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“I’ll tell you what freedom is to me - no fear!” - Ms. Nina Simone

These iconic and powerful words said by Ms. Nina Simone were the inspiration for some life and style changes for director and writer, Dana Graham. Last Friday, February 23, Dana announced her new bad*ss, neck-breaking look and the launch of her blog, Simply DNicole. This blog will pair with her current personal site where she keeps fans, old and new, up to date on her creative projects as a theater creative in Dayton, Ohio.


In her first post titled “Doing Exactly What Miss Simone Proclaimed: Creating Freedom By Being Fearless,” Dana speaks how these words, along with her own convictions, moved her to tap into new desires with a daring spirit. Reading her piece made me ask myself, on multiple accounts, - How dare I not live for me?!


On of the most #preach moments in her blog post was when she wrote:


“But honestly, this choice made me okay with not being afraid to start over. There is much power in understanding the concept of letting go to receive more. To me, it’s not about failure AT ALL. It’s about taking the lessons of the previous journey and applying them to a fresh one. Yep, it can be scary in any situation, but I trust myself to do better and also honor myself enough to receive the better things in life. To receive great, it requires you to feel great.”


To receive great, it requires you to FEEL great! Ugh the power in this phrase. Although inspired by Nina Simone, Dana’s proclamation reminded me of the words of the late Audre Lorde “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”  Thinking of my mission with Beyond the Clouds, the act of self care and self love is revolutionary, specifically for women of color and queer folks of color, because it allows us to take time and space for wellness to do preventative and preservative work on our mind, body and soul. And as Dana said you have to feel great to receive great. You also deserve to feel and receive great from oneself, not just externally, and I think that is my favorite message from Dana’s post because it reinforces love, reflection and action for oneself to transform how you move in this world. If that isn’t bad*ss I don’t know what is it!


Although I planned to keep this review a surprise from Dana (who is also my best friend since 7th/8th grade), I couldn’t help, but pick her brain about the first couple days after the launch and her thoughts on revolutionary self-care specifically in the context of hair and style!


Check out our conversation below.


So it’s almost been a week since your launch!  How do you feel? How has the feedback been?!

I feel like fire! Literally, especially because of my hair color lol, and figuratively because I am exuding this particular explosion of bright light that I haven't felt in a longggg time - I imagine that's self-love finally living genuinely in me. I also feel creatively liberated - for now - we all know how there are ebbs and flows in that journey, but I feel that I'm no longer hiding my love for public conversation and expression. I love conversing about things I'm truly passionate about/exploring through, but it's always been reserved for private interactions. I'm allowing my confidence to power my creative voice and share my thoughts, essentially, to the world. The feedback has been very inspiring from people who I know in real life to those I've met in passing to those who I only am familiar with through social media platforms. I'm allowing myself to embrace the love because I know I'm doing this out of love.


Oh I love that! Moving in love… Considering the great quote by Audre Lorde "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare." - Can you share what revolutionary self care look like to you? How about in the context of hair and personal style?

First off, love that quote from Ms. Lorde! Revolutionary self care, to me, is literally staying present with what my body, mind, and spirit needs. For me, self-care isn't trendy or glamorous all the time and I try to turn that pressure off by being conscious of the self-care practices I create or adopt. Essentially, self-care is about making Dana feel enough in the now by allowing myself the space for self-acceptance and self-joy. To me, self-care in the context of individuality, like hair and personal style, is a form of self-celebration. You believe you are the bomb so you show yourself off as that! It's not giving a f*ck about who will say what. It's about turning your own head when you walk past a mirror, whispering in your own ear, "dang ma, not only do you feel good but you look good!"


Haha I feel that! Ain't nothing wrong gassing yourself up. Lastly, what more can we expect on the blog?

Let's see, you can expect: to laugh with me as I embrace my "imperfectness" in all areas of my life as I continue to grow in my womanhood, LOTS of raw sarcastic humor, my commentary on principle lessons I have learned thus far about life, hair, skin, health/wellness, and a look at what inspires me creatively in the industry of performing arts and upcoming projects I am working on.


Dana just finished a show with the University of Dayton in collaboration with Steve Connell titled “Untitled”. The play discussed topics of race relations, vulnerability and legacy of activism in the United States. Last month, Dana, along with Joyce Barnes,  co-directed “A Sunday in Birmingham” which showed in Xenia, OH and the surrounding area. On top of thriving theater opportunities, Dana is also starting a reading series in Dayton highlighting women of color writers, playwrights and poets! She let me in on the project name and it’s so dope! Personally, I am so excited to watch how Dana grows and how this reading series blossoms.


Follow Dana at:

DanaNicoleGraham.com and on IG @simply_dnicole

Tobi Ewing is an illustrator, photographer, writer and self love advocate. Tobi is also the founder of Beyond the Clouds, a brand creating space for poc, women and qtpoc folk to BE WELL. As a queer, black woman and artist, she aims to create creative and wellness space for black and brown marginalized communities. Tobi loves food, practicing art, Netflixing, laughing and building with her community.

Keep up with her on Instagram, @_tobiwithaneye.