Wednesday, March 31, 2010

WOWoman: Gwen DeVoe

Gwendolyn DeVoe, a full figured woman with a big personality and even greater style, is more than deserving of the title of WOWoman. On Sunday, March 28, 2010, Ms. DeVoe’s company DeVoe Signature Events hosted the Soul Series Brunch at Taj Lounge to collect dresses for the Pretty Girl Project prom dress drive. This sophisticated event exuded a warm and genuine ambiance. The soulful menu boasted delectable items like the memorable French toast, chicken and waffles, hangar steak and eggs, all accompanied by mimosas, sangria and mojitos. The entire event was beautifully orchestrated and executed by the gracious host Deja Mills, allowing Ms. DeVoe to work the room with warm greetings for everyone who came together with nothing but love and support for the Pretty Girl Project.

The Pretty Girl Project was co-founded by Cassandra Jones-McBryde and Stephanie Penn-Danforth with a mission to “encourage girls 12-17 to embrace inner and outer beauty,” and one of their goals is “to prevent girls from engaging in high risk behaviors by assisting them in building healthy self images.” The Pretty Girl Project is hosting The Annual Prom Princess Event on April 24, 2010 in Detroit, Michigan to help relieve the burden of costs associated with prom from families. Their intention is to meet the prom needs of 50 high school girls not only with dresses and accessories, but also with motivational speakers and demonstrations to prepare them for their journeys into womanhood. Through the combined efforts of events like Ms. DeVoe’s in New York City, it is hoped that they have exceeded their goal and created more opportunities for even more high schools girls’ prom dreams to come true. To contribute to this effort, contact info@prettygirlproject.org.

Gwen DeVoe, who has made major moves in supporting full figured women through her own modeling career as well as with her own trail blazing efforts like The Plus Academy, Full-Figured and Fabulous, and her most recent endeavor Full Figured Fashion Week. With a mission to support the fuller figured women, Ms. DeVoe made it her duty to have all sizes on the spectrum represented in the dress donations for the Pretty Girl Project prom dress drive. Although Ms. DeVoe pays special attention to full figured women, it is in no way her intention to exclude anyone. She simply makes an exclusive effort to reach out to full figured women so that they are eventually included in the norm of the wide variety of shapes and sizes that women come in.

Gwen DeVoe continues to blaze the trail as she prepares for Full Figured Fashion Week, which will take place in New York City June 16-20, 2010. After a more than anticipated reception last year, Full Figured Fashion Week is back this year with a schedule packed with a Big and Tall Male Fashion Show, a Concierge Shopping Trip, an expo and a panel discussion. Bringing together aspiring and signed models, designers and full figured women from all over, this event is sure to leave a major impression beyond the full figured fashion scene in NYC.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Travel Tuesday: Tips and Tricks

Double the Pleasure, Double the Fun

Layovers can be annoying, but not if you use them to your advantage. On a flight to Edinburgh, Scotland, I was stuck with a 13-hour layover in Dublin, Ireland. Instead of sitting in an airport for a very long day, I bought a day pass and hopped on a double-decker bus for some exploring (looking like Dora with my backpack). Embracing this adventurous and independent side of myself set the tone for an AMAZING trip. Also, on a recent trip to Minneapolis I chose a flight with an extended layover in Atlanta and met up with my college roommate for dinner, which was a great BONUS to my trip.

You can go as far as planning an overnight layover for a quick night out with friends in that city. For the price of one flight, a layover can upgrade your trip into a multicity journey.

Safety First

I also wanted to share this e-mail I just received from a friend:

You arrive at your hotel and check in at the front desk. When checking in, you give the front desk your credit card (for all the charges for your room). You get to your room and settle in.

Someone calls the front desk and asked for (example) Room 620 (which happens to be your room). Your phone rings in your room. You answer and the person on the other end says the following, “This is the front desk. When checking in, we came across a problem with your charge card information. Please re-read me your credit card number and verify the last 3 digits numbers at the reverse side of your charge card.”
Not thinking anything you might give this person your information, since the call seems to come from the front desk. But actually, it could be a scam of someone calling from outside the hotel/front desk. They ask for a random room number. Then, ask you for credit card information and address information. Sounding so professional that you do think you are talking to the front desk.

If you ever encounter this problem on your vacation, tell the caller that you will be down at the front desk to clear up any problems. Then, go to the front desk and ask if there was a problem. If there was none, inform the manager of the hotel that someone called to scam you of your credit card information acting like a front desk employee.

You can read about all of Miss Journey's adventures at Miss Journey's blog.

Photo source

Monday, March 22, 2010

Practicing the 2nd Agreement - The Responsibility of Personal Development

Today, I'll be continuing the series "The 10 Agreements for Living the Life you Truly Desire." I invite you to participate in the conversation as we explore the power of living a well lived life.

I came up with the "10 Agreements for Living the Life you Truly Desire" to help myself and other women identify those areas that would give us the direction we need to live our lives with fulfillment, purpose and joy.

Agreement # 1 is: I agree to help others in their quest to live the life they truly desire. To read the post about this agreement click here.

Agreement # 2: I agree to discover how to develop myself to the fullest extent.

This agreement asks us to focus on getting serious about developing ourselves and more specifically how to accomplish this in a way that best suits who we are.

You know the old saying "different strokes for different folks," well that ain't nothin' but the truth. I've been a student of personal development for over 20 years and I've read my fair share of books that approached the issue from a variety of perspectives. Books with topics like: how to love, letting go of fear, loving consciously, path to love, purposeful lives, power of now, accessing courage, what color is my parachute and so and, and so on, and so on. Each have been valuable in its own unique way. Each have provided me with more tools to discover the lesson needed at a particular time. But, there comes a time, at the end of the day, after you've read all of the great 10 step plans and so forth, when you have to figure out what will work for you. You have to sift through all that you've digested and create a game plan that's best suited for your complex world. A book can only extend your knowledge, but it's the application of knowledge that changes lives.

Knowledge is really power, understanding how to apply that knowledge is where the real power comes in to play.

The underside of this agreement is about discovering who you are. Because it's through knowing who you are, your strengths and weaknesses, your likes and dislikes, that you're able to discover exactly how to develop your self to the fullest extent possible.

I'd love to hear about what's working for you and why . Leave a note in the comments section below and we'll keep this conversation going.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Royal Getaway

Royal Decameron is an all inclusive resort for anyone looking for an affordable getaway. It is 90 minutes away from Sangster, the International Airport in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Upon check-in, guests are greeted with a smile and a tropical welcome drink. The unmistakable voice of the late reggae singer and national icon, Bob Marley singing “I Shot the Sheriff” resonated through the resort.

One of the first noticeable things about Royal Decameron is the delighted faces of the guests. Julie, a visitor at the resort, could not resist the Decameron and flew 24 hours to stay a second time with her husband. One of the things that attracted Julie was that Decameron is such a secluded resort. "I like this resort because you can't loose people and it is private," said Julie. Travis who traveled from New York added, "If you're looking for an affordable all inclusive resort in Jamaica, Royal Decameron is the perfect spot for you."

However, others had a different view of Decameron. Maria was not entirely thrilled about it. "It seems like it is Less than three a star and it feels like a mansion not a resort. Although you can say it feels homey."

Decameron had hundreds of white cottages with hunter green dew drenched grass surrounding each one. The apartment styled bungalow had a tee-pee shaped roof. Inside there was a walk in closet with shelf space. Outside the rooms, just a few feet away awaited the sandy beach. A small bar stood for the visitors drinking pleasures.

There were three places to eat, a snack bar, main restaurant buffet, and one special restaurant where reservations had to be made. The snack bar included an adequately sized personal pizza. In addition to the pizza, the bar offered chicken wings, fries and a "fixins bar."

One of the biggest attractions of the resort was the main restaurant which is a buffet. One can find an array of foods, which included:
· Meats
· Plantains
· Potatoes
· Pancakes
· Freshly baked croissants and breads
· Roast beef
· Sweet and sour chicken
· Fish stews
· Rice
· Potatoes
· Various cakes and cookies as well as ice cream made up dessert

Dinner time is 7:00 pm – 9:30 pm. There was a theme for every night. There was Italian night, Jamaican night, Mexican night etc. Foods from those nations were served. On Jamaican night the cooks served:
· Jerk chicken
· Beef patties
· Ackee and saltfish
· Curry

On Italian the cook whipped up:
· Alfredo
· All types pasta

For Mexican night cooks made:
· Beef and chicken
· Quesadillas and tacos

There was always something to do at Decameron. Some of the activities included:

· Snorkeling
· Water skiing
· Banana boat
· Wind surfing
· Beach volleyball
· Bicycling tour
· Tour on a glass bottom boat

Other activities were provided by the entertainment team of Decameron. Maria, a sassy Jamaican, was part of the entertainment staff. She taught the vacationers how to move like Jamaicans. She made a comment, "Once you are in Jamaica you are Jamaican, yeah mon." She taught them the Willie bounce, the Umbrella, Anaconda, get Jiggy and many other dances.

At night the entertainment only got better, but for some it was not good enough. "The entertainment needs to go up a notch," said Maria Perez in a disillusioned voice. Everyone sat around the stage which was adjacent to the pool to see the evening show. The MC was a witty Dominican who tried to get the lackluster audience pumped. The shows were filled with a lot of acts. There were reggae bands that covered songs from other artists. There were couple games where the couples had to pop balloons on each other Kama Sutra style and they even had to switch gender by wearing each other's clothes. Lastly, the professional dancers blessed the stage with their remarkable bodies and incredible talent. They paid homage to the most influential stars such as Michael Jackson, Shakira, Harry De la Belafonte, and Beenie man, the King of the dancehall.

After the show the host announced that the party continued at the disco. The small disco had an open bar to the right and the dance floor in the far end. Some enjoyed Jamaica's national alcoholic beverage, Appleton White Rum which was referred to as fire water. No one could resist the contagious dancehall music. People of all races did their best to imitate the professional dancers who shared the stage. The dancers oozed with confidence as they moved to the sultry reggae sounds.

The Royal Decameron in Runaway Bay was royal for some not so regal for others. This resort is no doubt an inexpensive all you can eat and drink fest for the vacationer who wants to relax in a cozy hotel.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Breathe Life Into Your Career

This is motivational Monday, so this post is intended to inspire and motivate by presenting you with tips on how to keep your job. It may be hard to get a good job and get your career going but it is very easy to lose a job by committing career suicide. What is career suicide? It is the act of poisoning your work relationships among your supervisor, big boss, and/or colleagues that is beyond repair. Sometimes people mistakenly do things like reply to an email with a misunderstood response or refuse workload because they’re already bogged down with a lot of work or express their opinions when not asked. Then there are others who intentionally do things like piss of their boss, show up to work late often, take extra long lunches, wear inappropriate outfits, take too long to complete tasks and assignments, etc.; the list could go on but the point is find ways to avoid killing your career before it even starts; and for those set in your job, you can still benefit from these tips.

1.) Speaking of starting off, when you start a new job, usually you are asked to review the employee handbook and learn more about company policies such as attire, computer & email use, lateness, work ethics, division of power and authority, conducts, vacation and sick days, etc. There are some places that will either quiz you within a few days or weeks, there are some that will quiz you randomly and others assume you just know. This book is your bible, please review this book immediately and learn how you can do your job better and align with the mission of the company. If your place of employment does not have an employee handbook, ask the hiring manager everything you need to know about:
  • Dress Code
  • Computer Use Policy (You don’t want to get caught on Facebook)
  • Use of email, phone, fax, Internet (Don’t get caught on Facebook, reading personal emails, or on personal calls
  • Compensation
  • Benefits
  • Organizational Culture (The way the office operates to ensure productivity and efficiency aka the office politics)
  • Safety and Security

The reason for studying the employee handbook or asking for this information is to better prepare yourself when you run into a problem and you need to know how (by office law) things are dealt with. Plus, you always want to show how engaged you are with the company and understand how it works.

2.) Now you have read your employee handbook, what’s next? Get to know the people you always need in your corner. In case anything goes wrong and you need someone to vouch for your good work and help keep your job. Don’t piss off the gatekeeper because they hold the keys to the many doors that could be opened for you if you play your cards right.

You are thinking why should you have to stroke someone else's ego even if you don’t like them. Have you noticed the people liked the least are the ones that have the most influence? You are thinking why waste your time on these people but it’s not about wasting time, it’s about keeping your job and enlisting the help of those who can help you keep it. You don’t ever outgrow these people as you move up in the ranks, you just play by their rules but keep your own needs in mind. Unfortunately every work place has those people and those rules.

Your skills, talents and your best experiences will take you far but you have to understand office politics play a big role in your work performance as well so pay close attention.

3.) Though you need to really know the gatekeeper, get to know about all the people at your job and their roles and responsibilities. Knowing the chain of command is crucial because you don’t want to step on anyone’s toes and you really want to ensure the most productivity with working with the right people on special tasks and projects. To get to know people at your job, follow these steps:
  • Introduce yourself to all your immediate colleagues and ask if you could setup a time to get to know them better. Either take them to breakfast, lunch, dinner or just a regular meeting. Ask them about what they do, how they do it and how you can make their job easier.
  • If this person has an assistant, get to know that assistant and how they operate so in case you ever need something you already know their preferences.
  • Volunteer to work on committees such as Human Resources, Office Management, Special Events and Projects, Research, etc. Be an active employee but do not take on too much extra workload.

4.) While you are networking with your new colleagues, do not fall prey to office gossip or drama. You do not want to be sucked into this or known as the office gossip because people will never trust you or try to squeeze information out of you for their own purposes.
  • If you have a colleague that comes to you and ask for advice on how to deal with trouble with another coworker, refer them to the handbook on how to best deal with the situation or tell them to just find ways to either confront or avoid the situation on their own because they know what is best for them in the end. Do not get drawn into the he said she said business.
  • Do not form cliques or hang out with a certain group of people to much because you do not want a bad reputation; remember that your reputation aka “personal

5.) Besides avoiding drama and gossip, do not try to be standoffish or seen as you don’t want to be bothered. You can be engaged and interested without having to take sides. Neutrality is always great but hard to come by so just try to be as professional as you can be in the workplace.

6.) Being professional means
  • Expressing your ideas and opinions with a sense of humility. Do not put others down and always listen to what others have to say. Don’t show anger in person and definitely not in writing.
  • Knowing what battles to choose and those to avoid.
  • Clean and fresh appearance
  • Hardworking attitude
  • Being a team player (Don’t be the yes person but show you are down for the cause)
  • Showing time management efficiency
  • Managing your workflow by priority
  • Not upstaging your boss in public
  • Not embarrassing your boss in public

7.) Not embarrassing yourself and your boss in public in extremely crucial. Learn more about dinning etiquette on business meetings or about ho to network with clients according to the way your place employment approves.

8.) Last but not least, do not talk about your personal business to every Tom, Dick, and Harry! You can be open about something’s in your life; do not deny or lie about who you are but show some couth. Do not talk about drinking games you played over the weekend or the wildest nightclub experience you had…don’t give people a reason to use things against you in the event something goes wrong.

Sites to visit about personal branding and career management:


Recommended book: Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets To Success, One Relationship At A Time by Keith Ferrazi.

Breathe life into your career by making the right choices on and off the job. You represent your job everywhere you go but you must also stay true to your brand and ethics as well. Learn how to become a better employee by becoming a better you first! More tips to come in the future.

Desiree Frieson, 24, is the communications manager at Odyssey Networks, a non-profit interfaith media production company in New York City.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

My Hair was a Big Hit in India!

Initially, I was terrified about going to India, but comforted by the fact that I was traveling with 24 other people who had never been to India, either. From the moment we landed, I felt that I was in the right place. I mean, we were going non-stop with activities such as backwaters cruise, visiting tea plantations, elephant training camps, and kathakali performances. Whenever I had a moment of clarity (it came in waves over there), I said, "Oh, my God, I'm in Indiaaaaaaaa!!!!"

We stayed in Kerala which is in South India (right on the Arabian sea). Within Kerala, we stayed in the villages of Cochin, Munnar, and Cheruthuruthy. We also visited Thrissur, Trivandrum (in Kerala) and Chennai in the capital city state of Tamil Nadu on the weekend. Compared to the U.S., Kerala is very reserved. Country-men and women don't hold hands or kiss in public. The women don't expose skin. However, it's one of the more progressive states in India in the fact that it has one of the highest literacy rates in the country and almost EVERYONE receives an education. Poverty in Kerala is not like it is in Calcutta and Mumbai (where “Slumdog Millionare” was filmed). In those places, you see people DYING on the streets. Thank God we weren't exposed to that, though we did see the occasional person missing a limb. However, even these people were overall healthy and functional.

What struck me the most was the physical beauty of the land and general friendliness of the people. You know, Americas think of themselves as being so progressive, but I felt that the Indian people, while maybe not having experienced foreigners or traveled far outside of their towns, were open-minded and had an innate wisdom that some Westeners only dream of. As Harish Babhu (our guide throughout the trip and an overall sweet and brilliant guy) said, "There is a science to everything we do".

On January 1, 2010, almost everyone in our group (including yours truly) got sick; we think it was something we ate in Munnar, a beautiful mountain village at an altitude of 6,000 feet. Even Professor Orenstein, her husband and two kids fell ill. It was so awful we had to leave. However, as I told my roommate Holly, we should've viewed the illness as "purging the bad stuff from the past year in order to make room for the good stuff" (hey, I am a writer). A couple of us got sick a second time two weeks later. It was a bummer, but we got through it. You don't realize how tough you are until your stomach's upset on the side of a dirt road in rural India!

The kids were totally sweet--almost knocking us over to shake your hand, say hello, and wave. Some even blew kisses at us! Amazing, right? The men really seemed to be intrigued by foreign women, though we got a lot of attention from the women and kids, as well. However, even the three people in our group who were of Indian descent got a lot of attention, too (they were totally Westernized, so of course the native Indian people were wondering what the deal was). I can only compare the experience to being a celebrity; people constantly asking to take pictures of you, staring at you, asking you where you are from, wanting to talk, and shaking your hand. It was a bit overwhelming at times.

The long, brown extensions woven into cornrows on my head got a lot of attention, several people told me "Your hair is beautiful", but Labi, the woman who designed the Henna tattoos on our hands, expressed it best, " I love your hair; we have nothing like that in India". Look at Krystal bringing culture to India without even trying! I just didn't want to have to pick out my ‘fro every morning in the heat! As I told Tracita, "My hair was a hit in India!"

Kathakali, the dance-drama we trained in as the study abroad focus, is about 500 years old. What I liked about it is the fact that there are religious elements within the drama; the plays are generally about a story or Hindu myth featuring Gods. Before each performance, the performers pray (which is what we did, as well). Imagine dancing for four hours a day, five days a week in the Indian heat. We went through BOTTLES AND BOTTLES of water a day, sometimes we changed our clothes three times a day! And their style of dancing is not like it is in the West-it is intense and mind-numbing, but very fun! Teachers there don't pat you on the back every time you do something right. You could do a triple back flip, a split, walk on your hand, and when you finish, they'll just say, "Next".

My kathakali teacher, Thulasi Kumar, was quite a guy. He came off as completely cocky and arrogant at first (in fact everyone in my group couldn't stand him), but turned out to be a truly great guy. He had just graduated from Kerala Kalamandalam (the performing arts institution we were training at) several weeks earlier, and so this was his first time teaching. Poor guy, his first time teaching and he not only gets a class of women (everyone on the trip was split up into different groups placed under different teachers), but a class full of foreign women!
I had mentioned that I was craving some familiar food (especially pizza), so he borrowed his friend's motorcycle and drove and hour into Shornur to Abu's Bakery. Once there, he requested four cheese pizzas for our class (it was the bakery's first time attempting to make pizza and it was good). He paid for it (he wouldn't accept money from us) and I was eternally grateful. On the last day of class, we presented him with a Dhoti (a fabric that Indian men wear), and he gave all four of us miniature clay statues shaped into a mudra (a hand gesture that's a staple of Indian classical dance). He even waited outside the school the day we left for home in order to say good-bye. As our bus drove past the school on the way to the airport, there he was, waving to us. It doesn't get any better than that.

Mother India...it really had an impact on me. I hope to return there in the near future (as well as hit Ghana, England, Haiti, Peru and Costa Rica). In the meantime, I have settled back into life in New York, this time with a very different perspective on things. For that, I am eternally grateful to have experienced “God’s Own Country,” also known as Kerala, India.

Krystal S. Ballard was born and raised in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, where she still resides. She is in her last semester at Hunter College, where she'll be graduating with a BA in Theater, minor in English in May. She is looking to enter graduate school in 2011.

Kathakali/Elephant pictures courtesy of this Travelogue.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Practicing the 1st Agreement - Helping Others

For the next few weeks I'll be posting a series on "The 10 Agreements for Living the Life you Truly Desire." I invite you to participate in the conversation as we explore the power of living a well lived life.

I came up with the "10 Agreements for Living the Life you Truly Desire" to help myself and other women identify those areas that would give us the direction we need to live our lives with fulfillment, purpose and joy.

Agreement #1 states: I will help others in their quest to live the life they truly desire.

This agreement is of course, all about helping someone else. Helping others is one of the best ways I know of to get motivated and then stay that way. The pay off you receive for helping someone else can be equally beneficial for you and the recipient. I spend a significant amount of time volunteering with my sorority and I find that I am always filled with awe at how much I get out of volunteering. No matter the age or gender, the act of helping someone else is deeply gratifying.

Okay, to get you in on things here's a few questions to get the conversation going:

•What is your life's quest?
•Have you discovered your passion?
•Did you discover your passion through helping someone else in their life's quest?
•How are you helping someone else in their quest to live the life they truly desire?

That should get us started. Post in the comments section below and let's keep the conversation rolling.

Her Journey Magazine Spring 2010 Issue

We are SO EXCITED to share the Spring 2010 Issue with you, and we would LOVE to know what you think.

PLUS! Please enjoy a look behind the scenes with Leah Smith!

We invite you to stay in touch with us on HerJourneyMag.com, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to see what other great things we have in store.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Fun Foto Friday

Can you guess where the Her Journey Team is now?

Surprise give-away to the first person who answers correctly and is a follower!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Money Monday

As much as I enjoy the luxury of travel, I understand that one of the main obstacles of traveling is money. After reading Glinda Bridgforth’s Girl Get Your Money Straight, I realized that it just would not be right for me to promote traveling and living lavishly at the (literal) expense of your financial well being. From here on out it is my mission to also share ways to enjoy the joys of travel in a financially responsible way.

- Take advantage of rewards programs on debit and credit cards but don’t let them take advantage of you. Even though Bridgforth encourages them, she warns to not let the reward of a free flight lure you into a credit card agreement you can’t keep up with. It would be wiser to set up a rewards program with debit cards and get rewards for what you’re already doing without taking the on the risk of creating more debt.

-Being loyal can pay off, literally. Using frequent flier programs, you can earn free flights. A free flight made my most recent trip to Chicago that much sweeter. It’s a good idea to sign up with a few different airlines to give yourself options when looking for flights.

-Saving makes cents. Keeping your leftover change can really add up, and instead of the old school way of wrapping coins, TD Bank’s Penny Arcade is a fun little treat (you don't even have to have an account with them!). Bank of America’s Keep the Change program also allows you to do the same thing with debit card purchases. You can even take your savings strategy a step further, and make it a personal challenge like The Glam Globetrotter's $20-A-Day Vacay. If you need a little extra help, look into vacation savings accounts that only allow deposits.

-Give a little, get a little. With voluntourism on the rise, travel can be even more rewarding. For example, Sage Hospitality’s Give a Day, Get a Night promotion: “Give 8 hours of community service and get a complimentary night stay or 50% discount on hotel rooms at all 53 Sage hotels across the country; AND Disney's Give a Day, Get A Day promotion. You can even get paid to work abroad (more on that later).

Give me your two cents. What other ways do you overcome the financial obstacle of travel?

Image found at The Fabulous Giver, a great philanthropic blog. Check them out!