Our Favorite Black Beauty Moments Of 2016 – Part 1

Afropunk Paris 2016

2016 was a year filled with #BeyondClassicallyBeautiful women celebrating the magic of black women. 

From photo series on appropriation, hair, and even police brutality, this week we are taking a look back on all of our favorite black beauty moments.


Race in America: Why Black Lives Till Matter To These Mothers


After the killings of Alton Sterling and Filando Catille, BeyondClassicallyBeautiful.com contributor, Marcelle Hutchins photographed and interviewed several mothers of black boys for a story titled, “Race in America: Why Black Lives Still Matter to These Mothers.”  The women she profiled opened up about their anxieties surrounding police brutality against young black men.  It’s a serious topic that trumps the idea of outward beauty, style, and other pleasures, yet these women showed the beauty of sincerity surrounding the things that plague our communities.


Nikole Skoko, Interior Designer

My son just turned 17 and got his driver’s license. Every time he gets into the car and  pulls out of the driveway I am on guard.

My son wants to be a father one day. He wants to be a husband. He’s a great son, an incredible brother and an awesome friend. These are things, if you pulled my son over you wouldn’t know or maybe you don’t take the time to know because he has a black face. But he’s more than just that black face.I remember a time when you would have a block party and  police officers who were assigned that block would come and they knew who we were. And we knew who they were. They were part of the community and they formed a very comfortable relationship.


Janelle Woods-McNish, Director of Giving and Service, former Mrs. Massachusetts Universal 2015

My son is 8 and he means the world to me.  When I think about my contribution to the world, just raising him and his siblings to be amazing citizens, if I get that right I think that’s my contribution to society.

This stereotype about black men starts young. Society has painted this image of black men and black boys that we’re having to fight against. And we know that these are our boys. So when society starts young, starts putting labels on our boys that’s where I think a lot of this stems from; when you don’t see people as humans then you treat them in a particular way. It’s heartbreaking that I have to teach my son this.

Check out the full series here.


Real Beauty Moment, Paris


I had the pleasure of traveling to Paris in June to cover Afropunk for our ongoing Real Beauty Moment photo series.  The women I spoke to reminded me that no matter where we live, outside of Africa, our stories are often universal.  I met #BeyondClassicallyBeautiful women based all over Europe and some who were visiting from United States. 

We were so excited when ELLE.com saw the beauty in this series and covered it.


Mahina Ngandu, Hometown: Belgium, Congolese descent


No Boundaries

I’m still kind of feeling like a beautiful black woman is associated with something that is not really intelligent or clever. It’s kind of difficult for people to associate beauty with intelligence and especially sexuality and everything. That is still I think a problem in this city and the city where I live and the country that I live in.   It’s just the fact that when you’re put in one box it’s kind of difficult for people to put you in other boxes. So they’ll just see that, “she’s beautiful, she has to be a model. Then you have like, “she’s strong, she’s aggressive, she’s not nice.” But you don’t know how vulnerable that person can be besides what she shows to the world.


Ornellie Manzambi, Hometown: Belgium, Angolan descent


 Living in a white man’s country has always been difficult. There was racism. I grew up in Belgium. There were not a lot of black people there so among my classmates I was the black girl so that was really difficult. It was hard to love myself the way I was being the only black girl. With time I learned to embrace my identity as a black woman. I’ve learned to embrace everything that I am. I’m in a better place.


Siovahn Gabrielle, Hometown: Chicago, Base: Cincinnati, Ohio


Blackness on Fleek

Black is so beautiful, black is so great, black is so awesome. We don’t have to do much of anything. All we have to do is be our best selves. It can be duplicated, it can try to be imitated, but black is so beautiful. I’m so happy to be here at Afropunk. It’s beyond my wildest dreams. I said, I can got to the one in New York, but why not go to the one in Paris. I’m so grateful to be here.

Check out part 1 and part 2 of our Real Beauty Moment Afropunk Paris coverage.


Bridal Afros

Remember when this bride named Nakyia, showed the world how a bride and an entire bridal party can rock afros to a beautiful wedding?

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Her photos went viral because, well, she completely slayed her wedding.


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Birth marks


When we highlighted several #BeyondClassicallyBeautiful women on Instagram who proudly show off their unique birthmarks, our Instagram page lit up!  Our social media posts stemming from the story we did for our ongoing “Beyond Standards” interview series, for which we highlight women who have unique attributes that go beyond society’s beauty standards, raked in thousands of likes, comments, and shares.  It was pretty remarkable.   Countless women with birthmarks wrote us to give us their testimonies and to thank us for highlighting the amazing women we featured.


Ferrin Farris


My birthmark is called a hairy nevus. Its dark pigmented and extends from my right cheek to my nose. I refer to it as my beauty-mark!  I’m from a very small town so growing up was actually a breeze for me. Individuals were used to seeing me with my beauty-mark. In the past, there were times when I was discouraged, due to stares and comments. The moment I completely became comfortable in my skin, is when I realized not to value someone else opinion more than my own. I’ve heard things such as ” You are pretty with it,” “Unbelievable its a birthmark,” “It’s very exotic,” “Is it a tattoo?” Others have also inquired about my life and if it ever bothered me. I do not desire to look or be anyone but FERRIN!  I’ve learned what makes you different, makes you EXTRAORDINARY! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and within my view, I am the rarest jewel around!

Evelyn Suarez


My name is Evelyn Suarez and I am Brazilian, from Rio de Janeiro. I come from a Christian family and since I was a little girl my mom told me that we are all beautiful in our own way because we are made by God. But it was very hard for me to see beauty in myself being different from others. I was born with a blue sign that covers half of my face and my left eye, and I suffered a lot with it in my childhood, mostly in school.  I cried, wondering why I had to be born this way and isolated myself from others. I suffered a lot of prejudice because of my birthmark. It was like an extra weight, plus all the bad things that black girls typically deal with.

Over time I found out that what really matters is how I see myself and now I recognize that I am unique and being different is good. I like my birthmark and I feel comfortable with myself, I don’t need to hide myself for fear of what people think of my appearance because God loves me the way I am. People still say things about me but now, when I look in the mirror, I don’t see the imperfection they are pointing out, but a perfect singularity, and I love it!


We’ll be chronicling our favorite 2016 beauty moments all week.  Check back tomorrow to see what will make the next list!

Abi Ishola
Abi Ishola


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.

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