After the success of the first Beyond Classically Beautiful photo series, I joined forces with the same creative minds to produce series 2.
The theme for this one was “The Power Behind our Pain.” At the time of its release, BeyondClassicallyBeautiful.com didn’t exist, so my style blog, Scripts and Sightings was still my venue. In the description for Series 2, I wrote:
If I told my 13-year-old self that one day I would launch a photo project and campaign that celebrates the diverse beauty of black women, that young woman wouldn’t believe it. During my adolescence, beauty was a touchy subject for me. The stain that colorism often leaves on many young black girls had taken a toll on my self-esteem by then. I remember looking in the mirror and recognizing my beauty but not having the courage to fully embrace it because of society’s narrow standards. But the more I think of Beyond Classically Beautiful as a beauty project I launched after years of learning self acceptance, I now fully understand the fact that our pain is indeed our power, our teacher, and our liberator.
Having the ability to push through hardship and pain is the reason I love and admire black women. We are dynamic, strong, and resilient. Time and again we rise above all of the jabs the media throws our way and the idea that our place in society is at the bottom. All of this we’ve done by using our pain to propel us beyond the boundaries that are set before us. Our trials continue to manifest into our greatest triumphs.
“The Power Behind our Pain” inadvertently became the concept for this installment of Beyond Classically Beautiful. Our models in the series come from diverse backgrounds, yet they share one thing: they’ve mastered the idea of using their past struggles to enhance their lives and inspire others, whether through their participation in this project or in their life’s work. Take Pamela Nanton for example: she’s the founder of PLY Apparel, a high end line of plus sized clothing. As a ten-year breast cancer survivor she’s made it a point to use her brand and designs to raise proceeds for breast cancer awareness.
We also introduced a new Beyond Classically Beautiful T-shirt and 2 new shirts that say “Be Classic.” (Please visit our Etsy shop to purchase one. We use the earnings to produce our photo stories). If you recall from our first shoot, “Be Classic” is the hidden message in Beyond Classically Beautiful. It is my hope that our message will encourage women of color continue to use their light to redefine what it means to be a classic beauty.
Check out our behind the scenes video and scroll through this post to read the full photo story. I encourage you to leave comments and feedback on the Beyond Classically Beautiful movement and feel free to share your own personal stories.
If you missed series 2 or if you want a refresher, check it out below.
Beyond Classically Beautiful, Series 2, Video Preview
Beyond Classically Beautiful: A Photo Story, Series 2
“I think I consider myself as “flawsome.” I have flaws and they’re awesome and they are what make me, me.”
“Having breast cancer made me question my beauty after I lost my hair. I was a model for many years and a designer all my life. I did not feel pretty and was very sad and depressed many times. I knew that God had a plan for me. I knew I was special enough to handle it. I knew I was going through my new normal.”
“I remember a night while I was very young, that I prayed to look differently. I wanted my skin lighter. I was sure my hair could do cooler things. Why was I so skinny? Would I ever grow breasts? I came to my senses and realized that there wasn’t much I could do about my appearance. I could grow up wanting something else and hating myself or I could choose to grow up and love what life and my body did for me.”
“Growing up, I was always the biggest girl in the class, so I blossomed a lot earlier than all of the other girls. I was always the last girl in line when we were in size order and my boobs were a little bigger than most. When I was younger, they teased me about it. They called me big foot and doofy. But as I got older I realized that I got blessed a lot sooner than most. I was insecure about it but now I feel a lot more secure about my body and I love the way I’m shaped. I’m a little curvy but I’m okay with that. Overall, I’m happier. I know I’m beautiful and I tell myself that more often now than I did before because I define my beauty.”
“As a young woman I wasn’t quite fond of my look. I was surrounded by white girls who had long hair and boys in middle school who supported that aesthetic. That was the standard of beauty because they were the most sought after and I was not. But how could that be? I thought my mum was beautiful. She had the skin of gold, rich in darkness and the cheekbones to match. I thought my sister was so fly in her tom-boyish way. It wasn’t until college that I started to question and understand that the western standard of beauty was so one-dimensional.
I’ve realized that my beauty comes from my confidence in knowing that I am me—the Nigerian girl who came to America at the age of 11. My beauty is exemplary of my African heritage. In my culture, features such as a gap-tooth, high cheekbones and a heavy body type are the ideal features of a beautiful woman, a strong woman and a unique woman. So I had to revert to standards that I grew up knowing in order to make sense of the western world I was living in. I had to understand that even though I was living in a western society, I’m still a daughter of an African heritage that praised my beauty and welcomed my features with open arms.”
“When I was younger I hated my hair. I remember being teased for always having braids. I was one of the only kids who had natural hair while all the other girls had perms. I decided I was going to get a perm to fit in. It was horrible. All I remember was the burning and running to the sink to rinse my head. I wanted to change myself for other people and I hated that feeling. From a young age I learned that I have to love what I see in the mirror and if it is not what I constantly see around me, that is okay. It is okay to be different.”
“Now I feel like I’m beautiful but for a very long time, as far back as I can remember, I never felt beautiful. Everywhere around me people kept telling me I wasn’t, including my family—especially them. It was a struggle for a very long time. Plus I have a lisp. Add that to not feeling beautiful and being told that I wasn’t beautiful, it was a very hard thing to deal with. When I look in the mirror now, I see a Black woman who has learn to love and accept herself after years of believing that she wasn’t good enough because she did not fall within society’s definition of beauty. I wake up and think that now that self-esteem issues are out the way, all I have to do is conquer the world.”
“I think as women, especially Black women, we can relate to having a moment or moments in our lives when we don’t appreciate our beauty as much as we really should. Being bombarded with images and sentiments from various media sources that are constantly telling us that we aren’t good enough, that we’re somehow inherently unattractive, (which is such a huge lie), doesnt help. There was a time in my teens where I felt essentially invisible to the guys that I liked, and a lot of it had to do with the fact that many of them had bought into the Eurocentric beauty standard, which I did not fit. To be fair, I think it also had a lot to do with where I grew up as well. I was blessed to have parents that taught me that Black was beautiful all my life, and it was very important to them that my brothers and I understood that message. So, I got over that short period in my teens by getting constant reassurance from my parents about my beauty, by remembering their words about the importance of loving myself as a Black woman. They always encouraged me to see the beauty in who I was.”
Mercedes & Geneva, A Sister Story
Mercedes: “I’ve always wanted her boobs.”
Geneva: “I think I’ve always wanted her red hair.”
Mercedes: “But mostly we try to support each other. We know people come differently and we just try to compliment each other.”
Geneva: “For the most part we’ve been very supportive and very in tune with each other and helping each other overcome our insecurities, but never rivalry.”
Mercedes: “Just love.”
Art Direction: Abi Ishola–www.ScriptsandSightings.com
Photography: Kunle Ayodeji–www.AyodejiPhotography.com
Makeup + Styling: Yetty Bames–www.YettyBames.com
Hair: Geneva Clark
Videographer: Duane Ferguson
Tanya Jean Baptiste
Dresses by Mac Duggal with the exception of:
Pam: Skirt and crop top, PLY Apparel
Music (video): “Same Size, Different Shoes” and “La Belle Vie” by Naira