Written by: Shayla Joshi, in collaboration with the models
QWOCC is so excited to have collaborated with VCFS to talk about the beauty standards that exist for women of colour. It is difficult to feel beautiful as a woman of colour when the standards set cater to a Eurocentric population. Though this can be an overwhelming sentiment due to a lack of representation, women of colour have come out stronger in the face of this adversity. By finding communities with like individuals, looking inwards for validation and harnessing a seeming lack of power into an asset women of colour have empowered themselves.
Following the photoshoot held by VCFS, which focused solely on women of colour, each model was interviewed about their experiences and sentiments. The models discussed a variety of topics ranging from what being a woman of colour entails to cultural insecurities and acceptance.
This process resulted in the following photo series and commentary developed through the collaboration of each model and our blog coordinator.
Looks play a significant role in storytelling. For women of colour, this narrows the already small lens from which they are seen. This is portrayed in media by fitting women of colour into stereotypes to further a story. Being the subject of photos for VCFS reinforces and paves the way for a new direction wherein these photos tell a greater story about diversity.
“She’s pretty for a black girl.” Beauty standards are lowered for women of colour. Even if they do meet the Eurocentric view of beauty, women of colour are still looked down upon. Called out for their hair, skin tone and culture; women of colour experience the intersect of misogyny and racism. This shoot has helped to open conversations about discrimination and foster communities where individuals can feel connected through mutual experiences.
Face your insecurities. Finding communities where people wholeheartedly welcome you is essential to facing insecurities and ultimately accepting them. Embracing who you are and loving yourself for who you are is a challenge, but one that is essential. Being able to speak out about these challenges makes you a stronger person.
Too little… too much. Being a woman of colour comes with identifying yourself. What happens if you don’t fit into a category? Trying to change yourself to fit into a box is losing your identity. Being different means being unique, which isn’t always seen as beautiful. Photoshoots like these help counter this claim by showing the beauty coupled with being unique; there is more than just one kind of beautiful.
Beauty standards are presented through a revolving door. The constant changing representations of beauty standards makes it impossible for all women, let alone women of colour, to meet these expectations. Women of colour face extra barriers with regard to beauty standards; they experience general ones and cultural ones. Whether it be thick eyebrows or blonde hair, trends will fade so it is important to own the beauty in who you are.
Be unapologetically you. Accepting who you are and your culture is an uphill battle that constantly puts you at odds with those around you. Finding people who you can identify with helps with this struggle by furthering the development of personal growth. Surrounding yourself with people who are unapologetically genuine to themselves fosters a sense of community.
Whiteness is seen as the ideal. Multiple dimensions of beauty standards are rooted in Eurocentric views that set a basis for what is perceived as beautiful: whiteness. Women of colour are faced with the struggle of grasping their own cultures. This challenges women of colour and leaves them questioning their beauty. This constant struggle requires a journey to the ultimate acceptance of one’s own identity.
Being a woman of colour is being simultaneously powerful and powerless. It’s being fearlessly bold and owning every part of your body and culture all the while dealing with a double edged sword. Being called out for features that are not recognized in the Eurocentric standard for beauty results in a blow that renders you powerless. So yes, the journey to power is one that is ongoing with many challenges, but the strength and community gained through this struggle is incomparable.
Find your foundation. Growing to accept insecurities that are coupled with being a woman of colour is a gradual journey which cannot be endured without a supportive group to fall back on. Finding friends who foster open conversations about like situations is essential to growing into insecurities.
Being a woman of colour comes with assumptions. People assume that you fit into a certain categories because of how women of colour are portrayed in mainstream media; we are minimized to a stereotype, a standard. Representation needs a shift to focus on authenticity; which this photoshoot has done. By focusing on raw and organic beauty, this has brought an opportunity to highlight diversity.
A mix of identities. Having to balance between western and south asian culture is being a constant mix of identities. At times it’s being two different people, literally. Trying to find the middle ground between both cultures is an ongoing process that will never be perfect. Finding a sense of community with people where you feel accepted is essential to discovering and accepting identities.
Empower yourself. Putting yourself in front of the camera, being vulnerable and glowing in your natural beauty is an act of empowerment. You don’t necessarily need a special event to feel beautiful. Grab a friend or two and have a photoshoot! Everyone deserves to be in front of the camera and feel beautiful.
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