[SAVE THE DATE] Receiving a “Warrior Makeover” on March 4th by Hidden Warriors During OC Fashion Week!

As many of you may already know, when I was 19, I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer – a Life-changing event of epic proportions (and of which, only five percent survive). For the next year and a half, my Life was spent undergoing (and recovering) from two surgeries, and as a result, I suffered from depression, and a number of self-esteem and body image issues that I have since learned to deal with.


Photographer: Dwayne Jenkins, Styling by Me

However, this post is not about my experience with cancer (though if you’re curious, you can read more *here*), it’s about an innovative non-profit organization organization called “Hidden Warriors,” which “[works cooperatively with avant-garde makeup artists, stylists, costume creators, yoga and meditation instructors, occupational therapists, and other creative volunteers and organizations, to provide free “warrior makeovers” to women who have been affected by cancer.] These makeover experiences are designed to increase self-esteem and confidence, reduce stress, and empower women in the fight for their lives.”


One of Hidden Warriors’ “Warrior Makeovers”

I am very pleased to announce that I was selected by Hidden Warriors to receive a “Warrior Makeover” which will take place on a glass catwalk during OC Fashion Week on March 4, 2015!!

Not only will I walk down a runway with my fellow cancer-surviving lady warriors, but this event will give me a chance to continue to inspire other cancer survivors (and those currently battling cancer) to embrace their beauty, strengths, and passions, and prove that Life after cancer can be beautiful beyond imagination.

To be a part of something that validates and uplifts cancer survivors in such a moving, and beautifully, creative way is an absolute honor, and I hope that you all will join us during OC Fashion Week as I grace the Avant-Garde glass catwalk!

The event will take place at AnQi Gourmet Bistro & Noodle Bar in Costa Mesa (at the South Coast Plaza), and the show starts at 10pm.

Watch the Hidden Warriors promotional video below:

Editor’s Note: Heartfelt thanks to Hidden Warriors’ creator Marlene Sarli for having such an amazing spirit and vision, and for including me in on it! I can’t wait to let my “Hidden Warrior” inside, shine on the outside!

To purchase a ticket to the event or for more information on OC Fashion Week, visit:
http://www.ocfashionweek.com/

The Hidden Warriors Mission:
By using multiple therapeutic modalities, Hidden Warriors aims to increase self-esteem in and empower women who have been affected by cancer. We will create an experiential and transformative adventure which will tap into the Hidden Warriors they already are.

With help from professional make-up artists, photographers, designers, yoga instructors, occupational therapists, headdress makers and other creatives, we will use various headdresses and face paint to tap into their Hidden Warrior powers. We will photograph and document the process of transforming their mood and body language. These photographs will then be presented at a series of gallery shows and published in book form and ultimately into a short documentary. We will be scaling the project to the New York City and tri-state areas, then nation-wide, and eventually worldwide. This therapy has the potential to benefit many groups of people, including victims of domestic violence, children in foster care, people suffering with low self-esteem, anxiety and/or depression, etc. It is limitless!

http://hiddenwarriors.org/

Follow Hidden Warriors on Social Media!
Twitter + Instagram + Facebook

[Mon Poetry] Quest. For. You.

Wrote this on a red eye and I wasn’t even flying. I was merely… in a warm cocoon (with only the warmest of thoughts) and Donny Hathaway playing in the background on repeat…


Artwork Credit: “Sunlight” by Joan Semmel

“Quest. For. You.” – © Brittany “Bella” Graham (02.24.15)

Chills tingling down each of my bones,
Consequence of your baritone
Warmer than the warmest earth tone,
You’re like a blazing fire, waiting and burning for me when I get home

Curled up in one another when we’re alone,
I disappear into you and become your clone
Match my heat with yours, rock on all fours,
On the floor, by the door, sweat, heat, simmer, and pour…more

Caress like a ghost that haunts all day long,
Float on a melody like a Donny Hathaway song
I remember the kiss, remember the eclipse,
Remember your lips, and remember the bliss…of softly being awakened like this

And right before everything went black,
And my nails left angry, red marks across your back
You whispered in my ear, “Relax.” Relax…
Slow, deliberate climax…and now I can’t recover…from that

Is he? Is he? Is he?
More than a mirage…at the end of the sea?
Can he? Can he? Can he?
Save me, saturate, and satisfy me?
Pacify… and the only one who can mollify…this appetite

Quest for you. I have been…questing. for. you.

[NYFW] Michael Costello Fall/ Winter 2015

I’ve been to two other Michael Costello shows before, and trust me when I say he never disappoints! While in New York for Fashion Week, I had the pleasure of having a seat at Costello’s Fall/ Winter 2015 show, and was completely blown away by all of the designs showcased.

Peek-a-boo silhouettes and drapery softly accentuating womanly curves were the main focus, but I couldn’t help but notice the hair of the female models. Parted down the middle in front, and sectioned in two ponytails – one a high chignon and the other a low pony – in back, what resulted was a sexy twist to the traditional partial updo.

loveandbiscotti_chrisbrown_Karrueche_Christinamilian_michaelcostello_nyfw
Chris Brown, Karrueche and Christina Milian also attended. Image courtesy of Rap Up.

There was one dress in particular (which I managed to capture on video) that reminded me of the iconic, plunge dress worn by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio in the film “Scarface.”

Being that I’m a huge fan of the movie, this dress has been ingrained in my mind ever since I saw it. Check out my Instagram video below, and then compare to the picture of Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. See the resemblance?


Did Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio’s character in “Scarface” inspire some of Costello’s F/W 2015 designs? Watch the video below.

@MichaelCostello's #NYFW show was everything right now! Coverage on #LoveAndBiscotti.com soon! 😍

A video posted by Brittany Bella Graham (@msbellagraham) on

White-Background

Last, but not least, I have to comment on the selection of songs used in the show. As soon as I heard Nicki Minaj and Jessi Ware’s song “The Crying Game,” I immediately fell in love with it! I’m a big music fan so as soon as the show was over, I Googled the lyrics so I could figure out what song it was, and I’ve been listening to it (on repeat) ever since. Oh, and did I mention that Costello closed out the show with the song – and got a standing ovation when he walked out? Absolutely perfect! Bravo, Michael!

xo,
Bell

Desigual Fall’15 NYFW Coverage + Exclusive Giveaway!

Bonjour cosmopolitans!

Please excuse my recent lack of posts. I’ve been in New York attending Fashion Week (NYFW), and I’m just now getting a chance to relay all of my wonderful adventures! If you follow me on Instagram, you may have already seen a glimpse of the magic (and madness) that took place at Lincoln Center (the official site of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week), but nothing could have prepared me for the sheer opulence and surreality of Desigual – my first NYFW show!

The front row was spiked with celebrities, and amongst the talented rooster of models, super beauties Adriana Lima and Winnie Harlow were also featured sashaying down the runway. I ended up with both a great seat, and a special surprise gift courtesy of Desigual!

In fact, I had such an amazing time attending my first show that I’m giving all of you a chance to share in my excitement and WIN your own surprise Desigual NYFW gift courtesy of Love & Biscotti! Scroll down further in the post to find out details about how you can win!


Find out how to win this special Desigual package below!


Me after the show!

Runway Video courtesy of FashionTV.com

WIN THIS SPECIAL DESIGUAL NYFW PACKAGE!!

As mentioned above, I am giving all of you the opportunity to win this adorable Desigual package containing a beautiful scarf from their 2015 collection! All you have to do is follow the directions below! There are TWO WAYS TO ENTER:

First Entry Option:

1) Follow me on Twitter: @MsBellaGraham and @LoveAndBiscotti (must follow both)
2) Follow Desigual on Twitter: @Desigual
3) Tweet both accounts and include the hashtag #LoveBiscottiDesigual
4) Your profile must be public, as I cannot see private profiles or tweets

Second Entry Option:

1) Follow me on Instagram: @MsBellaGraham
2) Follow Desigual on Instagram: @Desigual
3) Repost the contest image (located below) on your account and include the hashtag #LoveBiscottiDesigual
4) Your profile must be public

loveandbiscotti_desigual_contest

For an additional third entry, follow/ sbscribe to Love & Biscotti (via the “Follow” button to the right, and leave a comment under this blog post!

That’s it! I’ll draw a random winner on Friday, March 27, 2015! Good luck!

xo, Bella!

[CONTEST] Win a 2 Night Stay at the historic Driskill Hotel in Austin, Texas!

UPDATE 02. 10. 15:
I am very pleased to announce that the winner of the 2-night stay at the historic Driskill Hotel is @sarahmarilu!! The winner was drawn via a random number generator on the Internet. Congratulations, and I hope you enjoy your stay!

To everyone to entered the contest, stay tuned! I’ve got more exciting contests to announce soon! xoxo

—-
Bonjour cosmopolitans!

Its officially the month of love, and this February – to celebrate my love for travel and exploring wonderful, new places – I’ve partnered with the historic Driskill Hotel to offer one of my readers a complimentary two night stay in one of the most romantic hotels in Austin, Texas!

According to The Guardian, who lists the Driskill Hotel as one of the “Top 10 Boutique Hotels in Austin,” the intimate hotel is “[one of Austin’s oldest historic landmarks – known for its opulent marble lobby and leathered lounge – and ghostly guests are rumoured to haunt its halls!

The romantically lit bar, with signature and seasonal craft cocktails such as the ‘Batini’ (a vodka concoction made with hibiscus which was named the official cocktail of Austin in 2010), is the epitome of old-world style, and lined with stately portraits.

Rooms range in size from converted former staff quarters to skyline-view suites; or, if you’re feeling fancy, there’s the famed LBJ Presidential Suite, designed for dignitaries but often occupied by A-listers.

The hotel’s 6th Street-facing patios are perfect for people-watching and, when the sun goes down, you’re literally steps from the city’s famed entertainment strip.”

Needless to say, with all of its southern comfort and sophisticated charm, the Driskill Hotel is the perfect rendezvous for you and your significant other!

For Your Chance to Win a 2 Night Stay in the Driskill Hotel’s “Vintage Guest Bedroom,” Follow These Rules. There are TWO WAYS TO ENTER:

First Entry Option:

1) Follow me on Instagram: @MsBellaGraham
2) Follow the Driskill Hotel on Instagram: @TheDriskill
3) Repost the contest image (located below) on your account and include the hashtag #LoveBiscottiDriskill, as well as the reason you want to win.
4) Your profile must be public

Second Entry Option:

1) Follow me on Twitter: @MsBellaGraham and @LoveAndBiscotti (must follow both)
2) Follow the Driskill Hotel on Twitter: @TheDriskill
3) Tweet why you would love to win a stay at the Driskill, and include the hashtag #LoveBiscottiDriskill
4) Your profile must be public, as I cannot see private profiles or tweets

You can enter the contest on Instagram, or Twitter, or both. Those who enter on both social media accounts (Twitter and Instagram), will receive two entries, doubling their chance to win!

For a third additional entry, leave a comment under this blog post! That makes a total of three entries you can earn! Why not increase your chances?! Note: You must enter either through Twitter or Instagram first to qualify for an additional entry via the blog.

The contest ends in exactly one week on Monday, February 9th! I will draw a random winner at 11:59 pm PST.

For full details, and disclaimers, scroll to the bottom of this post. Good luck!

Contest Image for Instagram:

Additional Details + Disclaimers:

*Hotel stay must be redeemed before March 15, 2015
*Blackout dates apply. Not valid during SxSw

[Sunday Meditation] Making Selfish Decisions For Good Reasons

#BellaSundayMeditation: “Making Selfish Decisions For Good Reasons”

You will always break yourself trying to be the alternate versions that others are willing to accept. That person doesn’t exist, and neither will you, when changing who you are – and what’s important to you – start to fade, away

The best part about accrued maturity, and knowledge of self, is the simple acceptance of “self.” The people attracted and destined to be in your Life will merge naturally, and without your having to adapt to anything – including them.

I don’t mind acknowledging this necessary selfishness within myself. I’m selfish with my time, my privacy, and even with others’ access to me, because if you don’t set a limit, people will never stop taking. To me, selfishness is just another form of self-respect. Love yourself too much to tolerate bad behavior.

Namaste

[The Scene] Princess of the Night – An Interview with Artist, Kiki Elice

About three weeks ago, I found myself browsing the ‘gram on a late night…

I’ve always been a night owl, as sleep usually eludes what I’ve coined the “Twilight Hour” – or the magical, misty hours between 12-5am – and it’s during this time, somewhere between the dusk and the dawn, that most of my philosophies and most fragile of thoughts seep out onto computer screens and the pages of thread-bound composition books.

I can’t recall exactly how I arrived there – as I tend to get lost in the interwebs of clickable links, jumping from one artsy boho account to another – but somehow I stumbled upon an artist whose work resonated with me so much that I immediately lit her notifications up, liking one post after another, and then another. There was something about the eyes of the souls painted on the canvases, and the womanly figures draped in delicate fabrics alluding to their regal graciousness that drew me in…

I’ve featured her work twice already, highlighting her paintings in my poetry posts, but I figured it was time I found out more about this incredible artist and introduced her to all of you – with an exclusive interview in her own voice, and in her own words.

Her name is Kiki Elice, and I hope you find both her and her artwork just as fascinating as I do. Read below for our interview!

BELLA: Kiki, what is it that called you to art?
KIKI ELICE: My imagination called me to it!

BELLA: Are you self-trained? Did you have a mentor or go to school for it? What was your process?
KIKI ELICE: I am kind of self trained. I was trained to design clothes. I graduated from Parson School for Design. I was trained in fashion illustration.

BELLA: How long have you been making art?
KIKI ELICE: I have been an artist since I was about two or three-years-old. When I started coloring, I never stopped. At age 10, I decided I would be an artist when I grew up, and then around 11, I fell in love with fashion design. Skip forward to 2013 I decided to go back to my first dre of being a visual artist.

BELLA: Tell me more about you? Where did you grow up? Are there other artists in your family?
KIKI ELICE: I grew up in Seattle, Washington. I moved to New York for school in 2003. My grandpa Catlett was a musician, and he played the up-right base. My dad is also a musician, he plays the drums, and my little brother is a photographer. I have many artists in my family!

BELLA: Where do you get the inspiration for the women in your paintings? Do you use models, or draw from memory, imagination? Who are your muses?
KIKI ELICE: I get the inspiration for the women in my paintings from books, magazines, photos, and of course my imagination. Once I see a photo, my imagination does the rest. The painting rarely looks like the muse I started out with, which I really like. My muses are generally women who I find interesting.


“Princess of the Night” – Kiki’s favorite painting

BELLA: A lot of your work appeals to the mystical. Almost what I would call the “divine feminine.” The moons, the third eye… What is your philosophy as it pertains to spirituality?
KIKI ELICE: The spiritual influences come from my awe and curiosity with nature, the Universe, enlightenment, and God. I never force any thing with art, I just let it flow. I am on my own personal spiritual journey, and as I research and learn new things, it shows up in my work. My philosophy on spirituality is to make it your own experience, and to follow your own path to finding inner peace – no one else’s.

BELLA: When you look at your paintings, what do you hope people take away from them?
KIKI ELICE: When people look at my paintings, I want them to evoke emotion. Whether it be feelings of zen, or strength, or their own sense of feminine beauty. I just want people to feel something.

BELLA: I’ve noticed that many of your paintings have a fashionable aspect to them. From the delicate jewelry to the feminine drapings and dresses. Is that something you consciously do?
KIKI ELICE: Yes, I consciously decide what the women wear in my paintings. I take the time to design the clothes, jewelry, and prints. I am a trained fashion designer, I still sew and make patterns. Fashion influences my work, it’s inevitable!

BELLA: Do you have any aspirations to do anything related to or within the fashion industry?
KIKI ELICE: I have already worked in the fashion Industry for years. It’s not very fun, it’s not for me.

BELLA: Do you have a favorite painting that you’ve created?
KIKI ELICE: Right now my favorite painting is “Princess of the Night.”

BELLA: When it comes time to sell your art, is it hard to part with?
KIKI ELICE: Yes! I feel like I’m giving away one of my babies. I’m always happy to make a sale, but parting is such sweet sorrow!!

BELLA: Where can people purchase your art?
KIKI ELICE: People can purchase my art by request via email at 85.kiki@gmail or through my etsy shop at Etsy.com/shop/KikiElice.

BELLA: In the future, where would you like to be (as far as artistic aspirations)?
KIKI ELICE: I’m so content with my artistic progress. In the future, I can see my creativity growing as my mind grows in curiosity.

For more information or to purchase Kiki Elice’s work, visit:

Instagram: @Kiki_Elice
Web: Etsy.com/shop/KikiElice
Contact: 85.kiki@gmail.com

Continue reading

[Sunday Meditation] Surviving Cancer – and Remaining Hopeful

This month marks the nine year anniversary of my second major surgery – and for surviving pancreatic cancer

The anniversaries always make me a bit emotional, not just because I’m forced to think retrospectively – and remember exactly how far I’ve come, health wise – but reminiscing on the recovery phase is sometimes painful (and uncomfortable). From dropping out of college, to spending months in the hospital, getting out and not being able to walk, stand or even go to the bathroom by myself; to losing 25 lbs and looking like a skeleton of my former self, each experience shaped my current perception of life – and made me appreciate the most minuet of life’s delicate details.

I remember not being able to eat and drink at the same time, crying because I was getting stuck with needles every 20 minutes, being depressed from my surgery scar (something I still struggle with), and sad that I was only 19 (I’m 28 now) but feeling like a 70-year-old.

I don’t even have any pictures from that time because I wouldn’t let anyone take a picture of me…

Editor’s Note: Pancreatic cancer rarely occurs before the age of 40, and more than half of cases of pancreatic adenocarcinoma occur in those over 70. In 2012, pancreatic cancers of all types were the seventh most common cause of cancer deaths, resulting in 330,000 deaths globally. In the United States, pancreatic cancer is the fourth most common cause of deaths due to cancer. Pancreatic adenocarcinoma typically has a very poor prognosis: after diagnosis, 25% of people survive one year and 5% live for five years. Sourced from Wikipedia.

And yet, even after all of that pain and disappointment, I never let cancer define my life – or my future. Deep within myself, I found my courage, faced my fears, went back to school, earned two degrees and in the end, I can look back and be thankful for it all.

Having pancreatic cancer changed the course of life, my philosophies, my values, my priorities, my perception of the world, and the way I experience life in general. Becoming a survivor made me realize what’s really important, who my true friends were/ are, and which battles aren’t worth the energy they take to fight. Surviving cancer put me on a path of spiritual awareness and consciousness, and whet an unquenchable thirst for knowledge of the most arcane, universal mysteries, and most importantly, made me realize that I’m stronger than whatever challenges are thrown at me.

If anyone out there is struggling with cancer, especially pancreatic cancer, there is hope for you. Steve Jobs and Patrick Swayze (rest in paradise) didn’t win their fight with pancreatic cancer, and neither do most people – and that thought is never lost on me. However, I did survive, and perhaps it was simply to write this blog post so that someone dealing with cancer could read it, and regain strength for their own journey. For some divine reason, I was spared, and therefore, I have no choice but to be a leader. Writing and speaking have always come easily for me, as do connecting with others, and I feel very strongly that my purpose on this Earth is to inspire and illuminate the path for others.

Blessings for all those currently struggling with cancer. Stay strong and hopeful! I share my testimony for you, so that you may be motivated and inspired. The Universe has plans for YOU!

Namaste