Couple Creates SlayTV Network To Better Represent Black LGBTQ Community

Oversexed. Catty. Stereotypical. 

These are the words director Terry Torrington uses to describe present depictions of black gay men in the media ― which is why he and his husband, Sean, are launching SlayTV, a global TV network for the black LGBTQ community. 

Sean and Terry, who are both in their 30s, came up with the idea for the network when they saw how well some of their YouTube web series were performing. “No Shade,” a dramedy about a queer black artist on a path of self-discovery, was their first online series. Its pilot episode, which premiered in February 2013, has received almost 110,000 views. 

“That’s how we really got noticed by the community,” Sean said. “Because at the time there was no other series like it. It really touched on a lot of issues going on at the time.”

The two were hesitant to create a second season for the show without a proper way to archive it. So they created Slay to catalog series they’d already made, premiere new productions and invite series ideas from the LGBTQ community. 

Love At First Night,” a Slay series created by Terry, serves as an antidote to what Sean says is a lack of representation of queer black love on other platforms. 

“I feel like we are only looked at as sex objects,” Sean said. “There are no real representations in the media when it comes to black queer love and that’s really important to me. That’s why I created ‘Love At First Night.’”

The show, which they describe as being loosely based on their relationship, is a dramedy about a black gay couple and the lives they lead in New York City.

“It really shows the dynamic of two black gay men ― or queer men ― that are in love and the issues they go through,” Sean said. 

For gay black men, the show provides a sense of relatability that they don’t often get to experience while watching television. The show’s season finale premiered last August and the two are now working on the second season. 

While “Love At First Night” and “No Shade” offer the occasional laughing fit, the Torringtons also touch on more sensitive subjects on the network. 

The Slay documentary series “Other Boys” ― created by video producer Abdool Corlette ― explores what it means to be black and queer in New York City. The 50-part series, which premiered in February, discusses family, careers and socioeconomics through the lenses of queer and transgender black men, a perspective they made a conscious decision to include.

“We need to be more intentional about when we talk about LGBTQ,” Terry said. “I think a lot of times, we’re not including the L, G, B, T and Q. … We felt we needed to be able to bridge the gap between all those acronyms.”

But whether they’re serving up laughs or painfully relatable narratives, Sean said Slay’s overall mission is to “normalize black queer and trans people of color in media.”

“I don’t feel like we are represented in the right way,” he continued. “A lot of times, [media] reappropriates a lot of things that we do. I just want to let people know where all the cool and dope things come from.”

He mentioned the popularity of terms like “slay” and “shade.” While the words are enthusiastically used in mainstream culture, their origins in the black LGBTQ community aren’t often discussed or widely known. 

This lesser-known history is part of the reason they decided to name the network SlayTV. The other influence for the title comes from the sheer excellence of black gay men. 

“We have always been here and have always been killing it,” he said. 

SlayTV is available to view now but will officially launch on May 15. 

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Source: HuffPost Black Voices

This College Is Exploring Beyoncé And Black Womanhood With 'Lemonade Week'

Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” is still serving lessons in black womanhood.

That’s why James Arnett, an English professor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, is dubbing the week of April 3 “Lemonade Week” at the college. From Monday to Thursday, the university will host daily events to discuss the topics explored on the visual album, such as the “lives, loves and pain of black women.” The event will also use Candice Benbow’s “Lemonade: The Syllabus” to guide discussions.

Arnett told The Huffington Post that inspiration for the week came after he and a colleague hosted a lunch discussion on the visuals and lyrics in “Formation.” The room was packed during the lunch and Arnett decided to take it a step further.

Even a year after its release, Arnett believes “Lemonade” is still relevant. 

“Thinking back on 2016, it was the text that felt, and still feels, like a rebuttal to the politics that were evolving,” he said. “The Super Bowl performance was a lightning rod and Rorschach test for the political horizon. Besides, it’s just a great piece of art ― beautiful music and evolution from Beyoncé as an artist, showing new range and affect, and showing her off in her best collaborative moments.”

“Lemonade Week” events will feature professors analyzing the different areas of feminism and womanism, performances by a drag queen, English and theater students showing off their work, a reader’s salon to celebrate black women writers and a “Formation” choreography lesson.

All events are free, except Thursday’s dance class, and open to the public.

“The week takes its time to celebrate Beyoncé and other groundbreaking black women,” Arnett said. “All in all, I think we were responding to the zeitgeist and trying to meet our students with thoughtful, intellectual content where they already enjoy themselves.”

Beyoncé’s latest visual album earned its way into college curriculum before. In September, University of Texas at San Antonio began offering a class on “Lemonade.”

View the full list of “Lemonade Week” events here.

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Source: HuffPost Black Voices

His Job Went To Mexico And All He Got Was This Lousy Severance

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Jeffery Bean helped make wooden caskets at the Batesville Casket factory in Batesville, Mississippi, for 26 years. Then, in March, the factory closed and Bean lost his job, along with 200 other people. 

Citing the increased popularity of cremation, Batesville Casket’s parent company said it needed to shift production of wooden caskets to Mexico in order to remain competitive. 

Bean said that he grew up in Batesville and that locals cherished their association with the company, which is one of the funeral service industry’s most iconic brands. 

“Everyone was proud of it,” Bean said. “But now it’s different.”

Last year, Batesville’s mayor went on local television and reached out to Republican Party officials in hopes of drawing Donald Trump’s attention to the shutdown. Trump had made saving factory jobs a major campaign issue and even pushed Carrier Corporation not to close a furnace factory in Indianapolis. 

But Bean said he never expected Trump to intervene in Batesville. 

“I believe in God and he’s the one that takes care of me, not the president,” he said. 

One reason that Batesville’s factory shutdown might not have received as much attention as Carrier’s plan, which received a lot, was that Bean and his colleagues lacked the protection of a union. Unlike Carrier workers, who denounced their employer to anyone who would listen, Batesville workers kept quiet.

“We didn’t want to jeopardize anything,” Bean said, referring to a severance package that he’d hoped would be hefty but that turned out to be rather disappointing. He had expected six months’ pay, but after taxes he said he wound up with two or three months’ worth. 

Bean said he has two other part-time jobs. He considers himself better off than many of his former colleagues. 

“People in Batesville are not pleased with what happened and we’re not pleased with the package we got,” Bean said. 

Batesville Casket’s parent company, Hillenbrand Inc., is headquartered in Batesville, Indiana. The firm operates three other plants in the U.S. and one in Mexico. A spokesperson declined to comment for this story.

The town of Batesville, Mississippi, is located in Panola County, the southwestern-most corner of the Appalachia region that has long symbolized America’s working class woes. Speaking to West Virginia Public Broadcasting and West Virginia University for a project called 100 Days in Appalachia, Bean said he had taken great pride in his work, even initialing finished caskets.

“That pride is no longer there, because they will not be made in Batesville, Mississippi,” Bean said in a story on 100DaysInAppalachia.com. “They will not be made in America, but be made in another country. I don’t take pride in that at all.”

Arthur Delaney co-hosts “So That Happened,” the HuffPost Politics internet radio show:

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How BET's 'Rebel' Is Reshaping The Narrative For Black Women In Hollywood

Portraying the role of Rebecca “Rebel” Knight in BET’s “Rebel” was like a dream come true for actress Danielle Moné Truitt.

Created by John Singleton, the crime drama series stars Truitt, Giancarlo Esposito, Mykelti Williamson, Cliff “Method Man” Smith, LaTanya Richardson and follows a army veteran-turned-Oakland police officer (Rebel) who leaves the force after being under an Internal Affairs-criminal investigation for shooting her patrol partner in an effort to prevent him from gunning down her younger brother.

As she continues her mission to fight crime as a private investigator, Rebel struggles to cope with her brother’s death, while protecting herself against cops who are seeking revenge.

Aside from her longtime admiration of Singleton’s expansive list of film credits, Truitt tells HuffPost that she was immediately intrigued by the nuances of the starring role.

“As a black woman in entertainment and acting, there’s not a lot of roles for us,” she said during an interview with The Huffington Post. “And sometimes with the roles, they’re not multi-layered. They don’t have depth. They don’t allow us to show different sides of our personalities as black women and different aspects of our talent as black artists.”

“So I just feel like this role was like a dream. I get to do action, and kick butt,” she continued. “I get to be vulnerable and sexy. I get to be emotional and loving. There’s just so many different aspects to the character and a lot of that is explored as the series continues.”

Exploring an empowering and revolutionary character that resonated with viewers was very necessary, according to Singleton. To that notion, the Academy Award nominated-director says his ultimate goal in developing the series was as a result of what he describes as a void in the displaying of heroic black women on television.

“Rebel is a character that you follow and see what she does, and how she emotionally handles things,” Singleton told HuffPost. “We haven’t seen a heroic black woman [on television] in a very long time. And I just felt like, let me just try to make it real, but at the same time make it a heroic film character, but make it real. There’s a whole other thing to Rebel, when you talk about what the experience of black women in America is.”

“She’s an army veteran, and she’s a detective and then things happen and then she ends up not wanting to be a part of this whole system that she’s already been a part of. So it’s a different element for a character, because it’s one thing to be a rebel and not really be a part of the system, but to be apart of the system and then rebel against it is a whole other thing.”

Prior to her most recent multi-dimensional role on a network series, Truitt was active in addressing the misuse of police force by producing an open discussion and performance event called #MoreThanAHashtag.

In the future she plans to amplify her influence around issues affecting the African American community by pursuing additional progressive roles, as well as developing a forthcoming film titled, “Unsound” ― which chronicles a woman suffering from mental issues and multiple personality disorder.

“I wanna make characters that are real and that people can really connect with,” she said. “And it’s not always about, black people looking good – to me that is not going to do us any good in the world, because the truth of the matter is, everyone is flawed and going through stuff. And that is what people connect to. People don’t connect to your perfection, they connect to the drama because we all have it prevalent in our lives.”

She went on to add, “I just wanna bring forth characters that are fully developed and I do wanna talk about issues that are kind’ve shied away from, and then also stories that uplift.”

“Rebel” airs Tuesday’s at 10pm/9pmC on BET.

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Michelle Obama Is Rocking Her Natural Hair And The Internet Can't Even

The gates of heaven opened and Michelle Obama popped up on timelines in rare form on Sunday night.

Twitter user @meagnacarta shared a photo of Obama rocking her natural hair in a low puff and gray polka dot headband, presumably wearing the purest grade of shea butter. 

It’s not confirmed exactly where the former first lady is or when the photo was taken ― though Barack Obama is currently writing his memoir in the French Polynesian islands ― but that didn’t stop Twitter from having a damn fit. Many social media users noted that they’ve been waiting for this natural hair moment for the longest. Others reveled in the glow of Obama’s melanin. 

Sentiments were reminiscent of when Obama was spotted on vacation with her husband rocking the cutest braids shortly after the 2017 inauguration. 

In a 2015 interview with The Root, Obama’s hair stylist Johnny Wright said Obama has been natural for several years. He said if Obama did abandon a fresh press for her ‘fro, it would possibly be during vacation.

Obama has kept a busy and relatively low-profile life since leaving the White House in January. She’s made a couple of surprise visits to students at Washington, D.C. schools, signed a major book deal with Penguin Randomhouse and just living life enjoying museums, restaurants and SoulCycle.

Live your best life, Michelle.

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Source: HuffPost Black Voices

Jordan Peele: 'Black Voices Will Tell Good Stories Just Like Anybody Else'

Jordan Peele says that while he is grateful for the recognition he has received for “Get Out,” the film’s success proves a valuable lesson about the ability of black films and filmmakers. 

“When you give black voices a platform and the opportunity to tell our story, we will tell good stories just like anybody else,” Peele said in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “The power of story and the power of a well-crafted film or television show is really all you need to speak to people.”

Peele became the first black writer-director to land a $100 million feature debut with “Get Out,” a psychological thriller that premiered in February and follows the experiences of a young black man who visits his white girlfriend’s family for the first time. The film, which earned a 100 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes in its first 40 reviews, has been widely praised for exploring the reality of race in a unique and unprecedented way.

“The power of story and the power of a well-crafted film or television show is really all you need to speak to people,” Peele said in the interview. “I think Hollywood is sort of catching up to that. We’re at the beginning of a renaissance where people are realizing black films can not only work at the box office, but they can work because there’s been a void.” 

This is precisely why he thinks “Get Out” was so successful: it flipped the usual narrative around horror films by featuring a black man as the protagonist and victim as opposed to a white woman. The film is now the highest-grossing debut for a writer-director based on an original screenplay, which was a record previously held by “The Blair Witch Project.”

“’Get Out’ is fresh and novel and new because at the base level it has a black, male protagonist in a horror movie,” he said. “We haven’t seen that before. Usually in horror movies — as in ‘Blair Witch’ — it is the white girl’s crying face.” 

Peele said he’s giving up sketch comedy and instead plans to create an entire series of films that explore various “social demons.” For now, he said he is focused on nurturing his own voice and on writing, directing and producing. Fortunately for him, the opportunities now abound ― and he is inclined to take advantage of them and show the world what he’s got. 

“There is a feeling of opportunity that is truly amazing. I’ve been in Hollywood for 14 years — 14 years of closed doors and the grind,” he said. “So to feel the energy coming from inside the industry, let alone from the country, is just one of the best feelings.” 

Read more on Peele’s thoughts about black films, his opinion on slavery movies and how he felt turning down “SNL” at The Hollywood Reporter

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Source: HuffPost Black Voices

Dylann Roof To Plead Guilty To State Murder Charges

Dylann Roof, convicted and sentenced to death in federal court for the 2015 massacre at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, will plead guilty to separate state murder charges, the prosecutor handling the case said on Friday.

Roof, a white supremacist, is charged with killing nine African-American parishioners on June 17, 2015, during a Bible study meeting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The hate-fueled shooting of the churchgoers as they closed their eyes to pray stunned the country.

As part of a plea agreement, Roof will be sentenced to life in prison and forgo a state trial, Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said by phone. State prosecutors also had been pursuing the death penalty but that will be taken off the table.

He is due to enter his plea on April 10.

Roof, 22, was sentenced to death in January after a federal court trial that ended with jurors finding him guilty of 33 charges, including hate crimes resulting in death.

Wilson declined to discuss with Reuters why state prosecutors opted for the plea agreement. But she told the Post and Courier newspaper in Charleston that “the goal is to get him into federal custody so their sentence can be imposed.”

The Reverend Anthony Thompson, whose wife Myra was slain by Roof, endured weeks of graphic crime scene evidence and wrenching testimony during the federal trial. He said on Friday he was grateful to be spared another.

“The federal trial was very satisfactory for me,” Thompson said in a phone interview. “I’m not dealing with this anymore. I’m not concerned with Dylann Roof. I’m praying for him and that is it.”

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Additional reporting by Harriet McLeod; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Tom Brown)

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Tulsa Cop Who Killed Terence Crutcher Blames Him For His Own Death

A white police officer facing a manslaughter trial next month for fatally shooting an unarmed black man in Tulsa, Oklahoma, after his vehicle broke down said race was not a factor and that the man’s own actions caused his death.

In an unusual appearance on CBS News’ “60 Minutes” on Sunday, officer Betty Shelby insisted her actions, captured on videotape, were driven entirely by the behavior of the man she shot, Terence Crutcher.

Although the footage showed Crutcher, 40, had his hands in the air as he stood beside his car in a roadway just before Shelby shot him, she said the video fails to show clearly that he suddenly reached into the vehicle in what she believed was an attempt to grab a weapon.

It was that move, and his repeated failure to heed her commands, that led Shelby, 42, to use lethal force.

“What I based everything on was his actions, his behaviors,” she said. Shelby acknowledged, however, that Crutcher was not being aggressive.

However, she also said she perceived Crutcher as reaching into his car for what she feared was a weapon, and also suspected that he was high on the hallucinogenic stimulant PCP, or phencyclidine, a suspicion born out by autopsy results.

“I saw a threat and I used the force I felt necessary to stop a threat,” she told CBS.

No firearm was found on Crutcher or in his vehicle.

Shelby has been charged with first-degree manslaughter, punishable by at least four years in prison in Oklahoma. Prosecutors say she escalated the situation and overreacted.

The case has stoked simmering anger among those who see racial bias in U.S. policing.

In videos provided by Tulsa police, Crutcher can be seen with his hands in the air shortly before he was shot.

“I don’t know what Officer Shelby was thinking when she pulled that trigger,” Tiffany Crutcher, the victim’s twin sister, told “60 Minutes.”

“What we saw on that video is what my dad always taught us to do if we were pulled over by a police officer. Put your hands in the air and put your hands on the car. And my brother did what my father taught us,” she said.

Shelby, who is on unpaid leave, said she regretted Crutcher’s death but that he was to blame.

“I have sorrow that this happened, that this man lost his life. But he caused the situation to occur,” she said.

“So in the end, he caused his own” death, Shelby said.

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How This State Is Targeting Asian-Americans With Its Abortion Laws

Critics fear a new Arkansas abortion ban will have particularly harmful consequences for the Asian-American community.

Asian-American groups are speaking out against a new Arkansas law that prohibits doctors and other providers from performing an abortion that is sought out based on the predicted sex of the fetus. 

The legislation, which was signed by Governor Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday, was spurred by increased immigration by couples from cultures where sex selective abortion is “prevalent,” lead sponsor Rep. Charlie Collins (R-Fayetteville) previously explained to Arkansas News. Speaking to the New York Times, he even brought up China as an example.

And that’s not sitting right with the Asian-American community. 

“This ban is based on the false premise that AAPI families prefer sons over daughters and will seek abortions because of that preference,” Aliya Khan, Policy Associate at the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), told the Huffington Post in an email. “Despite the fact that this myth has been debunked, … politicians continue to use these awful stereotypes to advance their anti-abortion agenda.”

The text of the act states that prior to performing an abortion, the doctor must ask the patient whether she knows the sex of the unborn child. If she does, the doctor will then inform her that sex selection abortion is prohibited. The physician will also need to get a hold of the woman’s medical records as they’re unable to go forth with the procedure “until reasonable time and effort is spent to obtain the medical records of the pregnant woman.”

Ultimately, the woman’s pregnancy history would be investigated. 

Doctors who fail to follow the law will face misdemeanor charges, and will be punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. They’ll also risk losing their medical license or having it suspended. 

“I think it protects everyone concerned. It especially protects unborn girls,” Jeff Cox, who’s the head of the Arkansas Family Council and has been pushing for the ban, said according to the Associated Press.

Asian American groups, however, don’t buy this logic. They note that research tells a very different story and the basis of the law is drawn from harmful stereotypes. 

A 2014 University of Chicago Law School study actually showed that foreign-born Chinese, Indians, and Korean Americans, on average, have more female children than white Americans. And as research and policy organization the Guttmacher Institute mentioned, data shows that sex selective abortions don’t regularly occur in the U.S. Moreover, almost 90% of all abortions take place in the first trimester ―before the woman can know the sex of her baby. And implementing such policies haven’t yielded success in ending sex-selective abortions abroad, the Guttmacher Institute noted. 

Both Collins and Cox themselves have mentioned that they haven’t actually heard of any documented sex selective abortion cases in Arkansas.

Still, it’s stories about infanticide and gender-based abortions in China and South Asia that lawmakers have used as evidence for the need for these sex-selective abortion bans, The Washington Post pointed out. 

The spread of misinformation puts women’s reproductive health in the Asian American community at stake, critics say. Just before the bill was signed, Sung Yeon Choimorrow, NAPAWF’s interim executive director, mentioned that the penalties could deter doctors from providing care patients need due to the threat of punishment.  

She explained in a piece for Rewire that the ban “will turn Asian-American people seeking reproductive health services into suspects and reproductive health-care providers into investigators… It will further stigmatize their patients while creating additional barriers to care.”

Other organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas also explained that the investigation portion of the ban violates women’s right to privacy. The group plans to challenge the legislation. 

“The law of the land is that abortion is legal up to the point of viability,” the group’s executive director, Rita Sklar, said according to The Associated Press. “Nobody should pry into the mind of the woman who wants the procedure.”

Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA’s Karin Wang echoed the sentiment, calling the ban an “illegitimate attack on a woman’s Constitutional right to privacy in making reproductive choices” in an email to HuffPost. 

Collins, however, seemed to think that looking into a woman’s medical history would pay off, describing concerns over privacy a “trade-off,” the New York Times reported. 

“You could potentially see a history of recent abortions, and that might be a data point for a doctor,” he said. 

Arkansas follows several other states in introducing sex-selective abortion legislation, including Oklahoma and Arizona. But rather than base these laws off of stereotypes, Khan stressed that these legislators need to be looking to the groups who are actually effected by these bans for answers. 

“These lawmakers are not asking what AAPI women need in order to combat gender inequity here and globally,” she told HuffPost. “AAPI communities know what we need best in order to support and grow our families — we want equal pay for equal work, health care access, comprehensive immigration reform, and policies that support our gender identities.”

Read more at HuffPost Asian Voices and follow our Facebook page, Brazen Asians.

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The Best 5-Minute Beauty Routines, According to The Experts

Your time is precious, isn’t it? All of us want to look and feel good, but really, how many minutes do you want to spend plucking, primping, powdering, shaving, curling and straightening before you get out the door? We have jobs to get to, friends and family to meet up with and lives to live.

So we asked several experts in the beauty industry which parts of a beauty routine they’d prioritize if they only had five minutes.

Their answers prove that beauty routines can be optimized so we feel like our most beautiful selves, without being a slave to the look. 

Check out what they had to say.

Bobbi Brown, makeup legend and founder of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics

Prioritize: Moisturizer, face oil if you’re dry, concealer under eyes, stain lipstick and mascara

Brown’s Advice: “I would put a stain lipstick on my lip and on my cheek ― you get two things at once and you get the right amount. I also would choose, if I had five minutes, to maybe take a minute of it and do some exercise or stretching. It gives the best color to your skin.” 

Dr. Marie Jhin, dermatologist and author of Asian Beauty Secrets

Prioritize: Exfoliation, moisturizer and use a mask ― but do it all in the shower. 

Jhin’s Advice: “I think if you only had five minutes, I would definitely try to do a lot more beauty stuff in the shower. What that means is exfoliate [face] in the shower, use a moisturizing wash in the shower, put a mask on in the shower ― shower at night and the skin is all prepped. It’s a lot faster. Women spend way too much time on hair removal. Do things like laser hair removal so [you] don’t have to shave.”

Nunzio Saviano, hairstylist and owner of Nunzio Saviano Salon

Prioritize: Embrace your natural hair texture so you can let it dry naturally. Then use dry shampoo and make quick touch ups with tools or good product. 

Saviano’s Advice: “I would ask [your hairstylist] for a haircut that doesn’t require a lot of work. Get the right cut and embrace your natural texture, because usually natural hair texture doesn’t require much maintenance. Keep your hair healthy so it doesn’t look frizzy or unkempt. If you have split ends, you need more time making those ends look good. So, healthy hair, the right cut and embrace your natural texture so you can let it dry naturally. Then there’s not much you have to do.”

Ildi Pekar, facialist and founder of Ildi Pekar Salon  

Prioritize: A gentle, creamy cleanser, eye cream and moisturizer. Spend a couple minutes massaging. 

Pekar’s Advice: “I think there is nothing better than for you to have clean skin; the five minutes should be all about your skin. I always tell my clients – for two-three minutes, give yourself a little tiny massage. A massage is a natural stimulator. If you work out, it is a stimulation for the body. The skin needs the same kind of stimulation. If you put moisturizer on and pat, pat, pat your skin, you will actually see how much better you feel. Put a little eye cream on and massage it in. Give yourself a minute, eye-patting, eye-tapping massage.

“I always say do your neck and chest, too. People don’t realize how important the neck and chest is. The hand is important, too. You can see how people age in their hand.”

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