Whitney Plantation: The Bitter Side of Sugar

wordswag_1482295218104On December 19, 2016 my husband and I checked something off of my lifetime list. We visited The Whitney Plantation in Wallace, Louisiana. I first found out about it because I saw a video on a friend’s Facebook wall. It captured my attention because the caption said something like, “White Man Spends $8M to Open First Slavery Museum in America.”

I clicked on the link and was blown away by the story of John Cummings, a retired New Orleans trial lawyer and real estate developer, who transformed Whitney Plantation into a deeply meaningful museum. Unlike other plantation tours that focus on the wealthy, Whitney Plantation focuses on the lives of the enslaved who once worked the property.

Slave Quarters

The tour gripped my heart and mind in a way that no other museum has ever done. Three of the dwellings that stuck out to me were the stable for the horses, donkeys, and pigeons. They were all more accommodating than the structures that housed slaves. I couldn’t help but lay in bed that night and ponder how people could justify treating animals with more compassion than humans.

Donkey Dwelling

The Whitney Plantation has researched and recognized slavery in a way that made me realize, no matter how much I think I understand a portion of history, I don’t. Short from time travel there is no way to really know what took place unless you hear it from the people themselves. One of my favorite aspects of the tour is that you get the opportunity to both hear and read quotes from the enslaved in their own words.


I hope to someday return with my children. Being there made me think of them. Not just because of the statues of children in the Antioch Church or the Field of Angels that contained the names of over 2,000 slave babies in St. John Parish who died before the age of 3. But because, if I don’t expose them to America’s true history, who will? If they don’t know their past, how will they be passionate about being preemptive against injustice in the future?

Antioch Baptist Church
Field of Angels by Rod Moorhead

When I was little I remember being told that my grandfather was a share cropper who picked cotton and cut sugarcane. As a kid, the first thing that came to mind was that cotton is soft and sugar is sweet. “What’s so bad about that?” I had no real frame of reference. By the time I was a teen I understood that picking cotton was hard. Whenever we would travel South, I would get an erie feeling as we passed by cotton fields. However, it wasn’t until I listened to our tour guide at The Whitney Plantation describe how dangerous harvesting sugarcane was that I started to get a true glimpse of the bitter side of sugar.

Kettles Used to Stir Sugar Cane for Granulation and Slave Dwellings in the Distance

I wondered how I would have viewed slavery as a child had I been able to tour a place like The Whitney Plantation. Would I have worked even harder in school? Would I have taken advantage of more opportunities to be all I could be? I remember hearing stories from my uncle of how my grandmother would have a baby one day and be picking cotton the next. As a kid, I thought, “Wow, Grandmama was strong!” As a mother, I can’t even fathom what it must have been like… Trying to get a nursing baby to latch on after a long day in a hot field with cotton buds sticking your hands and critters of all kind underfoot.

Angel Carrying a Slave Baby to Heaven

While touring the Whitney Plantation, I read a narrative from a child who described what it was like for their mom to give birth in a sugar cane field. It made me think of my grandparents and the things their parents and grandparents must have experienced. Because we didn’t share lots in common one thing that we did share were moments of awkward silence. Oh how I wish I could go back in time and fill blank spaces with questions like, “Grandaddy, can you tell me about your Granddaddy?”

My Grandfather Jimmie D. Burton

I would resort to acts of service to show my affection, like rubbing lotion on my grandfather’s feet. It seemed like no matter how much lotion I applied, they always seemed cracked and dry. I once joked with my cousin about how Grandaddy’s feet looked like the feet of a slave. We laughed until we had tears in our eyes and today it makes me want to cry. I am reminded of the times that I laughed at slave references or accepted some glamorized version of our nation’s history. I am not angered by what happened. But I am disturbed by how we have handled history, until now. 

Middle Passage Sculpture Donated by Ken Smith

 I have had friends tell me how disheartened they have been in the past while visiting plantations in Tennessee with their children on school field trips. One mom told me there were actors portraying smiling slaves who sang songs and acted as though slavery was a delight. Whitney Plantation is much different. It shows a glimpse of slavery through the eyes of children. I am thankful for their approach. I think it is time our children began learning truth. Perhaps if we told them what really happened, they would have empathy and compassion for one another and take advantage of education. If we share accurate accounts of history, maybe they will hold us accountable when we go astray.

Available for Purchase at Whitney Plantation 
Hallelujah Sculpted by Ken Smith

I woke up with my thoughts consumed by consumerism. If the demand for cotton, indigo, tobacco, sugarcane, and rice, caused people to enslave then, what is the cause of slavery now? Are our trends and propaganda creating pressure that compels people to spend more than they make, thereby making them slaves to debt? Is our lust, greed, and gluttony the cause for modern day slavery? If you find yourself hesitant to answer YES, try explaining forced migrant work, arranged marriages, prison wages or sex trafficking to your children.

Formal Dining Room in the Big House
Bedroom in the Big House
Cup in the Detached Kitchen

If you know of a must see exhibit, please share in the comments below. I would love to add it to my lifetime list. If you have visited the Whitney Plantation, what were your thoughts of the museum and monuments? If you have not visited The Whitney Plantation, I pray that this post and these images pique your interest. It is a must see for all Americans of all ages.

Anniversary Q&A


1. What is something quirky about me that you love?

Toya- I like that you talk to yourself.

Melvin- I love that you are a black girl who can’t dance.

2. How did you know I was the one?

Toya- I knew you were the one because you loved all the things I didn’t like about myself.

Melvin-I knew you were the one because you weren’t naive and you survived meeting my mom.

3. What song would you say is “our” song?  (Old School & New School)

Toya- Old School, It’s Our Anniversary by Tony, Toni, Tone. New School, What Do You Say by Proverbalist.

Melvin- Don’t You Know by Heavy D. New School, My Whole Life Has Changed by Genuine

To hear a song my husband wrote for me click photo.

4. What is your favorite book and why?

Toya-The Bible. It’s the perfect blend of drama and hope.

Melvin- The Bible. It’s always applicable.

5. What is one of the first things I did that made an impression on you?

Toya-You heard me.

Melvin-You gave me your number.

6. What is a goal you have for our marriage?

Toya-I’d like for us to leave a legacy of love in the earth. One that impacts our children’s children. I would love for us to write a book on marriage.

Melvin-I would like to experience more firsts together.


7. What is your absolute favorite memory with me?

Toya- Traveling to Honduras.

Melvin-It’s not a memory, it’s a feeling.

8. What advice would you give to a couple about to get married?

Toya-Pray for, praise, protect and pursue one another.

Melvin-Put your spouse before yourself.

9. Would you rather time travel with me into our past or into our future?

Toya-I would choose to travel to the past, I would like for you to meet my father.

Melvin- I would like to travel to the future to meet our children’s children. To see space travel or find out if we all become zombies.


10. When was the last time we laughed uncontrollably?

Toya-Yesterday. You did an impersonation of Jeff Bridges in The Giver.

Melvin-In Mississippi when our son asked the preacher why he said “Ha!” between every word.

11. Would you rather have more money to spend on me or more time to spend with me?

Toya-I would rather have more time to spend with you.

Melvin-I want more time to spend with you and more money to spend on you because you were with me when I had no money.

12. What has been our greatest trial?


Melvin-Raising children.


13. What has been our greatest triumph?


Melvin- Being “happily” married.

14. Tell me one thing that I do for you that no one else does? (Outside of the obvious.)

Toya-You listen when I’m hurting until pain leaves and love returns.

Melvin- Give me purpose. Make me feel special.


15. What is the very first thing you thought of me when we first met?

Toya-I thought you were a flirt, I didn’t like your cologne, you were light-skinned…

Melvin-I thought you were a cute girl that I wanted to flirt with.

16. What is my greatest weakness?

Toya- Your rigid paradigms.

Melvin- That you love people so deeply.

17. What is my greatest strength?

Toya- Your ability to compartmentalize.

Melvin- That you love people so deeply.



If you have any questions you would like to add to our list we welcome you to do so in the comment section. To listen to What Do You Say, written by Melvin Poplar Jr. (vocals by Adam Sullivan) click image under question number three. Thanks for taking the time out to help us celebrate our anniversary! We hope you enjoyed this glimpse into our marriage.

Toya & Melvin Poplar

P.S. Don’t be shy, we would love to hear from you. If you are married how many years have you been married, what advice would you offer a couple about to get married?


What’s Left

Have you ever encountered,

A love so pure,

That it looks beyond your sickness,

And straight to the cure? 

One who knows your beginning,

Yet sees your end. 

One who lets love cover,

Instead of seeing your sin? 

Maybe you’ve wondered,

Can such a love be found? 

When darkness surrounds you,

Love’s light will abound. 

Maybe such a love sounds rather odd. 

If our hearts don’t condemn us,

Then we have confidence towards God. 

Whatever is condemning you,

Just let it go.

Guilty ground,

Is no place to grow. 

Every flower that I’ve seen,

Has gone through some dirt. 

They know what it is like,

To endure when it hurts. 

Broken clouds,

Will bring forth life’s rains. 

You will break through the soil,

And heal from the pain.

The battle is not yours,

So don’t even fight. 

Joy will soon come,

With the morning light. 

Although you can’t take back,

The words that were said. 

You can take captive

The voices in your head. 

Yesterday is gone

And tomorrow may not come. 

At the end of the day,

What’s done is done. 

Choose your words wisely,

And cherish every breath. 

Don’t focus on what is lost,

Focus on what is left. 

Something to Love

When I was little I wondered if I was adopted. My personality was so different from my siblings; adoption was the only explanation for my pensiveness. I was a melancholy middle child who was always aware that I was different.

The irony is, I looked just like my father’s side of the family. So, I knew I was at least his. The older I got, I started to look like my mom, there went my adoption theory… Alas, I was hers also. I had no idea of what to do about my inner yearning to belong. What do you do when you feel like you just don’t fit?

I found something to love. I loved my stuffed animals, baby dolls, Barbies and I babysat. I had best friends, boyfriends and bold dreams of someday having a big family. Fast forward into my future, I am now a married mom of six.


My youngest three sons are adopted, they are ages, six, seven and eight. As much as my childhood adoption daydream was my answer to “being different,” for them I wonder if it is what makes them question if they fit in.

When our boys are feeling forlorn, I am the first to notice. I can detect when they feel dejected and naturally it burdens my heart. Hands that were made to help, have often been used to hurt and steal. I prayed and prayed to God for answers and He showed me, they need something to love.

I went to the local thrift store and found three little stuffed bears. I brought them home, put them in the washer and told our boys the bears needed someone to handle them with care. The boys were exhilarated. The eight year old named his bear after himself and said he would call him, “Junior.


Our first trip to the store with our newfound friends was the most stress-free experience we have ever had in public. I kept thinking, “Wow! I wish I would have given them bears when they were one, two and three.” Someone asked me, “Aren’t they too old for bears?” My response was, “We are never too old to learn how to care and we all need something to love.”

The same God who prompted a precious birth mom to share the gift of life, compelled someone to donate three little bears to fill a void in our boy’s lives. If your heart is longing for something, take note, it’s not always about what you can get. It is more blessed to give than to receive. Our boys did not need another lifeless object, they needed something they could pour their lives into.

Love you to life!


Our three little bears when they were one, two and three.

The Beauty of Recovery

I have been writing for the last few days, yet none of the things I have written feel right. They are true but not the truth that I wish to share with the world. I believe in creating from a pure place, so until I feel like I am a clean stream for the Father to flow through, I choose to say nothing at all.

Every now and then I walk through something that knocks the wind out of me. I have been trying to catch my breath over the last few days. Recovery is not always pretty, but it certainly serves its purpose. The purpose of recovery is to return to a normal state of mind, place of peace, health, or strength. If I am walking through something, it affects all of the above.

In my efforts to regain control of whatever has been lost, I shut down so that I can reboot, and recuperate on my own. As much as I can preach a friend out of a pit, when I go through tough times I am so pitiful. Being left to my own thoughts is a dangerous place. While recently sulking in my closet floor I received an early morning call from a friend.

Her voice was like sunlight breaking through overcast skies. Like rain after days of drought. I was able to fall apart so that true recovery could begin. Until that moment I was only pretending to be okay. On the inside of me there was a little girl whose heart was shattered. My friend did not fix me, but she listened to my heart. Being heard was an invitation for true healing to begin.  I am not one hundred percent, but I am happy to be on the mend. God often uses ugly circumstances to make us beautiful.

Making Me Beautiful

He’s making me beautiful,

And it does not feel nice.

My life seems chaotic.

Nothing is right.

I am not psychotic,

So I know He is in control.

Although my heart is breaking,

He is making me whole.

At times I get tired,

And He makes me get rest.

He strengthens me mentally,

When I am not at my best.

It does not feel good,

But I will rejoice and be glad.

I will be lovely in the end,

And that’s not so bad.

When we are walking through tough times it is hard to see the beauty of recovery. Is your heart hurting? Are you in need of healing? Do you wish to be heard? If your answer is YES, know that you are not alone. One of the most beautiful things about recovery is that being vulnerable makes you sensitive to those who are hurting around you. Allow your brokenness to become someone else’s beauty. I have noticed that sometimes one of the keys to returning to a normal state of mind is found in looking around, not looking within. Hang in there; life will get better if you just keep living.

A War Within My Wardrobe

Is there a war within your wardrobe?

There is definitely one in mine.

My clothes lack harmony,

Like poetic words that do not rhyme.

My shoes are clanging symbols.

My outfits are sounding gongs.

They insult each other like children,

Who refuse to get along.

How do I create peace?

How should I react?

Do I sort and separate?

Or keep my clothes intact?

The thrift store sounds appealing.

Donations bring me peace.

But once I reach the store,

Will my striving cease?

Or will I find more soldiers,

To enlist within my war?

Mission field or battle field?

Is the question I implore.


Beauty is borrowed, and someday we have to give it back. My favorite feature is my eyes, and I can’t take credit for them because they are my Daddy’s eyes. Most of my favorite clothes are from my aunt, sister, friend, or local thrift store. When my make up is on point, it is because of a tip that I learned from someone else. Many of my favorite hairstyles have been a reflection of someone elses creativity. When I receive a compliment I am humbled because I really can not take the credit.

Many people who are admired for their beauty have a team of people who style them to create unique looks. I think that we hinder ourselves when we try to do things all by ourselves. What is so beautiful about ballet, orchestras, or football teams? Their collaboration. It is what we marvel at when we cheer or give a round of applause.

Although fashion is about being unique, borrowed beauty has become my favorite. It is a blessing that makes one rich, and adds no sorrow to all parties involved. If someone compliments my necklace and I place it around their neck, it brings me just as much joy as it does them, perhaps even more. If someone gives me an outfit, it may go out of style, but the love I feel from their generosity will increase in value over time.

My friends are all very eclectic. We share very similar taste in clothes. There are times in which I will buy something for me, but deep within I know it is more for my friend. When they compliment it or come to visit I can’t wait to find a creative way to give it to them. Our husbands think it’s funny when we talk about “The Community Skirt.” It fits every shape and style. We have all worn it in different ways, and we mutually get excited when someone else takes a turn.

The only time beauty loses its balance is when I hold on to items when it is time to let go. When something has served its purpose, it is healthy to release it. Perhaps a blazer made you happy, but it no longer brings you joy. It is essential to pay it forward, or you may become guilty of withholding good.

Each time a friend with similar taste comes to visit, I search for something in my closet to give away. It is a system of paying it forward, but it also prepares me to receive. We are blessed to be a blessing. If we hoard what is meant for someone else, we block what is intended for us, and miss out on the beauty found in exchange.

I once invited my friends to collect items that no longer brought them joy. I transformed my living room into a boutique, and we all shopped for free. In the end, we donated four storage bags, and nine pairs of shoes to our local thrift store. It was a wonderful win for us all, and it brings us joy until this day. We often complement one another without noticing an item that was once our own. It makes fashion so much fun, and conquers the war within our wardrobe.

What are some creative ways in which you would combat a war within your wardrobe?

My Make Up Bag

I will never forget the first time I was asked to prepare a beauty talk for a group of teen girls. I was thrilled that they chose me. I wish I could tell you that I fasted and prayed leading up to the event, but I did not. As a matter of fact, I did nothing. Well, that is not entirely true; I did obsess over what outfit I should wear.

I remember praying, but it was not for a message or even for the girls. It was a prayer of desperation. I pleaded for God to cover my mess. By the time I got dressed, it was already time to go. I grabbed my makeup bag and quickly left for the event.

I drove to the event with tear filled eyes with no clue of what to say. I was glad that I was not wearing mascara; because, I did not want to walk in the room looking like a raccoon. I sat in the parking lot watching leaders carry in props for the presentation. Their process of getting ready highlighted how I was not. I felt unworthy to be their guest. I felt convicted and vain. As I started to close the car door, I heard a voice say, “Don’t forget your make up bag.”

MY MAKE UP BAG!!! I quickly hopped back into my car and grabbed a journal and a pen. As fast as my hand could write, I wrote the following words:

  • Foundation
  • Eyes
  • Lips
  • Hair/Head
  • Nails/Hands
  • Clothes
  • Fragrance

God downloaded an entire message within just a few moments complete with scripture references. My prayer had been answered, God covered me in my weakness. At each bullet point I encouraged the girls to comment and share what they thought the items in my make up bag were used for. The symbolism in the lesson was something they noticed right away. “What is the purpose of foundation?” One girl shouted, “To cover your blemishes!” Then another yelled, “Your foundation is what you build your make up on top of, just like your foundation in life!”

The lesson practically taught itself. These young women were wise beyond their years. They could see the parallel before I could get the points out of my mouth. It was a great way of breaking the ice, and we bonded instantly as a group. Although I do not usually multi-task well, I actually applied my makeup in their presence for a little added drama in between each point.  It gave us the opportunity to share what our make up should be.

8 Aspects Of Your Make Up

  1. Foundation: Which are you made of; the blemishes you are concealing, or the stripes by which you are healed?  What makes you blush?  You can tell the level of integrity of a person by what they find funny.
  2. Eyes: Who is your example?  Where is your focus?  When we focus on God, everything else comes into focus. (Matthew 6:33)
  3. Lips: What is on your tongue?  What the heart is full of is what the mouth will soon speak. (Luke 6:45)
  4.  Hair: What are you thinking about?  The bible tells us what to think about. (Philippians 4:8)
  5. Manicure: Are your hands clean?  Who is holding your hand?  Whose blood is on your hands? (Psalm 24:4, Exodus 17:12, Ezekiel 3:17-18)
  6. Pedicure: Who are you running with and where are you going?  Do you bring the good news?  Do you know how to shake the dust from your feet? (Isaiah 52:7)
  7. Clothes: Put on the whole armor of God.  Be clothed in righteousness.  Put on the Lord Jesus like a garment. (Ephesians 6:10-18, Isaiah 61:10)
  8. Fragrance: To some you will be the fragrance of Christ. To others you will be the aroma of death. (2 Corinthians 2:15)

Even though I arrived feeling irresponsible and embarrassed before God, by the end of the talk I knew confidently God was in total control. He gave me beauty instead of ashes and I learned a valuable lesson. Your spiritual, emotional and mental make up are far more important than what is in your make up bag. True beauty is not external, it is always found within.

Don’t focus on decorating your exterior by doing your hair or putting on fancy jewelry or wearing fashionable clothes; let your adornment be what’s inside—the real you, the lasting beauty of a gracious and quiet spirit, in which God delights.” I Peter 3:1-6 (VOICE)

 What does your make up bag tell you about your life?

Beauty & Brains

Writing a book is a beautiful feeling, but not being able to market your book is a bit of a brain drain. Chasity Bromley, an owner of a boutique, was one of the first people to retail my book. I wandered into her shop on the second day after she opened, and I was amazed by what I saw. The clothes fit my comfy and cute style so much that I wanted to click my heels together and say, “There’s no place like home.”

Stacey Geohagan, Toya Poplar, Chasity Bromley

The name of the boutique is “She’s So Jade.” Both Stacey and Chasity are ridiculously creative and contiguously kind. They felt like my long-lost sisters. The boutique is a reflection of them; whimsical, eclectic, fun, fragrant, colorful, and it is as inviting as they are. The boutique is located so close to my home that it is like having a walk-in closet within walking distance. Whenever I am in a fashion pinch or just not feeling like myself, I can drop in and see my favorite fashionistas. They have been such a blessing to me that I started asking God to give me creative ways to show them some love.

One day I was turning into my neighborhood and I heard a voice whisper, “Beauty & Brains.” I called Chasity and said, “Hey Chica, God just gave me a crazy idea!” We all know that God is not crazy. But often when He drops an idea in your mind it can sound completely insane. However, if you don’t act on that idea then it can drive you out of your mind. After a week of being rejected by out-of-state retailers, God’s idea of partnering with local boutiques did not sound crazy at all.

Most people who are courageous enough to act on crazy ideas are probably already viewed as insane. I knew enough of Chasity’s business story to feel safe to pitch my idea. She is a self-proclaimed, “crazy Mary Kay Lady.” She drives a pink Cadillac that alone conveys her work ethic and zeal for helping women. Prior to She’s So Jade she owned a mobile boutique. As an entrepreneur whose passion is to help women feel good about themselves, I knew she would hear my heart. Out of our brief brain storm Beauty & Brains was birthed.

Do you have a passion for fashion? Are you a lover of literature? If your answer is YES then you will love Beauty & Brains. It is an effort to empower women and young girls to increase their self-worth and confidence. It is a time of support and a safe circle of sisterhood. Strangers walk in alone and leave feeling like they have been friends for life. Because the dialogue is surrounding books you leave feeling smart.

For years, as a mom and wife walking into a book store to purchase a book was something I denied myself. It seemed indulgent, and yet the few times I did, the information I received highlighted a change in my life. A new book often marked a shift in mindset. I have found that the same holds true for fashion. Those times I have given myself permission to purchase something that is a creative expression of me I gain a confidence to go new places and meet new people. In the same way that a new look can boost one’s confidence so can knowledge from a juicy new book.

Literacy and fashion have more in common than you would imagine. They are both therapeutic ways to decompress. However, they can be equally time-consuming. Would you believe that the average American spends about the same time reading each day as they do selecting what they are going to wear?

According to The Telegraph, a recent study found that the average woman, in the course of her lifetime, spends almost one year standing in front of her closet deciding what to wear. The study–which polled 2,491 women and was based on an adult lifetime from age 16 to 60–found that women spend an average of 16 minutes deciding what to wear on weekday mornings and 14 minutes on Saturdays and Sundays, for a whopping 287 days spread out over their lives.

Lester, Tracey. How Much Time Do You Spend Deciding What To Wear? (You’ll Never Believe What’s Average!) Glamour Magazine. web. 13. July.2009. 6.December. 2016.

A recent study from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that the average American spends only 19 minutes a day reading; young people read less than ever, apparently, with people ages 25 to 34 reading eight minutes a day on weekends and holidays, while those 20 to 24 average around 10. This, of course, is a decline: a report from Common Sense Media found that 45% of 17-year-olds admit only reading for pleasure a few times a year — up from 19% in 1984.

Bijan. Stephen. “You Won’t Believe How Little Americans Read.” Time Magazine. 22. June. 2014. web. 6. December. 2016.


At first glance at those two quotes one might deduce that American women are all beauty and not brains. But I see a growing trend among my peers of women publishing, writing, working and walking in wisdom. My goal for Beauty and Brains is to create an environment for local authors to promote their books, while at the same time highlight local boutiques. Both have similar dilemmas, they need exposure. Why not create an environment that is the best of both worlds? Beauty & Brains is a safe place for women to connect, admire beauty and celebrate their brilliance. It is a special time to celebrate sisterhood and gain beauty allies who can help them spend less time selecting what to wear and more time enjoying the beauty of reading a good book.

To order Stop Write There click photo

Last night’s Beauty & Brains featured local Author Jenny Erlingsson, the title of her new book is “Becoming His.” Her words left our hearts filled with wonder and our eyes filled with tears. Becoming His is both beautifully and brilliantly written. It is a behind-the-scenes look at some of the key women in the Bible. Her examples are not archaic. She makes each woman relevant to her readers. The struggles of these biblical women supplies the modern reader with wisdom and strength.

To order Becoming His click photo


We began our evening with food and a little bit of fun by playing a game called, “Perfectly Imperfect,” in which prizes were awarded to people who are perpetually late, have wardrobe malfunctions (like socks that slip into your boots,) or occasionally lose their cool… Beauty generally focuses on perfection, so we celebrated our imperfections and promoted sisterhood in the process. If you could benefit from a unique girl’s night that benefits you body, mind and soul please join us for an upcoming Beauty & Brains. Try on clothes. Shop or look. Meet the author. Buy the book.

She’s So Jade Boutique 

Upcoming Beauty & Brains Dates


  • February 6th, 2017 – Nurturing a Grateful Heart with Beverly Jones-Durr 
  • April 3rd, 2017 – The Millennial Movement with Rashida Wilson

Watch  Beauty & Brains with Jenny Erlingsson, Author of Becoming His

Watch Beauty & Brains with Toya Poplar, Author of Stop Write There

AL.com Press Release for Beauty & Brains Launch



The Secret To My Beauty

Worth More Than Gold

Flawless skin, Fleeky brows, lashes that make a girl say, “Wow!”

Fabulous hair, sparkly jewels and don’t forget the perfect shoes.

Detox diets, work out routines, trendy clothes on the fashion scene.

All the above have little effect, if what is inside is not intact.

Beauty begins deep within; having little to do with make up, hair and skin.

Beauty is becoming what you behold, beauty within is worth more than gold.

The Secret To My Beauty

The secret to my beauty is that my beauty was a secret. I was 28 years old before I realized I was beautiful. When I look at photos of me as a little girl now, I no longer see the odd creature I thought I was then. If perception is reality then both my perception and reality were extremely warped. Beauty can be hidden, tucked away in the attic of the mind. Much like items in attics, sometimes you do not discover beauty until you are looking for something else.

What We Hear And How We See

I once overheard my mom say that I was a funny looking baby. She remarked about my big eyes, big head and truck like nose. That translated into my psyche that I was her ugliest child. She never said those words, but that is what I rehearsed for years in my mind. To be fair to my mom, she was joking with a friend. My mom is the first to point out her own beauty flaws. She was sharing her perspective and her perception affected my self-image. Instead of seeing the photo of a cute baby I saw something more like the image below.

What We See And How We Think

My mom thinks I am beautiful now and if shown a photo of me as a baby would probably admit I was adorable then. However, the way she saw me then aided in the process of my beauty being concealed. Even now as I type this I am challenged by the cuteness of that little monkey. If I had to choose I would probably celebrate its beauty over my own. It has always been easier for me to celebrate the beauty I see in others over celebrating myself. 

Beautiful or Nice?

I grew up with the notion that people who were beautiful were not nice and people who were nice were not beautiful. So I worked on being nice because I already knew beauty was not my strength. I met my husband at the age of 16 and he celebrated every feature that had been previously made fun of. My eyes, head, nose and even my broad forehead. It is perplexing when someone you meet loves something you spent your whole life loathing. It is easy to believe their compliments are insincere. More than him appreciating my outward beauty, to him my kindness and sensitivity did not make me weak.

Hidden in Plain Sight

Past boyfriends seemed to reinforce the negative chatter in my head, “You are too nice, smart, or skinny… Your head, eyes and lips are way too big.” I am sure they never said those things verbatim, but again, that is how I heard it in my mind. They probably simply noticed my features and because I felt so invisible I interpreted them as insults. My husband observed my inward beauty, which was all I thought I had to offer. Having someone celebrate those inward qualities helped me begin to accept myself. Beauty still remained buried like a dusty box on a shelf. I could not see it even though it was hidden in plain sight.


Beauty Secret Revealed

Fast forward into the future, as a married mom of 3, I embraced a natural look; it was something I always desired and easy to maintain. I did not wear make up or fancy clothes. I had long locs and when asked, “What is it like having a permanent hairstyle?” I would reply, “It is amazing, daily I get to wake up beautiful,” even though I did not really know the meaning being those words. One day I saw a photo of myself and my husband overheard me say, “Wow, she is pretty!” It was then that I realized my beauty was a secret I had hidden from myself. He said, “Babe, that is you. That is the same girl I met in high school.” For years he saw something in me I could not see for myself,  an outward beauty that had always resonated from within.  

Creature or Creation?

I no longer see a creature when I see an old image of myself. I see a glimpse of God’s creation that He carefully fashioned to reveal a facet of Himself. How do you see yourself as a creature or God’s creation?  Are you willing to explore the attic of your thoughts? It has been 12 years now since my beauty exploration began. Daily I discover something new that leaves me intrigued. I am learning to give myself permission to be a girl and just have fun. Over the next few days I plan to share insights I have observed along the way. I would love for you to join me as my journey to 40 continues.


What shaped your self-image as a child? How old were you when you discovered your beauty? Has beauty become more challenging or easy as you age? 

What My Eyebrows Say About My Life

wordswag_1480835927021.pngMany people talk with their eyebrows. They may raise an eyebrow when something is in question or both when they are surprised. A lowered brow might indicate disappointment and a middle lowered brow can express when someone is angry or extremely focused. My brows tell a different story. They express when I have been naughty or nice to myself. They are a sure sign of nurture or neglect. Yesterday my brows spoke to me, I looked in the mirror and this is what they said, “YOU ARE ENTIRELY TOO BUSY!”


They spoke and I listened.  I finally gave myself permission to go get groomed. People take pets to get groomed and that is exactly what my brows felt like, two furry creatures right before my very eyes. You might think I am being silly, but I am quite serious. Self-Care is essential. Taking care of those tiny things that matter to you really mean a lot; even if it is something nobody else can see.

My husband is so sweet. He was looking through photos of me from a few weeks ago and he complimented my brows. There is no way he could have known that lately while running errands I mentally strategize about squeezing in time to see Heena. Heena is my eyebrow expert, I have been seeing her for years. We have a special bond. She makes me both look and feel like myself again. She also gives me the best skin care advice.  Heena is special. Today I even surprised her with a gift.

Click photo to visit Heena’s Facebook page.

For years there were no Heenas, no helpers in my life. Today I give you permission to take care of you. What is that little thing that is your Self-Care assessment? Who are those people who assist you in nurturing yourself?

“You should love the Eternal, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second great commandment is this: “Love others in the same way you love yourself.” There are no commandments more important than these.” Matthew 12:30-31 (VOICE)