Poison, Kenzo, etc
Hi, my love.
I cut off all my hair yesterday.
(Well, a good 6-7 inches of it.)
(Went to the almighty goddess Mona Baltazar, aka the tattoo covered mullet sporting Filipina Michelango of curls)
(And told her to finally do it.)
(Have at it, queen Mona!)
And have at it she did. Here’s the photo I posted to Instagram and social media to show off the new do.
And here, of course, is what I actually looked like most of the pizza hang.
Oh, my love. It was time to let go of all that hair.
(A complicated choice, as it happens.)
Because up until today I have chosen, for my own mental health and legitimate legal reasons, to be pretty quiet about when the poison thing poisoned my hair/all of us.
(A somewhat cowardly choice)
(But we work with the tools we have at the time)
Maybe you have heard about the poison thing that poisoned us. Maybe not. The poison company that makes the poison thing that poisoned us recently paid upwards of 5 million dollars to many of the people that were poisoned.
(I suspect there were thousands more who were poisoned)
(I am one, after all.)
Your good friend t didn’t sign up for the lawsuit so that she could, at any time, say, “Hi, I got poisoned.”
By a company that has decided, for whatever reason, to take the strategy of opaquely and repetitively lying instead of taking accountability and investigating what poisoned us.
And you know what? For the last few years I wasn’t ready to talk about the poison. Because, as it happens, it’s a complicated thing to be poisoned.
Complicated, especially, when it’s by people you trust. And boy did I trust the poison company that poisoned us.
To explain the level of trust you’ll have to imagine 15 year old me: Gawky and awkward and confused. A high school sophomore with a penchant for artistry, grossly out of place in a small suburb half an hour north of New York City.
I did my best among the early 2000s stick straight hair and neon tops until we found a shred of hope.
An article in the paper.
My mom found it.
A salon downtown!
A perfect paradise for ladies with hair like mine!
(oh, did i run out of the little suburban town)
(hopped a train down to West Broadway)
I swear, my love, I felt like a secret agent the first time I walked down the stairs to the salon that belonged to the poison company.
And, without a shred of exaggeration, everything changed.
It may seem hyperbolic but I promise you it isn’t.
Because hair is an enormous thing.
Ethnic hair even more so.
You spin your identity in every curl, find your female ancestors, your pride, your heritage, your mother, your Savta, your Nana. You kick back beauty standards, eventually emerging like a a superheroine.
I emerged, my love. Climbed up those West Broadway stairs the first time with acceptance, confidence, love.
Sold from then on.
As the years went by I aligned with the poison company professionally. They found little old singer/songwriter me early in the era of social media and asked me to be an “influencer” before the word was even a thing. I had no idea what it meant but was hyped to make money talking about a product I not only already used thoroughly but could have talked until 2027 about.
And girl, it went well! I was a hilarious and terrible accidental influencer. The poison company kept me around because I was a singer among a sea of beauty professionals, and probably because I made them laugh.
I met absolute goddesses in the poison company and in my fellow influencers.
People who had turned the beauty world upside down and made it for us.
For a brief moment it was absolutely beautiful.
The poison company offered to elevate me to one of their five official brand ambassadors.
I enthusiastically accepted.
I traveled to some beautiful places, took photos laughing and shilling hair products.
They filmed me talking about which of the poison products worked best for my hair.
And in a feat of beautiful triumph they even paid for this song’s music video.
You’ll recognize queen Ayesha/Spisha in that video. One of my nearest and dearest.
While I stewed and cried through the complication-of-losing-half-my-hair-and-having-scalp-problems-so-bad-a-dermatologist-suggested-I-go-on-biologic-injections-because-he-couldn’t-believe-a-beauty-product-could-or-would-do-that (every scalp problem disappeared nearly the moment I took the poison out of my routine), Ayesha talked it through brilliantly and coherently in a bombshell video.
She took the same NDA we shared, threw it in the fire and blew the lid off the whole thing.
(A freaking warrior goddess.)
(You’ll notice Ayesha and my hair look exactly the same before and after we were poisoned)
Too painful, in the end, for me to talk about publicly when it all hit the fan. Every time I even came near it the poison company devotees pounced on me in DMs and in person. So I focused, instead, on my own healing and recovery. And found it in an unlikely hero: Kenzo Takada.
Early on in the pandemic I chanced on the founder of the legendary fashion house’s eulogy. One key detail burned itself in my brain.
Essentially, Kenzo’s home was commandeered and demolished by the Japanese government to make way for the upcoming Tokyo olympics in 1964. Kenzo could have rightfully mourned the destruction of his entire life. Instead he took the settlement he got from the Japanese government and used it to move to Paris.
(And start, yknow, one of the biggest fashion houses in modern history.)
Girl. The government demolished the man’s entire home and life and it read as a fracking! footnote! in his obituary.
I vividly remember reading the story in October of 2020, right at peak-poison and also when COVID made our money officially run out and it was time to move out of our dream home on Pinehurst Avenue in Washington Heights.
Back then we secretly knew we’d likely move to Amsterdam, but the plans were still silvery and unrealized (we’d eventually land in January of 2021).
As we bubble wrapped every part of our lives I would tell myself regularly:
“You are not poisoned.
You are not broke.
You are Kenzo fucking Takada.”
But Amsterdam didn’t end up being exactly my Paris, in the end. It was a home, a holding space, a place to process, bake, and more than anything create with absolutely no distractions.
I wrote, produced, sang, played this new album from the cocoon that was Amsterdam. But I also expertly avoided the feeling of being poisoned, among other things.
Now that I’ve landed back in New York I realize I no longer have the shelter of that cozy Kenzo story. I have to look around at a city that has changed drastically and also looks exactly the same as it did the time it almost killed us.
I put the bill on hold. And the bill is here to be paid.
And I’m ready, I think.
I’m finally ready to let it all go and have it be a footnote in my someday (hopefully far away!) obituary.
Finally ready to start talking about the future.
To look for a new cutie house, take the wild and painfully optimistic leap of building again.
But before a leap comes a step.
So I called Mona this week. She asked what I wanted to do, and her eyes lit up at my request.
Let’s get rid of it, Mona.
Let’s pay the bill.
The curls fell one and after another, carpeting beneath me. And with each successive fall, I let it go more and more.
Kenzo, rising from the ashes of his former Japanese home.
(Or your girl t, in a midtown salon.)
We left Mona into an absolutely empty Manhattan, right in the middle of a holiday weekend.
Avenues and roadways usually full of cars, exhaust, traffic, tension were instead a sea of green lights for me, José and my little car Iris to sail through.
New York wasn’t my Paris.
Neither was Hamsterdance.
But I’ve never had a problem looking, searching, wandering.
And it’s oh so much easier with all this weight off my shoulders.
More next week.
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