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.