Beauty Is ... / Life / News

Beauty Is…Authenticity | Makenzi Koyen

04.12.18

Beauty Is…Authenticity | Makenzi Koyen

Photos c/o Emmanuel Afolabi

Makenzi Koyen is a Brooklyn based actress, writer and producer originally from Seattle, Wa. She is passionate about Jesus, womanhood, storytelling, creativity, and all of the incredible humans in her life.

Have you ever met someone who was completely and utterly themselves? It’s fascinating, a little unnerving, yet incredibly freeing to be around someone who isn’t ashamed of who they are.

I’ve always considered myself a pretty confident woman and yet there have been times where I didn’t fully express my opinion. I’ve watched friends make compromises or hide parts of who they are for the sake of others. It’s like we’re playing hide and seek, looking for the best spot to hide and praying we don’t get found.

In my work as an actor, it’s easy to get caught up in making comparisons, and I sometimes second guess myself rather than trust that I am enough.

Beauty Is…Authenticity | Makenzi Koyen

Why are we so obsessed with perfection? As human beings we have the right to fail. We owe it to ourselves to own our experiences and our mistakes, our weaknesses, and all of the messy, wrong, beautiful parts of our lives.

When I was younger, I straightened my hair for so long that no one knew I had curly hair. I went to great measures to hide a natural part of who I am, because it helped me relate to people. I didn’t want to be different.

Growing up bi-racial in a predominately white community was tricky. You experience things very differently when you’re mixed race because you’re not “just black” and you’re not “just white.”

There were times I didn’t feel like I could relate to anyone, which often left me feeling misunderstood and alone. Straightening my hair was my shield. I felt safe because I fit in. But it was exhausting.

It took a long time to do and was difficult to maintain. One morning in my last year of high school I decided I wasn’t going to do it anymore. I see it as a small victory where I finally surrendered to who I really was.

Beauty Is…Authenticity | Makenzi Koyen

Later in my adult life I realized there isn’t anyone else in the world like me.

No one else has my exact features, talents, or thought patterns.

No one else has my voice, perspective, attitude, or opinions.

No one else has lived my experiences, or seen life through my eyes.

So why would I rob the world of who I am and what I have to offer? I don’t have to make myself seem interesting because I already am interesting. I don’t need to envy another actor’s careers because what I have to offer is completely different!

Beauty Is…Authenticity | Makenzi Koyen

I believe many women grow up afraid of their power. When women hold immense power, it’s unstoppable. When we hold space for ourselves and other women to truly be who they are, change becomes possible and we can become a presence that cannot be denied or ignored.  Sometimes that makes other people uncomfortable, but I’ve been lucky to have wise friends and leaders who have encouraged me to release my voice.

Even more, I am lucky to know Jesus. He is the epitome of authenticity and my relationship with him has enabled me to let go of others’ opinions and to be the woman He created me to be. Jesus reminds me that I am loved – despite the mistakes I’ve made.

I don’t have to be perfect, I get to live in the freedom of who I am and take that out into the world. I have a voice — a voice that does not shame or judge or condemn. A voice that encourages others to be who they are.  A voice that acknowledges the gifts in the women around her.

Beauty Is…Authenticity | Makenzi Koyen

Beauty is authenticity. Beauty is freedom. It’s giving myself permission to fail because I know I can get back up again. It’s showing up, not to put on a show, but to be an actual human with perspective, opinions and feelings. We’re all so afraid to be our authentic selves that we’re missing the moment, and let’s face it: when this world is over, all that will be left is the truth we exchanged with one another.

I may be “too loud” sometimes or even “too emotional.” I speak what’s on my mind and maybe it doesn’t always come out the way I intended it to. But that is ok. I am a work in progress, but that gives me hope. Hope for what’s to come and who I’ll be.

I don’t have to have it all together, where I am today is enough.

XO,

Makenzi Koyen

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Life / The Refined Collective

Am I CRAZY for not having sex until I’m married ? // The Refined Collective

04.10.18

Katherine Harris talks about abstinence

This month’s Refined Collective Series is on focus.  What I love about this series is that each contributor takes the theme in whatever direction they feel compelled to.  This month I took our theme of focus and am sharing my journey on finding clarity in decision on why I’m waiting until marriage to have sex.  It always feels so incredibly vulnerable talking about this.  Thank you so much for your support! (photo c/o Sara Kerens)

I’m a 32 year old Virgin—yep you read that right.

I am secure and clear why I’m choosing to wait until marriage to have sex.  But for a long time I wasn’t.  For my teens and most of my 20s, I wasn’t having sex because I thought, that’s what it means to be a good Christian girl.

Then I moved to New York City.  And I fell in love.  Not having sex with someone I deeply cared about was really hard.  To be frank, in the heat of the moment because the Bible told me so was no longer compelling enough for me to keep my clothes on.

I quickly found that I was one of the only people I knew—Christian or not—who was waiting.  On top of my increasing desire, I began to wonder, is waiting until marriage to have sex an antiquated part of being a Western, Evangelical Christian?    Does God really have anything to say about sex? Do I care if He does?

am I crazy for not having sex until marriage

I felt confused and alone.

So I embarked on what turned into a year long journey of discovering my why.  I researched every verse in the Bible that talked about sex.  To my surprise, God had a lot to say about the matter.

I read everything I could get my hands on — from podcasts to books.  I talked to mentors, single friends, married friends, Christian friends, non-Christian friends, and everyone in-between.

It was a pivotal time in my life for multiple reasons:

  1. I learned that behind every rule is a God who is deeply invested in my heart.  My heart is what He cares about most—not me following a set of rules.  And if God’s best for me is to invite me into waiting, then I’m going to choose to trust Him.
  2. I’m not alone.  As much as it can feel like it at times, there are millions of people who are choosing to save sex for marriage.
  3. I now know with clarity why I am waiting.  And yes, part of it is because the Bible tells me so.  But on top of that, there are so many beautiful, soulful reasons why I’m choosing to wait until marriage to have sex.

If you’re confused…

If you’re wondering why in the world you’re even waiting, and does it even matter…

If you were waiting, then stopped—and are wondering what you want to do moving forward in your relationships…

If you need to be reminded that you are not alone on this journey…

Remember, you are not alone.  I truly believe the plans God has for your life are more abundant, adventurous, and creative than you could ever hope for.

I created this Free Resource Guide just for YOU to share with you 5 Resources While You Wait.

 

With you on the journey,

Kat Harris

 

 

 

 

 

This post is in collaboration with The Refined Collective Series. Be sure and check out the other ladies in this wonderful group Yvette Jain, Corie Clark, Jackie Viramontez, Brynn WatkinsSarah Shreves, Lauren Scruggs, Jessica Hoffman

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Boss Ladies / Life

Boss Ladies | Nicole Corbett

04.05.18

Boss Ladies | Nicole Aguirre of Worn

Photos c/o Kat Harris

Nicole is the CEO of Worn, a mission-based creative agency that empowers women to lead. She leads a team of fearless women launching and growing women-led companies across industries. She is a first generation American with parents from Argentina and Mexico, speaks Spanish, French, and Korean. She starts her mornings with meditation, enjoys drinking decaf tea with her puppy Jack and is planning to do a sprint triathlon for the first time in Long Island this year. 

As a child I dreamed of becoming
A diplomat and nuclear negotiator.

The last photo I took on my phone was of
A piece of art we recently installed in our home, it’s a piece by Korean artist and is made of hundreds of rolled up prayers collected from Buddhist temples in Korea.

My guilty pleasure is
A glass of sake and Taylor Swift’s new album.

One thing people might be surprised to learn about me is
I speak four languages: English, Spanish, French, and Korean.

Boss Ladies | Nicole Aguirre

My favorite way to unwind is
Family nap time with Jack, and my husband.

My real life heroes are 
The organizers of the Women’s March because they catalyzed women around the world and turned what could simply have been a deeply depressing day and into a loudspeaker for women around the world. They made history. I marched with my team.

What I love about my work is
My team. They’re the best part of my work and I know how rare it is to have an incredible group of people around you that you can’t wait to see everyday. I cherish them.

The hardest thing about my work is
Not being able to work with every single women-led company that needs help.

How I got started with my current career
I started out as a photographer, I made print magazine in Washington, DC when I was 22. In 2013, I turned it into Worn, the agency I own today and in 2014 I moved the company to New York along with Carolyn Rush, my first employee. Three years later we have a team of 10 full-time employees.

Boss Ladies | Nicole Aguirre

One of the biggest mistakes I made when I was starting out was
Comparing myself to other companies. It’s the best way to rob yourself of pride in your own accomplishments.

I used to think success meant
Fame or fortune. That’s what society tells you success looks like everyday.

My current definition of success
My impact on women, whether that’s helping a client grow her dream company, or creating jobs for women at Worn. It’s also my ability to do well and do good.

An example of when I had to push through my insecurities
I do this every single time I have to be in a room full of people I don’t know, which is often, or when I give a presentation, which is multiple times per week.

Boss Ladies | Nicole Aguirre

For me, balance means
Getting 8 hours of sleep and not working on weekends.

A few ways I practice self-care
I work out with a trainer, I eat breakfast, I meditate, and I take time off to visit friends I haven’t seen in a long time.

My happiest moment in the past 6 months
One stands out – we won a project that will have a massive impact on women in New York City. Our team shed a lot of happy tears, and I found out we won while I was on a plane and had a mini, happy, silent celebration in the middle seat. We have a video of my team celebrating and it’s extraordinary.

I feel the most beautiful in my skin
After I get a haircut with my stylist Kelsy at Spoke and Weal. She’s the best.

Boss Ladies | Nicole Aguirre

I wish I could tell my younger self
Your ambitions are only a quarter of what you are actually capable of. You’re going to meet people who will have the same dreams and you’re going to change the world together.

A favorite quote
Society’s vision of beauty for women is youth, and youth is weakness. Let that sink in for a minute. My friend Sue Gilad said this the other day.

Boss Ladies | Nicole Aguirre

The legacy I hope to leave
That I helped to shape the lives of women in a direction of greater power.

XO,

Nicole Corbett

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Podcast

Wellness, Transition, and Marriage with Lauren Scruggs Kennedy

04.03.18

This week I’m talking to my longtime friend, Lauren Scruggs Kennedy, who now lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Jason. Lauren has a lifestyle brand, LaurenScruggsKennedy.com, and has recently been focusing on her health and wellness journey as well as navigating marriage.

The First Steps to Wellness

  • Lauren shares everything from the meals she ate on repeat every day in college to what she’s learned about food and its relationship with our bodies, particularly after she noticed feeling sluggish after her move from Dallas to LA.
  • Lauren has been on a journey of recovery after an accident involving an airplane propeller back in 2011 that left her with one eye and one arm.
  • She learned to say no to outings without feeling the pressure to people-please. Instead, she takes the time to intentionally think on if she has the time.

“Step back, pray through it, and realize what is good for you.”

 

The Learning Curve of Marriage

  • Lauren and Jason’s first year of marriage was a time of transitioning from a long distance relationship. They had to learn how to balance; he’s an extrovert, she’s a homebody. ”We had to learn each other.”
  • She gets real about the conflicts that happen in marriage. She and Jason had productive fights, but she had to learn how to open up about her struggles and frustrations, particularly regarding her accident because when the accident happened she didn’t know Jason. In a way, this made her relive the struggle.
  • Her openness eventually strengthened their relationship with understanding. Jason is now able to support Lauren in her “continuous emotional healing.”

life is so much richer when it's imperfect
Lauren’s Favorite Things

I can’t talk about this episode without mentioning the advice Lauren would give her younger self, because this is advice for her younger self, your younger self, and all of our present selves. “Live fully in who you are.”

So, tribe, go out into the world and live fully in who you are, because who you are is enough.

Thanks for tuning in! This episode was sponsored by Branch Basics, a brand created by women with the goal of revolutionizing the home with non-toxic cleaning products. These products bring simplicity and functionality into your life and I’m all about that. What’s amazing is you use one product to create everything from hand soap to laundry detergent. They gave me a special code to share with you for 20% off your first order: (refinedwoman). Thanks, Branch Basics!

XO,

Kat Harris

This podcast is a dream of mine. If you want to join our tribe of patrons for as little as $5/month so I can continue creating meaningful content for you, click HERE.

TODAY ON OUR INSTAGRAM PAGE, I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

 

Check out this episode!

Photo of Lauren provided by Felicia Lasala

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Life / Profiles

Mari Andrew // NYC Profile

03.29.18

writer and illustrator Mari Andrew for the Refined Woman

Mari Andrew // Photos c/o Kat Harris, TRW // Written by Kitty Williams for The Refined Woman

East Village is bustling with energy on a Saturday morning as people and cars rush about in a hurry. Just a few steps off the road and into Thompkins Square Park, the energy is altogether different. Adults congregate around tables and children zoom past on scooter and on foot. The park’s trees bring shade to the paths and walkways that weave through the park like veins.

“In a city there is so much you have to react to. In nature you can just be yourself,” says Mari Andrew, writer and illustrator. When Andrew was sick almost a year ago, she found herself temporarily paralyzed. Now, she is far into recovery and enjoys taking dance classes. However, in the beginning stages of recovery she spent a lot of time in the park. “For the first time I really understood the power of nature,” she says, smiling.

interview with illustrator Mari Andrew for the Refined Woman

After becoming sick, she remembers thinking, “Another thing to talk about; another way to relate to people.” She does this through writing and illustrating about her life in an open and honest way.

She always knew she wanted to be writer, but illustrating made a place for itself in her life when she needed it. “I took it up, among other hobbies, when my father died and I was going through a breakup at the same time. I needed a way to soothe myself every day,” she says. “After a year of drawing, it kind of took over my life.”

Am I there Yet? author Mari Andrew for the Refined Woman

Andrew now has an Instagram account where she shares her heart through illustrations. “I failed the only drawing class I ever took,” Andrew laughs. “So, it was as surprising to everyone in my life as it was to me that I’m an illustrator now. Weird.” With such a large following, she makes sure her Instagram is a supportive community for Instagram users, something that not all of Instagram acts as.

More than displaying her artistry, she seeks to display her real self through these illustrations. “I think I’m just missing the gene that makes me not want to share about my life,” says Andrew. “For me, realness is such a priority and I know that it is comforting to other people.”

She notes that she does have a filter with what she shares, though. She makes a point to never share something on social media that she’s still going through. Every now and then, people assume what she shares is something she is currently experiencing. “I think what bothers me the most is when people confuse vulnerability for a cry for help,” she says.

Am I there Yet? author Mari Andrew for the Refined Woman

On Instagram it is not uncommon to receive criticism, but she doesn’t let it get to her. “The support from other people is always really helpful. I remember that artists I love get criticism and keep at it,” she says.

She often gets emails from people that feel uplifted by her content and this in turn uplifts Andrew. “I’ve been there, I know what it’s like to be lonely and I know what it’s like to feel less lonely. It’s an incredible gift to give someone.”

She moved from DC to NYC only several months ago. When she was 14, she was living in Seattle, but her mother took her to NY on a trip as a present. “I immediately thought ‘oh, this is how people feel when they talk about home,’” says Andrew. “I had never felt at home in Seattle.”

Am I there Yet? author Mari Andrew for the Refined Woman

Andrew feels immense support from New York’s community of artists. “There’s no active competition,” she says. “We’re all sharing this space, we all know how hard it is to be here.” She feels more support here than in the small artist community in DC.

New York can be a wonderful place full of magical experiences waiting to happen. Andrew experiences this magic through the small moments, like walking past crowded restaurant windows. “New York is very expensive but everyone’s a little broke, and New York is very social, but everyone’s a little lonely,” she says. It makes her happy to see people enjoying themselves, even if it is just in passing.

Andrew makes sure to show appreciation every day. “You have to practice gratitude to feel it,” she says. This has become a ritual for her, as has journaling. Though illustrating has become a major part of her life, she still makes time for writing. Her writing explores topics at a depth that her illustrations sometimes cannot reach.

Now, her writing is accessible to all in the form of a book she released with illustrations. “It’s my dream. I always wanted to do it,” she says. “I thought I’d do it at like 60, so 30 years early is quite fabulous.”

It is a collection of personal essays about life in her twenties. “My heart is for girls in their twenties. It is such a weird time, such a special time.” Andrew was determined and patient in getting this book published, because while many publishers just wanted illustrations, she was set on including her essays.

Now that Andrew has checked off ‘write a book’ from her list of goals, next up is writing more books and taking the step to invest in herself and have an art studio here in the city. Life guided her towards this path in unexpected ways but she embraces the path that she is on. “I am proud that I got through difficult things by myself,” says Andrew, still smiling. “I have come to really enjoy a life I’ve created.”

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Life / News / Style / Wellness

Exploring Clean Skincare // Leah Kirpalani of Shop Good

03.27.18

Leah Kirpalani

Photos c/o Jay Reilly // Natasha Boote

After a series of unexplainable health issues, San Diego-based Leah Kirpalani began to shift her lifestyle to promote healing.  She eventually became a Certified Holistic Health Coach, and hopes to empower and educate others about healthy living with her wellness shop, Shop Good.  Leah also enjoys a nice glass of red wine after a busy workday, ordering takeout, and taking walks with her husband and dog.  

Why is clean skincare important?
Up to 65% of what we place on our bodies is absorbed into our bloodstream. But the FDA has very few regulations around the ingredients used soaps, scrubs and serums. Many of the ingredients in traditional skincare products have been linked to health issues and even long-term disease. Exposure of these chemicals adds up over time, so it’s incredibly important to look at what might be lurking in your beauty cabinet and skincare arsenal.

Unfortunately, marketing can be misleading. Just as skincare ingredients aren’t regulated, product claims and labels aren’t either. A face wash may tout white and green packaging or claim to be “natural” or “gentle,” but that doesn’t mean it is. It’s important to be aware of which ingredients to avoid and how to identify quality skincare… and to find partners like Shop Good to do the work for you!

What are the benefits of using natural products?
When you use quality natural products, you can honor your body in a way that heals, nurtures and beautifies. I love to think of my natural skincare products as “wellness tools” because they are infused with organic healing agents like calendula (super anti-inflammatory), witch hazel (anti-bacterial) and geranium (hydrating from the outside-in).  I can practice this critical self-care utilizing these incredibly healing plant botanics… all during my existing morning and nighttime routine!

Leah Kirpalani

What classifies something as a “clean” product?
This is a difficult question since the term “clean beauty” is becoming more common. A few things I look for when vetting a “clean” product for Shop Good:

  1. It must be free of parabens, SLS, phthalates and other endocrine disruptors
  2. Where are the ingredients being sourced? From a nearby farm that utilizes sustainable practices? Or from a cheap source overseas?
  3. What is the manufacturing process? Is it being outsourced to large factories, which might result in contamination? Or does the company use a small-batch, in-house approach where quality can be consistently held to the highest standard.

Organic doesn’t necessarily mean safe (lead is organic but toxic). Which ingredients do you avoid?
Parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) & sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), nanoparticles, led, mercury or other heavy metals, mineral oil, formaldehyde, oxybenzone, phthalates, toluene, and synthetic fragrance.

Leah Kirpalani

Any favorite beauty hacks?
I love keeping Eucalyptus Oil in my shower. I’ll place a few drops in my hands, cup them over my mouth and take 5-10 deep belly breaths. It’s amazing how it works to clear the mind when I’m feeling rushed! I also use masks throughout the week to keep my skin in good shape. I’ll use my favorite hydrating mask in the morning and hop in the shower. The steam helps the plant botanics to absorb and seep into my pores, and I can simply rinse it off at the end of my shower!

Do the terms “Clean Skincare” and “Cruelty Free” go hand in hand?
Truly clean skincare should always be cruelty free. I believe in the simple power of plants from makers who practicing sustainable sourcing.  It’s important to know where the product is sourced and how it was made. Get to know your skincare makers!

Leah Kirpalani

What are your 5 must-have products?

  1. Botnia’s Hydrating Serum. Botnia holds a special place in my heart because their products healed my skin from acne, and Botnia’s founder has been my mentor for almost a decade! Their Hydrating Serum is one of my all time favorite products. It’s scentless and weightless, but after using it I see a difference in my skin’s moisture content, buoyancy, clarity and suppleness.
  2. TMF Vegan Lips in Bianca. Who says you can’t rock a bright red lip while still using all-natural products? This lipstick is the best I have found in super-pigmented, long-lasting and matte natural color. I swipe it on in the morning and reapply maybe once throughout the day. With oils like avocado, jojoba and castor, the lipstick is hydrating, never drying, but also never slips off.
  3. Alima Pure Satin Matte Foundation. I never thought I would be a powder foundation girl, but I will never go back to a liquid. It has just 3 ingredients and provides a very satiny-smooth but ultra-matte finish.
  4. Wyld Facial Sponges. I love to boost my cleansing routine with this handy sponge made from 100% natural Konjac plant root that softens when wet. It works to gently exfoliate and scrub the beneficial properties of your cleanser deeper into your pores. I notice my skin looking brighter, less dry and flaky, and I have fewer breakouts when I incorporate it on a daily basis!
  5. Suntegrity Face Sunscreen + Primer. Never leave the house without it! I grew up in Arizona and disregarded my mother’s warning about using sunscreen. So today in my 30’s, I have to protect my skin every single day. This product perfectly fits into my daily beauty routine. It provides an SPF of 30 and also works as a primer.

Leah Kirpalani

What are some easy ways to start transitioning to clean beauty products?

  1. Eliminate unnecessary items
  2. Start with frequently used products
  3. Begin with replacing what you are running out of first
  4. Focus on products that are often ingested such as lip gloss and lipstick
  5. Avoid products that have artificial fragrances or flavors added

Leah Kirpalani

XO,

Leah Kirpalani

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Life / Style

Thrifting With Intention | Gina Foti

03.22.18

thrifting with intention - gina foti

Photos c/o Emily Scott // Top:  Encourage Vintage // Similar Top:  Faithfull the Brand // Simliar Bottoms:  Reformation // Shoes:  Soludos // Similar Earrings:  Reformation  // Purse:  St. Armands Designs

You know that period in your mid 20s where you can’t really shop at Forever 21 anymore but you also can’t afford big name brands? When all of your sentences start with so I was listening to this podcast today… but you still call your mom with laundry questions? That’s me.

As I’ve moved into this new phase of adulting I’ve learned a few things:

  1. My mom was pretty much right about everything. Like when she told me not to over tweeze my brows.  I made that mistake in the 7th grade. I blame Gwen Stefani.
  2. Almost any problem can be solved with a combination of coffee, dry shampoo and dogs.
  3. Quality over quantity is best when it comes to most things, especially clothes.

thrift shopping

I was shocked to hear that the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry and the second largest consumer of water. Textiles that end up in landfills take approximately 30-200 years to biodegrade, and they release harmful toxins into the air as they do so.  And synthetic fabrics like polyester, nylon and acrylic release microfibers every time they are washed which ends up in our waterways and oceans.

After that, I couldn’t even buy a cheaply made crop top without a montage of my future children slathering on SPF 5000 playing in my head.

As I looked through my closet, I found that the clothes I’d left untouched were often impulse purchases I justified because they were cheap.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good deal and I don’t believe you have to pay premium prices for pieces that you love.

So the question became: how do I purchase clothes intentionally, and minimize my waste while staying within my budget?

Enter: thrifting.

Thrift shopping challenges me to be more thoughtful when purchasing clothing. It also enables me to live a more sustainable life without breaking the bank.

thrift shopping with the refined woman

Emily Scott, thrift shopping expert and owner of Encourage Vintage taught me how to analyze pieces before purchasing. Her technique is to look for unique styles, patterns and fabrics, then study the label and the material. The process forces me to slow down and really visualize how a piece will fit into my wardrobe.

There’s something special about snagging a one-of-a-kind piece that feels all your own. Thrifting has allowed my style to evolve and let my personality shine through. Rather than buying and styling clothes exactly how I saw them on a catalog model, it challenges me to create a look that’s unique and personal.

Thrift shopping can feel intimidating at first. Luckily there are some amazing shopable Instagram accounts and websites that make vintage goods easily accessible for everyone! Boheme Goods Na Nin and Encourage Vintage (where you can purchase the top I’m wearing) are a few of my favorites.

how to shop consciously

There are also some rad sustainable fashion brands, but they can be a little pricier. My current closet is a mix of vintage and staple investment pieces from ethically minded brands such as Amour Vert and Reformation.

Happy thrifting, friends!

XO,

Gina Foti

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Podcast

Anxiety, Race, and Healing Community with Nikia Phoenix

03.18.18

On this first episode of The Refined Collective Podcast, I welcome Nikia Phoenix to leave the pressure to be perfect at the door and have a meaningful dialogue with me, and all of you. She’s talking with me from sunny Los Angeles where the birds are chirping loud enough for us to hear.

I first met Nikia through Instagram, and over the years I’ve had the good fortune of working with her. Now, it’s your chance to feel her good energy wash over you. Her love for others radiates from everything she does, including Black Girl Beautiful.

What is Black Girl Beautiful?

  • It’s a platform Nikia created that serves as “a love letter to women of African descent.” Her mission with Black Girl Beautiful is a reflection of her own struggles and insecurities. She opens up about these insecurities and how she continues to work through them.

 

I have closed my eyes so that I can see clearly. Nikia Phoenix

  • She gets real about the pressure black women feel to always stand tall and never have a vulnerable moment. “In our own private moments we are very much down on ourselves.” Black Girl Beautiful is a space where she encourages vulnerability.

When was the last time you told yourself you’re beautiful?

The Black Girl Beautiful website has a 2-minute-long video that will give you goose bumps. A woman named Misako stands in front of the camera and Nikia asks her about the first time she realized she was beautiful. When Nikia turns the camera screen around so Misako can see herself, she breaks down in tears before she is able to say the words “black girl, you are beautiful.”

I had the chance to ask Nikia when she first realized she was beautiful. She recalls looking back at a photograph taken when she was 7-years-old and really seeing herself in that moment for the first time years later. “There she was.”

How can we link arms together in this?

In this episode, I confront the reality that The Refined Woman lacked diversity until this past year. Nikia and I discuss why this so often happens in life and how we can stop it from happening. What the world needs is for everyone to show up for and support one another. Nikia shares how you can show up for her and how we can show up for one another. So take note, friends. It’s time to lift each other up.

“When you start making it up to the top, who do you want to look around and see with you?”

 

Tune in to hear her answers to what my three episode-ending questions. I am so honored to have shared this episode with Nikia Phoenix and hope you have enjoyed listening.

XO,

Kat Harris

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Life / News / The Refined Collective

My Favorite Self-Care Practices that Cost You Nothing!

03.13.18
my favorite free self-care practices

Stylist:  East Olivia // Photo c/o:  Tutti del Monte

A few years ago—after spending most of my 20s running around on fumes and overcommitting every front— I began to struggle with debilitating anxiety attacks. I also learned that my immune system was shot. I was not taking care of myself.There was no quick fix to moving into freedom and a more balanced way of living. It was a slow road filled with small, intentional steps.

I used to think self-care meant spending a ton of money on massages, weekend getaways, and manicures…But some of the most beneficial self-care rhythms I’ve implemented in my life over the last few years have been completely free.

One of the first things I began to do was go back to the basics to create a more sustainable rhythm to my days. I used to think self-care meant spending a ton of money on massages, weekend getaways, and manicures. (By the way, I love all of those things!) But some of the most beneficial self-care rhythms I’ve implemented in my life over the last few years have been completely free.

Here are a few of my Back to the Basics of Self-Care that cost you nothing

  1. S L E E P 
    • In college I pulled all nighters, and in my 20s I thought sleep was for when you’re old and grey. I learned the hard way that this is not an effective long term plan. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can be linked to weight gain, high blood pressure, comprised immune system, memory loss, and type 2 diabetes. Other than diabetes I experienced most of these symptoms when I was getting sleeping less than 6 hours of sleep.
    • Now I am committed to sleeping at least seven hours a night. And I’ve noticed I have more consistent energy and focus throughout the day, and am less foggy headed.
  2. Q U I E T  // T I M E
    • I was in a bad habit of checking email and social media before I got out of bed. Immediately my day would start with the jolt of to-do’s. This started my day off with stress and anxiety. Now, I don’t check emails or social before 9:00a.m. I give myself an hour and a half to wake up before I start my day. The first thing I do is make a cup of coffee, and snuggle into the corner of my couch with my journal, Bible, and sometimes a book or devotional. I use this time to pray, sit in silence, read, and journal. Instead of starting my day inundated with stress, I now begin with rest and peace. I allow an hour for this each morning, and I soak up every moment. If you’re new to this, try sitting quietly in a comfortable place for 15 minutes before your day gets started.
  3. M E A L // P R E P
    • Doing meal prep and having snacks on hand has changed my life. Before, I’d find myself running from one thing to the next. I’d blink and realize it was 3:00 p.m. and that I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. I’d have no plan and would be in a desperate place so I’d just go grab something quick. This usually meant something that tasted good, but wasn’t feeding my body the nutrients it needed.
    • What I do now is look at the week ahead, and figure out where I’ll be during my days. Then I’ll spend a few hours cooking on Sunday afternoon or Monday night and make to-go lunches for myself for the week. I’m no chef — I make things simple and easy. But having meals ready that I can grab and take with me helps prevent me from headaches, making less healthy choices, and maybe the worst symptom of all: being hangry. Also, having snacks in my bag is clutch. I’ll get raw almonds, RX Bars, and a few apples, and just throw them in my bag. That way if I do get in a bad spot and need something, I have options that are healthy and fueling my body. This has allowed me to be more healthy and save a lot of money.
  4. R E S T 
    • This one was hard to implement. The first thing I had to do was let go of FOMO. The second was to trust that creating space in my life to rest was setting me up for success to be more present throughout the rest of my week. I look at my calendar for the week and block off at least one night where I’m at home with no plans. I found that when I planned ahead for it, and treated it like a meeting with myself I was more likely to keep the date. And it’s fun to have something to look forward to — especially in the midst of a busy week.

All of these things may seem simple, but they take time, forethought, planning, and intentionality to implement. Do you feel exhausted or stuck too? Girl, I get it! I challenge you to practice these four things for the next month. I’m living proof that it’s possible to create new rhythms. It’s all about starting slow with small decisions, being patient, and committing to the process!

XO,
Kat

Thank you for reading this month’s Refined Collective.  Please be sure + check out the other women sharing their stories this month: Brynn WatkinsYvette Jain, Jessica Hoffman Shakir, Sarah Shreves, Rebecca Hajek. Michelle Kim

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Beauty Is ... / Life

Beauty Is…Not Found On The Sale Rack | Louisa Wells

03.08.18

Beauty Is...Not Found On The Sale Rack | Louisa Wells Photos c/o Louisa Wells

Louisa Wells is a New York-based writer, stylist, and photographer. Through her photography, she loves capturing the beauty of the everyday. She enjoys making crafts and playing games with kids through New York Cares. She loves hip hop dancing, and crossing restaurants off her NYC food bucket list with friends.  She also has a newsletter that encourages and challenges a digital community of creatives in all areas of their creative process. 

Shopping. In pop culture, it’s the ultimate pastime for American women. In romantic comedies, it’s often the turning point for when the main character comes into her own. We enjoy it and often make fun of ourselves for when it gets out of hand.

From the time I was able to drive myself (and my credit card) to the mall up until about a year ago, I was a shopaholic. I wouldn’t have admitted it, but I was.

It started innocently enough—I would take a take a break and go shopping before diving into homework and the stresses of life.  But soon it turned into a desire to look and dress better than anyone else.

Beauty Is...Not Found On The Sale Rack | Louisa Wells

I lived for the compliments that I quickly began to expect: I love your outfit, where did you get those shoes?  I want your entire closet. I didn’t realize my entire identity was being built around something could cause me a lot of damage – both emotionally and financially.

As a fashion photographer, I admire and appreciate clothing as art. Seeing a designer’s pieces come alive as they meld fabrics and textures from a two-dimensional sketch is a beautiful gift. Having the privilege to photograph that and help capture someone’s vision is my passion. And I truly believe that the confidence that comes from wearing the right dress or pair of jeans can enhance our personality.

But there is a danger to it. When we begin to see our clothes and style as the definition of who we are, rather than an expression of who we are, we pay a price.

I know I did.

Beauty Is...Not Found On The Sale Rack | Louisa Wells

Fast forward to moving to New York four years ago. I was caught up in the race of the fashion and beauty industries. I felt pressured to keep up with the trends and was still fishing for compliments that could change my mood at a moment’s notice.  I was also in debt — willing to drop serious amounts of money on items I would wear out to impress someone, but then I’d either regret buying it or only wear it once or twice.

It was no way to live but I couldn’t seem to stop the cycle. If I had a bad day I’d go shopping. I got deeper in debt, which only added to my stress. I felt if I didn’t have an amazing outfit, I wouldn’t be seen as beautiful — a lie that couldn’t be further from the truth!

I joined an amazing church, and as I began to make new friends I no longer felt the same pressure to impress people.  Gradually, my outlook on shopping and my appearance began to change.

Slowly I began to unpack the lies I believed about my identity, and I tried to embrace the truth:

I am not defined what I wear. 

I am loved and I am whole. 

I do not need to prove that I am beautiful, I simply need to accept that I am.  

Beauty Is...Not Found On The Sale Rack | Louisa Wells

Practically, this has meant changing deeply ingrained habits, and it has taken some effort.  I forced myself to walk past my favorite stores when my initial reaction was to “just have a look.” I started telling myself I truly didn’t need another dress because I had at least five amazing options at home. I learned to get creative with the clothes I already had — even if I felt bored with my closet.

As I worked through this, something amazing started to happen. I no longer feel any type of pressure to dress a certain way. I am free to live without the pressure of “needing” that one incredible top to complete my wardrobe (which used to be a never-ending quest).

Beauty Is...Not Found On The Sale Rack | Louisa Wells

Getting dressed in the morning is no longer about who I will see that day but what I want to share about my creative self. It’s truly freeing to live from a place of overflow and expression.

By no means have I completely overcome this, but I take it one day at a time, knowing I’ve come a long way from who I was a few years ago.

XO,

Louisa Wells

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