Out and About: Suave Skin Recording Session

by

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The best part of being a freelance writer is the diversity of the assignments. 90% of my assignments are celebrity driven features. But every once in a while, I do something a bit different and it’s fun to explore a different avenue.

I mentioned last week that I was invited by the good folks at Suave to experience their new line of body washes and lotions for UPSCALE magazine, one of the titles I write for. Normally, this would be covered by the Beauty Editor at UPSCALE. But since the magazine is based in Atlanta, I often rep the magazine at New York-based events.

I have to admit. I’m such a hermit that it’s a huge deal when I actually leave Jersey–for anything. If it’s not work-related, I’m not going into Manhattan.  But then, when I do have to go into the City, I’m always geeked out and excited like I’ve never been there. It’s good to get out of my office, put on some real clothes, (okay, a pair of skinny jeans and my ubiquitous stilettos, does that count?) and go talk to real live humans.

I”m especially thrilled to attend product launches. Because I know it means two things:

food. freebies.

My life as a journalist is not very exciting. At least not anymore. My days of chasing Ma$e down Broadway in four-inch heels to get a quote about leaving Bad Boy are over. I’m not in the mix like I once was. And I’m totally okay with that. A day of testing out beauty products for dry skin? Yep, sounds like heaven to me.

And here’s the thing about these kinds of events. They’re planned with one thing in mind: make the journalist happy. A happy journalist writes happy words about your products. (Unless the product is crappy. Then  you’re out of luck.)

When I first started out in this business, I was uncomfortable at events planned to woo me.

In ’99, I traveled to Miami for a story for The Source. And a publicist named Theola Borden invited me to a rooftop spa treatment, complete with mimosas, at the Delano Hotel in South Beach. I couldn’t even enjoy my pedicure because I kept thinking to myself, “Wait. Is this really free? All she wants me to do is make conversation with this rapper?”

I don’t even remember who the artist was. But I remember learning quickly that it’s how the game works. You butter up the people who write about  your product and you make them happy. Even the whackest music sounds decent when your feet are being scrubbed and you’re sipping your third Mimosa.

Suave knows this. And they started off with the perfect thing: sending a car service to my house to take me into Manhattan.

Let's move! Into the big city! Whoo-hoo!

I don't have to drive? Don't have to pay for parking? I love Suave body products already! And I haven't even tried them yet! Whoo-hoo!

I brought my laptop and planned to get a bit of work done on the ride into Manhattan.

I was knocked out before we got to the Lincoln Tunnel. I had a long, heavenly, blissful nap. Ha!

The driver had to wake me up when we got to Headroom Digital Audio Recording Studio, where the product launch was taking place. I met a young lady named Reema, who works for the advertising agency hired by Suave. She was waiting for me at the front door of the building.

“Aliya? Nice to meet you!”

I shook her hand and we exchanged pleasantries.

Reema looked both ways, leaned over and whispered under her breath:

“Aliya. I love your blog,”she said. “Especially the post about The Biggie Belt!”

A dear reader at the event! Awesome! Shout-out to Reema! Turns out she also graduated from Rutgers like me. Go RU! And then she told me she just graduated in May. Which made me feel very very old. Booo Reema. I kid, I kid. But not really.

Now, these Suave folks know how to throw a product launch. I walked into the studio and saw rose petals strewn about, waiters making rounds with appetizers, chocolates of all kind in bowls and canisters. And of course, on every available surface, lots of samples of their new products.

I should state here: I’m not really into body creams and stuff. If it gets me clean and it doesn’t smell too strong, it’s fine by me. So I wasn’t sure if they would be able to win me over with their pitches.

But then they introduced this guy:

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His name is Alex. And he works in Research and Development for Unilever, the parent company for Suave. It’s his job to make sure the body washes get you clean. And the lotions keep you moisturized.

I love it when people with highly technical jobs are clearly geeked out about what they do. And this guy was breaking down humectants in a way that made me actually care about what goes into my creams and lotions.

He even had samples of the raw versions of the basic ingredients we find in our body care products and explained how they work.

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The aloe vera was in a powdered form. And it was 40 times as strong as what comes out of the plant. There was a hunk of cocoa butter that was as hard as a rock but smooth, with the familiar smell. I’m ashamed to say I wasn’t even sure where cocoa butter came from. I thought it came from the same plant that produced chocolate. But if so, why doesn’t cocoa butter smell more like chocolate? Alex explained that cocoa butter used for beauty products are formulated in a way that keeps the smell from being too overpowering.

We also head from Dr. Elena Jones, a dermatologist in private practice in New York City who gave some tips on how to help your skin survive the winter. You already know the deal: exfoliate and moisturize. Every day!

Sidebar: Gotta give props to to Dr. Jones for letting me pull her ear about my own private skin issues. I’m gonna spare my dear readers the gory details. But it was SO good to speak with an African-American dermatologist who knew exactly what I was talking about. I’m not going to dwell on the fact that she told me the issue I’m having is sometimes a symptom of early menopause. (!!!!!!) If you’re in Manhattan and you have any kind of skin issue, I’m co-signing Dr. Jones. For real. She’s official. Office is on Fifth Avenue. Look her up.

Anyway, as Alex and Dr. Jones were talking, I checked out the other beauty editors and writers at the event.

And I noticed something very interesting. We were all Black.

There was Julia Chance, whose byline I’ve read for years and years on all kinds of articles about beauty, health and fashion. And there was Erica Boston, from Sister 2 Sister, whom I met at Faith’s book signing in Harlem. It was what you might call an urban product launch. Interesting.

I didn’t know that the launch was being targeted toward Black women. This intrigued me. After the presentations, I cornered Monica Frost, the account executive for the ad agency in charge of the product launch.

“So are these products being targeted specifically toward Black women?” I asked.

“They will be everywhere,” said Monica. “But we’re really trying to make sure we reach our African-American customers. Because, quite frankly, we learned through market research that they are a big part of our market. Black women moisturize! And they buy Suave products!”

It’s true, folks. You show me a Black household without lotion and I’ll show you…well, I won’t show you anything because it doesn’t exist.

I’m thinking it’s cool that Suave’s recognizing their loyal customers. But I couldn’t help but giggle when Alex told me about how his new products eliminated “ashy” skin.

“I believe that’s the terminology used in the ethnic community,” he said, thoughtfully. “Ashiness.”

I cringed. Just a bit. Though it’s true! We do say ashy! It’s just weird when the biochemist who works in a lab says it.

The best part was the “dryness meter” that Alex had. (He’s holding it in his hand in the picture above.) He touches the wand to your skin and a number pops up. It could be anything from 1-90. A one means you’re basically firewood. Alex said you should be somewhere near 70.

I got my skin tested: 29. Ugh.

Then I drifted over to the displays and started sniffing and sampling the products. Here’s my two second review:

The new wild cherry blossom scent is great: if you’re into fruity scents. Which I am not.

The winner for me, the product I’ll actually buy, was the cocoa butter joint. It comes in a body wash and a lotion. It’s thick and creamy but not too greasy. I love it.  What is it with Black folks and cocoa butter? When I smell this stuff, it reminds me of my mom.

There was also a pineapple scented body wash and lotion that sent a tingle up my spine when I sniffed it. I’ll have to try that one out too.

When we were all done testing the products and stuffing our faces with these mini-grilled cheese sandwiches dusted with truffle oil, (SO good), we all piled into a recording studio to hear a young woman named Rhea sing a song about Suave body washes. Very cute. And the upcoming singer/songwriter wrote the ditty herself.

And then, the moment had arrived.

The entire event had been held at a recording studio because the Suave team wanted to extend an invitation to all of the writers to sing a love song to their skin. They had a vocal booth all set up, an engineer at the mixing boards and a lyric book.

If you had the nerve, you could get in the booth, pick a song, sing your heart out and go home with a professional recording on CD.

Now, dear readers, we all know I harbor a not-so-secret desire to perform and sing. (Even though, well, I can’t sing…)

I looked into the booth and saw that gleaming microphone. It was calling me like the crack was calling Pookie in New Jack City. It was a real recording studio! With a real engineer! This wasn’t karaoke. They were going to play an instrumental and then we were on our own to make it happen. No background. No screen with lyrics. Just hardcore. Start singing.

So I did.

And I discovered what I’ve always known.

I.

can’t.

sing.

I guess deep down inside, I’ve always known. But some part of me thought, maybe all these years I just needed to sing in a real studio. maybe I’ll start singing today and everyone will be blown away by my voice…and then the engineer will tell me he wants me to cut a demo…and then I’ll start writing songs and performing at Joe’s Pub on Sunday nights…

I chose Beyonce’s Irreplacable. Which was a mistake. The song requires notes that don’t live in my throat. And you need a level of breath control that I just don’t have.

What really surprised me was how nervous I was. There was no one in there but me, the engineer and a woman named Brianna, (I really hope I remembered her name correctly), who volunteered to tape the performance so I could share it with my dear readers. So was why I so hot and sweaty? And why did I feel like Simon Cowell was about to tell me I was dreadful…

But I did it dear readers, I got up there and belted out my tune, butchering the song but having a great time in the process.

I’m officially done. My dreams of being a singer have been permanently sidelined. I’ll still sing to my babies. And I’ll still sing in the shower. (As I use my Suave body products!) But the posting of the following video should put any further questions to rest.  I belong right here, at my keyboard. Sigh.

At least I’ll always have yesterday, the day I got a chance to pretend…

Enjoy the show. And have a great weekend.

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22 Responses to “Out and About: Suave Skin Recording Session”

  1. anslem Says:

    In the words of Jack Nicholson’s Joker “Where does [she] get those lovely toys?” Like seriously, who does/did your video editing? I need to higher your blog support team… and paparazzi photo clicks, hilarious

  2. Aliya S. King Says:

    First of all. You are not allowed to skip to the end and just watch the video–cheater!! You did NOT read the whole post. For that, I will not share the secrets of my blog support team with you.

  3. slb Says:

    i really enjoyed reading about this product launch. the products in their raw form look cool. and because i, too, live for events with free food, i’m hatin’ on the mini-grilled cheeses with truffle oil. i’ve never had anything with truffle oil at a party (or ever). i want some truffle oil, aliya! lol

    and i bet that chocolate was gooder than a mug, too…. :-)

    anyway, onto the real matter at hand: omg, that video was so adorable! i was watching and hearkening back to your blog about all those years in the school choir/chorus. aw. you did your thing, girl.

    what were some of the other song choices?

  4. Timothy Says:

    ok well, actually, its not that bad…you can carry a note…juat within your range. Your range may be limited, but you do have one. Have a great weekend!

  5. Katura Says:

    Aliya, you’re sooo brave. I’m embarrassed when people catch me belting out a tune in my car–and they can’t even hear me. (I don’t think…) I love the warnings in the video, but those notes weren’t that bad. And when people clearly love what they’re doing, you enjoy it for them. Kinda like watching the white guy with no rhythm try to tear it up on the dance floor. If he’s having a great time, I’m having a great time too. That was a great way to end a week of blogging.

  6. Dani B Says:

    is it strange for me to say that i am so proud of you!! you did your thing and i know it had to take a lot of courage. good job! and i also enjoyed hearing about the product launch. sounds like a fun and exciting day all around.

  7. jay1 Says:

    I think I just found a new ring tone.

  8. Jovi Says:

    You know I love your reads but this was priceless. THANK YOU for sharing. You faced your fear, conquered, and shared. Wear your badge with honor.

    Etta was mad at Beyonce. I think Beyonce may choke you for this.
    Can you say YOUTUBE? just kidding

  9. Aliya S. King Says:

    @jovi: oh my god, I would DIE if this was on youtube. DIE.

  10. Aliya S. King Says:

    @jay1: you wouldn’t dare.
    @dani b: thank you dear reader! I’m proud of me too. Actually, posting the video was way scarier than singing!
    @Katura: Um. I am thoroughly embarrased. But I’m forcing myself to confront my fears. Wait. Did you just compare me to the white guy who can’t dance. LOL! Sad. But true.

  11. Aliya S. King Says:

    @timothy: yep. I have a very limited range. I think that’s a nice way of saying, “that was painful. good thing you now know YOU CAN NOT SING.” =)
    @slb: they had about 20 songs. And they were all HARD. At Last? No way. Real Love by Mary. What’s Love Got To Do With it. A few Mariah songs. I never had a chance. Sigh.

  12. slb Says:

    c’mon, now. i think “real love” woulda worked out well. lol

    given those choices, that’s the one i would’ve gone for. i think. depends on the mariah they had. lol

  13. yes Says:

    29!! Dang Aliya, we got to do better!! lol You’re singing wasn’t bad at all. I’ve heard way worse on the radio. And you are right about Black people and their lotions, I have plenty!!

  14. Aliya S. King Says:

    @slb: no. Real world would have been a disaster! There is a Mary song I actually can sing well. it’s called Get To Know You Better from the Share My World album. For some reason, I can sing that song and stay in tune. And the Mariah Carey song they had was “Always Be My Baby.” No way.
    @yes: thanks girl. and yeah. we don’t play when it comes to moisturizing!

  15. slb Says:

    that would’ve been so apropos as a love song to your skin. “get to know you better.” :-) i don’t know the song (i’m not up on a whole lot of mary, although she did have this song i absolutely adored when it dropped. still do, actually: “beautiful one” from the Mary cd.), but based on title alone, the “get to know you” jawn sounds promising.

    “always be my baby” *is* really hard to try to sing. she always hits so many high notes.

  16. la negrita Says:

    1. MAAAAAAJOR props for posting a video of you singing in the studio. I don’t think I could ever do that!

    B. Lolololololololololololololololololololololol!!!!!

    You really weren’t that bad, though. I’ve seen and heard A LOT worse on Youtube.

  17. Brian G. Says:

    Aliya, you are so brave!! Good song choice, and it was not that bad.
    I would love to know how your family reacted (TG, &TH) please share.

  18. The Week In Review: February 14th 2009 « Aliya S. King Says:

    […] Aliya S. King Consider me a content provider. I write. You read. No pressure. Come as you please. I’m here. « Out and About: Suave Skin Recording Session […]

  19. K Dubb Says:

    Mad props!!And those video edits were huh-larious! Seriously though, it really wasn’t that bad! I’m with Brian G., how did the family react?

  20. TG Says:

    for Brian G.

    Leeskee is right she can totally sing better than this. but what-eves.
    I love her blog and was surprised by what i heard. she told me not to listen to this thing, and she hides the c-d in our house. to bad. It ok I still luved it. totally book-marking this page!

    =p

  21. Brian G. Says:

    TG,

    Thanks for the update.

    Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

    Brian

  22. Theola Borden Says:

    Hey Aliya. I know I’m several months late on this but had to reply. I remember that Miami trip like it was yesterday and the rapper was Jane Blaze.

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