One of my goals for this year is to stop using gender specific pronouns in group settings. I’m still working on it. It’s challenging, but whatever weak minded excuse you can put here to pardon our comfortable ignorance simply isn’t a good enough reason to ignore people’s identities. Plus for me personally, there’s like this weird voice that comes naturally when I start filming content that makes the phrase “hey guys” sound worse than it already does. No bueno.
As we celebrate PRIDE MONTH and the 52nd anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, It’s my responsibility to encourage active alley and creating inclusive environments, especially in this little corner of the internet. So I took the liberty of making this handy little list of alternative and inclusive pronouns in hopes we can all continue to grow and be the best advocates for EVERYONE (see what I did there), not only during PRIDE, but each and every day.
*Friendly reminder: These are strictly for group settings. When interacting on a personal level, I encourage you to seek out the individuals name and preferred pronoun and address the person as such.
Everybody / Everyone
Folks / Folx
Yall / You all / We all
All Yall / All of you / Each of you
Yinz (if you’re in/from Pittsburgh)
‘N them (followers n them)
Any appropriate adjective with the word people (Party people, Beautiful people, Good people)
Beings that aren’t defined by social constructs like pronouns—haha!
Food names (Pumpkins, Muffins, Cupcakes, etc.)
So now that we have a starter list of alternative and inclusive group pronouns, let’s put them to practice! Look for opportunities to use these words and build a habit of inclusive language. Like I said before, no excuses!
Instant gratification has become the way of the world—particularly, the way of our world. Don’t get me wrong I don’t think anyone has ever been excited to be patient (…if that’s even possible), but there is something to be said for putting in the work and embracing the journey. Plus, if we are being totally honest, anything worth having is worth the work that goes into it, as I hear my momma’s voice saying, “You get what you pay for.”
You do get what you pay for.
I’ll give you an example.
During the first year of my undergrad, I was raped. I had no clue how to move forward after the assault. I didn’t know how to talk about it, I didn’t know how to process it, and I didn’t know how to heal from it, and it showed. I was struggling with feelings of shame, guilt, and unworthiness. I remember being consumed with confusion because I couldn’t determine if I was validated because some “wanted” me, or ashamed because I wasn’t worth loosing my virginity in a special or romantic way.
I went into survival mode and learned to cope with drugs, clothes, attention, and whatever else temporarily validated my insecurities. If I’m being real, I was so far gone it felt like the coping worked. I was living under the false pretense of happiness and fulfillment, and because no one was threatening my illusions of splendor, I invested in emptiness. Did you read that? I said because I lied to myself so much, for so long to cover up my pain, I built myself, my livelihood on an empty foundation. And I had no choice but to start over.
The part that stabs at my heart is I believed the copping worked, but it didn’t. It covered up adequately, but it didn’t work for personal growth and the healing process. I truly thought I had overcome my insecurities and hit a heavenly self-love plateau. In my illusion I was perfect, but behind the false lashes I was so far from fulfilled.
So many time we find ourselves doing things that make us feel good after trauma, and that’s cool but it’s important to remember to do things that are uncomfortable so we don’t end up living in toxicity.
I’ll be honest, these days I’m still working toward healing the right way. I’m still building the habit of wildly and unapologetically loving myself. I’m still growing into fulfillment, and that’s okay! Don’t get me wrong, it’s taking foreverrr, and the process is a messy one, but this time I want to intentionally invest in my best self. I needs that ROI, okay?! So, the ancestors and I are buckled in for the journey—we’re trusting the process in full and taking the scenic route.
I am so here for this style session—oh, that’s cute— we may need to officially name these Style Sessions…
Anyway, last week I had the opportunity to visit my Alma Mater, California University of Pennsylvania. Since the campus was closed due to COVID-19, my sister and I got to do fun little fall shoot at some of my favorite places on campus, mask free.
I wanted to do a super neutral look, because… well, I love her, and I wanted something comfy since we’d be walking all over campus. I ended up styling the Katherine Side Zip Sweater, which is an oversized cream pullover with gold zipper details on the side from Fashion to Figure. I paired it with these super comfy Jordana High Rise Shiny Leggings, also of the Fashion to Figure variety.
From there, I threw in these over the knee boots, which are super vintage Fashion to Figure, and my favorite fall accessory, a camel colored wide brim hat from Forever 21. This look is super comfy, super cute, super neutral, and super in season.
This Blog was sponsored by Fashion to Figure and you can use my code, FTFARI, for money off on all of your orders from fashiontofigure.com.
Fall fashion is everyone’s favorite, me included. I love the layers and extra accessories, as well as the nude and earth toned colors. Simply put, fall fashion is my aesthetic, and I love it here.
Most of you know I have an ongoing partnership with one of my favorite plus exclusive brands, Fashion to Figure. Because of this, I decided to start better documenting the outfits I style with their pieces and get consistent with blogging the style details again, and what better time than Fall to start?
I wanted to do a cute & casual warm weather fall look, with semi basic pieces, so I started with the Black Ultra High Rise Self Tie Skinny Jeans. These pants are ultra-fitted with a good amount of stretch. I especially love the self-tie belt because it gives that extra detail to your outfit whether you do a crop top or a bodysuit.
I coupled the pants with the Naomi Animal Print Ruched Blouse. This is my favorite crop top of the season so far. I love the sleeves, the material, and the neckline. More than that, I love the crop tie strings that allow you to adjust the shirt’s length. To style, I added a black wide brim hat with gold detail from forever 21, and these very comfy red strappys from Torrid, paired with a red lip. Because my shoes have the bow detail around the ankle, I cuffed my skinnys, and what do you know? A look!
This Blog was sponsored by Fashion to Figure and you can use my code, FTFARI, for money off on all of your orders from fashiontofigure.com.
I want to be like Rayne Stewart when I grow up. Rayne is one of the many Americans suffering from Vitiligo, a non-curable condition causing discoloration and the loss of pigment in skin cells. Vitiligo affects nearly 50 million humans worldwide, and as many as 5 million citizens of the United States. It can be associated with other side effects such as psychological stress and hair discoloration.
Rayne was only 8 years old when she was diagnosed. In addition to the stress of the loss of her favorite aunt to ALS, and grandfather to cancer, Rayne suffered emotionally with fears and feelings of inadequacy, and being bullied in school. After moving to Loch Raven, Baltimore, Maryland at the start of 7th grade, and with the help of a close family friend, Rayne decided she was done trying to fit into the mold, and began embracing her Vitiligo. “I started looking at it as something that makes me unique,” she said.
Now only 14 years young, Rayne is a vitiligo warrior and using her voice to change the way children (and adults) who suffer from the condition view themselves. “I don’t mind the questions, and I understand the stares, because I know being different is not a bad thing,” she explained. Rayne has graced numerous schools, conventions, panels and communities with her rendition of self-acceptance. She even went on to write a children’s book called, Perfectly Different, which explains Rayne’s journey with vitiligo.
Rayne realized she wanted to write a book after seeing her cousin release a book series a few years ago. It took her 1 year but she wrote it, in it’s entirety, by herself; and, has sold over 300 books so far! Rayne admits she still suffers from body acceptance in some ways, but overall is thrilled with the progress she’s made and feedback she gets from people, especially children, who have read the book.
With current dreams of Broadway stardom, and one day meeting Ellen, Rayne continues to use her voice to empower others. The ninth grader is even considering a new book about transitioning from middle school to high school. Rayne’s story is different, and her influence is powerful. Her courage to share her story at such a young age is it only selfless, but also empowering. Because of this young queen, more people are learning to love the beauty in being perfectly different. Ya girl is HERE.FOR.IT!
Shateesha Murphy is changing the plus size game in Pittsburgh. Her plus size brand, Voluptuous Lady Boutique, is already a hot commodity among plus people in Pittsburgh due to the exclusive and unique styles offered, but now she’s ready to turn it up a few notches. Last Saturday, VLB held the third annual all plus size fashion show and experience, Curvy and Bold at The Hill House Center Kauffman Auditorium. As her name and boutique continue to grow, she wants people to know, this isn’t just a brand, it’s a movement. I had the privilege of sitting down and learn more about Shateesha, and everything she’s been working on.
Shateesha Murphy is a Pittsburgh native, mother of 2, entrepreneur, and lover of plus size fashion. She recalls always loving fashion but not always having cute clothes due to the lack of style typically offered for plus-size. Now in business for 5 years, she explains her sons are what keep her motivated to be the best mother, woman, and example she can be. Though it’s not always easy, Shateesha stays motivated by inspiring her sons and her clients to be their best.
Ari: You are one of the hottest plus brands in Pittsburgh! What first inspired you to launch VLB?
Shateesha: Wow thank you so much! I appreciate that because I’ve come along way.Voluptuous lady was inspired by both my love of fashion, and frustration with the lack of options available to plus-size, or as I like to be referred to as queen-size women like myself, in the fashion industry. Growing up I can remember having such a hard time finding clothes that weren’t like, moo-moos and frumpy with flowers. I vowed that one day I would have my own version of beautiful fashions for all my queen-size beauties to shop!
Ari: What are some of the struggles you’ve faced as a WOC business owner?
Shateesha: To be honest , I haven’t had many as of yet. If had to say one thing, it would be the lack of funding and obtaining capital, especially when I first launched back in 2014. Since then, I’ve been blessed to be connected to some really dope entrepreneurs that have continuously dropped jewels on how to expand my brand and find funding resources.
Shateesha in a custom gown by Destination: Royalty
Ari: What motivates you to keep going everyday + where do you draw inspiration from?
Shateesha: My two little boys keep me motivated. Being able to show them the best, positive example of a woman and a mother is a really important to me. I’m also motivated by the fact that I’m inspring others. On hard day, or days when I want to fold, I go back and read messages from people telling me how I helped them and inspired them. It really gives me a sense of purpose because I truly believe that the Most High blesses us so that can be a blessing to others.
Curvy and Bold.
Three years ago, Shateesha decided to take VLB to the next level and teamed up with local modeling agency, Pretty N Plus, as well as RLJDesigns, to bring Pittsburgh her first all plus fashion show experience. This year, the show was nothing short of spectacular, and I had the pleasure of not only getting the inside scoop and attending, but also scoring a front row seat to all the action on and off stage!
Body paint set
Ari: So let’s talk Curvy + Bold! What is it, what inspired it, and what is your ultimate goal with this fashion experience?
Shateesha: Curvy & Bold my baby! It is an all curvy aka queen-size fashion experience. I teamed up with Pretty N Plus modeling agency, and RLJDesigns to bring this vision to life of putting queen-size woman on the platform they deserve! Our ultimate goal is to bring woman of all sizes out to show that style has no size and its totally ok to be comfortable in your own skin. Be true to you!
Lady in Red Set by Voluptuous Lady Boutique
And that’s exactly what she did, y’all!
Set by CayJor Boutique
The show was filled with beautiful, plus women who RIPPED the runway! The clothing was beautiful and unique. The atmosphere was was elegant yet fun, and the show was a whole vibe. It felt so magical to be up close and personal to something that has the potential to change the plus, fashion culture in Pittsburgh.
Carnival set by Pretty N Plus
Ari: What’s next for you and VLB?
Shateesha: Right now, I would say just continue to ride this wave, and expand my reach. Voluptuous Lady is so much more than just clothing, she is turning into a movement of empowerment and encouragement to be exactly who you were created to be, we all are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Looks by RLJDesigns
Ari: Give us one piece of advice for women who are shy or may need a little help feeling confident about their bodies?
Shateesha: Man get out here and rock that shit!! Embrace it! We all only get one body, so love it, and cherish it. Your body is gold baby and so are you!
Loving Your Reflection is a performance agency that hosts several body positive shows and events throughout Pittsburgh. This year, founder of Loving Your Reflection, Danielle Jackson Thorn, hosted an impeccable fashion show and performance called Loving the Skin You’re In, and it was filled with body love, shameless sexual expression, and the triumph that comes with finally loving and accepting the skin you’re in.
“The mission of Loving Your Reflection is to create a safe space for individuals to explore the relationships they have with their bodies and encourage them to change their inner narrative and learn to love the skin they’re in,” said Danielle. The show consisted of several different acts including performance art, belly dancing, spoken word, and of course, a fashion show. Danielle went on to say, “This event was necessary to bring together communities that may not have the chance to work together otherwise and highlight body diversity.” I had the privilege of taking part in this beautiful experience and not only got to meet some of the models and performers, but also got to observe backstage life, and walk in the show for one of my favorite brands, Fat Mermaids.
The air of a backstage right before and during the show is unlike any other. Yes, there are several performance people frantically running around and trying to contour the shit out of their faces, but more than that it is a community; a likeminded group of individuals, working collectively, and enhancing the experience of the show and ultimately the perspective of the community. It’s similar to the magic you feel while dancing and singing to your favorite song in the mirror, but this time there’s a bunch of people dancing and singing with you and hyping you up! Honestly, it’s just one of those invigorating environments that will have you feeling anxious, fearless, nervous, brave, and empowered. Of course now I’m obsessed with recreating that atmosphere everywhere I go because it was such a good vibe.
Ok, let’s talk outfit details. For the VIP meet and greet reception, we were required to wear black and change into runway attire once we were backstage before and during the show. I wore a fun and flirty off the shoulder LDB from Forever 21+. I paired it with yellow ruffle 2-inch heels and minimal jewelry.
As mentioned before, I rocked Fat Mermaids on the runway which was literally perfect because if you don’t know, Fat Mermaids is a body positive brand that mixes fashion with magic and it’s owned by a Black woman! I was so hype to rock their “IDGAF About Your Diet, Susan” shirt. We styled the shirt tied up in the back with black swim bottoms, and a donut (yes, I literally ate a donut on the runway). It worked out beautifully.
One of the main takeaways from this experience was always keep growing. I know I say that a lot, but that’s because it is an ever evolving process and to be honest, I’m really reminding myself more so than preaching at y’all. Another takeaway I gained is to trust your creativity, and find people that believe in it just as much as you do. As mentioned before, the energy backstage was off the charts, but that’s because everyone was spawning positive vibes due to believing in each other’s individuality (now, imagine if America operated like this!). Finally, I was reminded to stop taking myself so seriously. So many times we get caught up in making sure our ideal image is the one we portray, and we literally miss the moment we are living through. Being in the company of so many beautifully different people encouraged me to harness my me and let her be great; hence, the donut on the runway.
I had such an amazing time at the show. I would like to send a special thank you to Danielle Jackson Thorn and her team for inviting me to take part in this epic experience and believing in my mission enough to showcase it in this production. I’m so grateful for this space, and look forward to seeing what Loving Your Reflection has in store for the future. I’d also like to thank Fat Mermaids for trusting me to rock their brand and helping facilitate body diversity.
Am I the only one who goes through the motions of digging my outfit while getting ready but after leaving the house falls into the second-guessing game? I’m not sure if it’s because I’m still learning how to accurately view my body or still learning how to love my body. Either way, I had an episode just like this over the weekend so; I decided to call myself out on it. Here’s what I learned.