauty rooms are the latest iteration of frivolous spending, just like all those wine refrigerators and wine rooms that populated middle class McMansions before the last recession. Sooner or later, whether because of another big financial awakening, or more realistically, a baby, those rooms will be passe, except for professional, full-time makeup artists. But anyway! Since the beginning of the year I’ve finished off a foundation stick, which had terrific staying power in this heat! The BB Creme is one of my favorite items in her collection, because if I don’t have time for a full face beat, I can smooth it on and go about my day. I’m on my third container, and the one pictured is my second. The mascara is deeply black, and goes on smooth. It doesn’t irritate my sensitive eyes. The products in this picture are just he tip of the iceberg. I’ve gone through several lip and eye pencils and lip glosses — I just remembered to save up some of these empties for this blog.

I started using Iman Cosmetics in 2012, which is kind of late considering that she has been around since 1994. The reason was simple logistics: I couldn’t find them in nearby drug stores or Target, and my unrelenting busy schedule pretty much shut down any chance of me devoting time to hunting down the products I wanted. They are a little more accessible to me now, and I will not be sleeping on it.

Black Opal: True Color Pore Perfecting Liquid Foundation, Concealer and Lip Pencil

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I know, I know. Black Opal‘s status as a fully Black-owned company is dubious at best. But never mind all that. The newest liquid foundation, the True Color pore perfecting foundation, is a miracle. It goes on fairly wet, but dries to a skin-like finish. I slapped this on once while running out to Costco with Hubby, and one of the women working there completely gushed when she got a closeup look at my face. I hadn’t even applied any of their magical finishing powder. And it was summer. This has quickly become one of my favorite liquid foundations these days. I might even show my face in a selfie — it’s that good! LOL. The concealer works … but offered lighter, and I found myself using an orange concealer from LA Girl on top of it to really correct the dark areas around my eyes. The lip pencils are outstanding! Look at that nub. Enough said.

Now, about its B.O.M.B. status: From what I could gather, the company that makes the color cosmetics and skin care line, BioCosmetic Research Labs, is owned by Mana Products, Inc., which itself is owned by a man named Nikos Mouyiaris. While Africa is vast, that doesn’t sound like any name from the continent I’ve ever heard. But my guess is that the women who developed the skincare line are Black, including Dr. Cheryl Burgess, a high-profile dermatologist and a woman named “Donna” who claimed to be involved in developing the skincare line, at least according to comment section of an article in this NYU student paper. So there you have it.

As I Am and Karen’s Body Beautiful

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I don’t know why I combined these two products. Maybe I was tired after my workout and was rushing through taking the pictures? But the As I Am cleansing co-wash was a must during Baby’s swim class days, for rinsing her hair in the shower afterward. The Karen’s Body Beautiful sealing butter is a terr-i-fic product to seal moisture into damp-dry hair after washing and conditioning. I picked this up at a Circle of Sisters expo last year, and used it in lieu of my Aethiopika Hydrate & Twist Butter from Qhemet Biologics. It was also a great stand-in for the miraculous Alma & Olive Heavy Cream, also from Qhemet Biologics. (Nothing against the latter. I just ran out and needed to replenish with something so I could maintain my moisture routine.) Founder and CEO Karen Tappin has a wonderful thing going on, if this is any indication.

Entwine Audition Kit: Teeny Tiny Coils

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I picked up this handy kit at a Circle of Sisters event in New York a couple of years back. They were selling like hotcakes for just $10, and the package contained pretty much everything that you need to wash, condition, moisturize and style your hair. The package also contained a deep hydrating conditioning hair mask, which imparted terrific moisture to my hair during my washing process. But I threw out that envelope. I would say the best components of this kit are the deep conditioner, and the two small pots of styling products. Not only is this a handy way of trying out products, but it’s a perfect travel kit, too. Everything you need for up to two washing cycles is in this kit — which is also TSA compliant!

Difeel: Body soaps

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I snatched up this line of body soaps from Sunflower Cosmetics, Inc.,  in my local beauty supply store while stocking up on barrettes and ponytail holders for Baby, and all sorts of hair things for myself. The soaps go for $3.99 a bar, but they aren’t cheap quality. They cleanse effectively, and leave the skin feeling smooth and moisturized. At first I bought just a couple, then went back again for a few more. There’s just one tiny drawback: I’m not sure if it’s wholly or majority black-owned. The photo on the back of the Black Soap has a picture of a Black man working on the product, while the company’s listing at Manta.com says it is owned by a guy named David Kim. Maybe they co-founded it, and Mr. Kim is the managing principal or something? I’ve reached out to the company, but knowing these small operations, it could be a while before they reply.  I’ll update as I get new information.

And that wraps up my first blog post on Empties: B.O.M.B. edition (technically also B.O.B.B., for Black-owned beauty brands. But who’s checking?). These are my current tried and true products that deliver on the creators claims on the package with the added bonus of helping to build financial autonomy and independence for Black people. If you know anything about how financial values shape American society and our mores, you know that Black Enterprise’s DOFE Principles and F.U.B.U. are not reactionary declarations of “exclusion” and “reverse racism.” They are indispensable values for any minority in this country to live by.

But Where is the Music?

The Houstons: On Our Own reality TV series wrapped up a couple of nights ago, leaving behind unfinished story lines and failing to convince a creeped out, skeptical viewership, at least on my part, about the wisdom of doing this.  I didn’t watch much of the 14 hours of programming that they cobbled together raiding Bobbi Kristina’s psyche over the death of her beloved mother, but I followed the show through secondary means, like recaps and commentary from vloggers like the ladies below.

Does following the series second hand like that give me the right to form harsh opinions about the show? Oh yes it does! Think of it as reading customer reviews at Amazon.com before you put a product into your online basket. In any case, some of my opinions were formed firsthand. I skimmed through the first couple of episodes, which covered Mother’s Day weekend. There was a family brunch, a service at New Hope Baptist Church, which Krissy did not attend, and a visit to Whitney’s grave that forced me to walk away from my computer. I couldn’t watch that baby sit on the ground in that cemetery and cry over her dear mother, nor could I handle Cissy make an emotional case for her baby’s baby to keep in touch with her. So the computer watched itself while I stepped into the other room and folded some laundry.

The problem with this show was that it exploited Whitney’s death so that Pat could fulfill the reality show that she had been developing for some time. This wasn’t a documentary about a musical family, because there were not enough active, working musicians honing their craft and making things happen, like on “Braxton Family Values.”

• We didn’t get enough of Cissy or Dionne Warwick.

• We didn’t get to go into Damon Elliot’s studio.

• Gary kept his exceptional tenor to himself for the most part.

• CeCe Winans dropped in for only one measly episode, and there wasn’t even a family singalong at that beautiful white grand piano at Pat’s house. What’s it there for? To hold up picture frames? Krissy doesn’t seem to be proficient at piano, judging by the meeting that she had with Ricky Minor at one point in the series, and the fact that you never saw her play. That was surprising, given the first-rate musical heritage and connections she was surrounded with growing up. Even Bobbi Kristina’s father is a talented songwriter, one has to admit. In the same class as Ike Turner and Chris Brown, two other legitimately talented musicians, who were railroaded by the media.

So without much songwriting, album making or shows, aside from the heavy lifting that Cissy did for rehearsals for the BET Awards tribute and her clips from Gospelfest (that was me waaaay back in the last row at the back of the house, BTW!), what was the point of broadcasting a show about a family of Houstons? All we saw, aside from the contrived pseudo-dramas that fill up reality TV air time, were images of Krissy in the emotional throes of grief, Krissy being taken for granted by that feckless young man that Whitney took in, and Krissy getting very bad advice from cousins and uncles to reconcile with her father.

I don’t want to spend a lot of time criticizing Black men, partly because they’re making it way too easy, but let me just say that young adult children like Bobbi Kristina do not have an obligation to strive for a relationship with a poor parent. In fairness to his convoluted denials that he hit Whitney, let’s lay aside the conflicting reports about how she sustained a deep cut on her left cheek in Capri, reports from witnesses of her screaming for help from inside her limo during an argument in a mall parking lot in Hawaii, and the revelations that Whitney was cussed out in front of her mother and father in law, and then spat on in front of her child. All of that, including his lengthy rap sheet, are in the past. If the guy is still getting DUIs, and doesn’t pick up his daughter’s calls, then distance is required. Whoever it is, bloggers or whoever, who feel that his presence would be a good influence on her life now … need to wise up and stop interfering. They are training Bobbi Kristina to lower her standards and somehow accept the poor behavior from the first male role model in her life, which could carry over to her accepting wretched treatment from the men she chooses later. And didn’t the vloggers get incensed over an incident where the stray sped off in “his car,” (probably financed with Houston dollars) leaving Krissy somewhere at an event? I saw a preview clip of Krissy sitting on the ground in the night hunched over a phone trying to call this dude. Is this what Whitney would want for her baby, and for it to be on blast like that? This is not a good pattern, it should not be encouraged, and it should not be worked out on national TV and on the Web for everyone to see. Like her dearly departed mother said to Oprah in 2009 “some things are better left unsaid.” And where are the grown men in her life to grab that boy by the collar and make him apologize to her? *Sigh*

If I want to witness family dysfunction, missteps and tragic judgment calls, I could walk down one of the particularly ragged streets in my city, or ride mass transit or something. I won’t be subscribing to cable for this display of nonsense, mainly because they’ve connected it to the name of my first and foremost favorite pop singer. I wish I could say with confidence that the show is over and done with in its current form, as it should be. But I have the feeling that Robert Sharenow, the executive vice president of programming at Lifetime, will let this trash live another season, because he and other network brass seem desperate to race our collective national intellect to the bottom of the gutter in pursuit of ratings and ad revenue. After all, they have to come up with a way to beat Bravo TV’s housewives flipping tables, starting brawls at country clubs and working stripper poles, right?

I hope Bobbi Kristina follows all of Ricky Minor’s advice. She could be a polished, strong contralto with a flourishing career. Add her voice type to her grandmother’s soprano in her prime, and her mother’s mezzo-soprano, and she could complete the packet of Drinkard voice types. Then the music could go on, and she could begin to control her own narrative, instead of leaving it to others.

Ummm … Halle?

Juste le regardez! Il se vante, n'est-ce pas?

French guys have a lot to brag about right now. First “The Artist” swoops into Hollywood and almost pillages the Oscars, in true victor fashion. Big ups to Mr. Dujardin (ooh la la) who won for best actor.

Now another Frenchman, Olivier Martinez, is about to carry off another Hollywood prize, our dear Ms. Halle Berry. Access Hollywood and other entertainment news outlets are reporting that Martinez confirmed their engagement last weekend. Apparently, he asked for her hand offering a true one-of-a-kind emerald and diamond sparkler, designed by master ring maker Robert Mazlo. The stone was dug out from a remote location, the setting is unique and the band is apparently engraved with all sorts of symbols personalized just for her. Based on the descriptions of the ring I’m reading, she’ll need a bodyguard just for her left hand!

Yes, yes, we are all aware that this would be a third marriage for Halle Berry, 45. It is a first for Martinez, 46. It is also her fourth serious long-term relationship with a high-profile man, and there’s that child custody issue going on with Gabriel Aubry. Despite all of that, I do wish Ms. Berry well, because I usually enjoy her movies and magazine interviews. Plus, everyone deserves contentment in their romantic relationships, especially when they seem to be such devoted parents, like her. Despite the fact that we don’t know this cat, Halle Berry has repeatedly said in interviews that whoever comes into her life long term must be good for her daughter.

So ignore all the catty comments that are sure to come cackling out of covens round the country. Technically, it’s none of our business and we should all be doing something more productive with our lives, anyway. Those of us with a passing interest in the personal lives of A-list celebrities should simply hope that Ms. Berry has at last found a lasting love.