Behind the Chair and Beyond the Locks

Nicole Grajewski is a hairstylist and business owner planted in St. Petersburg, Florida. Rollie Locs is a brand she created through the branches of the dreadlock community. Her roots in art and hair began in Orlando at UCF as a studio art major, yet have flourished into a love for locks that currently reaches over 40,000 people. She may make her living behind the chair, but there’s much more going on within the locks that frame her auspicious endeavors.
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Her start-up: While Grajewski was in college, she also worked as a receptionist at a local hair salon. As she observed the stylists, her interest in becoming one herself solidified. As for the dreadlock side of doing hair, her admiration began even earlier.
“I found them aesthetically pleasing ever since I was young. I thought ‘dreadlocks make people look sexy,’ so I wanted to wear them. Once I started to wear them I noticed more and more people reaching out to me wanting to wear them as well,” said Grajewski.

I found Nicole a little over a year ago when I asked her to maintenance my own dreadlocks. The is what one of my more recent maintenance sessions looked like.
The before is on the left.

Nicole explained the locking process as a journey that one chooses to take.
“The locking process is a journey, that people take totally knowing it’s a commitment and knowing that it’s going to take time and that it’s going to take patience,” said Grajewski. “So people go in knowing that it takes time for dreadlocks to flourish and be perfect. So it’s usually people who want connection to their hair; people that are willing to go through all that, because it’s not easy like you think.”

One of her favorite parts to creating and maintaining dreadlocks is the transformation itself.
“My favorite thing about doing dreads is starting from soft hair to creating a full head of dreadlocks and seeing people’s reactions. And then pretty much I can only picture that person with dreads ever again,” said Grajewski.

Her most memorable client is Willam, a drag queen that was on Ru Paul’s drag race.
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“I was always a really big fan before she (Willam) reached out to me to make her wigs. I even got to go to her house/studio in Hollywood and I couldn’t believe that that was really happening,” said Grajewski. “She found me through Instagram, which was crazy. Totally reached out to me organically and asked me to make her some dreadlock extensions. I delivered them to her there (in Hollywood) and she sewed them into a wig she already had.”

She has made Willam 2 synthetic dreadlock wigs, and is currently working on another one as well.
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“I feel like if a drag queen approves then you’ve made it,” said Grajewski.

Since Grajewski is a pretty big deal as Rollies2thesky on Instagram, the popular photo centralized social media app. Currently she has over 40,000 followers. I absolutely had to ask her if she bought her following.
“No I definitely haven’t bought any followers or likes, I feel like that would be pointless. Basically when I first started my business, I was making the synthetic extensions, and shipping them. I was working from my house,” said Grajewski. “I reached out to a lot of people that had a lot of followers and asked if I could mail them dreads and if they would wear them and shout me out.”

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The up and up of her business has been growing ever since. Despite the growth, she truly emphasized the client to stylist connection and how important it is to form that trust.
“I feel like the person that’s letting me touch their dreads really trusts me, and I want that. I feel like there has to be a bond.” Fortunately she hasn’t had any situations where she wasn’t able to form that bond.

The biggest obstacle in beginning her business was gaining her parents’ approval.
“I was going to UCF and I was only doing that to please my parents. I knew that I wanted to stop going there and go to cosmetology school. They were supporting me financially at that time in my life so I had to do whatever they wanted me to do,” said Grajewski.

Over the course of four years, she began cultivating synthetic dreadlocks and saving the money she made. From that, she was able to fund her cosmetology schooling all on her own. To further prove her passion wasn’t just a hobby to her parents, she worked as a hair stylist for two years as well. Now her parents see how successful and financially independent Grajewski has become and are quite impressed by the range of clientele she reaches and services. Nicole commented on her mom especially being impressed.
“Now she (Nicole’s mom) sees that I can tell her about my really cool clients. Like she watches the lightning, and I did J.T. Brown’s hair, who now plays for Anaheim, but he was with the lightening. She thought that was the coolest thing ever. She supports me now.”
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During the interview, I brought up the topic of cultural appropriation. With social media at our fingertips and cultures merging and collaborating, it does seem important to show credit and respect as well. Unfortunately, she has experienced a small amount of negative feedback.
“I feel like it really tests me online because of the way people come at me isn’t with educated opinions. It’s usually people attacking the photo or attacking the person that has dreads,” said Grajewski. “I definitely respect that African Americans wear dreadlocks so proudly and have for a really long time. But also I think that it’s just a really trending hairstyle and white people can have them because our hair does knot. I think that’s the main issue, people think that our hair doesn’t actually knot on its own.
Everybody has assistance with their dreadlocks.”

Grajewski listed how all races maintain their dreadlocks in some way; whether they are organizing sections or twisting their roots.
“If anything I would say it’s a compliment to different cultures. I think it originated from many different cultures, not just Jamaica,” said Grajewski.

When I asked what it was like being her own boss, she blurted out how it was one of the absolute best parts of what she does.
“I can do hair while I’m traveling, I can create my own hours. I don’t have to be by a book; nothing is corporate.
I don’t have to follow rules, I can be my truest self. People that come to see me accept that,” said Grajewski.
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Her only drawback was that being only one of her, restricts her from reaching more people in her audience online and in person. For her, traveling is one of the bigger parts of her work. The process basically goes like this:
“If there’s a city I want to go to, all I have to do is go on instagram and say “hey I’m gonna be in this place on these dates” and I get an overwhelming amount of people that want to have their hair done by me. I get a vacation and work out of it. Work to me is always fun,” said Grajewski.

The synthetic dreadlocks that she makes are another interesting aspect of her work. The hair she uses comes from a website http://ikickshins.net/ and once the dreadlocks are made from the synthetic pieces, they are dreaded forever. Although the pieces cannot change in color and are much courser, they are perfect for someone who only wants to have dreads temporarily.

The dreadlock community is a plethora of different beings. Grajewski described it as a community of open minded positive people.
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“Usually people with dreadlocks are living an alternative lifestyle. Dreadlocks come with a stigma. Dreadlocks come with a stereotype,” said Grajewski. “So if someone is willing to live their life knowing they are pushing the boundaries, they going to be more accepting of other people doing different things too.
I live a no judgement life towards pretty much anything. It’s cool to meet those likeminded people.”

Her idea for the name Rollie Locs originated from a Biggie Smalls song. The lyrical inspiration was to “put your rollies to the sky.” A younger and more naive Nicole thought it meant to put a blunt to the sky, so she made her instagram name Rollies2thesky. She later found out the reference was to Rolex watches.
Her laughter during the interview explained that she accepted her mistake and decided to own it.
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“Then I started wearing dreads and doing them and people would be like start thinking that was my name. So I remember one night I was sitting at a bar with this guy named DJ Nigel in Orlando and he said ‘You gotta name it Rollies locks, I can see it! I can just see it!’ And that was the moment,” said Grajewski.

That moment would lead her to creating a business uniquely her own with a goal of one day owning her own space for the dreadlock community to come together.
“I live in St. Pete Florida and there’s a lot of dread heads here. There’s a really cool scene. I would ultimately like to create a space where I can do hair but I can also bring my community together,” said Grajewski.

Her upcoming work includes flying out to Las Angeles to personally deliver yet another wig to the drag queen Willam and she will also be doing another top secret celebrity’s dreads while she is there.
Grajewski wouldn’t disclose who the celebrity was with me because she didn’t want to jinx the opportunity.

Nearing the end of the interview, I asked Grajewski to share something with me about herself that nobody else really knew. I thought this might be interesting because she already leads such an unconventional career and lifestyle. She get’s to travel and party with some of the best and has such a large following. Her answer actually surprised me.

“I’m a really big dork. I guess people think because I have a lot of instagram followers that I care about social media that I’m some like fame crazed person but I’m not that at all. I’m actually like kind of shy, super awkward and I really don’t like talking about myself to be honest,” said Grajewski.
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Her humble tone was highly refreshing. Although she’s been doing hair and dreadlocks for years now, her own actual dreads have been locking for about 10 months. They will be one year old in August.

As a fresh graduate and beginning freelancer, I asked for some advice. I too aspire to achieve the ability to work for myself one day.
“My advice is just to take that risk and if you feel it inside yourself that it’s gonna be a success like there’s a need, desire or demand for it, then just do it. Don’t hold back, give it your all,” said Grajewski.

In a moment of reflection she also added what she would have told her younger self.
“I would tell myself, ride the wave of life, follow your intuitions, and to not be so hard on yourself,” said Grajewski.

That’s all I’ve got folks, you saw it here first. Nicole Grajewski, the future of dreadlocks and what life is like when you take a chance on yourself. Ride the wave of life. That’s surely what I’ll be doing from here on out.
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Thanks for taking the time to check out this feature on Nicole Grajewski.
If you’d like to view more of her work, or get into contact with her, I’ve posted her social media links below. She responds quite promptly and always has an incredibly positive attitude.
Much love!

Rollies2thesky Instagram
Rollies Locs Facebook

Opening Yourself Up to Opportunity

The last year has been one of rapid growth for me. I graduated college, switched to an early morning job, began growing my online presence, started dabbling in freelance work, got into working out and even started therapy to better understand myself as a growing adult.

It sounds like a lot and honestly, it has been. However, we’ve all been given the same amount of hours in every day, and the time passes the same for each of us. The only difference is in how we utilize that time. There have been some struggles and compromises. I don’t go out like I used to. I’ve tightened my budget in many areas. I’ve let go of old relationships that weren’t helping me blossom in the ways that I now need. I’ve learned to pick my battles and to only allow my emotions to guide my choices; my emotions no longer define my decisions.

I wake up much earlier, usually around 5:30 am and I have more responsibilities now. I spend more time with close friends, family and my partner. I have to plan out my days ahead of time and I have more appointments and projects to complete. All these compromises and changes haven’t been easy, but what it all comes down to is how badly I’ve wanted to positively grow in my personal and professional life.
How bad do you want it?

Every bit of our days include opportunities. Either we are in the right place at the right time or we realistically manifest them ourselves. To meet the expectations of these opportunities, sometimes we have to make changes and go through the drudgery of hard work. To create opportunities, we have to open our minds.

A narrow outlook restricts us from approaching all possibilities.

Self created opportunities arise from approaching new people, organic networking and simply brainstorming new ideas. Naturally occurring opportunities are the ones that fall into our lap; and they are so rare.
If you really want to make changes and succeed in your work or whatever area in life it is, you are probably going to have to make your own way. Unless you have a rich parent with all the connections to land you a job or spoon feed you what you want;
but who really wants that anyways?

Succeeding on your own and climbing the ladder to whatever your personal goal is, is always incredibly rewarding.

These days, I try to make the most of every situation I am in.
For instance, if I’m at work, and our big boss comes in, I will make sure to say hello and chat him/her up. I won’t go hide in the back or avoid them. Any opportunity to network is useful. Even if it is just to show my face and that I have a great attitude; maybe down the line that boss will remember me and utilize me for some sort of promotion or side gig.
Another example is that even when I’m having a bad day, I live by the saying “Fake it ’til ya make it.” It always pays off, because eventually, I’m able to shift over into a positive mind space and working doesn’t seem as bad.

When we change our mind set, we change the way we view the world. We change the way we approach others which allows us to create opportunities for ourselves. You don’t have to be smiling 24/7, but a generally positive outlook does make all the difference.

When you’re able to focus on the present moment and put your best foot forward, even if it is in a job that you don’t plan on having forever, that will eventually be recognized. Even if you’re doing pro-bono projects on the side or cheap collaboration jobs, eventually that experience will pay off.

As I continue to apply these concepts to my life, I also remember that success doesn’t happen over night. “It’s 2018 though, why can’t I just get a job off of an app and make millions right away?” Because I know that true success takes time and hard work. Although it sounds old fashioned, those principles will never go out of style.

Approach each day with the thought “Today I will work as hard as I can and do the best that I personally can” and you will find that you achieve much more. Even slow progress is good progress. If you do find you’re having a hard time switching your head space to a positive one, maybe change your environment for the time being. Do what you can, and remember that making your own way will eventually lead you to where you should be.

Creating your own opportunities will open up the space in your life for those very rare naturally occurring opportunities to finally fall into your lap. If you do the leg work, the work will reward you.

Thanks for reading, keep doing all the amazing things that you do!

Much love~

HIV Vaccine Awareness Day

The day is May 18th, 1998 and Bill Clinton gave a speech that challenged the way health pandemics would be handled entirely.

At Morgan State University, Clinton spoke about the HIV/AIDS worldwide pandemic and how our population in America could make a difference.
“So let us today set a new national goal for science, in the age of biology.
Today let us commit ourselves to developing an AIDS vaccine within the next decade,” said Clinton.

The speech was monumental because not only was progress being pursued, but the pandemic was finally being recognized in all of its horror and need for acknowledgment.

Today, it’s common to hear about safe sex and how to live with HIV/AIDS once one has contracted the disease. Luckily, HIV/AIDS is no longer totally a death sentence in countries with access to healthcare. Therapeutic drugs and treatments are available for those that live with the diagnosis. However, in recent years, there has been a costly spike in price in most medications required for HIV/AIDS sufferers.

In the world of science, the best way to avoid contracting HIV/AIDS is by getting vaccinated. In order to be administered the drug, you must be enrolled in a clinical trial. Although over 30,000 people have enrolled in these trials, the Food and Drug Administration still hasn’t approved the vaccine. Because the trials are so recent and progress has changed so much in the last 20 years, there isn’t a consistent or totally available database of longterm results with the trials.
However, the patients enrolled and administered the vaccine have never contracted the disease. 

As of last year, there was a new mosaic approach underway as a vaccination to prevent HIV/AIDS. The mosaic approach suggests that the vaccine contain genes from all over the world; which would then be more effective and universal.

As the search for a cure continues, the next best thing is get vaccinated. In celebration of 20 years since Clinton’s speech, people around the nation recognize today as HIV/AIDS Vaccination Awareness Day. Staying educated is the best way to stay ahead.
Share your acknowledgement by tweeting #HVAD on twitter
and share this article on facebook!

Thanks for reading friends,
and may we be the generation that finally gets ahead of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Sources:

https://www.fredhutch.org/en/news/center-news/2017/12/new-hiv-vaccine-test-launched-world-aids-day.html

https://www.hiv.gov/events/awareness-days/hiv-vaccine-awareness-day

https://www.fredhutch.org/en/labs/be-the-generation.html

https://www.healthable.org/world-aids-vaccine-day-2018/

 

Wag-Worthy Fact: CBD oil is good for your pup!

Earlier this week, I was driving around town in my little red car.
I stopped at a red light and noticed a sign to my right that read:

“Get CBD oil for your dog here!”

I stared and stared, thinking I was reading it incorrectly.
The car behind me honked; I broke my gaze and drove away chuckling.


I live in Orlando, Fl. The city is a great big melting pot, encompassing all walks of life;
including people who sell CBD oil to pet owners. This prompted me to do a bit of research so that I could share it with you all.

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CBD oil is created from high CBD and low THC hemp product. CBD stands for cannabinoid and naturally occurs in marijuana plants. The most commonly thought of marijuana plants are grown for the purpose of harvesting and drying the flowers (nugs) and consuming them for the effects of the THC, which is what gets you high. Plants that are grown with a high CBD content and low THC content are utilized in various helpful ways.
For example, CBD oil reduces anxiety and stress while relieving pain.

CBD oil has been utilized on seizure patients and those suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Another notable fact about CBD oil is that it is non-psychoactive; or in regular terms, it doesn’t get you high. Therefore, it is totally safe for you animal to consume.

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When would be an appropriate time to consider using CBD oil with your dog?
Maybe your animal has separation anxiety or is very sensitive to loud noises like thunder. Or maybe your animal gets aggressive or anxious around other people or dogs.

CBD oil can help soothe your animal, so that they can live their best life as your best friend. CBD oil is even claimed to fight cancer in dogs as well! The oil can help with heart health and greatly improve your dog’s appetite.

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For the best results, a high quality CBD oil will truly benefit your pet. You can adjust the doses by drops or even buy treats for them with the CBD oil already infused.
You dog will be thanking you in a plethora of kisses soon enough!

Thanks for reading, much love!


I do not own these pictures.
Sources:
https://www.medicalmarijuanainc.com/what-is-cbd-hemp-oil/
https://sciencetrends.com/what-does-cbd-stand-for/
https://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/cbd-oil-for-dogs/

Tasting, Toasting and Hosting with Ashanti Middleton

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New York’s own entrepreneur Ashanti Middleton,
is a black female with a brand all her own, married to her wife of two years. Her food and drink review channel “Taste and Toast” has gained a following and a prominent internet residency through her website and youtube channel.

What set her a part from all the other channels and reviewers was her distinct passion for the entire process, while staying true to her authenticity.

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“I went to college for business management. I found a passion in film and entertainment afterwards,” said Middleton. “I’m like a self proclaimed food connoisseur. It really comes from a passion of wanting to go out and try new foods. So I took that, in addition to me loving the entertainment industry, in addition to me wanting to help.”

She described to me that her ultimate goal is to drive more traffic into these
cheers-worthy bars and delectable restaurants,
while growing her personal platform.

Her many years of experience in retail, customer service and product management gift her the understanding of creating an entire dining experience.
This gives her a leg up to reviewing all types of eateries.
I asked her to describe the overall process of reviewing a location and to detail her experience thus far.

“We profile the business as a whole, the ambiance, the history of the restaurant, and then of course, the food,” said Middleton.
“My favorite reviewing experience was when I went to go visit a Thai restaurant in Brooklyn called Samui. What I usually do is tell the owners to prepare two dishes and two drinks.
They prepared 30 dishes and 20 drinks.
We were eating all day!”

I had a moment of rethinking what I was doing with my life; free food and drinks? It sounds too good to be true. Of course, I then had to follow up with asking about some of the biggest struggles that parent the experience of entrepreneurship.

“Right now I’ve been able to self finance everything. As you grow and as you become more in demand, you need more money. I don’t get any money for shooting but I’m still paying my videographers,
so it’s like an investment. I don’t want to say I’m losing money, but it is money out of my pocket,” said Middleton.

As a Human Resources manager with a local retailer, she is able to fund her channel entirely on her own. Middleton hopes that her next obstacle can be one building atop her current journey. She aspires to be picked up by a major platform; ie a TV or or major digital channel.
Taste and Toast has even been featured in the Huffington Post.
Click here to see the article.

The idea for the channel Taste and Toast originated from Middleton and her close friends several years ago.

“I have two best friends of 25 years and we were brain storming for maybe 3 days. We came up with a whole bunch of names. And finally I came up with the name, Taste and Toast. I said ‘I like Taste and Toast, because that’s what I want to do!
It was a name for keeps,” said Middleton.

Beyond her personal youtube channel and website,
Middleton has other projects as well.

“I have another venture too, my wine. I have two business partners and it’s called Esrever,” said Middleton.

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“We were at the table, drinking, probably 6 or 7 years ago,
me and my two best friends of 25 years were like,
‘What would it be like to own your own wine business? How do you even do that?”
Middleton shared more on the beginning of creating her wine brand.

“We just started with the basics, what type of wine would we like to taste and then we came up with some names. We were throwing a whole bunch of names out there. They give me credit for the wine name as well,” said Middleton.

If you look closely, you’ll see that the name Esrever,
pronounced Ehz-reh-veer,
is actually
Reverse spelled backwards. The name is catchy and flows well.

Middleton’s biggest inspiration is her friend that she refers to as her younger brother, David; he’s integrated as an actor in the entertainment industry.
“He’s 27 now and I knew him when he was 18. I was around him when he first dibbled and dabbled into the acting field and now he does work for the Food Network and all types of stations. He’s really prominent in his field,” said Middleton.
“So watching him go to auditions, get turned down and get picked up, get paid gigs and just go through this, I began to love it just by follow him to his gigs.
I grew an interest and took it from there.”

Middleton also hosts food related events as well. Her MC persona thrives when she’s hosting and shooting new episodes at these events.

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“I’m happy to say that I’ve been picked up as an
official media partner for Famous Food Festival. It’s this big food festival that happens every year and they go on tour, so they’re coming here July 14 and 15th,” said Middleton.
The festival is put on by Eric and Ryan; Middleton will be their media partner for the festival.

“I’m also the host and media partner for Bronze magazine. They’re having their second annual pop-up event, a pop-up shop, which is May 12th.” Between Middleton’s successes, she unfortunately has received some push back because of her identity. However, she remains collected and unbothered when speaking about it.

“I do have two companies that didn’t want to work with me because I’m gay. I did experience that. But it doesn’t bother me. None of that bothers me at all. It’s their choice, it’s what they want to do. So I just keep going,” said Middleton.

When I asked her about how companies have embraced the gay community, she elaborated.

“Most companies use it as a selling point. Like a a lot of companies. Even if they don’t agree, that’s what’s in now, accepting homosexuality. If you talk bad about the homosexual society, they’ll come after you. So if they find out that your business doesn’t support homosexuality, you have a big battle against you. So a lot of companies welcome it because it just helps their business grow, even if they’re doing it selfishly,” said Middleton.

Middleton’s ambition precedes her persona in the reviewing and entertainment industry. Her hard work and emphasis on direction forward amplifies her strength in character and passion for her work.

The key to this is consistency. There are days where I just want to throw in the towel. Like more than not, honestly. There’s a lot of days that I go through being discouraged, but you have to remain consistent,” said Middleton.

Surrounding herself with positive influences makes all the difference as well.

“I really find the most joy in talking to people that are like me, that are like minded and that are in something that they want to grow. I love that. Like regular people that are trying to build their dream.”

Here’s one of my favorite reviewing videos from her channel.
Episode 6 – Sneak Peak #Extra Taste Coco-Roco

Keep an eye out for Taste and Toast, Esrever, and Ashanti Middleton
as she climbs the ladder to all her successes.

You can find her social media platforms here:
Facebook:
Taste and Toast
Instagram:
@tasteandtoastam
Website:
Taste & Toast
Youtube:
Taste and Toast Channel