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The Truth!

The motivational speakers who have impacted me the most are those who have shared their story, but I… honestly, don’t want to share my story. It hurts… and the story I’ve told myself is that if I share it, it may hurt others… 

… the question everybody asks me more than any other once they meet me and have learned of my book is, “What motivated you to write I’m Proud to Be Natural Me!?” And I always graciously smile, think for a second, then give them an answer that is definitely true AND missing some critical parts. 

My answer to the question usually goes something like this. “Well, I wrote I’m Proud to Be Natural Me! because I have always had a problem with the way people of color—particularly Black people—place value judgments based on physical characteristics such as skin tone and hair texture….” Depending on how talkative I am feeling at that particular moment, I may add another personal truth… that I wrote the book because I feel like our generation and the one before us (the “say it loud, ‘I’m Black and I’m proud.'” generation), have “missed the boat,” and left our children with a really distorted sense of self. A lot of us don’t know who we are, don’t accept who we are, or just discovered who we are somewhere in our thirties, and I just felt that the kids needed a fighting chance. By starting at such a young age, I can give them a firm foundation of healthy self-esteem from early childhood, rather than spend their teenage years trying to repair damage that was done likely before they even turned 6. 

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Anyway, I digress… the point is that although the topic and motive for desiring to write this book came from those desires for change, the urgency came from an unexpected life transition….

I wrote I’m Proud to Be Natural Me! because I was desperate…. I was happy as a stay-at-home mom, to my beautiful one-year-old (at the time) and decided that if I designed natural hair t-shirts and inspirational products online, I could work from home. The products in my online store became the original I’m Proud to Be Natural Me product line. (Most of these products are still available in my store http://www.zazzle.com/mdillondesigns.) Well… without disclosing all the details, I will say that two days after I opened that store, I went from stay-at-home mom to single mom.995049_904412206240060_3211499269042872400_n

Without a dime to my name, set to be evicted from our apartment in less than a week, I turned to my family and they graciously took me and my little girl in. The photo of us that is posted on many of my social media pages was taken just weeks after this major transition. I put on a brave face, went to the now closed Sears Portrait Studio in River Oaks, and did a photo shoot with my daughter to celebrate her turning 2 years old and us being alright no matter what… At a time when I could have broken down and decided to be depressed and not be there for my child, I pulled it together and “kept it moving.” I stayed up late and got up early, working many nights with my daughter sleeping across my lap, and even more nights with her cradled in my arms as I designed the little girls you see displayed in my book and on my products. 

For a year I stayed up creating these items in my online store, that in my head would be our ticket to independence. I would post products constantly on social media thinking to myself, “People know I’m a single mom. They’ll buy my products. We’re gonna be alright.” Ha! No such luck. Well… we are alright, but the products didn’t sell…. yet. AmazonLookInside

When I finally completed the book, self-published it via CreateSpace, and saw my “Look Inside” preview on Amazon, I KNEW we were about to take off! But that didn’t really do it either.

So, I said to myself maybe I’m not giving back enough, promoting enough, doing enough and began to fill in those gaps, of course, while working a “regular” J-O-B. And finally, I thought to myself after listening to many of my personal development CDs, I think I know what’s wrong. I have negative energy around my book. I need to revise it and add the missing pieces that are causing me to put out a vibe in the Universe that no one should buy it.  I was desperate. Did that. Sales? About the same.

So now, I’m here, it’s 2014. I’ve raised the stakes. Tired of being in my momma’s house, although I am grateful I have that option to do so (many wish they did), I have promised my daughter that we’re getting our own home. I am motivated. That’s one thing I have not lost through all of this. I am actually more motivated now than ever. Sometimes seeing a glimpse of your dream, or in my case seeing another “impossible” dream come true is motivation enough to keep on pushing, toward that big thing that you want. Honestly, I’m sitting up right now typing this, praying the light from the computer doesn’t wake her up. We need a space of our own… with our own separate rooms. A place where we can bake cookies together in our own kitchen, have a dog and a cat (her dream), … a space where a thirty-five year old mom, can think and regroup, read and watch shows like Scandal without having to flip to Sprout every time there’s a love scene. I want my little gymnast to have room to practice her forward rolls, and when she watches her ballet DVD to have room to twirl… (sigh)…  

Anyway…. I hope that through my story you may gain some hope for your own journey. Doing the thing that is in you to do is not always easy, but sometimes these unexpected transitions help us discover our gifts, realize our passions, and give us the boost we need to pursue them. Wanting my own helps me press forward toward making my book a best seller. Needing to ensure my daughter has an easier path motivates me to press through when I want to give up. No matter what I’ve been through, I have always returned to the belief that “all things have purpose.” Had I not experienced all I did, there would be no I’m Proud to Be Natural Me! So, if for no other reason, my rough spots have allowed me to produce something that is helping children come to embrace the truth of their beauty, a realization that alters all aspects of life.

Have you learned from a life challenge? Have you come to learn your purpose through a perceived setback? I’d love to hear from you below! 

If you are interested in any of the products/services I mentioned, here are some links.

My passion for sharing the message that “we are ALL beautiful as is” has not changed. I’ll be speaking at a daycare this evening on Chicago’s South Side. I am not discouraged by a long shot. I know things are coming together and… my child eats everyday. 🙂 I will continue to visit daycare centers and schools looking for opportunities to empower children with the message I believe with all my heart I was sent to teach. I am also planning a multicultural parenting workshop to be held in the Hyde Park area, to addressing the challenges of instilling healthy self-esteem in children of multicultural heritage…. It’s just that while continuing with my purpose I am also ready to live my life full out… to tell people “you can live your dreams” knowing that when I step down from the podium, I am a very clear example of how true that statement is. 

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Me & Mini MeMarlene Dillon is the self-published author of the empowering children’s book, I’m Proud to Be Natural Me!  She is a single mom on a mission to inspire others by living fully and purposefully, and by sharing her gifts and her story openly. Through powerful workshops she mentors young girls, and teaches parents and children how  to build healthy self-esteem and confidently pursue their passions.

If you find value in what Marlene is doing and would like to make a monetary donation, rather than purchase products, you may do so securely via PayPal by clicking the “Make A Donation” button below. 

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THE LINK BETWEEN SELF-ESTEEM & BULLYING

I AM PRO-SHRINKAGE! I don’t even call it “shrinkage.” I think it’s one of the coolest traits of my natural hair. I call it “springiness.” I love how when I pull on my twists, they bounce back. It is a personal pet peeve of mine to see the shrinkage shots. You know the pics where a beautiful natural woman, with the most amazing curly hair, is tugging at one of her coils to show how disappointed she is with the hidden length of her hair?

It only bothers me because so often women of color, well Black women, place a lot of value on hair length. It doesn’t matter how beautiful, healthy, bouncy, hydrated the curls are, if it shows 5 inches and it’s actually 12, she’s pissed and hates her hair. I just wish we would embrace all the awesomeness of our hair. This is not just true for Black women. I see the same with women of other “races.” I’ve had so many friends with hair down their back that complain that their hair grows too fast. “Ugh… I just cut it!” Or women with the natural curl pattern that many of us attempt to mimic with a twist out (yeah, I said it), complain about just wanting to straighten it.

I’m Proud to Be Natural Me! is my attempt at teaching children that however we came out is fine. That God, The Universe, The Source, the Creator, or the atoms that combined did not make a mistake on you. You are amazing AS YOU ARE! The sooner we realize this, the sooner we can teach our children to love themselves and those around them. If you hate what you see in the mirror, how can you truly love anyone else? If you are disappointed in what you present, how can you avoid “hating” on the next person? If you feel that you are ugly, isn’t it almost “natural” to want the person you see as pretty to feel your pain? What we often don’t see is that bullying and self-esteem walk hand in hand. This is why I mentor 4th through 8th grade girls. It is crucial that we teach our children that “we are ALL beautiful as is.”

*If you are in the Chicagoland/Northwest Indiana areas, click here contact me about my empowering girls’ mentoring workshops. I would love to visit your institution! 

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Me & Mini MeMarlene Dillon is the self-published author of the empowering children’s book, I’m Proud to Be Natural Me!  She is a single mom on a mission to inspire others by living fully and purposefully,  and by sharing her gifts and her story openly. Through powerful workshops she mentors young girls, and teaches parents and children how  to build healthy self-esteem and confidently pursue their passions.

If you find value in what Marlene is doing, and would like to  support her efforts, please use the link below to make a secure donation via PayPal. A gift of any amount is greatly appreciated.

Make a Donation Button

The Necessity of Returning Natural

Time to practice what we preach.
How do you teach your child to be proud of their natural hair and your hair is blown straight? How can you expect your child to rock a twist out, or afro, at 9 years old—an age where her ability to “fit in” may define her self-worth for the rest of her life—and she is being sent a mixed message at home? You tell your baby girl every day, “Don’t worry about what they say. You have to love your natural hair,” but you are wearing a 3 foot silky straight weave as your “protective style.”
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Our children learn more from what we do than from what we say. They are little lawyers constantly looking for evidence to support what we claim is the truth. Don’t believe me? Try reprimanding your child with a smile on your face and see how effective it is. They watch us to see if we truly mean the words we speak. I cannot fully tell my child to believe in herself when it is evident that I do not believe in myself. I cannot tell her to love her hair and it is obvious to her that I am ashamed of mine, or see it as my casual style, but not appropriate for “dressy” occasions.

Have you seen the news story by WPTV News that speaks about the reasons many Black women are “going natural?” I truly commend Rochelle Ritchie for publicly addressing this topic and the huge commitment she made. This video really stirred me because it speaks of a mother with straightened hair who was raising her beautiful daughter with natural hair. She spoke of how her daughter was being teased at school every day and wanted to have hair like her mom’s. At some point, this loving mom was touched by her child’s pain and made a decision that I wish more moms would consider. She decided do the “big chop” in support of her child and began to wear her hair naturally!

We have to teach our kids by example, and they need to know that they are beautiful as is. We can speak it all we want but we are not showing it if our go-to style is always silky straight. They know better; they know when we don’t believe what we say. I want more for my daughter than that. And I want more for your children, as well. That’s why wrote I’m Proud to Be Natural Me!

Let’s lead by example: drop the weaves and lace fronts. Those styles are destroying more than just our hairlines; they are killing our children’s self-esteem. Let’s commit to loving ourselves openly before our children. If we don’t teach them, who will?

Marlene Dillon, author of I'm Proud to Be Natural Me! Available on Amazon.

Marlene Dillon is the author of I’m Proud to Be Natural Me! a beautiful picture book that teaches children to embrace their natural beauty. It is her passion to empower children and their parents with the message that “we are ALL beautiful as is.”  I’m Proud to Be Natural Me! is available on Amazon, click this link to visit the site. For bookings and to order books for your store, please email improudtobenaturalme@yahoo.com.

Giving Back

I’m Proud to Be Natural Me! author Marlene Dillon, is looking to host empowerment workshops in schools, community, and religious institutions.

Last year, I did a workshop at a public school in Chicago. It was my first time doing one of that sort and honestly I was very nervous. I sat in my car all the way “down to the wire” contemplating never booking myself to “do something like this ever again.” Truth is, I have one of these panic moments before every single event I do, whether it’s vending, a workshop, book signing, or even just a networking event. The terror of wondering if I am prepared enough and the unknown of what the experience will honestly look like is unnerving for me. The thing that gets me out my car is my purpose and the belief that this is bigger than me—the knowledge that there is some young person, or parent, that I am to touch… and they are inside waiting for me.

Order this tee today at www.zazzle.com/naturalme

I’m Proud to Be Natural Me! teaches that we are ALL beautiful as is.

Last night I watched a video on Facebook that touched my life. It was so powerful to see these girls tell their stories of how close they came to giving up, and how many times they tried, and how they now believe in themselves and found something to live for. I thought about the fourth grade girls I spoke to and how their beliefs changed in that room, in that short time I was with them. They learned the power of their words and how it is our duty to uplift our sisters and not tear them down. They learned that they are beautiful, each and every one of them. They learned how to build their self-confidence and to love themselves… lessons many of us still don’t have fully in adulthood. I saw my impact as the girls began to apologize to each other voluntarily, one after the other. “I’m sorry I called you ‘black'” and “I’m sorry I didn’t sit with you at lunch.” It was so powerful.

Honestly, I had NO IDEA that it would turn into that. I just wanted to teach them a little bit about self-esteem, but hearing them one after another speak on what they felt was beautiful about themselves was so awesome. I always recall the powerful moment at the end of my workshop when this beautiful dark chocolate girl said, “I used to believe I was ugly, but now I know I am beautiful.” It hit me in the car, it hit me weeks later, it hit me all over again right now, in this moment, I have a voice to give these girls a voice. I want to touch more lives in this way. It is my purpose, and greatest desire, to impact lives for positive change on a grand scale. There is no greater satisfaction than knowing that my words, my time, my effort helped to change the course of a child’s life in some small or large way.

I am reaching out to you because I would like more opportunities to speak in a similar manner at schools and community organizations. This is part of my purpose—a VERY large part. If you would like to host a workshop at your institution, please contact me at improudtobenaturalme@yahoo.com.

Thank you.

What Is I’m Proud to Be Natural Me?

I’m Proud to Be Natural Me! is a movement of self-love created by author and designer Marlene Dillon. It’s bigger than a hairstyle or hair texture; it’s about the beliefs that run deep beneath the surface.

I’m Proud to Be Natural Me! is not about condemning those who choose to weave, press, “perm” (relax), or flat iron their curls away. Nor is it about deifying those of us who chose to rock our curly locs for life.

I’m Proud to Be Natural Me! is about recognizing and accepting that our hair is a part of our identity. It’s about learning to love and appreciate our hair in it’s natural state. 

I’m Proud to Be Natural Me! is about loving our hair no matter what state it’s in and teaching our children to do the same. It’s about internalizing that no matter how we choose to style, straighten, or color our hair, at the root we are beautiful as is.

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