Kit Steinkellner
May 22, 2015 12:29 pm

Ask any Orange is the New Black fan to list their favorite characters on the show and Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson is guaranteed to appear super-high on that list. We OITNB lovers carry a torch in our hearts for the hilarious and high-spirited Taystee. We’re also pretty in love with Danielle Brooks, the actress who plays the irrepressible inmate, and we’re even more in love with her after she recently opened up about her relationship to body image in Hollywood.

As People reports, this week Brooks took the opportunity to talk about redefining beauty standards at an Academy of Television Arts and Sciences “For Your Consideration” screening of OITNB in Los Angeles.

“Being a woman of curves, I really find that it’s very important to talk about loving your body where you are. People’s beauty standards [are] something I’ve definitely struggled with in my life. And I’m just so grateful to be on a show where people love me, Taystee, for who she is – and they’ve come to love Danielle for who I am, and it’s not because I’m a size 2 and it’s not because I’m light-skinned with long hair.”

Brooks knows that she’s helping change the culture with her role on the show, and the weight of that responsibility brought her to tears.

“Growing up, I didn’t see many examples of myself [onscreen],” she said as she began to cry. “And to be that girl that I wanted to see, I’m grateful for that.”

This isn’t the first time Danielle has spoken out about body positivity. This month she wrote an essay for Glamour on the topic, a must-read that ends with these powerful and necessary words:

“Ideally, I want to see all beauties, all shapes, all sizes, all skin tones, all backgrounds represented in my profession. Now that I am blessed to be that reflection I was once looking for, I’m making a promise to speak out for that little girl that I used to be. I might not have the power to change what media puts out there, or to single-handedly convince young girls like me that they should love themselves. But what I can do is start with me: living each day, embracing who I am. Embracing who I am by refusing to hide my legs or cover my arms because they make someone else feel uncomfortable. By realizing that every stretch mark on my body is kissed by the sun, and no longer wishing them away. By no longer operating out of a place of fear. So if you see me on a carpet with my arms and legs out glistening, or my midriff exposed, it’s a reminder to myself and the world that I know I’m beautiful.”

When it comes to body positivity, Brooks is in good company. Several members of the OITNB cast have dealt with body image issues and come out the other side loving their bodies and themselves.

Dascha Polanco AKA Dayanara Diaz talked to Bustle last year about overcoming her insecurities. While talking about her onscreen sex scene with corrections officer/dreamboat John Bennett she explained:

“People have said that was the hottest scene of the show. And I just think, ‘You didn’t notice my thighs?!’ But you only know your faults yourself. Very few will notice your defects.”

She also admitted that it is, in part, love from her fans that helps her feel great in her skin.

“I read messages from little girls telling me they think I’m beautiful,” she explained. “And that validation — receiving love — means more than anything. As imperfect as you are, you’re still perfect.”

Meanwhile, Uzo Aduba, who won an Emmy last year for her portrayal of Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren, wrote an essay for Cosmo last year about learning to love the gap in her teeth.

In the essay, she explained that she begged her mother for braces as a kid, but her mother refused, telling young Uzo that the gap was a part of her heritage and in Nigeria, the gap is a sign of beauty and intelligence. Uzo started to change her mind about the gap when a photographer told her she had a “beautiful smile,” but she still kept a temporary filler on hand. The first TV role she booked, she forgot that filler in her dressing room, but was told the producers thought she looked great as she was.

“That was a light bulb moment,” Uzo explains in the piece. “I’m great . . . just as I am.”

And then of course there’s Laverne Cox, who has done SO much for body acceptance. Last month, Cox posed nude for Allure, and explained, in an interview with the magazine, her body positive reasons for baring all:

“I said no initially, thought about it, and said no again,” she said.” “But I’m a black transgender woman. I felt this could be really powerful for the communities that I represent. Black women are not often told that we’re beautiful unless we align with certain standards. Trans women certainly are not told we’re beautiful. Seeing a black transgender woman embracing and loving everything about her body might be inspiring for some folks. There’s a beauty in the things we think are imperfect. It sounds very cliché, but it’s true.”

We adore the OITNB cast for embracing themselves and setting an example for us all re: how to shrug off boring, narrow, outdated beauty standards and love our beautiful selves just as we are.

[Images via, via, via, via]

Advertisement