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The Radically Fabulous My PeepStakes

**The contest has ended.  Congrats to Jane Croger! Check out the latest giveaways where you can win a radically fabulous autographed art print or a radically fabulous workout DVD from a celebrity trainer!

Turquoise & Austrian Crystal Earrings

The Radically Fabulous My PeepStakes is sponsored by a remarkable trio of female entrepreneurs – Melody Burns of Kiini Ibura Jewelry, Karen Tappin of Karen’s Body Beautiful and Kym Rodgers of CakeJoy.  Because of these super classy chix one lucky person will win a pair of Kiini Ibura Smooth Turquoise & Austrian crystal earrings (specially designed for this contest); a $25 Karen’s Body Beautiful Gift Certificate*  & a $15  Cake Joy Gift Certificate*.  A prize package worth $125!

Entry is FREE. But in order to qualify you must be a SUBSCRIBER of The Socialite Design. Have no fear; if you’re not a subscriber yet there is still time for you to join the cool kids and enter to win! Contest runs from March 10, 2011 until March 20, 2011.   Subscribing is free and easy.  Just look in the upper right hand corner, type your email address in the designated slot & click “Sign me up!”  Then check your inbox (and spam) for the confirmation email. Once you confirm, you’re in and on your way to exciting adventures and possibly winning a prize package worth $125!

For a chance to win the $125 prize package, you must subscribe and correctly answer all of the following questions by March 20, 2011 (HINT: The answers can be found on The Socialite Design and sponsoring websites by clicking on the underlined key words in each question. It’s the easiest open book test ever!) Use the contact form at the end of this post to transmit the correct answers to me. Persons scoring a Perfect 12 will be entered into a drawing.  Only one person can win! Good luck!

The Radically Fabulous My PeepStakes Pop Quiz

  1. What specific project inspired me to create The Socialite Design?
  2. What was my debut event?
  3. What is my favorite DJ Spinna record?
  4. What is a betel nut beauty?
  5. At what age did MacDella Cooper flee her native Liberia?
  6. Which young  burgeoning star shares my taste in jewelry?
  7. Isaiah Washington recently became a citizen of what country?
  8. Which TWO (2) designers provided my gorgeous L’Africana Night wardrobe (gown & accessories)?
  9. Which celebrity appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show wearing Kiini Ibura Jewelry?
  10. What is the name of the promotion that Karen’s Body Beautiful runs every Friday.
  11. What time does CakeJoy close on Sundays?
  12. What is the date of the next Fort Greene Snap WordPress Websites Class?

CONTEST RULES

*Gift certificates must be redeemed in the store.  If you are an out-of-towner, you’ll just have to take a trip to the East Coast or donate the certificates to a deserving New Yorker.  😉  Earrings will be shipped to the winner’s address; U.S. only.

1) In order to qualify to win you must become a subscriber of The Socialite Design by March 20,2011 at 11:59pm est.

2) Only one entry per person.

3) It’s my game and my rules, so I reserve the right to cancel the contest at any time or extend entry dates. Yep, just like on the playground.

4) If you gave birth to me or are married to the person who gave birth to me or gave birth to the person who gave birth to me, you aren’t eligible to win. Sorry Mom & Grandma, but in the off chance that you happen to win I don’t want any “No fair; that’s yo mama drama!”

5) Contest ends March 20, 2011 at 11:59pm est.

6) The drawing will be conducted by Fort Greene SNAP on or around Tuesday, March 22, 2011.  The winner will be announced on The Socialite Design soon after the name is drawn.  Since you must be a subscriber to claim the prize that means you’ll be notified via email immediately after I post the name of the lucky person!

♥♥♥A HUGE thanx to my RADICALLY FABULOUS SPONSORS! ♥♥♥

KIINI IBURA JEWELRY

Nestled in Fort Greene, Brooklyn Kiini Ibura Jewelry is the official sponsor of The Socialite Design.  It has become the go-to boutique for unique, handcrafted accessories.   Designer Melody Burns uses precious and semi-precious stones like Ghanian glass, fresh water pearls, African amber and Austrian crystal to create dazzling one-of-a-kind pieces that can complement a gorgeous Red Carpet gown or glam up a plain white tee.

Melody’s exquisite creations have been featured in several prominent publications like The New York Times, ELLE, and Essence magazines. And have been worn by numerous celebrities such as Ruby Dee, Jill Scott, Angie Stone, Camille Cosby, Sanaa Lathan, Whoopi Goldberg and socialites like yours truly!  😉

Saunter down to the 3rd Avenue YWCA to catch Kiini Ibura Jewelry along with 20 radically fabulous designers at the The Diaspora Artmart on March 26 and April 16 from 12 – 7. There will be live entertainment and plenty of hot fashions!

KAREN’S BODY BEAUTIFUL

Founded in 2004 by Karen Tappin, Karen’s Body Beautiful is a Brooklyn-based luxury beauty line and spa created to provide the purest, highest quality of all-natural products for the body. The brand boasts an extensive offering of natural, luxuriant, emollient-rich body products created for hair, body, face and bath time.

Comprised of all-natural ingredients such as shea butter, jojoba oil, aloe butter, olive oil and apricot kernel oil, the Karen’s Body Beautiful line is offered in 13 amazing fragrances and provides the very best in all-over body care for women, men and children. Karen’s Body Beautiful promotes the belief that the maintenance and celebration of the body translates to the elevation of the spirit.

CAKE JOY

CakeJoy is an upscale dessert lounge in Fort Greene Brooklyn that offers a wide variety of exotic cakes and cupcakes using both imported and domestic fruit and liqueurs.

Specialty treats like Mojito Cupcakes, Champagne Cupcakes and Piña Colada Cupcakes and our famous Red Velvet Cheesecake have become fan favorites.  In addition to these blissful desserts, CakeJoy offers Carrot Cake Cheesecake, Brownie Cheesecake, “The Cookie” and bite-size brownies that melt in your mouth.

FORT GREENE SNAP

The Fort Greene SNAP’s mission is to provide low and moderate income residents, in and near Fort Greene, access to gainful employment, further education, and quality health care by offering programs in technology, entrepreneurship and life skills.

♥♥♥

USE THE FORM BELOW TO ENTER THE DRAWING. PLEASE LIST YOUR ANSWERS IN PROPER ORDER ACCORDING TO THE QUESTIONS AND DOUBLE CHECK THEM BEFORE SUBMITTING. THERE ARE NO DO-OVERS!

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A MAN FROM ANOTHER LAND

 

I only became an actor to make the world fall in love with a dark skin man.”

-Isaiah Washington

 

Actor and Activist Isaiah Washington

Mention Isaiah Washington’s name and the immediate response is, “What’s he been doing since…?”  The “since” refers to the big pink elephant in the room also known as Grey’s Anatomy.  The “since” more specifically refers to him being “resigned” after three years on the Emmy Award-winning program.

It’s natural, really. There are innate misconceptions and assumptions that go along with being famous.  You lose a high-profile gig; people don’t see you for a while, so you must have faded off into a Hollywood sunset, right? Well, the Grey’s Anatomy drama is so last decade; it’s old school news. And Mr. Washington is brand new.

What has Isaiah been doing since…?  He’s been writing a book. He’s been carrying the torch of the Pan-African movement began by pioneers like W.E.B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X. He’s been unearthing his roots. He’s been busy realizing the Pan-Africanist dream of dual-citizenship by becoming a citizen of Sierra Leone in 2010, making him the first African-American to receive such an honor. He’s been making history. He’s been occupied with The Borgen Project, an organization dedicated to ending global poverty and his own non-profit, The Gondabay Manga Foundation, which aims to ameliorate living conditions for the people – his people – in Sierra Leone.  He’s been saving lives. And, oh yes, he’s been acting too…on his terms.  So Isaiah Washington has been doing his thing, thank you very much.

Isaiah took a few minutes out of his hosting duties at the L’Africana™ Night New York Fashion Week Finale Party Friday evening to speak with me about what he’s been doing since…

TL: How did your journey to Sierra Leone and your recently acquired citizenship come about?

IW: It started with W.E.B. DuBois. I’ve been reading Marcus Garvey, Martin Delaney,

Marcus Garvey

Martin Luther King, Jr., Kwame Nkrumah…this is not new; everyone has been trying to accomplish what I’ve been able to achieve through the blessings of a higher being, the ancestors and the aligning of the stars and the Universe and the timing.  So what I’ve been able to accomplish is public, but its not new.

 

Isaiah Shows Off His Sierra Leone Passport. Photo Courtesy of Sierra Express Media

I carry this passport with pride, but at the same time it’s a bit melancholy that those individuals took their whole lives and some lived in exile trying to achieve what I was able to achieve recently.  Some would say its because I’m a celebrity, some would say its just my time, some would say because I’ve worked hard and I’ve earned it. I would say its just time.

TL: Time for what exactly?

IW: Time for us, particularly our community, to look to the Continent and reach back in order to give back.  Because the thing that’s so painful for me is when something like Hurricane Katrina happens everybody gets upset because they don’t think that Michael Jackson when he was alive, Bill Cosby or Oprah Winfrey or Michael Jordan, or Earl Graves or Magic Johnson or Shaq O’Neal, they don’t think they are doing enough to help our people.  You know what? That’s not fair. These individuals like Oprah have worked hard for their affluence; they’ve worked hard for their wealth so it is really up to us. Like President Obama said, “If you want change we have to participate.”

Isaiah Delivering Citizenship Acceptance Speech

And the one way that I was thinking of doing that, “What if I use myself as a guinea pig to say that I’m going to give to a particular community, actually increase sustainability there, actually connect with them through my DNA and actually show them humbly that I want to be a part of the culture, I wanna reverse this Middle Passage.  Take my time – the last five years I’ve been doing it – make it work, then get the attention of the world and then branch out from there because you can’t move forward if something is not working.

I’ve gotten pretty far. I’ve got a lot of neighbors and friends in Liberia and now Guinea, people that are supporting this concept, which is a very old one, that it would behoove African-Americans to reach back to the Continent. We are the only ones, the only people, the only community on this North American soil that does not have a country that we are attached to. Even the President has Kenya; he has a country that he’s attached to. We’re the only ones that do not. So that’s it in a nutshell – getting our people to understand why it’s important for us to connect with the Continent.

TL: Why is it so important?

One because of the resources. One because of the innovation that we already have. We have all of these PhDs and high unemployment. So lets take all of that talent and that expertise and go back [to Africa] humbly and say, “Brothers, sisters, we don’t speak the same language, we haven’t in 400 years but there’s enough of us to come together as one big united nation and make something happen and have ownership.”

With me being a citizen of Sierra Leone I can own land and put on 99-year leases on any corporation or company that wants to come and do business.  To me it’s like a no-brainer. I’ve been thinking like this for years and I couldn’t understand why other people were not excited about it.  But hopefully they’re excited about it now.

TL: Scripture says there is a time, and a season for every activity under heaven.

IW: Absolutely.

TL: How significant was your exit from Grey’s Anatomy to your journey?

Isaiah Washington on Grey's Anatomy Set

IW: Everything happens in trinity. I left in exactly 3 years. God, Father and the Holy Ghost.  I did what I was supposed to do on that show; I made Black beautiful, intelligent, sexy, some people say. So I was done.  I’m a Pan-Africanist; I only became an actor to make the world fall in love with a dark skin man. And because I didn’t see…God bless Billy Dee and Terrance Howard, Will Smith, but they don’t look like me and Djimon Hounsou.  You see what I’m saying?  That was always at the front of my mind and in our community for years. So when I experienced racism in our own community at Howard University; that pissed me off. I said they are treating me like I have to take a paper bag test and I want to join a fraternity. That’s crazy!

I said I’m gonna take the next ten years and go about the business of becoming an influence in this industry. So when I did that, however I made my exit, I didn’t leave it. My talent is still my talent, but its time for me to go back to my original concept. And my original concept is how can I move those stereotypes, challenge those stereotypes and show the world that we are intelligent, we’re sexy, we’re lovable, we’re complex and yes we’re filled with contradictions, but we’re also beautiful. And we’re not all thugs, we’re not all cheating on our wives, our girlfriends and we’re not doing all these things.

TL: Do you believe that timing of your personal “Back to Africa” crusade has been or will be questioned?

IW: I’ve always been about the Continent since I was nine years old.  My book [A Man From Another Land] is really gonna galvanize that concept because people say, “Oh it didn’t work out on Grey so now he’s all about Africa.”  Nah, it’s not that way.  I’ve been dealing with this since the apartheid movement when I was the only one marching at Howard University; no one was interested. Everyone was trying to go to all the parties. And I was like, “Yo, lets go Soweto, let’s go march.” I’ve always been my book, “A Man From Another Land”, I’ve been a bit of an aardvark, and I’ve always marched to the beat of a different drum so to speak. But boy and I glad I did.

TL: What is your favorite movie line from your body of work?

IW: Love can be a motherfucker. (laughs)

TL: You know what my favorite is?

IW: What’s that?

TL: Let me break it down…[Isaiah chimes in], so it can forever and consistently be broke!

Isaiah Heading to the L'Africana Night After Party

 

IW: I made that up and they let me get away with it.  But that’s my saying. Yeah, let me break it down so it can forever be broke. That’s what I’m about.  We don’t have to remediate the past, to get the future right.

♣♣♣

Isaiah Washington will definitely break it down for you! I overheard a reporter at L’Africana™ Night ask him for his Oscar predictions.  He simply replied, I have no idea who’s at the Oscars. I have no idea who’s nominated.  If you want to ask me about Liberia and Guinea and Sierra Leone I can talk forever about it. But whoever it is and whatever their doing up their in Hollywood, God Bless ‘em. Poor thing; I guess she didn’t get the memo.

Talking to Isaiah is like talking to your really intensely smart and deeply impassioned friend – you can’t help but learn something or build on what you already know.  When you hear someone ask, “What has Isaiah Washington been doing since…?”  Make sure you break it down and tell them “a lot”!

Isaiah Washington’s book, A Man From Another Land, will be released on April 27th, the day of Sierra Leone’s 50th celebration, but you can pre-order it now.  And if you’re aching to see him light up the screen again, catch him on an upcoming episode of Law & Order: Los Angeles.

♥♥ Thanks to Lavaille Lavette and Adrienne Ingrum for their support in making this interview happen!

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If You Ain’t Got Nothing Good To Say…

Raise your hand if your Mama or your Mama’s Mama ever said, “If you ain’t got nothing good to say don’t say nothing at all.”  Well, it’s been an interesting week of socialiting thus far.

Photographer Nicholas Small put me on to a neo rock group, The Crisis Team.  I listened to some of their songs, liked them and was excited to see their concert at Crash Mansion on Tuesday evening. As always I rsvp’d & received a confirmation. Um,yeah. Showed up at Crash Mansion all bright-eyed and was met with, “They are not on the list for tonight.  They cancelled.”

“If you ain’t got nothing good to say…”

Greenhouse Lounge

An emerging and pretty high-in-demand stylist, Steven Styles Cobb, invited me to a fashion show/after party at the trendy celebrity-magnet Greenhouse Thursday night. It was for the Rosa Pusher womenswear line.  The after party was to be hosted by self-made socialite Devorah Rose. Devorah is all plugged in to the Hampton’s scene and for some reason she keeps popping up in my web surfing, so I thought perhaps I’m supposed to meet this person.  Sounds like the recipe for a fun evening, right?

Yes, I rsvp’d and yes I received a confirmation. The phantom fashion show was to start at 7. Um, yeah. I arrived a little after that time and was greeted by locked doors. Called the lounge and was told that the show was really starting at 11.

“If you ain’t got nothing good to say…”

Nicholas, who came along to snap pictures, mentioned another fashion show for an up and coming designer that was to begin at 7 in the East Village.  I LOVE the Lower East Side, so I was all for it. The show was being held at La Vie, an ultra hip spot where taking a toke on a hookah is encouraged…if that’s your thing.  The ambiance is trés magnifique! Beautiful chandeliers, nice cushy seating and a great bathroom (that is key.)

I met the designer, Tapti Tapan of Soul by Tapti Tapan; we chatted a bit and I waited for the show to start.  The models didn’t hit the ‘runway’ until a couple of hours later.  Patience is not normally a strong suit for me, but I maintained. My Grandma would be proud.

Designer Tapti Tapan & Model

Tapti worked in the industry for over 9 years, before deciding to branch out alone. This is only her second solo show.  Prior to launching her womenswear collection she sold a line of gorgeous lampshades to the uber chic ABC Home & Carpet where you can blow rent money on a candle purchase. Tapti says her new collection is designed for the comfort of any woman and is inspired by “the waves of the ocean.”

Nature’s influence is definitely apparent as she used lots of color in the collection along with long airy skirts.  My favorite piece was a yellow tank top paired with a long flowing skirt that resembled a light-textured denim. The look was finished with a real cotton belt. Super cute.

Met a new homie, aspiring fashion coordinator and super fashionista Maria Bryant.  Miss B. was dipped in a black vintage blazer with red buttons, red, black and white plaid mini, super cute black tights w/bowtie & crisscross patterns and a pair of hot black metallic Carlos Santana pumps.  To quote Maria she was rocking the “throwback classy” look.  You can catch this fashionista-on-the-rise in the February issued of Essence in the “Street Style” section or follow her stylish musings on Twitter @MisMariaB.

As for my gear…I wore my absolute favorite article of clothing, a long black vinyl/leather skirt from Exodus by Jon Berry. I paired it with a really funky gold metallic tank provided by the Mess Queen, who specializes in snazzy “leggingz”.  Thanks Courtney!

Jewelry designer Ayaka Nishi benevolently entrusted me with her uniquely exquisite creations, which pay complete homage to earth and its wonderful creatures. I was honored to be the first person to wear the  lava,  brass & leather Fish Scales Necklace.  Ayaka had just finished making the piece when I walked into her East Village studio and she allowed me to christen it.  Awww shucks! The work of art was partnered with a pair of gold/diamond bubble earrings, gold and gunmetal bangles and sea urchin ring.

Tracee Loran featuring Ayaka Nishi Jewelry

Ayaka’s work has been featured in Vogue and ELLE and various fashion shows. Seems I have something in common with Miss Willow Smith. Jada & Will’s little starlet also pulled (borrowed for laymen) a few pieces from Ayaka’s collection for a new video shoot.  Yes I said new video! So I haven’t figured out if it’s a good thing that I have the same taste as a ten-year old miniature diva. Hmm?

After Tapti’s presentation I headed back over to the Greenhouse to see if this

Willow Smith

phantom fashion show had begun.  Guess what? This show was nowhere to be found. Big surprise there.  To top it off I was hassled by clichéd velvet rope security.  Apparently the owner/manager or whoever he is was falsely led to believe that he walks on water and is the most important person in NYC. We all know that title belongs to Puffy, right. 😉

“It you ain’t got nothing good to say…”

Yeah, pretty interesting week indeed.  But Friday night promises to be smashing! Until then…stay radically fabulous.

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LIBERIA’S ANGEL – PART DEUX

 

Humanitarian MacDella Cooper

Sunday I introduced you to a person who Maya Angelou would call a “Phenomenal Woman.” MacDella Cooper is a philanthropist, activist, humanitarian, fashionista and proud Liberian.  Fortunately, she carved a few minutes out of her hectic schedule to speak with me about her life and life’s mission. In case you missed Part I of the interview I’ll give you the Cliff’s Notes version.

MacDella Cooper was born in Monrovia, Liberia in the late ‘70s. War erupted when she was 12; her father was killed, her family’s home was bombed and she had to flee the country.  Moved to the States, became successful in the fashion industry. Left an exciting job in the fashion industry in ‘04 to start a non-profit organization, the MacDella Cooper Foundation, aimed to educate orphaned Liberian children.  Six years later the first students were accepted to the MacDella Cooper Foundation Academy in Charlesville, Liberia.  MacDella and friends are hosting a benefit next Friday, L’Africana Night, to showcase African artists, designers and musicians.  The event will definitely be Page Six & The Socialite Design news, so you should get your ticket today! All proceeds will benefit the MCF Academy. And now for Part Deux…

After experiencing such strife and escaping a harrowing situation, many people try desperately to forget their past.  Why is it so important for you to remember?

Because my past made me everything I am and where I’m going. So trying to get away from my past would be

Liberia Ravaged by Civil War

tragic. My past created MacDella Cooper.  There is no MacDella Cooper without the civil war, without the African, being born in Africa. I have no power in me to create something that’s fake and phony, to create another character, another MacDella Cooper.  So I’ve accepted everything that’s happened from the war, to losing my father, to losing all the riches we had, to living in the projects in Newark, New Jersey. That’s all part of the structure of who MacDella Cooper is. And I’m sorry to keep talking about myself in third person. But I can try to create this MacDella Cooper who’s this glamore queen, who’s this fashion person and now is doing good and leave the past out, but it just doesn’t make sense.  I can only sell that but for so long and eventually it would get old and boring.  But accepting my past, accepting what happened and knowing that there were things that shouldn’t have happened, it helps me grow.

When I talk to these young children that I talk to today and the ones we have in the school, the knowledge that I have to share with them, I only have that knowledge because of the experiences I’ve had.  So I can tell them today war is not a solution, war hurts people, war destroys families…if I didn’t have those experiences or the past that I had there would be nothing I could tell them about that topic.

I know the Academy is a big part of your Foundation.  How did it come to fruition?

They, Too, Can Be President!

We were in Liberia for so long helping children, helping people rebuild their lives, we just knew this country couldn’t go further or this country couldn’t advance without education.  And we have the first female president [Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf] on the entire continent of Africa and she’s struggling to find good people to run her government.  Because you have a small country of 3 million people, 85% maybe below the poverty line, the illiteracy is sort of high.  I thought she’s having a hard time today.  Imagine 85% of 3 million people unemployed; they cannot afford to send their children to school.  That’s going to be a huge issue tomorrow, it’s going to be worse.

If you have uneducated people running your government, it just doesn’t work…across the board it just doesn’t work.  So the fear of knowing that the next generation didn’t have a chance or that there will be a lost generation really inspired us to focus on education and just educating children. So maybe not my generation in Liberia now, but the one after will have at least a handful of people who can help the country, help the government. They can have enough people in government who are educated enough to say “This is the right way for things. War is not the solution.”  It’s tiring, old; everyone wants to use war and violence as a solution for everything.  And when you’re educated you don’t go down that route.

Can't Learn on an Empty Stomach!

When you came up with the idea to build the Academy how long did it take from inception to finished product?

It took a year.  Just a year. We were determined.  That’s usually [the case] with me; when I set my mind on doing something, it has to be done.  [Note: MCF raised over a million dollars in one year to build MCF Academy.]

What would you like for people to know about your country and the children you tirelessly advocate for?

The children are different there. All they want is an opportunity. They never ask us for the latest Jordans or Nikes.  When you meet them they are so gracious; they are so appreciative.  If you ask them, “What do you want?”  They would just say, “I want to go to school. I want to learn something. I want to be somebody.”  And those are words that usually don’t come out of children’s mouths. The kids that we work with are just so grateful.

What has been the global response to your efforts?

Looking Up To Destiny

It has been great.  People are very excited, that’s why they come on board. I have some amazing friends. That’s why when people talk about the MacDella Cooper Foundation it’s more than MacDella Cooper, because without my amazing friends this work would not have been where it is.  For example this fashion week event [L’Africana Night] we’re doing, I just met some new friends who just came on board and took over

Liberia's Future!

the project as if it was theirs.

You just really realize the power of people and this is what the work has really shown me that there are great people.  That when you establish something great, it draws great people. People ask how much I need to run the project and they just write a check for X, Y, Z.  That’s how we were able to build a school in one year.  It’s almost impossible.  People just keep asking me, “How in the world did you build a school in one year?!”  And I say “Oh well, I was determined and I had great friends who wrote checks and great friends who traveled to Liberia when I couldn’t go.”   So it’s really just more than me. And I strongly believe that the cause will continue to go on with or without my presence because there are so many people who believe in helping these kids just like I do.

What has been the most gratifying thing in this entire process for you?

Seeing one of our first students graduate from college with the highest level degree in his University. A kid whose

I Am Liberia

mother makes $60 a month – she has four kids and is raising them on $60 a month – going to the equivalent of Harvard in Liberia. Seeing him coming to us in 2006 just asking for help saying, “I just want to go to college.”  We paid his tuition, which is $3,000 US a year and he did it in 3 years. I was just so proud and thought if we could get more of that kind [of success] we’re definitely going in the right direction.  That to me was exciting.

It sounds like everything has been great, but surely there have been obstacles?

There are always obstacles.  But just knowing that the work is going to continue beyond MacDella Cooper puts me at ease knowing that these kids are going to have the opportunity to be heard.  So when obstacles come up, for example we recently had our website hacked into, someone was trying to destroy the website. And one person started a rumor that we were trafficking children, that we were building the Academy to take kids and sell them to another country. People just say crazy things. But those things are just so below me really because I have my focus, I have my purpose and I know my purpose is going to be accomplished. [Negative] things I know are not going to hinder anything I do, so I don’t even pay attention to it.  In everything good you do, there will be obstacles, there will be problems, there will be negative people coming around but I’m not bothered by any of those things really.

Talk about L’Africana Night and how the event was born.

Ford Model Millen Magese

Just as much as we are all about helping kids and giving them a hand to pull them out of the gutter and point them in the right direction, when I travel to the continent of Africa I see so many great artists and musicians. And when I go to a shop, I’ll have a woman make me a dress.  When I come back to the U.S. sometimes I wear these dresses on the Red Carpet to an event and my friends…just went crazy over these little dresses. And I said, “Wow if my friends in New York who are so accustomed to couture fashion are so interested in this dress that this woman made, this woman deserves a platform.”

If I can have her bring light to what she does, she can in turn take care of her own kids so MCF does not have to do that.  So the creation of L’Africana is that very thing; giving artists, designers, craft-makers a platform to show their work to an audience they wouldn’t otherwise have access to.

How significant has your family’s move to the U.S. been in your journey?

This country is so great. I couldn’t have been what I’ve become in any other country other than this country.  I don’t know where I could have gone to accomplish the level of success.  Not saying that I’m successful in any way.

Model Brianna Michelle

♥♥♥

Of course, she’s successful!  But humility is sewn into the fabric of MacDella Cooper.   It’s a quality that was handed down from her strong Mother and spiritually rooted Grandmother. We need more MacDella Coopers in the world and maybe just maybe it would be a better place.

If you’re in New York City and would love to attend the spectacular L’Africana Night, you can purchase tickets here.  Or if you’re elsewhere on planet earth and would like to sponsor a ticket purchase for another person, drop me a line below .

Lastly, if you feel inspired by MacDella Cooper’s story, go ahead and do something great for someone today. Then tell me about it, so I can share your kindness with the world!

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LIBERIA’S ANGEL

 

Humanitarian MacDella Cooper

In a society that’s saturated with people who are self-absorbed, self-serving and obsessively materialistic, it’s rare to find a person who would leave an exciting  & lucrative job to help complete strangers.  But that’s exactly what MacDella Cooper did when she vacated her Marketing and Events Coordinator position at Jones Apparel Group to start a non-profit organization, which endeavors to educate orphaned and abandoned children in her homeland of Liberia.  Sounds crazy, huh? Wait, before you raise eyebrows and say, “Why on earth would she do that?!” You must hear the whole story or at least enough of the story to give you an idea of exactly what kind of woman we’re dealing with.

In 1977 MacDella Cooper was born into a prominent family in Monrovia, Liberia.  No doubt she entered the world with all of the promise and dreams of a newborn babe. But 12 years later, Cooper found herself in the throes of a vicious civil war that would take the life of her father, strip her of her home and force her to flee her native land.   She and her family first sought refuge in a neighboring country before eventually settling in the United States.  That was in 1993. Now 18 years later MacDella is tirelessly and selflessly working on behalf of children in Liberia who explicably remind her of herself.

The MacDella Cooper Foundation was formed in 2004 with a solid purpose – to feed and educate Liberia’s forgotten children. For the past seven years the organization has done that very thing by paying the tuition for, feeding and clothing countless African youth. In 2010, the manifestation of the MCF mission became even more profound when MacDella Cooper Foundation Academy opened its doors in Charlesville, Liberia.

MacDella Cooper Foundation Academy - Charlesville, Liberia

Because of her dogged humanitarian efforts, Cooper has deservedly earned the title “Liberia’s Angel.”    Next Friday this Angel, along with her stellar MCF team and many celebrity friends, is hosting L’Africana Night, an event established to honor and promote African fashion, art, music, culture and cuisine.  All proceeds will benefit the MCF Academy. I can’ wait!

MacDella took a break from event preparation to have a phone chat with me.  Rather than give you a word-of-mouth version of her story, I thought it best that she deliver it herself.  This is the first of a two-part series, because someone this phenomenal has earned it.

What was life like growing up in Liberia?

From 1980-89 we lived a normal life, we went to private school. My father ran a division of the United Nations, the Refugees Division. And we were around an international crowd…they came from the Middle East and all parts of Africa.  Life was normal, we had great friends; we had a great home.  I’m one amongst 5 brothers, so everything seemed normal until 1989 when rumors of war started floating around.

The National Patriotic Force of Liberia (NPFL) — the rebel forces in the country's brutal civil war — left their mark on news organization buildings they destroyed. Photo by Gregory Stemn.

There had been several attempts for civil war but nothing came to pass. Everybody thought there was just another rumor that was circulating.  But by 1990 the war really got in full gear, my stepfather was killed, we had to leave the country, my mother was on vacation in the U.S. Life changed forever.  Our home was taken away, it was actually burned; a bomb fell on our home. It was just one thing after another.  We escaped to a bordering country and spent 2 1/2 years there, came to the U.S. and really tried to live a normal life.

How did you adjust to life living in the United States?

Of course when you live in Africa you have a different notion of America.  You think that everyone has a big white house with a picket fence. So when we came here…we came to a totally different world, because we ended up living in the projects in New Jersey and I thought, “Where is the big white house? What is this thing called the ghetto? This is not the America I signed up for.  Can I go back to Africa?”

You had to keep going.  You didn’t have time to turn around or look back or regret.  You just had to keep going, so

Housing Project - Newark, NJ

we made the adjustment.   My Mom is a very strong woman; she just constantly encouraged us, “You gotta do your best, gotta do your best, gotta do your best. This country has everything. If you want to become successful everything that will help you become successful is available to you; you just have to seek after it.”  And so we did.  There were 8 of us living in a 2-bedroom apartment. My Mom worked crazy hours, but you had to make do.  That reality really inspired all of us, my siblings and I to really focus on school and education and so that’s what we did.

I got a full scholarship to the College of New Jersey.  It was great. It was four years. That was a major culture shock to me because there were these normal kids who were living normal lives with two parents.  And I sort of have a little regret of what had just happened to me.  The situation of the war started facing me and I felt, “Wow, why did all these bad things happen?”  But it was my first time realizing that what had happened in the war was not normal.  But thank God my Grandmother instilled a strong belief of Jesus Christ in me at an early age of my life. I just always had faith knowing God will take care of the rest and He has a purpose for everything.

How did you get into modeling?

MacDella Cooper

I was so skinny.  I used to joke that I was refugee thin when I came from Africa just from having one meal a day everyday for a couple of years.  Photographers [said], “Oh wow, you have the look that we’re looking for.”  And I thought, “What are you talking about?”  I never considered myself to ever be a model. I did a lot of print work and I was constantly asked to do things here or there and it was fun.

The crazy part is they were willing to pay me for those jobs but I would have done that for free. For a young gal like me it was just a thrill to see how much you could do in this country. I was just so excited about that. If you’re really determined to make something of yourself like my Mother said everything was available to you and I really took advantage of that.

How did you transition from modeling to being in a different capacity in the industry?

I never wanted to be a model. I never considered myself to be one. I work with models now and these girls are

Africa's First Elected Female Prez, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

amazing. They’re everything a model should be and I never considered myself that.  But my interest was always to be more on the production side of things and the corporate side of things.  So I went for an interview at Ralph Lauren and I got the job.  And I just like PR and I like events and production.  That’s why I transferred.

The people at Ralph were great. We got along very well, so I took the job and it was exactly what I wanted to do.  But then something else stole my interest.  As soon as Liberia elected a first female president [Ellen Johnson Sirleaf], since the country was safe to go back to I went there and visited and saw the need. And so we started an organization to help children, to help people in Liberia.  And that’s how MacDella Cooper Foundation was birthed.

Was the decision to leave a job that you obviously enjoyed a tough decision?

No.  It wasn’t a tough decision for me because I had spent a lot of time in the [fashion] industry.  I did what I wanted to do, I saw enough. I saw…how can I put it?  My industry is not so great sometimes.  I saw a need for me to do more. I saw my people struggling and I was living a fabulous life in New York City, a jet-setting life, traveling the world and being fabulous. But there was something in my heart that, ok these kids are you, you were them, you could have been any of those kids and here they are suffering.  So it wasn’t a hard decision at all because I knew [what was] involved in the fashion world, so I didn’t have any fear.  But I knew I needed to help the people in Liberia. I knew I needed to help the children.  I couldn’t help the entire country, but I definitely could help.

Some people would say you’re crazy for leaving an exciting  job to start a non-profit.  What would you say to those people?

I always believed my life had a purpose or a reason. And as much as I loved the fashion world and it was everything I wanted to do and I was so excited about it, I knew that the fashion world would not satisfy that purpose that I felt was my life calling.  And I tell you today I look back and I would do it again.  Everyone is different.  I never thought of myself as being the director of a fashion company or the CEO of a fashion company, but I knew that I had been blessed.  I had been extremely blessed to have gotten out of the civil war. There are a lot of young girls my age who were raped, who were murdered or who just came out of the war with a major scar.  I came out of the war with nothing.

I managed to come to this country, to this great nation and was given so much.  I knew at the end of the road there was a fork and

MCF Academy Pupil

there were two directions I could have gone into – to serve myself or to serve others.  And I’m more of a serve others sort of person. So the fashion world I felt like I had served myself enough. And although when I started the not-for-profit it was in a time when it wasn’t the cool thing to do.

So what would I say to a person with a question of why would you start a not-for-profit?  I cannot explain the joy I have gotten out of changing the lives or direction of young children.   When I came out of the civil war I needed help and there were so many people who helped me to get me to where I am. And I felt it was my time to go back and help others just as I was helped.  So the satisfaction I get from the work I do, there is nothing about the fashion world that can replace that.

Earlier you spoke about your life’s purpose. What exactly is it?

My purpose is to serve others using the talents and resourses that God has blessed me with, with the hope of one day raising up African leaders with servants hearts.

♥♥♥

L'Africana Night Featuring Supermodel Georgie Badiel

MacDella Cooper is indeed living out that purpose.  Please check back tomorrow for part two of this compelling interview.  In the meantime, take a virtual trip to MCF to learn more about the exciting L’Africana Night New York Fashion Week Finale Party. Actor and activist Isaiah Washington is set to host the event. He’ll be joined by Matt Dillon, singer Zelma Davis, Project Runway Runner-Up Korto Momolu (She was robbed!), current catwalk divas and many significant luminaries. Tickets are still available. Believe me, you don’t want to be left out! But if for some strange reason you happen to miss this magnificent affair, you know I’ll be here to tell you all about it.  🙂

 

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DJ SPINNA BORNDAY SOIRÉE

 

DJ Spinna

Last Saturday night, I found myself in Soho at the Santos Party House celebrating the birthday of good friend and turntable assassin DJ Spinna.  This world-renowned mixologist and music producer has a record collection that would make Quincy Jones weep and boasts a serious fan-base in places like London, Paris and Tokyo.  He has collaborated with many major artists including Eminem, Stevie Wonder, Mos Def and jazz great Roy Ayers.

L - R: Tracee Loran, Marj Petion, Keita Petion-Williams

Along with his wife and my close, close homie, Keita Petion-Williams  (aka Kee-Ah-Tah aka The Mayor of Brooklyn) of KeiStar Productions, Spinna throws the hottest parties in New Yawk City! If you are not on the KeiStar invite list you are most definitely missing out.  This multi-hyphenated duo doesn’t just give a party; they host an experience!  Their theme-based events “Soul Slam: Prince vs. Michael Jackson”, and “WONDER-Full: Tribute To The Genius of Stevie Wonder” are legendary and have been frequented by many A-list entertainers such as Stevie Wonder, Spike Lee, Rosario Dawson, Judah Friedlander, Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi, Mos Def, R&B crooner Maxwell, Sean “P-Diddy” Combs and the Olsen Twins.

Big shout to my Gurl, fellow April Baby and P.I.C. for many KeiStar events, Marj ‘aka Lula aka The Sarge’ Petion.  We perfected our fist-pumping moves and are def ready to go to “Jersey Shore, bee-yatch!” Watch out, Snooki.

Spinna and his co-conspirators, DJ Scratch and Kenny Dope certainly didn’t disappoint as they spun a funky mix of classic hip-hop & soul, deep house and contemporary hits.  The energy was good, the music was hot and the night was a blast!

Stayin' Alive!

Photographer Nicholas Small came through to capture all of that goodness, and he didn’t miss a beat.  He immortalized much of the essence that blankets a KeiStar production.  If you don’t believe me just look to your left and right.

Mama Say, Mama Sa...

To help select a wardrobe for the evening, I enlisted the assistance of up and coming stylist Scot Louie whose client list includes Danielle Staub of Real Housewives of New Jersey fame and new docu-series Social.  I kept it simple donning a black

Oh You Fancy, Huh?

tie-neck blouse, pair of skinny jeans and black studded flats.  Despite the party “heat” I maintained my cool and exited the soiree with my gear in tact! And I managed to “find” some cash when two party animals offered me forty bucks to babysit their coats. Ahhh, I NY!  Don’t hate, socialites need cash too. 😉

Do yourself a favor, go to Amazon right now and add some DJ Spinna joints to your cart (one of my fav Spinna records is “Boogie-Back: Post Disco Club Jams”). Then finagle your way onto the KeiStar Productions invite list.  All the cool people do it.  Maybe, just maybe, I’ll see you at the next experience.

Mercedes Benz Fashion Week begins next Thursday and my calendar is already full! You don’t wanna miss out on my exploits, so make sure you click the “Sign me up!” button in the upper right hand corner to follow along. Until the next party, stay radically fabulous…

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Getting Back to Me

 

Norwood Young

My second night out on the town took me to the UWS for a book launch party at R&B legends Ashford & Simpson’s hotspot, Sugar Bar.  The memoir, ‘Getting Back to Me’, chronicles the escapades of Norwood Young, infamous Hollywood socialite and former lead singer of the jazz group, Pieces of a Dream. I knew the night was gonna to be delish when I spotted Sir Norwood gliding down 72nd Street in a white floor length fur coat.  Divo! But I’m not mad because if you can’t make a grand entrance you might as well not make one at all. Play on, Playa (just don’t let PETA know where you live cuz they will stab a homeless man to save a rat!)

In his salacious book, Young addresses his past addictions to

Norwood Young & Tracee Loran

drugs and plastic surgery; the sexual abuse inflicted by his cousin; his time spent in jail; his association with Wendy Williams, and the demise of his friendship with Karinne “Superhead” Steffans.  In case you’ve been living under a rock or in Vermont, Karrine is a former music video girl who penned a tell-all book, ‘Confessions of a Video Vixen’, which depicts her sexual exploits and alleged trysts with many famous rappers and actors.  According to Young, he befriended Steffans and she reciprocated his benevolence by stabbing him in the back. Hmm, this book has the makings of a…reality show. Well, Norwood did appear on E! docu-series Maintenance 90210. If you want to know more scrumptious deets about his ‘Young’ life, you have to scoop Norwood’s book, ‘Getting Back to Me.’

Tracee Loran

With all of this juicy divoness I was sure to have a Red Carpet moment so I had to look just right.  I selected one of my favorite dresses, a long denim number from Exodus by Jon Berry.  Oh how I miss Jon in Brooklyn. Jon, come back!  His designs are made just for me.  To complement the dress I wore a gold belt that cinches in the waist, because the waist can NEVER be too small, right ladies? The gold vintage purse I clutched all night once belonged to my Grandmother (every time I visit I return with a gem.)   The ensemble was topped off with a pair of tall leather mahogany boots and a  stunning necklace that I found for a steal (it garnered lots of attention.)  (Have you noticed that I love to be parenthetical?)

To document the event with wonderful photos, emerging fashion photographer Patrick Brassard came along for the ride.  Patrick, who can easily be confused

Brandon Davis & Tracee Loran

for a Calvin Klein model himself, is a star on the rise with a portfolio that includes The Hills starlet & author Lauren Conrad and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (Ok, she’s not exactly a model, but I’m sure she’s dreamed of it).  Patrick works under the tutelage of renowned photographer Sante D’Orazoi who’s shot every major supermodel and celebrity in the world for popular publications like Vogue, Vanity, and GQ.  So yes, Mr. Brassard is definitely one to watch.

Tracee Loran & Publicist Andy Diaz

Also, snapping pix was Queens-based photographer Nicholas Small. Nicholas has ill skills, a good eye and a steady shot!  Unfortunately, he was hampered by the guest-list nazi and

Tracee Loran & Monroe Shannon

missed much of the evening.  But he eventually managed to get in and grabbed a couple of good shots.  Worry not,  more of Nicholas’ work will grace these pages in the near future!

Ahh, my Red Carpet moment arrived and it was as yummy as my Mother’s Snow on the Mountain Cake! Snap, snap. Flash, flash. “Tracee over here,” “Look here.”  And I made it into the Associated Press photo archives. Oh my, I’m weary from all of the media attention (said while patting my forehead, of course.)

Before I leave you, I must send a shout to all of the radically fabulous people I met at the party; Andy Diaz of Cobalt

Model/Boxer Ngo Okafur

Public Relations; Monroe Shannon, a cool brother rocking a super fresh tee;  Steven Styles, a stylist who won my vote for Best Dressed of the night hands down; Hottie Brandon Davis and Model/Boxer Ngo Okafor, who seemed to be annoyed by my sarcastic humor. Ahem, I learned some moves from watching Rocky (my FAV movie) so a sistah was ready to duck the left hook & then counter punch. 😉

Stacey Holman & Tracee Loran

That’s it for now Dudes and Dames.  The party continues…

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A Socialite is Born in Brooklyn

It all started with a simple photograph project.  For several years I had been promising my lovely Grandmother that I would organize the hundreds and hundreds and thousands of photos that she’d collected over the past 8 decades.  The albums that housed the pictures were ratty and old; the pix were spilling out and many of them were just thrown in without a real purpose. There was no method to the madness!

So finally during my vacation this past Christmas (my Grandmother lives in Mississippi, my fav place on the planet.) I got busy.  I had NO idea what I was getting myself into.  My Grandmother had way more pictures than I could have imagined!  Photos were, in the immortal words of R. Kelly, “coming out of the Woolworth!”  She had boxes of them! I was working 12-hour days into the wee hours of the morning to complete the task.  It seemed like I would never finish. But after four long days and over 60 hours, I finally crossed the finish line!  The result was eight full photo albums of glorious history. (There is still a box left, but I will get to those…one day).

My Grandmother the Foxy Socialite

As I started looking through the books to admire my handy work, I had an “aha” moment.  I realized that my Grandmother and her Sex and the City clique were super hot; they were real socialites. When they stepped out on the town (which was all the time) they always looked like a page straight outta Vogue.   “Goodness,” I thought to myself, “my generation in comparison…we are bums and boring.  No class!”

I called my dear BFF Alicia to share this epiphany.   She co-signed my sentiments, “We are bums! “ We decided that we would do something about it.  We would play dress-up and hit the streets as much as possible.  The only catch is Alicia is located in Charlotte, North Carolina and I’m in New York.  So we agreed to take pictures of our individual experiences and share them.

But as I kept thinking about it, I decided that I wanted to take it a step further.   Once I returned to New York City, things would be different.  I was going to start living the life of a “socialite.”  I would transform into a fashionista and attend every gala, film premiere, fashion show, launch party, book signing, charity function and art opening that I could sashay into, and document the experience! But I didn’t want to set out on this fabulous mission alone. So I reached out to my single NYC friends, Nadia Vassell, a Celebrity Hairstylist who boasts Chrisette Michele and One Life to Live starlet Tika Sumpter as clients; Michelle Stoddart, Director of Tourism for Queens, NY and Stacey Holman, award-winning Director and Producer (Freedom Riders, Dressed Like Kings).  They were all on board.

Lady in Red

This project began to take on a whole new life (that usually happens with me).  How in the world could we be fabulous and take our own photos? Socialites don’t do that.  So I put an ad on Craigslist seeking up and coming photographers who were willing to accompany us to these events and snap away.  I received some great responses and the photographers were set.

But then Nadia says, “What about a stylist and designers?  If we’re going to have our pictures taken we MUST look good!”  Ah, she was right.  So I turned to Craigslist once again for aspiring stylists and emerging designers. Again, I received some good responses. I LOVE CL!

My Aunt Ann & Grandma

The entire team has been cemented, so I’m ready to roll! This blog will focus on my year of living the life of a socialite; who I’m wearing, where I’m going and the many wonderful people I encounter along the way.  Never wanting anything to be just about me, I will showcase emerging artists of fashion, art, photography, film and music.  It is my sincere desire for my sojourn to lead to an opened door for many.

I invite you to take this journey with me; click on the “Sign me up!” button in the upper right hand side.  If you have some extraordinary events that you think I should attend, drop me a line. Together, we can paint the town and be radically fabulous!

Aunt Ann, Uncle Timmy & Grandmother Take Manhattan

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Hello World!

Welcome to my blogosphere!  Juicy musings are coming soon.  Until then, be radically fabulous!

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