Between the Vogue Italia hubbub and the New York Fashion Week’s will-they-or-won’t-they ethnically ambiguous post, I’ve been thinking A LOT about models, the fashion industry, and where women of color find themselves in the midst of it all. Where do you look if you want to see beautiful, inspiring images of women of color — besides the obvious mags dedicated to us, such as Essence and Ebony? Why do we look to magazines and the media to reinforce our concepts of beauty and include us regardless of their spotty track record in doing so? Bianca, a commenter on that Ethnically Ambiguous post, dropped some knowledge that has lingered with me all week.
“Why do we continue to look to the fashion industry to represent us when the industry is built on generating illusions for profit? When people from the industry throw their hands up and say, â€œWell having diversity would be nice, but sorry, it just canâ€™t be this way.â€ Since when do they not have control over who they cast in their shows? Fashionâ€™s complacency, excuses, apologies and superficial attempts to show diversity are disgusting.
Iâ€™d rather put my energy into promoting, discovering and creating my own ideas of beauty, and representing what I find beautiful in myself. I learned what was beautiful from the folks who raised me, not from magazines and TV. I try to help my students identify and verbalize their own ideas about beauty and see how the media has distorted those ideas.
If the fashion industry truly wanted to represent all kinds of beauty, it would no longer be an industry. It would be unnecessary. We spend so much money trying to attain a certain beauty and so much time being fearful that we may not be able to.
I will not pat designers on the back for showcasing models who range in complexion. I will not look at it as a step in the right direction when they turn a complexion or hair texture or bone structure into a trend. I will not praise an industry that still conforms to a certain body type. And I will not applaud them when they do these things for profit.
I love me some clothes, but Iâ€™ll be damned if I ever expected a designer to truly represent people that look like me and my friends.
We/I donâ€™t need designers to show us what we already know. Why are we waiting for them? Why are we paying them so much money and time? Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn in the summertime is as visually stimulating and ethnically diverse as it gets. I sit on a bench and watch well-dressed folks pass – for free – and thank mother nature for continuing to broaden my idea of who is beautiful.”
That’s why I love you bellas so much. I swear, I have the most intelligent group of commenters on the internet (and I say this as someone whose cat got 85 comments on ICHC).
Thank you, Bianca. Your comment was not just eloquently stated, it was on frickin’ point. And I agree with so much of it.
But in addition to learning my concept of beauty at my mother’s feet, watching her put on her face at her dresser — I grew up in a magazine-reading home. I’ve always been an avid reader, and when I was a teenager, magazines were my food. That Carrie Bradshaw quote, “I used to buy a copy of Vogue instead of buying dinner because I felt it fed me more” — that was me as a teenager. Except, replace Vogue with Seventeen and Sassy, and well, I was bulimic and pretty unhappy with myself back then so that explains that. But now I’m grown, and I realize that I need nourishment for my body and my mind.
For me, going natural was an awakening, a chance to discover my beauty in a unique way. And consequently, I’ve come to realize that mainstream beauty magazines don’t nourish my mind. They’re more like… cigarettes — initially satisfying, but addicting, and poisonous. I’ve managed to kick the habit.
Also, unlike Bianca I don’t live in Brooklyn, I currently reside in Miami. A stroll down Lincoln Road is more likely to reveal surgically enhanced living Barbie dolls than a range of beauties I can identify with.
I still look for representation, even though I turn to sources like Jezebel and Make Fetch Happen for information about the latest magazine photoshoots, and which models are being featured where. I still find myself looking for images that highlight beauty I can identify with. When I see Yaya DaCosta in an Olay ad, or Nina Keita advertising Old Navy, I smile, I lean forward, I want to know more about the product. Call me a sucker for advertising, but it never fails to pique my interest.
The occasional ads or photo shoots that feature black women intersprinkled like too few chocolate chips in a big, bland vanilla cookie don’t satisfy a bella like me. And so, more and more often, I find my beauty inspiration online. I don’t even have to browse through Fokti, although there’s SO MUCH inspiration there — sometimes it just pops up in unexpected places when I’m not even looking for it.
Like MSN — which recently featured a hairstyle gallery of African American hair that included some cute natural styles — quelle surprise. Going Natural.com can always be relied upon for beautiful images of brothers and sisters with locs, twists, and other natural styles, and so can Naturally You magazine. Gorgeous Black Women always delivers, and I found the beautiful image of Wakeema Hollis that you see above on GBW.
I’ve been watching some great natural hair videos on YouTube, quite a few of the bellas on Fokti and Nappturality are on there doing their thing, it seems! I especially like Shawnta 715 — who also does amazing makeup, Curly Chronicles, she’s wonderful, Rustic Beauty, Nappystar 25, and then there’s Masoesa of the aforementioned Going Natural.com, whose videos are just filled with inspiration and positivity and women who look like you and me. Check out the video she made for Miss Nappturality 2008.
So many colors of skin and textures of hair to drink in — I love that video!
So tell me, bellas — where do you find your beauty inspiration?