BCB Photo Series 3: Body Noire, A Celebration Of Black Female Bodies

For our third photo series titled, “Body Noire,” you’ll meet five women with different stories on how they’ve come to love and appreciate their bodies despite what society or anyone thinks of the black female physique. 

For more information on what inspired this series, check out my Editor’s Note.

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Christine Patrick, Author

I think as you get older, I turn 40 this year, I think that you become grateful to be alive, to be healthy, to be agile. So I’m very happy with my body.

When I was younger I definitely had a lot of issues with my body. I was very thin to the point where I even wore two pairs of pants one time in high school because I wanted to be thicker and fuller. It took some time to fall in love with my body. I think that’s kind of normal though for girls. That transition between girl and young woman is where I started to fall in love with myself.

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There’s sort of always been this sort of fascination and love with black women’s bodies. I think what’s beautiful now though is we have learned to celebrate and embrace ourselves. I think that’s the difference. It really doesn’t matter what society says or what this newspaper or what this magazine says. I feel like black women have sort of taken command of our bodies and what we love about ourselves.

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I think the most amazing thing about my body is my height. I love my height and that’s something that I didn’t always love about myself. I used to tower over everyone. I was always the tallest person. But now that’s something that I love about myself. I feel very regal. I feel like a queen.

 

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Roseline Lawrence, Artist

I’m at my heaviest, but I’ve never loved myself and been more confident than now!  When you have a light shining so bright within you, it’s hard for it to not be shining on the surface. I love myself fully inside now and it has helped how I look at myself in the mirror.  Stretch marks and all!

I love my body. There are days when I don’t like it, but 99% of the time I love my body.  Looking back at pictures of what I looked like back in the day, I feel like an idiot, because back then I used to say, ‘I’m fat, I don’t feel beautiful, I need to lose weight.’ I was a size 6 or something but I still felt like, ‘oh my gosh, this is terrible.’

The most amazing thing about my body is everything. It’s me. Whenever I look at my body in the mirror I love pretty much every part of it, especially my stomach.

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I would tell my younger self, ‘Girl you’re fine. You’re beautiful, you’re fierce, and just keep it moving.’ I think that was a large part of what was holding me back in the past, being so insecure about it. It stopped me from going to my full potential.

I feel like society loves black women’s bodies. I feel like we’ve gotten so brainwashed by things that we see in certain tabloids. A lot of the process for me for how I’ve even gotten to love my body is through social media, just coming across women who look like me. So I think in a sense society is starting to embrace black bodies, and we’re starting to embrace it because we have more access to different types of bodies that look like ours.

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Xiomara Small, Realtor

I’ve always had a rather thin frame. As a child it was a bit daunting to consistently be referred to as “Skinny Minnie” “Olive Ole”, and “Flaca.”  Middle school was the hardest as I was a late bloomer, while the rest of my female schoolmates were blossoming into curvaceous young women. I became self-conscious and fantasized about having a curvy frame. I would think, if I looked like “X,Y,Z,” I would be noticed. If I had big boobs, butt, or hips, I would get attention from the boys.  It wasn’t until sophomore year of high school when I began to come out of my shell and realize that there’s a uniqueness and my frame is quite admirable. I was selected to be in a fashion show. The confidence boost that show gave me [wow].

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After that show, I began to wear clothing that complimented my frame rather than hide behind oversized clothes, I learned from then how to appreciate the skin you’re in. I learned how to walk and stand tall and proud.  Walking the streets everyday as if were NYFW. We are all unique characters and it’s what makes us who we are.
Since that defining moment in my life I’ve been so secure about my looks and quirkiness. Yes, I look sometime and say I could have more muscle tone but overall, I am very happy with who I am and how I look.

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Latarria Whitehead, Yoga Instructor

In the past there were occasions where I mistook other peoples insecurities as my own. For example, I have pretty defined abs and lines.  I found myself second guessing if I should wear a long shirt, as opposed to a midriff, or pants vs. shorts because I didn’t want to intimidate anyone. I wear certain things, and it’s “I’m showing off.” So it took some time for me to be comfortable in a sports bra and accept that everyone is going to have an opinion. Yes I work out and eat healthy to look good, but how I feel takes precedence, and the two are not synonymous.

Yoga has been a vehicle in which I’ve learned my body in a most intimate way. It challenges me  to perform and execute in ways I would have never imagined. As a result of consistent practice, I feel the strongest and most limber I’ve ever been in all of my active life.

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What amazes me about my body is it’s ability to speak to me the way it does. I’ve learned to listen and to really pay attention to what my body is trying to tell me. The more I’m able to listen, the more likely I am to avoid unnecessary injury as a result of “doing too much” or simply not paying attention.

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Tyde-Courtney Edwards, Ballerina/Founder of Ballet After Dark

[As a] black woman in a classical ballet world, I’ve been told my natural hair gives me an “aggressive” appearance and have been asked to leave auditions or I’ve been flat out told hip hop is not offered when I’ve arrived in ballet attire. I’ve also struggled with my weight and depression due to being seen as an outcast in the world that I love dearly.

#BalletAfterDark is a group fitness program I started that infuses classical ballet technique with quick, high energy dance combinations. The idea is to encourage women who may have had an interest in classical ballet but may have been rejected due to their body type, physical appearance, lack of skill or just overall courage to still experience fine, classical skills while learning sexy, empowering dances that will culminate in a performance for family and friends.  It’s for women of all body types and dancers of all levels.

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I came up with the name after a performance I had for Young Audiences of Maryland. I, along with my brother, performed a pas de deux to a classical track Katherine Dunham used when she was still performing with a ballet company. When I came offstage, this very tall, slender, white woman came up to me and introduced herself to me as Katherine Bernstein. She was a former classical ballet dancer and served on several boards for non profits, and dance departments.  She said I was a beautiful dancer. She loved everything about me. She complimented my technique and my performance and even said I was mesmerizing. Then she told me even though I had all of these great attributes, my sultry appearance was always going to keep me from getting a prestigious job in the world. That wasn’t the first time I heard that my breasts were too much of a distraction or I “jiggled” too much on stage.

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Right when I thought she only introduced herself to me just so she could tell me to throw in the towel, she looked at me and said ” These are the things that will make you excellent. Use your natural sensuality to your advantage, infuse  it into your technique and movement and own it. Figure out a way to let it be your thing.”  That boosted my confidence.

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So I said, if ballet is going to be a world of ‘No’ when it comes to breaking in, I’m going to create my own ‘Yes’ and I’m going to open the doors to anyone who wants to experience it. The name just seemed appropriate since I was seemingly placed in this ‘vixen’ category because of my curves.  I’m proud of what I look like. I want my girls to feel that way too. You can be sexy and still be graceful and light on your feet.

 

Behind-the-scenes

 

Credits

Art Director:

Abi Ishola, Editor-in-Chief
BeyondClassicallyBeautiful.com

Photography:

Kunle Ayodeji
AyodejiPhotography.com

Makeup/Hair/Concept

Yetty Bames, Beauty Editor-at-Large, BeyondClassicallyBeautiful.com
YettyBames.com

Styling:

Tanya Jean-Baptiste, ClothesConscienceBlog.Wordpress.com

Abi Ishola

Associate Producer:

Jaynelle Stewart, Beauty Editor BeyondClassicallyBeautiful.com

Models:

Xiomara Small
Christine Patrick, cppatrick.com
Roseline Lawrence
Tyde-Courtney Edwards, @curvyballerina
Latarria Coyia Whitehead, AllThingsCoyia.com

Clothing:

Christine is wearing:

Natasha Back Zip Maillot, by Vitamin A Swimwear, VitaminASwim.com

Xiomara is wearing:

Tatiana Triangle & Tatiana Hipster by, Vitamin A Swimwear, VitaminASwim.com

Marshelly’s (Katana Collection)
Pave Katana Ring, sterling silver

Copula bangles (silver)

Roseline is wearing:

Cage One Piece by, Forever21

Latarria is wearing:

Peixoto Swim
Name: Bella top (1210)
Color: Black (S46)
www.shopbop.com

&

KORE SWIM
Ceres bottom, onyx
www.korewear.com

Copula bangles (silver and gold)

Tyde-Courtney is wearing:

Velvet Spyhnx
The Marco Suit in Scorpion, www.velvetsphynx.com

Videography:

Duane Ferguson

Music for BTS video:

“Julius Caesar,” (Ryan Little) / CC BY 4.0

 

Special thanks to Yaya Publicity!

Abi Ishola
Abi Ishola

Editor-in-Chief

Abi Ishola is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Beyond Classically Beautiful, the acclaimed photo series turned multimedia platform. On any given day, you can find her tucked away in a perfectly lit Brooklyn coffee shop working for several hours. Then she dashes off to pick up her daughter from daycare. Abi is also a TV Producer, a proud FIT Alum, Nigerian-American, and a soul searcher.

15 Comments
  1. Looking at these images and reading the words of the women triggered a strong emotional reaction in me. My eyes filled with tears and my heart swelled in my chest. They are beautifully encouraging and inspiring. Thank you for adding to the dialogue about our bodies. The message is so clear and so necessary. There is beauty in accepting your body wherever it happens to be. Keep doing what you’re doing!

  2. Beautifully photographed. So exciting to see positive representations of the strength and power in being a black woman. We get so much negative press but thank God for movements like “Body Noir”.

  3. Thank you for featuring ALL types of black female bodies. There is a stereotype that is upon us as black women…curvaceous, full-figured, buxom, etc.
    I really identified with Xiomara Small. Growing up I was very slim and teased about my body. I hated my figure, and clothing did not fit well on me. It was all baggy. I yearned for the curves that my friends and classmates had. Mind you, I lived in an African country, so I really felt the pressure. Curvaceous and full figured ladies were held up as being the ideal beauty standard.
    I did not feel attractive until well into my late teens/ early 20’s when I finally began to accept my body, and stopped feeling insecure about being slim.

  4. Thank you for celebrating black women’s accomplishment and beauty. Hopefully each of your role models will live a long, healthy, productive and prosperous life. How about a feature on mature women? Let’s give the younger generations a glimpse of the glory to which they can look forward.

  5. I feel slighted and marginalized because of the fact that most of these women’s bodies do in fact fit within the cultural norm of beauty. A token heavyset woman or two does not make this article a breakthrough when the rest are dancers, yoga instructors and so on. The empress has no clothes.

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