black

Full Circle

Graduation season is in full swing and recently I had the absolute honor to be the commencement speaker for my Alma Maters Black Graduation. It was a full circle moment for so many reasons. At University of the Pacific, I found my voice. It was where I discovered my confidence and realized that being Black was a privilege. I could explain it further but I thought there was no better way to show my sheer amazement for the day but to post my actual speech. 

I am incredibly grateful for Marshea Pratt and her entire staff for asking me to speak and congratulations to the 2019 University of the Pacific Black Graduates!

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Good evening! How is everyone doing today? Greetings friends, faculty, staff, alumni and the illustrious class of 2019! Yes, you better make some noise for yourself! You did that!

My name is Alicia Jay. I received my Bachelors in broadcasting in 2002 and my Masters in Public Relations in 2003 right here at Pacific. I see you sitting there trying to do the math and let me just do it for you...I am 38 years old and looking great I might add. Now the burning question, did I play a sport at Pacific? Yes. I was the captain of the soccer team. The tallest goalie Pacific has ever had. Y’all actually believed me?

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Really, I played basketball for 5 years because I redshirted for a season. For those of you who don’t know what that is, I was granted an extra year of eligibility because I needed to get stronger. When I walked on this campus I was a very skinny girl, with absolutely no muscle, who didn’t know who she was, with zero confidence. I came all the way down from Beaverton, Oregon where I was one of a few black kids in the school district. Not the school...the entire district. I would walk home from elementary school with my little brother and someone would yell nigger out the window. I had a teacher that would bring me up in front of the class on a regular basis and tell everyone how poor my spelling scores were and what a terrible student I was. Later when I began my career in basketball, my Father pulled me off of the court during a game because he could see that I was visibly shaken due to the other teams racial remarks against me. On top of that, I was bullied on a regular basis for being exceptionally tall. Now, I know that they were making fun of me because they wanted my gift and couldn’t have it but at the time every comment felt like a knife to my side. So by the time I arrived at UOP, I was depleted. I was low. I was suicidal.

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During the first week, my teammate and I got a knock on our door and when we opened it, we were greeted by every black person on campus. The entire black student union came to make sure that we knew that they were there and more importantly that they had our back. After they left, my roommate and teammate who was from Oakland (shout out to Ahshalic) was shocked that the group were ALL of the black people in the student union, but for me, I was juiced! I finally had MY community with me. The 15 people at my door made me feel seen. They are my best friends to this day. They are the people who brought me back from hating who I was and more importantly taught me what a privilege it is to be black. They are my Sorors who I crossed with in 2001 when we reinitiated Delta Sigma Theta Sorority incorporated right here on this campus. They are my community that reminds me every day that I do in fact belong in the rooms that I am in and have the strength of every single black person who paved the way before me.

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Look around you right now. No matter where you go, you will always have a thread of being in this graduating class with each other. This moment is the starting point to the rest of your lives. Now, I’m gonna take it church. I need you to greet your graduating class right now. Hug your neighbor to the left and the right. Congratulate them. Really. Do it right now. Don’t make me come down there and hug each and every one of you because I will...

Now, why am I up here? Sure. I have accomplished some things. I could talk about how after graduating from Pacific, I commenced a 13 year career in corporate America with the Golden State Warriors in Game operations and marketing. I won awards, produced championship games, I was in parades and I have three rings which of course I am wearing tonight because I earned these bad boys and paid the taxes on them so please believe I wear them whenever I get the chance.

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I could talk about creating a successful lifestyle platform called TallSWAG that helps people to stand tall every day, in every way, that has brought me to many stages just like this one, enabled me to change lives and even star in a number one hit television show on TLC that was watched by millions of viewers. BTW I’m @TallSWAG on all social channels.

Click the photo for more about why I decided to go on a show with the word GIANT in the title.

Click the photo for more about why I decided to go on a show with the word GIANT in the title.

I could also talk about meeting Michelle Obama. I have proof y’all. Look. She is hugging me like I’m family. That’s not photoshopped. I still can’t believe that.

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But I am not going to talk about any of those things. Today, I am going to talk about painting your own picture.

The other day, I went to one of those paint and sip classes for the first time. If you haven’t been, it’s a class that teaches you how to paint the template of a picture while you sip the drink of your choice.
This was the one that we were going to paint.

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So, I get there. Find my easel. And I see the outline that is drawn. I make sure all of the colors are there and I am ready to paint it exactly how they told me too and something just clicked...why? There’s nothing wrong with it but I don’t put flowers in my hair and these colors don’t really go with my apartment...why did I have to stay in these lines? The answer is...you don’t.

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As you walk into the rest of your lives there are many people that are going to try and box you in and up. They will put parameters around you and give you parameters to stick to.

They will tell you your hair is too natural,
that you can’t deviate from the plan,
that you are intimidating,
that you don’t deserve the promotion, a seat at the table or can create your own table.

That is their version of the painting. Those are their lines. Don’t let those lies incarcerate your truth. You are bold. You are dynamic. You are a game changer and a history maker. You are everything that many people don’t want you to be

and they will do things to make you believe that their version is better. Do not let them.

8 months ago I listened to myself say this and walked away from a guided portrait to pursue my own work of art. I am now a full time entrepreneur. It has been challenging, it is taking prayer, patience and persistence but any great feat does. In your path you will encounter many lessons and it is your job to live through them, learn from them and pass them on, so today that is what I am going to do for you. These are lessons I learned for someone in this room today and you better appreciate them because they were not pleasant but like all lessons completely necessary...

Starting over is essential. You will do it many times throughout your life. They will all be scary. They will all be worth it. You arrive at every new start with the necessary lessons for that level of your life. Nothing is wasted. Use the levels, don’t let the levels use you.

You belong in the room. Whether it be a room that you created or one that you are helping to create, you deserve to be there. Your path led you to this place.

God makes no mistakes. Embrace it and thrive in it.

You are the only one with your gifts. No two people are the same. We are created to accomplish things that only we can do. Stop comparing your gifts to someone else’s. There is no comparison. Create your lane and thrive in your purpose.

Congratulate and Collaborate. We are here to build with our community. We achieve together. Our gifts are to be shared and celebrated. Contribute to and gain from your community.

Hard work always pays off. You must move your feet or someone else will. Purpose cannot be achieved without movement.

Never stand at closed doors. Closed doors are a blessing. They carve our path just like open ones do. Do not stare at them. They are there to create movement. Thank them for the experience and move forward.

The bear is scared of you. Your gifts will scare people into forming weapons against you. They will not prosper. Move past their noise and towards the achievement of your goals.

Ignore the clock. Shed the worlds timeline of success. Work hard. Follow your path and let your purpose unfold in the way that it was meant to. Don’t rush your story. Live it.

Get out of your own way. Your feelings will stop you from doing what it takes to accomplish your purpose. Choose faith over feelings always.

Leave it here. You will never see a U-Haul behind a hearse. You are here to leave a positive mark on the world. Get out there and use your gifts to do it. Use your influence to the fullest.

Now, these are very important points but really it all comes down to this very moment. You have accomplished something amazing and I am very proud of you but if you don’t do anything with it, you just paid a lot of money for a cap and gown. Use your gifts, your black privilege and the knowledge that you have gained right here at UOP to change the world in the most humble way possible. There is nobody that can do it in the way that you can except for you.

It has truly been an honor. Thank you for having me and congratulations to OUR new class of 2019!

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Congratulations to the 2019 University of the Pacific Black graduating class!

Congratulations to the 2019 University of the Pacific Black graduating class!

Sweat it Out

Michelle Mesh Booties - Smash Shoes  (Shown in size 12, also comes in black)/Tall Joggers -  Long Elegant Legs /Necklace and men's sweatshirt - Forever 21/Shades - Akira   Photo Credit: Marc Allen

Michelle Mesh Booties - Smash Shoes (Shown in size 12, also comes in black)/Tall Joggers - Long Elegant Legs/Necklace and men's sweatshirt - Forever 21/Shades - Akira

Photo Credit: Marc Allen

I completely get it. There are just some days where comfort it key. Those moments when you want to melt into a pair of sweats. Without a doubt, put them on a snuggle up! But sometimes those days fall on occasions where your typical sweats don't match the event that you are going too. Never fear! Accessories are here!

Pick out a comfy base. To pump up the chic simplistic vibe, I usually go for a solid color base but do you boo. Then throw on some statement shoes (that can easily be switched out for tennies right after the event) like these hawt mesh Michelle booties from Smash Shoes. I am in absolute LOVE! They come in sizes; 11, 11w, 12, 12w, 13 and 14 and also come in black (yes, you have seen them before because I rocked the black option in a previous post). And guess what? They are on sale right now for $79!

To finish the look I added this statement necklace from Forever 21. Under $10 and adds just the right amount of pow to this look.

Now I know you are dying to know! Where did you get those tall joggers!? I got them from Long Elegant Legs which is now a part of tall style powerhouse, Long Tall Sally. This style is no longer available but they have this 36" inseam option is is equally as awesome. There are also these options from Alloy Apparel in 37" as well.

So don't sweat the sweat days. Pump them up and rock them out! :-)

Hair Matters

Many of you know my story but for those of you who don’t, I used to have little to zero self-esteem. There were years where I was bullied and unbelievably depressed. I hated myself, my height and every part of me. I couldn’t see past what my high school world was telling me and believed every lie they told.

As years went on, I found my confidence and fully embraced that God created every single part of me (including my height) for a purpose. That nothing about me was a mistake and ALL of it was wrapped into a one-of-a-kind Alicia that was the only one who could accomplish the purpose that God had chosen for me…

or so I thought…

until it came to one part of me that nobody had seen in years…

my hair.

Yes. The long tresses that you have seen in every photo of me were not mine. I have been wearing a weave for a little under 9 years now. Almost a decade of taking it out and putting it back in because I was afraid to show my real hair.

Afraid! Alicia…how can you tell me to be me and embrace every part of myself when you can’t show the hair that God gave you?

The answer is…I can’t. And that is one of the reasons why I had to take it out. But before we get in to those reasons, let me give you a little back story…

As you can see, both of my beautiful parents gave me curls.

As you can see, both of my beautiful parents gave me curls.

My mother is Caucasian and my father is African American. That usually equates to what society likes to classify as good hair. You know, the perfect curls flowing down your back just throw water on it and leave the house kind of hair. The expectation of my light skin and light eyes matching the texture of my locks was immense. However, my actual texture is very tight and not extremely easy to style and care for. Thus, pressure set in. Not only for my Mom to style it correctly, but also for me to do everything I could to make it appear to be good. This resulted in many unhealthy hairstyles, fights between my Mom, the comb and my hair and ultimately a series of relaxers that killed my follicles. From the age of 4-18, I was in a losing battle with my bad hair.

My Mom and I would battle every day with combing and styling my hair.

My Mom and I would battle every day with combing and styling my hair.

Enter college. I moved from Beaverton, Oregon to Stockton, California where the culture definitely changed. I went from being the darkest kid at my school to being one of the many beautiful skin tones that walked my campus. It was there that I first saw someone wear their hair naturally. It was a concept that never even entered my mind. It was also something I was not ready to do but it was an option I was now aware of.

Enter corporate world. After college, I began my first corporate job. While natural hair was not prohibited, it was clearly not embraced. I found myself wanting the sleek tresses that everyone else had and got my first weave. The positive response was overwhelming not only externally but also internally. I had FINALLY found hair that would act right and I could make look how I always envisioned that my hair should be. It also allowed me to grow out my perm and safely go natural underneath the tracks (which I will touch on later). To me it was a win-win and up until 2 weeks ago was constantly my hair.  

But what I didn’t realize was that during those 9 years I had completely denied an entire part of me that made me, ME. I had a false construct of who I was. The sewed in hair had somehow really become a part of me and boy did it show the moment I took it out without putting it back in…

First appointment after taking out the weave. The curl pattern is trying it's hardest to come out.  About an hour after this photo it puffed back up into a ball of frizz. It will take time and training to uncover and maintain my natural curl.

First appointment after taking out the weave. The curl pattern is trying it's hardest to come out.  About an hour after this photo it puffed back up into a ball of frizz. It will take time and training to uncover and maintain my natural curl.

I cried, sobbed and immediately got depressed. I couldn’t post a picture on social media, refused to go out, felt ugly and the same feelings of low self-esteem that I had in high school started rearing their ugly heads. It was a very surprising and violently visceral reaction to something that wasn’t even mine to begin with.

First photo I posted on IG. It took me 5 days to get the courage up. As you can see, I am still holding on to dead ends in this photo which can slow the growing process down and hinder your natural curl from forming. I later cut those bad boys off.

First photo I posted on IG. It took me 5 days to get the courage up. As you can see, I am still holding on to dead ends in this photo which can slow the growing process down and hinder your natural curl from forming. I later cut those bad boys off.

2 weeks later, I am still embracing it. Worry filled questions enter my mind; Will men like me? Will they still think I am pretty? Will you think I am pretty? Is it going to be hard? Can I maintain natural hair? Do I have the time to maintain it? Will my curl pattern ever come back? What will my curl pattern look like? Will it ever grow? How long will it take to grow? I mean…I could go on for days.

But at the end of the day…it’s just hair people!  Why do we put so much weight into it and furthermore why do we think it makes us who we are?

In addition to tall fashion and life, I will be exploring these feelings on this blog because apparently hair does matter. It matters to me, it matters to society and it matters to you. This natural hair journey is going to teach me far more than just about hair and I feel like it’s a journey that I need to share.

Now, why did I decide to do it? Here are the main reasons…

1. My 10 year old Niece had never really seen her Auntie. She had seen me with someone else’s hair on my head for her entire life. How can I teach her to love every part of herself when she had not seen me love ALL of me?

2. YOU. I truly believe that you were made for a specific purpose and that God made absolutely no mistake while he molded every single part of you. Who am I to tell you the truth when I myself am not living it?

3. Safely Growing out my natural hair under the weave was going nowhere…fast. While I grew out my perm completely, after 10 years my hair should be down to my butt and it wasn’t. My hair was shredding into a bundle of split ends and my edges are thin and completely damaged by heat. It is natural but far from healthy.

This is after the dead ends were cut off. My hair is very damaged and I can't wait to make it healthy again! This is probably the last time you will see it straight in awhile. I can't wait to see what the curls look like now that the dead ends are cut off.

This is after the dead ends were cut off. My hair is very damaged and I can't wait to make it healthy again! This is probably the last time you will see it straight in awhile. I can't wait to see what the curls look like now that the dead ends are cut off.

4. I was in captivity. My weave options where either down or in a ponytail. When the wind hit, I was constantly covering up tracks. I couldn’t itch my scalp. I had to constantly worry about blending the hair that was out with the weave. There was little versatility in the way I could style my hair and so on and so forth. It was time.

Bring on the hairstyles! I have a feeling this bun will be in full effect while I grow out my locks.

Bring on the hairstyles! I have a feeling this bun will be in full effect while I grow out my locks.

5. I want to abolish the construct of good and bad hair that I have adopted from society. Who started that and why did I believe it? I want to make sure I don’t pass that down to my Niece and Lord willing, my future children.

6. Listen Hunni…you know I am waiting for my husband to find me and when he does I want his hands all up in this hair.

With all of that said, I am not speaking for everyone that wears a weave. Do you boo! I am in no way knocking weaves or any other way of styling hair. I plan to explore all kinds of styling from clips, braids, faux locs, wigs and even weave it up on occasion. BUT for me personally, the time of denying my natural hair is over. I am tired of the fight and let her win. She is me and I am her and I am not afraid to show it. I am the master of this journey, am wonderfully made in every way and am now presenting all of me to you, practicing what I preach and loving every part of me from my hair follicles to my toenails.

Let the journey begin! Thanks for crawling, walking, running and sprinting it with me.

Seeing Red

Spring is definitely peeking though (and we love her) but until she is here for good, I have been spending the last chilly days I have in casual chic style.

I will always rock a fierce heel but when I work a lot (which seems like always nowadays), I tend to gravitate towards low-key looks in my downtime.

Today's outfit is a perfect example of casual meeting chic. It's completely comfy with an edge. The longline vest (which can be dressed up or down), gives the all black a pinch of drama and the pop-of-red Jordans pull the whole look together. The oversized clutch really wasn't strategically planned. I simply picked it because a bag wouldn't flow but I had a lot of stuff to carry that day. 

Now you may notice that I am wearing my trusty Long Sleeve Jersey Body from the TTYA x Long Tall Sally collection and that is because I wear it with everything! It's one of those famed, basic pieces that you can layer with pieces that are not necessarily tall (like the longline vest). Invest in the basics and you will unlock a whole new wardrobe!

So that's my version of casual-chic dahling...what do you rock in your downtime beautiful?

Saving Alicia Jay

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On January 3rd I wrote:

In the past month I have had an urge to share more. I feel like God wants me to expand this blog to talking more about our tall lives than just style. What may seem like a small shift of a couple of paragraphs, is going to do great things inside my life and I pray in those that read them. A resolution that I have is to stretch and become more vulnerable and I refuse to let my fear overcome what I know God wants me to do.

Well, my fear got me yall. It’s January 26th and I have been avoiding this blog like the plague. I have no idea why because what I am about to share is one of the things I am most proud of in my life.

Yes, it may have cost me some so-called friends, it may have caused me immense frustration and it may have been the reason for many of my breakups but it is something that I have known from a young age was meant for one person and one person only.

Yep.

My virginity.

I am a 6’6”, black and white, super single, 34 year old virgin.

No, I am not going to preach to you about how virginity is the only way to go. It’s a personal choice that I made for me and I am just here to tell my story. If you draw anything from it, great! If not, no problemo.

My story of virginity is definitely not the typical media version that you see. Its real, filled with emotion, hormones, close calls and pure love and devotion for someone I haven’t even met yet. This story is what virginity is really like in 2015. And guess what, I am going to write a book all about it.

Now, I have no idea when this book will be finished but I do know that I would like to share the journey with you. It’s something I need to get out on paper and share because look, I am not going to be single forever! God will send me my husband and I need to tell the story of being a virgin while I still am one.

Don’t worry, I will still be posting personal style shots, talking tall fashion and dishing about our tall, fabulous lives but my journey to publishing my first book on real virginity will be intertwined in the thread. Saving myself for marriage is one of the things that makes me stand tall every day and I can’t wait to share my story with each and every one of you.

Ok…let me post this before I lose my nerve. It’s hard to get personal but God told me to and you sure can’t say no to Him!

BLACK FOR THE FIRST TIME