Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Lipstick Monologues & Consciously Beautiful - Empowering Young Girls & Women

Have you ever had the experience of encountering a stranger in an everyday place - shopping in a store, getting your hair done, sitting in a waiting room at the doctor's office - and somehow, almost instantly, the two of you connect as if you had known each other your entire lives?  And, have you ever wondered why this person's path crossed yours?  Was there a higher purpose for this chance encounter?   Did the two of you have a path to travel together?  Over the past few months, my path has joined that of a phenomenal, generous, determined, and compassionate woman whose presence in my life has opened doors both in my work as a beauty blogger and teacher and some long-ago-shut doors inside of my own heart - Ardre Orie.

When I first started this blog in the summer of 2013 and was just making Put On Your Big Girl Lipstick's presence known on social media, an Atlanta-based cosmetics company called I Love Me Glam was one of the first official "beauty" businesses to show me a little Insta-love and follow me.  I followed their page as well, and soon I started to see posts by its owner, Ardre, for a new organization, Consciously Beautiful.  I grew to love its daily posts promoting the idea of beauty and self-esteem for all women and young girls, and she, too, often would comment on my posts, which also included my favorite quotes and inspirational images or messages.  She would even occasionally re-post my "food for thought" posts and tag me in Consciously Beautiful's and I Love Me Glam's photos.  In the months that followed, we became quick "Insta-friends."

Though delighted to have connected with someone who was both a cosmetics expert and an advocate for a social cause that is very dear to my heart, I wondered to myself "Why does she follow me, just a sporadic, beauty-blogging, high school Language Arts teacher with about 300 followers who posts amateur photos of mascara and lipstick taken with her iPhone, the occasional meme or funny school picture of bad student grammar, and pictures of my much-missed life in Ecuador?"  But at the same time, another voice inside of me said, "Elizabeth...these messages are for YOU.  Not only for the Elizabeth of the past, who remembers comparing herself to her thinner classmates and hating her own tall, curvy body as early as 3rd grade, but also for the Elizabeth of today, who has spent 20 years as a high school teacher and has the eyes and ears of teenage girls upon her almost every single day."

And then, I saw this post:

Ardre was about to publish her first book, Consciously Beautiful: I Am Enough, and I would have a chance to meet her at a book-signing she was doing that following summer here in Atlanta.  I commented on her book announcement post and told her how excited I was to meet her and to buy a copy for my classroom, and she commented back almost immediately, saying how excited she was to meet me as well.

At the signing this past July, I had the chance to meet Ardre in person and also to meet some of the women who are the subjects of this moving and powerful book.  The book tells the stories of 21 women who, each in their own chapter, recount their stories of their battles with low self-esteem, poverty, depression, loneliness, discrimination, and a myriad of other struggles that so many women and young girls face each and every day.  The common thread among them, though, is that through one path or another, they each rose above these situations and learned to love themselves and not only survive but truly thrive in spite of their difficulties to become women who are now confident and successful and who embrace and celebrate their lives and love themselves unconditionally in a world that pummels us with unrealistic and distorted images of "beauty."  It is truly a must-read for all women and young girls.  At this very signing I also had a chance to sign up for her next event, The Lipstick Monologues, which was happening that following September here in Atlanta.  I filled out my application and left with my book, eager and hopeful to be a part of Ardre's next event.

Ardre and her daughter at the Consciously Beautiful:  I Am Enough book signing in Atlanta

About a month later, Ardre contacted me and offered me my first "big" opportunity as a blogger - the chance to attend The Lipstick Monologues as a guest blogger.   I was so thrilled at the chance to be a part of this production!

On the night of the event, I arrived at the venue early and got a chance to see all of the exciting backstage preparations including the hair, makeup, and wardrobe specialists as they worked to prepare both the actresses who would perform in the production and the models who would be a part of the fashion show that would also take place that night.
Ardre Orie  - this lovely woman is a powerhouse of productivity!

The night began with a fashion show that highlighted some of Atlanta's premiere designers, many of whom had created collections specifically for Ardre and The Lipstick Monologues.
Ardre opens the show wearing an original design by L. Collins,
one of the women featured in Consciously Beautiful

Christopher Macken - an Atlanta-based radio and
TV personality and celebrity fashion, beauty,
and lifestyle expert.  Mr. M was the evening's wonderfully
talented and witty MC and one of the funniest, warmest, and
most delightful people whom I had the pleasure of meeting that night!  

L. Collins - one of the featured designers of the evening and
more importantly one of the women featured in Ardre's first
book, Consciously Beautiful.
Her story of her journey from a painful and violent
childhood to teenage motherhood to successful
fashion designer is incredibly powerful and moving and
one of my favorite stories in the book.
Then came the monologues, each based loosely on the stories portrayed in the book Consciously Beautiful.  The performances told the stories of women who have found their voices, their beauty, and their power in the midst of heart-wrenching circumstances that they have survived including violence, sexual assault, debilitating illness, and abandonment.  Every performance was unique and rich in emotion, wisdom, and introspection and left the audience in either laughter or tears (or both) and filled with the energy and joy that abounds when women share their struggles and triumphs with one another.

The night ended with an energy-filled and exciting performance by Eshe, Grammy Award-winning artist and one of the original members of Arrested Development.

Eshe and Lipstick Monologues cast member Candice Rene
As I watched these women perform, I was in awe of their ability to so poignantly portray the raw emotion of each story and more importantly, to share each story with such confidence and dignity.  It occurred to me that it is not the act of "moving on" from our struggles, our grief, and our lowest moments that gives us healing, but the sharing of these stories with others and the connections we make with other women when we open up our lives to them that truly provide peace and resolution for us.  And, this sharing is not only a necessary healing for our own hearts, but it is a powerful "medicine" for others.  I spend each day with teenage girls, some of whom I know already have heartbreaking stories similar to these to tell, and I wonder if and when they will have an opportunity to share these stories with others.   No matter what dark corners exist in our own pasts - heartache, abuse, poverty, self-loathing, violence - don't we owe it to our young girls and fellow women and to ourselves to stop carrying these struggles around with us as if they are shameful secrets or excess baggage that make us feel ugly and worthless?  Isn't it time to bring light to these dark places and use our stories to heal and inspire others?  And isn't it time we give them the opportunity to share their stories as well and to experience the empowerment and joy that this sharing brings?  This is the mission of my friend Ardre Orie and Consciously Beautiful, and it is a mission that I am so proud to be a part of.

For everyone who attended and was involved, The Lipstick Monologues was a triumphant success and an absolute thrill and honor to participate in.  Ardre Orie is truly an inspiration and a woman on a journey -  a journey to empower women and young girls to find their true beauty and strength not just in spite of but even as a result of the struggles that they face and the messages and stereotypes aimed at women that are so engrained in our culture today.  

Visit this page for more information on the next Atlanta production, Love and War, which will take place in March 2015.  Also, be sure to follow both Consciously Beautiful and The Lipstick Monologues on Facebook to be the first to know about upcoming events and publications.  And, follow Ardre and Consciously Beautiful on Instagram for daily empowerment and inspiration!  

Stay tuned for my next blog post on Consciously Beautiful's Day of Glamour, an event that followed The Lipstick Monologues and brought together a very special group of women (including me!) and young girls for a day of beauty, pampering, most importantly connecting and sharing with each other in order to further Consciously Beautiful's message and mission.  

Thank you for reading, beautiful friends, and remember to be CONSCIOUSLY BEAUTIFUL.

Me with Consciously Beautiful founder Ardre Orie at The Lipstick Monologues

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Badger Damascus Rose Antioxidant Face Oil

Hello there, big girls, and happy fall!  (Though if you are in the South like me, you probably still have your AC running.)  While we all await the cooler weather and all of the boots, scarves, jackets, and pumpkin-spice-mania that come with it (though Starbucks wasted no time in getting that ball rolling this year, did they?!), colder temperatures are often not so wonderful for our skin.  Cold air plus indoor heating can really leave our skin parched and dull, so today I want to share with you a lovely, reasonably priced skincare find that I discovered towards the end of last year's cooler weather and have recently taken out of my winter skincare stash and put in my rotation once again - Badger Damascus Rose Antioxidant Face Oil.

Facial oils are now hugely popular both in high-end and low-end skincare markets.  Even oily-skinned women have a variety of options when looking for these oils, and there are both cleansing and moisturizing/treatment oils for almost every woman's needs.  Skincare hoarder that I am, I have sampled several skincare oils in the last decade or so since they first started to pop up on the cosmetics market, and a couple of times I even resorted to using a few drops of extra virgin olive oil on my face when I lived in Ecuador (Quito is 9,000 feet above sea level and was VERY lacking in selection for my product junkie needs.  Every once and I while I would run out of whatever skincare that I had bought from the U.S. with me, and I needed some relief for the dehydration and dullness that come along with living at a high altitude.).  Of all of the facial oils that have tried for moisturizing, this one is by far my favorite.  Let's take a look at the ingredients:

Badger Damascus Rose Antioxidant Face Oil is a blend of several all-natural ingredients including jojoba (this is your "carrier" or base oil, which helps the product go on smoothly and absorb), baobab and pomegranate oils (both antioxidant oils), plus lavender, rose, and chamomile essential oils (these give the product a lovely scent that its not too heavy but oh-so-divine and soothing, especially at bedtime).  It also has calendula (known for antibacterial, brightening, and healing properties), rose hip (vitamins A and C), and sea buckthorn (vitamins A, C, and E) extracts.

This facial oil's biggest selling point for me is its texture, which is wonderfully thin, light, and absorbent and never leaves my skin feeling greasy or tacky as some other facial oils have.  While I wouldn't use it in the daytime under makeup, it is the perfect weight to use at night either alone as a moisturizer or underneath your regular nighttime lotion or cream.
This oil is so light and thin that I had to hustle to snap a picture before it rolled off of my hand! 

Absorbs quickly and with no heavy, greasy feel whatsoever
Badger's products are certified to be organic and cruelty-free.  They can be purchased at health food stores such as Whole Foods and from and online vitamin and natural products sites such as iHerb and Vitacost (this is where I bought mine for about $12).

Happy Sunday, and thanks for reading!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Chanel and Dior Mascara Testing and Why You Need To Tightline

As you have seen in previous posts, I have a bit of a mascara addiction.  So, when Nordstrom recently had their annual Mascara Madness event during which all mascaras are buy two / get one free, I decided it was time to feed my habit once again.   If you are a high-end mascara fan, this is a great time to stock up on your old favorites and try something new with not as much damage to your wallet.  This year, I decided to try two new (for me) mascaras, Chanel Inimitable Intense Mascara and Dior's new Addict It-Lash Mascara, plus replenish an old favorite, Dior's uber-popular lash primer, Diorshow Maximizer Lash Plumping Serum.

Dior Addict It-Lash, Diorshow Maximizer, Chanel Inimitable Intense

I have a ZERO-tolerance policy for clumpy mascara, so I am a big fan of synthetic/plastic bristles.  The original Chanel Inimitable mascara was actually one of the first high-end mascaras to use these types of bristles, and it was one of the first ones I ever tried (and fell in love with immediately!). The "Intense" version, which actually has been around for a while, is supposed to deliver even more dramatic results than the original, and I have to say that out of the two mascaras from this purchase, the Chanel is my favorite.  Let's take a look at the wands first, though:
Dior Addict It-Lash, Diorshow Maximizer, and Chanel Inimitable Intense
Dior Addict It-Lash Mascara ($26) has only been at counters for a couple of months now, and it also comes in a few bright colors like electric blue and rich plum. However, since I left my blue mascara days way behind with Debbie Gibson and Duran Duran, I am a black-as-you-can-get mascara girl no matter what brand I purchase.

Dior It-Lash also has the spikey ball-tip wand that is very similar to Benefit's They're Real, but I found it much easier to work with than the Benefit one.  The first month I used it, I was really impressed with the results. It gave me nice, clean definition and length, some thickness, and lasted all day without smudging or flaking. It literally "multiplied" my lashes and gave me the gorgeous, fluttery fringe that I love.  It is also very easy to remove.
What's up with that rogue top eyelash curling towards my inner eye??
Here's the problem with the Dior It-Lash, I type this, it has been about 2 months since I bought it, and I have used it probably 2-3 times a week. has already DRIED OUT!   Sorry, Dior, but you have to at least last me the standard 3 months (and truthfully more like 4 or 5 since I don't use you every day) if I am going to pay this much for you!  

Chanel Inimitable Intense ($30), however, has a nice tapered wand with bristles that are more densely packed together, which gave me a bit better thickness that the Dior did.  Plus, it is a blacker mascara than Dior's.  It is also easy to remove and doesn't flake or smudge on me.
Is it a an earth-shattering, breathtaking mascara?  Not really. I like it, but I don't know that I would repurchase it.  Too many others I want to try (my good friend Lara is a Younique representative and has just sent me a tube of their fiber mascara that I have been experimenting with, and I also want to try the new highly-touted Lancome Grandiose Mascara, probably just become I am a sucker for their dramatic advertising, which makes it seem like the arrival of Grandiose is going to be like the arrival of our "Mascara Messiah").  

As for the Diorshow Maximizer Lash Serum, a funny thing happens when you become a beauty blogger and decide to put your tried-and-true beauty products to the test with some up-close photos.  This is probably my 4th tube of this lash primer, and I normally just apply it to my upper lashes:
Lash primer tip - if you apply too much, you can remove any excess
by just lightly touching your lashes with the tip of your finger
And, while I always thought this lash primer made a huge difference, you can see from the picture below that the use of this primer under the Chanel Inimitable didn't exactly make me look like the sultry-eyed bombshell that I thought it did...
If anything, it added some fullness to the ends of the lashes.  That's about it.  However, it could be the combination of mascaras (I have used it with drugstore mascaras in the past and found that it made a more of a difference), or my technique (maybe I should have slapped a little more primer on there?), or my timing (I usually apply primer on one eye, then mascara immediately after, then repeat with the other eye versus primer on both eyes then mascara on both eyes...maybe I need to let the primer dry a little bit first?).

I'll keep experimenting with it, but before we wrap this up, just want to throw in a tried-and-true tip for getting thicker and darker-looking lashes without fail - tightlining.  While most "traditionalists" in the world of makeup consider true tightlining to be the use of a small, flat brush to "push" gel liner up into the base of the upper lashline to fill in any of the flesh-colored gaps, an easier and quicker version of this is using a pencil or gel liner (on the tip of an eyeliner pencil that you dip into the gel liner or with a small angled or flat brush) to just line the upper water line.  My favorite pencil for doing this is Urban Decay's 24/7 pencil in Perversion, as it is the blackest pencil I have ever found and it will not smear, smudge, or run when used on the waterline. 

Tightlining, no matter what type of mascara you use, is a surefire way to make the lashes look thicker and darker.  To make it easier, put a makeup mirror (the kind that sits on a stand that you do not have to hold with your hand) underneath your chin so that you can look down into it (versus straight ahead), making it easier for you to gently lift up your eyelid with one hand and run the pencil along your upper waterline with your other hand.  Also, be sure to prop the elbow of your lining-hand on the counter/table/vanity as you do this to keep it as steady as possible.  

Before we go, here' s a photo collage for you to compare these products, and especially for you to see what a dramatic difference the tightlining makes! (I did two coats of mascara on upper lashes and one coat on lower lashes in each of these pictures)
What are your recent favorite mascaras, primers, or techniques for lush, full lashes?

Thanks for reading!