The Stamp of Beauty

“It might sound a bit funny but I am really inspired and empowered by other people’s success and creativity. Being a witness to other people’s shine only lets me shine brighter…And I think you need that sort of shared success or encouragement for empowerment because you are never really in anything alone. It takes a village right? I think this is true especially in terms of women’s empowerment. We need to uplift each other and support each other in this world. “
~Kira Wakeam

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
~Unknown

Interesting! Ask yourself this, how often do you appraise something or someone as “beautiful”? The purpose of this question is to reveal, to yourself, the frequency in which you identify something or someone as being appealing. It’s not to question whether your identification, view or standard of beauty matches ours. she.lace really believes that variety is the flavour of life…so beauty truly can be, and perhaps should be, ten different things to ten different people. So, what is beauty? Well, a set of eyes and one vision should determine that…and not common perception or consensus. Now that we’ve “pretty” much got your attention with our “attractive” way of explaining things, allow us to perform what is known as the “bait and switch” (It’s not that we conceal our intentions, sometimes we “make-up” things as we go along). Ready…we’ve determined that beauty is, and should be, a different determination for everyone. BUT, is beauty more than appearance and what’s tangible? If you answered “yes” to that last question, it begets another question: When is the last time you said “that’s beautiful” and were referring to more than what the eye beholds? The theme of this post isn’t to challenge what is defined as beauty, not in the least. We just want to expand what the definition covers. We want to put our she.lace stamp on the concept of beauty.

“Beauty is only skin deep.”
~Unknown

The “Stamp of Beauty” is meant to be interpreted in both a literal and figurative manner. We encourage you to consider the above saying…yes, it may “appear” a little cliche but let’s try and consider the notion that beauty goes much deeper than the epidermis. Consider this, when you see someone display what you consider is a beautiful smile (pristine white sparkling teeth and all) followed by a beautiful laugh…why not consider their sense of humour that produced that smile and laugh just as beautiful? As far as she.lace is concerned, we make it a habit to appreciate the beauty of all things, ideas and concepts. We appreciate the beautiful eyes reading this post just as much as we appreciate the beautiful support motivating those irises to read. So when you’re thinking about what you could place your stamp of beauty on we implore you to think beyond what that stamp can actually physically touch. As a matter of fact…the she.lace weekly challenge! Below is a list of words/attributes we want you to describe as beautiful in a week’s time:

Personality
Disposition
Mindset
Intelligence
Ambition
Humility
Nature (as in someone’s nature)
Sense of Humour
Aura
Kira Wakeam  

Oops, the last one on the list is a “little” more than a mere attribute. Who are we kidding…she’s a LOT more than an attribute. She’s an entity, a beautiful and radiant spirit that can help you defy physics. How you ask? Well, try as you might to resist…she can turn ANY frown upside down (Don’t worry, Kira will appreciate this corny joke haha). Say “howdy”: to Kira:

Shalom! Kifak! Yes, she.lace is greeting everyone in Hebrew and Arabic courtesy of Kira WAKEAM! Going of that introduction it might be presumed that Kira is a “pretty” complex individual. To be fair, perhaps we all are to an extent…after all to be human is to be of multitudes. Before we get too philosophical and put you to sleep allow us to simplify things with our personal “alarm clock” a.k.a. curator of dopeness. Most of us should be familiar with a toy that has recently taken North American youth for a “spin”: the Fidget Spinner. This ingenious gadget is seemingly simple and yet so engaging. You pick it up and spin it in between your fingers, and it’s like you become entranced…you just can’t leave it alone. You may not understand why or how, but it provides a therapeutic sensation. Well, she.lace understood this kind of feeling well before the “human cell” shaped toy hit the market…we call her “Kiki”.     

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Kira embodies what we mean by the “Stamp of Beauty”. Ironically, or perhaps fittingly, she does this not with just her “body” but with everything she consists of beyond curves, dimensions and sizes. We’re talking about someone who has a personality that’s “out of this world”, and yet is so “down to earth”. Someone whose intelligence rivals a genius, and yet can be as silly as the class clown. Someone whose unapologetically Jewish and Arabic. Someone whose definition of success is playing a vital role in the success of others. Oh, and she gives the warmest hugs you can imagine. Ms. Wakeam, she.lace just took a huge leap in giving a synopsis of the incredible person you are… How’s it looking?


Looks like we got a score of “10” from the judge, enjoy the Q&A:

Who is Kira Wakeam?
Kira: Who is Kira Wakeam? That’s a big question! In terms of basics, I’m an associate producer with CBC News living in Toronto. I just came back to Toronto a few years ago after spending 10 years between Montreal and Brooklyn. It’s funny I find it really hard to answer the rest of this question. Maybe it’s because I am not exactly sure who am I yet? And I am not so sure that any of us are ever really sure, if that makes sense? I guess I feel like because the universe is always in flux that who I am is always in flux too and as you learn and change and grow the person that you are changes along the way? I could be getting waaaaay too philosophical here so I’m just gonna cut myself off now. I will say that I’m a leo so try not to bruise my ego. You’ve been warned 🙂

Give the phonetic pronunciation of your surname and explain its origin…
Kira: So my name is pronounced a bit differently than it’s spelled. It’s pronounced Wah-keem like Rakim or Hakeem Olajuwon (my usual go to references for how to pronounce it!) It was originally spelled with two Es or an I but my family changed it when they immigrated from Lebanon and changed the pronunciation to sound more Anglo. My Dad’s family came from Lebanon in the 1950’s and I think assimilation was really important to them. Generally people were much less accepting of diversity than they are now, and I think that was a huge part of why they wanted to change our name. My dad changed the pronunciation back to its original in the 70’s and we’ve been called Wah-keem since!

Lebanese culture, Judaism… How do these things inform who you are?
Kira: I think in terms of my Judaism, I am much more informed by Jewish culture than anything actually religious. By that I mostly mean my love for bagels, smoked salmon, Larry David and, of course, debilitating anxiety! It’s funny because I grew up much less connected to my Lebanese roots. My dad came from Lebanon so young that he was very assimilated and I think relatively disconnected from his roots too. We were always much more Jewish than we were Lebanese. I went to Hebrew school, Jewish camp and most of my close friends were Jewish, but I always felt like a bit of an outsider because of my mixed background. I always just wanted to fit in (as most kids do) and sort of tried to erase that other side of my identity. As I’ve grown, I think I’ve lost this connection to Jewishness (aside from my aforementioned love of a good lox shmeer) and have a growing desire to learn more about my dad’s culture and traditions, and connect with that side of my family history. It feels like a piece of my identity is missing. Right now we’re trying to figure out a family trip to Lebanon to see my dad’s family. I’ve never been and am dying to go see the whole country and particularly where my dad was born. I really regret not having more of a connection to my culture and am trying to do that now as an adult.

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What empowers you, and why?
Kira: It might sound a bit funny but I am really inspired and empowered by other people’s success and creativity. Being a witness to other people’s shine only lets me shine brighter, if that makes sense. For example, my friend Nayani modelled for she.lace not too long ago, and getting to read her profile and watch her do her thing only made me more excited and pushed me to do this shoot even though I was feeling nervous and insecure. I think for a lot of people watching other people succeed can make you feel less than, but for me it just pushes me. Like “F#@k yeah she did that? And she looked dope as hell doing it?! So can i!”  it’s great. And I think you need that sort of shared success or encouragement for empowerment because you are never really in anything alone. It takes a village right? I think this is true especially in terms of women’s empowerment. We need to uplift each other and support each other in this world.

Women’s empowerment, what does it look like to you?
Kira: I think women’s empowerment looks like women having complete equality and autonomy in our society in every respect. I think we’ve made a lot of progress in that regard but there is just so much more work we can do and so many spaces in which women are still not totally and completely in control of themselves, their bodies, their lives.  To me women’s empowerment means creating spaces for women to be their full and complete selves and to feel safe in any space they choose to occupy. It looks like complete equality for men and women economically, socially, politically and creatively. It means creating spaces like she.lace where women can come together and uplift each other in cultures that have traditionally been exclusionary to women.

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Photo credit: Twitter/@wakeamkira

Twitter fingers, IG poses, Facebook timelines or Snapchat filters… Which platform do you prefer?
Kira: Oh man, I am a Twitter addict!! I mean I’m on all three other platforms – Snap, IG and Facebook but none take over my life like Twitter. I think I love it for a number of reasons. First, it’s just the immediacy of everything. Working in news I have to be on my game in terms of breaking information and there is really no better place to get the latest than Twitter. Obviously everything has to be fact checked and you can’t always take everything at face value, but generally I find it the fastest and most efficient medium for getting daily news, opinions and honestly, laughs. There are some truly hilarious folks out there in Twitterverse and I am here for all of em. Twitter is also cool because it’s allowed me to connect with other journalists and creatives from around the world, and form friendships with people I’d otherwise have no contact with. I’m very very aware of a lot of the platforms problems but overall it’s my preferred social platform.

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Where does your love for sneakers come from?
Kira: I have a love for shoes in general. My maternal great grandfather started a chain of shoe stores in Quebec that was taken over by my grandfather and is now run by my uncle. So I like to think I have a passion for footwear in my DNA. The store has been around over a century.

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Kira’s grandfather (centre) at his store in Montreal.

I was always into sneakers because they were usually way more fun in terms of colours and patterns than any other shoes I could find and I love bright, bold patterns and colours. But I think I really really started getting into sneakers after I had a bike accident in 2011. I fractured my kneecap and could no longer wear any shoes without any support, and you can bet that heels were absolutely out of the question. I was living in New York at the time so combined with my injury and need for something I could really walk in, sneakers became my footwear of choice. I have to say living in New York was awesome for me at that time because there was really nowhere else I could get such a large variety of options for women’s sneakers. The Fulton Mall was a ten minute walk from my house at the time and it was just an endless array of every brand of kicks you could imagine. Sometimes I’d just take a walk down Fulton Street to see what shiny new kicks were in the windows of Jimmy Jazz or Footlocker that day. God I miss Brooklyn.

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NYC Memories (Courtesy Kira Wakeam)

You mentioned your ongoing “battle” with clothing and the way they fit you… How’s it different with sneakers?
Kira: Yeah so I’ve always had issues with body image and not feeling as confident about myself as I should. I love clothes and dressing and I’m really passionate about cultivating my own sense of style, but I don’t necessarily have an easy time finding things that I not only love but that make me feel great. A lot of the time trying to find clothes that make me feel great ends up making me feel like shit. Either because clothes don’t fit or if you’re somewhere like Aritizia, they don’t even carry your size (over a size 10!!!). The thing is sneakers always fit me. Shoes always fit. It sounds cliche but as someone for whom dressing and finding clothing that fits is work (again, work I love but that can be somewhat disheartening) it feels really really nice to be able to go into say, the Adidas store, try on 5 pairs of shoes and they ALL fit. No alterations necessary, no “does this come in a bigger size?”. It’s kind of liberating. Plus, I look dope! 🙂

kirasade

Speaking of outfits, yours is FIRE… Explain the T-shirt and why you chose to wear it?
Kira: Ha! Thanks. I do love this tee. Sade is one of my all time favourite R&B/Soul artists and the shirt was actually a collaboration between the illustrator (DEER DANA) and one of my other favourite R&B artists, Miguel. He did a collaborative line with them celebrating female icons and this was the first one that came out. I am a huge R&B head so I’ve been a Sade fan since I was a kid (Smooth Operator was my shit!).

She’s an incredible artist [who] is effortlessly stylish and beautiful and is always out there supporting other women, especially black women. she.lace is about empowering strong and creative women so I decided to pay homage to one of my faves by wearing the shirt during the shoot.

kirae

The ME. X Reebok Pony Hair Princess, is there a story behind these sneakers?
Kira: Well, I am a huge Melody Ehsani fan and covet pretty much any shoe collab she’s done with Reebok, so I had my eyes on these guys for a while. The last few collabs she’s done I was too slow to be able to get them (they sell out insanely fast) but these ones had been in stock for a while. I’d keep going back to her site, put them in my cart but never checked out. After about the 5th time doing that, I decided to say F#@k it and buy em. I looove pony hair anything and they are actually my first pair of Reebok Classics so I really just figured I had to have them!

ME x Reebok SS17 | This Friday 5/19 at midnight #melodyehsani #MExReebok

A post shared by Melody Ehsani (@melodyehsani) on

Sidenote: Don’t worry, we all know Kira meant to say these “ladies for a while” so please forgive her.

Caught in my mid day woo-sah moment 🙂

A post shared by Melody Ehsani (@melodyehsani) on

Melody Ehsani, who is she to you and why?
Kira: Oh my goodness I can’t even say how much I love Melody Ehsani. I am a huuuuge fan and have been for a long time. We met a number of years ago when I was in L.A. and working for Solange. She had come over to drop a few things off where we were staying and she was just the sweetest, nicest person with an absolutely amazing energy. I ended up going by her store a few days later and she again, couldn’t have been nicer or more generous. In addition to her being an insanely kind person, her designs are just straight dope. I think if I had to pick one designer to dress me forever, it would be her. I am a huge fan of her jewelry designs but I also love the streetwear she’s put out lately. [Even now] I am currently wearing a lavender ME sweatsuit I bought last time I was in L.A. (it’s the shit). It’s been really cool to see her grow as a designer and see her go from just making jewelry to doing clothing. And a growing number of shoe collaborations with Reebok, and even some high heels. The first time I went to the shop she told me she actually originally wanted to start as a shoe designer, so it has been cool to see her come back to that with all her shoe designs. She’s insanely talented and I really think she’s designing the best sneakers in the game right now. The other thing I really love about her is the shop’s focus on female empowerment. I love being able to buy from a designer who really loves and cares about women and women’s issues. She does a speaker series at her shop and invites different female artists, entrepreneurs and creatives to talk about their process. She is all about lifting up all women and I just love that about her. She is the kind of female entrepreneur and trailblazer that I aim to be someday.

Wait, wait was that a humble brag she.lace detected? No, not meeting Melody Ehsani…but the WAY Kira met Melody. Working for Solange? Yes, Solange Knowles…take a look at the photo below and try to contain your jealousy!

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Photo Credit: iam.beyonce.com/Robin Harper

Why did you model for she.lace?
Kira: I modeled for she.lace because I am a huge fan of the project in general. I have talked about this with a lot of people but I really do think there is so much room to grow in terms of how women are treated in sneaker culture. I am always shocked at how little options there are for women compared to men (and even youth) when it comes to sneakers. I always have to end up buying men’s sizes or youth versions of shoes when really I just want the same version in women’s. It’s really not complicated. Women love sneakers too! So I am really here for this whole project and was honoured to be a part of it. I am so glad you’ve created this space for us.

kiracolofficial

Complete this sentence, Trillium Park is___
Kira: TRILL…… Haha yeah no I am kidding. It’s really beautiful! It was so cool to go there after so long – I used to spend so much time there as a kid. I remember they used to have the dopest water park. I think the redevelopment as a whole is really good for the city.

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Last but not least…Explain your lovely rings.
Kira: Yay! I love talking jewelry. It’s my second fave accessory next to shoes! So on my index finger is my name plate ring. It’s spells Kiki. The ring is significant to me for a couple reason. Kiki is a nickname I’ve had since I was a kid, a baby really. My mom started calling me that from day 1 pretty much. As a kid I got SO much sh@t for the nickname and I don’t even understand why since it’s actually a pretty popular name. I hated it growing up and was ashamed because I got bullied for it SO MUCH. As an adult I have the exact opposite attitude and really really love my nickname. It has come to be a term of endearment used by anyone close to me and it’s basically a testament to how close I am with someone. If you call me Kiki, you’re in. ha! And the ring is significant because I bought it as a present to myself right before I left Brooklyn after living there for 6 years. When I decided to move, I was debating how I would mark my time in New York since it was an extremely formative time for me and had a huge impact on who I am. I was noodling the idea of a tattoo for a while but just couldn’t figure out what I’d want on my body for the rest of time (I’m a bit of a commitment-phobe). And then I decided instead of a tattoo, I’d buy myself a piece of jewelry. I’d wanted a name plate ring for a while an really really love gold jewelry so I thought that this made sense. I could take it off AND it was a lot cheaper than a tattoo, and I was broke. A win-win really. Now it’s probably my most prized possession.

Second most prized piece of jewelry on my middle finger is my snake ring with ruby eyes. It was given to me by my grandmother and it had belonged to her sister, my great aunt Arlene. It’s extremely special to me for those reasons. My mom and dad were very close with her but she died before I was born so I never got to meet her. Having her ring makes me feel connected to her even though she’s not around.

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Kira’s grandmother (left) and Aunt Arlene (right). (Courtesy of Kira Wakeam)

My last ring is a new one but I love it so much! It’s a vintage piece from Palm Springs I bought on a recent trip to L.A. I love L.A. vintage shopping there are so many vintage shops. I am always on the hunt for new rings, I am partial to anything gold and shiny!

Sooo, are we supposed to recap this woman’s social resume/CV? Seriously! Solange, Queen Bey (we’re not even going to explain her Knowles family connection), bi-coastal living in some of the most flavourful and entertaining cities on the planet and a top-notch journalist. We can see why she has an affinity for anything “gold and shiny”…she’s describing HERSELF! And then there’s her love for sneakers. It really didn’t matter what sneakers she chose to rock because we know it would have satisfied us. But nevermind us, let’s talk about me.

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“When you see an oh so fly lady wearing these just think Nefertiti: “a beautiful woman has come.”

Sorry, forgot to hit caps lock on the “me” in the above line…WE meant to type ME. Of course we would be remiss if we didn’t discuss ME. No, not the writer…Melody Ehsani. The confusion that could arise from the initials of this prodigious woman creates an interesting dialogue for she.lace. Did Melody simply just place her initials on her collaborative design as a matter of “stamping” her beautiful creations? Or, was this an intentional tacit way of making all women who encounter this sneaker feel it’s a reflection of themselves? It’s almost as if an owner of this sneaker is truly supposed to take individual “ownership” of it. It’s not such a farfetched idea, after all don’t forget how our curator of dopeness describes ME. “ I love being able to buy from a designer who really loves and cares about women and women’s issues… She is all about lifting up all women and I just love that about her.”

Well, guess we’ll have to wait until we interview her in person to get the answer to our theory.

#she.laceModelGoals

Oh, we just “buried the lead” (the journalist in Kira is grinding her teeth in outrage) by not mentioning from the top the name of this beautiful sneaker: ME. X Reebok Pony Hair Princess. There’s a bit of irony that has to be acknowledged involved with the name of this Reebok silhouette and a distinctive feature of Melody’s creation: Pony Hair Princess vis-a-vis the Nefertiti stamp. Now, not only does this rubber stamp accentuate an already dazzling aesthetic…it contravenes, seemingly, the actual name. For those of us who don’t know Nefertiti, a 14th century Egyptian Queen, was strikingly beautiful. Historians have described Nefertiti and her appearance as many things..BUT the most popular and common image of the ancient Queen is that exact stamp on the heel of the sneaker. So, she.lace is not suggesting the sensual queen didn’t have a hair texture or appearance that could be described as “Pony Hair”…we’re just saying you don’t see her hair, and yet her beauty has been marvelled for centuries.  

Sidenote: Since Kira started us down the path of paying homage to beautiful R&B songstresses, she.lace has to mention that the perfect soundtrack for this sneaker is:  

“I am not my hair…”
~India.Arie

Yes, she.lace fully gets that this iconic Reebok model has the name of “Pony Hair” due to the material used on parts of the sneaker. We just had to capitalize on the opportunity to show that beauty is much more than what’s visible. All that matters is that women can be empowered by a dope sneaker with tumbled white leather, perfectly blended hits of red and blue, an off-white midsole and, of course, pony hair eyestays and heel tab. DOPE!

So since Kira lived in Brooklyn it only made sense that we took her somewhere with an “edge” for the photoshoot, right?

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Yeah, not quite Bed-Stuy Brooklyn, but it’s the “edge”…edge of the city that is. Welcome to Trillium Park (or as Kira spells it, TRILLium 😂). Yes, she.lace is bringing you back to Toronto’s waterfront but can you blame us?! After all, the theme of this of this post is beauty and the ability to identify it with more than what your eyes lay sight on. For instance this beautiful park was recently an empty parking lot. Yes, a 7.5 acre expanse of public green space was once a VACANT blotch of asphalt. The province of Ontario’s Ministry of Tourism, Sport and Culture give a great compare/contrast of “before and after” of some of the key features within the park (including the William G. Davis Trail). So, after some intense public consultations and YEARS of the space remaining idol this is what was produced:

The province of Ontario let out a collective *sigh* in 2012 when the beloved Ontario Place became virtually closed for business. Well, five years later (not to mention a price tag of $30 million) and the Budweiser Stage has company, and some “natural” competition for best attraction on the grounds. Thanks to Trillium Park Ontario Place is on its way to the late 70’s glory it once enjoyed. This is supposed to be the first of a trifecta of attractions that are part of the revitalization project. If this is any indication of what’s to come you can consider she.lace regular visitors. If you want to literally take a walk in a part of Ontario’s history, we suggest you plan a trip to Ontario Place Blvd and Lake Shore Blvd West.

Sidenote: Notice the official logo for the province of Ontario? That would be the provincial flower, Trillium flower. The flower is synonymous with health, well-being and prosperity so it makes sense it would be the name of the unofficial reopening of Ontario Place. Oh, shout out to Toronto-based architecture company LANDinc who was the creative lead for the park’s design.

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This week we have a smooth operator who “walks gently on the land” (Trillium Park’s motto) in her ME. X Reebok Pony Hair Princess’, and knows she’s “not her hair”. In other words, Kira knows her “Stamp of Beauty” isn’t reduced to only what she encounters with the senses. Kira knows beauty is not knowing who you are and being content with constantly being on the quest to figure that out. She knows beauty is being an adult and still having a longing to connect with the cultural roots of your parent’s childhood. She knows beauty is finding empowerment in the success of others. She knows beauty is aspiring to be like liberated female entrepreneurs who make the nucleus of their business a model to uplift women. She knows beauty is being partial to anything gold and shiny. Perhaps this knowledge comes from living in several cities on multiple continents. Or perhaps it comes from being in the presence of Beyoncé, just saying. Whatever it is, all she.lace knows is that it’s the “stamp of beauty” we’re talking about. So, the next time you look at your skin and see an unsightly blemish…just smile to yourself and say “how beautiful”.

 

2 thoughts on “The Stamp of Beauty

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