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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Natural Hair Progress, New Hair Color & Local Beauty Purchases.

Life has been crazy. From my family & my grandmother still unwell, to my certification classes being much harder than I'd thought they be, to doing GAL VIP work as well as other graphic work projects, (and a little bit of dating and flings on the side...), I cannot seem to get time to sit down and make blogging a regular thing!

But! Here I am with a new post :) I'm going to share with you all my beauty updates so far.

I forget if I made a formal post about having stopped applying perms to my hair and such, but it's officially been a full year since I stopped. Last February or March was the last time I had permed my hair, which because of an lolaccident (coldest day of the year, cold water froze up + burning chemicals in my hair), I had to stop perming in order to let my hair grow out.

The damage I received wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been-- luckily I would prep my scalp with oil before perming it so I did not suffer any chemical burns to my scalp~ however, a lot of my hair did become really over-processed, especially around the crown of my head where a bunch of it broke off in the back. It wasn't really noticeable because I have really thick hair, but I didn't want to risk putting any more chemicals on it and making the damage worse.

So since March 2014 I have been on a no-perm fast, and I don't miss the 'creamy crack' one bit.

My new hair regimen only really consisted of a handful of things-- 100% pure edible coconut oil (frankly if you can eat it, then it's good for your hair as well), almond oil, occasionally extra virgin olive oil, and then for washing I would use a dandruff shampoo (which was another major problem for me) along with Creme of Nature's Argan Oil conditioning treatment, occasionally switching out and using a garlic conditioner. I would wash my hair, using my nails to massage and exfoliate my scalp to break up the dead skin, put the conditioner in my hair and let it sit for 30-45 minutes before washing out, and afterwards I would moisturize with whatever oil of choice and then either put my hair in twists or in braids. So for most of the time I either had my hair naturally stretched into soft waves without heat, or I rocked a little twist-out afro or something.

The past 12 months were really fun because I got to learn so much about my natural hair.. how to take care of it in it's natural state, how to prep-style it after washing, and watching it grow pretty quickly! When I first started, I had cut my hair to my collarbone (I didn't cut all of my damaged hair or did a 'big chop', because I value long hair the most). By early February, my hair was down to my breast when fully stretched. It grew about 10 inches or so.

Around December I decided I was going to make a little change and dye my hair. I was craving to do an ash brown for a while and decided that my birthday was the best time to do it! For my birthday I bought some hair extension wefts from Aliexpress (review to come soon!), bought a buttload of dye and bleach, and went to my sister who did the whole process for me. I ended up buying Wella "Color Charm" dyes in 6A (or a 6AA?), and also 7AA. We bleached my extensions (I ended up dyeing it another day), and then we dyed my hair without the use of bleach. After that process, my sister cut all the damaged hair off and this was the result:

A photo posted by Amber (@amanihime) on
My hair is back to past the collarbone stretched. Only the very tips of the ends are remains of my last perm. The color is really nice, though I was worried about it being too close to my scalp color, but eventually new growth came in a bit and showed the difference much better. Funny enough, my roots actually came out lighter while the ends came out darker, though they were setting for the same amount of time and the same color. I only assume that it was become of my ends being treated with perm vs. my virgin new growth.

You see my hair silk-pressed in one photo and freshly washed  in the next? Do you see that beauty? ; v; Since my hair was always long and had all the length to it, I couldn't properly determine my curl pattern, but now that it's cut I can definitely see that I am around a 3C-4A (more towards 3C). Despite how ridiculously thick my hair is, my hair is so tamable and I barely get tangles. Since I've had it dyed, I've been only pressing the front-half of my head, while keeping the back coarse, putting it in braids and then wearing my new clip-on half-wig piece and extensions.

A photo posted by Amber (@amanihime) on

With the extensions in--
Feels good man.

Recently I got a few new products for not only my hair, but my skin as well. I'll first start with my local shopping--

I've been buying loads more of the Creme of Nature Argan Oil packets, along with my new Silicone-Mix conditioner. The Silicone-mix conditioner is mainly for my hair extensions, but I've been using it on my hair as well and it has been working wonders. Naturalistas don't seem to like this product too often because it seals your hair and keeps any moisture from getting in it, but using 1:1 mix of both conditioners really freshened my hair, made it ridiculously soft and manageable. The only thing I will say is that the silicone mix has a strong fragrance, but since I'm mixing it with other conditioners, the smell isn't as potent as when used alone.

My other recent product from the local shop has been the Dudu-Osun black soap, which is described as an organic black soap from Africa, made with all-natural ingredients like honey, lemon, and it helps heal acne by lightening the scarring. Since in the last two years I've been breaking out pretty bad due to stress, I decided to get this product. Despite my stance on things like skin-bleaching that got me a bit paranoid, my favorite Youtube beauty gurus (with BEAUTIFUL dark skin) have recommended this product for their daily skincare routine, so I decided to give it a try. So far it has been very effective, and I'll elaborate on it in a future post as well.

I also have this Dark & Lovely Anti-Reversal cream, which I now use after washing to help set my hair for whatever I do to it, whether I blowdry it, or stretch it out naturally, or twist up my hair. It does a pretty good job in keeping the hair from reverting in wet conditions... we'll see how it does in the humid summer months though.

Other than that, I have been picking up some new makeup products, mainly NYX's "Copenhagen" & "Transylvania" liquid lippies which were the rage last October. Literally, they've been sold out for months in my local beauty supply stores, as well as online, but recently I managed to get the colors. They are beautiful dark lippies and they last for quite a while too! Besides that, I have also been purchasing L.A. Girl's Pro.Conceal HD concealer which is another popular product among POC makeup enthusiasts. I've actually been using the lighter shade "Warm Honey" for a while, and then later on Youtube gurus got hooked onto it and have been praising it since. I only just recently got the darker shade "Toast" to aid in contouring. I plan to get an even lighter one for when I want more highlight~ and then last but not least, I got a Victoria's Secret Christmas-edition Beauty Rush lip gloss like I usually do every semi-annual. The photo makes it look a bit dark but in actuality it has this kind of nudy-pink color, and it's also a gradient so the tip-half is more of a darker tone while the other half of the tube is a lighter tone. I just really have a thing for 'wintery' lip glosses that remind me of sugar cookies, cinnamon, brown sugar, or toffee.

Next is my Winter/Spring 2015 Beauty Haul~ I got so much stuff that I have to make a separate post for it xD

Stay tuned!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Is Black Diamond -really- helping Gyaru?

This has been on my mind for a few days now. With 小悪魔Ageha currently without a publisher (though it's sister mag 姉Ageha is set to start circulation again in August), and EGG supposedly being "DONE" and officially "retiring"/shutting down (I say this because this is not the first time they've attempted to 'quit' before coming back..), the spotlight on Japanese Gyaru subculture has been dimming. The real gyaru are still around, but admittedly things like gal circle activity are slowly dwindling. The question that's been buzzing around is, "is Gyaru dead???"

Firstly, just because the gyaru magazines are currently not in circulation does not mean the entire thing is done for. People seem to forget the roots of Gyaru as a counter-culture movement. It was not intended to be a popular 'trendy' style, it was created out of rebellion. Just because it's no longer mainstream, does not mean it loses it's identity and it's livelihood completely. Many gyaru brands in 109 and online are still going pretty strong, e.x. D.I.A., Gold's Infinity, et cetera, and while for some it may be difficult to keep track of current gal-cirs and event circles,  (especially if you're not familiar with navigating Japanese SNS sites like crooz or have access to mixi), there are still plenty of dark gals around, and gal circles still do exist and are active. You can still catch recent circle parapara events via Youtube, and I have seen many westerners abroad say that there are actually many gyaru outside of Tokyo in other prefectures.

With all these magazines "dying" all around, I decided to dig up old EGG magazine scans from my harddrive, mainly from 2008-2010. Some might coin those years the "golden years" for Gyaru fashion (pun intended) since it was the period where it's popularity was at it's peak. Besides for nostalgia, I was looking at the trends and the outfits from each spread and street snap; and in doing so, I noticed something. That is, how incredibly simple and convenient gal style was.

"lol girl wut r u talkin about--"

What I'm saying is that the recurring trends and outfits are honestly ridiculously simple, and that the main important part is the girl's ability to be able to make simple things work together. Graphic tees over striped tanks. Fluorescent greens and yellow tops with neon pink skirt, or denim skirt and neon pink or multicolored pumps. Neon fishnets over equally bold knee high socks. Hints of shocking purple in a completely black and white outfit. Even in the most simplistic of outfits, GAL is screaming out through every part of their being. Everything looked DIY, or quick/fast fashion put together in an unconventionally colorful manner.

Seeing all this variety made me wonder to myself, "Why aren't a lot of us in the west getting this down?" Fact of the matter is, no one has creativity (Besides maybe some European gals. It seems they're all flawless...ermgherd). There are really not that many girls who try to even attempt to recognize the basics of the style, whether it's makeup or clothing, and for that reason they can't even step into the area where they can break color boundaries or take things from western fashion and make it work. We are admittedly obsessed with the popular well-known brands-- even those who supposedly 'hate brand' or 'hate brandwhores/people who can personally afford brand for themselves' cannot distance themselves from brand because that is all they know, and most don't know how to recreate the style's aesthetics with non-brand items. We are so stuck onto the brand images and concepts of D.I.A., of M*A*R*S, La Pafait and less often nowadays, COCOLULU.

Besides the effort of the gals in making almost anything work, I also noticed other things-- the way their hair was laid. They were always hairstyles that were easy to do on your own, for the most part; hair down, up-dos, partials-- wavy, curly, SUPERcurly, pin-straight, heavily teased, crimped, etc. A lot of them could be done in maybe about 30 minutes average. Their nails were simple-- and when I mean simple, I mean for the gals who had their nails done, even the crazy 3-D deco'd nails, were either 'normal' tip length, or at least long enough to be practical and functional.

(excuse the poor quality.)

Seeing these things, my mind begin to shift over to Black Diamond. All past drama aside (e.x. with the failed Black Diamond International), I do admire the Black Diamond girls for kind of still being there as a "visible" face of gyaru. Not having expected them to last long, especially under the production of shady Pontsuyo, a part of me is pleased that they're still out and about and active.

However, in a way, their style may be doing more bad than good. I'll break it down into major points:

  Unrealistically High Maintenance


I'm talking about hair and nails. Not every single member does this, but a good amount of the main faces of BDia do.

While big and detailed enough to make anyone go "WOAH!", most of the huge "sujimori" ("筋盛り" suji- literally meaning "stripe/streaks", -mori describing voluminous) hairstyles are salon sets, not done by the girls themselves. The complexity of the hairstyles aren't convenient to the everyday person. From personal experience, attempting sujimori could take about 2 hours or so trying to do it -on your own-, with your own hair, especially depending on how intricate someone is trying to go, and how well your hair can hold up. For a lot of people, that could be a pretty good chunk of your day, or at least a good chunk of your normal 'prep time' when it comes to going out. Even as far as using wigs, synthetic wigs in particular, it can take about 10 hours including washing and prepping to style a wig if you want it to look good and actually realistic.

The many stripes of a sujimori set is visible, even through
blurry screencaps
In comparison, EGG kept their styling reasonably easy with all sorts of styling. Even Ageha, to a point Long hair, short hair, straight hair, curled hair, crimped hair, ponytail, pigtail, on and on and on. You saw enough of each kind of hair length and style that there was not much reason to think "I can't do gal with short hair", or, "I can't leave my hair straight". Heck yes you could! But with all the mori styling in Black Diamond, it kind of tells a different thing, one with less options and lots of maintenance. The only time you saw them without anything special would be during their off-days, definitely not so much with press shoots or events.

Even from the perspective of Japanese hostesses (which I've seen through multiple sources, one of them being the 2009 New York Times article's video feature), those who bother to get things like mori hair sets don't have time to do it step-by-step; they bring all their crap to the hair salon, and have their hair and makeup prepped simultaneously. Not only is sujimori time-consuming no matter how you do it, in terms of being a regular at the hair salon, that's like dough turning to liquid and spilling out of your pocket constantly. For many it's an unnecessary expense and something girls nowadays wouldn't bother trying to do it on a regular basis. And while sujimori was a big thing in Ageha, Ageha was mainly catering to actual hostesses anyways, not regular gyaru; and even then, they had their fair share of do-able mori hair set tutorials if some wanted to go that extra mile.(as well as BETTY magazine)

While there are girls who don't -usually- get too much done, they usually end up in the shadows of Harutamu and co.'s magnificent salon hair. For example Demi, who is effortlessly gyaru without the detailed striped locks (and she seem to have a lot more popularity on her own!), and then at times Mayuchibi would either have simple hair, or a more -doable- mori style. Pomitan tends to have her hair mori'd out, but sometimes she'll rock a more doable style as well. 

Sakurina's nails, from some time ago.
Ridiculous deco, but still about 3-4 in.
Now as far as nails...again, not every BD member get their nails done, but those that do usually go hard... to the point where they can't even properly function without their fingers spread miles apart. The most notorious would be the supercutie Harutamu, who was featured for getting Candy Crush and My Melody figures clustered all along 6-8 inch pointed nails. Of  course that is not her only ridiculous set, it's a regular thing she does. However, when most see that, in regards to convenience and basic movement, it's more or less an instant "nope".

I'd say 4 or 5 inch nails can be seen as really long, but leaving the wearer to be able to do normal activities (with some getting used to). Even Ageha model Sakurina, who was known for ridiculously cluttered nails, usually kept hers at a reasonable length. Long nails are good as long as you can figure out how to wipe your tush, hold utensils, handle money, and not snagging pieces on everything. Even looking through "gyaru nails" or something via. Google or Tumblr, you can see a variety of lengths and designs, most sets are about 4 inches or shorter. (Different photos of different girls' nails, not the same chick because you will obviously keep getting the same lengths.)

Cookie-Cutter Outfits

While D.I.A. is nowhere near losing their overall popularity, a lot of their 2012-2013 lines became extremely played out thanks to Black Diamond. For a good minute there were back-to-back, month-after-month repeats of the same kind of outfits; no mixing and matching different brands to make unique looks, you had maybe 3 girls in the same exact outfit, maybe different colorways; 4 of them wearing the same top, 6 of them the same belt, and then 12 of them the same furry legwarmers in different colors. Twinning/Tripling/Quartupleting outfits could be fun, but only on an occasional basis-- these girls did it constantly and consistently, to the point where their look got really old, REAL fast. Also, crocs (enough said).

While D.I.A. is overall cool, and maintains this brand concept of 'bad ass', when too many people wear the same brand head-to-toe, over and over again, it becomes a bit discouraging and may steer people away from 'looking the same'. Not to mention that D.I.A. is not a 'fast' fashion store-- one would need to throw down some money for it, so when you got high price + someone wearing the living hell out of every piece, it leaves people less enthusiastic about purchasing for themselves. (Plus, at some point in time, a gal wearing nothing but a specific brand of clothing religiously often got looked at for being a poser...)

I WILL say however, that in recent times the Black Diamond members seem to be breaking away from the "Octuplet" twinning thing and are sporting outfits that are actually a bit different from each other, aside from wearing the same D.I.A. belt. Though a majority of it is still pretty much from the same brands, the variety is giving a bit of a fresh breath of air. However, with gal fashion and trends having originated from the streets, they are nowhere nearly as raw as gals of the past or the popular "sa-jin" (a term for Gyaru circle member(s)) who have put multiple things into trend within Shibuya gal style.

Just to give you a comparison on how D.I.A. was usually used by style icons, here are a couple of scans from some old EGG. I apologize for the bad shoop... my computer had to be reset and so I had to get everything done in Paint. (Click images to enlarge)

('one thing as a statement piece***', I don't know where my mind was when I typed that LOL)

Overall, D.I.A. was used sparingly throughout different outfits, not from head to toe. In my opinion, the outfits looked more practical and obtainable to EGG'S audience. The only exception to that would maybe be Yun from time to time. We can also say the same about the COCOLULU craze as well-- the only exception was that a lot of 109 stores and cheaper brands followed COCOLULU a lot, and so there were MANY colorful clothes by different brands to choose from, to make a similar look but still look unique from others. And you may go, "But you're comparing trends from <8 years ago to now?", but my point isn't the trends itself, but the effort put into doing a creative outfit. These girls have 109 stores, Baby Shoop, Galaxxy, etc, they have their Forever 21, H&M, and other stores that are -bound- to have colorful staple clothing and whatnot but they keep to the same outfits. It becomes unclear whether their D.I.A. collection is supposed to be their 'style', or a group uniform...

Lack of Community


At a time where you would assume group/community activity essential in order to preserve the culture, it's a thing that is not happening. At least, not between Black Diamond and real gyaru circles. Why not?

In the beginning when Black Diamond first came onto the scene, with it's "120+ membership", an awful lot of that group eventually dropped out because 1) they were only interested in Black Diamond as a blog ring, which it originally was, 2) they weren't getting paid for the time like they had hoped, but a good chunk was 3) actual gyaru circle members whose time was being taken away from their real ACTIVE circles. Majority of the sa-jin who used to be part of Black Diamond were committed members of their actual circles, so when bit of media hype and 'BD meetings' came up frequently, it was taking an awful lot of time from their responsibilities as circle members.

In case you are mostly unfamiliar with gyaru circles: despite being full of crazy youth, they were actually very organized. Membership was a serious commitment to make, not just jokingly made out in old Bananaman Himura x Charasen features or Gal Circle dorama. Members were often required to put forth monthly fees for the maintenance of the group for future circle events; commitment time-wise was also essential, usually to the point where if something was seriously obstructing your attendance, e.x. a boyfriend, or even school, you were in risk of getting kicked, and in stricter policies almost 'excommunicated'. Despite there having been -different- circles, they are all more or less in connection with each other, having made collaborative events such as DANCE GROOVE, and also casually going out together and having fun at the beach and places during the summer. So if you got kicked out, you weren't allowed to join any circle in the same area or age-bracket(?) because of your wish-washy tendencies.

So when these BD members were missing out on circle stuff, they were actually missing out on a whole lot and they quit because their own circles were more important. Other members, e.x. Kaya (who was the youngest in the group at the time, 14 years old) eventually left, and apparently joined an actual gyaru-sa herself! Meanwhile Black Diamond only really do what you see them do... occasionally be on TV, occasionally coming out with a music track, occasionally at an event, and occasionally on a youtube show. Anything concerning hanging out or having fun is more or less done on a more individual friend-basis, not so much as an overall group activity unless it was necessary for the media.

That being said, if they had members who were members of gal circles, or members who were well acquainted with sa-jin, why weren't there ever any collaborative events between Shibuya circles and BD?

Drama, mainly.

Since it's conception as an actual "group" v.s. a blog ring, sa-jin saw red-flags because BD shared a very similar structure to DJ Fukui's "gal circle unit", which was music based and had a really big 'member base', resulted in getting shut down and Fukui being thrown in jail for soliciting sex from underage members. Pair that with the fact that sa-jin were having their time occupied by BD rather than their respective circles, there was always tension. Black Diamond in the beginning also made it clear that they are a "Gal UNIT", not a gal circle. Some media do regard them as a 'circle', but they aren't; however that is an example of exactly what BD Producer Pontsuyo wanted, which was the 'image' of a gal circle without claiming to be one. Then, there was the whole prostitution thing (where a lot of the BD 'members' were prostitutes, who were openly advertised on websites), which leaned heavily on the guess that Pontsuyo was trying to be the new Fukui... then there was the fallout of Black Diamond International; and not long after that, the number of girls at BD gatherings was cut by at least half (most likely due to the realization that most, if none of these girls would ever see any sort of cut from the BD music/fan club sales, via 109 store or BD shop on facebook).

Later on, (and several back-and-forths later, because Pontsuyo often started drama on sa-jin mobile forums) things calmed down between Pontsuyo and sa-jin; besides random occasional times where he acts like a straight up kid against guys half his age. But overall, fact of the matter is is that the producer is really in it for the money and besides big events like last year's Campus Summit, he wouldn't actually commit to any actual circle events or collaborative circle events such as Dance Groove. Instead he commits to trying to make BD events (often with a lot of normal working men showing up, barely any gals..), or things like GAL CON which another gal networking event (but again, not that big of a gal turnout, besides select featured models and BD members, females that are more on the normal side, and quite a bit of non-galo men).

Overall, with the major gal magazines currently down for the count, and Dance Groove discontinued, and details of Campus Summit 2014 kind of seeming a bit iffy this year, I'm not really optimistic about Black Diamond's current position as far as promotion. While at times they're nice to look at, when looked at in terms of community, the group identity itself is quite disconnected from the actual gal/circle subculture; and then in terms of style, they're not exactly fresh, and they aren't exactly trendsetters in nature. It's less of the "GET WILD, BE SEXY!" mantra promoting fun and living out youth as crazy as possible, and more 'let's all dress up for photos.' Even as far as live musical performances, they are unorganized, often dance out of sync. There's no real effort on maintaining or improving their brand image, nor are they doing much to be style icons. 100+ members, but only about 6-7 of them are really showcased all the time... what about the others?

As a group entity, just photos and minor features are not enough to revitalize the GAL spirit in Shibuya. Even with summer being here, there is nothing to inspire people to get excited and be flashy and fun. MAYBE things will look better with Demi back in the group, but I can only hope that the underground gal culture in Shibuya revives by itself, or that all the gals outside of Tokyo continue to rock the style in pride!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Japan Day NYC 2014 -- JERO

Finally doing an actual update (with pictures! Ahhhh!)

This year has been really trying for me, mentally, emotionally.. and May is proving itself to be one of the WORST months so far.

But~ that didn't mean I didn't have at least ONE good day where I managed to go out and enjoy myself for once!

Japan Day NYC is an annual event that happens every May/June, right at the end of cherry blossom season. It's a pretty huge event, drawing thousands of people from all across that wants a bit of Japanese culture. From kimono/yukata dressing, to kabuki facepaint, to Hello Kitty, and then of course all of the Japanese street food stands.

I usually never go to Japan Day because of the crowds and because how early everything ends compared to other festivals. BUT the one thing that did draw me was the fact that the special performance for this year was going to be Jero. If you don't know him, he is from Pittsburgh PA, and is the first black Enka (Japanese blues) singer in Japanese music history. He is very handsome, and is known for bringing a more 'contemporary, worldly' look to enka music, which is usually old-fashionded down to the stage outfits. For some reason or another it's a bit difficult to really pull up his activity online, so that is the main reason why I wanted to go this year.

So as always, I pulled out my yukata, put my face on, got my hair together, and went out. I met up with one of the local gals Hannah who was donning her new yukata oiran-style like I was.

I didn't get too many pictures asides from a few of us that I have reserved for later, and then the performance photos, but enjoy them anyways!

Jero prepping to go on stage.

Brief introduction

I also uploaded some clips from Jero's performance onto my Youtube channel~

I'm not too keen on Japanese music (it's the way a lot of people sing, especially with their pop genres), enka is definitely for people with an acquired taste! But the slightly contemporary feel of Jero's music helps me warm up to it a bit more.

(I also like Jero's outfit of choice--- is it weird to mention that? xD The pinkish color with the blue? It's kind of like a cobalt blue, it was a pretty combination. Keeping that color scheme in mind for later~)

Once he was done with his own songs, he quickly got changed for the NY bon odori (which the song made for Japan Day was pretty corny, but heh). The group that was singing with him were the Japanese club/class from LaGuardia High School.. when they mentioned that, I had painful flashbacks from my time there, aha x ___x

The beginning of the dance. I have -some- video but not a lot. We were in the middle of the sun and the heat started to become a little unbearable!

Unfortunately we couldn't get a picture with him, which would've been so cool! But of course he was tired (and all that sun beaming down while he was performing), plus a crowd was kind of forming so if he took a picture with us, then he would have to do take a picture with everyone. But he was super sweet in person! And he had such good skin = w= the best of both worlds I bet~ so handsome After the festival was pretty much over, I brought Hannah and her boyfriend to Village Yokocho in St. Mark's for some grilled and fried goodness. As usual, I got my pumpkin and onion kushiage, along with a spicy tuna bowl. Then I also split some okonomiyaki with Hannah and her boyfriend. Needless to say we could barely eat it all..

All that goodness.. At the end of all that walking, standing, and eating pretty much killed us but Hannah got this nice photo of us at the end, which came out pretty nice!

Hoping for a super cool summer! 

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