15 Things Sexier Than Blake Shelton Because WTF?

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People magazine releases their annual Sexiest Man Alive cover and lately, People never fail to underwhelm me with their selections. I will admit, the few times I actually agreed were George Clooney during the ER days (who didn't love Doug Ross?), JFK Jr., and The Rock. Everything else has been "meh". This year's lucky guy to make all the women in the world swoon is, * drum roll * Blake Shelton. Now I will at admit, he's incredibly charming on 'The Voice' and he has a great ear for music. I will even go on record and say I thought he was hot until I found out he JUST turn 41. I always thought he was distinguish looking and up there in age with George Clooney but that is clearly not the case. He has always just looked old. No seriously! This is what he looked like in High School:

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The man has a barbed wire with deer tracks tattoo-- this is just unacceptable. Haven't we been through enough this year? I decided to compile a list of things that are 10 times sexier than Blake Shelton:

1. JC's Voice in Every *NSYNC Song 

*swoon* I always loved J.C. more than Justin. 

2. Sterling K. Brown

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I bet you didn't know Randell from 'This is Us' was hiding all that behind those suits.

3. Idris Elba

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How has he not been named Sexiest Man Alive? I mean, we have all collectively agreed on this, right! 

4. Mozzarella Sticks 

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5. Andy Cohen's Lazy Eye 

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6. RHOC's Peggy's hair extensions  

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7. Cary Fukunaga

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Patiently waiting to be his future muse and baby mama. 

8. Ryan Gosling

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He's so perfect *drools* 

9. Steve Carell 

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Steve Carell is so handsome in a 'I just went through a divorce, but I didn't let myself go', kind of way.

11. Bacon, Egg, And Cheese on a Roll 

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What New Yorkers eat for breakfast. 

12.  The Cleveland Browns 

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Okay, maybe not really but...let's go with it. 

13. Trent from Daria 

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14. Chris Hemsworth 

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I think the gif speaks for itself. 

15. Mahershala Ali 

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Me too, Mahershala. Me too! 

Do you completely disagree with me? This is all for fun!

Congrats to Blake Shelton because I know this makes Gwen Stefani (my idol) very happy and giddy! 

EVENT: Inside Banyan Tree's Holiday Collection

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Holiday season is among us and if you’re in Cleveland, you’re in for a treat. Banyan Tree has just released its collection of fashionable clothes, gift ideas, and accessories.

 

Banyan Tree hosted a private event for a few local bloggers who got a sneak peak of all the fabulous items in the holiday collection. Owner and designer, Christie Murdock welcomed us with wine and hors d’oeuvres from Le Crackers.

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While roaming around the shop I saw a few items that I absolutely need in my wardrobe. This ultra-sleek leather bag that’s hella unique. You’d never find another fashionista sporting it and plus it’s a lot bigger than it appears.

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On my to-do list is to add a fur/faux fur coat into my life. I entered the second room and immediately zombie walked to this coat. Makes me feel like a HBIC.

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One of my favorite section of Banyan Tree is the Charm Bar where you can put together your own knick-knack for your necklace or bracelet. Since relocating, I’ve noticed ladies in the area wearing a gold charm with “CLE” written on it and I always wondered where I could get it. Well sure enough its Banyan Tree, and I might actually invest in a Cleveland esque item…. MAYBE. But they’re so beautiful! Lots of beautiful jewelry to consider buying for a loved one or yourself (because the holidays are also about treat yo self).

Christie opened Banyan Tree 16 years ago and hand picks or designs most of the items in the stores with her costumers in mind. She highly recommends the cozy soft trendy sweaters that are available because even though it’s winter, doesn't mean you have to slack on being stylish while remaining warm.

If you’re in the area, next Saturday after you’re done eating tons of Thanksgiving leftovers, with every purchase you will receive a bracelet. On December 3rd, Banyan Tree will host its 11th Annual Hot Toddy Party, which I’m definitely attending because I heard it’s a can’t miss event in Cleveland. 

Where to find Banyan Tree: 

Tremont  

2242 Professor Ave

Cleveland, OH 44113 

Legacy Village 

25001 Cedar Road

Lyndhurst, OH 44124 

Crocker Park 

228 Market Street 

Westlake, OH 44145

5 Things I Learned at the R.LUM.R Concert

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Tuesday night at Cleveland Height's Grog Shop, I took in an intimate show of R&B newcomer R.LUM.R. The Nashville native gained attention after getting momentum on Spotify by amassing 15 million streams. Spotify was so impressed by how well it performed on its platform, that they began to include his music in various playlists to get his name out there. It worked! His single "Frustrated" started getting spins on local radio stations, he dropped his first EP Afterimage in August, and landed his first television appearance on Jimmy Kimmel. Here a few observations I had while attending R.LUM.R's show. 

1.  The Land Embraced R.LUM.R

Although it was R.LUM.R’s first time in Cleveland, The Land very much took a liking to R.LUM.R’s show and his personality with open arms. Many concertgoers danced, sung along, and interacted with R.LUM.R in any way they could. The R&B crooner definitely enjoyed the spontaneous love-fest from his local fans.

2.  Best Friends

The Phangs were the openers and the lead singer, Jake is best friends with Reggie Williams aka R.LUM.R.. Williams will also be the best man at Jake’s upcoming wedding.

3.  He’s more than a Spotify Sensation

R.LUM.R is an insanely talented artist who captures the audience with his skilled guitar playing that’s reminiscent of John Mayer. During the middle of his set, it was just him, his powerful voice and the guitar. In that moment we were witnessing an artist becoming a star.

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4. New Music

He performed a new track “I Need To Know” that was similar to his more mid-tempo tracks but has potential to become a pop ballad with radio play.

5.  Everybody Love Frank

Frank Ocean was name dropped multiple times, from the audience, Phangs and R.LUM.R, which proves his relevance in pop culture. R.LUM.R performed a cover of Ocean’s more well-known hit, “Thinkin About You” and made it his own. The emotions he evoked and effortless guitar riffs throughout the song made it more than just a cover.

After the show, I spoke with R.LUM.R and expressed how his music helped me during a tough time and he was happy to hear that his lyrics and music helped me to move forward. Instead of taking a typical fan pic, I asked him to pose for my camera. Here's what I got from it. 

There's No Place Like Home

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You can travel the world and visit the most beautiful cities, but there is nothing like returning to the place where you're from. Last week, my sister, niece and I traveled to New York City for a long weekend. It was exactly what I needed, get inspired by the street style, feel the creative energy, and surround myself with people who know me best, my friends. 

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My youngest niece, Simone, hadn't been to New York since she was 4 years old, she didn't remember much about the city but she was very excited to visit. She thought Manhattan was just Central Park, I had to take out a map and explain that even though Central Park is gigantic, it's not the actual borough. Simone had her own plan in mind for her visit, to shop at the American Girl store. She woke me up early on Friday morning and we walked every inch of the three level store for her to purchase a little box of tiny plastic food for her doll. Afterwards, I took her to Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, Rainbow Room NBC Studios, and Times Square. She needed to see some of the iconic spots of the city while she was in town.

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That evening, I met with some of my close friends for food and drinks at the new 70's inspired hot spot The Vnyl. We had a great conversation about pop culture, podcasts, catching up on our lives and the tribulations of being a millennial. 

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Afterwards, Branden and I headed to Brooklyn to see Maya Rudolph perform in her Prince tribute band Princess at Brooklyn Bowl. It was perfect! Maya and Gretchen embodied Prince and created a great setlist of some of his great singles and deep cuts. I also met up with my first friend ever at Rutgers University, Kreg, and my old friends Suz and Alanna.

The following day, Suz and I went to my friend Raul's Halloween bash where we dressed as Cher and Dionne from the iconic 90's flick, Clueless. The party allowed me to see some friends I hadn't seen in 4 years, and it was nice to catch up in the midst of the Halloween madness. Suz and I were nominated for best costume but didn't stick around to hear who won, but in our hearts, we won Best Costume at the 5th Annual Spencer Halloween Party. 

As we were heading home Suz said, "when you return we have to have a real Brittny night where we dance the night away at Pianos and Hotel Chantelle and pregame at a nearby park." That's how we spent many of our nights during our twenties. They are great memories but we're old and definitely can not party until 5 am, followed by eating greasy food at iHop at 6 am. Regardless, I definitely need to return back home sooner than later. 

My favorite thing to do has always been to visit iconic spots in the middle of the night. This time was Grand Central Station. In the middle of the night, no one is really around and you can really take in the city and see the beauty of everything. Grand Central Station is manic during the day but so peaceful at 2 am. You also can't walk Grand Central without reciting the opening lines of Gossip Girl (or is that just me?). 

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How I Traveled to Europe Under $1200

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Traveling can be a luxury but you can definitely go abroad without spending out of your means. There are plenty of sites that share low flight fares and Groupon is a great source for package deals. Last September I traveled to Eastern Europe, visiting Budapest, Prague and Vienna and I only spent less than $1200 for the entire trip. Here’s my breakdown.

 

Flight: $30

I swear! I only paid $30 for the entire flight. I received a $1000 voucher from Delta Airlines due to an overbook flight. I took the offer and had to stay one evening in Atlanta, but it was worth it.

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Lodging: $705.84

I spent 14 days in three different countries and decided the cheapest option would be to stay at Airbnb. I rented a room in each location and most were less than $80 a night. I also made sure every place I stayed offered breakfast so I eliminated purchasing one meal a day.

For 4 nights in Budapest - $284.94

1 night in Budapest - $75.00

4 nights in Prague - $202.95

4 nights in Vienna 142.95

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Transportation: $411

To travel to each country, I opt to take trains to each destination. I also splurged and purchased first class seats for each train ride, but you can definitely purchase economy seating to keep your spending as low as possible.

For a 6 hour train from Budapest to Prague - $176

4 hour train ride from Prague to Vienna - $142

2 ½ hour ride from Vienna to Budapest - $93

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Overall I spent $1146.79

Another way I cut cost of spending, I used public transportation instead of using taxis or shuttle buses. Most were $2 round trip, and many locals are happy to help you get around or your hosts at the Airbnb.

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How are some ways you’ve been able to cut costs for traveling?  

Budgetistas: Designer Handbags for Less

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Okay, budgetistas, now let’s get in to formation!

Am I the only one who loves expensive things but my bank account won't let me be great? I am also a firm believer of seasonal handbags, a bag for every season. Currently in the Midwest it still feels like summertime despite it being nearly November, but it’s still Autumn.  Even if you love yourself some designer handbags, you can get some gorgeous ones for under $300.

Here are some discounted handbags to add to your autumn wardrobe.

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Vivienne Westwood | Derby Satchel $299.97 

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Betsy Johnson | Printed Satchel $49.97 

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Kate Spade New York | Emerson Place Lenia $179.00 

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French Connection | Alana Smooth Shoulder Tote Bag $85.00 

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Henri Bendel | West 57th Backpack $289.00

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Sunset & Spring | Double Pocket Faux Fur Backpack $80 

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Kate Spade | Watson Lane Hartley Leopard Print $198 

Happy handbag shopping!

A Look Back At the Week That Was

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Phew! I am still exhausted from the non-stop week I had.

On Tuesday, after months of planning, CMSD and Channel 3 joined forces and kicked off our Untitled Black History Month project with the Digital Arts High School. To jump start the program, we chartered the students around Cleveland to prominent historical landmarks, including Garret A. Morgan Water Works, Karamu House, St. John’s Episcopal Church, etc. One interesting fact I learned during the tour, it took slaves an entire year to walk from the south to Ohio/St. John’s Episcopal Church. What an incredible and brave of them to endure to freedom.

Students standing in front of the Jesse Owens statue 

Students standing in front of the Jesse Owens statue 

The next few days were spent at the Council of Great City Schools where the largest urban school districts in the country come to together and share how to improve and enrich our scholars’ education. It was my second time attending but equally informative. This year, Cleveland hosted the conference. I have to say, CMSD and Cleveland did a fantastic job as hosts and really set the bar for next year’s hosts Baltimore.

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We also had incredible speakers during the conference aside from our peers. Bill Gates opened the conference and in a big way by announcing he would donate 1.7 billion dollars to charter schools.

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Rosario Dawson shared her journey as a daughter of a teen mom, growing up poor in the Lower East Side in Manhattan and how her mom advocated for her to have the best education. With her current platform she pays it forward by her involvement in Lower East Side Girls Club. 

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Van Jones closed the conference with an incredible speech on how we need to balance the left and right to have a working and powerful future. He also moderated our forum on equity in education with superintendents including CMSD’s Eric Gordon, and CMSD’s students and parents.

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I skipped one of the conference dinner to attend the Milly fashion show at Saks. 

Saturday night, we had our farewell celebration at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame museum, where the entire museum was open for the attendees to explore. Although I just visited the museum a few weeks ago, I was finally able to take in their Power of Rock Experience, a 15 minute video of some of the highlighted performances throughout the years of the Rock Hall’s induction ceremony in a surround sound theater. It was incredible and I recommend anyone to check it out if you’re in the area (as well as their Rolling Stone magazine anniversary exhibit).

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I closed off the weekend and week by attending the first show of the Broadway Series at Playhouse Square, Waitress. I wasn’t sure I would enjoy the musical when it was announced earlier this year during preview week, but I will say it’s one of the best musicals I have ever seen. As a proud Ice Princess, I wept at the end. It really made my cold heart melt for a few minutes. You know it’s good when it’s capable of doing that.

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Overall, I had an eventful week. I wish I could say this week will be mellow but that's simply not the case. I'm heading back home to New York City for a few days this week. I cannot wait to go back to the city that never sleeps! 

Shake Up Your Work Attire: Pantsuits

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If you're following along, and read "Shake Up Your Work Attire" you'll know that I am in the process of changing up my work wardrobe. During the winter, I always end up wearing a uniform which consist of a black turtleneck and black slacks. Although I think it's great to wear a uniform once awhile, I did not want to get set in my old ways.

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I had always been into androgynous looks, the way a woman can wear menswear and make it sexy, has always been GOALS! Some of my favorite fashion icons are capable of making that look work, including Tracee Ellis Ross, Diane Keaton, and Grace Jones. I decided to buy my first suit set, and not the Hillary Clinton kind, one that would get me excited when I throw it on for work.

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This Fall I am completely obsessed with all things velvet and my favorite color is black. When I came across this suit on ASOS, I not only gagged but I also knew I had to have it in my life. 

I wish I could wear nothing but black, but a splash of color doesn't hurt. I paired the outfit with pearls and my gorgeous black and white Gx by Gwen Stefani pumps. 

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Harvey Weinstein’s Harassments Re-Opened My Own Wounds

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Last week, The New York Times reported the articles “Harvey Weinstein Paid Off Sexual Harassment Accusers for Decades,” where they exposed a major Hollywood producer of asserting himself sexually on several employees, models and actresses including Ashley Judd, and Rose McGowan. Since the article was released and went viral, many A list actresses have come forward addressing their own accounts. While reading many of the victims’ stories I noticed a familiar theme, many of them were either threatened to not say anything or were too scared to say anything of what they had experienced. This reopened my own wounds of my experience with sexual assault, where I didn’t feel comfortable coming forward, and was threatened to not speak on it. My experience is just one of many; Whether it was a famous Academy Award winner or an average everyday person you’ve known from school, a family member, or even yourself, who was too scared to say something about their own assault. When will it we come to a point where that is no longer the case?

I’m not a celebrity nor was the person who raped me a powerful man in Hollywood. However, I was shamed for what I experienced. Whether it’s because of ingrained double standards I’ve come too familiar with, or law enforcement didn’t think it was severe enough to handle. My first experience was at 21. It was any normal night out with my girlfriends in college at a local lounge we frequented. My attacker was the lounge’s bartender that I had grown to have a crush on. After a night of dancing and drinking, the evening became hazier as the night went on. The next morning I woke up, with my clothes off in the student lounge area in a dorm building I didn’t live in. Not completely sure of my surroundings, I didn’t know what exactly went down the night before but I was aware that I more than likely had sex. Retracing my tracks, I did find out from a friend that I went home with the bartender and she thought I was safe. I played it off that I was completely okay but the truth was I didn’t know what happened at all. Embarrassed with the fact of what went down, I became angry that I could allow myself to drink so much to get to the point of not knowing what I was doing, but the truth of the matter was, I was roofied. It had also been my first sexual “experience” ever. I had buried that entire experience from my memory shortly after. I also was too embarrassed to act on the situation.

Two years later, after an exhausting walk to the town over to a drug store. I called an ex boyfriend for a ride back to campus. He agreed and we had a nice conversation catching up about what we were doing that summer. By the time we reached my house, he believed that he was entitled to have sex with me for the favor of a ride home. I refused. He kept pushing and I repeatedly stated no. He forced himself onto me and pinned me down so strongly that it was hard for me to fight back. After a few moments and weak attempts to escape, I gave up. Someone I once trusted, was no longer someone I could trust. I felt disgusted, hurt and defeated. After he finished, he said “It wasn’t that bad after all.” I was livid. I was angry.

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I just wanted to use a sad pug pic 

Shortly after this happened, I disclosed what happened to a close friend, he encouraged me to report him to our local police. I decided to do so with his help. I confessed my story to two male police officers and this was their responses:

“It wasn’t in a dark alley.”

“It could be seen as consensual as you two had dated previously. You’re just trying to get back at him.”

“Do you really want to ruin his entire life?”

“If you go through with this, you’ll have to experience the situation all over again, it’s not fun.”

No, it wasn’t in a dark alley. Yes, we had dated previously but they didn’t know our relationship history. I didn’t have any hard feelings towards him. Was my life and what I had just experienced not as important as his entire life? Because no matter what, I will always have to remember that entire ordeal.

I felt defeated. I cried in the room I told the police officers because I didn’t know what else to do. I decided to not press charges and once again suppressed my feelings.

Society has made it known that rape is bad, but only a certain type of rape. The victim is always questioned more than the abuser. What was she wearing? Why would she be alone with him if she didn’t want to sleep with him? If she doesn’t come forward as quickly as society believes she should, why did she wait so long? What is she getting out of this? Many of the same questions I saw come across my social media timeline when victims came out to accuse not only Harvey Weinstein but also Bill Cosby, and Stanford student Brock Turner.

Until society changes the way we view rape culture, men will continue to assault women and feel they are entitled to their bodies. A conversation is needed where we stop saying “Boys will be boys” and stop questioning women when they speak out on their experiences. We need to hold men accountable for the way they treat women, whether it's street harassment, sexual harassment in the work place or elsewhere, or sexual assault. 

It has taken me years to be able to open up about my experiences. I will never forget reading Audre Lorde’s Sisters Outsider and I came across the line “I feel, therefore I can be free.” And I broke down and cried. Basically until I understand everything I experience and actually go through those emotions, I can be free of everything I’m holding in. However, no matter what, I will never be the same. Those experiences will always be a part of who I am. And the same goes for every victim that has ever experienced any form of sexual assault.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please seek help by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673). For more resources on sexual assault, visit RAINN the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

Shake Up Your Work Attire

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When I began my big girl job, my mom purchased all my work attire. The thought of just going through a store to find something to wear to work just bored me to tears, but my mom enjoys shopping so it was a win-win situation. They were all professional, but very boring (no disrespect.) However, after 2+ years in this position, I'm over trying to conform to the social norms of what a 'professional' should look like. I'm comfortable enough in my skin and my job to show my true sense of style. 

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I've never been one who wants to fit in when it comes to style. There are trends that I find cool and might adapt, but for the most part, I have an idea of what I want to look like and how it should be styled. 

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That being said, I decided to go into my closet and throw away outfits that weren't for me. I kept some that I'll wear when I'm not in the mood to style myself, and kept other items that I knew I could shake up with different pieces and make my own. 

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This outfit is a mix of old and new; A pencil skirt, with a blouse and heels: 

Skirt: An Express faux leather skirt I purchased from a thrift store. (Already own.)

Shoes: Black and white Gx by Gwen Stefani (Already owned.)

Blouse: Polka dot, puffy sleeve with front tie from H&M (New.) 

Sunglasses: Aldo

Revisit Janet Jackson's The Velvet Rope 20 Years Later

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The Velvet Rope  is a metaphor for emotional boundaries as well as an allusion to the individual’s need to feel special. Behind the velvet rope, Janet unveiled her world to the listener. We hear her explore her sexuality, her willingness to experiment with BDSM and her struggle with depression, abuse and self-worth. Janet signed a $80 million contract with Virgin Records prior to the album release and attained the largest recording contract in history at that time. Yet with major success and achievement, Michael Jackson’s little sister still felt, as stated in the interlude Sad “there’s nothing more depressing than having everything and still feeling sad.” Janet used the album and theme to work through the personal demons she needed to overcome, which has become the template for artists to experiment with darker sounds. Though the album was a moment for Janet to heal personally, she used her platform to speak on LGBT community, domestic violence and depression; which was groundbreaking to hear in a pop album in the 90’s. It's time to revisit The Velvet Rope 20 years later.

After suffering from an emotional breakdown at the end of the janet. World Tour, Janet decided to face the struggles she buried for years through her music and making it the concept of the album. Working with her dream team, producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the three created a version of Miss Jackson we had not seen or heard before. In Control, we heard her embrace self-empowerment. Rhythm Nation was on social consciousness through race, class and violence and janet. helped her open with her sex appeal. The Velvet Rope is a mature record that shows the many sides of the superstar as she works through understanding the person she has become. The composition fuses various genres, including pop, R&B, trip hop, folk, jazz, rock, funk and house. What would normally sound like a cluster fuck on most albums with an array of many genres, Jam and Lewis were able to magically blend all the sounds into the perfect package of Janet’s current state of mind.

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The album debuted at the top spot of the Billboard 200 charts, selling 202,000 copies its first week and by 1998 the album sold 1.6 million copies. Its first single “Got Till It's Gone” peaked at number 36 on the Hot 100, featuring A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip, where the two brought a chill trip-hop vibe over a Joni Mitchell sample of “Big Yellow Taxi”. The visual for the single is one of Jackson’s best, as it captures and celebrates the music, style, and culture in South Africa. Janet, who is effortlessly cool, also rocks bold red hair in bantu knots. This would make #teamnatural/Shea Butter Twitter retweet constantly with the caption “YAS QUEEN” if the video were released today. Even the filter and aesthetics of the video would make every Tumblr and Instagram user wish they had created the style before the video. The video would go on to win a Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video. 

The second single was by far Janet’s most successful during the era, “Together Again” which was inspired by her friend who she lost to AIDS. The neo-disco track was inspired by Donna Summer’s “Last Dance”, it reached #1 on the Hot 100 and spent 46 weeks on the charts. It's among one of the biggest selling global singles, selling 6 million copies worldwide. The final single and one of Janet’s sexiest tunes in her discography, “I Get Lonely,” that gives listeners a familiar sound of the sultry pop-R&B which Jackson has been known for. “I Get Lonely” received positive reviews and became Jackson’s eighteenth consecutive Top Ten hit on the Hot 100, becoming the first female artist to achieve that record. One of the most memorable scenes in the visuals for the single is when Janet and her dancers rip off their white button-down shirts to expose her lace black bra, continuing to dance and sing about struggles of loneliness. In the mainstream, Janet was one of the only black artists who wasn’t afraid to be sexy and push the boundaries of how much sex appeal she could show. It paved the way for artists like Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, and Beyoncé.

“What about the times you said no one would want me? / What about all the shit you have done to me?” Janet proclaims in a stern vocal rage in “What About,” a haunting rock mid-tempo tune about a tumultuous relationship fueled by cheating, emotional and physical abuse. Janet has dug deep with the multiple struggles she dealt with in her first marriage to James DeBrage. They married when she was 16 and expressed he was demeaning and dealt with a drug problem at the time of their short relationship. Later on in the album, Janet speaks to herself in “Special” explaining it was time to reflect on every obstacle she has occurred. Even though it’s painful, she found we must overcome it and discover ways to find love within. Throughout the song, she seeks the need to feel special; which is a juxtaposition for a person who is made to feel special with multiple award shows, made up and adoring fans. Sometimes that just isn't enough. The very last words of the song are “work in progress”—she’s still hasn’t reached her full potential of conquering her pain and finding true happiness.

“He was on the airplane/sitting next to this guy/said he wasn’t too shy/and he seem real nice” Janet sings in a raw tone, “until he found out he was gay. That’s so not mellow.” On Free Xone, she tackles homophobia and those who are intolerable on same sex relationships. Yet Janet makes sure in the 90’s house jam that the LGBT community should feel “free to be who you really are.” In a Rolling Stone interview, she expressed that “I’m singing about accepting yourself and living in a world –a free zone—where the world accepts you.” Which is interesting that Janet is able to inspire those to accept and embrace who they are, yet she struggles with understanding and accepting the person she has become. Janet toys with lesbianism throughout the album. In the interlude “Speakerphone,” she is heard masturbating while speaking on the phone with a female friend. In the cover of Rod Stewart’s “Tonight’s the Night,” she alludes to undoing a woman’s French gown. Along with her personal struggles, it seems Janet is also trying to figure out her own sexual identity.

The Velvet Rope ahead of its time and stylistically merging different music and dialogue and emotion to R&B that hadn’t been done before. It helped birth what is now considered Alternative R&B, such as that perform in this genre are The Weeknd, Kelela, Solange and Drake when he’s in his feelings, among many others. It has become the blueprint for may pop stars to branch from their known personas and show their audience their personal side and express their raw feelings, including Christina Aguilera’s Stripped, Britney Spears’ Blackout, Rihanna’s Rated R and even Beyoncé’s self-title. In Jay Z’s memoir Decoded, he cited his song “December 4th” is inspired and similar to “Got Til its Gone.” Transgender activist Janet Mock indicated how the album related to her life, “She was talking about sexual fluidity. She was talking about domestic violence. I couldn’t believe someone was talking about all these issues that were paralleling in my own life.”

Today Janet Jackson is mainly remembered for her infamous wardrobe malfunction, yet she created the blueprint that many of today’s pop stars have used to elevate their careers. She gave hope to those fighting through their own personal struggles all while making us dance. 20 years later, we thank you Janet for letting us behind The Velvet Rope.

Girl Talk Vol 2: Roommates

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Roommates, you either love 'em or you hate 'em. If you live in a high rent city, chances are you have several people living with you. Some people are lucky enough that they've never had a moment where they wanted to strangle the person they're living with - those people cannot be trusted. Here are some personal stories from women and their experiences, both good and bad, when it comes to living with roommates.

What’s the worst incidents you’ve experience with a roommate?

"I'll be honest, I'm not good with living with other people and I have several horror stories. I think my last year of college living with the group of girls was by far the worst. I had been living with them for about three years but their ticks were getting under my skin my senior year. It was 5 of us living together in the house and it started out with just one cat...by the time I graduated we had 3, and almost had 4. My one housemate was an extreme hoarder who just couldn't allow certain things to live on the street. We had pointless furniture taking up open spaces, she brought home a giant plant from the student center, the list just kept going. There were fur balls everywhere, dirty dishes galore, and just general clutter everywhere." - Brittny 

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"I've had a roommate share a house with me twice. I live in Baltimore and the rent in the city is just way too high to afford by yourself on your average millennial salary. My first roommate was my best friend, she already stayed with me all the time so I figured we'd be great roommates, boy was I wrong. A week after moving into the house she had her new boyfriend staying with us 6 out of 7 nights of the week, and if that wasn't bad enough, she ended our lease 9 months early after only living together for 3 months, to move to California with her boyfriend (the one she'd only been dating for 3 months), we lost our security deposit and she made off with a few of my things as well, safe to say that friendship was over. My last roommate was the absolute worst though, she suffered from a lot of anxiety and OCD issues (but who doesn't these days?) and after a few months of living together it got out of control. If I changed the thermostat or had the TV volume on an uneven number she lost her mind, you would think it was the end of the world. Her dog chewed up my shoes, and all of my underwear because she let her roam freely through the house (which included my downstairs bedroom) and then would blame it on the dog having "anxiety". The worst however was how many of my things "mysteriously" disappeared. She would borrow my clothes and not return them, then claim she had no idea where they were...that was until I'd find them hidden in her room or other random spots, she even took my Manny Machado bobble heads I scored at the Orioles game and hid them in a random box in the basement. To this day I have no idea if she was doing things unconsciously and literally didn't remember, or if she was that spiteful, but needless to say, I'll never live with someone else again!" - Catrina

“My college roommate got pregnant while living in our dorm. I was literally feet away from them fooling around. I slept with earplugs in so I'd miss most of it (thank god). They ended up getting married and are living the life though!  I hate having roommates. I've been married/living with someone for a long time and since my husband left it's amazing to have time to watch what I want, clean when I want, etc”.  – Erika

"I have to say the worst incident I inflicted on my poor college roommate was bringing home a guy into my bottom bunk bed while she was sleeping on the top bunk. Let's just say there's no way she could have slept through the impending events. I still cringe thinking about this night, and I should definitely send out in the universe my condolences to my dignity." - Kristin

"I lived in a house with two guys my sophomore year of college and to say one of them was messy, is an understatement. He would leave dirty dishes and plates of half eaten food everywhere. Glasses were left out for weeks with old, smelly, beer. My other roommate (he was a great deal more considerate/organized) and I started piling his dishes up at his closed door hoping he would clean up. He would just open his door and step over them, NOT EVEN NOTICING THEM! Then we ran out of dishes and glasses. I bought paper plates just so he would get the message that I was not going to clean up for him. We then moved the dirty plates to his bed and that finally got him to realize how bad it was." - Sarah

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"By far the worst was my first roommate in Austin. I moved here not knowing anyone and moved in with a chick who was in my graduate program. She left the key for me and my mom moved me into her house. She found a book in the living room called something like How to Be an Obedient Christian Wife: Submitting and Providing to You Husband. I hadn't physically met her yet and my mom screamed to me, "This isn't gonna work!" She was right! I also lived with an acquaintance after a breakup and her and her roommate got super messed up during SXSW, let my cat out and I could hear him crying for a few days straight. Everyone gets messed up during SXSW but...come on. I had friends in town and we finally found him days later sandwiched behind a washer in our neighbor's garage. Tragic." - Rachel

"My roommates were leaving one summer to go study abroad and to offset the cost of rent while they were gone they found someone through a friend to sublet their room to. Turns out the person was someone the friend had partied with during Freshman year but had no real connection to. At first he seemed fine, was courteous, hung out and socialized but then towards the end his behavior became erratic and manic. He would go on weird rambling tangents about the drugs he was doing and the people he would be hanging out with. He would create elaborate stories that made little sense and were clearly fabricated. One time I came home to hear arguing upstairs and the sound of a taser going off - his friend was trying to tase him! We had to threaten to call the cops to dispel the tense situation. The end came when one day he started slipping notes under one of the roommates door writing that he thought we were all actors spying on him and that there were cameras everywhere filming him. Terrified, my roommate, locked the door only to have him try to kick it down repeatedly. He was eventually taken away to a psychiatric facility for evaluation. We later realized he may be suffering from Truman Show delusion (not officially listed in the DSM). He was clearly having a psychotic breakdown of sorts. It was an unfortunate situation all around." - Helena

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What is the best thing about having a roommate?

"The best thing about a roommate is always having someone to socialize with. Once I moved off my college campus, my roommate and I were forever watching dvds in bed drinking wine. Our particular favorite was Sex and The City (my former roommate teases me to this day about my love for the show). Parties are great, but nothing beat relaxing with a friend laughing until our stomachs hurt." - Kristin

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"The built in community that comes with having someone present for all the moments - good, bad and everything in between. If you have a good roommate then you've got a great friend. Having access to their clothes is also a plus, with permission of course " - Helena


“I think the best is coming home to a group of people you enjoy being around and being able to watch movies or comfort one another during difficult times. I remember our Britney Spears parties, our horror movie nights, and celebrating Halloween together.” – Brittny

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"I lived with my best friend for 3 years and we love almost all the same movies, music, tv, etc...so I loved that. The best thing about a random roommate would be some company when you're younger and single. " - Rachel

Funniest story while living with your current/former roommate?

“I will never forget waking up on a Friday morning to a knock on my door when my roommate tells me she has something to tell me. She had lost her front tooth and had no idea how it happened. The entire house bonded together, took her to the dentist, created a story to tell her family and the dentist as the reasoning for the missing tooth. Through detective work, we were able to trace her steps and figure out how it all went down…she fell trying to piggy back off of a guy’s back. The sweet part was...the guy returned her tooth.”  - Brittny

"One of my former roommates used to bring home guys all the time (more power to her!), but would never admit to hooking up. One night, we could clearly hear some business going on at about 3AM, and asked her about it the next day. She claimed that her and her date decided to do "burpees" (some exercise move) at 3AM. " - Kristin

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How do you initiate a problem you have with a roommate?

"I am usually very passive aggressive but with a roommate it gets to a certain point and then I blow up because you can't avoid them. Sometimes I write a letter or note explaining that I am upset and these are the reasons why.... Then we talk it over face to face. If I tried to speak with them about my complaints/concerns without writing it out first, it did not go well and I just would end up looking like the crazy one." - Sarah

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"I try to hit it head on depending on our relationship. If I wasn't really friends with them, I'll send an email or note, talk face to face as little as possible. If it's a friend, face to face ALWAYS." - Rachel

"I always used my typical coping mechanism of pretending nothing happened and then just letting my anger percolate. This is why I am a terrible roommate." - Kristin

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Brittny Does Europe: Budapest

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My last leg of my solo trip is to Budapest. My friend visited Budapest last year and told me how much I would love the city, which prompted me to book this trip altogether (as well as Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel). I stayed at a beautiful Airbnb in the heart of the city with had a desk by the window with a gorgeous view of the city. It was the perfect spot for a writer. 

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The first night I walked around the neighborhood and witnessed the city's breathtaking skyline. 

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Budapest is split by two cities Buda and Pest. I decided to take a day tour of the Buda side where I visited the Fisherman's Bastion, Buda Castle, Matthias Church, and the Holy Trinity Statue. 

This is a statue of Andras Hadik. Allegedly, if you rub the horse's testicles you receive good luck. I did not test this theory so I'm not sure if it's completely true or not. 

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I loved the architect of the Fisherman's Bastion and decided to take a selfie but each time I attempted, tourists kept getting in the photo. I settle on cropping the photo.

The big part of this trip was trying as much local food as I could. I had Hungarian beef stew with a delicious duck liver spread. Never thought I'd have duck liver and enjoy it.

Locals made me aware that you're not Hungarian until you take a shot of Palinka. 
I of course had to test it out. It tasted like rubbing alcohol and I had to wash the taste away with coke, but now I'm Hungarian. 

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Toured the Pest side of the city (the area of which I stayed) and visited the Hungarian Parliament, Soviet 2nd WW II memorial, St.Stephen's Basilica and a statue of Ronald Reagan (?!?). 

I wish I had stayed a few more days to squeeze in a visit to a bath house and to experience the legendary Budapest nightlife. 

However, overall I had a fantastic time visiting Eastern Europe-- cities I never thought I'd see in my life. And now I have the itch of figuring out where my next solo trip will take me. Maybe somewhere in South America, Asia, or South Africa. Any suggestions?

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#SummerofBrittny | August

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It's officially fall but I haven't concluded #SummerofBrittny. This has been the first time I'm truly heartbroken that the seasons are changing because it ones of the best summers of my life. It was a summer of endless adventures, meeting new friends, creating memories with friends and family-- most of which I will never forget. 

Here's the last run down of #SummerofBrittny 

I went to the Bachelor audition that were held in Cleveland. My boss is a super fan and convinced me to try out. I personally believe I would have been an amazing addition to the show but during the audition, the producer I had my interview with was such a dull and that turned my energy down which probably made the casting directors believe I wasn't a great fit. Too bad, they missed out on a great gem. I mean, I just had dongs all over the world! How many contestants can say that? 

I totally lied about my weight. There was no way they were going to get the real digits for that. 

I totally lied about my weight. There was no way they were going to get the real digits for that. 

I finally tried the famous Sokolowski for the first time since I've moved here. It was AH MAZE ZING, but I needed to be rolled out of the restaurant because I was so stuffed. 

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Attended a Tribe game against the Yanks. I of course rooted for MY home team, the New York Yankees and wore my Aaron Judge jersey. Although the Yankees lost the first game of the series, I had an amazing time with my friend Sarah. 

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I launched this wonderful place, Pierre into My Life that has done incredibly well and brought so much joy into my life. I never thought so many people would enjoy this little safe space where I could write my thoughts, but I am thankful for those riding with me on this journey. 

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Danced and sang my little heart out at the Coldplay concert with my friend Joseph. My first time seeing them live and they have easily become a top 5 best show I have ever seen. Joseph and his brother, John, came from Columbus to have a weekend with me. #Blessed. 

I stumbled upon Green Day having an altercation with a Browns fan on my way home. I walked into it shortly after it all started and I had headphones on so I missed what created the issues. All I know is the Browns fan told Green Day to get out of his city. What has Green Day ever done to Cleveland? 

Attended She in the CLE's 2nd Anniversary and met other amazing Cleveland bloggers at the shindig. (My Jay Z piece was published on She in the CLE this month as well.) It was such a nice mixer to help celebrate an amazing platform for women. From left to right, me, Kate of Greatest Escapist, Brittney of According to Brittney, and Katie of Soul Connect Tribe. 

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I also lost 15 lbs this summer. Finally shedding some of the Midwest weight I've gained since moving out here. I was super proud of myself for the pounds I have lost and now I'm trying to gain a little more muscle for the winter. 

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Welp, it's time to say goodbye to the eventful #SummerofBrittny. Pour one out for the end of a great summer. 

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#NoSausageLeftBehind

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When I told my friends that not only would I spent two weeks in Europe but also as #SingleBrittny, all of them rejoiced. My one friend, Jack, even found the SNL skit "Dongs All Over the World" and declared it as my official vacation anthem. As I touched down in Prague, I re-opened my Tinder account (I have such a love-hate relationship with that app) and started exploring my options. However, after a few swipes, I encountered THIS in Prague. I just couldn't do it and never opened the app again during my stay.

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Fast forward to Vienna and Budapest, I legit embodied the lyrics "I'm a modern day Columbus and I claim this dong for me." I felt like a kid in a candy store with countless amounts of options. I knew it would be a success because the first song I heard when I arrived to Vienna was Britney Spears' "Hot As Ice." 

By the end of my stay in Vienna and the last leg of my trip in Budapest, I was getting countless date offers on Tinder and in person. I ended up going on three dates in a row. I could have gone for four but I was mentally exhausted from men (don't you hate when they do that?).

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Let's break down each man/date: 

The Austrian Novelist

First off his Tinder was very mysterious, so obviously I swiped right because I'm the kind of person who is too impatient while reading a novel and cut to the end to see what happens. Even though we connected on Tinder, he had originally said he was unable to meet with me due to personal plans. But Saturday morning I got a message from him that stated: "What are the chances of meeting an attractive writer? I can't pass up that opportunity." Heart eyes emoji. So we set up a date.

I'm not into blondes, however the Novelist was a very tall and handsome blonde and I was into it. We met at a really cute bar near to where I was staying. Automatically he received cool points for not judging me for ordering like a 7 year old after a several hours of not eating after returning from Salzburg. He introduced me to delicious Austrian red wine, we bonded over being writers and the constant struggle of being creative, and other random things ones discuss on a first date. He explained to me a clinic in Switzerland named Dignitas, where people pay to commit suicide. I was intrigued but confused as to why anyone would willingly pay to commit suicide when you can do it for free. Aside from the melancholy topic, we had great conversation and an even hotter make out session in the rain after we shut down the bar. Afterwards, I was totally in lust over the Novelist but the next morning I was off to Budapest which meant on to the next one. 

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The Italian Lover

Oh how I adored the Italian. He was such an interesting character to hang out with for a few hours. Before we met, he immediately bombarded me with basketball knowledge after I told him I live in Cleveland and he told me I live in Lebronland (which is basically true). He was a huge fan of hip-hop and expressed how much he wanted to visit America to where hip-hop is known for, especially Compton. I have never heard anyone say the one place they want to visit in America would be....COMPTON. We met for dinner at an Italian restaurant where I chowed down on bolognese and sipped on multiple glasses of Hungarian wine (I drank a lot of wine in Europe. I'm surprised they're not low on stock in Eastern Europe). We had a great discussion on the many difference between America and Europe like "why do we call a bill, a check?" and "why do you call salami pepperoni?" (fun fact, pepperoni in Italy is simply just peppers) I of course didn't have the answers for any of these questions.

Since I knew the Italian loved hip-hop, I had to ask who were his top 5 favorite rappers. His answer: 1. Tupac, 2. 50 Cent, 3. Nelly, 4. Chingy and I can't remember the fifth because I was still stuck on the fact he had Nelly and Chingy on his top 5 list. I forgave him odd list because he was so handsome. However I did have to mention before the night was over that I have never met anyone who had Nelly or Chingy in their top 5 which he found alarming. Is Nelly and Chingy a huge deal in Europe and we have no clue about it?   

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Southern (Not So) Charming

How I ended up meeting another American on my "Dongs All Over the World" is beyond me and actually I'm quite mad at myself. I can get an American any time I want, and a southern one at that. But we both wanted to check out Hungarian food and drinks together which made me accept the offer. That being said, he doesn't rank high like all the European men I had met prior to him. He wasn't that much interesting, our conversations were kind of dull and I was reaching to find interesting topics to discuss to the point that my brain went on low fuel. He picked a restaurant called "Getto Giulyas" which at first I low key felt offended he wanted to take me to a place called "getto" but it had great reviews on Google. To both of our surprises it was a romantic wine restaurant, which would have been perfect with anyone BUT him. We both ordered a beef stew and tried duck liver for the first time, both were amazing. Then later that night I tried a Hungarian must, a shot of Palinka which is an awful liquor that all Hungarians know is bad but very proud of. They say you haven't had an Hungarian experience until you've had the shot. Well... I took the shot and was chasing coke cola for the rest of the night to get rid of the after taste. Even with the strong shot didn't make him more enjoyable.  I had way more fun afterwards being drunk on Facebook live with my favorites in the Dome. 

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Then I returned back to America and realized that my love/hate relationship with Tinder really is just the quality of men on there. European men were so much more chivalrous, respectful, upfront of what they wanted, and had worldly experiences and knowledge. It was just a nice change compared to what I've experience with Tinder in Cleveland. (No shade to the lovely men I have recently spoken to on there since my return). But it was nice to date elsewhere and feel really good about myself for a few days. 

Stankonia in Cleveland

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When I was about 9 years old, I used all my allowance money to purchase my first hip-hop album, OutKast's ATLiens. From that moment on, I have been a huge fan of OutKast, to the point where on even my Tinder profile I asked  "Speakerboxxx or The Love Below?" as an ice breaker. I love Big Boi's lyrical flow and love Andre 3000's eclectic sense of style and rhyme scheme. Although I've been a fan for years, I have never had the chance to see them perform live.

Last night, I received free tickets to see 1/2 of OutKast, Big Boi performed at the House of Blues Cleveland. It was my first Monday back from vacation, I was drained from reading emails all day, and wasn't mentally prepared to attend a live concert, and then at 4 pm my friend Jackie and I decided to just go.

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Big Boi performed a compilation of his solo material and OutKast's well known hits. The level of energy from the crowd, Big Boi and Sleepy Brown was nothing like I've seen before at the House of Blues Cleveland. I was beyond ecstatic that Big Boi performed most of my favorite Outkast tracks, including "Ghetto Musick," "Rosa Parks," and "International Players Anthem (I Choose You)" (which is essentially a UGK track.) I was disappointed he didn't perform "Elevators" or "SpottieOttieDopaliscious". 

For a Manic Monday, Big Boi brought the ATL and nostalgia to Cleveland and it was perfect.