There once was a little girl. Her name was LaShawnte. On national television, she told her mother that she thought her skin was ugly. “I don’t want to be dark,” she said.
I watched that footage several times. And each time I felt a deep sadness, one that lived somewhere way back when. I never told anyone that I hated being dark, but it wasn’t hard for me to understand why LaShawnte
Looking at LaShawnte was like looking in the mirror, except I only saw her; she didn’t see me. I wanted to…needed to reflect something else towards her. I needed her to see herself differently. I needed her to see herself in me and much as I saw myself in her.
I called on Black women to join me in “singing a Black Girl’s song;” To “bring her out…to know herself” and to know her beauty. And her value. And her worth. Not just LaShawnte, but all the LaShawntes. The call was simple – “tell a little Black girl that she is beautiful today. And every day.”
Of course my energy was focused on LaShawnte. I created a personal video message to her. She saw it. She giggled. And we both felt a little better.
Naturally, when I began planning for ‘Pretty. Period.’ I thought about my LaShawnte. If ever there was a reason why this work needed to be done, it was for her. And more than the final product, it was the process that was most healing. Imagine being seven years old and having a woman you’ve never met before show up to your house with a professional photographer and all her professional equipment ready to spend the day with you shopping, primping, and posing because she wants you to be in her project that focuses on beauty. On dark-skinned beauty. The sparkle that danced in LaShawnte’s eyes is one that I’ve now seen over 50 times – during each and every photo shoot for this project so far. We need this as much as LaShawnte does.
Something magical happens in the process of declaring a girl’s beauty not despite her dark complexion, but because of it. She becomes it in her own eyes. And she OWNS it.
See shots and video footage from LaShawnte’s photo shoot on Pretty.Period.