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Fans Of Michelle Obama Mourn The Death Of Her Beloved Cuban-American Designer

In 2009, the world watched with excitement as the U.S. made history by electing the first Black president to office. On the day of his inauguration, however, all eyes weren’t solely on Barack Obama who was being newly sworn in. Instead, most were occupied by the soon to be iconic look worn by First-Lady Michelle Obama. Her look was a lemongrass dress and coat paring designed by Cuban-American designer Isabel Toledo, a woman who devoted her career to designing for all women.

Today, the fashion world is mourning the death of the designer who styled an icon after she lost her battle against breast cancer.

Toledo died of breast cancer at age 59 in Manhattan, her husband announced on Monday. 

There is no denying her influence in fashion especially considering only4.3 percent of the 2017 Business of Fashion 500 list, which ranks the fashion industry’s most influential individuals, were Latinos. She was born in Cuba, where she learned to sew at the age of eight after she “I couldn’t find anything I loved,” she said in 2012. As a teenager, she immigrated to West New York, New Jersey and eventually attended the Fashion Institute of Technology and Parsons School of Design but never graduated instead she interned for fashion editor Diana Vreeland, who was the editor in chief of Vogue.  

In 1985 she presented her first collection and quickly made a name for herself as a “designer’s designer,” known for her focus on the art of crafting the clothing, letting the fabrics guide her instead of sartorial themes. 

“I really love the technique of sewing more than anything else…the seamstress is the one who knows fashion from the inside,” she said in a 1989 interview, according to Vogue. “That’s the art form really, not fashion design, but the technique of how it’s done.”

In the late ’90s, Toledo also rejected the runway, presenting new collections in museums instead, emphasizing more the art and less the pomp and circumstance that typically surrounds fashion shows.

  Despite her desire to pave her own path in fashion and rejecting the flashiness of fashion, she was respected in the industry, with fellow Cuban designer, Narciso Rodriguez voicing his support of her works. “I admire her technique, her individuality, and her incredible eye. Her clothes are always right,” he told Vogue in 2003. 

She’d dressed celebrities including Demi Moore and Debra Messing but it was Michelle Obama’s 2009 inauguration dress during President Barack Obama’s historic win that skyrocketed her to fame. 

She met her future husband, acclaimed Cuban artist and illustrator Ruben Toledo, in high school and they married in 1984. 

He sketched her designs including the lemongrass dress with the matching overcoat that Obama wore. 

We’re levitating – we really are,” he told WWD at the time. “It’s just another shock, but a great shock.”

They had not been informed beforehand that she would be wearing the dress and first saw it at the same time everyone else did during the inauguration parade. 

“With her incredible creativity and masterful talent, Isabel designed a beautiful lemongrass outfit that I just loved,” Obama told the New York Times. “She more than met the moment — for that day and for all of history.”

One aspect of the dress, in particular, was somewhat controversial – the color. Media descriptions changed from apple green to yellow to gold but Toledo called it lemongrass, which was the fabric color that served as inspiration for the dress and said it was an “optimistic color.” She told the Associated Press that the various interpretations of the color allowed for an individual experience of the clothing, giving the moment more “depth.”

 “There is nothing that comes close to this moment. It’s not just my moment and hers, but it’s the world’s. It’s not only what she’s wearing. It’s what the moment represents,” she told AP. 

She and her husband collaborated for decades and won the Cooper Hewitt National Design Award in 2005 and she also received the third annual Couture Council Award for Artistry of Fashion from the Museum at FIT in 2008.

They had recently worked on an exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) entitled Labor of Love. It’s central focus was the relationship between fashion and art, showcasing sculptures, paintings, and drawings that they created together, using the DIA’s collection as inspiration. The centerpiece was “Synthetic Cloud”, a series of dresses she’d sewn from layers of multi-colored tulle including sky blue, hot pink, orange, lavender, and neon green, according to Vogue

I’m not supposed to say I’m not a fashion person, but I’m not. I just, I love design,” she told CNN in 2012. “Design is so different than fashion. That’s why design lasts forever. It’s like an engineer. I love to engineer a garment.”

In 2012, she published an autobiography entitled Roots of Style, illustrated by her husband, where she discussed the influence growing up in Cuba had in her designs and how fashion became a form of art that allowed her to express herself. 

Toledo may be remembered for the inauguration dress but throughout her career, she made her designs available to the average woman as well. 

She served briefly as creative director for Anne Klein, from 2006 to 2007 and designed a series of boots, pumps, flats and handbags in a collaboration with Payless Shoe Source which has since shuttered.

In 2014, she debuted a capsule collection for plus-sized retailer Lane Bryant, saying to Jezebel:

“For me, it’s really important that women are given the opportunity to be eccentric… The liberty, the freedom, the right to be eccentric, to be their size, and to have the freedom or the opportunity to enjoy fashion at any size […] I can’t imagine not having that, so I feel a duty to provide it.”

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Michelle Obama Says That She Has ‘Low-Grade Depression’

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Michelle Obama Says That She Has ‘Low-Grade Depression’

Scott Olson / Getty

Since leaving her life in the White House, former first lady Michelle Obama has been unabashedly open about her personal life. From writing about her marriage in her recent book Becoming to speaking out about our current president, Obama is unleashing her truth in so many ways. Recently, she revealed during an episode of her podcast that, like most of us, she’s been dealing with “some form of low-grade depression” thanks in part to recent events.

During last week’s Wednesday episode of her eponymous podcast, Obama talked with journalist Michele Norris about her mental health saying “Barack and I, we’ve lived outside of the norm of regular life for quite some time, and what we learned early on in the White House is — in order to stay sane and feel like the human that you once were — is that you have to have a schedule and a routine.”

Speaking out about her current mental state Obama revealed that she has struggled to keep up with her usual regimen. 

“I’m waking up in the middle of the night, ‘cause I’m worried about something or there’s a heaviness,” she explained. “I try to make sure I get a workout in. Although there have been periods throughout this quarantine where I just have felt too low.”

“It is unusual,” Obama went on. “And it’s a direct result of being out of body, out of mind. Spiritually, these are not fulfilling times. I know that I am dealing with some form of low-grade depression. Not just because of the quarantine, but because of the racial strife, and just seeing this administration, watching the hypocrisy of it, day in and day out, is dispiriting.”

Later on in the podcast, Obama explained she’d “be remiss to say that part of this depression is also a result of what we’re seeing in terms of the protests, the continued racial unrest, that has plagued this country since its birth. I have to say that waking up to the news, waking up to how this administration has or has not responded, waking up to yet another story of a Black man or a Black person somehow being dehumanized, or hurt, or killed, or falsely accused of something, it is exhausting. And it has led to a weight that I haven’t felt in my life, in a while.”

According to research, Obama’s not the only one feeling the “psychological toll” of the pandemic and BLM events.

The Lancet Psychiatry, revealed that soon after the release of the video taken during George Floyd’s killing, rates of depression and anxiety among Black Americans skyrocketed at ones much greater than any other group.

According to The Washington Post “The rate of black Americans showing clinically significant signs of anxiety or depressive disorders jumped from 36 percent to 41 percent in the week after the video of Floyd’s death became public. That represents roughly 1.4 million more people.”

To cope, Obama explained that she’s tried to be kind to herself in moments when she’s feeling down.

“You have to recognize that you’re in a place, a bad place, in order to get out of it,” she explained in the episode. “You kinda have to sit in it for a minute, to know, oh, oh, I’m feeling off. So now I gotta feed myself with something better.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing depression please call the National Depressive/Manic-Depressive Association Hotline at 1-800-826-3632 or the Crisis Call Center’s 24-hour hotline at 1-775-784-8090. 

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This TikTok Hack Shows A Pretty Cool Way To Grow Your Own Avocados At Home

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This TikTok Hack Shows A Pretty Cool Way To Grow Your Own Avocados At Home

@BradCanning/ TikTok

As the pandemic continues to carry us into the infinite unknown the only thing that we can be certain of is that keeping ourselves entertained, busy, and happy is essential. Of course, any plant lover knows that one of the most simple pleasures in life is having some homegrown vegetables in the kitchen. If you’re quarantining and doing all that you can to avoid public spaces like grocery stores this truth goes double.

Recently, a TikTok user uploaded a quick tutorial on how to make your very own avocado plant using supplies you probably have around the house as well as that avocado seed you most definitely toss out way too often. We broke down the steps for you below and they’re pretty easy!

Check them out below.

Here’s what you’ll need

  • Avocado seed
  • Water 
  • Paper towels
  • Ziploc bags
  • A vase or glass

1. Once you’ve cut the avocado hold on to the seed

@BradCanning/ TikTok

As TikTok user @BradCanning points out save the seed! As you’re preparing your avocado for a feast, be sure to avoid cutting into the seed.

2. Remove the outer layer of the seed by peeling it off

@BradCanning/ TikTok

Run the seed underwater then dry it. Once it’s dried up, peel off the skin with your fingers to make sure the seed doesn’t go moldy.

3. Allow the seed to sprout and grow a root by wrapping it in a paper towel and putting it in a Ziplock bag

@BradCanning/ TikTok

After the seed has been in the bag for two to three weeks, it’s time to pull it out and crack it open.

4. Fill a jar with water and suspend the seed

@BradCanning/ TikTok

According to Canning’s TikTok “Put the root in water and it will start to sprout … be careful though, this is a total addiction.”

Make sure to place only the roots or half of the seed in water. To do this, Canning used a vase with an opening that fits around the diameter of the seed. Note: others often insert wooden pegs into the seed to suspend it above the water. The root will slowly grow into the water below which means you’ve got a healthy growing plant on your hands.

5. Once the plant gets to a good size pot it in soil.

@BradCanning/ TikTok

Once the plant gets to a good size you can pot it in soil or in a bigger vase to ensure that it keeps growing. According to SF Gate, “After that, the plant takes 10 to 15 years to grow large enough to fruit, which it only does in suitable growing conditions. In U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 12, it’s safe to grow avocado plants outside. In colder zones, they make attractive houseplants but are unlikely to bear fruit.”

For the full video check it out here.

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