By Mwabi Kaira 

 Imagine, 18 years ago, before ‘Queer As Folk,’ ‘The L Word,’ or ‘Noah’s Arc,’ a film centered around the lives of four black lesbian women navigating friendship and love. The name of the film was, ‘A Luv Tale,’ it was written, directed and produced by Sidra Smith, and it starred Tichina Arnold, MC Lyte, Gina Ravera (Soul Food), Michele Lamar Richards (The BodyGuard), and Angela Means (Friday).  Shown at a host of film festivals, it was a fan favorite that won many awards, including the Audience Award at the Hollywood Black Film Festival. Now streaming on amazon for the past month, ‘A Luv Tale’ is racking up record breaking viewership numbers- with no advertising- and a perfect 5 star rating. 
Though it was a bit ahead of its time then, the timing couldn’t be more perfect now. Just look at Lena Waithe's Emmy-Win for the ‘Master Of None’ episode she co-wrote based off of her real life experience coming out as a lesbian. She received a standing ovation from the star-studded audience, and gave a big shoutout to the LGBTQ community. Yes, a lot has changed. But one thing that hasn’t is the lack of content representing this diverse community.
Wrap party for 'A Luv Tale' 1999, (left to right) Tichina Arnold, MC Lyte, Holly Joy, Tisha Campbell-Martin, Gina Ravera, and Sidra Smith
While Sidra has kept busy throughout the years since creating ‘A Luv Tale’- she was a film and TV casting director, and producer of the NAACP Award-winning documentary ‘Free Angela and All Political Prisoners,’- fans have never stopped asking what happened next given ‘A Luv Tale’s  juicy cliffhanger ending. Well, now they get to find out!

With the advancement of digital programming that wasn’t available back when ‘A Luv Tale’ the movie was released, along with the triumphs and challenges facing the LGBTQ community that are rarely highlighted, Sidra is now bringing ‘A Luv Tale: The Series’ via the web. And she’s launched an Indiegogo campaign so that those who support the LGBTQ community and want to see this type of content, can contribute by giving as little as $10 or play a much bigger role by becoming an executive producer.

Just recently, we caught up with Sidra to hear all about the campaign, so get comfortable and listen in!

Curly Nikki: What was the inspiration behind writing “A Luv Tale’ 18 years ago?
Sidra Smith: I didn’t really see anything that represented queer women of color and I kept asking myself, what would that story look like?  And how could it be told in a way that didn’t feel like a ‘gay’ story filled with stereotypical views.  Winning the audience award at the Hollywood Black Film Festival spoke volumes to me because this was not an LGBTQ festival, the audience enjoyed the story and connected with the characters because they were great characters.

Curly Nikki: ‘A Luv Tale’ was before the TV Series, ‘The L Word’ which many felt was the first lesbian TV series.  And although Bette, the lead character was biracial, it was geared towards a white audience.  During that time was there any interest for ‘A Luv Tale’ to become a series for women of color to enjoy?
Sidra Smith: ‘The L Word’ and ‘Noah’s Arc’ definitely made it feel possible for ‘A Luv Tale’ to become a series. People who saw the film always wanted to know what happened next but I was never approached to do a series back then.  The current digital platforms available have made it very possible now and the timing is right.

Curly Nikki: What are the noticeable changes in the LGBTQ community from 1999 when a ‘A Luv Tale’ was released and present day?
Sidra Smith: Visibility and openness in a positive and welcoming way are very present now for sure. Gay characters in TV and Film were not visible. Now they are and I want to highlight them in A Luv Tale: The Series. Our lead characters are an artist, model, advertising exec and a musician. Think 'Sex and The City' meets 'Insecure.' It’s going to be fun to explore and share their worlds.  

Curly Nikki: We live in a fast-paced digital world where the audience has more power than ever before with platforms such as Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.  Did fans of ‘A Luv Tale’ make their voice heard and ask for the series?
Sidra Smith:  I can’t tell you how many requests on social media and emails I get from people on a daily basis asking for more. The film was shown at festivals and I sold VHS tapes there as well, that was the only way to see it.  Fans still show me pictures of their VHS tapes.  So yes, I was definitely motivated by the fans.

Curly Nikki: Why an Indiegogo campaign? Why not go directly to networks?
Sidra Smith: Indiegogo is another platform that allows me to take my campaign directly to the fans to get the series made. In addition to having the creative freedom.  

Curly Nikki: Talk about ‘A Luv Tale: The Series’ and what your hope for the series is.
Sidra Smith: The series will be set and shot in Harlem with an entirely new cast of fresh talent, picking up where the film left off.  The series will continue to explore love and friendship between women of color who happen to be gay, through a world filled with fabulous art, music and fashion.  I plan on showing today’s Harlem Renaissance.  I can’t wait to tell the story again in this way. My hope is that it is as well received now, as it was then. 

To contribute to the campaign or learn more, visit  here!

What do you think? Are we ready for a LGBTQ web series?
Mwabi Kaira is an African girl navigating her way in an American world.  She is of Zambian and Malawian heritage and moved to the USA in 1993.  Writing has been her passion since she could put a sentence together on the page. Mothering her sons is her pride and joy.  She has been an avid runner since 2013 and has run 10 half marathons and a full marathon.  Keep up with her at http://africanbeautifulme.blogspot.com/

 

Hi Guys, 
I'm back with a new vid! This time, I'm detailing the FULL (unabridged, lol) list of my favorite products! These products have aided my hair growth, retention, and health, IMMENSELY. All of them are my "holy of holiest grail" products. They are superb for hair that is protein sensitive and low porosity.

Enjoy!
Zara

By Tee Elle
“I like your weave.”
I was midstride towards the register when the cashier greeted me, not with a “Did you find everything okay?” but with a flippant statement that was based purely on assumption rather than fact: The hair that tickled the middle of my back as lightly as a lover’s hand couldn’t have grown out of my scalp. “This is not a weave,” I retorted, appalled.

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It wasn’t that I actually turned my nose up at fake hair. I neither viewed it as “ghetto and ratchet” like those who automatically judge vivid and towering updos nor “distracting” to my peers like principals and senior managers who often use it as discriminatory grounds for suspensions and terminations. Braids and weaves aren’t indicators of incapability.

But I did feel it was unnecessary except in the cases of extreme hair loss. I didn’t fully understand why anyone would willingly cover the hair that’s growing out of her own head with something that often didn’t look real.

Of course this judgment came from someone who never quite mastered doing her own hair. My roller sets always looked like I did them myself, as in “Um, who did your hair?” instead of “Oooh, who did your hair!” When I moved 200+ miles away from my trusted stylist, my hair’s health severely declined. I decided to go natural without realizing the transition process would require more maintenance than a relaxed one, and my hair went from bad to worse. Recently I found myself back in a hair predicament, this time in the form of the dreaded in-between stage where it’s too short to slick into a pony but too long to be considered edgy. My hair has refused to grow at the speed it once did when it was maintained by a professional, and I’ve worn the same part-on-the-left-side look for nearly four years. Needless to say, I was ready for something else.

One day I received a picture text from my cousin.

“Who dis?” I thought, staring at the long, jet black, crinkled, faux locs on the screen. I grew so intrigued by the look that I dragged another cousin who was familiar with box braids to a nearby beauty outlet and we picked up some hair based off of a YouTube video tutorial.

At home, my cousin sectioned my hair into 399 tiny plaits and crocheted a loc adjacent to each one. The problem arose when it was time to work the individual plait into its adjoining loc: It wouldn’t slide in as effortlessly as the young woman in the video made it seem. When the latch of the crochet needle wasn’t scraping my scalp, it was poking through the loc, snagging it.

“Maybe it’s the needle,” I suggested. We got a new one. Same result.
“Nah, the plait is still too fat,” my cousin countered.

So I unraveled all 399 with the intent to divide them into 798 pieces, but something told me to test a few. It still didn’t work, so I Googled a few more videos, determined to keep the locs. The next night my cousin and I followed the cornrow method, and I endured the scalp-digging a second time. Part of me wanted to yell, “Forget it!” But what was the alternative? To apply relaxer to a raw and wounded scalp?

Oddly the pain was more bearable than the intense itching that I experienced at night. I was so unprepared. No one warned me that the hair would launch an aggressive assault on my scalp whenever I was near sleep like a six-alarm fire.

Yet, surprisingly, I grew to like the results – all 18 voluminous inches. I liked the way the tendrils framed my face, the way they snatched my edges, and the way they draped my head when I moved them around. By the fourth or fifth day – after some mango and lime oil and rosemary spray to quell the scalp burn – I loved them.
I was glamorous.
I was empowered.
I was transformed.
I was converted.
I was free.
 I finally got it. The decision to enhance our hair really isn’t based on laziness or some desire to be someone else. It isn’t always about insecurity or shame, either. It’s about discovery, ease, independence, and versatility. And in my case, the intent was to add as much hair as reasonably possible. I wasn’t going to leave any question as to whether my hair was real or not; it was going to be fairly obvious.

Last week I noticed my 6-year old cousin periodically glancing at me in the middle of Walmart

"Is that your hair?" she asked curiously, to which I proudly replied, "Nope, it's fake.”

 What are your thoughts? Yay or Nay to fake hair

Tee Elle is an east-coast storyteller hoping for her big break west. Her words have been published on xoNecole and Clutch magazine, you can also follow her on Twitter and the blog. When she’s not writing or stalking social media, find her reading a great book, binge-watching reality TV, or pretending to be the next winner of Bravo’s Top Chef.

        
By Mwabi Kaira

Are you watching 'Black Love' on OWN?  Oprah Winfrey has taken her Master Class series and turned the lens on couples for a master class on love. Husband and wife filmmakers Codie and Tommy Oliver interviewed famous and everyday married couples about how they fell in love and have stayed in love and their stories are told in the most honest and emotional way.

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With the hashtag relationship goals bombarding us daily on social media, giving us little more than cute pictures and even cuter captions to aspire to, 'Black Love' gives us the behind-the-scenes on #RelationshipGoals and leaves no stone unturned.  This series covers love from the amazing times, financial crisis, incarceration, and the loss of a child. So if you are not already watching 'Black Love' here are 5 gems dropped in the series that could give your marriage longevity.

Your Life Gets Better with the Right Partner
Oscar winner Viola Davis didn’t call her husband Julius for a month after getting his number.  She had a lot going on including bad credit and wanted to work on herself before she started a relationship.  After some convincing from her friends, she called him and her life changed.  Viola recalls, “After my first date with Julius my life got better in every way; anxiety went away, fear went away, he just made my life better.”
Devon Franklin feels the same way about marrying Megan Good.  Devon says, “As a single man I was good but as a married man, I’m great.  Get the right woman and you can conquer the world.”

Differences are meant to Teach You
There is nothing more frustrating than living with someone and finding out that they’re messy and you’re clean, that they leave 3 sips of orange juice in the container in the fridge instead of finishing it up, and my personal favorite, that they leave trash on the counter NEXT to the trash can!
Tia Mowry was raised in a military family and knows structure very well. Her husband Cory Hardrict was not. They decided to learn from each other instead of getting frustrated.  Corey reflects, “I have learned structure and how to pay bills on time from Tia and I have taught Tia how to dream, have no fear and take risks in life.” 

Fix the relationship and not the person.  Fix Yourself and then Come Together

Danielle and Hasan fell in love and enjoyed their courtship. Danielle grew up with brothers and felt like a Princess in her home. After their marriage, Danielle began to feel criticized and became jaded and cold.  The couple was disconnected.  Danielle felt like Hasan was trying to fix HER and not the relationship.  Hasan notes, “When we began to look internally all of a sudden there was an emotional connection, sex was more frequent and pleasurable and we bonded.” 

Allow Yourselves to Step Back from a Challenge

Sean Patrick Thomas and Aonika Laurent had a whirlwind romance and an amazing marriage until their hardest tribulation came.  Aonika knew Sean wanted to be a Father and they were excited when they first got pregnant.  She describes them being so ecstatic and literally skipping to the ultrasound.  There they heard the worst news; they lost the baby.  They had multiple miscarriages and each time Aonika felt like she was letting Sean down and even considered divorcing him.  The thought never crossed his mind. 
It wasn’t until they decided to stop trying and step away completely from IVF treatment  just so they could concentrate on what was going right in their lives that they got pregnant again immediately.  They are now parents to a daughter and a son.

Be Willing to Accept Love in a Different Package Other Than the One You Imagined

Ashley always imagined that her Prince Charming would have chocolate skin and dreadlocks down his back.  She imagined them reciting hip hop rhymes and being the real life Brown Sugar couple.  She met Chea from Cambodia and kept him in the friend zone.  The more time they spent together made Ashley realize something very crucial as she explains on Black Love, “I stopped paying attention to what he was. I couldn’t pass him up just because he wasn’t packaged how I wanted.”  The couple has been married since 2015 and has 2 children.

Are you watching 'Black Love?' What do you think?
 
Mwabi Kaira is an African girl navigating her way in an American world.  She is of Zambian and Malawian heritage and moved to the USA in 1993.  Writing has been her passion since she could put a sentence together on the page. Mothering her sons is her pride and joy.  She has been an avid runner since 2013 and has run 10 half marathons and a full marathon.  Keep up with her at http://africanbeautifulme.blogspot.com/
Cover photo: TheDefenderNetwork.com




By Erickka Sy Savané

“My name is Shaniqua,” said a blogger I met at a luncheon in mid-town Manhattan. Shaniqua? I did a double take. She gave me her card. As soon as I got home, I was all over my computer, genuinely curious to see what a “ghetto” website looked like. Hmm…it was nice…and there was even a picture of her and Oprah Winfrey...

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A few weeks later, I’m on the phone with my old roommate from college. We hadn’t spoken for a few months so it was time to catch up. She told me she was launching a dessert business and I was thrilled. But there was an underlying anxiety in her voice.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I’m stuck. I don’t know whether to use my name or my initials for my business,” she responded.
“I’d go for your name all day,” I answered. “People with initials seem shady. Look at O.J. Simpson, and who is T.I., really? 10 reality shows later, and I'm still lost.”
“Yea, but my name is Shi-kwan-da.”
“Okay, I get it,” I say, suddenly remembering Shaniqua, and how quick I was to throw her under the ghetto bus…only to find out that she’s doing better than a lot of us.
“Wait, I think I have an answer,” I say, telling her about Shaniqua and how she's embracing her name, and using it for her business. It's really smart too, because people are curious enough to go to her website to learn more, and by that time she's already got you. There's no better advertising than a unique name!
“I never thought about it like that,” says Shikwanda.

And we know why. There’s no denying that distinctly Black names get a bad rap. Just last year Raven-Symone publicly apologized for saying on 'The View' that she wouldn’t hire someone with a “ghetto name” and who can forget the famous study that found when applying for jobs, names that sound white receive 50 percent more callbacks than names that sound distinctly African American. But at the same time, a Black man with a Muslim name became President of the United States. Twice. If 69 million Americans can get over any hangups they might’ve had regarding the name Barack Hussein Obama, surely Shaniqua and Shikwanda can carve out a space for themselves in their respective industries.

 A few months later…
It’s catch up time with Shikwanda again. I find her in the middle of making vanilla cupcakes with cream cheese frosting for a birthday event. I guess she’s in business, which reminds me that I never found out what name she decided to use.

“I went with Shikwanda,” she tells me, with a smile in her voice so bright I can see it through the phone. “ I realized that Shikwanda is who I am, take it or leave it, and I needed to stop focusing so much energy on my name, and put it into my business. At the end of the day, your name doesn't make you, you make your name.”

Amen to that.

This article first appeared on Madamenoire.com 

Have you ever been name shamed? If so, how do you handle it?

Erickka Sy Savané is managing editor of CurlyNikki.com, a wife, mom, and freelance writer based in Jersey, City, NJ. Her work has appeared in Essence.comEbony.com, Madamenoire.com, xoNecole.com, and more. When she’s not writing...wait, she’s always writing! Follow her on Twitter, Instagram or