We've seen some pretty racist beauty ideas in the media. These photos fight back.
We all remember that head-smack-worthy New York Times profile of TV genius Shonda Rhimes published this past September, in which journalist Alessandra Stanley wrote a number of shockingly inaccurate and disparaging things about African-American women, including the following re: Viola Davis (who stars in Rhimes-produced How To Get Away With Murder and was just nominated for a Golden Globe for her work):
In the wake of the piece, social media rightly exploded with “WTFs.” However, now that the furor has died down a little, Abi Ishola is taking a different approach to addressing this problematic piece in the form of a photo series entitled “Beyond Classically Beautiful” in which she took pictures of many friends to demonstrate the remarkable beauty of the black and biracial women in her life.
As Ishola, a New York-based multimedia journalist, explains on her website Scripts and Sightings:
So Ishola teamed up with her husband, a photographer, and her cousin, a makeup artist, to highlight the incredible beauty the media so disturbingly devalues.
“As a woman of color working in media, this is something that I face every single day. We are being judged by the color of our skin, the texture of our hair and the way that we dress,” says participant, Dana Oliver, a beauty and fashion editor.
“I used to get bullied when I was younger, so I didn’t really feel as beautiful as my classmates, because I was darker toned than everyone,” adds Mame Diop, a student who posed for the shoot. “But I grew up and I learned to embrace my complexion. I’m me and nobody’s like me.”
Ishola’s subjects poses ooze glamour (seriously, next time someone tries to take a picture of me, I’m taking a page from these poses) and all (at least in one of their shots) are wearing a shirt that says “Beyond Classically Beautiful.”
These woman come from different backgrounds and span the spectrum of age and body type, yet what they all have in common is how confident and truly beautiful they are. It’s inspiring, timely and crucial to see such an empowering response to racism in the media.
See for yourselves:
The creator of the series herself:
Her friend Christina:
Her friend Dana:
Her friend Dionne:
Her friend Ofunne:
Her friend Funmi:
A never-ending standing ovation for Abi Ishola for celebrating the beauty of her friends and showing the world that beauty is a concept that includes women of all backgrounds.
As model Funmi Okusi says: “I think beauty is just like a flame, an unquenchable fire that comes from within. You have to just allow yourself to let it flow.”
And if you’re like “I have GOT to have one of those Beyond Classically Beautiful shirts,” you’re in luck, just pop over to Etsy and you can snag yourself one.
Also, please check out the video of the making of this project. It’s equally inspiring and serves as an important reminder to everyone in the media with blinders on that—as Ishola notes—”beauty comes in so many different forms.”