So, Refinery29 Shared One Of My Tweets On Their Platform, But I’m Not Here For It

It’s a Monday afternoon in NYC on a warm June day. I am feeling the lull of the post-2PM blues, and I see a notification on my Instagram account. I see one of my girls commented on a post with my handle, @andreakcastillo, and a bunch of exclamation points. I see that the post is on the Refinery29 Instagram account; they had screenshot one of my tweets and used it for a #mondaymotivation post. At first, I am flattered they chose me, given their reach, but as a blogger/freelance writer/content creator in the social media space, I immediately comment on my friend’s comment “woooooow! Can ya girl get credited tho @refinery29?” And so it began.

Minutes after the comment, I see multiple friends IRL and on social media adding my post to their stories, commenting, and pushing the fact that Refinery29 should tag me as it is the ethical thing to do. 24 hours go by, and at this point all the top comments on the post are my friends telling them to properly credit me. During this time, I personally DMed the post to Refinery saying this was my tweet, and how I would like to be credited. No response.

I then go on a bit of a search, scrolling their IG page to see similar “inspirational tweets” and check to see if the authors were credited. Indeed, a few of the authors were credited; one that had over 20K followers, and another that had over 1 million. I scrolled further down the page to find posts similar to mine that were not credited. The linking factor? We all had less than 5K followers.

Riddle me this. As a publication focused on women and their overall empowerment within career, sexuality, self-esteem, beauty & style, just to name a few, why WOULDN’T you tag those with a smaller following? That would be a pretty diplomatic decision, no? But instead, you shine more light on those already in the light. How is this helpful, and how does this contribute to your ideals as a media enterprise?

I am not just upset for the basic fact that my words were stolen and not properly credited, but for the story behind those words in the first place. Here is an image of my tweet that Refinery29 posted:

The date and time of the tweet was April 2nd at 8:50 PM (oddly enough, the time I was born). I wrote this tweet because I was at an extremely low point emotionally and spiritually. Rapper & entrepreneur Nipsey Hussle had been murdered in cold blood 48 hours prior in Los Angeles, and I, like many of my peers across the world were having a very difficult time grasping our new reality. I find myself lucky at this point to have crossed paths with him in 2013 when I worked at an entertainment website, but so much was unnerving to me. How can an individual in the spotlight with such deep ties to his community and the betterment of the advancement of his people be taken from us in such a heartless way? I was particular shaken, as through watching his many interviews, I connected deeply to his ideology, that of speaking the truth. It made me think to myself, “If I continue to speak the truth on social media, and in public spaces, will that be the cause of my own demise?”

Here is the rest of the thread I wrote that evening:

AKC_Tweet

I was overwhelmed by the response, quickly receiving likes and retweets at such a rapid rate that I could hardly keep up. So many personal stories were shared with me, specifically the fact of how timely my posts were in a time when we were hurting en masse. It brought me back to this idea of that I create some of my best works at my lowest points, so for my tweet to be stolen by Refinery29 feels like exploitation. I understand that as a freelance writer, I should be political and not make efforts to burn bridges, but in the words of Erykah Badu, “I’m an artist, and I’m sensitive about my shit.” I have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

Thoughts of An Artist

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Relaxing by the Caribbean Sea, at Goff’s Caye

At the time this is published, this post has been in my drafts for several months. I have a lot to say, so here goes.

The experience of being a multi-disciplinary writer, and overall human being, is the daily struggle of my existence. The simple way of explaining who I am is that of an artist, but it is a title I often do not feel comfortable with. I see every aspect of my life through an artistic lens, from expertly matching a textile to the paint color on my bedroom walls, to aligning the elements of a homemade meal perfectly on a plate, to creating the playlist that properly sets a mood for the occasion, to listening intently to others before I speak as I want to make sure the words I utter are pleasing to the ear, and impactful. I know no other way, so why is it so hard to call myself an “artist?”

I write this with a fire in my chest, for many reasons. I often think to myself what my legacy will be, and at the ripe age of thirty-two years old, I really don’t know what that would be. I often beat myself up for being so unfocused, but am I really unfocused? Or is it just that I am very passionate about many things, and quite good at them, so it does avert my attention on the regular? It becomes very hard for me, because I can never give anyone a clear answer when I am asked “what do you do?”, the question that is so quickly asked in cities like NYC and LA before you are asked your name, or how you are doing. In my adult life, I have called myself the following, as I have actively done all of these jobs:

  • fashion designer
  • sales professional
  • music & culture journalist
  • prep cook
  • rum beverage crafter and bottler
  • live events professional
  • freelance bio & copywriter
  • natural skincare & candle crafter and producer
  • on-camera personality
  • events producer

My resilience is seen as a strength, but I am resilient because I know no other way. I am used to making something out of nothing. I am used to creating something beautiful when I am in a dark place. I am used to gathering all my resources to create an incredible experience for others. So why do I continue to take a back seat to myself? Why do I continue to question my abilities when I am SO GOOD AT SO MANY THINGS? Self-doubt is a helluva drug, and I do admit it is hard to ween oneself off of. It is as easy to not do something as it is to do something. The issue with not doing it is having the looming thought of “what if” following you wherever you go.

Not writing is probably at the top of my “not-doing” list. Having been a freelance writer for so many years, brainstorming and pitching and submitting to various outlets, I began to feel that my words were not my own. When you submit a piece to any publication, you go through an editor, and depending on who that person may be, there are a few outcomes that may occur. You may have the opportunity to work with an editor who really sees you and hears your voice for what it is worth, and maintains that voice in the finished, published product. You may also work with the editor who really doesn’t edit, and that finished, published product may have errors you did not notice upon submission. Finally, you may have the unfortunate circumstance of working with the editor who not hear your voice, and edits your work to uphold their voice. I have worked with all three types of editors over the years, and in doing so have had triumphs and disappointments alike.

It is easy to not just write, but when your vocation is one of an artist, particularly a storyteller, the writing must continue. As I kick off my 2019, I am constantly reminded of how important it is to learn, question, and research the stories of others that I so feverishly want to tell, knowing that such passion is the impetus for truly sharing my own story with the world.

Welcome to my world.

Summer Solstice 2017: How Will You Spend The Longest Day Of The Year?

Sun shining on the Caribbean Sea at Caye Caulker

June 21, 2017 (today) is the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, where the sun is at the highest point in the sky. It is officially the first day of summer, and the longest day of the year as it is the day we have the most sunlight. In different parts of the world in a multitude of cultural traditions, the day marks a time of renewal and healing; a time to let go of/burn things of the past that no longer serve you. It is a time where self-care and self-love is extremely important.

I, along with many of my friends, have been going through a major shift. It can have many names, but simply put, we are at a time where we have found that we need to make many changes, whether they be very small or monumental, to move forward. Personally, I have been exhausted. I know a part of it has to do with my lack of establishing proper boundaries in my work and personal life, along with anxiety about my life path and future. Add in spreading myself too thin and not affirming my strengths to the mix, and you get one exhausted/confused/drained Andrea.

It can be extremely frustrating to work toward many goals just to have the rug ripped from beneath your feet, reverting you back to stage one. To be honest, at this point I have lost count of how many times the hypothetical rug has been pulled from beneath me, but what I am realizing now is that it was probably pulled for a reason. Maybe what I thought was the right path, wasn’t. Maybe I had to start again because if I went down my intended path, I would be greeted with unsavory individuals who do not have my best interest at hand. As a self-identified control freak (I am working on this), it would feel like my world stopped when something wouldn’t go my way. I would turn off from the world, fall into a depression, and ruminate on my shortcomings, negatively affecting those around me.

In shutting off from the world and finding almost too much comfort in solitude, you don’t hear what the outside world thinks. Yes, in the case of the outside world being negative, it is great to take time to yourself to renew and refresh, but how about when they have great things to say, and you are unavailable to hear them? An event that mirrors this sentiment just came up in my life last week, and it really opened my eyes.

Sunset at Caye Caulker

For maybe the thousandth time since I began the blog, I considered shutting it down, again. I have had trouble writing as I have been going through a lot in my personal life, and the act of just starting a post was quite debilitating. I would go through moments of skimming back on blog archives as well as my social media, trying to pinpoint when & where things went downhill. I couldn’t find an exact spot, but I did notice the places where my posts did not occur for months on end. During another wallowing in my sorrows moments, when I was simultaneously decluttering my space, I received a message on Facebook from a friend from college. I was actually surprised to hear from her, as we had not spoken in some time.

My friend, Damaris Vasquez-King, is a teacher at Soundview Academy for Culture & Scholarship, a middle school in the Soundview section of the South Bronx. She reached out as she had been following the blog, and wanted to gauge my interest in speaking to her students for a career day. I immediately said yes after I was told the date. Prior to this, I had never spoken to youth about my career path because I never felt sure about it, and thought I would not have enough information to speak on. I admit, I had to psych myself out a bit for the speaking gig, which was on June 15th, because I thought I would fail. To my surprise on that day, I did astronomically better than I expected.

I spoke to a group of about 24 girls in her class about blogging and freelance writing, a bit about myself, and what types of topics I cover. I was slightly nervous, but calm as the girls were very inviting, and genuinely seemed interested in what I was saying, despite being the last speaker of the day. Throughout my talk, Ms. Vazquez (Damaris) added how she used my blog as an example to her class of how you can use a blog/online platform as a place of positivity as opposed to malice. I almost shed a thug tear. I had no idea, and it really made me feel really proud as in that moment, I knew my words were positively affecting the next generation.

It is so easy in the realm of blogging to get caught up on numbers, especially when you want to work with big brands. Partnership deals are great and all, but if what I am doing cannot be a place of positivity or teach someone something new, why even do it? It shifted my focus completely, and since I have been thinking more deeply about my vocation that I believe was written way before I got here; to teach.

So on this Summer Solstice, I will be kind to my mind, body, and soul, and really dig deeper into what my next move is. Perhaps, I can teach you something.

 

*Photos by Andrea K. Castillo

A Message To You, and Myself: OWN THAT SHIT!

A SNAP OF MY COCKTAIL TASTING AT NEW YORK TRAVEL FEST

As a young professional woman, at times, I can say the odds are against me. Those odds are raised as a young professional woman of color; not an opinion, but pure fact. It is fact that there is a lack of melanin and varied hair textures in higher management and executive positions across all fields. It is fact that we earn less than our male counterparts. It is fact that we receive more discrimination, whether it be simply for our gender, sexuality, race, or any other reason under the sun. This can put a damper on my and your mood, given your circumstance, but in these times, I always need to remind myself that things can be exponentially worse.

The simple fact in that my parents decided to uproot themselves from Belize to provide a “better life” for their children in the United States has granted me many opportunities, specifically in education and the workforce. Being in New York City has been beneficial for me as it is an epicenter for entertainment and media. Things are within my reach, I would say. I do not remain complacent, although at times, I do struggle with a bit of a sense of entitlement, given the fact that I really hit the ground running building industry contacts since the age of 18. That is now ten years.

MY BADGE FOR THE COINVENT MEDIA SUMMIT

I’ve always been a dreamer, but very vocal in what I’ve wanted and continue to want. That voice and will has afforded me great opportunities, but I can say to this date, I can get overwhelmed. Something as simple as being able to be in the same room as one of your idols, or better yet, have a conversation with them; that’s a HUGE DEAL. I look back at emails, and photos, and writings, and I am often taken aback by goals that I have achieved without even realizing it. I have also realized that in times like these, I need to give myself a pat on the back because it was not pure luck which brought these things into my life, it was through tons of hard work and relationship building. I DESERVE IT. And I am here to tell you that you deserve all the incredible opportunities that come into your life as well.

In the past week and a half, I presented & did a tasting at the New York Travel Fest on behalf of my fledgling beverage company Cas Rum Beverages, I was invited to attend the CoInvent Media Summit, which focused on the intersection of media and tech, and attended the final day of the Women In The World Summit, which featured a special presentation and call to action by Angelina Jolie Pitt. Sounds like a lot right? And I can say it is, especially in such a short time, but I know this is all happening now because I’ve truly worked so hard over the years to get to this point.

BLURRY IPHONE PHOTO OF ANGELINA JOLIE PITT AT WOMEN IN THE WORLD

I’ve got a long way to go, but I am reminded each day that I am truly on the right path. Don’t beat yourself up. With each missed connection and sleepless night, you are preparing yourself for something great. Trust your journey.

WOMANday: 2014, A Year of New Experiences To Add To A Life In The Day of Andrea!

On this last day of 2014, I wanted to take a look back on the year. Filled with incredible moments, I wanted to focus specifically on those moments that I experienced for the first time. In doing so, I came up with a pretty hefty list, which I am happy to share with you all in photos. Always move forward, challenge yourself, and don’t be afraid to do or learn something new!

Being the subject of an interview multiple times for amazing lady bloggers & writers.

As someone who prides themselves in finding great subjects for feature interviews, I was incredibly flattered to be on the other side of the conversation this year, not once, but three times! Many thanks to Desire of Global Grind, Chelsea of ContemporaryTeal.com, and Stephanye of iSo14Below.com. Check out the features below.

Why Changing Your Career Isn’t The End Of The World on GlobalGrind.com

Feature Friday: Blogger, Journalist + Photographer // Andrea K. Castillo on ContemporaryTeal.com

Six Questions With Andrea K. Castillo on iSo14Below.com

Covering the Brooklyn Artist’s Ball After-Party at the Brooklyn Museum!

I had become familiar with the Brooklyn Artist’s Ball about a year ago; an evening commemorating contemporary artists for one fun-filled night at the Brooklyn Museum. A large part of it is the after-party, geared towards a younger crowd. i was SO SO happy to be asked to cover it this year, and bump into some familiar faces.

The after-party crowd

Portrait of Luke James

Finally launching a portfolio site for my photography & freelance writing.

In April of 2014, I launched Andreakcastillo.com, and independent site out of this blog that hosts my online portfolio of photography, freelance writing, and more! Thank you to all of my friends and supporters to coming out to the launch.

Shooting a fashion lookbook for LeSuite Boutique.

I’ve done a lot of photography in the realm of fashion and beauty, but it was in this year that I shot my first fashion lookbook, including the pieces sold on NYC fashion truck Le Suite Boutique. Thank you Iran and Mareana for the opportunity!

Being an on-set guest at HuffPost Live.

Probably one of the biggest on-screen moments of my life to date! I was invited to the HuffPost Live studio in the spring to be a guest on their Mid-Week Cocktail chatter segment. We chatted about hot topics over cocktails, how fitting! You may view the full segment here.

Creating my own rum punch recipe and selling it to the people!

In the spring I decided I wanted to make my own rum punch, because I didn’t like my options. I figured out my own recipe, bottled it, sponsored my own parties with it, and have sold to many happy customers! Follow the journey on social media @casrumbeverages.

Meeting, dancing, and snapping pics with Yukimi of Little Dragon.

I MEAN. Probably the most calm, geeked moment of my life. I had seen Little Dragon in June for the Friday show at Terminal 5, and was invited to their after-party/DJ set the day after at the McCarren Park Hotel & Pool. I brought my homegirl Indira with me, and I was super-focused on meeting Yukimi. Sometime after midnight, this photo happened, and after that, we were all dancing in a circle together. I can’t make this up.

Hosting a party across the border (Canada) with great friends.

Via this blog, I’ve introduced you guys to Girls With Gunz & Fire 4 Hire, my fave Canadian fashion girls and DJ click (respectively). In August during Caribana weekend, I co-hosted a party with the gang at The Crawford in Toronto which was a great success! Had my AKC logo on the flat screen and everything 🙂

Climbing to the top of Xunantunich Ruins in Belize.

Every year that I visit Belize, I make it a priority to climb a new set of Mayan ruins. Xunantunich has been on my list for sometime as it is one of the taller structures in the country. In late August, I finally completed this feat, and was so proud of myself. Such a spiritual experience.

Making Mama Cas’s yellow rice and passing the test!

2014 was definitely the year of keeping myself in the kitchen, and while in the kitchen, my goal was to start recreating the recipes of my mother. The first was her famous yellow rice that the family and countless friends line up for. I made it one day this fall and passed the test! I’ve since made it two more times and haven’t dropped the ball yet! LOL.

Writing about Belizean food & personal stories for LargeUp.com.

As I have been on the path of becoming a dual-citizen of Belize, this year has been filled with travel back to the homeland, uncovering stories, and recipes of course! I’m so happy to have finally linked up with Caribbean culture site Large Up to document said recipes. Check out my archive here.

Curating 7 hours of music for Sound.WAV at Aqua Art Miami that people enjoyed.

I work with a company called Audiophile PLUS that curates musical experiences for the art world. Last year, we held our premiere event, SoundVision Miami at the Aqua Art Miami show, and this year followed it up again at Aqua for Sound.WAV Miami. We programmed music & booked DJs for the entire course of the fair, with yours truly curating the tunes on the final day. You can check out the full playlist on Spotify. A great way to end out the year!

Stay safe and live out your dreams in 2015!

WOMANday: Why I Choose Not To Give Up, A Tribute To Those Gone Too Soon

Being a creative individual, in itself, is quite difficult. You are filled with ideas, so many ideas that at times you feel overwhelmed by them if you are not able to translate those ideas into something physical in the world. There are constant ups and downs within the creative process, and at times, this can get the best of us. Over the years we have seen many of our greatest talents in the creative realm leave us too soon, because of the demons that they could not fight during said down time. Creatives of the past remind me that I have so much to give, but those reminders are seen in not too pleasant ways, in those close to me.

I have blogged in the past about dealing with multiple deaths of both loved ones and friends in a condensed time frame, 2012 being one such year. I never went in to depth that 2013, also was a year of great loss for me, which made me reevaluate a few things in my life.

On this day, one year ago, my life was quite different. I was working in an office setting with Concrete Loop, and around the early evening time I was getting ready to attend the much-hyped Yeezus concert at Barclay’s Center. I was finishing up a Skype session with one of my favorite bands, The Internet, and getting primped to attend this monumental show with the entire Concrete Loop team. I was ECSTATIC. I got to the show, had the opportunity to hang with my lovely co-workers and other friends in the entertainment and media spheres, whilst jamming to Yeezy. How perfect is that?

Continue reading

What Oscar de la Renta Meant To Me, A Look Back

Oscar de la Renta with model Karlie Kloss backstage at his Spring 2013 show. Photo: Google

Born in the Dominican Republic, trained in Europe, and coming into his own in the United States, Oscar de la Renta is one of THE modern masters of fashion design. Upon hearing of his passing yesterday evening [October 20th], I was overcome with emotion, and in this time, I gave myself a moment to reflect. I first become familiar with the name “Oscar de la Renta” as a young girl; my grandma wore his namesake perfume, and always had it sitting front and center on her dressing table. At that time, I was unaware of the fact that he was an incredible fashion designer, but I knew from the presentation of his product that he catered toward a certain type of woman, and that that woman embodied grace, and effortless style.

Over the years, my interest in fashion grew, and I always tried my best to make my ideas a reality with the help of my mother, whom aside from being a schoolteacher, was a seamstress. Together, we made all my dresses for special occasions, and for whatever reason, I was perfectly in-tune to what a “timeless” piece was to look like. I wanted to look like all the beautiful women who wore Oscar de la Renta, and my other favorite designer, Carolina Herrera.

I continued to read and research his career as a designer, and was determined to meet him. On one lucky day in April 2011, about a week before I started this blog, I attended the Fashion Talks series at FIAF, where Oscar de la Renta was the distinguished speaker. He discussed his uncommon path in choosing fashion design, leaving his native Dominican Republic to study art in Europe, and the evolution of his career, working as an apprentice for Balenciaga, transitioning to assisting Elizabeth Arden, to Balmain, and eventually, starting his eponymous label. One thing that rang true in hearing him speak, and viewing his collections is that clothing for women should be wearable. At this time, those words were a wake-up call for me, having learned design in college and feeling like an outcast because my peers designed conceptual collections while mine were actually wearable. I was reassured that I was on the right path.

I am not interested in shock tactics. I just want to make beautiful clothes. – Oscar de la Renta

Oscar de la Renta & moderator at FIAF Fashion Talks in 2011. Photo: Andrea K. Castillo

Upon  the closing of his talk, my two co-workers who attended with me and I were determined to meet the man himself. We nuzzled our way backstage upon his exit and were able to shake hands with de la Renta, and confess our admiration for him as a person and a designer. He was so poised and gracious, treating every person like an old friend, exchanging hugs and kisses and well wishes to emerging designers. He really showed me that it was more important to be gracious, than the cold, bitchy diva we are used to seeing in the fashion world. To be someone relatable that could create beautiful things; that is what he showed me, and that is what I try to uphold in my everyday life.

Like many women, I often create the picture in my mind of what I believe my wedding to be like (yes, quite girly I know) and I always picture myself in one of his gowns, specifically the dress below.

Oscar de la Renta wedding gown. Photo: TheKnot.com

Oscar taught me to not be afraid to use color, and to not be afraid to be simple; to be able to retract to embody luxury. He taught me that consistency is key, and that the goal is to create a piece that will stand the test of time. To create something that is timeless; that is what Oscar has done. May his soul rest in peace, and may his influence live on forever.

Closing looks from his Fall 2013 presentation. Photo: Google

Back From Belize, And Refreshed!

Outside my grand-aunt’s house in Belize City.

Living in such a fast-paced world, it is incredibly necessary to take that time to step back to reflect, explore, and re-charge. I had the opportunity to do so during the latter part of August as I visited Belize for 18 days. I used the time to be as offline as possible, although I did post some photos every now on Instagram when I caught WiFi. It was a time to be with my family and really explore the country in a way I had not prior. Usually, my time is split between Belize City (where the majority of my family lives) and Ambergis Caye (where our timeshare is located). This time around, we covered much more, visiting all corners of the country and meeting family, friends, and new experiences along the way.

Peeking through the mangrove in Caye Caulker.

In the Northern region of the country we visited Caye Caulker and San Pedro, which are big tourist destinations, in the center, Belize City and the nation’s capital, Belmopan, in the Cayo District in the West, Xunantunich (one of the most popular Mayan ruins in the country), and in the Sounthern Stann Creek District, the town of Dangriga (where we have family) and Placencia where we have roots and many family friends.

Sunset in Placencia.

I wanted to give you all a written and photo introduction to my tales of Belize. I captured a lot, ate lots of food, and have so much to share! Stay tuned for #AlifeinthedayinBelize!

*Photos by Andrea K. Castillo

Keeping It Real: Please Do Not Put Me On A Pedestal. I Did Not Ask To Be There.

THE CARIBBEAN SEA IN BELIZE

There comes a time when you just need to stop, reflect, and be real with yourself. That time for me is right now. I like to use this platform to fill your internet reading space with cool music, fashion, beauty, art, and food treats, but now, I feel the need to share a bit more about me, as a person.

Back in 2008 or so when I really began the road to creating my internet presence, I knew exactly what I wanted. I first knew that I wanted to brand my full name, and make it seamless across all platforms. At that point, for some reason, I projected my name being important for some reason. This was pre-blog, pre-Instagram, pre-celebs following me on Twitter, pre-being fake famous on the internet. In having the same name across all social media platforms, I use the same avatar, a professional photo that I believe to be polished. From an outsider looking in solely at my web presence, I appear to really have it together, I wouldn’t say “flawless”, but close to it.

This is the complete opposite of the truth. I’m a real ass person, with real problems, and real feelings, and real struggles. I am terribly far from perfect, but I am completely aware of this, and I accept it. I know that as a person in conversations, I have this sense of familiarity, which allows me to connect with all types of people from all walks of life. This is the main reason why I love interviewing people; I just love to hear and learn about the stories of others. I also believe this is a gift. I am often asked how I do certain things, and how I connect with certain people, and I often give the answer, “I just do”. I believe I can, therefore I can. I would say I am hardworking, and have a strong will, so I make it my duty to put my thoughts into fruition. Because of this, I am often placed on a pedestal for some reason, and this, I don’t really like.

When you are placed on a pedestal, you are not allowed to fall. Falling may be failing at a certain biz venture, execution of an event, a badly reviewed piece of writing, anything that is less than perfect than what is required to be on said pedestal. I’m extremely hard on myself as it is, and for others to have this inflated view is not what I want. I just want you to see me as someone who is working towards doing something that they truly love; that is allowed to make mistakes until she reaches her highest goals, and in turn, achieves her dreams. LET. ME. DO. THAT. That is all I ask. I’m in a rut financially, following my dreams and such, and if I can give any piece of advice, it would be this.

Don’t assume until you ask. Ask your friends, mentors, family, and those you admire about their path, and what they are doing, and have done to get there. You never know what hurdles people have to overcome until you ask.

 

Photo by Andrea K. Castillo

I’ve Got To Be Honest…

Work by Stephanie Hirsch
Work by Stephanie Hirsch

…I would be lying to the world if I said that “I’m fine” right now. On this here blog, I cover a wide range of topics, but if you are a long-time reader, you would have noticed a slowdown in posts from November to early January. This is not because of laziness or complete lack of interest, it is because life happened in many ways during this time, and I am brave enough now to share.

The theme of loss has been rampant in my life during this time. In November I lost my paternal grandfather’s wife, a kind woman who accepted me as one of her own grandchildren, and my father lost one of his first cousins from a freak accident. The month went on, and on one of the happiest days of my life, the night of the Yeezus concert at Barclay’s Center, I received news the next day that my uncle had passed while I was at the concert of cirrhosis of the liver. He was 45 years old.

December came along, and I lost my job. I didn’t have anything set up on the side, so I can say that I’m still trying to make it. My heart was heavy pretty much the entire holiday season, and Christmas was particularly hard as within days of the holiday, I had lost a great friend from high school along with her two sisters due to injuries sustained from their house catching fire.

I’ve battled depression (which I am still going through) and have beaten myself up about all the occurrences of loss. “Why me?” , I asked daily, looking for answers to my problems in all the wrong places. It is so easy to become consumed by sadness, and I have let myself be at times, but I know I am stronger than that. I truly don’t know where I would be right now without the support of my family and close friends. They are empathetic, but are not enablers; they won’t allow me to wallow in my sorrows because they know I am better than that, and capable of greatness.

I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me, but if I can be a testament to anything, I want it to be that of rising above life challenges, no matter how heart-breaking they may be. I see great things ahead for the year of 2014. Walk with me…

 

*Photo by Andrea K. Castillo

Meet Alexander, my Nikon D60

Meet Alexander, my Nikon D60.
Meet Alexander, my Nikon D60.

Call me strange, but I like to nickname my electronics. My MacBook Pro is Matthew Parker, my iPhone 5 is Boo Boo, and my Nikon D60 is named Alexander. I acquired Alexander last year around this time from my uncle Stephen, AKA Big Steve. Big Steve (who also happens to be my godfather) has been an avid recreational photographer my entire life, documenting my family over the years with only the best equipment that Nikon has/had to offer. He would make every family dinner, birthday, and holiday an event, shooting with multiple lenses and capturing moments, both candid and posed. It was he who inspired my love of photography, gifting me a point-and-shoot Nikon for my high school graduation. From that moment forward, the rest is history.

Alexander (center), hanging with the homies. Nikon N60 35 mm on the left, and Nikon Coolpix P500 on the right.
Alexander (center), hanging with the homies. Nikon N60 35 mm on the left, and Nikon Coolpix P500 on the right.

My uncle has been away for some time now, so I was a bit nervous to ask if I could use his camera. What would he think? Would he see me as being an opportunist in his absence? Would he think I would misuse his equipment? These thoughts ran rampant in my head, but thankfully, he kindly obliged to my wishes.

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Springtime in New York City…

I love springtime in New York City. It is the time before our hottest, most socially enthralling months of summer where we plan, observe, and take in the crisp, fresh air. We watch trees and flowers slowly blossom, and heavier layers of clothing lifted in the lukewarm breeze. It is a time that is incredibly inspiring, creative, and hopeful.

Cherry blossom in the neighborhood
Cherry blossom in the neighborhood

Smiles appear across faces with a glare of sunlight. New lovers play-fight while taking a stroll in the park. Cherry blossoms are abundant and nestled among private residences and public spaces alike. Springtime in New York City represents growth and the transformation of scenery from one that is bleak and barren in to one that is colorful and bustling.

Daffodils abloom.
Daffodils abloom.

Springtime in New York City is a time of collaboration. Those we may have missed in the winter months are out of hibernation and willing to mingle and create something larger than themselves. Dreams are limitless, but certainly attainable as ideas flow like water. Eyes are open. Ears are open. Minds are open. Hearts are open.

What are some of your favorite springtime moments?

The Day Brooklyn Changed

Trees growing in Brooklyn. Out my window. Post Hurricane Irene.

The thought of Brooklyn changing is not a new concept. It is one that has been looming for years, before my own existence, but has been more heavily on the lips of New Yorkers in the past five years or so. As a native Brooklynite, I am very observant and see the change around myself each day. Gentrification is the number one cause for this of course. Having worked in real estate during the years of 2009 and 2010, I saw  firsthand new developments in neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Harlem that as a child I would have seen as less desirable. It boggled my mind that areas that were desolate and a site of housing projects were now prime real estate. My knowledge of the market made me understand why this was so, so I did not question it so much, and carried on.

In my eyes, the day Brooklyn changed was Friday, September 28, 2012. Why this day you ask? This was the day that the Barclay’s Center opened in the heart of Fort Greene. It was also the day of my first blogger conference with The Blogger Collective, appropriately located in DUMBO. Once I exited the F-train at York St., I almost hypervventilated. I’m very familiar with DUMBO, but on that evening I saw something I had never seen before. The time was approximately 7 PM, the skies were dark and the streets were FULL. Young couples and their children, volunteers giving out flyers, and locals making stops for after-work drinks filled the streets on this night. You may think this is not an uncommon occurrence, but for me, i was. Prior to that evening, I had never seen so many people down under the Manhattan Bridge overpass. The one marker that stuck in my mind of this change was a placard directly across the train entrance that read “DUMBO” with a map of the area. This visual gave light to what I decided to title this post, “The Day Brooklyn Changed”.

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A Life in the Day of Andrea is 1 Year Old Today! Reflections on the first year.

House of Balloons cuz it's ya birthday!

On April 18, 2011, with the encouragement of friends and family, I started this little blog called A Life in the Day of Andrea. Here is a screen shot of what my first post looked like:

I remember how long it took me to compile that short post because I wanted it to be perfect. I noted that I named my blog after one of my favorite Andre 3000 songs, “A Life in the Day of Benjamin Andre”, and in doing that, realized that the mp3 was not on Soundcloud, nor was there a legit video on YouTube I could embed, so in turn, I just posted the link. Sounds complex for such a simple post, huh? But my life was never simple, that’s why this is the “Life in the Day” and not “Day in the Life”.

Instead of using this post as a means to party, I want to take the time out to reflect on my first official year in the blogosphere. My intent in creating this has been simply to show what the title states, bits and pieces of my life. This is driven by music, fashion, art, culture, food, and everything associated with that. It is my point of view, which along with my interests, is deeply rooted in those that inspire me, whether it be family members, fellow creatives, or celebrities. My aim has always been to be myself, and I hope that rings true for you, the reader. I’ve passed up a good amount of possible features here and elsewhere because it did not work with what I am trying to achieve, or more simply put “because I didn’t like it”.

“Being myself” and slowly coming into my own has/is having its benefits. With that being said, I want to thank a few people who gave me opportunites simply for being myself.

  • The folks at Fashion Ledge for allowing me to cover Hot 97 Summer Jam 2011 as a newbie
  • The Fire 4 Hire squad for always being in my corner
  • The Eclectic Ride for having me as a featured host of their Music Bloggers & Writers mixer
  • Amy Andrieux for seeing my talent and putting me on board as a writer for STARK 
  • My homie Frankie P. for reaching out and becoming my first official interview on the blog
  • Endless Noise NYC and Meant 2B Famous for featuring me on their blogs
  • The Yoana Baraschi PR team for finding me and inviting me to my first designer press preview
  • The Ill Banger crew for having me guest host their dope parties…I’ll be back soon!
  • The Jeffrey Campbell Shoes team for having me as their April 2012 guest blogger

There are countless others, and you are appreciated. In this time, I’ve gained readers outside of North America, notably the UK, Australia, and Philippines, and it continues to blow my mind. Yes, I know the internet is a global medium, but is a different thing when you have conversations with people in different parts of the world who have read something you wrote. It shows me how important our words are, especially when they come from a real place.

I want to thank each and every one of you who have ever read this blog or tweets, shared a link or suggested it to someone–I want to thank everyone who has shown their support to me and this venture. I’ve learned how hard it is to keep a site afloat as an army of one, but I’ve also learned that there are communities out there for people like me. Thank you to the wonderful folks at the Bloggers Collective for their support and collaboration. This is just the beginning!

And for a dance break, “Happy Birthday” by Stevie Wonder.

I’ve had my ups and downs these past 366 days, but I know this is one of the things I am supposed to do. Take a ride with me…

Notorious B.I.G.: 15 Years Gone, but never Forgotten

The Notorious.

On this day fifteen years ago, Christopher Wallace (A.K.A  Notorious B.I.G., Biggie Smalls, Biggie) left this world before his time. He is considered one of the greatest rappers of all time, and for good reason; the Notorious was a skilled storyteller, painting detailed visuals with his words. As with the majority of the music of my childhood, Biggie was forced upon me by my older brothers at the age of eight in 1994. We would listen to “Ready to Die” on repeat, watch his videos on Video Music Box and Rap City on BET, and keep our ears open for his interviews and freestyles on Hot 97. Upon first listen, my virgin ears believed he was quite vulgar, but the more I listened and watched, I noticed that he had a gift. Biggie is by far one of the most relatable rappers (aside from another one of my favorites, Jay-Z). His tales of the struggles he faced growing up in pre-gentrification Bed Stuy, Brooklyn, his positive words to youth, and the high life that he adopted from sharing these stories, was something we could all connect with. Hearing these stories via his music were the first visual and audible accounts for me of Brooklyn “making it”. Because of his music, my ambition, and the support of my family and friends, i choose to push forward, and never give up on my dreams.

I could make an extensive playlist of all my favorite tracks, but I choose not to. His lyricism was a true gift. Let me share some of my favorites via the themes he covered in his music, with you.

STRUGGLE

I know how it feels to wake up fucked up. Pockets broke as hell, another rock to sell. People look at ya like use to used, selling drugs to all the losers, mad buddha abuser– “Everyday Struggle”

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