What I’m Reading: “A New Model” by Ashley Graham

Ashley Graham- A New Model

Supermodel Ashley Graham is a public figure that I have been digging for some time now. From her standing relationship as a spokesmodel for Lane Bryant to her Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover, I have always been able to see her confidence through her images. I was pleasantly surprised when I received a copy of her memoir, “A New Model: What Confidence, Beauty & Power Really Look Like”, in the mail back in May. Written with Rebecca Paley (the same co-author as Nadia Lopez’s “The Bridge To Brilliance”, which I reviewed here) the book is published by Dey Street Books, an imprint of Harper Collins.

As soon as I opened the book, I enjoyed the no-nonsense tone, similar to how you would speak to a good friend. It’s not condescending or high-brow, just super down-to-earth, and incredibly informative. We learn the story of a young curvy girl who was discovered in a mall in Nebraska, and her bumpy road to stardom. Having developed womanly curves and her tall stature by the age of 12, Ashley dealt with much frustration and confusion from family, classmates, and society alike. How is a young girl with the body of a woman supposed to dress? In what manner does a small-town, Christian girl deal with success in the big city of New York? What is dating life like? Who can she trust with her finances?

These types of questions, and more, are answered in this easy-to-read memoir by Graham. Aside from learning about her road to supermodeldom (is this a word?), I really enjoy the story of how she met her husband, cinematographer Justin Ervin, on a chance moment at church. She does not hold back in regards to her personal life, struggles, and successes alike, which I believe is helpful for the many young women who may read this book. She reminds you that despite all the glitz and glam, and collections with Dressbarn and Canadian retailer Addition Elle, she is just like us.

I would recommend this book to any young woman who aspires to model regardless of their size, race, or identity. I would also recommend this book to people a little bit further in their careers who need a bit of inspiration in the story of a woman who has found success in truly being herself.

Purchase here: A New Model: What Confidence, Beauty, and Power Really Look Like

What I’m Reading: “Neon Soul” by Alexandra Elle

Neon Soul_Hand
Please excuse the coconut oil fingerprints.

As we round out the month of June and the weather has properly heated up in NYC, it is time to share another book with you beautiful souls! Summer reading is one of those things I HATED in school; remember those awful summer reading lists and the test you would have to take as soon as you got back in class? It seems like the joke is on me now, as I find myself purchasing and reading new books frequently, which has deepened my desire of one day writing a book. More on that later.

So, for this edition of What I’m Readingwe have Neon Soul: A Collection of Poetry & Prose by Alexandra (Alex) Elle. Earlier this month I attended one of my La Brujas Club meetings at Bluestockings, an independent feminist bookstore in Manhattan’s Lower East Side and had a lovely time with the super-inspiring group of women that attend. Upon the meeting wrapping, I took a gander at all the lovely titles in the shop and Neon Soul just stood out to me. Whenever I am in a bookstore I have this thing where I feel that the right book will find me at the right time. Perhaps it was the lo-fi book jacket with bright green accents that initially caught me, but once I opened the book randomly to a page, I felt as though it was speaking to me. The layout of the poems in the book looked extremely familiar to the last book I reviewed, Milk and Honey, and after a quick scour it all made sense as I saw they have the same publisher, Andrews McMeel.

Self-love and discovery have been a constant theme for me in these past few months, and I have noticed that in addition to attending therapy sessions, meditation, and physical fitness, reading titles by fellow women of color who have or are currently experiencing what I am going through, is helping me heal. Yes, I was happy when upon further reading, I realized Alex Elle was a Black girl. Why wouldn’t I be? Representation matters, and when you read the work of someone that looks like you, it is a reminder that your current experience is valid, and a glimmer of hope emerges from the darkness.

when you’re a giver

it’s hard to remember

that you must contribute

and pour into your

well-being, too.


The above poem is one that really knocked the nail on its head of my current experience. I am a giver, and not giving to myself for so long is truly what led to a breakdown of sorts. Finding comfort in words and in my downtime have been so necessary in my process of picking up the pieces. In the book, there are pieces about love, heartache, self-doubt, relationships, and the overall experience of womanhood. It is an easy read given poem length and structure. I personally finished it in 24 hours. I would highly recommend it to women who sometimes feel they are misunderstood for being too much or not enough, letting them know that their journey is not exclusive, but inclusive to us all.

You can purchase here -> Neon Soul: A Collection of Poetry and Prose

#WorldBookDay Reads: “Milk and Honey” by Rupi Kaur

Since as long as I could remember, I have been a bibliophile. I would love (and still love) to be surrounded by beautifully bound books, spending lots of time in libraries, and skimming through the collections of family and friends. I am quite old school in the sense that I do love to purchase physical books, a pastime of mine since college. As of late, I make time to wander about in local bookstores to find new and old works from my favorite authors and friends. On a recent jaunt to the McNally Jackson bookstore at the top of the year in New York’s SoHo neighborhood, I found myself searching specifically for a friend’s book, as well as a few more titles to tickle my fancy. My budget is nowhere near endless, so along with the title I was there for specifically, I wanted to keep my spend under $40 if possible. I walked each bookshelf looking for something that would speak to me, and as I got closer to checkout, I decided to pick up Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur. I had heard great things about the book of poetry, and with a 20% off ticket on the cover, I was sold.

I was super happy with my purchases, including a beautifully illustrated wall calendar and daily planner, and was pumped to dig into the book. I don’t know if you are anything like me, but I kind of psych myself up to read new books, but often delay. Perhaps it is my anxiety, but for some reason with books, I know I will be moved to read them at just the right time. Fast forward a few months, and I am preparing for my first solo trip to Belize. My intent for the trip (aside from nabbing a super-cheap flight) was to learn more about the stories of my family, specifically the women, and reach out to certain members of the community for work-related articles. I have flown to Belize solo in the past, but never travelled completely on my own as trips prior were with my parents or entire immediate family. I decided to bring Milk and Honey in tow as I knew I would have a bit more downtime to just read and be.

Continue reading

What I’m Reading: “The Bridge To Brilliance: How One Principal In A Tough Community Is Inspiring The World” by Nadia Lopez

A few weeks back, I recapped the book release and conversation event for Dr. Nadia Lopez’s newly published work, The Bridge to Brilliance, at BRIC Media House in Downtown Brooklyn. As I have completed the book, I wanted to share my experience in reading it, and the lessons that have rang true to me. The Bridge To Brilliance is a non-fiction work by Dr. Nadia Lopez, principal of Mott Hall Bridges Academy middle school in Brownsville, Brooklyn. She quickly rose to fame on the internet in the past year when a student of hers named Vidal mentioned to Brandon Stanton of the popular Humans of New York blog, that she was the person that most influenced his life. The viral reaction of this post led to a full profile on the school, its staff and students, and a massive crowdfunding campaign to send the students on annual trips to Harvard, which was fully funded over 10 times over.

The book recounts Lopez’s own childhood, growing up in Crown Heights, Brooklyn to immigrant parents (from Guatemala and Honduras, respectively), and how good teachers affected her life and livelihood in her younger years. It focuses on  Lopez’s transition from the corporate world working at Verizon to the NYC Board of Education as a Teaching Fellow, to her current position as founder and principal at Mott Hall Bridges Academy. The tone of the book is very no-nonsense and easy to read as it is the words of an educator. Lopez clearly gives breakdowns on the NYC Board of Education and its processes in funding, mass gentrification and its effects on students, and the importance of taking students outside of their school and comfort zones to experience the vast world outside of Brooklyn, New York.

As the daughter of immigrant parents from Belize who have worked for (and continue to work for) the NYC Board of Education in special education the majority of my life, I immediately connected with the majority of the stories in Lopez’s book. A lot of jargon, specifically in the special education sector, which Lopez worked in in her earlier years, was easy for me to understand as I have learned it from my parents. It felt like with each page I turned, I was reading the experience of someone just like me, which I do not often experience when reading books. The words are very familiar.

What I did not entirely expect, was the amount of trials and tribulations that Lopez went through, both in her personal and professional life, to get to where she is today. She mentions that she was on the point of giving up when Brandon Stanton visited her school. It made me realize that everything is not as it seems, and that sometimes in life we have to reach rock bottom in order to go up. Her steadfastness and relentlessness did not allow her to give up on herself or her students when the future was not promised. I really enjoy this story because it really did inspire me to keep going, but to be kind to myself. Women, particularly Black women and other WOC are often expected to be strong, but it is necessary to have a tribe of women and men to lean on in the tough times to get through it all.

If you are interested in learning more about the NYC public school system, or are a lover of inspirational stories (or both), I would definitely suggest picking up The Bridge To Brilliance. The book is available for purchase at booksellers nationwide, with all online retailers listed on Dr. Lopez’s official website. Happy reading!


*Photo via Amazon.com

What I’m Reading: “Shadow Type” Steven Heller & Louise Fili

Cover image via Louise Fili
Cover image via Louise Fili

When you live on the internet, you are constantly surrounded by and exposed to various visuals at a lightening speed. It is a constant conversation of who published it faster, who designed it better, and overall, who worked it. It is so easy to get sucked into this vortex, so every now and then, you have to take a step back and feast your eyes on imagery from yesteryear.

As a fan of graphics and typography, I was delighted to review Shadow Type, somewhat of a three-dimensional type master archive. The book is comprised of loads of three-dimensional typography spanning decades from all over the United States and Europe. Shadow Type is the joint venture between two type experts, Steven Heller, co-chair of the MFA Design Department at the School of Visual Arts and author of various art books, and Louise Fili, principal of Louise Fili Ltd, a NewYork City-based design studio specializing in logos, food packaging, restaurant identities and books.

Steve Heller and Louise Fili Discuss Their New Book: Shadow Type from Designers & Books on Vimeo.

The book borrows wonderful typography from advertising, movie posters, food labels, shop signs, billboards, posters and much more. I found Shadow Type particularly interesting as it helped open my eyes to new graphic design inspiration. I design all my logos, so reading this book has sparked a new creative edge in that sphere for me.

I would recommend Shadow Type to anyone who loves art and graphics, and wants a visual to study the similarities and differences in three-dimensional type over the years in various regions of the world. Shadow Type is available now on Amazon.

What I’m Reading: “Bringing Home The Birkin” Michael Tonello

Fancy, fancy are those Hermes Birkin bags! We hear about them in songs, see them in fashion magazines, and secretly lust to one day be a proud owner of this gem of a handbag. But did you ever think about the process of attaining such a treasure? Well, let me tell you. In most cases, it involves adding your name to a list, with a wait time of up to a few years. Author Michael Tonello was intrigued by this concept, and set out to prove Hermes wrong in their “system”.

“Bringing Home The Birkin” is a light-hearted tale of Tonello’s travels and tribulations on the road to become one of the biggest Hermes Birkin bag resellers on eBay. He gives a detailed account of his “formula” which he uses to score Birkin bags at Hermes locations around the world, along with the various personality types he encountered in his quest. Family, love, jetsetting, luxury goods, food and wine are all scattered throughout this tale of an extraordinary lifestyle. I found this book to be quite entertaining, as Tonello’s tone is satirical at times, laced with expletives when necessary. Haha! I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the inner dealings  of Hermes, or those who just want a great read with elaborate storytelling.

Available now on:


Barnes & Noble

What I’m Reading: “The 4-Hour Workweek” Timothy Ferriss

Books about business and entrepreneurship can often be intimidating, whether it be the type and cover art, or the overwhelming size. I am one, at times, that judges a book by its cover. I almost always stay clear of books over 300 pages, because I see it as an intense time commitment (yea, you can judge me). On the contrary, if a friend/family member/colleague suggests I read an AMAZING book about (insert topic here), I oblige. The 4-Hour Workweek is one such book.

With a full title of “The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich “, how could I not be intrigued to read? The book in essence, is an almost autobigraphical and “how-to” account of  author Timothy Ferriss’s journey to became one of the “new rich”. He defines this group of people as those that have outsourced the majority of their menial tasks, and are able to work remotely, thus having the liberty to travel at a whim and take “mini retirements”. I’m sure you may be thinking, “this sounds a bit far-fetched”, which is understandable, but he gives concrete examples and resources to back it all up. I think it’s a great book for those that aspire to be entrepreneurs, along with current employess who want to discover a more fulfilling lifestyle.

Sounds of interest to you? The book can be purchased from Amazon for under 15 bucks! Great deal for a comprehensive resource.

What I’m Reading: “Oprah salutes Ralph Lauren and the American dream” L.A. Times

Oprah and Ralph Lauren on his ranch in Colorado

I love to read articles that are inspiring and show individual rises to success. I especially enjoy these types of articles when they feature people I admire. While reading the Business of Fashion website earlier, I stumbled across an article link that read “Oprah Salutes Ralph Lauren and the American dream“. I clicked immediately as I believe Oprah to be such an inspiration to women in business, and Ralph Lauren to be one of my favorite designers, for the mere fact that he created an aesthetic on a fantasy lifestyle. The LA Times article documents the Oprah episode which Ralph Lauren was featured on. She joins Mr. Lauren on his ranch in Telluride, Colorado, to swap stories on their rise to the big-time and living out the “American Dream”. The article is filled with quotables, my favorites below.

So few people, in these starkly striated economic times, during which the barriers between classes have become more insurmountable than ever, get to traverse the chasms of culture and economy that have been leapt by Winfrey and Lauren.  – L.A. Times

“I feel that I represent America,” Lauren told Oprah. “I feel like I’m an ambassador. I’m not President Obama, but I’m his assistant.”

This article was a great read for me, because it shows two people, now billionaires, that came from humble beginnings and created a legacy. I loved it, because it reminds me, that truly, anything is possible if you put your mind to it and work hard. And above all, to do what you love, and stay inspired. Read on here.

What I’m Reading: “The Gospel According to Coco Chanel”, Karen Karbo

Oh Coco! How eager I am to read anything that has her name on it. I became familiar with the  book (full title: “The Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons from the World’s Most Elegant Woman”) during a trip to Barnes and Noble last summer. I purchased “If You Have to Cry, Go Outside, And Other Things Your Mother Told You” by Kelly Cutrone that day, and let the book about Miss Coco slip away. It came back on my radar last Monday on a little shopping trip on Lower 5th Ave at Anthropologie, and I felt it was time to make the purchase. I started reading immediately on my train ride home and was delighted by the author’s storytelling; very informative and conversational. This book by Karen Karbo, is a detailed biography of Mademoiselle Coco Chanel’s life told through her “life lessons”. This format made it quite interesting to read, and I oftentimes felt like I was reading a gossip column, as Coco Chanel lived a full life with many lovers, but was never married. I learned that she was a Leo, like myself, and that she was one of the hardest working women in fashion in her time. I do not want to give it all away, so I recommend you take a read yourself if you are interested in taking a peak into the life of the revered designer. Below is one of my favorite passages from chapter 11.

Passage from Chapter 11: "On Living Life on Your Own Terms"...take note of the bold print

The gorgeous illustrations are by Chelsey McLaren. You can check out more of her work here. Also be sure to check out the book’s website for purchase information and more on the author, Karen Karbo.

What I’m Reading: Richard Branson, “Losing my Virginity”

If you don’t know the man, you definitely know the brand: Virgin. Richard Branson is one of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs, having built the Virgin empire throughout his lifetime. His business categories include music, festivals, media, airlines, travel , books, mobile carrier services and more. His book “Losing my Virginity” was on the list of recommended reading for an entrepreneuship class I recently took at the Enterprise Center at F.I.T. It is a detailed chronological autobiography that has been updated a few times since its original publising in 1998. I have long been a fan of Virgin, specifically Virgin Records and the Virgin Megastore, and thought it would be interesting to read up on how Richard Branson started and grew his company.  Some main points that intrigued me were:

  • He began his first entrepreneural endeavor, Student magazine, at the age of sixteen while in boarding school.
  • At seventeen he set up the student advisory center, a safe space for young people dealing with frustrations regarding sexuality and STDs.
  • Virgin music was set up originally as a mail order business for records, and grew into what we know now as Virgin Records and the Virgin Megastores, respectively.
  • He did all these things with great conviction and poise although he suffers from dyslexia.

He included an array of personal photographs throughout different milestones in life, which you can take a look at below.

Virgin Balloon Flights

Interested in purchasing the book? Available at: