Featured Dream Chaser: #WaterBabee @DanniWashington Is A Real-Life Mermaid!


It’s not too often that I write a “Featured Dream Chaser” piece, but this one is loooong overdue. Let’s just say it probably should have been one of the first features I ever posted here, especially since I know this Dream Chaser all too well. Yup, she’s my bestie! And her journey is everything short of a Cinderella tale. As gorgeous as she is, Danni Washington is a BEAST! And anything else that’s resilient, unshakeable, unstoppable, and UN-breakable. And she’s been that way long before I met her when I was just a 17-year-old soon-to be senior in high school, who’d been following her hairstylist mother around backstage as she whipped the manes of some of South Florida’s most beautiful models for a beach-side fashion show.

 

Danni, the same age as me, was a model in the show. And although I don’t remember most of the details of that day, I do remember having a very brief conversation about our goals for the future. She had plans to attend the University of Miami to study Marine Biology, something that I had no clue about. When she said it had something to do with swimming a whole lot, and being alongside ocean creatures, I knew right away just why I knew NOTHING about marine life. With a mother as a hairstylist, I had probably been getting relaxers (permanent hair straighteners) for most of my life. And if you know what that is, then you know that water and perms DO NOT MIX! Therefore, I had no interest whatsoever in what she was talking about. But, I was magnetically drawn to her undeniable passion as she spoke of this goal of hers to attend a university that had one of the best Marine Biology programs in the country. I shared with her that I too had plans to attend the University of Miami, but not because I had actually researched any of its programs. My wish to attend UM was mostly because it was always a spoken of with such high regards in my family and surrounding community. I mean, everyone in Miami knew and loved “The U! And if I was going to continue my education, I wanted to be associated with the “The Best.” Sounds crazy, I know. Especially given how expensive UM is (I’ll be paying for it for a while). But college was always an after thought for me. If it weren’t for my desire to set an example for my family as the first to graduate college, I probably would have never gone…

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Any who, the next time I saw Danni was about 3 years later. We were both juniors in college and I had just transferred to the University of Miami after completing two years in junior college (I had to figure out a way to save some money somehow if I was gonna pick the most expensive school in Florida). I must have recognized her instantly as we were both leaving the bookstore and heading towards the University Center. I remember tapping her shoulder and belting out a “HEY! How are you?!” with my arms open and ready to embrace a long-lost friend. We hugged and reminded each other of how and when we first met, and we both shared an implicit “WE MADE IT” moment, as we acknowledged that we both did EXACTLY what we said we would, in spite of.  That moment solidified the foundation of our friendship, and we’ve been sisters ever since.  We shared some of our most embarrassing, hurtful, happy and joyous moments throughout those years at UM. Our deepest connection, however, was our passion for understanding life’s mysteries… Yes, our curiosity of GOD and Spirituality, and our love for mankind is the glue that kept us connected and focused on the tasks at hand. We might not have quite understood our paths and why they crossed, but we had an understanding that our journeys were much bigger than we could have ever imagined, and that we could NOT travel alone.

 

Since graduating college Danni has gone on to start her own non-profit organization, The Big Blue & You, which is dedicated to educating youth about the ocean through media and an annual Art By The Sea event.  Every bit of her dream has required courage, hard work, and huge leaps of faith. In 2012, she packed her bags and took her talents to Los Angeles, California to solidify her dream of being an Ocean Advocate and On-Air personality. So far so good as she’s been invited to The White House at least twice, has worked on phenomenal marine life projects alongside some of the best in her field (including Life After Earth Science with Jayden Smith), has her very own TED Talks speech, and was recently featured in SEVENTEEN Magazine’s “Score Your Dream Life.” My girl has been WERKIN’! And in my eyes, she will forever be THE ULTIMATE Dream Chaser.

Meet Danni Washington: 2014 Reel

[youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mdrph9Xr0do%5D

Check out Danni’s TED Talks as she explains her journey:

[youtube:http://youtu.be/1Lr9afMgcTQ%5D

Be sure to pick of the latest copy of Seventeen’s August 2014 to see how Danni exercises her GIRL POWER!

 

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Late Night Ramble… What I’ve Learned From Emotions

Its been a while since I’ve blogged… at least the way that I was used to blogging when I started this thing. The truth is, life got in the way. A lot of new things have happened since I last poured my guts out on BCSTARKS, and with lots of experiences come lots of lessons. And my readers know how passionate I am about learning from life’s lessons and sharing them.

I won’t go into detail about everything, because that’s never why I share things here. But I will share with you how I’ve felt as of late, and what I’ve learned from my emotional bouts.

Fear… But I’ve learned to do things anyway just to get past it. Although I find myself afraid at times, I’m more fearful of not taking chances with my hopes and dreams than I am of actually facing my fears.

I’ve felt disappointment. But the lesson here is that one should never expect others to fit the mold of what one wants them to be. People are who they are, and have every right to evolve at their own  pace… No one else is responsible for one’s personal happiness, nor should one give others the power to determine one’s happiness. If disappointment creeps up on you, say this affirmation: ” I forgive you for not being the way I wanted you to be. I forgive you and I lovingly set you free.” Forgiveness is always key to having a more peaceful life experience.

Anger and Frustration… are recipes for disaster. These two emotions get you nowhere, FAST! Or more like trouble that you never intended to be in. My lesson with these two have been to acknowledge when something doesn’t sit well with me. Sometimes my best approach has been to do this in writing. I find that when I write things out first I am able to release some of the  initial shock and first impressions on paper. And once I’m past those things, I am then able to better address whatever the situation is, minus the negative emotion. No sense in making a bad situation worse.

I’ve got love. When I surround myself with those who love me unconditionally, and I love myself the same and more, everything else seems a lot less significant. I’ve come to find that being surrounded by love can get one through the toughest situations. Material things, relationships, and circumstances may come and go, but genuine love endures all… It heals all too! Especially when it’s from yourself, to yourself.

Happiness. Its something that I feel often… Especially when I blog. 🙂 I’ve learned to stick with the things that make me happy as often as possible. Yes, even the little things like watching The Lion King with my 5-year-old nephew. It’s a collection of doing the little things as often as possible that equal the sum of a happy life. For me, happiness is a collection of experiencing more good moments than bad. It is possible for all, but experienced mainly by those who make a  conscious decision to be happy in spite of the unpleasant temporary moments.

Peace is what I feel nowadays. I’ve learned to find peace in the midst of chaos. I do this most quickly when I make time to quiet my mind from all the negative thoughts that stir up negative emotions. I tell myself a different story through affirmations and meditation. I give myself time to find relief, which calms me and allows me to reach a state of peace regardless of what’s going on around me. I haven’t quite mastered this yet, but I sure am getting better at it.

Emotions are a major part of the human experience, but it’s how you express them that determines what your life becomes.

Overall, my life is on the UP and UP. I have so much to be thankful for. And it only gets better. And I wish you the same.

Love,

@BCSTARKS

Featured Dream Chaser: 1st Time Reporter Kayla Haley Faces Fears and Shines Light On @HoneyChildTracy ‘s Female Youth Empowerment Program

Kayla Haley

Meet Kayla Haley , a humble and extremely ambitious 18-year old who was among 19 other high school student reporters that I had the privilege to work with this past summer at the 30th annual James Ansin and Peace Sullivan High School Workshop in Journalism and New Media program. Her goal, to be able to tell stories that make a difference.

For her, like a few of the other student participants, it was a first time experience having to do research, contact complete strangers and interview them to pull a story together for the multiple media platforms. And boy was she nervous! I recall her being concerned about not having the experience of other student reporters, and being fearful of not landing the right interviews. But nonetheless, she landed all of the right interviews, including one with Tracy Mourning,  wife of former NBA All-star Alonzo Mourning as part of a feature on her non-profit girl empowerment organization Honey Shine.

As a mentor, I was able to go with Kayla on interviews with Honey Shine Director Edlyn Griffith, Tracy Mourning, and some of the “Honey Bug” participants. I was most impressed by the in-the-moment confidence, as well as the highest level of professionalism that she displayed.  She inspired me to share her story with my readers because she’s an example of how a “getting scared, but doing it anyway” approach can lead one closer to goals and dreams than being passive. In her article, Kayla tells the story of why Tracy started Honey Shine, and the effect that the program has had on young girls across South Florida. Check out her story below:

HONEY SHINE- Shine On

Kayla didn’t just face her fears while discovering what it means to be a journalist, but she showed resilience and tenacity after being told that her Honey Shine story would not be published due to technical difficulties.  As devastating as this news was, Kayla was ON TO THE NEXT! Hard work and determination, and one heartfelt pep-talk with yours truly not only allowed her to regroup and set out to do an entirely different story with media components, but she won the workshop’s Best Story 2013 Award! Whoop whoop! Click on the image below to read her investigative story on how homeless teens solicit help on social media.

Photo: I still can't believe this! Thank you again to everyone at Montage who made these past three weeks more than amazing! And thank you to my family and friends who prayed for me while I was gone!

I’d say that she’s already gotten a great start on setting her goals in motion. Hope you’re inspired too!

Love,

@BCSTARKS

P.S.- Check out the other amazing stories on Homeless Youth in South Florida by participants in the JAPS Journalism and New Media Workshop here:

2013_UM_for Web_Miami Montage

Beauty Inspiration: Queen SNOB @IAmMingLee Is Living Her Dream (Documentary)

Ming Lee, Celebrity Hairstylist and Founder of IAmMingLee.com (Queen SNOB)
Ming Lee, Celebrity Hairstylist and Founder of IAmMingLee.com (Queen SNOB)

I am beyond a sucker for inspirational stories about those who have the audacity to go after their dreams. So when I was able to finally watch #DreamChaser Ming a.k.a. @IAmMingLee’s documentary about how she turned her dreams into a reality, I was totally inspired to share it here with you.  If you don’t know who Ming Lee is, not to be confused with the beautiful pre-teen daughter of Russell Simmons, here’s a few stats on her. She’s a 27-year old celebrity hairstylist based out of Atlanta, Georgia, by way of Detroit, who coined the term “SNOB Life” (for those who keep up on Instagram), and she’s making quite a name for herself.

snob life

I first took notice of her work while surfing YouTube a while ago and seeing some of her many hair tutorials and before and after shots of her own clients. To say the least, I was impressed. So much so that I clicked away at multiple links that lead to her website IamMingLee.com . The site offers a look into her world as a beauty expert, as well as her own online hair and apparel boutique, which she meticulously branded her namesake. It’s also the place where I discovered the term “SNOB” and everything that it stands for according to Ming and her social media followers. The term was born out of a long-held desire of Ming to one day be successful enough to live a lifestyle of the elite. And so it is.

I am building my empire for all women with the means to inspire all to be the Queen of their dreams and remembering to bring others up with you and to spread your blessings. – Celebrity Hairstylist Ming Lee

Now owner of her newly opened beauty oasis, Snob Life Studios in Atlanta, among other “SNOB-inspired” products, Ming is quickly growing her empire and creating a buzz while doing it. And she doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. She even created what’s know as the “snob stare” (a.k.a the stank face) in the social media sphere, which had her followers stare-off frenzy. (Peep the stare below)

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I’ve followed Ming on Instagram for about a year now and I have gained the utmost respect for her story, her ambition and life philosophy, and her #DreamMaking and #DreamTaking pursuit to building her empire. Bravo Ming!! Totally looking forward to crossing paths with this self-made #BossLady. Until then, check out her self-told documentary It Was All A Dream (below), in which she offers highlights of her journey and encourage others to follow their dreams. Be inspired!   Love, @BCSTARKS [vimeo http://vimeo.com/68595726]

Are You A Prisoner Of Fear?

The topic of fear has been one that I’ve visited often on the blog. Mostly because it’s the main source of many things that keep us separate from our truths. I still struggle with my own fears as I try to figure out my path and challenge old beliefs that no longer serve me. And man is it difficult to shatter learned paradigms!

Let’s be honest, we all know what it feels like to have hopes and dreams. But most of us know more about just wishing than we do the sweet taste of victory that accomplishing goals can bring. That’s because all too often we are so quick to talk ourselves right off the path of achieving them because we fear that we aren’t good enough, don’t have enough time or money, or resources, etc…

How then, do we ever expect things to change if we’re not willing to meet GOD halfway? After all, we are 100% responsible for our 50% part in co-creation with HIM. Dreams don’t just fall in one’s lap. You have to do more than just pray, you have to take bold and swift action.

“But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead”- James 2:20 KJV

When you’ve done all that you can do with the spirit of excellence, God will match your effort with miraculous results. Sounds like something that you already know intellectually, right? Me too! Lol But that’s where this notion of fearful imprisonment comes in.

Being a prisoner of fear means playing small and shying away from your highest expression of self. It’s that thing you do instead of going after your dreams, or letting your voice be heard on things that matter most to you. Being a prisoner of fear means procrastination, because it’s much scarier to begin a thing, than it is to avoid it. Being a prisoner of fear means running away from the very things that you’ve always yearned for because to run towards it would almost make it too good to be true. As if you don’t deserve it… !!! Being a prisoner of fear means staying stuck in a cycle that just won’t let things get better for you.

Why we put ourselves through such agony and misery at times is one of humanities most sought after mysteries. So much so that religions have been formed around the very idea of either reasoning fear, easing fear or creating more of it.

Being a prisoner of fear is not what God intended for us, yet its the source of overcoming for many people’s journey. Often seen as a great protector, fear only means imprisonment when we keep ourselves separate from the expansion of spirit, and the new-found awareness to do and be more in life.  The result is we avoid honoring our callings, talents, visions, desires all because it scares us far more to face the fear than to overcome it.

Are you a prisoner fear? If, so I’d like to know how you came to realize it and what you aspire to do to overcome it. Feel free to comment below or shoot me an email and your testimony can be featured on the blog!

Until next time,

❤ @BCSTARKS

“Surrender” Is the Key to Miracles Unfolding [VIDEO: Oprah’s own experience]

What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

For me it’s no trivial question. It’s a question that we’ve all been brought to from time to time–me, quite often along my journey. It has even brought me to my knees, and every single time I’ve only been met with one logical answer… SURRENDER.

I’ve come to know first hand that there is no greater power than the power of surrender. In fact, it is when we do the opposite, trying to always control the outcomes of this physical life, that we suffer the greatest pain. That’s because life is made up of more than just the physical parts that we can see, touch, taste, smell, and hear. Yes, we are more than just our physical bodies. According to A Course In Miracles, we are spiritual beings having a human experience. Therefore, our true core operates in a dimension that oftentimes cannot be explained by anything physical short of a miracle.

But don’t get things twisted. To surrender doesn’t mean that we are being weak, or that we should condone poor behavior from others. It merely means that we find ourselves at a place of peace about what is, no matter what is. Once we’ve done all the good that we could do to try to help or  correct it, surrender that which is beyond our own control to the DIVINE, and watch grace take over and miracles unfold.

 “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” – James 4:10

So simple, yet often so hard to rid ourselves of the ego enough to let life unfold in our own favor.

Check out this video of “Momma O” (Oprah) as she opens up about her own experience with surrendering the trivial things of life to GOD and the Universe.

Love,

@BCSTARKS

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpwW42HVZws%5D