This month Clutch magazine features Afrobella, a blog site dedicated to keeping us up-to-date on cultural happenings and all things beauty. Patrice’s honest, no-nonsense approach to blogging turns a magnifying glass on issues that effect us on a daily basis. In a time where black women are often portrayed in a negative and unflattering light, it’s encouraging to find a blog that celebrates us and our natural beauty; all of our beautiful shades of brown and God given hair textures. Whether you’re natural, relaxed, curly, or straight you can relate to the message of Afrobella.
Why did you start “Afrobella”?
I noticed a void in the magazines and blogs I was frequenting. First of all, there was a lot of negativity. Way too much celebrity gossip, and even in the beauty writing, I noticed a lot of built-in self criticism and judgement. I wanted to get away from that. I was frustrated with the kind of writing I was limited to doing at the time, and I knew the kind of stuff I wanted to read, so I just decided to start my own thing.
Why did you name your blog “Afrobella”?
It wasn’t a preconcieved thing. On a very whimsical and serendipitous evening, we had a friend over for dinner. After dinner we hung out, drank wine, and talked about me maybe starting a blog. We tossed around quite a few names before my husband came up with Afrobella.
When did “Afrobella” launch?
I think we registered the name on August 12, 2006. My first post went up on August 14th, 2006.
Describe the style and attitude of “Afrobella”?
It’s all about celebrating natural black beauty. That’s what I aim for always.
What TV shows or blogs/websites are a must in your daily schedule?
I’m a big fan of The Daily Show, and Stephen Colbert. I don’t always agree with him, but I watch Countdown with Keith Olbermann every day. I wake up to Robin & Company on Headline News. I’m obsessed with The Office and 30 Rock. I also watch Heroes, Best Week Ever, Lost, Weeds, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and 24, although I think that show’s pretty ridiculous. Every day I read Oh No They Didn’t, Jezebel, FourFour, Racialicious, Concrete Loop. Crunk & Disorderly makes me laugh during my lunch break.I read a LOT of blogs and a lot of news websites.
Afrobella serves as a great resource not only for social/culture commentary, but for sista’s with natural hair. Did you originally start the blog to cover your hair journey?
Kind of. The first post begins with my hair journey, and I definitely will always write about hair and the particular beauty concerns of natural sistas. Mainstream media doesn’t remind us enough, so my intent is to always shine a spotlight on our beauty. But I also had interests I wanted to share that were separate from hair all-day-every-day. Life is about so much more than hair. I wanted to also pay respects to the famous faces that inspired me to start the site. I wanted to share my Trinidadian, Caribbean culture with the world. And I really wanted to write the kind of honest beauty product reviews that I wasn’t finding anywhere else. But yeah, my hair journey is interwoven all through Afrobella, and it always returns to hair. It’s all about the fro!
Your blog is one of the top blogs on the web and recently won an award for “Best Culture Blog” by The Black Weblog Awards, Congrats! Were you surprised?
I still can’t believe it! My blog is barely a year old, and it’s doing so amazingly well. My gut instinct was right – there really WAS a void. I get so much love and respect from readers all over the world, and so many of my fellow bloggers have been welcoming and supportive. I was beyond honored to be nominated, and to WIN an award!
So many of the blogs that are targeted to us are tailored to entertainment and gossip, why do you choose to keep Afrobella inspiring and empowering and not dabble into the world of gossip?
Because there’s too much of the same thing out there right now. I think the gossip blogosphere has definitely reached past its tipping point. There’s just so much one can stand to read about Britney, Lindsay, Usher, and Diddy. I hate reading really cruel, dark stuff – like when blogs stir up racism, or make fun of children. There’s too many people all looking at the same pictures and they’re trying to one-up each other with meanness to build a readership. I enjoy the really good, sharp gossip blogs; I get a regular fix of Bossip, D-Listed, and Perez. Angel of Concrete Loop and Fresh of Crunk and Disorderly were very supportive of Afrobella from jump. I’ve been a loyal reader of their blogs for a while, way before Afrobella. They inspired me to do my own thing.
How do you decide what and who to cover on your blog?
For Afrobella of the Week, I have to be interested in the person. I need to find the chosen bella to be fascinating enough, positive enough, and inspiring enough to write about. I try to write about people that are good role models, who might not be getting any attention by the mainstream. I like to highlight strong women in black entertainment history, who paved the way for others to follow. In terms of cultural news and issues, it can be difficult sometimes, because I also have a full time job. So as much as I stay current on what’s happening and want to break news on cultural issues, I just don’t have the time to come in early with hard-hitting stories, for example, the Jena 6. It can be frustrating because I read the stories as they happen, but often don’t have the time to really research and write about them until days or sometimes a week after it’s made the rounds of the blogosphere.
Since we know you are a product junkie, what are some of your favorite products and brands?
Do you have a few hours? Just kidding… for hair, my top five faves are Miss Jessie’s Curly Merengue, Carol’s Daughter Hair Milk, Curls Milkshake, Kinky Curly Knot Today, and Cantu Grow Strong. For skin, I love Skinceuticals. Their serum has helped to clear my skin and the moisturizer keeps me soft and smooth. I’d be lost without my Clarisonic brush. I would totally invest in Philosophy, I love everything that line has ever released! Hmmm. What else… Rimmel’s Light Beam Lipgloss rocks, and just this past week I tried Mariah Carey’s new perfume and I really like it! Don’t tell J.Lo, I’ve been a die hard Live wearer for a while now. I’m about to leave her for a better singer. Seriously, I could keep coming up with products I love all day long, so I’ll stop there. Oh, wait — Sephora and Urban Decay eye pencils. OK, now I’m done.
Like lots of natural sista’s we embraced the word “nappy” and are quite proud to be nappy. But, their are lots of us still cringe at the idea of us embracing the word, why do you think so many people still have an issue with this word?
It’s a problematic word with a difficult history. For some, “nappy” is seen as the same as the other “n” word. It personally doesn’t bother me, because my history with the word has never been overtly insulting or hurtful on a personal level. In the past when someone has described my natural hair as nappy, I’ve been able to laugh them off. I’ve used the word to self-describe as well – if I don’t deep condition and comb through my curls for two weeks, nappy is the most fitting word to describe it. But Don Imus took that word and made it such a hot-button topic, that right now I think nappy is seen as tantamount to a slur. But I think in general – while it is very important to say what you mean and really think about what you say – I also think it’s important to be able to speak freely without fear of always offending the PC police. If you’re down with the word and are happy to be nappy, then I say go ‘head with your beautiful self.
If you could interview anyone in the world who would it be and what would you ask them?
Oprah. I want to ask her to go natural. She would take natural hair to the next level. If Oprah took the plunge and did the big chop? I think that would be so brave and inspiring and awesome.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a blog?
First of all, think of the kind of blog you want to have. There are so, so many blogs out there! So many of them are scattered and aimless, jumping from topic to topic all over the place like a diary. It helps to have a main focus that anchors the blog. Look at other blogs that inspire you, and reach out to the bloggers that inspire you. Think about what’s going to make your blog cool and different and a real representation of what you want to share with the world. Come up with a cool name, and go for it! Don’t be scared if you don’t know HTML or coding or whatever – posting a blog is almost as easy as writing an e mail. Don’t let technology scare you away from expressing yourself. I always hear from people who say “I’d love to start a blog, but I don’t know how.” There’s really nothing to it, but to do it.
What is the future of “Afrobella”?
Oooh, good question. I’d like to be able to sustain myself enough that Afrobella can be my life. The blog’s great now, but if I had a full work week to devote to Afrobella? Oh man, the sky’s the limit! I could make Afrobella ten times better if I had the time. I’d be posting every day, sometimes twice a day. I have had many readers suggest an Afrobella magazine, and a TV show. I let those dreams dance around my head, too, along with the dreams of someday being on Oprah and Tyra and those VH1/Ego Trip race documentaries. But that’s like, way in the future. I can really envision Afrobella as a regular column in a smart glossy monthly mag, but every magazine that’s approached me so far has somehow managed to disappoint me with broken promises. I think Afrobella books – both fiction and non fiction – are in my future. I’d love to write an Afrobella children’s book. And I have always, always dreamed of being a fashion designer. So Afrobella clothes might be coming sooner than you think.
In five words describe “Afrobella”?
Intelligent, friendly, real, informative, entertaining.
Why should someone add “Afrobella” to his or her daily blog reading list?
Because it’s an intelligent alternative to mainstream beauty writing. It’s a little oasis of self-esteem in a sea of snarky and redundant celebrity gossip. It’s 100% honest, and that’s hard to find. It’s for readers who like to be informed, entertained, and uplifted. Who doesn’t like that?