We photographed and spoke to six beautiful black women about how they’ve come to love their bodies over the years. Last week we unveiled part of this series titled, Body Noire 2: A Celebration of Black Female Bodies, gallery style in Brooklyn to a full house of beautiful women and gentlemen. Please take in the entire series below.
Jezra M, Model, Blogger, Women’s Advocate, & Founder of Pure Body Love
Pure Body Love was created as a hashtag on Instagram and it grew into movement I stand for. Pure Body Love means loving your body purely at any size. Society tends to promote slimmer size women and leave behind plus size women, this became too frequent in magazines and in many commercials so I decided to find a way to promote self love, self awareness, and self confidence for women who are plus size like myself.
I have some things about my body I’m currently working on but I love my body, I love the way I look and every day my relationship with my body gets stronger and stronger.
High school is when I started developing my curves. I noticed I was more developed in the chest and butt areas than some of the girls in my classes. It never bothered me; I honestly fell in love with my body at that time. I knew there was a reason God created me like this and I was going to love and embrace my body for what it was going to be.
Nell Coleman, Promotional Model & Founder of The B.A.L.D.I.E Movement
My body is a blessing. Without it I couldn’t exist on this earth and experience this thing we call life. I allowed the outside world to influence how I saw my body which was in a negative light. I hated my body. The media, music, social media, the modeling world especially played a major role on how we see ourselves. We compare ourselves based on what is glorified for the moment and if we don’t look like what the masses deem beautiful then we too begin to feel less beautiful or alter our bodies to feel accepted.
I became insecure with my legs in elementary school when people would pick on how long, black, and ashy they were. As a child, you don’t think about wearing lotion and I didn’t. For three years I hid my legs and I wouldn’t allow my legs to show because I didn’t want to hear what people thought of them. But now, these legs have paid many bills, modeling wise. I love wearing my legs out, and I adore how sexy they look with shorts and heels. I am proud of these long, beautiful, black legs of mine. They’ve gotten me where ever I desired to go thus far and they will continue to take me to my next destination. Thank God for legs.
With time I had to understand that my body is my body. It is the vehicle that allows me to exist. I had to understand that my opinion over my body is what matters most and now when I look in the mirror, I see a body that is perfect for me, I see a body that allows me to do what I desire, I see a blessing from above. I love my body. I believe that black woman’s bodies are beautiful, unique, strong, the curves, the skin tone, the buoyancy of our skin, the best bodies I’ve ever seen.
Lola Adesanya, Fashion Designer
I vividly remember in middle school being one of the very few black girls. The two black girls who I thought were my friends at the time told me I wasn’t thick enough and guys loved thick girls. They always talked about their big butts and boobs and their “little” waists. It made me feel insecure about my natural build. Even relatives had something to say about me just having a body that did not look like theirs. Every time I would go back home to Nigeria, I was called lepa shandy (skinny girl). In Yoruba culture they like girls with some “meat on them” as they would say. I was told to eat more or I would forever look like a little child and I couldn’t get a man. I started to struggle with my body and kept trying to figure out how I could get a bigger butt and more curves with a small waist, and get rid of the stretch marks I had on my butt for no reason and now on my thighs! It wasn’t like I ever had a big butt and then lost weight and ended up with stretch marks. My stretch marks came when I was 13 and I was and sometimes I’m still embarrassed by them. Kat Williams and my ex said no man cares about stretch marks. I do not know if that is true but I am learning to love my marks and show them without being scared! Regardless if a man cares or not.
I am thin and I am loving it! The most important thing to me is to stay fit by eating healthy and work out so I am healthy and treating my body right! One of my sayings is “You don’t need a fat ass to hold something down.” I am still a black beautiful woman, fat ass or not.
Shanika Hillocks, PR Specialist
I believe my body is the product of the self-care that I give it daily. As much as I grind, hustle and indulge, it’s important that I breath, stretch, and rest when needed and honor my body when it tells me what it needs.
I can recall the exact point in my life when I started becoming self-conscious about my body. At the top of 8th grade, we moved from a small suburban town in South Florida where I was one of the few Black girls in my class, to a a more urban town in Central Florida. With a new school came classmates who started developing early. At that time, I began comparing myself a lot to the other girls in my class, and wishing for larger breasts, thicker thighs and a bigger butt. At 13 years old, I felt like my body wasn’t doing what it was supposed to. This thought, combined with teasing about my thin frame from both classmates and adults contributed.
Fast forward 13 years and you’ll find a different Shanika. I love my body not only for it’s form, but its function. Living in the concrete jungle, my body tackles so much more than it did when I was living in Florida. I’m thankful for its strength, beauty and endurance during the seasons, day-to-day stress and NYC rhythm.
In music performance, there is a term called legato. When this is noted on sheet music, it indicates that musical notes are played or sung smoothly and connected, and the player makes a transition from note to note with no intervening silence. When I think of my body, it is legato: agile, ever-evolving and connected.
When I think about Black women’s bodies, a variety of emotions come to mind: pride, because with our presence, comes a story. When we occupy space, we exude confidence, incomparable beauty and swag about us that commands attention. We’re not a monolithic bunch, and I love being representative of the power found in our difference. If you haven’t realized already, Black Girl Magic exists. –Shanika Hillocks
Hawanatu Mansaray, Student
Loving my body has always been a very conflicting battle. On one hand I am proud of my curves but some days I am ashamed of it and compare myself to tall leggy supermodels.
I have always been pretty insecure about my body, particularly my skin. In High School I developed a skin condition called Tinea Versicolor. I had a pretty bad breakage of rashes on my back that caused white spotting. I remember never wanting to go to the beach and always wearing scarves around my neck to hide the scarring.
I would say that I am very petite with curves. My body is like my mothers and her mother. I say this to myself often and it makes me happier and more comfortable with my body. I have grown to love my butt. I remember being in high school and hating it but these days I am obsessed with it.
I feel that our bodies are beautiful. In many ways our bodies are often imitated. Currently, there is a slew of non black women buying body parts that are traditionally associated with black women. That tells me our bodies are ideal.
Taja Ellis, Health Coach/Entrepreneur
From childhood to adolescence, I have always stuck out like a sore thumb. I was always taller than most of the boys, and usually more over-developed than majority of the girls my age. I was made very aware that I was different at a very young age. From teasing to shaming, I had learned how to hide myself and my body so over time I began to put on weight, as a barrier, for a sense of protection.
Now I didn’t do this consciously, but unconsciously because I felt safe. At age 14, I was then diagnosed with an auto-immune condition, known as alopecia areata, which causes your immune system to mistake hair follicles as bad cells, thus causing it to attack the hair follicles and causing the host to lose all or partial of their hair.
For me, it was a very traumatic experience because the dermatologist had no idea what caused it or how to cure it. Shortly after being diagnosed, I had experienced cyber bullying behind me having alopecia and it caused me to go into depression. I was humiliated and embarrassed, so instead of expressing that emotion outwardly, I began to internally dissect all the things I didn’t like about myself. I began putting on more and more weight until one day at age 21, I was diagnosed as a pre-diabetic with sleep apnea (skipping breaths while sleeping ) and it woke me up. I began working out and taking charge of my body.
I was doing great until a few years after college, I had gotten into a very unhealthy relationship. It was an emotionally and physically painful experience, and I was blessed to have gotten out of it alive, however the mental toll it had taken on me, was undeniable. I was a wreck, and I knew it. I never wanted to experience that “lowness” ever again, so I walked away from that relationship, and all those painful experiences, and began to love myself.
I sought professional help, began working out, eating healthy, and eventually lost 50 pounds in a time span of five months. It has been the healthiest I have ever been. Now, I have not only lost the weight, but I have also used my pain to serve my purpose. I have fully embraced not only my height, and curves but also my alopecia. I have begun to pursue my dream of modelling again, as well as sharing my story to inspire others to love themselves by prioritizing the 4 Keys of Health: Emotional, Mental, Physical, and Financial health.
My favorite part of my body is probably my head. I cannot believe how obsessed with covering it up I used to be, but now I can’t get enough of the sun or a nice cool breeze on the back of it. I feel so liberated.
I adore black women’s bodies. It took me a long time to appreciate everything about my own and now that I do, I love to see other black women celebrating their bodies. Their boldness and courage, gives me the courage to love my own, so I see it as a system of reciprocity. We as black women loving ourselves, gives not only other black women but all women the courage to love theirs.
Abi Ishola, Editor-in-Chief
Yetty Bames, Beauty Editor-at-Large, BeyondClassicallyBeautiful.com
Jezra M, @Jezra_M
Nell Coleman, @thebaldiemovement
Lola Adesanya, @lola_adesanya
Shanika Hillocks, @shanikahillocks
Hawanatu Mansaray, @saynatuu
Taja Ellis, @tajmahalll
Shanika, Lola, Peixoto, Nell wearing Peixoto, purchase at Shopbop.com
Hawanatu Mansaray, wearing Saha, purchase at SahaSwimwear.com