Uptown Made Me A Spiritual Gangsta

While finding and refining my personal style has not been a struggle, fighting through some of the fears that came with some of my own authentic fashion tastes has. Let me explain.

Growing up my fashion idols included Tina Turner, Mya, Diana Ross, Donna Summer, Shakira, J.Lo, just to name a few. I was influenced by their bold ways of expression, sass, and by the amount of energy that they exuded on and off camera. Throughout my life, in moments of me being overly dressed I would sometimes get bothered when people called me extra. I would get bothered when friends would throw shade and say things like “you want to be like XYZ”. My spirit was really weak at the time and any or little criticism felt like a record on repeat. It wasn’t until I walked away from unaligned relationships that I was able to see some of my inner voices as dark energy vampires. At one point, I was afraid of having photo shoots because I would tell myself things like “you can’t model, you’re too short, you’re too anxious”. My thoughts on being a muse eventually led to opportunities for me to be behind the camera. To just be. To show up as myself.

Last summer, the sweet Crystal reached out during her NYC summer trip. We shot in her family’s apartment in Hells Kitchen and conjured some magic together. In typical Ghislaine mode, I pulled a lewk from a suit I found at the then closing Concrete fashion boutique between 181st and 182nd Street in Washington Heights. This shoot was very special to me as it personified all of the self work that I’d done in the last 3 years. Throughout this time, The Heights served as my home. Today I no longer reside in The Heights, but I can look back at all that it did for me and my spirit. Living on a first floor apartment exposed me to a New York City realness that I had never experienced before. Seeing my Dominican community as close as I did made way for the compassion that manifested my sister circles. My apartment living room became the place where women would gather to openly share stories, learn from one another, be heard and be seen. In my small confined space, we would share and practice some of my self-healing modalities like meditation, prayer and breathing exercises. This is the space where I practiced all that I now give to the world. Through my self healing work, learned a new meaning in being fearless, and I learned a new love for God. I learned how to show up as the woman I want to be, no matter the external opinions of others.

2018 for me was the year of full acceptance of my visual artist way of living my life. I have never dressed up as much as I did last year, and I had never tried things like the braid extensions you see in these pictures. OH I’M SO EXTRA AND I LOVE IT. I am a canvas and how and what I choose to paint will always be based on my personal truth.

When I look at these pictures and stare at my eyes, I see pure love; a return to home. I aim for the drama that I reflect in my fashion choices to mirror and guide my choices in healthy love, thick loyalty and abundance. This is my ode to the uptown that birthed in me the divine feminine. Perhaps this is what my grandmother prayed for after all.

In 2019, I promise to actively share more of the creative things I do in real time. Here’s to being extra and intentional.

Styled by Me. Shot by Crystal Rodriguez. 2018.