It’s always a joy to work with photographer Kelsey Arrington and an amazing group of talented models. The backstory of this shoot actually came from a quote Kelsey shared with a few of us in a group chat.
“Black girls are flowers that go unwatered and still blossom.”
With all of the political changes our country is experiencing lately, it’s almost as if there has been an explosion of “girl power” among all races. Regardless of what people say, everyone “sees color,” but we have all reached a point where we recognize and celebrate our differences. When walking through one of the departments at Trinity University, I saw an adorable bookshelf labeled, “FREE, TAKE ONE!” My eyes instantly landed on a tattered red book titled, “The Psychology of Women.” I immediately picked it up and carried it to my office to read it.
As I casually flipped through the pages, I landed on a chart of stereotypes. The particular chart divided women into categories by ethnicity, and highlighted the stereotypes about each of us in columns. I was horrified to see that black women were the ONLY women to have negative stereotypes associated with us. We were labeled loud, sassy, angry, and it even dared to say masculine! White women were “desirable or elite,” and Asian women were “passive, scholarly, soft-spoken.”
Granted, this is an older book, but have these stereotypes changed at all? I remember plenty of men “complimenting” me by saying “You’re not ghetto like other black girls.” I always wondered if they expected me to say “Yay! Thanks!” I thought long and hard about why we are seen that way, and it’s really quite simple. At a young age, black girls are often divided between light and dark, good hair and nappy hair, “bougie” and ghetto. All of these labels come from people who look just like us. Naturally, anyone being labeled or discriminated against since elementary school is going to have some sort of guard up. It doesn’t mean that they are angry, just self-protective. I can’t imagine this is anything but human nature, to protect yourself from being hurt by building a wall.
This healing process has to start from within, and we have to love ourselves and each other. If a boy doesn’t think you’re cute because your skin is dark, screw him! Who cares what he thinks? His mother is probably your complexion or darker, and he probably doesn’t even realize what he’s saying. Fast forward about twenty years, and he’ll be searching for you on social media, wanting to take you on a date. See the beauty in yourself daily, and remember that we all have flaws. Use your strength to make it through, being strong is one stereotype that is actually TRUE: use it.
Us black girls can be found in ALL parts of the world (hmmm, wonder why?). We may have some things in common, but our culture varies depending on how and where we were raised. It was very important to me to celebrate the beauty of three totally different women of color, and to showcase them as flowers. I kept the makeup trendy, and Kelsey styled the models in beautiful floral dresses to push the message of renewal and blooming even further.
The icing on the cake was the fact that we were able to shoot at this location for free, The Locale Workspace provided the perfect backdrop for our shoot. On National Women’s Day, the venue gave out complimentary day passes to all women. We were able to use ours for the shoot, and we were treated with such kindness. After all, you could have the greatest makeup, wardrobe, and technology, but if your team doesn’t spread love, it shows in the photos.
Kelsey used some unique editing tricks for this shoot that were really fun and anything but predictable. She may love fashion as a guilty pleasure, but her passion is always to use different mediums to tell a story. Afterwards, we all went for tacos and talked about politics and culture. One of the models, Sadhana Singh, is actually a first generation college student from Guyana, and decided to give modeling a shot with us for the first time. She aspires to share stories of social justice through journalism, and she is a force to be reckoned with. We couldn’t have appreciated her presence more…beauty and brains. Please see the previous post to read academic story. All three of the women have made their mark in their community, and the fact that they’re beautiful is simply a bonus.