AWM Spotlight: Erica Dixon

AWM Spotlight: Erica Dixon

By Posted on 7min read154 views

Today we will catch up with Erica Dixon, the founder of Unity Mas Band. Read all about how she came to love Carnival and started her own mas band.

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Enjoy the Culture Responsibly.

Enjoy the Culture Responsibly.

By Posted on 5min read158 views

Looking back at an experience that made me realize that I was not consuming the carnival culture responsibly, and what I did to change it.

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Let’s Talk About Plastic Surgery.

By Posted on 7min read66 views

Where did my boobs go?

Let’s take it way back to 2013.  I was still a physician assistant (PA) student doing my clinical rounds at a medical installation in Georgia.  At the same time, I decided then would be a fantastic idea for train for my very first body-building (bikini) competition.  I had lost a lot of weight and put on some fantastic muscle mass. I remember my masseuse gloating over how well my deltoids had developed. I was pretty excited about my progress and was looking forward to hitting the stage for the very first time in about three more months. I went shopping for new bras and of course, the good ole Victoria’s secret representative came around and offered to measure my bust.  When she was done… she told me I was an A cup.

Now don’t get me wrong, my bust had always been small.  I used to be a barely B cup so when I was told I had lost that much breast mass I literally had a significant emotional event.  I remember talking to other friends about what I had experienced and they explained that was why they or other women sought out breast implants.  The ugly side of bikini competition is that although you lose an insane of fat-mass, judges somehow expected you to have nice breasts at the same time. How fucking sway? But take a look…. Have you ever seen a flat-chested bikini champion? I’ll wait.

Natalia Melo was one of my favorites back then. Look at her-- very little body fat. Do you really think that boob is all her? Nah.

At any rate, the decision to look into breast implants was not for the stage but for my own self-esteem.  I was built like a shit-brick house without the boobs to match. I wanted to enhance my curves and had the means to do so, and with much enthusiasm from the ex-spouse I gave it a go. I got the surgery sometime in April 2014, and all was well. I went under the pectoral muscle (for a natural look) via an arm-pit incision.  I went from a 34A/B to a 32DDD in a matter of hours.  I am still to this day very happy with my implants and would do nothing differently.

Breast Augmentation by Dr. Chris Pettigrew. Click this photo to head to his website.

“For someone that hardly eats, I don’t understand how you’ve gained weight”.

My ex-husband and I had problems WAY…WAY… before 2014.  Honestly, we had problems the moment I left for PA school in 2010, so how the hell I thought marrying this man was going to work was beyond me at the time.

 

At any rate, he and I ended up separating early September 2014.  Because of stress eating, lack of exercise, a new job, new life as a commissioned officer and the life of an (emotionally abused) wife, I had no concept of a healthy work-life balance.  My ex had no idea that I comforting myself with fast food before I got home. Imagine having panic attacks as you pull up to the driveway of your four-bedroom home with manicured grass. Home was hell, not a sanctuary. On the outside, people would think I had “it all” but didn’t really know “at what cost?”   

On the outside, this looks like I had it all. Not so.

The relationship between me and my ex-husband took a serious toll on me; I was constantly harassed about seeing my (male) patient’s nude, he fetishized my medical practice with female patients, hated that I outranked him, postulating over the concept of me telling him what to do at home because of my rank. He was constantly reminding me of how much money I was making as an excuse for lack of fiscal responsibility. I never heard “I’m proud of you”, “I’m happy for you”, or any type of compliment or praise. I spent days listening to him about his work life and he never wanted to hear anything about mine. I was living in a four-bedroom house physically married but spiritually ALONE. He had issues with all of my friends, so I was socially isolated. I was starving for approval that I would never receive unless it had something to do with him. I had no sense of self-worth, or confidence. I begged for but continuously lacked a king in my own kingdom…and felt lost and worthless.  He gaslighted and *narcissized the fuck out of me and I had no clue.

My childhood trauma along with the trauma in my relationship with my ex-husband left me reeling over a (very wrong) idea that I was not desired, that I was not beautiful. Beauty and intelligence are an unwelcome anomaly in men’s eyes. Men just want women to be arm-candy and nothing else.  Keep your mouth shut, just be pretty. A prop. Don’t be too smart. Don’t overshadow a man’s presence. Don’t shine bright.  Otherwise, you will be unloved, hated and undesired. You’ll be left for someone that doesn’t threaten a man’s ego. That has to be what men want, right?  But I couldn’t undo the three degrees on my wall and there was no way that I was not going to give up my hard-earned rank.  So, I came up with an idea. Plastic surgery.

One week post-op. Liposuction of thighs, hips and flank. The (almost) worst pain of my life.

In November 2014, my plastic surgeon removed about ten pounds of fat from my thighs and hips.  Let’s talk about the absolute WORST post-operative pain I have ever been in, even with Demerol on the clock.  Between the bruising and shitting bricks because of the narcotic medication, I was in pure hell for about ten days.  But I thought that things would get better between me and my ex if he saw that I had put in the effort to change SOMETHING about myself.  Something.  We did get back together, but it wasn’t because of the surgery, and we ultimately got a divorce in 2015. I remember in 2018 running into a friend of his that became my patient.  When I explained that he and I divorced he said, “I’m not sure if I should say sorry, or congratulations”.  I sat in my khaki’s and polo shirt, legs crossed with red bottoms on my feet.  I said with a smile, “Oh, it’s definitely a congratulations”.

Since then, I have had some other procedures done, mainly liposuction in those difficult areas such as the back of my arms and the knee complex.  It’s not that I wasn’t putting in any type of work, it had everything to do with full blown genetics.

 

When pain is your professor.

  1. PS won’t make your personal problems better. It won’t get your man back. It won’t make people treat you better. It won’t get anyone to honor or value you if they didn’t beforehand. Do PS for yourself and yourself only.
  2. PS will not replace lifestyle choices. ESPECIALLY if you are looking to get liposuction.  Even after I had the surgery on my problem areas I was still not totally happy. If you think that liposuction procedures will eradicate the need to work out in the gym, are going to be insanely disappointed.  You still need to consider diet and exercise. You can undo a surgeon’s work with lack of good choices. Speaking from personal experience.
  3. PS won’t give you much definition without muscle mass. Reference #3.
  4. Don’t do PS in a mental space of hating your body. If you’re investing thousands of dollars in a procedure just understand that the self-investment doesn’t stop once you swipe your credit card and go under.  Speak to a surgeon about the beauty you have that you wish to enhance, not about what you do not like about yourself.
  5. A PS will make you look great in clothes but your own work will make you look great naked. Remember that models that have had plastic surgery STILL get photoshopped so have realistic goals and expectations.

Forward thinking.

By all means, I am not against plastic surgery, but our bodies are complex yet truly miraculous machines that deserve celebration pre-and post op. This is why I love carnival because I feel so alive no matter my size on the road.  A lot of people want to be silent about plastic surgery as if it is something to be embarrassed about, and it really is not.  You can still love the body you are in and want to enhance it. You can pierce it, tattoo it, but not get PS? How sway? I think that if people were more transparent about plastic surgery we would eradicate all these incidences of botched procedures, death and lack of emotional support (because plastic surgery can be a significant emotional event). Just something to think about.

 

Find a plastic surgeon that is capable of providing you the service that you desire.  For example, Arm-pit incisions for breast implants are not very common but I kept looking for a surgeon until I found one.  The reason why is because I personally I leave bad scars and didn’t want to risk it, even under my breasts.

Don’t let a PS push an aesthetic on you that you are not comfortable with.  At the end of the day, find a PS that says no to risky/questionable requests. Carefully evaluate his portfolio.  Do your research and trust your gut. Set realistic expectations and seek out what you want. Develop a support system. Appreciate the body that you are in, and set yourself up to do your part of the work.   If you’re looking for a great resource that has feedback from real patients and engage in discussions with prospective surgeons, I highly encourage you to visit realself. 

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A professional. A masquerader.

A professional. A masquerader.

By Posted on 8min read141 views

September 19th will mark my 18th year of military service. This is a reflection of my experiences with body shaming, self-discovery in mas, and how I began to be comfortable about my life as a professional and a masquerader.

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Honoring your Carnival Body at any Size.

Honoring your Carnival Body at any Size.

By Posted on 4min read60 views

Taking a moment to reflect on my struggles with weight and how I came to accept my carnival body at any size.

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Fear of the Photo Shoot.

By Posted on 3min read135 views

Starving for Fresh Content.

As COVID-19 lingers, creatives are working very hard to continue to maintain relevancy in the midst of dreaded social media algorithms.  As the months pass on, I find myself along with many other creatives broadening their horizons, developing new and sharpening old skills.  One of the biggest problems that I have had is that I just don’t have a lot of really great photos.  I can lightroom my photos into something presentable, but I decided that I just needed more content for consumption… so I booked a photo shoot with Favor Films, and and got some concepts together.

COVID-Calories and my new Reality.

Being an Active Duty Soldier and a clinician, I have not been as physically active and put on 10 pounds since I got back from Trinidad Carnival due to COVID-19. My beloved CrossFit gym closed as quickly as it had reopened due to a spike in cases. But  I told myself that I had time to trim down because the photo shoot was at least a month or so away.

But life got in the way and I quickly found myself days away from a shoot, standing on the scale, and rethinking my life choices.  I started to ask myself if now was the good time to really do this shoot. The night prior to the shoot I found myself stressed wondering whether or not this was a good idea. My cycle is days away which means that the definition in my abs would not be present the following morning thanks to bloating.  I was worried about what people would think now that I had gotten a bit softer. How the definition in my quads were gone. I wondered if people would notice that my bum didn’t sit as high as it once did when I was having frequent sessions with the barbell. I thought forward and realized that If I didn’t take this opportunity, there wouldn’t be another until September. I wanted to look my best and I was just got feeling this COVID-body at all.

Honoring my Accomplishments.

Here I go again being so hard on myself, spiraling down the slide of negativity.  I forced myself to reflect on the past four months, and reminded myself of all that I have accomplished since COVID-19 started:

  1. I built a website.
  2. I started a YouTube channel and added content.
  3. I learned how to use Adobe Lightroom.
  4. I learned how to use Adobe Premiere Pro.
  5. I studied for and successfully earned my Drone Pilot License.
  6. I learned new Makeup Techniques.
  7. I attended online drone photography and cinematography workshops.
  8. I started a small business (Lyon Hart Done Photography).

All the while still meeting the needs of the United States Army, and dealing with the loss of friends, family, and a brother in arms from COVID-19.

Im still beautiful at any size, and I can still deadlift a running back. If that’s not dopeness, I don’t know what is.

Forward Thinking.

carival boots carnival shoes
"More Life". RIP, Jonathan Elliott.

Photo shoots are just superficial representations of who you are, and not everything that you have accomplished and endured.  What was a photo shoot turned into a mini-celebration of my life for the past four months. Sans the alcohol.

Life happens, but you deserve to celebrate yourself any given time of the day, month or year.

COVID-19 is a tough period for us all.  And if you’re just getting through the day, that’s an accomplishment.  So go take that selfie, boo. Show off that sexy fluff you’ve gained. You’re amazing. We got this.

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Attitudes that contribute to the dilution of the Caribbean carnival culture

Attitudes that contribute to the dilution of the Caribbean carnival culture

By Posted on 5min read131 views

While I don’t believe any masquerader intentionally does this, let’s take a look at some attitudes/perceptions that people may have that contribute to the misappropriation of Caribbean carnival.

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It’s normal to NOT be okay during COVID-19.

It’s normal to NOT be okay during COVID-19.

By Posted on 13min read58 views

Reflecting on how the reality of COVID-19 challenged my mental health and how sharing my feelings with others brought reassurance that I was not alone.

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A flag is NOT just a piece of cloth.

By Posted on 3min read141 views

Uncertain times like these can bring out the absolute best in humans, but it also affords several opportunities to highlight the very ugly gaps that exist amongst races and cultures.

Over the past week or so I found myself scrolling Instagram just like most people stuck at home looking for some kind of stimulation to get my mind off the world’s state of affairs no thanks to COVID-19.

I remember when 9-11 happened.  People bonded and put their differences aside like nothing I have ever seen before.  People from all different walks of life prayed together for unity and peace.

But this COVID-19 got people on some other shit.

Nonetheless, I found myself scrolling past a post from a popular Caribbean platform that called attention to a woman who had done a challenge video rocking a Trinidadian flag.. and she ALLEGEDLY wasn’t Trini.

Just like my previous blog, I believe that people should come to Carnival as they are, but I also respect the reasons why masqueraders choose not to wear a flag that is their own. HOWEVER… I found myself stunned as I read comments summarizing the vitriol over cultural misappropriation as “its just a piece of cloth”.

Hold up.

Let’s put it this way:  When you go to church and take communion, do you think you are receiving wine and crackers? Most people would agree the on presentation/symbolism of the body and blood of Christ.  

The church is definitely a heavy example, but there is symbolism in everything.  Why isn’t this accepted with other cultures as it pertains to Caribbean people and their island countries?

And if you’re still thinking it a piece of cloth, let’s do a QUICK (but not all encompassing) break down the symbolism of the Trinidad & Tobago flag. 

The color/shade black is a representation of the strength in numbers of its unified people.  Red represents the strength of its people Trinidad and Tobago on the left and right of the flag.  White represents the sea which binds the two islands together.  These colors were chosen representing all elements of the earth (wind, air, fire, water) encompassing the past, present and future.

To discount an island-country’s flag is to completely dismiss its rich history and lays ignorance its people… their experiences and struggles that you may not possibly ever be able to relate to.

So who are you to misappropriate a flag based on it being a piece of cloth to YOU?

People from all over the world are more than welcome to enjoy the Caribbean culture and play mas.  But lack of respect for the culture and a expressed desire to not honor their flags as they should is what leads to the very harsh criticism that I  have seen on social media. Flags aren’t fashion accessories. Their flags aren’t something that you wave only in the spirit of Carnival to put down and away until you feel like waving it at your next fete or Carnival jump. These flags represent a way of life that is not your own. Please be respectful.

How do you feel about waving a flag that is not your own? What makes you do it?  If you are of West Indian descent, how do you feel about people who choose to wave flags from different island-countries?

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Dating a non-masquerader.

Dating a non-masquerader.

By Posted on 3min read70 views

Taking a moment to reflect on the challenges I faced dating someone completely unfamiliar with Caribbean mas and the culture.

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It’s okay to be a non-Caribbean and play mas.

It’s okay to be a non-Caribbean and play mas.

By Posted on 3min read158 views

If your cultural background is holding you back from enjoying the experience, trust and believe there is nothing to worry about.

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