Ashley Graham Has The Career Toccara Jones Deserved

When Toccarra Jones joined Tyra Banks’ cast of hopefuls competing to be on top during America’s Next Top Model Season Three, she told the judges she wanted to be the first Black plus-sized supermodel. We were all rooting for this 5’9 brown-skinned curvy model from Dayton, Ohio and her outspoken confidence. Even though she came in third place, her post-ANTM career seemed to be taking off. We cheered her on when Jones signed with Wilhelmina Models in 2005 in their curve division, working with brands like Ashley Stewart, Avon, Torrid, New York and Company, Target, Essence, Vibe, and Smooth magazines.

And when Steven Meisel photographed Jones for Vogue Italia’s historic all Black July 2008 issue, It felt like a coup. The New York Times reported Meisel stood by his casting decision despite editor-in-chief Franca Sozzani’s initial objections. “I wanted to say something about weight, and I’m never allowed to do that,” Meisel told The Times. “I met Toccara and thought, she’s beautiful. What’s the deal with her? She’s great and she’s sexy.”

But since then, there hasn’t been much else to root for.

What is the deal with Jones? Where is she now?

Jones’ website lists an intimate apparel line coming soon. She hasn’t tweeted in almost a year, or updated her Instagram since September 2017. Last July, she tweeted that she was back, without adding any hints of where she might have been. Her last Instagram caption reads “I feel my ancestors in my blood. I am a body of people that are asking not to be forgotten.” The responses appear to be from fans asking where she’s been. Her feed is a mashup of selfies, OOTDs, and photos promoting her lingerie line. But nothing revealing even a tiny bit of the outspoken personality we came to know on America’s Next Top Model.

While there wasn’t much a market for plus-sized models when Jones appeared on the scene, things have changed — just take a look at one of the most recognizable working models today, Ashley Graham. Since being scouted in a mall in 2000 when she was 13, Graham has steadily been raising her profile. For the past 18 years, Graham has been everywhere, becoming the de-facto face of the body-positive movement. Just this year, Graham made her debut in Vogue Italia, in a series of unretouched photos, and also broke barriers by being the first plus model to appear within Sports Illustrated. She’s walking in high fashion shows alongside Kendall Jenner and Kaia Gerber now, and also the (lucrative) face of commercial brands like Lane Bryant, Revlon, Marina Rinaldi, and Swimsuits For All. The 30-year-old is not only vocal about her own journey in accepting her body, but also outspoken about why the fashion industry should serve plus women, considering that 67% of American women are a size 14 or above. In 2017, American Vogue gave Ashley Graham a cover declaring “no norm is the new norm,” making it official: she is the voice of a movement.

When Vogue Italia shared the unretouched photos on Instagram with this caption: “Ashley pushes #bodypositivism to another level. It’s not just about acceptance: it’s about loving who you are and being loved, feeling so comfortable with yourself that you skillfully conduct the sophisticated game of attraction, going beyond convention, sizes, categories, and measurements imposed by modern society.” That is the exact message a lot of us first heard from Jones (whose personality made her a fan favorite) during her season of America’s Next Top Model.

When Jones was on the show in 2004, she was borderline shamed for being plus-sized. But her confidence always prevailed. Who could forget when she said “you can shave my head bald and I’ll still walk around here like I’m a goddess.” Or the time she spoke about a stylist who complained about her not being sample sized saying, “Everyone knows that I am the big girl. Everybody knows I’m a plus-size girl. Is it my fault that she had to work extra hard?”

We reached out to Jones several times, hoping she would add her voice, and anecdotes like the above, to this piece. We didn’t hear back, which is shocking, considering she was one of the first people in mass media to speak unapologetically about what it is to be truly diverse in fashion. She’s always the first person that comes to mind on this issue. It feels like a missed opportunity to not have a real conversation with Toccara. So, girl, when you’re ready, we’ll be here, waiting to celebrate you and all the work you’ve done to bring us this far.

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A Guide To Finding The Ultimate Summer Dress

Year after year, when the weather heats up, we want our wardrobes hold an arsenal of great dresses. And especially this season, when dresses are hitting a high-point of bold prints, frilly details, and a range of lengths, they’re truly all we want to wear. Who needs shorts and pants when we can easily be one-and-done and out the door every day? There’s a reason we can’t get enough of a solid summer dress, and it has a whole lot to do with ease and convenience.

Luckily for us, this year we’re spoiled for choice. Whether you like the sound of the prairie trend, all high necks and frilled hems, or you still prefer to keep things minimalist, there’s a dress out there for every single style. From if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it florals to brights that can combat even the deepest post-vacation blues, click through to find the best dresses this season has to offer.

An obvious one, sure, but summer isn’t summer without a sea of bright, botanic prints. We’re wearing ours with sandals now, and over turtlenecks come winter.

If you want to avoid adding one more floral to an already robust collection, a shirt dress is the perfect choice.

Unfortunately for the more low-key among us, summer dressing is usually synonymous with in-your-face prints and extra finishes like ruffles. Never fear – this season there’s plenty for us too, by way of sleek cuts and muted palettes.

If you’re looking for some romance in your summer attire, ruffles are guaranteed to bring the drama. From frilled hems to cascading or layered, they can be worked any which way. Best in fluid fabrics like silk and heavier materials like cotton, you can go as bold or simple as you like.

Thanks to Beyoncé’s yellow dress in Lemonade, we’ve seen plenty of block-coloured dresses in an array of vibrant hues, from fuchsia to sunset orange. So whether you’re paying homage to Bey or head over heels for a classic red, trendy royal blue to happy green, you can’t lose going bright this summer.

It could be the Westworld effect, or it could be a backlash against the Kardashian-style bodycon that won’t ever seem to fully go away. Either way, we’re seeing more and more prairie dresses from brands taking a leaf out of Laura Ashley’s archive.

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The Black Girl's Guide To Highlighting Like A Pro

Strobing, or highlighting overload, continues to dominate the beauty space. And with its popularity has come an avalanche of highlighters — including powders, creams, and liquids. But many of these pearly-pink and Champagne shades are geared toward fairer complexions, and they can appear chalky or overly sparkly on women with dark skin. (Not exactly the luminous, lit-from-within glow we’re aiming for.)

Thankfully, brands are getting wise to the dilemma and releasing illuminating products that look amazing on ladies of color. When it comes to choosing the highlighter of your dreams, you should stray from pinks and frosty whites if you have a dark complexion. “You want to pick a highlighter almost the same way that you would pick a foundation — it should look like a part of your skin, as opposed to like a disco ball,” says makeup artist Nick Barose. “If you’re darker, then I would go for a bronzy gold, and if you’re deep-dark, like Lupita [Nyong’o], for example, I would go for a copper shade. That way it adds a highlight, but it doesn’t add too much of a contrast, because it’s similar to your skin tone.”

Click through to check out the best made-for-melanin highlighters on the market, according to the pros.

After launching a line of can’t-live-without-’em Black girl-friendly nude lipsticks last year, Mented Cosmetics expanded their offerings with glosses and an eyeshadow palette. To round out the line (for now), the brand is introducing Glow for Grown Ups: a line of shimmer lotions meant to be worn on your cheeks, lids, décolletage… anywhere you can think of, really. Our favorite is Glow Up (middle), a stunning rose gold.

Mented Cosmetics, $25, available at Mented Cosmetics

You might want to wet your brush before dipping into DOC’s shimmery coral pink shade. There is a lot of fallout, but once you get past that, you’re left with the most gorgeous wash of color on your cheeks.

Dose of Colors, $28, available at Dose of Colors

Aside from the fact that this meteorite powder- and twilight pearl-packed product can be seen from outer space, it’s made with nourishing mango butter and avocado oil which makes skin insanely supple. Don’t be taken aback by the shade in its packaging, either — it goes on sheer enough to be layered to your liking.

Milk Makeup, $28, available at Sephora

Fun fact: Rihanna wore Sangria Sunset to the 2017 Met Gala — and decided to launch it over a year later. Either way, we’re so grateful for her new batch of duos, which have way more pigment than your regular Killawatts. The color payoff is intense… but why would you want to hide when you’re wearing a #FentyFace? Exactly.

FENTY BEAUTY BY RIHANNA, $36, available at Sephora

Yes, we know this is an eyeshadow — but Sir John likes to use it as a highlight, layered on top of a little glow lotion. See him work his magic here.

L’Oréal, $12.99, available at Ulta Beauty

Barose — along with many other beauty pros — loves Armani Fluid Sheer liquid highlighters because they come in a range of different shades. For dark skin, he advises picking up gold (14) or copper (18) and buffing it onto the skin with a Beautyblender. “Sometimes people go crazy on the brow bone, the nose, and on the upper lids — but on darker skin, it’s definitely not necessary… It can make you look greasy, which isn’t what we want,” Barose says.

Giorgio Armani, $62, available at Sephora

According to celebrity makeup artist Carola Gonzalez, who works with Kerry Washington, Uzo Aduba, Leona Lewis, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, this highlighter is amazing for dark complexions. “This liquid illuminator is the bomb!” Gonzalez says. “It comes in three colors, but I recommend the Golden shade because it reflects very nicely on dark skin.”

For the perfect application, heed her advice: “After makeup application, at the very end, rub a bit between your fingertips then dab it on cheekbones, the bridge of the nose, the center of the forehead, and center of the chin.”

L’Oreal True Match Lumi Liquid Glow Illuminator in Golden, $12.99, available at Ulta Beauty.

Bobbi Brown’s highlighting powder might look a little intimidating, but Barose has a trick for keeping it subtle: Apply it before you sweep on powder foundation. This will give you a pretty sheen without overpowering your face.

Bobbi Brown, $46, available at Sephora

“This palette has three luminous shades that can be worn across the board,” Tinashe ‘s makeup artist Clarissa Luna says. “The blush is subtle and sweet, while the highlight and contour colors can be used as eye shadows as well. The cherry on top is the yummy peach scent!”

Too Faced Sweet Peach Glow Peach-Infused Highlighting Palette, $42, available at Sephora.

“This is my little jam,” Sir John, who works with Beyoncé, reveals. He taps this formula on top of his clients’ cheekbones for the perfect glow.

Cover FX Custom Enhancer Drops in Candlelight, $42, available at Sephora.

Normally, we don’t place too much weight in celeb endorsements of their own products, but having tried the Fenty Beauty line, we can confidently say that Rihanna’s quote on Sephora’s site gets it exactly right: “You can use this on any part of your face—your eyes, your cheeks, your nose bridge, your collarbone. I like to use it on my body as well because it’s such a high sheen. You look at it and think, ‘is it going to deliver? … is it going to deliver?’ Then—BAM!—it delivers!”

Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Killawatt Freestyle Highlighter in Trophy Wife, $34, available at Fenty Beauty.

Victoria’s Secret model Jasmine Tookes also sings the brand’s praises. She says she uses the white, opalescent Metal Moon shade to get her “extra, extra” glow.

Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Killawatt Freestyle Highlighter in Metal Moon, $34, available at Fenty Beauty.

Celebrity makeup artist Carissa Ferreri reports that this universally-flattering stick works like magic on all skin tones — especially medium and dark. Simply draw directly onto the high points of the face and buff any harsh edges with your fingers.

Maybelline Face Studio Master Strobe in Medium Nude Glow, $7.99, available at Target.

“It’s super creamy, so you can really blend it in,” celebrity makeup artist Carissa Ferreri says of this easy-to-use stick.

Jordana Glow N Go Creamy Strobe Stick in Bronze Glow, 4.99, available at Walgreens.

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Cancel Your Plans: Why Staying At Home Is Cool Now

If your ideal Friday night involves less dancing on tables and flirting with hotties at the club and more eating takeout and drinking wine on the couch, you’re far from alone. In fact, you’re part of the growing lifestyle trend that is staying in. A new survey from market research firm Mintel says that 28% of “young millennials” (or people aged 24-31) prefer drinking at home. Meanwhile, a whopping 55% of Americans of all ages feel similarly. Sorry, barflies and clubrats, you’re officially in the minority. (I’m sure it has nothing to do with those super flattering nicknames.)

It’s not hard to imagine a litany of reasons why this might be. For starters, 74% of participants in the study cited the desire to imbibe in a relaxing environment — as opposed to a sweaty, crowded one where they’re constantly being jostled, spilled on, and fending off unwanted advances — as a key reason to stay home. Sixty-nine percent say the need or desire to save money is a major factor, while 38% believe staying out of bars and clubs means it’s easier for them to control their alcohol intake.

While Caleb Bryant, a senior foodservice analyst at Mintel and the person in charge of compiling the report, says the firm doesn’t have specific data on how significant a role online dating has played in the apparent pullback from bars and clubs, most of the millennials we spoke to cited it as a key reason. Call it the Netflix-and-Chill factor, if you will.

“It’s the whole dating idea of Netflix and like, I’m going to sit on my couch, watch all of the things that I could possibly watch and drink all my wine from Trader Joe’s. Why would I leave my house? I can invite somebody over to hang out with me,” Jenifer Golden, a self-proclaimed “older millennial” and one half of the duo behind the podcast It’s Complicated and the Instagram account @TwoDrunkGirls, tells Refinery29.

And while millennials are sometimes chastised for spending our cash on frivolities like avocado toast (or, I guess, living rooms), saving money was probably the number one reason to stay in among those we informally surveyed. After all, no matter how dive-y the dive bar, it’s hard to compete with that Two Buck Chuck. On the other hand, Mintel’s report notes that while people may be going out less, they’re often willing to spend more on fancier drinks when they do decide to leave the house. Because if you’re gonna get off the couch, put on an non-pajama outfit, and speak to other humans, why not pop bottles, right?

“Most of the growth in the spirit categories is happening with some more expensive spirit varieties,” Bryant tells Refinery29. “Also, you know, millennials are getting older, so they have more disposable income, and as consumers, they get bolder. They generally drink less alcohol [than other generations] but because they’re drinking less, they still want to have that unique experience and so they’re going to get a more expensive drink.”

Peter Sim, a 30-year-old who lives in New York and works in finance, is one of the only people I could find who personally disagrees with the conclusions of the survey. “Amongst millennials, especially in the city, you have to limit how much you’re spending,” he concedes to Refinery29. “But, on the flip side, as rent goes up, you end up living in much smaller spaces, and for me, it’s crucial to leave my apartment and to interact with society and enjoy everything that the city has to offer. I still enjoy meeting strangers.”

But it’s important to clarify what, exactly, we mean by “going out.” The Mintel study seems to classify “out” as any public space where alcohol is served, like a bar, nightclub, music venue, or restaurant. And while spending time in those kinds of places may be on the decline, what’s simultaneously on the rise is entertaining at home. The perfect middle ground between paying a $20 entry fee to yell into your friend’s ear all night and staring into the abyss of your computer screen until you pass out alone, entertaining at home combines the drinking and socialization of the former with the comfort and cost efficiency of the latter. If our generation is Goldilocks — and, hey, maybe we are — hanging out at a friend’s apartment making blender drinks and eating expensive cheese over a rousing game of Apples to Apples is the “just right” social porridge we crave.

This makes sense for a notoriously DIY-loving group with unlimited access to not only on-demand dating and entertainment, but also recipes, food hacks, and party inspo. “We are all about, you know, creating our own everything today. So that means creating our own experiences, creating our own cocktails,” Chelsea Krost, a life coach, entrepreneur, and millennial marketing strategist, tells Refinery29. “We are taking advantage of all the content that we have on social media and all of the great food and great influencers out there sharing recipes and trying to do them ourselves.”

Sim, however, makes the valid point that this kind of cozy in-home partying really only works with people you know reasonably well. With co-workers, casual acquaintances, or potential romantic interests, it doesn’t always feel comfortable to invite them into your space, or to go into theirs. “Especially amongst co-workers where maybe you’re not totally comfortable going to each other’s places, happy hour serves a key function in developing those relationships,” he says.

Haters, however, will say it’s laziness. Bryant notes that the biggest misconception he’s observed since the results of the survey were released earlier this month is people assuming the whole thing can be couched right alongside pervasive yet largely made-up concepts like millennial entitlement and rampant unprofessionalism. Never mind the fact that the trend seems to be a reality within other demographics, too.

Ironically, anti-going-out culture, even when it’s just as boozy and debaucherous as going-out culture, has spawned a smugness often perpetuated via the very same social media platforms recently used to showcase of impossibly glam nights on the town. If you’ve ever heard someone whose social calendar bears zero resemblance to that of an octogenarian shrug off their weekend plans and say something like, “oh, haha, I love staying in, I’m such a grandma,” then you probably know what I’m talking about. All of a sudden, not going out is cool. Or, at least, it’s not uncool.

“Every generation, I don’t really care what age bracket, there’s always going to be a sliding scale of people: people that need to be out to, you know, feel significant, people who crave that type of attention,” says Krost. “And then there’s going to be the people that are so secure with themselves and so secure in just being in pajamas and watching Netflix.”

Whether we’ve tapped into a weird well of pajama-clad self-confidence that our predecessors didn’t achieve until later in life, or the dance floor-bound extroverts among us are just suddenly pretending to be cool with Monopoly night isn’t for certain. What is clear, though, is that the line outside that club you’re always too scared to attempt to get into may have just gotten a lot shorter. Not that you’d even want to go or anything.

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Texas Tech Frat Members Call For Hunting Immigrants In Racist Group Chat

At Texas Tech University, a group of fraternity brothers’ violently racist, immigrant-hating group chat has been made public, sparking an investigation by the school. In the conversation, labeled “Frat Chat,” they called for hunting “illegals” for sport, sending a firing squad to the border, and partnering with ICE for a “philanthropy” event.

They didn’t stop at undocumented immigrants and also disparaged African-Americans, making racist remarks like “Picking cotton is a skill.”

Screenshots of the chat were first posted anonymously by an account called @TechStudents1, which seemed to have been made expressly for this purpose and later deleted.

Nissa Garcia, a senior at Texas Tech, reposted the messages on her own account.

“These are students at my university, people I walk by every day on campus,” she tweeted. “As a child of an immigrant, my disgust can’t be put into words. It’s WAY beyond political views at this point. The hatred generated based off one’s nationality is unbelievable. This is NOT okay.”

“It’s unbelievingly sickening,” Garcia told Refinery29. “There are statements of murder and they have no sympathy.” She said she believes the students should be expelled.

Texas Tech’s undergraduate student population is 27.8% Latinx, which means it qualifies for “Hispanic-Serving Institution ” status. As an HSI, which the school expects to become in 2019, it would be eligible for a variety of grants that benefit both Latinx and non-Latinx students.

While the school has a diverse population, it also has a large and vocal contingent of Trump supporters — which makes it somewhat of a microcosm of America itself.

“When Trump won, you could hear around my apartment people yelling ‘Build the wall,’ and the day after I was on the bus with two frat guys yelling that Trump would save America and that the wall would be our savior,” said Garcia. “The tension is always present, but they won’t say much until they’re behind a screen.”

Behind the screen in the Frat Chat, Kyle Mitchell — “The Cocaine Cowboy” — kicked off the conversation by saying, “Let’s argue about immigration.” Until Thursday night, when the messages went public, The Cocaine Cowboy was the president of the university’s Interfraternity Council (IFC).

His bros joined in. Alex Provost said: “Build a wall then drain the swamp.” And then, “Don’t bother reporting them just use a firing squad.”

Mitchell said: “I’m telling you build a wall, and the U.S. government can sell permits for legal hunting on the border and we can make a sport of this, can be a new tax revenue stream for the government.”

They continued saying horrible things for a while, including that death is the “only solution” for “illegals” and that undocumented immigrants are only qualified to be cooks, gardeners, and housekeepers. At one point, Alex Provost suggested, “Slaves,” to which Mitchell responded, “Wrong race.”

In a particularly chilling message, Alex Provost said: “I’ve met ranchers that kill illegals and [bury] them under cattle graves along the border.”

The university issued a statement via email, which reads: “The messages shared on social media are abhorrent and strongly condemned. University officials are investigating this matter. Texas Tech University is proud of the inclusivity and rich cultures that make up our community. These insensitive and racially charged messages do not reflect the core values of the institution.”

Chris Cook, managing director of the university’s Office of Communications and Marketing, told Refinery29 that the IFC appointed a new president to replace Kyle Mitchell/The Cocaine Cowboy on Thursday night.

Ethan Louis Smith, the IFC’s executive vice president, said in a statement: “The messages shared are not a reflection of the spirit and energy that surrounds so much of Greek life at Texas Tech. The Interfraternity Council is committed to making sure that a thorough investigation into these comments is conducted and those responsible are held accountable.”

In an email to Refinery29, Alex Baker, the Chief Information Officer of Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE), the fraternity of which these students are reportedly members, said: “Tau Kappa Epsilon is investigating these disgusting allegations and condemns hateful language. The alleged comments don’t align with our values of love, charity, and esteem and have no place in our organization.”

During an emotionally charged time when debates about treatment of children at the U.S.-Mexico border are raging, these students are members of the large chorus of people who lack empathy for migrants coming to America in search of a better life. Whatever the reason, they can’t imagine themselves in the shoes of someone who has no choice but to leave their country and take a chance in the U.S., just like many of their ancestors did years ago.

Unfortunately, the group chat is part of a larger trend of incidents that have ramped up since Trump’s election because racists feel emboldened by his rhetoric. The Anti-Defamation League, which tracks hate groups, reported a 258% growth in white supremacist recruitment efforts at universities between fall 2016 (41 incidents) and fall 2017 (147 incidents). Anecdotally, we hear story after story after story — racist initiation videos, Snapchats, and Blackface parties. On some campuses, like at American University in Washington, D.C., new programs have sprung up like mandatory diversity training during freshman orientation.

The statements from The Cocaine Cowboy and his friends go beyond insensitivity and even beyond racism. They warrant more than a surface-level investigation and a punishment that goes beyond just a slap on the wrist.

This is a developing story. We will update it with more information once it’s available.

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