Issue No.3 November 7, 2000

IGNITE ~ The Body Politic
HOT GIRLZ ~ Mfon Essien
ESOTERIC ~ Email and Women
CHICA TO CHICA ~ Creating A Spiritual Life & Mirrors


intro and overview

My body may look like a lean, mean fighting machine, but in reality I can’t even touch my toes without bending my knees. When I tell people that I need to start working-out again to get back in shape, I rarely get any love or sympathy. Folks just naturally assume that because I rock a size 6 dress that I must have Janet Jackson abs, good cholesterol levels and can breeze through my Tae Bo video without breaking-out in a sweat. And these folks would, naturally, be wrong. I’m about to be outta the twenty-something age bracket and realize now more than ever that being fit is more than a notion. It is a lifestyle discipline that requires me to not only work my body, but to exercise my mind and spirit as well.

Like my Latina and Indian sisters, and most other women of color, I never really got twisted over my body image. Growing-up as a black female, having a big booty and being ‘thick’ was a sign of beauty and good health. Ironically it’s probably that mind-set which has made me so laxed about developing healthy habits around exercise now as a young woman.

Our bodies have also become a part of this very politically charged season where we cannot escape the reality to be proactive or be unheard. We cannot simply say we want the best for ourselves and not vote. Too much is riding on this election including the right to choose, affirmative action and quality healthcare, particularly for women. Let’s examine the issues at stake and begin our mental and physical revival by making all the right choices. As successful, young urban women we owe it to ourselves and to the future of our well being.

Nicole Moore, Editor


inspired, creative and groundbreaking


Mfon Essien
by Nicole Moore

Mfon Essien’s Harlem apartment building is actually an old public school building—reinvested and renovated. Situated across the street from a dilapidated public housing project and up the block from Magic Johnson’s fully-loaded, ultra deluxe movie theatre, her neighborhood reflects both the promise and awkwardness of urban renewal.

Mfon, however, is no stranger to weird juxtapositions or to incongruent developments. Born in Ikot Ekpene, Nigeria and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, Mfon’s genius as a photographer is the way in which she blends edgy shapes with soft gestures and delicate props (or vice versa). Having shot scores of models and friends here and in her native Nigeria, Mfon’s favorite photographic discipline has always been nudes. Her first portraits usually featured men-- boyfriends who would always oblige Mfon’s request to disrobe. Although Mfon thought the female body was more interesting, she often found it difficult to find models: “I always wanted to shoot women, but I would run into women who were uncomfortable with their bodies and I don’t have time for that. When I’m shooting it’s already a test because I never know what I’m going to get. So I don’t feel like being someone’s therapist-- telling them why I think they have a great body.” By her own admission, Mfon never really considered her body very fascinating even though it was easier to manipulate and a lot less stressful. But Mfon short for Mmekutmfon, which means, “I have seen the goodness of God,” would experience an event that would transform her life and the way she thought about her body and how she lived.

In 1998 at the tender of age of 28, Mfon was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. She underwent a major mastectomy to remover the cancer. Considering that women are not even told to get their first mammogram until they are 35, the shock of having breast cancer was enough to leave even the usually tough spirit crippled. But Mfon knew that learning to live without her left breast was going to be an experience she needed to accept. And like many artists that find themselves at the crossroads of life, Mfon used her art to make that important first step. “I (photographed myself) specifically to heal immediately and to get over the mourning. I was like ‘you don’t have a breast and you’re not having plastic surgery anytime soon. So get it together and feel sexy today. Take these pictures now!’” The process of shooting herself became her lie-on-the-couch-therapy-sessions: “Shooting my body made me so much more comfortable with my body. I have way more confidence now.”

In a weird twist of circumstances the resulting series of self-portraits entitled, “The Amazon’s New Clothes,” have become what many friends and critics believe to be Mfon’s best work. And according to some, they believe it is also her most erotic. “She is definitely sexier now than before and you can see that in the photographs,” says her friend Suede whose work has appeared in a number of publications including The Source and Trace.

Amazon’s New Clothes is a reference to the Hans Christian Andersen tale, The Emperor’s New Clothes, and to the mythic Amazon Women Warriors. The Amazon women were a community of strong, statuesque sisters that were amazing marksmen. They were thought to be such precise archers because they shaved off their left breast to have better leverage when they held their bow and arrow. In fact these warriors were so satisfied with the look and feel of their own skin that they were not even aware of their nudity.

Like these Amazonians, Mfon’s photos showcase her body as a wondrous work of art—single breast, scar and all. In what she refers to as ‘still lifes’, Mfon leaves her taut, sinewy body exposed with only a flower or garters for added depth or design. Whether she is wearing a mask or her back is turned we never see Mfon’s face. “In America many people have a limited view of what they consider attractive and a lot of this begins with whether they think the face is attractive. So even if the gesture is beautiful, someone can deny that based on the model’s face,” she explains almost defiantly. Besides the scar there is very little evidence of the ravages of chemotherapy. As a matter of fact the last thing you think about is suffering or that this woman has had a mastectomy.

Mfon received an Honorable mention in this year’s very competitive American Photography Magazine contest and her work was on exhibition this past May at the Senegalese Bieenale in Dakar, Senegal . In February 2001, The Amazon’s New Clothes will be featured in “Committed to the Image: A Half Century of Black Photography in America,” at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. She admits that she is more productive now and spiritually feels better than ever. “I’m nothing like I was before I found out I had breast cancer. It’s wild because now it’s my second year and I have come full circle. I have more reverence for life than I ever have. I completely exist in the here and now. I’m constantly shooting myself so I can continue to appreciate what I have and where I am. Maybe I’ll get breast implants tomorrow and maybe I won’t. Maybe I will not even live past tomorrow. I just want to make sure that wherever I am, I am totally diggin’ where I am—not mourning or wishing I had a bigger ass. I just don’t have time for that anymore. I feel sexy now. And I never felt like that before.”




music, books, film, tv and websites

After ten years of private practice, radiologist Larry Chespak, M.D., has accumulated a great deal of insight into patients’ concerns and patient services, including issues regarding quality and access that are prevalent in medical environments heavily influenced by the financial constraints of managed care. In December 1999 Dr. Chespak decided to put his money where his heart was and he created is a website that provides secure, confidential and affordable Computer Aided Detection (CAD) for the early detection of breast cancer and related medical services to imaging centers and their patients.

Award-winning actress and breast cancer activist Whoopi Goldberg, the site’s most popular spokesperson has been on The View and Oprah stressing the need for early detection. Putting her comedic side on the back burner, Whoopi took a stand this past October—Breast Cancer Awareness Month, to urge women of all ages to get a mammogram: "Why take the chance? Spend the half hour, get the mammogram, double check it (with computer technology) and live well."

Currently up to 21 percent of early stage breast cancers are undetected through routine screening mammography. offers a unique service called the CloserLook that can help radiologists lower that percentage rate. The CloserLook analysis acts as a second pair of "eyes" on mammograms, identifying and marking any "regions of interest" for your radiologist to (re-)check.

In addition to this service, the site also offers several other tools and community based resources such as “iNews”, which features the latest in breast cancer articles, news and information. My Health, a new health records management section provides help in organizing personal and/or family medical history in one convenient place, right from the privacy of your home or office.

Check out Ask The Doctor, which connects women with prominent radiologists and other physicians. Pose any question and they will try to reply via email and/or through a post on the site, while iMammogram Resources provides you with the latest information and tools in the fight against breast cancer.

~ Todd Wilson redefines our concepts of what makes for a “sensitive” man as he is not only concerned with a woman’s physique, but also with her physiology.




media bits and news bytes


Email is Changing Women’s Lives

In the past six months, 9 million women have gone online for the first time. That is nearly 10% of adult women in the United States. Fully a fifth of all the women who have Internet access (21%) have gotten it in the past half year.

The new arrivals have a different profile from longtime Internet users, who more often are well-educated, well-paid men. Some 47% of the women who recently got access to the Internet have no education past high school; 54% of them are between the ages of 30 and 50; 53% of them are mothers of a child under 18; 54% of them have incomes of $50,000 or less.

Women are more likely than men, to seek health information and play online games. They are also a bit more likely than men to seek religious or spiritual information and hunt for material about new jobs.




expressing ourselves


Steps For Creating A Spiritual Life:
Doing It Yourself, For the Good of Self
by Angel Kyodo Williams

an excerpt from the book Being Black:
Zen and the Art of Living With Fearlessness and Grace

True to the warrior-spirit, you have to honor your own intrinsic value and protect yourself. Practicing good for yourself is both allowed and encouraged. Your own healthfulness and well-being is critical in your effort to master life. You have to tend to all aspects of your well-being-- physical, mental, psychic, emotional, and of course, spiritual. There is no point in going out into the world broken and unbalanced. Everything begins at home. This is not selfishness, it's common sense. Does it mean that you have to be perfect before you step out the door? No. But it does mean that looking into and tending to yourself is a necessary place to start practicing good. Our responsibility towards others and ourselves reminds us that any true personal transformation is an act of revolution. Explore yourself and find the things that nourish you:

- Make art. Express your creativity regardless of whether or not you feel you are an "artist."

- Nourish and protect your body. Choose healthful foods that have been grown and produced in the best way possible.

- Stimulate your mind. Find new music that moves you.

- Pay attention to yourself. Go away for a weekend alone, or spend a day in silence.

- Wake your body up, exercise your lungs. Lift light weights, run, jog, walk, or play any sport that requires you to get a little out of breath.

- Lighten your burden. Seek and ask for help when you need it or just talk out your problems with a friend, family member, or therapist.

- Foster intimacy. Sit face-to-face with a person you care about for at least five minutes. Without speaking, simply look into each other's eyes, trace every line of their face. Let self-consciousness melt away.

- Honor what you love. Create an appreciation altar and adorn it with pictures of people you love, mementos and trinkets from your life, flowers, art, and objects you think are beautiful.

- Light candles and incense for no special reason. Reflect on where you are going and how you are feeling.

- Invoke the power of sound and rhythm. Repeat special sayings, poems, or sounds that feel good to you. Let these be your mantras or personal energizers.

~ Angel Kyodo Williams is the first Black female ordained Zen priest (her given Buddhist name means “way of teaching”). The self-described “web diva” is the publisher of and the founder of the Urban Peace Project, a virtual non-profit initiative dedicated to fostering peace in urban environments. For more info go to: |



Am I still woman, with one breast gone?
Hanging around one man too long
Legs give into knees I can’t locate
Was it my spirit you ate when I cooked you dinner?
I try-angles still the mirror is always square
Stare cross-eyed so sometimes I can see 2 of me
Laughing at myself
Crying for no one else
I am looking for the man in me
Trying to figure out why that second syllable
Was attached to my
womb and
Today my body has no room for visitors, freeloaders or lovers.

~ jessica Care moore is the owner of Moore Black Press, which she established to publish her work and the work of other young Black poets. She is the author of “The Words Don’t Fit in My Mouth” and the upcoming book, “The Alphabet Verses the Ghetto.”






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© theHotness 2002