Beauty in Full: Roxanna Floyd

The varied stuff of life has, thus far, prevented posting to pendulum in this new decade of the 21st century.  The glory of watching the magnificent Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater on the very first day of the year went unacknowledged; feeling the personal seismic shift of caring for an ailing parent and receiving the news of Haiti’s devastating seismic activity though deeply, deeply felt was more than I could bring myself to speak on.

It is now, heart-heavy, that I must post again. It is my honor and great sorrow to pay posthumous tribute to my friend, “face maven,” Roxanna Floyd, who unexpectedly though mercifully passed away in her sleep on January 28.  In our contemporary times of widespread social networking, the news traveled quickly and Jelani Bandele, Roxanna’s friend since childhood and former publicist confirmed what we’d hoped was an ugly rumor.  Facebook was soon flooded with stunned status updates and comments of disbelief–an instantaneous display of communal public grieving.

Roxanna’s achievements as a makeup artist are many, enhancing the beauty of scores of women, particularly women of color.  Long-time clients Whitney Houston, Angela Bassett and Queen Latifah owe their glamorous public visages to Roxie’s deft hand.  She with her work, shined a most flattering light on all she touched.  She with her integrity and discretion shared only that light even where there was great darkness.  She with her motherwit and abiding faith illuminated more than just faces but also hearts and minds.

I knew Roxie’s work long before I actually met her. A magazine fiend, I have always pored over the photo credits to discover the creators of the images that appeal to me.  I remember often seeing Makeup, Roxanna Floyd for Zoli Illusions in the pages of Essence (for whom she created 60 covers over the years).  When I too, joined the Essence fold in the 1990’s, I was delighted to learn that the beautiful woman who created those flawless faces was, in fact a gracious, humble person with a nurturing spirit.  She was an old soul, a sage, both comfortable and generous with the wisdom that belied her age.    An aesthete, she enjoyed the expression of beauty in its many forms. She sought not to impress but rather to simply embrace her innate appreciation for quality. With Libran balance she seamlessly integrated a love of luxury with absolute humility. With her success she might have moved to a status address across the bridge, far from the Brooklyn neighborhood of her upbringing.  She did not. A life-long resident of Clinton Hill,  she made her home in the shadow of Emmanuel Baptist Church, where she’d received spiritual sustenance since childhood and where she, in 2003, became the wife of long-time love Rick Ramos. Living a stone’s throw from her beloved parents Josh and Bertha Floyd, she with unfaltering devotion to them, made certain that their every need was met as age and infirmity beset them. Her example emboldens me as I face my own mother’s health challenges and I thank her for it.

A consummate professional and a woman of impeccable character, she is referred to time and again as a “class act.”  She moved through her life with dignity, grace and an earthy charm that endeared her to nearly everyone fortunate enough to cross her path.  It is no wonder that she is a godmother four times over, what an incredible model of womanhood she was.  She was honest, fair and incredibly giving.  When I tried to contract her services for my wedding day, she wasn’t having it. She was, in fact, insulted that I’d offered payment.  She said, “just think of it as a wedding present.”  She made the outer me as radiant as the inner me was feeling.  She looked out in many ways, referring me for gigs and sharing the wealth, so to speak.  She was wonderfully encouraging and was the first person to make a comment on the about page of this blog.  When I spoke to her she’d always say’ “keep blogging, I love what you are doing.”  Even as she faced personal trials, she expressed genuine interest in and concern for others.

I loved working with Roxie but some of my favorite memories are of “downtime.” Like her dapper Dad, Roxie liked to dance and I recall the two of them cutting a rug at her 35th birthday party– she in a fabulously large Afro wig, he well past 70 in slim leather pants “gettin’ down with his bad self” (to quote Julia Chance on the occasion).  I remember too her 40th — Angela Bassett and Courtney B. Vance among the revelers in Roxie’s world, her ‘hood, her loyalty to the Fort Greene stalwart, Two Steps Down intact. How fitting it is that her beautiful wake and funeral services were held at Emmanuel Baptist and the celebratory repast at Two Steps. How unbelievable it is that come September she will not be  shaking a leg and showing us all how fifty is done.  But we who loved her will most certainly raise a glass, shake a leg and offer a prayer of thanks that she passed our way.

Though we lived just blocks apart, we didn’t see each other often. It was, however, always a pleasure when we did, be it through work or socially.  The last time I saw her was in passing at a local gourmet shop. In a short haircut and fabulous eyewear, she was characteristically chic and welcoming, offering a hug with her warm and winking smile.  We spoke soon after by phone.  What was intended to be a quick call to schedule a lunch date became a two-hour conversation that was revelatory, compassionate and a testament to her decency, strength of character and sagacity beyond her years.  I wish we’d had that lunch, but I am ever grateful that we spoke, at length, with candor.  I still hear her voice, its cadence soothingly familiar. I shall remember it–and her–always.  If there is a superlative better than best, Roxanna Floyd Ramos was it.

A melding of her worlds personal and professional, her home going services were a moving celebration of all aspects of her exemplary life. Makeup legend Reggie Wells and Roxie’s “baby brother,” Yusuf Rashad  offered heartwarming words of comfort. A glorious litany of reflections were shared by a cross-section of her intimates.  Beauty entrepreneur Erika Kirkland’s testimony spoke to Roxanna’s steadfast faith.  A client of Erika’s then-nail emporium, Polish, Roxanna often reminded her that their work was in God’s service, that “Jesus washed feet, too,” and that beauty is a reflection of God’s grace.

A family reunion of sorts, we came in common mourning for our Roxie and left bereaved but uplifted and some fractured relationships set on the road to healing.  Even in death she still nurtures us.  Interred in a serene upstate setting near the final resting place of the father she adored, Roxie is survived in a legacy of love by her husband, her mother, countless relatives, friends and fans.

The personification of goodness.

There are tributes by Jelani Bandele on Plenty, Harriette Cole on EbonyJet.com,  Marcia Cole on AmberMag.com, photographer Matthew Jordan Smith on his blog and a memorial page on Facebook, ROXANNA FLOYD in Loving Memory. Whitney Houston’s Nothing But Love Tour 2010 is “a dedication to my dear friend and Glam partner, Roxanna.”

For a glimpse of Roxanna working her magic, check out BET.com’s  September webisode, Whitney Houston’s Winning Look.

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23 Responses

  1. What a wonderful storyteller you are!!! Thank you for the love and richness.

  2. Much has been said about Roxie over the past week but your post, my friend, says it all. In eloquent depth (as is your way).

  3. The saying goes, some people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a life time. For me, Roxanna was all three, she was one in a million and I am really grateful that our paths crossed. Thank you Sharon, your words are like magic.

  4. What else is there to say? You’ve done it again.

  5. Yes Sharon, you are a beautiful weaver of words…you make beautiful people tangibly known to even those of us who don’t know them personally…

    You really should publish some of your beautifully rich words someday soon…

  6. Roxana was grace personified, in word, thought and deed, and your words are a beautiful and fitting tribute to her–thank you for sharing them with us.

  7. With the precision of a samurai, you my friend have artfully painted, through the power of “the word” a breathless image of a spirited chocolate goddess, Roxanna Floyd-Ramos. When the shocking news of Roxanna’s transition was uttered to me, whatever occupied my mind at that moment, in a milli second was replaced with heartfelt emotions for a sensational woman that left this earth dimension prematurely, I feel. So, Sharon as you reminisced about your friend “Roxie”, I flashed back to the moment I met Roxanna; it was on the film “The Preacher’s Wife”. She knew that make-up artist’s weren’t invited to the daily screening sessions during filming so, she approached me to find out if I would do a “sista’ act” and arrange private screenings just for her. With that ocean’s wide smile and a bounce in every word that exited her mouth, my response was immediate and exact- Absolutely! She seemed relieved, because her single goal was to achieve make-up perfection on the silver screen; these private sessions would allow her to “see” her work and make the necessary corrections the following day. Roxanna certainly succeeded because, Whitney’s skin looked flawless, superbly flawless! I, never realizing that I was helping a phenomenal woman, instantly felt her loving and warm energy. But, what I didn’t know about Roxanna in 1996, I learned with tears in my eyes at her celebration of life ceremony February 6, 2010 at Emmanuel Baptist Church.
    I might not be categorized as a friend of Roxanna’s but, I guarantee anyone reading this, for the six months that we worked together- she made me feel like we “were friends”. Roxanna’s inner and external beauty was infectious and, I am honored that our journey’s in living intersected with one another. So, good-bye “my friend”… good- bye. Thank you, Sharon for Pendelum’s space for all who knew Roxanna, to share our thoughts. Thank you!

  8. i never knew her, but after reading this stirring tribute, i wish that i did.

    bless you for honoring your friend with such obvious affection.

    eisa

  9. SHARON,
    Thank you. I also did not know Roxanna well and am still able to cry reading your words of pain and love. She was an exceptional woman in every way and if I can have one quarter as many wonderful things said about me at the end of this life, I will count my life well spent. She touched us all with her radiance, beauty, spirit, true Christian life and compassion for us all.
    I am thankful our paths crossed and I am a better person as a result.
    CHERYL

  10. R.I.P.

    As Ever
    Montgomery X

  11. It is unfortunate that such a wonderful and amazing woman will no longer be able to grace us with her presence. Your words are eloquent and beautiful very telling of her personality and heart. She has gone on to bigger and better things with our father and though she will be missed she has returned home.

  12. Your tribute to this friend made all the beauty of her being come alive to me, and I did not know her. I tip my hat to Roxanna, for spreading so much light in this life while she was here… but clearly she was on a luminous path that will somehow continue. Condolences to you, and all who loved her so much… I am so sad for your loss.

  13. Sharon,

    That was delicious, chicken soup for the mind. I remember working with you as a novice fashion stylist and Roxanna was the make up artist. I just remember that she was beautiful and she left a wonderful impression.

    Thank you for eulogizing her so beautifully. I’m inspired to be a better human being, contributing to others the way that she contributed to you.

    With much love and blessings.
    J

  14. Sharon,

    What a beautiful tribute.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Elma

  15. sharon!
    i am moved to tears and smiles by your gorgeous tribute to a wonderful spirit. thank you so much for sharing your beautiful memories with us. having only met roxanna twice (on mjs’s sets for essence) i feel that i know so much more about this lovely lady. thank you for brightening my day, as u always do each time i see u!
    audra

  16. Wonderful tribute Sharon.
    R.I.P Roxanna.
    D.Kerr

  17. Thank you Sharon, for sharing this beautiful tribute of Roxanna with the world. Although, Roxanna and I had not been in touch for many years, like many of my friends and colleagues from Brooklyn, she holds a special place in my heart. God wanted this beautiful flower, and I am happy that he was merciful in her transition. Roxanna’s light will shine forever….!

  18. Sharon……

    I am so sorry to hear about your friend. i hope to see your wonderful self soon,,,,,,,,,, miss you,, and lots of hugs !!!

    alison

  19. Hi Sharon,
    This post was wonderful! Your words are beautiful, thank you so much for writing this post!

    Love your site what an amazing artist you are:)

    Thank you,
    Ms. Wanda

    • @Ms. Wanda, Thank YOU. @Everyone please view Ms. Wanda’s tribute on her blog Wanda Writes– in loving words and moving photos — to her beloved sister-in-law. http://bit.ly/dtpdBo

  20. Sharon: I never knew you were such a wonderful writer. This piece is a beautiful tribute. So lovely.

  21. Miss Magic,
    I’ve been meaning to set aside a moment to sit quietly with this piece. Today I finally had a still moment, only to be moved by the energy of the powerful and poetic words that stream from your consciousness. No doubt, Roxanna is as caressed by your writing as I am. Imagine that, Roxanna’s mother force and substantive goodness continues to inspire such loveliness, how perfectly magical…

    Kudos
    Ricky

    • Thanks, Ricky. So too are your words as we continue to honor our friend. Just beautiful.

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