Brittany Herbert, Beyond The Limited Visuals of Beauty

brittany-herbert-for-blog“THE FIRST AND SIMPLEST EMOTION WHICH WE DISCOVER IN THE HUMAN MIND, IS CURIOSITY, said Edmund Burke, a philosopher back in the mid-1700s. And I couldn’t agree more. Curiosity, or what I like to call “Innocent serendipity,” is what makes the journey of life so stupendously exhilarating and meaningful. Without the rudimentary elements of curiosity, I believe that not only would life become extremely boring to those who lacked curiosity, but it will seize to make sense altogether. In like manner, it was that kind of “first and simplest emotion” of curiosity that Edmund Burke talked about, that, provoked me to want to pick the brains of 21-year-old Brittany Herbert. And what I discovered about myself and about Brittany Herbert, during our intercourse of literal delights and awe-inspiring contingencies, further cemented my beliefs in the power of curiosity.

21-year-old Brittany Herbert is a senior at the University At Buffalo—-double majoring in legal studies and African American studies. And she’s from a very small town in Saratoga New York—-only 3,000 people—which she did not like, by the way. “There weren’t a lot to do there,” she said, with one of her legs crossed over the other, “Except for hiking at the Adirondacks mountains…..”—Brittany pauses for a brief second to survey the handful of students walking by— then, she resumed while staring directly into my eyes; “When I came to Buffalo it was a huge culture shock. There was a lot of diversity; a lot of things to do….and I just fell in love with it.”

By the same token, and speaking of falling in love, the amount of celestial beauty that has been bestowed upon Brittany Herbert is enough to make any decent man of nobility and vigor instantly fall in love with her. Her long flowing hair was a rich shade of mahogany. It sometimes flowed in waves, from her right to her left shoulders; to adorn her glowing, porcelain-like skin. Her eyes, framed by long lashes, were two different colors; one bright, emerald-green and the other golden-brown, which, seemed to brighten the world. With her straight nose and full lips – she seemed the picture of perfection—sculptured from the hands of God himself. When she smiled, it seemed like the whole world sighed with contentment. When she laughed, it seemed like whole the world laughed with her. And had Brittany decided to weep right there in front of me, the whole world would have wanted to comfort her.

As our delightful conversation progressed, Brittany revealed to me that she liked spending most of her time working out, playing intramural soccer, going to various sporting events on campus, and getting involved in demonstrations. Insofar, she’s been to two Black Lives Matter protests, a Donald Trump rally, and another different kind of protest on campus. “Were you here last year?” she asked. No, I replied. “Well, last year this one white, artist girl had a white-only sign on campus and it made a lot of people really angry with her.” Then she shared with me about the time when she bravely went to a Donald Trump rally at the Buffalo, Niagara Convention Center. “It was really scary;” she said. “Those supporters of his were really passionate.” Given how problematic Trump is and also how passionate his supporters can be, I wasn’t surprised when Brittany said that she was scared. I myself did not go, but I heard from one of my good friends that braved the event, that there were lots of police outside the convention center making sure that protesters weren’t getting out of line and, that, some people got their cameras smashed.

What kind of music do you listen to? I asked. “Have you heard the album ‘To pimp a butterfly’ by Kendrick Lamar?’…..I like that album because it’s so symbolic and powerful,” she said. When I asked her; if you had three words to describe yourself what would those three words be? she replied, “Independent, Unique, and Passionate.” In view of that, she also said that she likes to speak her mind and that she did not care what people thought about her. How fascinating! Brittany Herbert, one who tends to be very reserved and private in class, was actually turning out to be a pretty interesting, complicated, and directional human being. It would be a crime to say that I wasn’t enjoying what I was discovering.

On the contrary, and although Brittany is speaking freely with me at the moment, she’s sort of guarded and being very strategic with her words. If you could see her now, you would see that she’s carrying the expressions of a chess player, whose opponent hasn’t made a move, but yet, wants to decipher what their first and next move is going to be. And some of the answers that she’s giving me are short and brief—-partly because she’s nervous, but more so, because she’s trying to protect herself from something. “People always say that to me;” she admitted, looking a little surprised after I mentioned it. “That….I don’t come off as someone approachable.” And why is that?  I asked. “I think it’s because I’m always thinking….and I always look so serious because of it,” she replied.

Whatever made Brittany be so guarded and protective, was not my business. And plus, I got the sense that she did not want to entertain that type of curiosity—-so I left it alone. What was interesting and far more important, however, is that I was discovering—-thanks to that “first and simplest emotion of curiosity” that Edmund Burke mentioned, that Brittany was more than just her celestial beauty.

“I am really funny!” she said, with a smile on her face. “And I’m very passionate about eating healthy. It’s a big thing for me!” In addition to those things that Brittany was proud to reveal to me, she also emphasized that fact that she likes to “Think.” On her twitter and other social media sites, she tells me, are home to some of her deepest and most poetic thoughts. As an illustration, allow me to draw your attention to exhibit A and B; both from her twitter site. She writes; “May I always find the strength to continue to be a genuine person despite falling victim to the deception and bad intentions of others.” Here is another one; “Forgive yourself for the blindness that put you in the path of those who betrayed you. Sometimes a good heart doesn’t see the bad.”

Social theorist and feminist writer, Simone De Beauvoir once wrote, “I am too intelligent, too demanding, and too resourceful for anyone to be able to take charge of me entirely. No one knows me or loves me completely. I have only myself.” This may be a stretch of my imagination; but I think partly the reason why Brittany is so guarded and protective of her person, is because she knows—philosophically and literally–like Simone De Beauvoir, that no matter whom you may run into, no one will be able to know and love you completely like you would to yourself. Inasmuch as that may be true to intelligent people like Brittany and Simone De Beauvoir, it is one of the many dilemmas that people with beauty often faces when they try to express themselves to other people. The eyes of beholder, in what I’ve come to discover, only sees what’s on the surface—and not below.

For this reason, and in conclusion, that is why curiosity or “Innocent serendipity” are two of the most important qualities to have in the first place; because it cuts through the physical assumptions of people and gets right to the core of who or what people are. To the end that I was able to entertain my curiosity by intercoursing with Brittany, admittedly, however, I too had fallen victim to the limited visuals that are ever present in the eyes of the beholder. You see, before I approached her, I too thought that Brittany was just her celestial beauty, and, that she lacked agency, expression, and reveries. And boy was I wrong! Brittany Herbert is/was smart, strategic, and very poetic. I am happy that this experience has enabled me to discover how limiting the visuals of beauty can be. And that, moving forward, I need to approach—not just beautiful people—but every other person, with the first and most simplest emotion that can and, has been, discovered in the human mind; curiosity.

To find out more about Brittany Herbert, look for her on Facebook; Brittany Herbert

To see some of her poetic and thoughtful quotes, visit her Twitter; @___Brittxny

Click the following link to read about our last week’s Weekly Inspiring Person; Melinda Ortiz-Rodriguez, a young aspiring social worker.

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Melinda Ortiz-Rodriguez, The Young Aspiring Social Worker

melinda-for-blogWESTERN NEW YORK HAS A PRETTY BAD HOMELESS PROBLEM. Specifically, in Erie County, roughly five-thousand people were homeless last year, according to statistics from the website of Homeless Alliance Of WNY. Seventy-four percent of them were single females who were the head of their households. And Twenty-seven percent of them were children under the age of eighteen. At any given night, one-thousand people can/and will experience some form of homelessness. Too often—and not just Buffalo but society in general—tend to approach this issue of homelessness with apathy, condemnation, and sometimes, even violence. But, luckily, however, not all people see, treat, and approach victims of homelessness in that same way.

Some, like 21-year-old Melinda Ortiz-Rodriguez, sees them as human beings whom are temporarily out of place—mentally, physically, or otherwise. And as an aspiring social worker, Melinda hopes to someday not only help victims of homelessness, but also anybody else who may need her assistance—especially those who are not too proud to admit that they need the help, to begin with.

“Everyone should accept the fact that they need help, when they need help,” said 21-year-old Melinda Ortiz-Rodriguez, whom is sitting across from me in a large conference room on campus that neither of us was supposed to be in. “If you can accept that you need help, then what could possibly go wrong?” she beggingly asked, as if I needed help and was refusing to acknowledge it. “Why must your pride and ego get in the way of you receiving an opportunity?”

Melinda Ortiz-Rodriguez has really long, curly black hair and one of the most attractive faces that I’ve seen in a very long time. Presently, she’s sporting a grey sweater with an eloquent beige scarf that hangs effortlessly down her chest. Underneath one of her wrists, is a black flowerhead tattoo about the size of a penny. Throughout our enjoyable conversation, she sometimes would play with her hair and, unworryingly, lean her entire body towards the table between us. fearlessly, and with one of her legs crossed over the other, she would answere my perplexing questions with absolute ease—-as if she was debriefed on what I was going to ask her before our interview commenced. As she and I spoke, her silver earrings dangled and swayed from side to side.

Aside from the obvious and aforesaid visual cues, there was something deeper about Melinda that really stood out to me—and, which could have only been discovered once you’ve actually spent some time with her. And that discovery was how selfless and religious she was. As I continue with this piece, it will not be long before you, yourself, start to pick up on not only the importunity of the aforesaid discoveries, but also the contributory efficacies to the reason why she is the way she is.

“In my house, I was brought up like, if you see something that needs to be done, you do it,” Melinda tells me. “If you see that some of the dishes aren’t done, you do it. If you see something still on the floor, and no matter who did it, you just clean it up.” Melinda is the oldest of four children—-and although she’s the only girl in her family, she’s managed to hold her own pretty well. And being the oldest, she notes, has provided her with many opportunities to help those who may not be able to help themselves. In any household, seeing something that is temporarily out of place and doing your part to fix it, she tells me, is a kind of moral responsibility that we all should give ourselves.

Beyond her household, it was not long before that moral responsibility that she mentioned, would come to play an important role when she was surprisingly presented with an opportunity to help out one of her relatives whom, at the time, was homelessly roaming the streets of Buffalo. “When my uncle just got out of jail,” she said, “He was like embarrassed to ask us for help—he kept telling us that everything was cool, and stuff—but he was actually homeless. One day, I found him Downtown and I was like, ‘what are you doing?…..you have a family! I would let you sleep in my bed with me before I let you sleep out here on the streets….you’re my uncle, I love you, what are you doing?!'” After some back and forth with her uncle, she finally managed to convince him that she could help him. Today, he is self-sufficient, no longer homeless and is taking care of his family.

The reason why people refuse help—even when they are clearly in need of it, has always been a mystery to me. I know that it may be embarrassing to relinquish your pride and accept that you need help, but, like Melinda said, what could possibly go wrong if you were to receive an opportunity? Intellectually, I am quite aware that it is easy to sit here and say that—-and, imagine that if we were confronted by a homeless person we would do our part to help them. But, emotionally, and in the heat of the moment, who amongst us are actually going to lend a helping hand when the opportunity presents itself? Not a lot. It takes a certain kind of person to selflessly be able to acknowledge when something is temporarily out of place, and to actually want to fix it—-instead of leaving the situation alone by walking away as if it did not concern them. Those who choose the former, like Melinda Ortiz-Rodriguez, are truly exceptional.

“When people actually need help and you help them,” Melinda said, “It’s like a weight lifted off their shoulders. And in turn, I feel that way, too…..because I feel like I actually helped someone and it mattered.” When I asked her if being religious had anything to do with the way she felt about helping people, she said that the “Point of being a Christain is spreading the love of God, ” and If you see someone that needs help and you, “Sit there and judge them, then your not effectively expressing yourself the way that you should as a Christain.” Although such a mindset is romantic and insanely noble, Melinda is quite aware that she alone can not help everybody. But that’s not stopping her. In fact, that is why she is putting herself through school so she can someday be a part of the institution of social workers—-because, with an establishment, she would be able to help a lot more people.

At this point in our conversation, a female student approached the prodigious doors of the conference room and politely asked, “When are you guys gonna to be done…..cus’ I reserved this room for us to study and my friends are gonna be here soon?” Instead of packing up our things—because we weren’t slated to be there in the first place—Melinda and I looked up at the female student and said, “Oh…” and then embarrassingly looked at each other and laughed. “Don’t worry, you guys don’t have to wrap up right away if your still busy,” the female student said, “My friends are gonna be a little late.” Although we appreciated the reassurance, we weren’t just going to leave anytime soon. Primarily, because our conversation had become so dangerously enjoyable. Moreover, now that we were aware of the situation, I would be lying if I said that we did not pick up the pace a little.

Inasmuch as helping people—-like, her direct family members and other relatives—-seems to be a natural thing for Melinda, she has also lend a helping hand to other people outside of her family. “When my one best friend—we’ve been best friends since Kindergarten—had a baby,” Melinda said, “I helped her with her baby and stuff.” Then, there “Was the time when I volunteered at a nursing home,” she continued. “I cleaned, brought the elderly people their meals, and sometimes, gave them a bath. It was a very rewarding experience.”

“Do you know who Claire is?” Melinda excitedly asked me with her eyes wide open. No, I do not,” I answered. “Well, Claire,” she said, “Is this homeless lady that everybody in Buffalo knows. People love her, too; they’ll give her a ride, they’ll give her food, they’ll give her clothes, and they’ll give her money, because she’s so down-to-earth and real.” As she went on about Claire, it was obvious that she really cared about people—-despite their circumstances. “But, Barry wasn’t like Claire,” she said, speaking of these people as if they were her own family members. “I think he had schizophrenia, or something……I’m not a hundred percent sure, don’t quote me on that. But he definitely had a speech problem. Sometimes he’ll like talk to you normally, but then other times he’ll just start mumbling. He was in-and-out of jail, you know, for harassing people about giving him money…..and he told me that he had a family and a drug problem, and that he regretted doing drugs because he was homeless after that.”

Although this may be true, that, nearly a quarter of all homeless people are homeless because of a drug problem, Melinda thinks that the very fact that people like Claire and Barry “Understood” where they went wrong, was very “Incredible.” Consequently, and to my delight for having witnessed it in real time, Melinda made another startling discovery to one of the biggest reasons why she wanted to get her degree in social work—i.e., if people are aware of where they went wrong then they are not only worthy of redemption, but are also capable of transcendence.

At such a young age, Melinda’s unique way of looking at things—particularly, the situation of homelessness—-not only proves that young people are insanely mature in their own right, but it also demonstrates that they can be/and are massively inspiring. It is the goal of this series to find and highlight people that are pursuing their dreams and, at the same time, making a difference in other people’s lives. And 21-year-old Melinda Ortiz-Rodriguez certainly fits the bill. Having only spent a few minutes with her, it wasn’t hard to imagine that Melinda will have no problem connecting with people and getting them the help that they needed—if, of course, they were willing to put their egos aside.

Generally speaking, Melinda’s approach towards people or towards the victims of homelessness is a warm and pleasant approach. She does not disparage them nor ignore their peculiar stories—-rather, she welcomes them and their stories with open ears. Such an approach, in my opinion, is only possible when you sincerely understand something that most people do not—-i.e., before someone is homeless, they are first, a human being. And every human being deserves love, compassion, and some kind of assistance. And although Buffalo, “the city of good neighbors,” sometimes forget to uphold its own idioms—-especially when it comes to its most vulnerable citizens—-thankfully, however, there are still people out there like, 21-year-old Melinda Ortiz-Rodriguez, that are doing their part, no matter how little it may be, to remind everyone of what our wonderful city is all about.

Before Melinda and I signaled to the female student from before, that we were done with our engaging and enjoyable interview, I asked Melinda this question; “If you had three words to describe yourself, what would those three words be?” She took her time with the question, first looking around the room and then looking back at me. Then she uttered “Nice, trustworthy, and…..caring.” having witnessed it from up close myself, I couldn’t agree more.

To connect wit Melinda Ortiz-Rodriguez, look for her on Facebook@MelindaOrtiz-Rodriguez

Be sure to click the following link to read about our last week’s inspiring person; 30-year-old Dreamscape photographer, Noël Alvarenga from Los Angeles California. 

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Noël Alvarenga, Photography At It’s Finest

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NOEL ALVARENGA IS A VERY TALENTED PHOTOGRAPHER from Los Angeles, California. His photos or “dreamscapes,” he calls them—-which, I will allow him to define in his own words, later on; are visually-satisfying and spiritually-delightful. They not only give you goosebumps and all sorts of pleasurable emotions that cannot be easily explained, but they also give you the opportunity to submerge yourself in the images themselves.

This kind of artistic utility is both remarkable and inspiring—-hence the reason why I invited him for an interview! Like the author, Malcolm Gladwell, suggested in his wonderful book “Outliers;” it takes time (ten thousand hours) and lots of experience to truly invoke a sort of visual-passport technique that excitedly invites the viewer with stupendous grandeur and splendid jubilations. While thumping through Noel’s photographs, it would be a crime to not have noticed how advanced and fully-developed his images were.

It’s not often that I say this; but it seems to me, having accommodated myself with his sublime photographs, which I am going to present some to you in this piece, that Noel Alvarenga was born to take pictures! Having traveled to many exotic places to take some fantastic photographs, Noel Alvarenga has managed, amongst other exciting things, to lend his amazing eye for photography to some top brands, like Pacsun and Aeropostale. In light of that, I am not only confident that Noel will continue to invite imaginative participation with his “dreamscape” photographies, but his work will someday be so ubiquitous that you would be inspired by it and not have even noticed. When Noel is not busy traveling or preparing for a shoot, he spends most of his time hanging out with friends—creating lasting memories, and planning his next “dreamscapes.”

Fortunately, and before his next adventure begins, Noel Alvarenga has granted me one of the rarest opportunities to not only pick his brain but to also offer my readers, his beloved fans, and others, a chance to hear/or see the meaning behind his sublime and professorial work.

WHAT’S YOUR PASSION AND WHY?

My passion has always been sharing moments with individuals and documenting them through photographs. No matter how near or far, whatever it is that I do, and whoever it is that I share those experiences with whether friends, family, or strangers. It’s been that way since I was 15. I’m currently now 30 and the formula has been consistent.  Me, my camera, and a good time.

HOW LONG HAV YOU BEEN CAPTURING “MOMENTS” AND WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE PLACES TO SHOOT?

I’ve been capturing moments myself now for 15 years. But the passion of capturing my life experiences with people around me stems from a time when my parents were together when I was born. My mother and father had a VHS recorder and they documented my little sister and I growing up. Whether it was a birthday party, a trip to the zoo, or just playing in the living room, from the ordinary to the extraordinary, everything was captured on tape. When I was 5, my parents split up and the documentation of my life had ceased as well. It was during high school that I’d go back to those tapes and go into deep reminiscing when I realized I needed to document my life once again. So I asked for a Nikon Coolpix 2500 for Christmas at 15.

YOUR PHOTOS HAVE A LOT OF WOMEN IN THEM; LOOKING POWERFULLY-INDEPENDENT, CONFIDENT, AND DIRECTIONAL. I WONDER, IS THERE A REASON FOR THAT? OR DID THAT JUST SORT OF HAPPENED THAT WAY?

As I write this interview, I’m currently 37,000 feet in the air on my way to Chicago to photograph my friends The Head and the Heart. So I not only do travel and lifestyle photography, I shoot weddings, concerts, anything really. But what I love to showcase onto my Instagram @noel.alva stems from something that I love to call Dreamscapes. A combination of landscapes and dreamy moments. The reason for the anonymity of the individuals (most of them being women) in my photographs is so that way anyone can put themselves into the images and dream of getting away from wherever they are and see the world. Whether alone or with a best friend. I hope to inspire people to get out and explore.

HAVE YOU EVER HAD A DIFFICULT SHOOT DUE TO WEATHER, CAMERA PROBLEMS, OR ANYTHING ELSE? IF SO, WHAT HAPPENED AND HOW DID YOU PERSEVERE?

Luckily for me, most of the stuff I shoot is fun and laidback. I have never really had a strict client that I had to photograph for at a certain time. Most clients are laid back and trust in me to get the shots. But there are times when I shoot that it’s hectic, like when I went with some friends to the cliffs of North Bondi, Australia back when I lived in Australia for a year. We ended up getting caught in a thunder & lightning storm. So, what we did instead was listen to music and take in the power that mother nature is capable of and her glorious displays. Sometimes you have to set the camera down and breathe in the moments and record it only in your mind.

DO YOU EVER GET QUESTIONED IF YOU’RE A GUY OR A GIRL…..LIKR HOW I DID?

Hahahaha!! Everyone on Instagram assumes I’m a girl by the content I create, the fact that my name is Noel, and because my user profile photograph is of a blonde half naked girl sitting on a cliff; however, I’m actually a 30-year-old guy. I get this so often that it’s never bothered me. I actually kind of like it. Sometimes I’ll get messages from girls saying that I give them strength in showing that you don’t need a man in your life to be happy and I’m over here like, “Hmmmm…”

HOW MUCH OF AN ENFLUNCE DOES THE MUSIC YOU LISTEN TO AFFECT YOUR WORK AS A PHOTOGRAPHER?

Music for me is one of the pillars to being truly happy with life. I listen to music nonstop. When I sleep, when I shower, when I go about my day, when I edit, and when I shoot. I am constantly listening to music. All my photographs that I post onto IG are accompanied by a song that I feel goes well with my image. I don’t tell this to people often, but when I post a photo onto IG, I have a weird OCD thing where I have to listen to the song I post with my photo for an hour straight on repeat after I posted it on IG. I’ve been doing this ever since I began my IG account. When I tell people this, they usually think I’m crazy. Oh well.

YOU MAKE PHOTOGRAPHY LOOK EASY, WAS IT ALWAYS LIKE THAT FOR YOU? WHERE DID YOU DEVELOPE YOUR SKILLS? AND WHAT LIFE-HACKS/PHOTO TRICKS HAVE YOU PICKED UP?

Like I mentioned before, I photograph my life and the moments I share with others. It comes out easy because we are being genuine and authentic in what we do. I don’t want my photos to be posed material. We live a moment and I capture us living it. So my photo tricks are simple, play music, talk about life with my friends/strangers, and take photos. Sometimes wine is involved. =)

WHERE AND WHAT DO YOU SEE YOURSELF DOING IN 5, 10 YEARS?

I don’t know where I’m going to be in 5 to 10 years. But I know I’ll still be doing what it is that I love which is adventuring and photographing. I wasn’t a professional photographer up until 2 years ago or so. Before that, I had many other jobs and photography was always on the side. But when I wasn’t working at a pizza shop or in an office, I was out shooting. It’s my therapy and I will never stop doing it. I hope that it continues taking me to incredible places that I never been to before like my current flight to Chicago. I’ve never been there nor Nashville TN which is where I’ll be shooting tomorrow. I feel so happy that photography has taken me to new places and share experiences with new faces. It took a long time to get here and I feel many other photographers want to become an overnight success, but it takes time and patience and perfecting your craft. Do it because you love to shoot, not because you worry about how many followers you have and likes per photo.

IF YOU HAD THREE WORDS TO DESCRIBE YOURSELF WHAT WOULD THOSE THREE WORDS BE?

Dreamer. Spontaneous. Romantic.

WHAT PROJECTS/OR PHOTO SHOOTS ARE YOU PLANNING OR CURRENTLY WORKING ON? AND WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU?

Like I mentioned before, I’m heading to Chicago and Nashville to show my friends The Head and the Heart. When I get home I’m shooting for several companies such as @livelokai, @discoverLA, @casamigos, just to name a few and I hope to travel more to new places along some new faces.

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To see more of Noel’s stunning photographs, visit his Instagram@noel.alva

To find out more about Noel Alvarenga, or to book/contact him, visit his website; Noelalva.com

Be sure to click the following link to read about our last week’s inspiring person; 18-year-old landscape and portrait  photographer, Kenna Allison from Butte, Montana.

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