International “Black beauty” is the backdrop of an awesome video series by un-ruly creators Abigail and Antonia Opiah titled Pretty. Their first installment spotlighted Black women in Paris and eventually will go into locations like, London, Sweden and Milan. Antonia exclusively shared with #TeamBeautiful how the idea of “Black beauty”exists and the way we subconsciously perceive it in levels:
“A few people we’ve spoken to stay away from delineating beauty by race, in a sense that there isn’t such thing as “Black beauty;” there’s just beauty. At the same time, and you’ll see this in later episodes, we had a chance to speak with pan-African feminist Minna Salami who explains in detail that she identified three kinds of beauty—artificial beauty, political beauty (which is where the notion of Black beauty might come in) and genuine beauty.”
Places like Japan and Northern Africa are so influenced by Western standards of attractiveness that the use of lightning creams and plastic surgery periodically increase. It’s cringe-worthy to watch cultures fall as victims to conformity.
Our representation of beauty, especially globally, has translated as store-bought satisfaction with our self-esteem. Odd perceptions exists that if you don’t leave the house looking like Kim Kardashian or a hip-hop spokesmodel (think: Instagram hotties), you don’t take your appearance seriously at all! With Black people, there’s the added competition of hair type, skin color and butt size–the latter two are extremely perpetuated by Black men. Black beauty in all its diversity is still not as appreciated as it should be.
It’s interesting Salami viewed “Black beauty” as linear to “political beauty.” In episode one, “What’s Pretty in Paris,” the title question was answered by various Parisians. And in episode two and three, Pretty featured solo testimonies from Black Parisians, Sarah and Carole.
Sarah, with her long braids, red lips and sleek glasses, is a headstrong personality that works in fashion. While she’s comfortable now, she acknowledged that impressions are almost always appearance first. The reality of that is both good and bad, “The first thing people see is not how good you are and how you are behaving, but how you carry yourself. It matters. There was a time I didn’t care for how I looked at all. I think it as because we grow up in an environment which makes you see certain types of people as perfection. And you’re just not included, so it makes you feel bad. It’s important to see your reflection,” Sarah said.
Carole, a natural-haired, Converse-wearing thirty-something articulated so naturally how her personal style could be counted on to represent her, but she’s also forever evolving. “I don’t focus only on appearances, appearance isn’t everything. I know some people to whom appearance is almost everything. And if their appearance isn’t right, they’re not happy at all. It directly affects every aspect of their life not only their appearance,” Carole said.
She continued, “I’d say that my style is quite simple. I like sneakers, flat shoes, jeans. But sometimes I feel like being more elegant, more feminine. So, I’ll wear some heels, a little dress…I think my style says a lot. I like to dress according to my mood. My style is pretty versatile. Do I feel pressure to look a certain way? Personally, no…because I do want I want. I don’t care what people say. That’s who I am.”
Carole didn’t come to that comfortable place she spoke of, it was years in the making and she’s never felt freer! She expressed her “why bother trying to be something I’m not” sentiment without having to knock down anyone else’s choices. We could all use some help with that!
Truth is, we all want to look good, but why is there a standard of beauty or pretty allowed, especially for Black women? Pretty co-creator, Antonia hopes that through Pretty, Black beauty is treated as a mosaic of cultures, shades and styles. She says, “I hope viewers come away with that (an enhanced way of looking at beauty) but I also want viewers to come away with something a little superficial too. I want people to be exposed to the different colors, sizes, styles, backgrounds, languages of these women.”
She continues, “I’ve seen a comment from someone saying that they hadn’t seen a Black woman speak French. We interviewed a Black woman from Sweden who constantly has to convince people that she’s Swedish, born and raised, because people don’t know there are Black Swedes. So just showing the diversity that exists within the global Black community has also become a big goal of the series.”
These episodes of Pretty are fantastically authentic because the girls represent only themselves and not what society, French or American, wants of them. I am one Black girl in America that is touched by seeing my reflection in women overseas and beyond.
Now that’s some inspiring beauty talk for ya!
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