A couple of weeks ago, So You Think You Can Dance aired a special episode in honor of Michael Jackson’s latest video where all of the contestants performed dances to the King of Pop’s songs. In honor of what would’ve been his 56th birthday, I’d like to share with you all my favorite performance from that night, which was actually done to one of my favorite Michael Jackson songs ever, “Dirty Diana.” Enjoy!
Yesterday, the biggest stars in television showed out for the 66th Annual Emmy Awards. One thing is for sure, the light toned dresses were definitely winning on the red carpet. There were so many beautiful white, off-white, and silver dresses that I was in heaven; however, I will give props to a few ladies who stood out in their colorful gowns. Honestly, I saw a lot of looks I fell in love with, so I don’t think I could pick out just one as my absolute favorite, but I’ll try to categorize.
For the ladies in white, I’d have to give it to Sofia Vergara. She killed the red carpet in a strapless white mermaid gown with silver detailing, giving the overall look just enough sparkle to stand out. Plus, it was body hugging kind of sexy, but straight neckline kind of classy which I thought was smart. As for the other stars getting their white in before Labor Day, Padma Lakshmi, Kristen Wiig, and Laverne Cox all showed the other women how it’s done right.
Katherine Heigl stole the category for the off-white category in a three-quarter length sleeved gown paired off with a deep neckline. It reminded me of classic Hollywood starlets with a touch of modern detailing thanks to the chunky bracelets. She looked mature, beautiful, elegant, and nearly perfect. Lucy Liu and Taylor Schilling also did off-white justice in their looks of the night.
As for the metallic gowns, it was an all-out battle between the fashion forward Gwen Stefani and the mommy-to-be Hayden Panettiere. Obviously, how could I choose between the two? Stefani slayed in a silver maxi skirt and matching top with more metallic detailing down the neckline, while her straight hair with the middle part and minimal jewelry perfected the look. On the other hand, Hayden showed off her growing baby bump, but still had some sex appeal with a deep V-neckline. All I can say is that’s how you show out on the carpet when you’re pregnant.
Last, but not least, come the colorful celebrities who dared to go bright. Again, I can’t choose a sole winner, but I have to give props to them all. Heidi Klum and Sarah Hyland stood out in coral, while Cat Deeley looked stunning in ombre ballgown. Keke Palmer went big and bold in her blue gown, which actually worked.
Last night, MTV aired it’s 2014 Video Music Awards, which included performances by Nicki Minaj, Usher, Iggy Azalea, Rita Ora, and, of course, Beyonce. Obviously, Beyonce stole the show with her visual album medley and her acceptance of the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, but, then again, there wasn’t much to steal in the first place. To be perfectly honest, the entire show felt poorly planned and thrown together with the exception of Queen Bey’s performance, which came with backup dancers, props, special lighting, and perfect sound. All I can say is thank God for good fashion, even though that itself was scarce.
When it comes to Beyonce, her black red carpet gown wasn’t doing it for me, but she redeemed herself with her stained glass inspired long sleeved leotard. Paired with black fishnet tights and flowing locks, the R&B goddess stuck with her signature style, while still keeping her look fresh and appealing. Of all the performance outfits, Beyonce comes in first place.
Besides Beyonce’s moment, Nicki Minaj’s performance of “Anaconda” didn’t disappoint, while Jessie J and Ariana Grande held their own, as well. However, Nicki Minaj’s wardrobe malfunction left me feeling so bad for the Queen of Rap that I couldn’t full enjoy the trio performance. Her on stage dress had so much potential to be great, but a broken zipper can put a damper on any outfit. Luckily though, Ms. Minaj slayed the red carpet in a snakeskin print YSL mini, which was the perfect combination of classy, sexy, and modern. Not to mention, Nicki’s hair and make-up was perfectly on point. Minaj comes in second for best performance, but first for showmanship and red carpet look.
Rounding off my favorite overall looks is the youngest of the Keeping Up with the Kardashians sister, Kylie Jenner. She showed out in a black robe style dress with a sexy slit. With all of the black leather that was happening on the carpet, Kylie still managed to stand out, which is impressive on its own. She kept it a black on black affair by pairing the flowing dress with black peep toe heels and black nails. Yes, it was a little gothic inspired, but it was definitely a killer on the carpet.
Some other looks that caught my attention were that of Jessie J, Iggy Azalea, and Jennifer Lopez. Jessie J came through in a pastel flowing dress, reminiscent of the Ancient Greek and Roman years, which I loved. Her deep V showed some sex appeal, but, I also felt like every other woman on the red carpet was rocking that same hairstyle. Being the VMAs, I expected something a little more daring overall from the songstress.
Iggy and J-Lo both wore silver, doing their best to sparkle on the carpet, but they both fell just short of my best dressed list. Iggy’s dress was nice, which included some cut outs and geometric lines, but I wasn’t feeling the combination of her dress with her hair and make-up choice. I feel like she could’ve done better.
As for Jennifer Lopez, there was nothing wrong with this dress and I feel like it would’ve suited her perfectly ten years ago. Now, there’s no denying Jennifer is a beautiful woman with a slamming body, which she should be proud of, but, at the same time, she’s also a mother of two and is 45. I think it’s about time Jennifer starts maturing her style, rather than picking the shiniest dress with the biggest slit and the most cut outs. I feel like, with this dress, Jennifer wasn’t trying to say “I’m a successful style icon,” but instead “I’m newly single.” I just can’t support that message.
Last week, two of my closest friends and I decided to take a day trip to Western Maryland together. For those of you who don’t know, Western Maryland borders Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The Appalachian Mountains cut right through Western Maryland and this area is also home to many state parks, trails, and so on. My friend Mickey is from the Bronx, I, as you all may remember, lived in Queens, and we all, my other friend Keisha included, live about twenty minutes outside of Baltimore, so a day in nature would be a very nice, much needed change of pace.
Our first stop was High Rock in Cascade, MD. As part of the Appalachian Trail, the only way to get there via car (remember we’re still city girls) was to drive up a winding road on an upward slope. If it’s your first time driving in the “mountains,” then this road can be a little intimidating, but, thanks to my hours of adventure in central Puerto Rico, which is full of mountains, the drive up was cake.
Once you arrive to the top, High Rock is the first thing you see. It’s a huge cluster of grey rocks mixed with a set of concrete steps put in to make taking in the sites easier for visitors. If the stature of High Rock isn’t enough to grab your attention, then the rainbow of graffiti will definitely make you look. The enormous rocks look like street art ruins with drawings, patterns, and words in purple, orange, red, white, green, and every other color covering the natural grey backdrop. To me, it looked like nature and the inner city harmoniously collided together to create nature’s art. On the steps central to High Rock in bold white paint, it read “peace, love, compassion,” summing up High Rock perfectly. When you walk up the steps, you see a clear view of the rural towns below and, in the distance, you can see the mountain range, marking the horizon.
The three of us sat at the top of the rock, enjoying the breeze, admiring the view, and feeling at peace. There were times where we sat in silence, but, for most of the time, we talked. We just shared whatever was on our mind, whether it was childhood stories, high school memories, or deep thoughts. The common denominator was we kept everything positive and serene. For a portion of our time at High Rock, we explored around, took some priceless pictures, and conquered some very real fears.
Later that day, we visited Cunningham Falls in Thurmont, MD, which is about fifteen minutes from High Rock. We went on a short hike to see the waterfall, enjoyed the lake for a little while, and played around in the playground like a couple of big kids. Simply put, it was a great day, but the highlight was definitely High Rock.
The serenity it brought me, the uniquely different perspective it creates, and the bonding experience it was for the three of us made it priceless. If I could, I would visit it every weekend just to clear my mind and be at peace. It was just a beautiful metaphor that I’m so grateful to have experienced.
We drove up a winding road, where we couldn’t see how far or close we were to our destination. Once we reached the top, we were in awe of its grandeur and beauty, but, to really appreciate and absorb what it has to offer, we had to move past our nerves, conquer our fear of heights, and climb up those stairs to the top of the rock. Once at the top of the top, you see everything clearly and you’re above it all. You’ve accomplished that, but then you feel the wind pushing against you and you see there is no railing, so you remember a careless decision can take it all away from you. At the same time, you’re in the middle of trees and nature, sitting on a giant boulder covered in graffiti.
The juxtaposition of city life and wilderness. The vulnerability and tranquility. The sense of accomplishment. It all seemed to mirror my life perfectly. It’s experiencing things like this when you realize everything happens for a reason.
In 1898, during the Spanish American War, the United States acquired several different territories from Spain, including my native island of Puerto Rico. For the past 100 plus years or so, the island has remained a U.S. territory as a commonwealth. I’ll admit being a U.S. territory has its perks such as being born with U.S. citizenship and not needing a passport to visit my hometown, but that doesn’t mean the debate over Puerto Rico’s status has in any way been stifled.
Most people are content being a commonwealth, mostly, because they’re used to it, but also because they don’t care enough. There are many other people who want statehood for the island. Statehood would mean we would get all of the benefits as the current 50 states, the U.S. government would fully have our back, and we would have a voice come Election Day. On the contrary, there are some Puerto Ricans who would love to see the island as an independent country. Seeing Puerto Rico be its own country is definitely a romantic idea and being able to see the island accomplish things without America’s “help” would be a proud moment, but it is also very unrealistic and there are cons to each of these situations.
In terms of having statehood, there’s a big concern in regards to Puerto Rico’s culture. The island has a distinct culture, which brings together African, Spanish, and Indigenous influences that is unique to the Caribbean. This includes food, music, dance, architecture, artistry, and simply the way of life. There’s a fear that if Puerto Rico becomes a state, then that culture could fade into the past and, eventually, be lost. If not completely lost, then the island’s culture would at least be altered by being fully absorbed into the United States. This Americanization is already noticeable in highly touristic areas like San Juan and beach resorts.
On the other hand, if Puerto Rico were to completely separate from the United States and become its own independent country, then who’s to say it won’t follow the same fate of the Dominican Republic, Cuba, or other West Indies Isles that have faced or are still facing extreme poverty, mass violence, and tyranny? There’s no guarantee that Puerto Rico can survive on its own, especially considering its current state.
Puerto Rico is $70 billion in debt and the island’s unemployment rate is a ridiculous 15%, doubling the U.S’s average 7%. Businesses are closing left and right, universities are on the verge of losing accreditation, and most of the people I know there are being forced into entry level jobs because there’s nothing else. I know that if I would have been raised in Puerto Rico, I would never have gotten the opportunities I got in the mainland.
Not to mention Puerto Rico’s homicide rate, which is on par with countries like Mexico, at 26.2 murders per every 100,000 residents. To put this in perspective, the United States has an average homicide rate of 4.7 for every 100,000 residents. A few years ago, I was at a concert in a nearby town and there was a shooting. Thankfully, my brother, my cousins, and I were unharmed, but it was a fatal shooting and the fact that I was just visiting and witnessed something of that nature shows how prevalent these things are becoming.
Add in other factors like the current drought Puerto Rico is experiencing and it’s no surprise why 55,000 people have been migrating to the mainland every year since 2011. Throughout the entire history of Puerto Rico, the millennium has seen the greatest migration of Puerto Ricans to the U.S. since the 1950s.
Personally, I haven’t quite decided if I want Puerto Rico to be a state, become independent, or stay as a commonwealth. It would pain me to see Puerto Rico’s culture be Americanized following statehood, but it already pains me to see how Puerto Rico is changing for the worst. Although I love my island, I’m grateful that I don’t live there anymore. Whenever I go there, I’m reminded of just how bad things are. Statistics aside, I even look at my street and most of the houses look abandoned and unkempt, which is heartbreaking to say the least.
In all honesty, I’m not sure Puerto Rico could be independent. I think if the island is going downhill even as a commonwealth, what’s going to happen when it’s completely on its own? But, then again, I have to ask what is the U.S. doing for Puerto Rico right now? Puerto Rico can’t declare bankruptcy and, although the island can apply for help, such as for the current drought, nothing has really been done, so far. If the situation found in Puerto Rico were going on in any state in the U.S., then it would be considered a state of emergency and the federal government would immediately get involved.
Why is it that Puerto Rico is technically a U.S. territory, but must act like an independent country without all of the rights of a sovereign country? I see Puerto Rico slowly killing itself, while the U.S. watches for the sake of allowing the island to make its own decisions, but as it still hangs on to its position as owner of that land. This is where I’m torn. Would I rather have Puerto Rico become a state and receive more American support, but risk losing our identity? Or would I rather have Puerto Rico become independent and continue its negative path on its own?
I wouldn’t have a problem with Puerto Rico remaining a commonwealth, mainly because that’s what I’m used to, but only if it meant more than citizenship and a title for Puerto Ricans. As a Puerto Rican living in the U.S., I see the notion people have of us. We’re envied by many other Hispanics because of our citizenship and the belief we have it easier, which is true to some extent. Although our situation on the island is progressively getting worst, escaping those hardships is somewhat easier because immigration isn’t necessarily an issue. While for many Americans, Puerto Rico is just an easy escape to an exotic paradise, but they don’t quite see past the tourist attractions.
As a Puerto Rican, I know that we pay American taxes, but our votes don’t count in elections. We can attend U.S. universities to avoid the failing education system in Puerto Rico, but we would still have to pay out of state tuition and are ineligible for several scholarships and grants. We can join the U.S. military and fight in American wars, but receive virtually no help from the U.S. when it comes to the violence on our island. There is an imbalance that I don’t like. Puerto Rico belongs to the U.S. when it is convenient for the U.S., but, when the territory becomes troublesome, it is independent. At least that’s how it feels and it doesn’t seem fair. It feels like a modern form of colonization, which is something that the U.S. fought hard against during its own revolution.
It’s interesting how history repeats itself, yet it goes unnoticed because people don’t think those circumstances still exist. The same goes for piracy, slavery, gender inequality, and other “things of the past.” They still exist just in slightly different ways that allow people to believe they’ve died. Take racism, for example. It is still very much an issue, but it has evolved to become a silent issue. (However, this is starting to change given the situation in Ferguson.) It is to the point where mainstream America chooses to believe it doesn’t exist just like they choose to believe that American colonization no longer exists.
Now, I’m not suggesting that the U.S. is gravely oppressing Puerto Ricans, but I am saying that it seems like they only have their best interest in mind with the exception of whatever extra territories they acquire along the way. I’m saying that it’s questionable how helpful they have been to Puerto Rico, which makes it more difficult to formulate an opinion on the matter of citizenship. So who knows what’s going to happen because this debate has been going on for over a hundred years and nothing has changed. This is the ongoing frustration for every Boricua.
Besides the Steeze app, which I previously told you all about, believe it or not, I’ve actually been spending a lot of time writing. I’ll admit I haven’t been writing a lot for MSauciana, but I have written a lot of things. I’ve mainly been preparing a collection of poetry for publishing.
I started off by sending a good chunk of poetry (150-200 poems) to family and friends to pick out their favorite poems. I gave them the ballpark of selecting their top 50 poems. I know what I like, but I don’t know what everyone else likes, so I wanted to get their feedback and see which writing styles of mine they like most individually. What better way to do that than by seeing what their favorite poems are?
But don’t feel forgotten because your opinions have been taken into account as well. I’ve been going back into my blog’s archives and making a note of how many interactions each poem I’ve posted has gotten. The poems with the highest amount of positive reactions will be considered your “favorites” and could be included in the collection I’m putting together. (For those of you who would like to help with this process, you can find all of the poems I’ve posted here. Feel free to ‘like’ whichever ones are your favorites, so I can take your opinion into account. If you’ve already liked it, but you want to make sure I know how much you enjoyed a specific poem, then a comment works just as well.)
So, yes, I’ve sent out poems to people and I’ve been going back and tallying your feedback, but I’ve also been spending A LOT of time writing new material. Why? There are a couple of reasons. First off, it wouldn’t be fair to present a book of poetry filled with poems you can read for free on my blog. There has to be something exclusive and special about the book that you can’t find anywhere else, especially on MSauciana. Because of that, a vast majority of what you see in the book will be never before seen and never published kind of poetry.
Second, I feel like my voice as a poet has evolved within the two plus years of MSauciana, so I need to create a good amount of material that reflects my new voice. With your help and life’s hand, I’ve been steered toward certain personal writing styles that I’m now exploring and developing. Although I love and respect my old work, I feel like my new work is even better, which is to be expected. No artist wants their work to be in the same place two years later. So that’s why I’ve been hoarding away so much of my new work. Just because I haven’t been posting as much as I used to on here doesn’t mean I’m not writing.
Aside from working on my poetry collection, I’ve also been submitting my work to organizations, awards, and competitions. I’m working on getting my writing out there and I’ve been trying to push myself, forcing myself out of my comfort zone. Thus far, I’ve been quite productive, so I’m going to use this momentum to stay focused and continue to progress. But, don’t worry because MSauciana is still very much in my plan.