June 17th, 2015
It has been sizzling here in Los Angeles, but as tempted as I am to bake in the sun to add some color to my white/yellow legs, I know that it’s not the smart thing to do. I’ve been pretty good about applying sunscreen and using makeup with SPF now for several years. I never wanted premature wrinkles. I’m going to get them anyway so I don’t see the rush in making them happen any sooner, do you? Second, I don’t want skin cancer.
Alright. I know what you’re thinking. Shouldn’t my list be the other way around? How vain am I? Wrinkles over cancer? Well, let me explain.
Like many Latinas and women of color, the belief was that we won’t suffer the consequences of sunbathing because we had good ole melanin to protect us from the sun’s evil rays. Having that myth nicely embedded into my brain, my only reason for applying sunscreen was for anti-aging purposes … Because somehow I did not make the connection that if the sun can wrinkle my skin, it can harm it as well (??).
Whatever the reason, I will say that I’m thankful for the younger, vainer me because – no matter what – I still used that sunscreen daily. According to the Melanoma Research Alliance, Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, which is really enough reason to avoid tanning beds and sunbathing as far as I’ concerned. Once you’re in your 40s, your life-long self-care habits come back to either haunt or embrace you. That’s why it is so important to take care of your skin at an early age. If you didn’t do that, don’t fret. You can start now. And while you’re at it, you should definitely see a dermatologist to get more insight on the current condition of your skin.
In the meantime:
- Wear Sunscreen – Do it daily and carry a bottle in the car – At least 30 SPF. It doesn’t matter if it’s cloudy or rainy either. UV radiation can damage your skin any time of the year. Reapply and reapply some more.
- Cover your skin – My mom goes a little over board with scarves. Granted her neck has not aged at all, you don’t have to go as far. You can grab yourself a few sun-protective stylish tops for surf shops. They have really nice tees and options for travel that have nothing to do with surfing and everything to do with skin protection. You can also just throw on a fabulous sun hat and a pair sunglasses. And wear gloves. Kidding.
- Avoid that noon sun – If you have to be out during the day, stay in the shade. It’s great for Vitamin D but really bad for your skin.
- Say no to tanning beds. The 80s are over. Indoor tanning beds increase the risk of melanoma for 75% and the number 1 new cancer diagnosed in women in their 20s. So-not-worth-it.Buy makeup with SPF. If you love makeup like me, there are plenty of product lines with SPF already in them.
- Say yes to sunless tanners. These guys have come a long way. No more Chef-Boyardee glows. It’s how I’ve been curing my banana color leg syndrome.
L’Oreal Paris has been on top of their melanoma prevention game by teaming up with the MRA to help raise awareness. If you love a good drug store product, I suggest starting with them. You guys know how much I love L’Oreal Paris as it is. Their Sublime line covers all basis from skin cancer prevention to the vanity needs of women (ahem, like me) who love a bronze glow.
Of all the artists I love and admire, Frida Kahlo may very well be right at the top of the list. The first time I saw one of her paintings was around the age of six. My mother and I took the train to Manhattan from the Bronx to see the modern art greats at MoMA. I remember learning about the father of Cubism Picasso and the pioneer of modernism Brancusi. But nothing took my breath away like Frida Kahlo. I was mesmerized by the look in her eyes and her communication of sadness. I was a little girl so I could not quite understand the complexities of her work but I saw the depth in her eyes. I knew there was something she wanted to reveal to her viewers … But I couldn’t grasp what it was (yet).
I recall feeling a connection to her. She kind of, sort of … looked like me! That was a huge deal. Up until that point, my exposure to art was filled with European aristocrats and blue-eyed biblical figures. Frida had dark, wavy hair similar to mine with thick eye brows (pre-tweezer years), dark brown eyes and olive skin. I also noticed that her work was not “fancy”, as I would say. You can see the layers of paints and the strokes from her hand. It felt very hand-made and authentic. As I stared at the paintings, my mother looked over at me and said “she’s Mexican.” At that moment, I made the cultural and language connection. She was, in fact, a lot like me.
Here are three ways Frida Kahlo taught me about love, life and pursuing your dreams.
The art world was accessible to me
Since the age of three, I always had some sort of crayon or marker in my hand. I preferred art over dolls or any other toy. I spent countless hours drawing the world around me (whether it was good or bad), women doing everyday things and portraits. In school, I helped the teachers decorate the school with art (cut-outs, drawings, etc). In fact, it was my 10th grade art teacher who encouraged me to study art. Not entirely sure how to go about a career in the arts, I enrolled into a 2-year Catholic college after high school and pursued commercial art and advertising because I thought it would be more “secure”. However, after exhibiting one of my pieces at a school art show, one of my painting teachers encouraged me to study at an art school in the city. I took his advice and went to the School of Visual Arts. It was a very exciting time. Pursuing art was not the norm for kids in my neighborhood .. or even my family. No one in my little Bronx community thought about art, much less cared about a job in the field. Anything art related was not considered a “real” job. My family, although encouraging, saw it as a hobby. The older generation thought my little “dibujitos” were nice, but a job? No way. My mother stood 100% by me, and knew that I needed to spread my wings and give it shot because … Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?
I strongly feel that my early exposure to Frida, a powerful Latina artist, is why I felt that a career in the arts was just as accessible to me as any other career in another field. I majored in Illustration and Art Education, and started my venture in the arts. My student teaching requirements led me to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where I worked with Latino children who reminded me so much of my 6 year old self. That was it. That is what I wanted to do. I wanted to show kids the beauty that is modern art. And that’s just what I did for close to 17 years. During that time, I studied Modern Art at Columbia University, lectured at other museums during the evening and exhibited my paintings in several shows.
One of the things that bothered me about my illustration courses in college was the lack of diversity in the images I was asked to create. I did not relate to any of them. With Frida living in my subconscious (along with a recent visit to Ecuador), I started painting what I felt passionate about and no longer cared about grades. I started with a series of women from Otavalo, EC. I’m half Ecuadorian, and felt such a deep spiritual connection the history of this country and the people. You could not tell me that I was not an Incan in a past life. In fact, when I was in grad school, I took a course on Meso-American art because I just knew that I lived in Andes centuries ago. I was obsessed with the Chimú culture in particular. Obsessed. I wore coral beads, turquoise, ponchos and was just all about that life. Hey, if Frida could do it .. Why couldn’t I? Fortunately, my teacher at the time (who wore mismatched socks and never brushed his hair because he hated rules) liked my tenacity and gave me an A in the course.
The painting on the right won my teacher over for an assignment completely unrelated.
Anything you can do, I can do better
Ah, my motto when it comes to men. Now, don’t get me wrong. Men are great. I’m not anti-men. Feminist? Yes. A man hater? Not at all. But I never – ever – felt less than a man or as though my job or contribution wasn’t as important. As a woman, you should never allow a man to oppress you in anyway (work, personal life, anywhere). You shouldn’t allow anyone to do that, period. But if you’ve been down the tough relationship road (or are in one) recognize it as the fuel and path to empowerment and strength.
Think about it. Do we celebrate Diego’s birthday like we do with Frida? He was a groundbreaking and monumental figure in the art world, there’s no denying that. However, he was also at the core of much Frida’s inner struggle and pain. But like any strong woman, she used that pain and made something beautiful from it. She shared her story and as a result left a legacy behind that has impacted the world. His affairs certainly gave her a lot to draw from, literally. I learned that no matter what … We are built to overcome and come out stronger in the end if we learn from the journey.
Happy birthday Frida, and thank you for sharing your life with us. In honor of her upcoming birthday, I share more about my love for all things Frida in this article – The Day Frida Kahlo Changed My Life.
“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.” ― Frida Kahlo
I get asked a lot questions, but the big one has to be about my hair. I’m typically asked about my routine as well tips for hair care, growth and shine – From both men and women.
Many are usually surprised by my very uneventful treatment for it, as I don’t have a magical one-stop-shop answer. It’s a combination of life-long grooming habits that I’ve picked up along the way, and genes passed down from my parents. My answer is usually vague because, really, who wants to hear a whole cultural and biological explanation to hair care?
If you do, you’re in luck. I share all of that here along with a few links and several products that I love to help you get started on your hair care journey.
When you have jaw and neck issues, you probably shouldn’t be wearing heels. Have you seen what it does to your spine? I know, I know. I sound like an old lady but my body was like ‘hell to the no’ during my recent visit to Utah. Thinking I was so much better with all my TMJ symptoms, I packed heels. When will I learn? About an hour in, many of my crappy symptoms came back. During my presentation, I felt unbalanced and my jaw was throbbing. I’m the queen of smiling through discomfort so no one was the wiser. But, ya. I need to listen to my body. As much as I love heels, I have to wear them sparingly and for a short amount of time until my neck/jaw issue resolve. In the meantime, I just need to embrace flats. I already warned the Latino fiancé (who loves the look of a sexy heel) that my chachacha days are over for now with the exception of maybe a few appearances here and there. Flats are my new BFF. It actually works out great that it’s summertime. Who wants to be hot and uncomfortable? Certainly not me! I spent the weekend exploring sandals, and found a lot of beautiful options. Since I’m a fan of a more basic wardrobe, I like the look of embellishments sprinkled in like these from Jessica Simpson. Not sure what she’s up to these day, but she certainly makes really cute shoes. This actually may be a lot more fun than I thought.