Half way across the world and four decades later – Diane shares the same sentiment

Have you seen the latest episode of Blackish called “Black like us”?

Executive producer Peter Saji wrote this episode that tackles the complex issue of colorism. Being a Sri Lankan American, I end up learning a lot about Black culture from watching the show and learned that they too have their internal struggles with colorism.

Personally, I don’t think I remember this issue being addressed so openly on mainstream cinema or television and yet how many of us in the world have been directly effected by this!

My heart went out to Diane and Ruby. I sometimes wonder whether my tenacity, can-do mentality, aggression and courage stems from unkind words I heard as a child.

Dad and I
My father and I – taken in 1988 when I was in grade 10

I was a lot darker than my sisters but when going to school in Sri Lanka, I must say I had a sense of belonging. As Diane says in the show, I was “no different”. Occasionally, there would be a silly relative or an adult who would say — “hah, she is very different from her sisters… not fair like them or her father — Karruppi! ” – Translates to “Blackie” in Tamil. Thanks to the wonderful parents I had, it was water off a duck’s back. Even as young as 7 I thought I was the BOMB.

Our parents can’t protect us from everything but they can definitely turn the guardrails on so we have a pulse on what’s right and what’s wrong.

If you haven’t seen this episode… I would recommend it.

To all the wonderful, beautiful people out there…. Celebrate the beautiful body you have. Roam the world with your head held high. Take your space and together, let’s change the narrative.


Execution is Everything : An Agile True Story


Never in a million years did I think I was going to enjoy teaching/coaching of any kind until a few years ago.

My younger son was in third grade and trying out for the travel basketball team in our town that was know to have  a very strong basketball following. We were there on time and as the tryouts proceeded, I sat by the bleachers, cringing as he under performed. The kid was neither fast nor accurate. After a grueling two hours, we knew he was not going to be picked.

Prior to this, I’d thought he was going to do well. He had a passion for the game and would shoot hoops every spare moment he had. That was not enough for today’s competition. He could have used an adult to have trained him. A personal coach. He needed to be taught the fundamentals of the game and ball handling. Since his father was not around to do this, I decided I had to play a bigger part in making it happen. The boy loved the game and I wanted to make sure he had all the help he could get to make it to Travel the next year.

The Story:

I signed up to coach the under 9  or U9 basketball Rec league for our city. I had no prior coaching experience and did not know the rules of the game, as it was played in America. The last time I’d played basketball was as a sophomore at a boarding school in India. The rules I remembered were different and the terms were completely new to me.

To compensate for the above, I asked the City to provide me with an assistant coach who knew the game well. The city was only too willing to accept as during that time, it was difficult to find parents who were willing to coach.

The two time NBA Most Valuable Player, Steve Nash
The two time NBA Most Valuable Player, Steve Nash

Next, I bought myself a whistle, a whiteboard and a series of Steve Nash videos. The videos helped me with planning out practice and drills. I read about the psych of a male third grader and realized they had to be kept very busy. Their attention span directly correlated to their interest and understanding of an activity. That meant I had to prepare for every minute of practice so our time was beneficial to everyone involved.

The Plan:

The U9 Team.

The first day of practice, I was nervous to talk to this group of white kids and parents. Am pretty sure they came thinking 1. That I was a guy because my name probably did not give them a good indication  and 2. That I knew the game well. Both of which was not right. I was however, straight with them. Their kid was going to be coached by a Sri Lankan, American who hadn’t played the game in over twenty years BUT I had a plan to execute and excel. Parents were going to have a part in it if their child learning the game was important to them. The boys were going to be challenged and have equal game time, no matter how badly they performed.

Sprint and Retro:

We had practice twice a week and games every Saturday. Practice involved drills and plays with suicides for mis-behavior. They were kept busy and worked hard during the hour and a half. That was essentially our sprint plan. Five minutes before pickup, we would talk about what went well and what didn’t. Each kid got 30 seconds to talk or touch base with me later. They loved it. I told them they would grow up and do this when they got a real-world job and they all got a kick from it.

When a kid missed practice, I would send them drill instructions to practice in their garage. Parents were surprised we were taking it this seriously.


None of us expected to win every game but we did. We won all but one game that season with a record setting final game of the season. Not only did they have to reset the score board to 0-0 because we were leading by 30, I am proud to say that every player on the team made at least two baskets. It was the most exhilarating moment of my life to see the satisfaction in both the children and the parents.

Gauge Results:

It warmed my heart to see the mutual respect and excitement that grew within team, coaches and parents during those twelve weeks of games.

That Fall, when my son tried out for fourth grade travel, he blazed through. He made the team and that meant I could no longer coach Rec. I did however discover that I found great satisfaction in empowering others and that with a dedicated execution plan, we end up having surprisingly sweet outcomes.

4 years later, traveling with his basketball team.
4 years later, traveling with his basketball team.

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween everyone!

This is a great time to try out a fantasy costume or impersonate your favorite person.

I’ve always been an XMen fan but that was not why I chose Storm. When I searched for a “Brown” super hero… Storm showed up on a Google search.

Hoping there are more cinnamon super hero characters in the future for me to play.

Wishing everyone a safe and happy Halloween!


Can you send me some foundation from America?


Four Indian women asked me this question.

FullSizeRenderI had the pleasure of attending a fabulous Hindu family wedding in Colombo this Summer. In preparation for the 5 days of ceremony, I’d spent hours in the last 6 months shopping for clothing, jewelry but NOT makeup. I live in America and the makeup options here are plentiful. It was never a chore to find the perfect match for my skin tone.

All my preparation paid off. My clothing was in par with my family  thanks to a wonderful niece of mine who did a lot of the shopping.

My makeup though had a clear and unfair advantage over my Eastern relatives. I had four women ask me to send them a matching foundation from America.


  • 3 beauty shops I visited in Colombo carried shades that were way too light for my skin.
  • I went to a beauty salon for a trial makeup session and she used a color that was closer to the color of my palm and insisted that it looked natural.
  • Who is going to cater to this market of women wanting to even out their skin tone….. and not lighten it?
  • Let your demands be known. The supply will follow. 

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The photos I’ve used here are from the walls within Sephora.



Just saying … there is a huge opportunity for dark people in modeling!

What comes to your mind when you hear “Victoria’s Secret”? The worlds hottest models? The brand has become synonymous with being a modeling agency. They are known to pick what the times consider to be the most SEXY women.


Some of America’s top paid models have been dark skinned women. Beyonce was the face of H&M drawing in more that 40 million in modeling revenue.

Lyndsey Scott … Software Developer and Victoria’s Secret Model

There is a huge void in this space. There is a growing demand for dark models while the supply from Asia is pretty weak. This in turn creates opportunities.

I am  wondering when some of our beautiful people from the East will capitalize on that.

Selita Ebanks … Founder of Stardom Youth Foundation, model and actress



Tanishq Paves New Path in Socially Relevant Advertising

Anyone who has watched Indian TV knows that the advertising world is truly, a whole new world, often offering a “new fantastic point of view,” with deeply imaginative, colourful, and even wild expressions. Beauty products, motorbikes, jewelry, spice mixes – all of these become more than just products: they become inhabitants of a fantastic and almost magical realm. And sometimes, these thirty seconds of moving images manage to include a social commentary in their persuasive portrayal. In 2013, Tanishq, the big brand Indian jeweler, did just that.

Directed by Gauri Shinde, the advertisement tells the story of a woman remarrying. As the woman and her soon-to-be husband walk around the pyre in the traditional Hindu custom, the woman’s daughter indicates that she also wants to walk with the couple. The groom then carries the daughter and the three of them walk around the pyre. The advertisement garnered a lot of attention for boldly and unabashedly taking on the topic of remarriage. While remarriage is not uncommon in India, it is not yet widely depicted in popular media in a non-judgmental way as Tanishq did in its advertisement.

In addition to dealing with the topic of remarriage rather boldly, the advertisement also drew attention because the leading actress, Priyanka Bose, is darker than the average Indian woman who is depicted on advertisements. In a society where there is still some premium placed on light skin, this new advertisement by Tanishq was seen as defying accepted stereotypes surrounding the depiction of beauty in the mainstream media.

In an interview with India Today, director Gauri Shinde (who went on to win many awards for her debut feature film English Vinglish), stated that the use of a “dusky” model was not deliberate. “I don’t see these differences between dusky and fair and frankly I personally don’t even want to be part of that debate because I feel there is a complex at play; against the dusky, against the fair. It’s unnecessary. Everyone’s beautiful,” said Shinde.

Shinde raises a very important point here, which is that sometimes, in our haste to uphold the beauty of dark skinned people, we (often unintentionally) end up undermining the beauty of the lighter skinned. We also tiptoe around descriptions of people, using “dusky” instead of saying “dark,” thereby still adhering to the mentality that calling someone “dark” would be an insult.  What’s wrong with calling people what they are? Dark or fair, fat or thin? These words by themselves are not insults, but we have created a framework whereby they have developed negative connotations.

Kudos to Tanishq for not defying the unspoken standards in the world of Indian advertisement, and for taking on socially relevant issues that reflect the reality of many Indians.


YOGA: By the Browns, for the Browns.

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This is Aly, a 20 year old self-taught yogini!

Since I turned twenty-two this year, i’ve really been paying attention to all of my habits. As a birthday resolution I decided to rid myself of 1 bad habit and create 3 new positive ones: workout six days a week, learn how to play the guitar, and learn four new yoga poses per week. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know much about yoga when I first started, but since I’ve been getting my stretch-on. I feel better than ever! Thus, I decided to dive deeper into the practice and learn about the roots. What I found really surprised me!

History of Yoga:
For those of you who have never heard of Yoga, or for those of you who want to know more, it is defined as a physical, mental, and spiritual practice linked with Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain schools. Yoga presumably began in South India and has been mentioned in various vedic texts, the Hindu Upinishads, and the Pali Canon.



Yoga is popular among both men and women, and across all ages. It can be done outside, indoors, in a car, with weights or without.
Yoga has clearly been around for milleniums, even in the western world. Yoga gurus (instructors of the yoga practice) from India introduced their skills in the 19th and 20th centuries and is now a popular and effective form of physical exercise.
(For more info on the history of yoga, check out YogaJournal)


Benefits of Yoga:
The American Osteopathic Association (AOA)  says yoga is a “healing system of theory and practice”. Dr. Natalie Nevins (DO, board-certified osteopathic family physician) lists several benefits of yoga:

1. Increased flexibility, muscle strength, and tone
2. Improved respiration, energy, and vitality
3. A more balanced metabolism leading to weight loss
4. more

Goal of Yoga: 
People do yoga for a multitude of reasons: to lose weight, to achieve peace, to stretch after a workout, or just to try something new. The origins of yoga stem from the need to achieve “moksha“, the Sanskrit word for “liberation”. The way one applies moksha to the practice of yoga really depends on your own philosophy, be it religious or not.  All I know is, practicing yoga every day has allowed me to feel more free than I ever have before.

Yoga Resources:

1. YogaJournal - the #1 authority on Yoga and the Yoga Lifestyle; It is helpful for all kinds of practicers, beginners and advanced. They have their own magazine too!

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2. Yoga U Online – Yoga “University” for aches and pains, chronic diseases, emotional health, wellness, and longevity.


3. Instagram – surprisingly, Instagram is the social media home to real-life yogis all over the world! My favorite page is one by a 20 year old self-taught yogi, Aly. She completed the famous Kayla Itsines workout regimen and decided to teach herself the art of yoga. I love following Aly because not only is she a brown babe with some amazing moves, her leggings and sports bras are cuter than ever. Some of her photos are below!

Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 5.03.04 PMScreen Shot 2015-02-28 at 5.04.40 PM



We need more dark brown men modeling!

During one of those nights, doing some research on content for Cinnamon Spirit, I wanted to blog about the variety of shades of women on the web. So my search criteria was “Asian Women” filtered by the color black.  This is what it returned …. So many different faces of women from Asia.


Doing the same for “Asian Men”… this is what it returned …Do you see where I am going with this?men

Dark skin foundation – Everything you wanted to know

We’ve had several people ask about foundation that suits our dark skin and warm weather. I tried to put this article together with as many resources as I could find. All links should show up in green.

Keeping in mind that we want to recommend products that do not damage your skin, this is the list we came up with.


First try to figure out your skin type. Normal, Oily or Dry. You can do this by talking to a skin specialist or visiting one of the store locations mentioned below.

  1. L’Oreal Paris True Match Super Blendable Makeup Cocoa – C8  
  2. Mac Pro Longwear Foundation NC 50 
  3. 4 in 1 Pressed Mineral Foundation by Pur Minerals
  4. Bobbi Brown Warm Walnut Skin Foundation 


If you would like to check on brands and industry ratings on how safe they are… checkout GoodGuide. They rank all brands by  health, environment and society rating, You’ll be surprised at what you may find there.


  • L’Oreal Paris is available at a variety of boutiques in India and other countries in South East Asia.
  • MAC has several locations all over the world. Go to this link and find a city location close to you.
  • Bobbi Brown is available on sites such as SnapDeal.
  • Stores like Sephora and Ulta have been opening outlets in South East Asia and can be resources for advice and experiments.

Always read the ingredients and try a trial size. If it feels natural and you are comfortable wearing it the whole day… it’s for you.


Want to know how to apply foundation? Bobbi Brown has excellent Makeup Lessons. You can start right here



Easy, Breezy, Beautiful – Covered Girl


A Brief History:
The debate about the veiling of women has been ongoing for decades now. Many believe that the veil is symbol of women’s oppression; a marker of a woman’s “second class status”. However, there is also a great magnitude of people who believe that the veil is not a symbol of injustice, but a shield against possible objectification. A great pool of women choose to wear a hijab, burqa, niqab, etc. voluntarily as a sign of their personal freedom.


What is the hijab? A Hijab is only one kind of headcovering that is worn by muslim women all over the world. It is an Arabic word meaning “cover” and there are many different forms, colors, patterns, styles, etc. Some Christian and Jewish women in certain traditions also sport a headscarf for cultural practices of modesty. The garment holds different legal statuses all accross the world. Especially in many parts of Asia and Africa, it is common to see the head-covering tradition. Modest fashion is also becoming widespread across the West, believe it or not.

This being said, at Cinnamon Spirit we value the power of choice. Whether women are wearing head coverings or not, we know that these women are beautiful inside and out, covered or not – and we have provided some excellent fashion tips and tricks for a modest outfit regardless of culture or religion.

Level One: Short Shorts
On a cold day in Amsterdam, this brown beauty keeps her outfit warm and appropriate by pairing pleather leggings and denim shorts with ultra-blue high heels. She has accented her shoes with a collared shirt under her tweed sweater. Her white blouse that is tucked into her shorts is buttoned high for a prim and very proper look.

Level Two: Just a simple scarf
Dark skinned and just oh-so-darling! This woman is dressed very stylishly and modestly. Her over-the-knee suede boots are paired with black leggings and an over-sized t-shirt. Everything is pretty neutral until BAM! A vibrant head-scarf is wrapped around her hair bringing the outfit together!


Here is another example of a more structured outfit paired with a textured hair-wrap.  A military-style white jacket with black buttons is on top of what looks like a white t-shirt and casual skinny dark-wash blue jeans. Her brown leather briefcase and peach watch work great with her skin. The burgundy lipstick really warms up the look as well! This gorgeous woman is just glowing in the streets of New York City. There’s much to be said about her poise and beauty.


Level 3: More traditional
Here, this woman brings her culture into her day to day style. she is captured wearing a long-sleeved casual Anarkali (Indian-style dress that is paired with skinny cotton pants) with fabulous geometric print on the bust. She is able to draw attention to her small frame by her bold style. Her skin is radiant while surrounded by the canary-yellow veil she is wearing. The golden chain head-band makes this woman look like a princess!