And Baby Makes…Four!

It has been said that having a baby is a life changer. It gives you a whole new perspective on why you wake up every day. And after meeting the newest little member of the Roche family, I can see why! I mean, who wouldn’t want to wake up to this sweet little ray of sunshine every day! She was curious about the world around her…including me! She stared intensely at me, so it’s my guess that she liked me!

It was a casual day at home with Mike, Luisa and little Abby. Oh! And let’s not forget Buster, who seemed eager to participate; only to find out he fained interest for a doggy treat — geez, thanks Buster! lol

It’s been such a pleasure cultivating a relationship with this couple! First in shooting their wedding (5/15/11) (you can read more about their special day HERE!🙂 )
and now in celebrating the birth of their little one (5/14/14) — a true blessing indeed!

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[A Movement Grows In Brooklyn] – AfroPunk Fest

For almost a decade, it’s been called ‘The Other Black Experience’, the meeting of the minds, the Black Woodstock and even the greatest music movement of the new millennia, but most just call it AfroPunk! And for the second year in a row, I had the pleasure of connecting with other lovers of culture, fashion and music (Alice Smith’s vocals were amazing…Erykah Badu and the home grown surprise that was Mos Def tore the house down, the fans loved intensity of the Memorials and Janelle Monae’s crowd dive…EPIC! lol) This year’s lineup was just as insane!

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[Chicago] – Just Blew In From The Windy City!

If you talk to those who live there, it’s almost on cue that Chicagoans would proudly proclaim it as the greatest city in the world (Hmmm…as a native New Yorker, that title may be up for debate! lol), from their infamous deep dish pizza (Giordano’s pizza was good, but the best in the city is at the Cityscape Bar HANDS DOWN!!), and towering skyscrapers overlooking sandy beaches, to sun-filled baseball games at Wrigley Field, twilight concerts in Millennium Park and free fireworks at Navy Pier — there’s always something happening in Chicago!

It’s been about a month since I got back, and despite some minor bumps in the road — this trip was a great experience! Although there were amazing sights in Chicago, I have to say the thing I enjoyed the most were the friendships I fostered there. Big shouts out to my friend and fellow photographer Chris Wilson! Although it had been about five years since we last saw each other (and he will tell anyone who’ll listen that during his visit to the Big Apple that I left him stranded down in the bowels of the NYC subway with nothing more than a Snickers bar and a bottle of water — LIES I TELL YA! 😉 ), one would never know it as our laughs and the fun stories behind them picked up where they left off and it was just like old times! Thanks for lunch Chris and give my chocolate drops Mia, Colby and Miles big hugs and kisses for me!

Also thank you to Dana Winston who is, in a word: HILARIOUS! We’ve known each other for sometime through social media, but it was actually our first time meeting face to face and with a big hug, some encouraging words and a half dozen Sugar Bliss Mini Cupcakes, he won me over! Dana, your accents are hysterical, but I truly appreciated our talk and getting to know more of the real you! (“Yeah mon!” lol) And lastly, there’s the man whose patience and chivalry should be bottled and sold — Raymond Boyd! In the crunch that was the last few days of my time in Chiraq (the word is now stuck in my head — thanks Dana!), Raymond was one of the best tour guides a girl could ask for! From waiting in line with me at the Willis Tower to get a view of the city or that cheesy tourist photo on The Ledge, to getting eaten alive by mosquitos during our nighttime shoots around town, to having the get away car warmed up and ready to go after being chased by the Secret Service (YES! That really happened!), I am forever grateful! I would also like to thank my family (cousins Rudy, Evelina, Qwendolyn, Quawi and Qorvette) for their warm welcome, generosity and hospitality!! Love you guys!

Chicago is a city of paradoxes, known for it’s extremes. From the weather to even some aspects of city life. But after this experience, there will always be a warm place in my heart for Chicagoland. Oh! and let’s not forget Garrett Popcorn, with whom I should buy stock after all the bags of popped perfection I ate while there! Chicago Mix…where you at?! LOL!!! Feel free to send a tin or two this way on your next visit! 🙂
Check out a few images HERE!

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[Harlem Vow Renewal] : Love Is…

Someone once said that love is friendship set to music! And for these two social activists and self-proclaimed music heads, no statement could be more true. Meet Detrel and her husband Thomas, who after meeting at a rally, have used their love of music and life to affect change in their community! So what better way to celebrate one year of love than with a “Love Is…” session in Harlem! With it’s rich and vibrant history in dance, literature and music, it was the perfect backdrop for our session this past weekend! Thomas and Detrel will be making beautiful music when they renew their wedding vows next month here in New York. I’m excited for what’s in store because after spending the afternoon with them, I know the day will be nothing short of amazing!

DandT2 Our first stop…the world famous Apollo Theater! With musical greats like Areatha Franklin, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson having graced this iconic stage, it made sense that they paid homage but also made time to ‘get on the good foot’ themselves!

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bririzadaphoto1 Big thank you to Brianna of B. Rizada Photography for grabbing this photo of me during our shoot!

DandT1 Thomas is a man of few words, but that smile: GOLD!

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D&TDip And finally, a trip to Harlem would not be complete without a stop at the world-renowned soul food eatery known simply as Sylvia’s! Enjoy you two!

DandTDip2 As the sun set over the city, I walked down 125th Street and came upon the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. monument, which I thought is a perfect blend of admiration and advocacy for the people of Harlem! It kinda reminded me of Detrel and Thomas. Not only do they exemplify their love for one another, but also their love of their community and advocating for causes close to their hearts — bravo you guys! 🙂

Prom Night!

Some say it’s a grand tradition…or a rite of passage…or maybe just an awesome night out with friends who’ve made your high school years loads of fun (or dare I say it, maybe just tolerable!); call it what you want, but going off to prom (whether you’re the jock, the cheerleader or the leader of the NACO group) is ALWAYS memorable!! So I was totally excited and honored to see Aysia (whose parents I’ve known since she was a little girl) get all dolled up for a night of fun!! There were corsages, sparkles from head to toe, a stretch limo for the ages (it was in a word: SICK y’all!) handsome young men, beautiful young ladies and magnificent memories to be made! This was also a night to celebrate being young while having the world at your feet! Aysia is off to college this fall and I have no doubt that success is squarely within her sights — you go girl!! AsiaProm5tag

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Embracing The Big Picture

How does someone express love? With a hug? A kiss? A kind or encouraging word? There are many ways that one can answer that question, but the one thing that is certain is, no matter the way one may express how they love; the most important thing to know overall is that they love. Love is meant to be shared. Given with one’s whole heart. And in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the recent storm that wrecked havoc on the Northeast (and continues to have rippling effects), love’s greatest expression was needed in some of our most devastated neighborhoods in ample supply. And with that, a little over a week ago, local photographers, make-up artists, volunteers and even Santa and his elves gathered at the Goldie Maple Academy in Far Rockaway, New York.

Lights, camera, community! With over sixty volunteers and almost two hundred families in attendance, this school gymnasium located in one of the more effected areas of the city, became the site where joy, compassion, goodwill and healing found it’s place. A great example was when after making portraits of a small family of four, the mom pulled me aside, hugged me and said, with tears in her eyes, “This is amazing! You have no idea what you’ve done for us…” Now, I have to admit…I had to do everything in my power, y’all not to burst out into tears on the spot! LOL!

I want to say thank you to all who found it in their hearts to give, including El Puente and the local chapter of the Police Athletic League. But I want to send a special thanks to Will Salomon Orellana and Kendra Alexis for their incredible work in putting this local effort together! And of course, Jeremy Cowart for his innovation in giving. I was blessed with the most amazing hugs, smiles and kind encouraging words and this experience has done more for me than I could ever express — thank you! And I just wanted to let you all know what a tremendous honor it was to participate in this year’s Help-Portrait campaign for Hurricane Sandy Relief. Even a week or so later, I find that I am still brought to tears at what an amazing testament of giving this was, and to know that God has used us all a vessel to serve!!

Don’t ever forget that you’re a citizen of this world, and there are things you can do to lift the human spirit. Things that are easy, things that are free, things that you can do every day. Civility, respect, kindness and character. Happy Holidays, everyone! Continue to be a blessing to people in your life and embrace the big picture! 🙂

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20121223-184658.jpg I’d like to thank Christina Whiting for making these two images. Photographer at work! LOL!

20121223-184746.jpg Help-Portrait CEO and Founder, Jeremy Cowart and the jolly old man from up North — Santa! 🙂

Help Portrait 2012 Group Shot The amazing group that I was so happy to have gotten to know and work with! Photo by Michael Dote

Feel free to have a look at how wonderful and life affirming something so simple can be:

Yo Soy Tu Gente — Viva Panama!!

I am an American. Born and raised in the shadows of rock n’ roll, apple pie and baseball. I learned at a fairly early age while standing in class with my hand over my heart, that I should always “pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America…” and while I am proud to be American and wave the colors of Old Glory (red, white and blue), it should be noted that I am just as proud to wave the colors of La Bandera Typical (also red, white and blue) and to be a Panamanian. It’s not something that many people would instantly know about me, as I don’t walk around with mola bags, caday jewelry or even a Panama t-shirt. And although I may not “look the part”, I am a proud Hispanic whose heritage and ancestry spreads as wide as Jamaica, Barbados, Costa Rica, Portugal and Spain. New York City, and most specifically Brooklyn, is slated to have the second largest Panamanian population in the U.S.

And so, it was on a sun drenched Saturday in October that revelers born in, transplanted from, or just in love with Panama gathered in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn to celebrate the uniqueness that we represent, at the 17th Annual Pre-Panamanian Independence Parade! Franklin Avenue, between Fulton Street and Empire Boulevard has traditionally been the epicenter of Panamanian-American culture and community and it was here where city and state representatives, singers, beauty queens and marching bands from all across the country (and even some visiting from Panama) put themselves on display for the world stage. Banderas, Polleras, montunos and smiles were widespread during this celebration! The music, the food and the sense of camaraderie were enough to make anyone feel like an honorary Panamanian that day!! But it’s officially today, November 3rd that we celebrate 109 years of independence — Viva Panama!!

This identity goes far beyond where I was born. It goes beyond what people may think they know about Panama — it’s so much more than just a Canal! It is demonstrated in the timbre of my voice, the way I laugh, the way I dance and the way I walk through my life. I am Panama.

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Jump Up and Wave!!

New York City is known by many names: “The Big Apple”, “The City That Never Sleeps” and the “The Capital of the World” are only a few that describe this ever changing Metropolis…but I just call it home!

I love this city! The hustle and bustle, the energy and the sense of community that’s all around me (New York often gets a bad rap by suggesting that it’s every man for himself here. But when we’re called upon, it’s amazing how we band together!) This melting pot known for it’s yellow cabs, Broadway lights and the best bagels anywhere, came together in droves on Monday for the 45th Annual West Indian Day Parade!! There was a rainbow of flags being waved, enough jewels and glitter to make any fashionista blush, people who danced to the beat of their own drum (most notably a photographer who happily walked around topless and was willing to pose for pictures — all in plain sight of the fuzz! And a colorful character who referred to himself as Lady Gaga’s Grandma!) and smiles and laughter that were infectious! This celebration of the unofficial end of summer is one of the biggest parties in Brooklyn, reveling in heritage and cultural pride (I’m proud to represent El Puente del Mundo –¡Viva Panama!) lavish costumes, awesome food and music that will make you whine, bacchanal and jump up and wave!! Even I couldn’t help but get in on the fun! (Thanks for the candid snaps, Mr. Mathias!)

So if you ask anyone at the parade, the census would be that this colorful annual spectacle brings Caribbean culture to life in the most ornate, jubilant and thrilling of ways! So, grab your flag, represent proudly and jump up and wave!!!

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Love, Liberty and Ladies Who Lunch : Lynn’s 30th Birthday Celebration

There are girls who grow into the kind of women who know exactly what they want; from the kind of job they want to have, to the kind of car they want to drive, even to the type of man they want to marry! And while fate holds the cards for some of life’s happenings, other choices, like our friends, flow into our lives with ease. Meet Lynn, an engaging, insightful and funny young woman who knew just what she wanted for her soiree in celebration of her 30th birthday last weekend: Note eight of her closest girlfriends, great food, the best wine and pure decadence on the water!! Now I ask you, what could be more decadent than a YACHT?! And not just any old clunker boat, but a 97 foot private luxury vessel (the S.S. Minnow has nothing on this, guys!) So…all aboard and away we go!!

Now, I’ve always thought of myself as somewhat adventurous (there was climbing Dunns River Falls in Jamaica, parasailing in Mexico, going to the top of both the Arch de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower in Paris, paragliding in San Diego and even rock climbing at Chelsea Piers — all done with a slight fear of heights), but admittedly with this exploit, once I stepped onto the yacht and felt the slightest sway, I became a ball of nerves, pondering every scenario, like: what if I lost a shoe or what if my glasses fell off my face and slipped overboard (this actually happened to my friend Felicia on a class trip on the NYC Circle Line in the fourth grade — it undoubtedly scarred me for life!) or even, dare I say it, what if I became so queazy, I lost my lunch!! But as the guardian of the day’s memories, I couldn’t lose my cool (but more than that, I couldn’t let a pregnant woman in heels steal my shine — I see you, Toya!!), so I put all my worries aside and proceeded to document the fun!!

And what fun it was!! We all danced, laughed and shared secrets like great girlfriends often do! I was even made privy to some moments that I’m sure they would never want their mothers to know about — but reassured ladies, your secrets are safe with me! But mostly, in between enjoying the lobster and chocolate covered strawberries, the toasts of chardonnay, bursts of laughter and outright silliness, the point of the day was crystal clear — these women came together as pillars of support for one another and to applaud each other’s triumphs! It was an awesome thing to witness! I want to give a special shout to Senior Purser Ingrid and the entire staff of “Justine” — you guys were awesome and made us all feel so welcomed! Finally, as the yacht pulled into port the ladies huddled together for one last picture. Perfection. And as the limo pulled away after dropping me off, I couldn’t help but feel such joy for Lynn and her friends. Friends are the family we choose for ourselves. And Lynn, I’d say you chose some wonderful sisters to walk through life with…Happy Birthday!