Nakita was all smiles on the day of the photoshoot. Her regal elegance and radiating confidence captured the photographer who couldn’t get enough of her genuine smile. Her statement cropped hairdo and vintage wire rimmed glasses showed off her sophisticated yet playful side. When I ask Nakita how she would describe beauty, she thoughtfully explained that “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. 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”. I have never heard beauty explained like this, but it reiterates the saying ‘there is beauty in the struggle’.
Learning how to be comfortable in your own skin is a process, and even when you can boldly walk into a room with confidence like Nakita, there are still those days where it’s hard to be different. “I have had to overcome many obstacles as a queer Black woman and will have many more in my future. I have struggled a lot with having other people take me seriously. In class I feel like I am never taken seriously.” Many people of color, and others who identify differently from the majority discover that they are only paid attention to when their differences are pointed out. Nakita shared that “I am only noticed in class if the topic is on race, but even then my opinion is met with exacerbated breaths and rolled eyes. If the topic is on women or femininity it does not include me. As a black women my blackness is even questioned at times. I stretch myself thin doing as much as I can just to feel like I am ‘good enough’”.
When I asked “what do you love about yourself?” Nakita smiled to herself and said, “I love how smart and passionate I am. I am so passionate about changing our society for the better and I try to educate myself so that I can.”
Having the opportunity to go to college is a privilege for many, required for some and seems out of reach for others. As a first generation student, Nakita believes that “receiving my college degree means that all of my hard work is paying off.” As a senior studying Environmental Sociology with a Women’s study minor, her college career is coming to a close but she knows that her “education does not stop at an undergraduate degree.” As a first generation student, Nakita shared “I am the first person in my immediate family to get a Bachelor’s degree. I have worked hard for my degree but I am also lucky to have had all of the opportunities that have gotten me here. There are so many other women of color who are unable to get a higher education because of intentional structures of oppression which prevent them from doing so. My degree just means I am one step closer to changing this.”
As someone who has jumped through hoops in life to reach the level of accomplishment that she has, Nakita shared “I would encourage young girls who are struggling with their identity to first and for-most define their identity for themselves. Although it is extremely hard, never let others define you with their opinions and stereotypes. Let those who feed your soul surround you and never stifle your beautiful voice.” I couldn’t have said it any better myself.
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/