“It started around the age of four or five.
I remember wrapping a blanket around my little head, pretending to have long flowing hair.
I would prance around the house with it, praying that God would grant my wish for long silky strands.
I despised my dense coily black hair.
It didn’t move in the wind like the other girls,
And I didn’t appreciate the intricate twists and braids my mother took time to create.
She looked at me with joy in her eyes and always said how beautiful I was.
I couldn’t see what she saw,
When I looked in the mirror, I saw a little girl who had skin that was too dark to be considered beautiful
My nose and lips were much too big for my face.
Why couldn’t my nose be a little button?
Why were my lips so big?
To kiss the boy that would never love me because all he could see was ugly?
That’s all I saw.”
Thankfully I no longer perceive myself the same way my 11 year old self did. It took a lot of time and support to realize my true beauty, but I am grateful to have experienced it so that I can share my story with you. I used to think that the definition of beauty was to have light skin and long straight hair with big eyes, a button nose, and perfectly shaped lips; not too big or too small, but just right. I have come to realize that those are not realistic expectations for all girls and that leaves out a lot of women that do not fit that criteria. We all perceive beauty in different ways and growing up, the world around me had only given me one view. As a black women, I see beauty differently and so I wanted to know what beauty looked like for other women of color.
I had the pleasure of interviewing four outstanding college students: Ally, Tricia, Nakita and Victoria and I asked them “How would you describe beauty?”
“I would describe beauty as something that is personal… There are so many ways that beauty can be defined whether it be looks or inner beauty or based on personality.” – Ally
“Beauty is the Black women who gets up every day to face the world not meant for her but still has love for those around her.”- Nakita.
“As I got older, I began to understand that beauty has so many faces, sizes, shapes, and cultures.”-Tricia
“The way a person loves themselves inside and out is beauty to me”-Victoria
I see myself as that black women; the one who gets up to face the day in a society that was not built for her success. I, as well as many other young women, have experienced the internal battle of self-love and self-hatred. In a society that tells me I am nothing, I know that I am something. In a world that will never love me, I have learned to love myself. In a place that tells me I am ugly, I realize that I am actually one shade of beauty. To be told that you aren’t pretty enough, smart enough or good enough is damaging and while some of us grew up in homes where our parents reminded us of our beauty, it didn’t seem to be enough. I wanted proof that I was pretty. Girls with my complexion and hair type were hard to find in the media. From the dolls I played with, the books I read, the models in magazines and actors I saw on TV. If I did see a black girl with curly hair, she was mixed or lighter than me. If I saw a darker skinned girl, she had silky straight hair. But no one looked just like me. That made me beg the question from a young age “What was wrong with me?”
“I found myself believing society’s idea of beauty, which fundamentally excludes women of color.”-Tricia
I wanted to be the same as those girls and I was fighting for approval in a society that would never truly accept me. As if the world would applauded me for my transition from the “dark side”.
Yet, there is something empowering about seeing someone like you on TV or in a magazine. It shows that people like you matter and have a voice. I want to show young girls that their complexion does not define their beauty, but it adds to it. What makes you beautiful is not confined to your outward appearance. Beauty encompasses every facet of who a person is, including their flaws, successes, mistakes and personal values. It embodies everything that makes them the person that they are today. Interviewing these young women enforced that idea because not only are they gorgeous on the outside, but their hearts and minds reflect their outward beauty. As you read their stories, I hope you think about your journey too and know that it is worth sharing.
“True beauty means no matter what others have to say about how you look, you can catch your reflection in a mirror or window and say, ‘Mm! Isn’t that one gorgeous woman looking back at me!’”-Tricia
“Beauty is something that draws other people to you, therefore it doesn’t have to be just looks – because frankly I’m beautiful in my looks and personality!” – Ally
“Beauty is different for each person and has the power to evoke strong emotion. Beauty is much more than a few narrow categories of ideal appearance.”
“Being able to accept your flaws and all and being completely content with who you are is beauty.” -Victoria
From left to right: Tricia Alexander, Victoria Fanning, Nakita Venus and Ally Johnson.
Creative Directing Assistants
Daniel de La Fé
Daniel de La Fé Photography
Facebook & Instagram: @danieldelafephotography.com
A special thanks to the Aspen Grille for allowing us to shoot at their location. The Aspen Grille is student run, supports local and sustainable producers, and located in the Lory student Center. Be sure to check them out here and make your reservations! http://lsc.colostate.edu/dining-at-the-lory-student-center/aspen-grille/