Heads Up: HelloBeautiful.com Says You Need To Know Me

HelloBeautiful 25 Black Women to Know: Liz Burr
Thank you HelloBeautiful!


Over at VerySmartBrothas, we get lots of e-mail–many of which are press releases. This morning I opened our inbox to find a press release announcing Hello Beautiful.com’s 25 Black Women You Should Know About, a list that includes yours truly!

Obviously you’re already ahead of the game, because you know (of) me (since you’re here on my site;)), but read  the writeup on me and check out the other 24 (AWESOME!) women. I don’t know why I was chosen to be in such great company, but I am very inspired by these ladies!

The Broke Rich

A month ago I decided to fly home to LA for a week because I knew I would not be able to come home for Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. I usually like to spend a few weeks in LA when I fly back, but this time I could only stay for a week, as I have weekly bible study group leader duties in New York. Sure, leading a bible study group for the past few months has been cramping my jet-setter-nomad lifestyle, but I committed to being a bible study group leader at my church, so it is what it is.

If you know me, you know I can’t stand to have burly un-neat, misshaped eyebrows. It’s my thing, probably because I don’t frequently wear makeup and nice eyebrows are the best un-makeup a lady can wear. Note: If you ever see me in the streets and my eyebrows are lookin’ rough, then you know I’ve hit rock bottom. I prefer a manicure, pedicure and eyebrow wax every two weeks, but if the recession gets the best of me, at a bare minimum, I will find some change for an eyebrow wax.

As a result of my eyebrow preferences, I have formed very nit picky habits about my eyebrow care. They have to be groomed to a certain shape (i.e. natural), and I need my wax specialist to wax, pluck and trim. If I come across someone who only does one or two of those procedures, she’s crossed out of my book. I will not return unless under dire circumstances.

I realize I’m this way because I’m spoiled. Five years ago I discovered the best eyebrow wax specialist on the planet. I’m not the only person who thinks this, as numerous Yelp and FourSquare reviews agree with me. This eyebrow wax is only $10 and located in West Hollywood, CA but it’s not even about the price. It’s about the wax specialist: her name is Michelle and she’s the bomb.com. Michelle is Vietnamese, I believe, and she looks ageless (one day she told me she was almost 40 or something crazy old, and I gave her the side eye because she doesn’t look a day over 26).

Having the eyebrow waxing requirements that I have, one can only imagine the difficulties I endured after moving to New York two years ago. The New York beauty game is a whole different ball game. There are nail salons on every other corner, many of them charging $7 for a manicure and the service is flippant because there are so many options.  You would think the price point is perfect until you go in and look at the conditions of the salon, or the method in which they sanitize their instruments. I’ve also tried upscale, expensive places, and I am just not impressed with New York.

Nobody in NYC seems to be able to groom my eyebrows like Michelle. As a result, every trip to LA requires an eyebrow wax. It doesn’t matter where I’m at in my two week waxing cycle. It doesn’t matter how broke I am. I have to make a trip to WeHo and see Michelle.

So, back to last month. I stopped in my nail salon to get an eyebrow wax on my way to LAX. I stopped by as soon as they opened because I was going straight to the airport to catch a flight back to NYC after my waxing. I was so early, in fact, Michelle hadn’t yet arrived for the day. I told the receptionist I loved Michelle, and didn’t mind waiting. I explained that I was on my way home in NYC and had to see Michelle, as was my ritual these days.

“So, you’re just visiting LA?”

“Eh. Sort of. I kind of live in both LA and New York.”

“Oh, so you’re rich?” She said with blunt amazement.

I looked at her rather quizzically. Nobody has ever called me rich before, and seriously meant it. Especially so bluntly. Sure, it sounds like I’m rich. Whenever I tell anyone I am bi-coastal they swear up and down I am some kind of baller. If only they knew I feel the brokest I’ve ever felt in my life. Years ago my bank accounts were bigger than they are now. Which is odd to me because years ago I felt like that was the brokest I’d ever been in my life. But today? Right now? This is what broke feels like.

And yet here a perfect stranger was calling me rich. To my face.

I humbly went along with this “rich” notion as we continued to talk. I explained I pay rent in NYC, but my car and furniture remain in LA, and my business was also based in LA. Yeah…I wasn’t doing such a good job of convincing her of how un-rich I was. The problem with this conversation was that she was absolutely right. In the grand scheme of things, compared to the rest of the world, I am richer than something like 3% of the people on the planet. Even though I didn’t have the money for my complete mani, pedi, and waxing ritual, and even though I was being “frugal” by just getting an eyebrow wax….here I was. Rich.


As I get closer to my trip to Haiti, my finances are feeling the most strain they’ve ever felt. The rumors are true: running your own business is as difficult as they say. And yet I am doing my best to remain focused and worry less about money. It’s difficult, I won’t lie. I am going out less, and can’t help but feel like my friends think I don’t want to hang out with them. I take taxis less, and walk more because I live in Midtown Manhattan and can walk to many of the places I need to go. I’m working the MTA by subwaying to my destination and then busing my way home. I’m giving myself manicures and stretching out my bi-monthly pedicures to every 6-8 weeks (you don’t even wanna know how gross this makes me feel lol). I even briefly went back to processed foods because they were considerably cheaper than healthy organic fresh produce. I am doing my best to be a more responsible adult and pay for bare necessities so I can pay off debts and make rent every month. Needless to say, I feel broke in every way of life right now.

Today I went back to the nail salon to see Michelle for my routine eyebrow wax, as I found myself back in LA, four weeks since my last visit. I spoke to the same receptionist, and though I doubt she remembers our last conversation, I remembered it. Broker than I was the last time I saw her, I was reminded that I am indeed, rich.

Richer than the vast majority of the people on this planet.

Selfless or Selfish? Career Choices and Your Family

I was surfing the Internets and came across Kohi Vinh’s explanation for quitting his pretty cool job as design director of NYTimes.com:

When your first child arrives, there’s a perfectly valid argument that you should hunker down in your job and emphasize stability. But I started to see it the other way: I started imagining what it would be like to stay in my job for years while also contending with all of my frustrated ambitions. And I realized that I’d be coming home at the end of every workday still bearing those frustrations as they slowly chipped away at my sense of self-worth and my happiness.

Were I to do that, I realized what a terrible example I’d be setting for my child. Plenty of parents make heroic sacrifices for their children, staying in whatever imperfect jobs are available to them so their children can lead better lives. But to stay in a job simply for stability when I knew I had the skill and more importantly the opportunity to try something different seemed like cowardice. I just couldn’t square the idea of the uninhibited woman that I wanted Thuy to grow up to be with the daily lesson I’d be giving her in suppressing one’s dreams. And I just didn’t think I’d be able to hide any of those feelings from her, no matter how brave a face I could put on.

Definitely read the entire post, it’s a good read.

I admire Khoi for coming to this conclusion and for sharing it publicly. As a freelancer whose clientele is riddled with web startups, my work life is rocky. People e-mail me all the time about how inspired they are by my choice and decision to do what I do but it’s not always easy. In fact, I used to lay in bed, crying and staring at the ceiling for hours at a time wondering what did I get myself into. I used to do that a lot (I don’t anymore, and I may share why in another post). This is no picnic. I try to make the best of it, but by no means am I disillusioned. This is full-time risk-living, and not for the faint at heart. Case in point: I have to send one up to The Man Upstairs for getting me through the flu a few weeks ago. I could not afford to see a doctor, and I couldn’t afford to get any ancillary illnesses from the flu, such as bronchitis, whooping cough etc. Self-diagnosis via Google obviously works, people! Don’t fret though, because once I finally pay off my car next month, I can finally afford health insurance! Yay.

Anyway, back to Khoi. A few months ago I was thinking and wondering how long was I going to keep living this rag tag lifestyle I’m living. Part of the reason why I can afford to lay in bed, stare at the ceiling and cry about my career for hours on end is because I don’t have any mouths to feed or a partner to pull my weight with. And because those things come into your life whenever they please, rather than on a schedule, I figured I seemingly have an open ended deadline on when to blow the whistle, no? Well, that was my conclusion. I could do all this for as long as I had my singlehood, and then I would buckle down and get one of those real jobs, because that’s what one must do for stability for their families. This became my  default Plan because I couldn’t seem to nail down any other details. Except now, Khoi’s post has me rethinking everything.

I’ve seen people choose the safe career for the sake of family stability, and I applaud those people as well. It’s admirable, but it’s not something I can do. It’s not that I’m selfish, but I know that when things affect me adversely, my world kind of stops (see: crying in bed while staring at the ceiling). I may be able to hold down a job with a company, but if I’m not 100% happy (within reason), my spirit takes a hit. Eventually I’ll feel…soulless. (It’s important to note this can and has happened while working for myself). I am not someone who could suck it up, day in and day out and be a sane parent who also encourages their children to chase their dreams and ambitions. I have to be able to live what I speak, and setting an example for my future children is extremely important to me. And so, I guess this means I really need to work on putting a plan in place for the next season of life. No more wandering aimlessly or working robotically until I get married (or get to a certain age). Take better control of my career destiny.

Is it selfish to want to live this way?

Business & Motivation: The Psychology of Drive

This is an excellent presentation (with fun doodles) on the economics and pyschology behind your motivation in business. If you have employees or are thinking about hiring employees, this is a must watch.

My thoughts? I completely agree. I can say for myself, monetary incentives for my creativity and general awesomeness never work in driving me to do better, or output more. And fundamentally, I just want to get better at what I do and feel like I am contributing something to the world. As I have gotten to know some people over the years of this career I’ve cobbled together, a few of these people don’t seem to understand this about me. I know I can’t be bought. I used to think this was a gift and a curse, but I’m glad to know it’s not just me and it’s not just a fluke.

Anyway, I think is a good concept for business owners to think about as they hire people for their companies and devise their company policies.