editor's note & why i made this magazine by jocelyn chambers
As I sit here in my bed, a little after 11:30pm, I realize I don't know what to say. MAJESTY, one of the biggest endeavors of my heart, has been a long time coming, since its conception in the summertime to its execution over the course of this fall semester. Now that it is time to share, I am shut up by this sense of awe, this "we did it" feeling that rises up in my stomach and creates the next great butterfly museum. MAJESTY is a labor of love for every woman of color who has struggled to identify herself. Please know with every word you read and every picture you see
that it was made with you in mind. It is a transplant from my heart to yours. I love you, I am always rooting for you, and I will always advocate for you. Instead of a proper Editor's Note, I've attached the proposal I originally sent the scholarship program, University Leadership Network, that is responsible for letting me create MAJESTY as part of my university internship. To them, I owe my gratitude, and I owe my gratitude to everyone who was involved or even glanced at the work that has been done. Our validity has greatened. Rise up, Queen.
It was not until about four or five years ago that I stopped hating myself for being black. Growing up, I had a choice of being black or being beautiful. I did not have the privilege of multitasking. The world that I knew won awards for telling me I was unworthy, disgusting, and an alternative but never a finalist. The black woman was always â€œother.â€? Our representation was slim-to-none, and the representation we had did us far from justice. We were the catchphrase, the punchline, and the sidekick, but we were never center stage. When a black woman was in the spotlight, I always knew, because it was so rare. I have spent the 20 years of my life looking at people who look nothing like me. I was trained to believe beauty was in the eye, the breasts, hair and hips of white women. Magazines like Elle, Vogue, Bazaar, Cosmo, and countless others continually worship the white woman and put her on a pedestal as if I do not exist. Even magazines in countries predominantly made up of women of color praise and obsess over the white woman. For the longest time, that was paralyzing, and it still is. But now, I want to change that. As I started down the road of self-awareness, self-love, and social justice, I began to look at the perspectives of other women of color and see how their experiences intersected with mine. I found that Hispanic women, Latin women, Asian women from all hemispheres, and Native American women were all subject to the phenomenon that is invisibility. Throughout history, we have been overlooked, stepped on, and taken for granted. When in reality, we are the backbone of todayâ€™s world. I want to create an environment that is not only beneficial for black women, but for all women of color. We do not need to step out of the woodwork, because we are already here. We have been here. It is time we are given recognition. Over the summer, I asked several women of color to volunteer for a photography project I created. I wanted to showcase them in all decades of the 20th century, from 1900 to 1990. As a vintage enthusiast, I am often searching for style inspiration. However, when I researched it, only white women were represented. I know for a fact that WOC existed in the 20th century, but it was difficult to find representation of them. I had to search extensively and specifically to find what I was looking for, and even then, I was not completely satisfied. I began this project because I wanted the world to see history and style differently. Several women signed up immediately, and I proceeded to dress and style them as though they stepped out of a time capsule. These photographs have been posted to my personal Facebook page, and each participant received 3 mock magazine covers in their completed session.
The first girl I photographed was a South Asian girl named Sharon, and she styled the 1980s. When she saw her covers, she began to cry. She told me that all she wanted since childhood was to be a model. But she had to put that dream away. This was the first time she truly felt like she belonged on the cover of anything, not just a magazine. The first dream she ever had was breathed into existence after being dormant for so long. If a mock magazine cover had that much of an impact, I knew I had to make it reality. I showed Sharon and the other WOC I photographed a version of themselves that they never considered before. By doing so, I believe that pieced a little bit of their heritage and identity together. I realized that I wanted to extend this project and make it more tangible. That is when I gave it a name. One of the most important things I want to do in my life is make sure people know who they are. The world is having a mass identity crisis and it is time for them to know themselves on a most intimate level. When people are asked who they are, they often say their name, age, or what they believe in. They never say something they believe about themselves. The most pivotal part of my self-growth was when I gave myself a title. I put a name to the standard I wanted to embody, and that title was Empress. I want people to understand that who they are surpasses their body and soul. It comes from the most fundamental part within. For me, that is my Spirit. If I am going to conduct myself with grace and effervescence, then my standard must be no less than Royalty. The way I dress, the way I behave, and what I believe in must reflect my identity. I have used this standard to encourage the women around me and build them up to the Queendom they deserve. I want to raise a generation of Royalty, and their only requirement is owning that as who they are. It is not a hierarchy, it is an army. Introducing Majesty: a personal magazine written by, for, and about women of color, created under the standard that Royalty is not elected. The magazine will have two online publications via Issuu: one in the fall/winter seasons, and one in the spring/summer seasons. It will include the completed decades series, fashion photography and style, beauty tutorials, articles pertaining to personal interest and current events, and featured spreads. Not only will it feature my work, it will feature the work of many other WOC. Majesty will require me to collaborate with women who specialize in many different arenas, including but not limited to: art, film and media, music, literature, and politics. This collaboration will help me build my accountability and cause me to commit to hard deadlines. By giving someone else my word, I will test my integrity. Committing to Majesty will
require at least 10 hours of personal work per week. I have no doubt that it will be worth it, and I strongly believe the impact will be tremendous. Everything you love seeing in a magazine will come to life once again. But this time, it will exclusively feature people who look like me. And that is what I needed years ago.
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Let's start with the basics. You already know my name. I'm 20 years old (just had a birthday on December 12th!), I'm from Austin, Texas, I've never moved in my entire life, and my favorite pie is key lime. (Some people think it's actually my middle name.) And, contrary to these photos, I smile a lot. So what do I do? How did I get here? Formally, I am a senior composition major at the University of Texas, and will be graduating in the spring of 2017 with a bachelor's degree. Not-so-formally, I'm a lover of black women and non-black women of color, and I do everything in my power to make sure their feelings and experiences are heard. Whether it's true my music, writing, photography, or anything else, I do everything I do with the intention of including the excluded. This space is where the most disrespected women in the world are treated like the queens they are. The drive to make sure these women were seen as royalty is how I got here. How did you? The following is a small set of cute questions that will give you better information than I ever could. • Is your room messy or clean? There's currently a small pile of clothes on the floor. • Do you like your name? Why? Honestly I think it's really cute. And it's not entirely common. It's funny though, that people still act like they can't pronounce it because it's something they don't hear everyday. I see you lazy folk. I hear your ratchet pronunciations, too. • Describe your personality in 3 words or less. Extra as heck. • Where do you shop? I do most of my shopping online, so I spend a lot of time on Etsy, eBay, and Instagram. I've been able to score most of my current wardrobe from these sites. • How would you describe your style? Definitely vintage. I try to avoid wearing clothes from this century if at all possible. Most of my friends have never seen me in a T-shirt. • Favorite social media account: Probably YouTube, if that counts. All I do is watch makeup tutorials. • Favorite snapchat filter? The one with the crown! • Sandals or sneakers? Stilettos. • What's your go-to hairstyle? Short, fluffy, vintage-style curls. Honestly, curls are so romantic. • Have you ever dyed your hair? Freshman year, it was green. • What was the last text you sent? "girl, i feel". • How old were you when you found out santa wasn’t real? It didn't take me long to figure out santa isn't real, but racism is. • Favorite dipping sauce? Polynesian sauce from Chick-Fil-A. I always ask for three.
• What color looks best on you? Burgundy red. I strongly believe there is a shade of red for e v e r y skin tone. • What is your phone background? "Dust to side chicks". • One food you don't like? Chocolate. Sorry, y'all. • Favorite month? December, because it's when I get the most attention. • What's your biggest goal in life? To destroy white supremacy. • Who was the last person you cried in front of? My UT BFF, Tim. • What was your 2016 New Years Resolution? To become more intimidating. It worked. • What's something that never fails to surprise you? The fact that people I hardly know automatically start calling me Queen. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad they know who I am. I just don't know how they found out so quickly. Catch me on: • Instagram: @browneyedjo • Twitter: @shessoloverly • Tumblr: @onabedoflace • Blog: Cupcake Dictionary • Website: TEOMF.com
first met Nooshin for project in which I photographed and interviewed her for a university-style Humans of New York page. I messaged her on Facebook after being referred by a mutual friend, set up a time to meet, and spoke with her in our student activities center. And you know, it was as though we'd be friends for a long time. Knowing Nooshin is like catching up after a significant period apart, yet being reassured that nothing has changed. She is comfort, she is strong, and her laugh is like music.
After the first initial meeting, we always saw each other in passing. In the hall, on the bus, or from afar. And when it came time to ask someone to model the Edwardian era, no one else came to mind. We set up this meeting like we did the last, and finally got together on an abominably cold day in November. But let me tell you a thing. Nooshin's presence made it feel 75 and sunny. She is absolutely irreplaceable, and I hope she knows that, and I hope you come to understand.
Jocelyn Chambers: What was your experience with this project? How did you react when you saw your pictures? Nooshin Ghanbari: It was a really humbling experience, especially when looking at my photos in the stunning context and chronology of the others in the project. I felt beautiful, and all the more aware of the beauty in and around me—not regardless of differences in skin color, but because of those differences. JC: What has been your experience growing up in a world where white women were the standard of beauty? How did/does that affect you? NG: In kindergarten, I remember bemoaning to my mother that all of my friends had Disney princesses that looked like them —Cinderella, Aurora, Belle—but that I didn’t. Even then, at the age of five, I was aware that I didn’t quite fit in. I wanted to be Belle whenever my friends and I would play princess games during recess (her hair is dark brown like mine! she loves books!), but there was always a little voice telling me that I wasn’t like Belle, not really—because I wasn’t white. That I should like Mulan or Jasmine better: Mulan to cover my Chinese ancestry, Jasmine because she was the closest to Iranian or Middle Eastern that Disney was ever going to get. But underrepresentation in popular culture wasn’t the only problem. Beginning in middle school, I became more certain with every year that passed that I had to be skinner to fit in. I didn’t realize just how deeply I had internalized certain Eurocentric standards of beauty—that I had been conditioned to think that way for years. As a result, I hated wearing the uniform skirt that was required by our dress code because I knew I didn't have the slender legs of the other girls at my predominantly white private school. I hated playing volleyball because I had overheard two of the most popular girls in my grade laughing about how “fat” my thighs looked in the spandex shorts we wore for games. I became intensely self-critical. My nose needed to be thinner, my eyes larger, my eyebrows neater. And my skin? If only it were less pockmarked, less oily. Lighter, smoother. At least some of this I could fix with makeup, I thought. But getting matched for foundation at the beginning of my freshman year of college practically made things worse. It was like the makeup wasn’t made for me. Every shade that the beautician tried was too light, too pink, too yellow. In that moment, I couldn’t help but feel as if it were my skin color, and not the limited selection of foundation, that was at fault. We finally settled with a shade called fresh ivory. A shade that, if seen under the right lighting, is definitely still too pink. JC: Where are you on your personal journey to selflove/realizing that you yourself are your own standard of beauty? NG: I think I’ve come a long way from the high schooler who looked in the mirror and had something negative to say about every feature she saw reflected back at her. Nevertheless, I know my journey is nowhere near over. Slowly but surely, I am teaching myself that buying into the Eurocentric standard of beauty is a choice, that no two examples of beauty are the same—and I think this project does a remarkable job of showcasing exactly that.
I felt beautiful, and all the more aware of the beauty in and around meâ€”not regardless of differences in skin color, but because of those differences.
RARE, BUT NOT UNIQUE
The first black classical flutist I saw in action was a wonderful lady named Judy Dines. At the time, she was Associate Principal Flute of the Houston Symphony Orchestra. She was also the only black person on stage. Fifteen-year old me fell in love with her because she immediately gave me the validation that I could succeed as a black flutist. I would later play alongside her when my high school performed a Side-by-Side Concert with the HSO during my senior year.
Later my sophomore year, I saw the Imani Winds, a woodwind quintet of all black musicians. I was blown away yet again, and they gave me the extra confidence to try my hand in a field scarce of people who looked like me. Growing up, it was hard affording regular lessons, finding resources to enter competitions, and applying for summer masterclasses and festivals like my peers. It was quite discouraging feeling like I was being left behind because it was difficult for my family to pay for my participation. Many of my friendsâ€™ families could pay for that nicer instrument or two lessons a week. They could afford applying to ten different colleges and hiring a pianist to regularly practice with them. I could not. Because of this, I learned to keep up with fewer resources. It made me creative, it made me learn not take anything for granted, and, never wanting my disadvantage to be an excuse, I pushed myself to excel at everything I did. This, along with the fighting spirit my mama gave me and the help from wonderful teachers, got me the results that I wanted. So here I am in my second year at the University of Texas Butler School of Music. Iâ€™m working hard and doing well. My colleagues are wonderful and supportive, and my professors are inhumanly spectacular. Most of the people I work with are supportive, undergrads and grad students alike are
held to the same standards of greatness, and we are all working passionately in doing what we love. I fit right in. The only time I am treated differently because of the color of my skin is when I encounter people outside of my field. Sometimes old white people will be shocked that I’ve made it this far, but they also find my difference charming. I always get the same reaction: “Oh, dear, that’s so good for you. Keep it up!” They’re honestly so adorable. Oddly enough, the outsiders have the strangest time accepting that I am black and I am a classical musician. My conversations with them go a lot like this: “So, what do you major in?” “Oh, I’m a music major.” “Wow! That’s so unique! I would have thought you played basketball!” *Smiles politely while wanting to rip their head off while also wishing I was cool enough to play on the UT Women’s Basketball team* “No, I play flute.” “Like Jazz flute?” “No, like classical flute. Like in orchestras.” “Oh wow that’s cool I guess, I’ve never met anyone like you!” Or, like this: “So what do you do?” “I’m a musician.” “Oh like hip-hop? What’s your favorite type of music? Do you listen to [insert rapper name here] a lot? I bet they’re your favorite.” “No, I’m sorry, I’m not too familiar with them.” “Okay maybe gospel music is more your style?” “Yeah I like a lot of music, but I listen to more Classical music than anything.” “Ohhhhh so like Chopin.” (butchered pronunciation, like 'Chop-in.') “Yeah like him. Disney music is great too.” They seriously have the hardest time putting these characteristics of mine together. Like Zoe + flute + a non-stereotype does not compute. One thing they do get right is that they don’t meet many people like me. I can count the number of black musicians in in my music school only using two
hands. And I have counted. And I have double checked my counting. Okay, maybe I need a third hand, but still. There are no more than 5% of us in the school. Every time I’m in a new ensemble, I can't help but look around for a face that looks like mine, and many times there are none, but that’s the just the way it goes. However, it’s not all bad. Being a black classical musician is pretty cool. I’m quick to spot on stage, so my mom can easily get a good picture. I’m always recognizable when I go places as “Zoe, the really good black flutist,” and it's neat that people can easily put a face to my name. Ya know. Because I don’t look like anyone else. I also bring another perspective to my colleagues. Black people are soulful, and my playing has been described as such many times. It’s awesome having that part of myself be a flavor that's mixed in and recognized. as beautiful. Because there are so few of us, it is incredibly meaningful anytime one of us succeeds. It’s a lonely path, and not too many people understand; when my colleagues and I use our different perspectives of the world to invoke new feelings to the audience, it’s immensely gratifying. One of the biggest joys I get out of what I do is knowing that I can be a role model for the next generation of black classical musicians who may be discouraged because of our small numbers, personal finances, or stereotypes. I want to be to someone who Ms. Dines and the Imani Winds are to me. I want to be the example to proclaim, “Yes! You can do this. Persevere and do not give up. You can do this, and you will be amazing.” Hopefully, that time comes soon; until then it’s practice, practice, practice.
"I want to be the example to proclaim, 'Yes! You can do this. Persevere and do not give up.'"
"Because there are so few of us, it is incredibly meaningful anytime one of us succeeds. Itâ€™s a lonely path, and not too many people understand; when my colleagues and I use our different perspectives of the world to invoke new feelings to the audience, itâ€™s immensely gratifying."
lashback to summer, no earlier than six or seven years ago. It's mid-Saturday morning and it's already almost 100 degrees. And I, and all of my friends, are at the neighborhood pool competing in our weekly outdoor swim meets for summer league. In an effort to keep from burning, we station ourselves in our pits, massive tarps hanging above our head and laying under our feet, with water bottle and sunscreen handy. It's not uncommon to be playing a card game, playing music from a portable iPod
speaker, or both. It wasn't just a way of staying cool and passing the time, it was bonding material. My friends and I knew each other this way: half-naked and sweating under our suits, in constant anticipation of our 30 seconds to a minute in the water. This is how I know Lela Jamalabad: always laughing, never concerned, continually effervescent, and glowing. She has always carried herself like a queen, so the title is a bonus. I hope you love her as much as I.
Jocelyn: What was your experience with this project? How did you react when you saw your pictures? Lela: My experience at the time with the project was a little mixed. At the time (and still to a less extent now) I was suffering with the worst bodyimage issues of my entire life. For my entire teenage and early adult life I was 30-40lbs underweight due to multiple severe health issues. In the course of a year and a half leading up to this past summer (the time of the photo shoot) I had gained 40lbs and was finally at the low end of the healthy weight range for my height. Taking the pictures I was insecure, and to be honest I was even more insecure when I first saw the photos. However I decided to tell myself what I needed to hear and reminded myself of all the endurance that it took to get me to how I look in those photos. I am very proud of them now, but I'm even prouder of my past
self for having the courage to do the photo shoot, even when getting dressed everyday was (and still is a little bit) such an emotional struggle. JC: What has been your experience growing up in a world where white women were the standard of beauty? LJ: I don’t think I really was aware that the white standard of beauty existed. In that I mean that I didn’t quite understand why I wished I could trade in my tight brown curls for blonde dead-straight hair. I didn’t understand why I equated “looking normal” with not looking ethnically ambiguous (aka the way I look). I definitely knew about racism and experienced it as young as I can remember being alive, but it wasn’t until college that I learned that the standard of beauty that we uphold in our society is a western-european one. Once I realized this I became so comfortable in loving my hair and the
way it naturally frizzes, I fell in love with “looking tan all year” because my skin is naturally tan, I delighted in my arched Persian nose because it looks like my grandmother’s who live on the other side of the planet, and so on and so forth. I think I am always going to be adjusting to living in a society that upholds a standard of beauty that I will never be able to uphold. With my recent weight gain, I am learning to try and love the curves that I get from my Brazilian mom’s side of the family. I am still learning and always will be learning to love myself in a society that systematically begs me to hate what I look like. JC: Where are you on your personal journey to self-love/realizing that you yourself are your own standard of beauty? LJ: It's funny because I feel like every few years or months I am readjusting and relearning how to love myself.
In the past month have finally pushed my pride aside and accepted that I have a medical/physical disability. I am also in the beginning stages of just attempting to love the body I am in. I’d say that my own standard of beauty is tough. I come from a complex cultural background, I am multi-racial, and I am not really sure what my standard of beauty is. I don’t fit in one or two ethnic “slots” and being ethnically ambiguous has always been a struggle in the society I live in. I am so happy to see communities online emerging and welcoming intersectional feminism and I think this will lead the way for the generation of multi-racial baby girls after me to feel like they have a community to be embraced in. For now I am trying to teach myself that I am unique and just like every other woman of color in this country, and I need to love myself because I cannot expect our society to do so. I know I will love everything about myself one day and I can see a difference as far as my body-positivity improving in just the past three months. So, I cannot wait for how I will feel in one year or ten years, because I will not wait for any group of people to one day magically decide to accept me. I will learn to love EVERYTHING about myself because allowing myself to feel subordinate in this society is admitting defeat. I will not let them have the pleasure of knowing that societal standards in this country constantly try to push women of color down. We deserve better for ourselves.
"I will not wait for any group of people to one day magically decide to accept me. I will learn to love EVERYTHING about myself because allowing myself to feel subordinate in this society is admitting defeat."
"I will not let them have the pleasure of knowing that societal standards in this country constantly try to push women of color down.
WE DESERVE BETTER f o r o u r s e l v e s ."
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lot of things happened on the day of this photoshoot. The first is that it wasn't too cold. The second is that I forgot my curling iron. The third is that neither of us really knew what we were doing. We pooled our stash of bobby pins together to emulate 1930s hair as best we could, and even though they started coming aloose halfway through the first outfit, it looked beautiful, and we made work. The fourth thing is that we decided to pay homage to the Indian hairstyles of the 1930s. We all know what white women looked like throughout virtually every period in history.
But what about our people? For Bianca's formal look, we parted her hair down the middle and styled it in a high bun, just like the Indian women of the 30s did. Fashion is not just for aesthetic pleasure. In a way, it secures your identity. Going off script in this way made the photoshoot that much more special. To Bianca: Girl, I know I haven't known you long, but seeing you come to life behind the camera has convinced me that you are destined for Queendom. Never ever question your place, my love. It is, always has been, and always will be at the top.
Jocelyn Chambers: What was your experience with this project? How did you react when you saw your pictures? Bianca David: My experience with this project was nothing less than fun! It was a joy to be dolled up in makeup that was in style during the 1930s, and see the trends that were once the fads. Jocelyn has a way of making you feel beautiful even if you don’t think so yourself! She uses the beauty you already have and makes it shine all the more bright. She truly makes you feel loved and beautiful in your own skin. When I looked at the pictures, I realized that Jocelyn truly does have talent behind the camera. Although with some of the pictures, I personally felt insecure about how I looked, I know there is a bigger purpose for them! Excited to see the full project. JC: What has been your experience growing up in a world where white women were the standard of beauty? How did/does that affect you? BD: Being a woman of color has been difficult because white women are the norm that you compare yourself to. Often, when I go out to find a new piece of makeup, the swatches are on white women.
They look nothing on my skin like they do in the image. It has been inspiring to see more women of color in campaigns and high fashion brands, but there still is a change that needs to be made. The mindset of the white woman as the standard taught me that ‘the lighter the skin, the prettier’ as often thought in my South Asian culture, so it has instilled an insecurity in me at a very young age. JC: Where are you on your personal journey to selflove/realizing that you yourself are your own standard of beauty? BD: My personal journey to self-love has been difficult. I often go through cycles of loving myself and realizing my own beauty. But sometimes, my insecurities get the best of me when I see the ’skinny, light girl with clear skin and chic clothing’ as the norm I have to match if I want to be considered pretty. Now, I have accepted that I need to be the best version of myself and let my love for others be the most beautiful thing about me. It's definitely a journey, but I am on the walk to find the light!
It has been inspiring to see more women of color in campaigns and high fashion brands, but there still is a change that needs to be made.
The Poetry Corner featuring
gaby comprĂŠs & ariana brown I'm a big believer in the recognition of art by women of color, regardless of genre. That's why, every issue, I want to feature some of my favorite poetry by some of my favorite writers. This season, I am so excited to introduce you to two poets whose Black and Latin heritage play a tremendous role in how they express themselves in their work. Their words are warmth and healing - just what we need to wind our minds down after a tumultuous year. Enjoy.
me quiero así. me quiero así. me quiero así, con mis ojos color noche y mi nariz redonda y la luna de canela que vive sobre ella. me quiero así, con mi pelo rizado e indomable que solo se deja llevar por el viento. me quiero así, con mi piel del mismo color del café con leche que me gusta tanto. me quiero así, con mi poesía y sin ella, con las palabras que siento, con las palabras que callo. me quiero así, mágica y única; porque así soy, porque así me hicieron, porque sí.
i love me like this. i love me like this, with the night in my eyes and the cinnamon moon that sits atop my nose. i love me like this, with my wild and untamable curls, who only listen to the wind. i love me like this, with my skin that matches the café con leche i love to drink. i love me like this, with my poetry and without her; with the words i feel and the words i’ve kept to myself. i love me like this, light and free; because this is who i am, this is who i was made to be..
representation. Hi, young brown girl with uncertain hair and soft insides with single mother and hunger for father with white families on tv screen with arm-whimpering bookloads with magic you have yet to understand. Hi, Teenage brown girl with wandering heart and God-fury with punchline hair and soft hands with burning on the inside with sorry and defiance in the same color with poems you have yet to understand. I see you, surviving. With wood skin you apologize for and try to polish with an oceanâ€™s worth of journey that still needs confronting. With wood skin people sand and sand, try to say you were never there in the first place. When my world is stage and I, exhausted, I hustle to be in your line of sight.
So many people believe Nothing beautiful comes in the color brown or black. I am writing this while both wondering what lies you will try not to accept. They invented the word ‘dirt’ so they didn’t have to call you ‘Earth’. Look at how your hair responds to rain. Grows To be closer to home, To the source. For you, I will be unapology Will be lightning streak and beatbox A story you can see yourself in A mantra An example For those who have not had the luxury of representation, There is nothing wrong with you. You are not the only one. You do not owe anyone shame or submission. Welling heart brown woman, Welcome to your skin.
know Savannah the same way I know Lela: Card games under tents of tarp, swimsuit tans and early-morning cheers. She was and is nothing but smile with an eagerness to have fun. Before photographing her for this series, I think the last time I saw her was at her 15th birthday party as a small splash park in the summer. We haven't lived more than 30 minutes away from each other for all these years, and yet, it took us a few to get together again. Savannah is all laughter and
smiles, she has a personality for every song she listens to, and she's not afraid to call you on your crap. Now, we go to college over an hour away from each other, but her radiance is not at all distant. The sun couldn't get up without you, my dear. You're the reason why so many people, including me, find themselves shining.
Jocelyn Chambers: What was your experience with this project? How did you react when you saw your pictures? Savannah Cortina: My experience with this project was eyeopening for someone of my color to see how the different time periods could come together for all colors of skin. My reaction with the pictures was absolute shock. I loved the different vibrant colors that I wore or that were in the background to help accentuate my facial features. JC: Where are you on your personal journey to selflove/realizing that you yourself are your own standard of beauty? SC: For the whole of my teen years, I have body shamed myself and have been taunted by my size in numerous ways. It wasn't until my senior year of high school that I decided to do a bikini photoshoot. I asked for no photoshop on my body. When I caught a glimpse of those pictures, I saw the beauty that everyone saw in me and I was applauded by the swimsuit company (whose suit I wore) on their Instagram page and even their store. I would have to say that where I am right now on my self-love has to be that I'm halfway there.
JC: When I asked for women of color to model for this project on my Facebook page, you asked if Mexicans counted. Why did you ask that? Another person had asked if Hispanics counted, so seeing two questions of that nature in the same place was really interesting. SC: Well, to me, I think of women of color as AfricanAmerican or Asian women. I know Mexicans are women of color, too, but as a Mexican girl I never saw myself as one. It just never occurred to me. JC: Have people ever assumed you were not Mexican? What was their reaction when they found out? SC: Yes, so many people were so surprised that I was Mexican. They only found out when I invited to my QuinceaĂąera and they were like "wait, you're Mexican?" It was a "what the heck" kind of reaction. I love to see their reactions to it, because I look completely white. But it hasn't changed the way I think about my culture. JC: How do you feel living in a world where WOC can literally encompass all colors and not necessarily have to conform to how society thinks a WOC should look?
SC: I love the people I have made friends with that have different skin colors. They have made my life even more wonderful. I think it's beautiful that we can be anyone who we want to be. Society shouldn't claim what is beautiful and what is not, but because it does, we have girls starving themselves trying to be some model they see on a magazine cover, and it's sickening. JC: How does it feel being part of an endless standard of beauty that is defined by the way you identify yourself? SC: I love it. I love being Hispanic. I love being able to express my cultures the way I want to when I want to.
I love the people I "have made friends with that have different skin colors. They have made my life even more wonderful. I think it's beautiful that we can be anyone who we want to be.
with toyosi oyelola
A / W F A V E S L I S T
ebecca is new to my life, yet her presence is already irreplaceable. I'm not exactly sure when I met her - maybe it was the first time I went to what became my oncampus Christian organization - maybe it was later on that spring. Even so, she has become a figure of light and generosity that I will forever be thankful for. Rebecca is a menagerie of things; she can be quiet, she can be sassy, and sometimes she can shady as hell. And, she may or may not have contributed to my exposure to BeyoncĂŠ. During the two semesters that I've known
her, we've bonded through our mutual experiences with relationships, over mango juice, Jane the Virgin, and our inability to get up on time. I spend a lot of time thanking her for everything she's done for me, but it doesn't hurt to do it again. Becky, you are forever kind and patient and available whenever I need you (which is a lot), and though you reassure me that I will never wear out my welcome, you must know how deeply I appreciate appreciate everything you've done. Thank you. Also, I love you.
Jocelyn Chambers: What was your experience with this project? How did you react when you saw your pictures? Rebecca Andrews: I had such a great time shooting this! When Jocelyn explained the vision she had for this project, I was so excited and honored to be a part of it. We had so much fun starting from hair & makeup, all the way to the end of the shoot. When I saw my pictures I was just like, “Dang, this girl is good.” The whole thing was an oxymoron, honestly. Unfamiliarly familiar. I was in 50s clothes, which I’m not used to at all, but we were shooting on our beautiful UT campus which I know and love. The whole thing was amazing and I am eagerly awaiting the finished product. JC: What has been your experience growing up in a world where white women were the standard of beauty? How did/does that affect you? RA: I don’t think I really labeled white women as the standard of beauty before this project. I think I just became immune to it since that is a majority of what we see. After doing this, though, I felt like my eyes were opened to this discouraging reality. Honestly, I don’t really like the idea that there is a standard of beauty. I think beauty comes in so many different forms that it isn’t fair to say, “This is it. This is what you have to look like to be considered beautiful.” Unfortunately, that’s how it is in our society and so many of us easily feel less than if we don’t meet these societal expectations. We have to be able to define them for ourselves and encourage others to do the same. JC: Where are you on your personal journey to selflove/realizing that you yourself are your own standard of beauty? RA: I am definitely someone who easily compares myself to those around me in regards to many aspects of my life, but I have to remind myself what it means to be fearlessly and wonderfully made, and more importantly, what it means to be made in the image of God. The Lord doesn’t make mistakes, therefore we have all been made perfectly and with a purpose. Learning to see myself the way God sees me isn’t always easy, but it’s pretty amazing to know that the creator of the universe made me in His image. Now that is the greatest honor of all.
Honestly, I donâ€™t really like the idea that there is a standard of beauty. I think beauty comes in so many different forms that it isnâ€™t fair to say, 'This is it. This is what you have to look like to be considered beautiful.'
ina is all too easily to love. She is transparency and excitement, she is endurance and fearlessness, she is everything you hope yourself confident enough to become. When she cries, you want to cry with her. When she is overcome with joy, you want to run around the room. Loving Nina is something that takes convincing. Even after a short time, you start to question what you were doing in
life without her. My friend, you literal supernova, please know how loved you are. Please know that you have helped people find that sense of belonging that they've been searching for. Please know that your value is immeasurable, and you will always have a seat at my table. I love you, all of you. And the beauty you see here has always been in you. I just pressed the button.
Jocelyn Chambers: What was your experience with this project? How did you react when you saw your pictures? Nina Lobo: 1960's fashion has always fascinated me, so it was tons of fun getting my face painted by Jocelyn's loving hands and parading around in highwaisted clothing. The first picture I saw intimidated me. I've felt my face switch into that expression before, but I've never seen it on myself. I'm not normally one to pose for the camera, unless I'm pulling a goofy face, so this project was a very different experience for me. The lighthearted and sassy photos are my goto persona, while the serious photos took more focus to achieve but left me a little in awe of myself. JC: What has been your experience growing up in a world where white women were the standard of beauty? How did/does that affect you? NL: It makes me proud when an Indian face appears in movies or ads. It's just as cool to see other ethnicities, and I think ad campaigns have been diversifying in the past few years. In my own life, I've mostly seen the effects of skin-color standards on other people. When I was younger, several of my Indian friends were supposed to stay out of the sun so their skin wouldn't become "dark". Thankfully, my parents never put this pressure on me, so this behavior surprised and saddened me. An avid soccer player, I have always liked my skin color, especially since it was a result of hard work and dedication. However, I found it intriguing that on the flip side, many of my lighter-skinned friends would lay out in their backyards for the sole purpose of becoming tan. Observing this tug-of-war, I resolved early on to never be a part of it, and just to love and improve myself. (NL) From what I've seen, I think America still suffers from a general obsession with youthful beauty - why not embrace your natural skin or your teeth or your hair as you grow? These are the pressures I witness, more than anything else. Issue 27 | 234
JC: Where are you on your personal journey to self-love/realizing that you yourself are your own standard of beauty? NL: Off and on throughout my life, I've been unhappy with three physical characteristics: my smile, my hair, and my stomach. I've broken a couple of teeth playing soccer and I refuse to get them fixed because they remind me that life can't always be perfect, but it still gets me sometimes. As for the other two things, it's been a long journey, and every day is better. It helps that I've always held tight to my spirit and my values, so despite the physical changes I go through, I'm proud that my core will never change. I spill a lot of love out to other people, and that makes me the happiest. I love who I am, and I 98% love the body I live in. And I'm realizing that self-love is primarily about nourishing your body and mind. Overall, I really love most of me, I'm just learning to love all of me.
and I 98% love the body I "Ilivelovein.whoAndI am, I'm realizing that self-love is primarily about nourishing your body and mind. Overall, I really love most of me, I'm just learning to love all of me.
by Jennifer Martinez
About the Artist Jennifer MartĂnez is a student at the University of Texas at Austin where she is pursuing a degree in music education with an instrumental emphasis. Jennifer began her journey in graphic design in 2012 and is now an active freelance designer with clients in El Paso, Austin, and Houston TX. In addition to teaching and designing, Jennifer enjoys drinking coffee, baking, and visiting her family in El Paso.
About the Project I think, for the most part, that people view art as paintings hung side-by-side in a gallery or as pages after pages of drawings in an old sketchbook. They donâ€™t realize that the shape of their lips, the bumps on their nose and the color of their eyes are all works of art, too. No two features are ever exactly alike. Some of my favorite paintings are by Frida Kahlo and Claude Monet, and although they are each both vivid and beautiful and unique in their own ways, you cannot compare the two. How can you compare them when the styles are so different, so deeply rooted in their culture? I hope that with this project, people can begin to realize this too. My art may not be a Matisse or a Renoir, but it is mine, the same way that my features are mine and your features are yours. You cannot compare the two, but they are perfect and lovely and unique in their own ways. You are a museum of art within yourself. Your forehead, your chin and your ears. There will never be anyone like you, and that my friends, is what is called a masterpiece.
ALL NOSES ARE CUTE NOSES
THE EXCLUSION OF PEOPLE OF COLOR IN FANFICTION
(this was originally called “why i think fanfiction is racist” in all caps and while i feel as though it would’ve caught eyes easier, this is a little more accurate to what i want to say, but i did talk about this to quite a few people and tell them i thought it was, so i’m still mentioning it.) (this is pretty specific to black people, because i am black, but it totally applies to non-black POC.) last friday night i saw star wars: TFA in theatres with my friend. i fracking loved it. literally, my existential crisis both went away AND came back after seeing TFA. i am now official star wars trash. it should now be said that i have a tendency to go for the bad guys in film. this all started around
loki and has escalated quickly ever since. so it really wasn’t a surprise when kylo ren took off his helmet and i almost slid on the floor in a puddle of feelings. (also, today is not the day for me to explain my Philosophy On Why I Like Kylo Ren™, or debate on what he looks like or his morals or any of that. let’s continue.) my friends who had seen the movie before i did knew i would have a dramatic reaction to him. so that night at like 1am, i, baby kylo ren trash, went to the tumblr to see what the fandom had to say about him. within a couple of days i was immersed in fanart, imagines, fanfics, theories and an overwhelming amount of reylo blogs. i personally like imagines and fanfics so i found a good amount of kylo ren x reader fics and started going through them. and then i got pissed off. 1. reader fics are made so that you’re able to see yourself in them, right? they’re supposed to be completely objective and let you fill in the gaps where needed. that’s why there isn’t a name inserted. in almost every fic i read, there were small descriptive cues to give an image of what the reader looked like. “her stark blue eyes,” or her “long, wavy brown hair” or her “pale skin” or “cold pink hands” and “tall, slender figure” so on and so forth. i was like hold the phone here, okay, if this is supposed to be unspecific enough for every reader, why is there only one kind of reader promoted in all of these fics? i talked to my friends about it and they said that this isn’t racism, it’s simply the writer inserting themselves into what was intended to be for everyone else. they said it’s laziness and the unwillingness to write a good OC. and i told them i understood where they were coming from, but that it was still noteworthy that every objective reader was made to be a white girl with a specific set of features. i am not a white girl, nor do i have blue eyes or wavy brown hair or a tall slender figure. i’m a tall black girl with a fluffy face and a stomach that hides behind spanx and big thighs and muscular calves. these fics weren’t made for me, and i don’t know if they were supposed to be made for anyone specific, rather anyone who chose to read them. i’m totally second-guessing myself as i write this but i feel like it’s important to say that as a fic writer, just consider the multitudes of people who are reading your work. a lot of them look totally
different from you and your norm. and that’s okay. the reason WHY i told my friends i felt as though fanfic in its many forms can be racist is because it perpetuates the default image of a white character. even if it’s not intentional racism, it’s alienating millions of people around the world because it’s not something that even remotely caters to them. it is possible to write canon character x reader fics in such a way that does not alienate entire groups of people. there should not be a default image. you should be able to look in the mirror and see yourself, not what everyone else wants you to be, or what the demographic expects you to be, or what the franchise pretends you are. which brings me to number two.
it is possible to write canon character x reader fics in such a way that does not alienate entire groups of people.
2. traditional OC fics. i don’t want to insult people’s personal characters, that is, i don’t want to insult their occupations or how they become connected with the canon characters in the story, but in the world of star wars (or in any fandom world whatsoever) you do not have to be an expert to include some sort of diversity. the norm has always been thinner that me, lighter than me, and by my own internalized racist calculations, better than me. and while it is your right as the writer to do whatever you want in your fic, please, for the love, remember that diversity is needed everywhere, in every faction and every form of media. evaluate how you are showing up in that and if you’re not, ask yourself why. and to all the fanfic writers out there who are doing this because they really really wanted to and are very glad they have an outlet to do so, i am not asking you to create a perfect universe that aligns perfectly with that of the canon book/film/whatever. you can keep on doing whatever you’re doing.i know writing can be super difficult and i just want it to be something that can be fun. but i don’t want to alienate myself and the people who look like me. i want to include them in everything i do. that said, i myself am guilty of doing almost everything listed above with a personal OC i created for an extremely elaborate fanfic. i began writing it quite a few years ago, and though i’d love to finish the series, i wish i thought more about what i was doing before i began.
though, if you want to try and stay as close to the canon characters/canon story as possible, it may not be easy to create the OC you want. for example, i wrote a narnia fanfic, and it would be extremely difficult and high unlikely for there to be a prominent interracial couple in that particular setting of 1940s england. i didn’t realize this until recently, but i know that i do want to keep myself accountable. (a short note about the small inclusion of POC: even when we are inserted into fanfic, we are portrayed in such a way that does not at all do us justice. as i spoke with my friends about this entire topic last night, they said “well, if you want more representation for POC in fanfiction, consider the people in hollywood who are trying to make that happen. african-americans are getting prominent roles in tv and film! there are comedies and sitcoms being made specifically about black people and asian people! and yet, so few [only 2%, she said] of black directors and writers are black. so there just simply aren’t enough to create the representation you want right now in the way you want it.” okay. okay. okay. okay. okay. there are SO many directors and writers and filmmakers of color in hollywood. so many. they are EVERYWHERE, working their butts off. but in a world that isn’t catered to us, we’re still being ignored. it’s not that we aren’t doing anything, because we ARE. but the golden gates are still being opened to a specific kind of director, writer, whatever. POC are largely being cast for lead roles in sitcoms while non-POC are largely being cast for lead roles in dramas. [page 5 of the article.] the way i see it, saying there are “not enough of us” is an excuse. there are so many. we really are everywhere, and yet hollywood can always find a reason not to use us. moving on.) 3. it’s 2016, and people of color still have to prove their existence in non-mainstream settings. we are not the first choice or demographic when it comes to the most popular fantasy novel or film. we are exceptions, even to our own people. we are not expected to like sci-fi or anime or manga, and because of that, we are erased from those fandoms altogether. and yet, we make up large portions of them. and in some sectors and fandoms, we’re really starting to make waves. i understand that the demographic isn’t catered our way because the people who make the franchise’s money don’t look like us (if that makes sense), but i don’t think that should be used as an excuse. we are not outliers. we don’t have to come out of the woodwork. we are here, we like the same things, and we just want to feel included in that. and for me, that means writing my own OC fics (and even reader fics), that generate imagery for people who
look different. the first step to change is recognizing there is a problem, and i think the next is doing something about it. there should not be a default image. and maybe, in order to get rid of it, we should start incorporating the images of everyone, until variety is normal. i want to be able to look in the mirror and see myself. and as certified star wars trash, i love these characters. and as a fangirl (like all of us in our own unique ways) i want to be with them. there is nothing wrong with wanting to be able to envision yourself in their world. in fact, it can become an extremely relevant part of our lives. i want to be able to have that power. i want to be confident that just one thing was made for me. all this over the kylo ren fandom and my level of trash for him. hello, i exist, and i need to see star wars again.
"we are not outliers. we
don’t have to come out of the woodwork. we are here, we like the same things, and we just want to feel included in that.
You can find the article mentioned above here: http://www.bunchecenter.ucla.edu/wpcontent/uploads/2015/02/2015-Hollywood-DiversityReport-2-25-15.pdf You can follow my Tumblr: @onabedoflace You can find more of Alayah's art on her Instagram: ukelaylie, or purchase prints via her online shop: meatballshop.tictail.com
met Chelsea on Wednesday, perhaps two or three weeks ago to the date. It's funny - I saw her in one of the practice rooms playing the piano at the beginning of the semester, freaked out because she was black, and proceeded not to talk to her. Admittedly, I was scared. But as it happens, she felt the same way about me. After one awkward experience that I thought guaranteed our 'incompatibility,' the Lord came through and I found her talking to a mutual friend on his birthday. We hit it off immediately. And, as it turns out, she was scared, too.
It's only been a few weeks, but I can already tell you that everything about Chelsea is beautiful. Her hair, her clothes, the way she says sorry all the time, her high-pitched laugh in contrast to her voice which brings literal joy, her hands as they glide across the keys, everything. It is incredible how much you don't know you missed having someone like you around until they come. I was so used to being the only black pianist and the only black composer at school. Now, we have been blessed. We needed each other, my love. I am so happy you're here with me.
Jocelyn Chambers: What was your experience with this project? How did you react when you saw your pictures? Chelsea Daniel: I was nervous to get photographed at first. I have so many insecurities and I was afraid they would be emphasized with a camera. I was really surprised and excited when I saw the pictures. They showed my confidence and uniqueness. I felt as if they celebrated my blackness which makes me really proud to be who I am. JC: What has been your experience growing up in a world where white women were the standard of beauty? How did/does that affect you? CD: When I was younger, I remember a girl asking me why I had dark skin. I felt as if there was something wrong with me. I told her "I eat too much chocolate." As funny as this story might be now, it's stuck with me for all these years. I've had to explain my blackness numerous times in my life and it's something that many people will never understand. I have noticeably large lips, a wide nose, natural curly hair, and a deep skin tone. I could never hide away from my identity no matter how much I wanted to when I was younger, because I
was made fun of for these things. Not only does the media celebrate white beauty, but the black community has its own issues with colorism and hairism. Sometimes I feel like there's no escape and I wonder when my beauty will be celebrated. It's hard, but I'm strong. I surround myself with likeminded people who see this absurdity. Personally, I choose to stand against it. I celebrate my features and don't hide them. As a black woman in America, it's impossible to blend in. This is something to be proud of and feel empowered by. JC: Where are you on your personal journey to selflove/realizing that you yourself are your own standard of beauty? CD: I struggle everyday with self love. I have noticeable acne on my face, back, and chest and it brings me to tears because I can't control it. I'm learning to see myself beyond my flaws, beyond my features. Confidence helps a lot with the way others see me and I'm working hard to feel good about myself.
I could never hide away from my identity no matter how much I wanted to when I was younger, because I was made fun of for these things. Not only does the media celebrate white beauty, but the black community has its own issues with colorism and hairism. Sometimes I feel like there's no escape and I wonder when my beauty will be celebrated.
photographs and words by kamaryn truong
Our mutual curiosity enabled Jillian and I to explore this house. We walked across the driveway and tried the door. It was unlocked. It was a hot and humid day and there were plenty of mosquitoes. The family who occupied the home had a lot of belongings, and it was impossible to imagine how they fit so much of it in this house. Yet, they left so much of it behind. A rocking horse. A boombox. A guitar amp. Jewelry. I loved the chaos that surrounded us. I liked that we were the only living things in this house, besides the bugs. As the wind blew against it, I was reminded that a family called this house home. Children ran around as their mother or father cooked dinner, but that wasnâ€™t the case anymore. Fortunately, Jillian told me that the entire family escaped the burning house unharmed. We left the wreckage without displacing anything. Strangely, the family hadnâ€™t canceled their subscription to the newspaper, so as we strolled back outside onto the driveway, there were papers outside that had yellowed with age.
This shot is special to me, partly because I developed this film myself, but mostly because thereâ€™s purity in this photo. I had to shoot at a slow shutter speed because the lighting was quite dim in the venue, so if I was shaky, or if my subject decided to move, I would have gotten a blurry outcome. This photo reminds me of a tableaux. Itâ€™s pure. It was spontaneous. The lighting came out dramatic and almost cinematic.
The great thing about photography is the photo itself. Whenever I take a photo, that part of me is captured in the emulsion. That moment exists forever. It’s a moment I can look back upon and I am able to remember that part of my timeline. Photography can bring people together. If I had never stepped foot in this universe, I would have never met some of the friends or created the relationships that I have today. I prefer to shoot on 35mm and medium format film because I believe I can use my non-automated cameras to anchor me in an age when everyone is in a rush. It allows me to slow down and think about what I’m doing rather than holding down a shutter button and allowing a computer to correctly expose and focus my moments. As I slow down, I'm able to let go of the
worries and the need to be somewhere else. I can focus on the present. And I think this zen-like focus helps me connect to my subjects, which is one of the most important aspects of what I do. If I don’t connect to them, then I don’t understand them. I wouldn’t be able to tell a story. When I make a portrait I want to be curious as to why they hold themselves the way they do, or why their eyes look they way they do. I want to capture their demeanor, expression, and emotion. This is key to seeing a unique vulnerability in my subjects. I like that people present a certain side of themselves when they are in front of the camera. During a photoshoot, my instructions are usually simple and vague. I usually tell my subjects, “Just have fun” or “Look over there”. I want them to be themselves. I’m not telling them to be a model or to express a certain persona, but they are usually given props, another person, or a location to work with.
With the candid shots or photos of strangers on the street, I take a different route. If the lighting is right and I find the person interesting, I want to photograph them. The environment that surrounds the subject is a part of them. There’s a reason why that person is where they are, and when I make that photo, it becomes part of them. That’s a story in itself. Some people are usually curious as to why I took a photo of them, while some don’t even realize that a moment was made. There’s beauty in uniqueness. At the same time, I see myself in these photos. In fact, that’s what all of these people have in common. There’s a part of me in their moment.
This was a completely impromptu photo session with one of my friends. I was exploring the different â€œgenresâ€? of photography and wanted to try studio photography, so I built a makeshift studio in my bedroom. I bought material that is meant to black out windows at a local art supply store the night before, and borrowed a lighting rig from one of my coworkers who does professional shoots. We listened to music and I pressed the shutter release button without regret. I think the best photos come out when both the photographer and the subject are having fun.
Thereâ€™s quite a different story with this photo. I had just gotten off the clock and decided to stop by the coffee shop to study for my summer class. The man on the right, named Brooks, who worked at the coffee shop, was friendly as he served me my beverage. We chatted for a couple minutes before he helped someone else waiting to order. After I finished my work, I walked outside, and I saw man in a funny t-shirt walking across the parking lot at the same time that Brooks was taking out the trash. The sunset was beautiful and was casting a soft light on the building. I asked if both of them would like to be in a photo together even though they were only acquaintances. They both looked at each other, looked at me, and agreed. Both of these men towered over me, yet they spoke softly and were shy. Their difference in choice of attire was interesting to me. After I pressed the shutter release, I thanked them and made sure to jot down their emails to later send them the photo.
One of the beauties of Austin, Texas are the bodies of water and its nature trails. These mini-getaways make it seem as though the city is one of the rural areas of the state. I couldnâ€™t even hear the cars while hiking out in this part of the Greenbelt. It wasnâ€™t a crowded day for this particular trail, but there were people who were swimming near us. The water was nice, the weather was beautiful, and I was with someone whom I cared about, so I wanted to capture this moment. The water was mostly still, yet it rippled from where the people moved. The sun was bright and to the west so the subjects were silhouettes. I like shooting with film because it tends to capture and reflect the most dominant color, which, in this case, is green. This photo reminds me of how magnificent mother nature is.
I work at a camera store called Austin Camera and Imaging. It’s a long drive from my house, but anything for a labor of love. This is Alan. He’s the head photo lab technician at Austin Camera. He trained me to do what he does best, which is developing and scanning film, printing photos, and fixing anything that goes wrong with the machines. He’s also really great at putting up with my sass. This photo was taken in the parking garage as he finished his usual postwork cigarette before hopping in the car and going home. I like Alan because although he hasn’t had the easiest life, and he gets frustrated easily, he’s one the kindest souls I’ve ever met. He also loves music and loves to share it.
This was a great photoshoot because we were really having fun with the paint and the lighting. When Matthew saw the photos, he used them as a metaphor to address the prejudice he faces as a minority. He connected it with a poem that he composed, titled â€œThis Is The Color of My Skin.â€?
Lila and I have had each otherâ€™s backs for a few years now. We used to participate in the same sport and we sat next to each other in the same junior high engineering class. I took this while we were on our way to eat a vegetarian dinner near her university. Lila was slightly uneasy that I wanted to take a photo of her since sheâ€™s camera shy, but I insisted. I like this photo because I know that I can look back and remember when Lila and I would go out late at night and take photos on the porch of empty store fronts, go to grunge-y concerts, or hang out in her dorm and talk about traveling. Although she and I have very different goals and mindsets, we get along very well. I think thatâ€™s one of the reasons why our friendship works. I never thought I would be so invested in photography or the visual arts in general, but it has changed my life for the better. It has opened up so many doors and expanded my horizons, and has changed the way I perceive situations and interact with strangers. Photography has given me a position at a store that I love and has allowed me to create a bond with people I have few things in common with.
About the artist: Kamaryn is a chronic fence-sitter. She never devotes herself fully to something because she’s uneasy with the concept of being trapped and she unfortunately gets bored easily. She wants to experience life to it’s fullest and have fun. She’s majoring in biology, but she really doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life because many things interest her. She’s been a waitress, an unsuccessful entrepreneur, and a children's’ swim teacher. She currently has a position as a photographic lab technician where she develops and scans film, prints photos, and performs general retail work. Kamaryn is also working on her music career in rap. Although she is a classically trained pianist, she appreciates art from all genres.
could talk forever about Sharon, and I'm not
Sharon is a second-year pre-med biology major at
sure she knows that. If you've spent any time
the University of Texas. In addition to that
talking with me at all, then you know she comes up
incredible amount of work she has to do, she is an
somewhere in conversation. This cherry blossom
undergraduate teaching assistant. In the midst of
babydoll came to me last spring, when I visited my
her insane responsibilities, I've never caught her
friend's south Asian Christian organization for a
without a smile on her face. She is forever giving,
government class assignment. I remember knowing
and it's high time she starts receiving. She is the
only a little bit about her, but she already knew a
reason I started this magazine in the first place.
ton about me. I was immediately blown away by the
(You'll understand why in a moment.) My darling
sheer joy she exudes. In OneWay, the Christian
girl, my dear friend, this isn't just for you, it is you.
organization that I eventually became part of, she
Royalty was given its name because you breathed it
is referred to as Baby Sharon, because she is the
into existence. Never call yourself anything less
youngest, and the smallest. She just turned 19, but
than what you are. You are needed, you are
if you put her right next to my 11-year old sister,
validated, and we all love you. Here is Her Majesty:
she would be shorter. But, as she shows you within
minutes of meeting her, that means nothing. This whirlwind, this electric shock, this outpourer of love, is absolutely one of a kind. There is, and believe me when I say this, NO ONE like her.
Jocelyn: Let’s talk about your experience with this project. Sharon: It was really awkward at first, because I’ve never been a model or anything, and I’ve never seen myself that way. Aside from the initial weirdness, the results were so amazing. I’ve never seen myself look good in a photo, so it was really refreshing. We always see photos of white women in 20s wear and in cute pinup dresses, but I’ve never seen a brown girl in that type of clothing. I was like ‘whoa, we looked that good back then? Wow!’ It was so weird to see because I’ve never seen it before, ever. There is no documentation of what we looked like back then. JC: You said you don’t see yourself as a model and you never really have; can you explain why not? How was seeing yourself in these photos refreshing to you? SM: I’ve never seen someone who looks like me as beautiful. Obviously there are beautiful brown women, but as far as society goes, it’s very Eurocentric. The closest person that I had to my skin color on TV was Raven Baxter from That’s So Raven. Even then, it was so different. I loved her, and she was my role model even though she was only kind of like me. As I look back on my life, I remember wanting to be white. I hated being Indian and I would try everything to make myself whiter. I didn’t realize I was doing it until I started thinking. I was like ‘why am I trying to get all this Vera Bradley shit? I don’t even like this!’ I tried to get everything all the white girls were wearing because I thought they were so pretty. I wanted to do everything they were doing, and I wanted to be just like them. It took me up until last year to realize they ain’t shit. The only place I saw brown beauty would be in Bollywood or Malayalam movies. And even then, in India, there’s this disparity between northern and southern Indians. North Indians are considered to be beautiful, while south Indians are considered the ugly people. Even my brown friends would look down on me for being south Indian. I don’t think they realized they were doing it. If I wore a Bindi or something, they would say ‘why are you wearing that? That’s not even your culture. You’re not really Indian.’ Issue 27 | 234
"I NEVER HAD SOMEONE WHO LOOKED LIKE ME (SM): South India has more Christians, and because Christianity was brought to us, the white people eradicated a lot of the culture. But, we got Christianity, and that is the greatest blessing. Still, we’re treated as second-class citizens and it’s definitely felt on my part. I know several, if not all —actually, all of my south Indian friends feel this way. I don’t think north Indians realize that at all. Because of that disparity, I never had someone who looked like me who was considered beautiful. All of
those people were north Indian and light-skinned, like Aishwarya Rai. Even in south Indian Bollywood films, I never saw a dark-skinned Indian actress. Within my family, I was often told not to go outside or go swimming. And I loved doing those things! They told me I was going to get dark and ugly, and I believed it. I starved myself of what I loved doing because I thought I was going to get so gross. We always used Fair and Lovely, and I remember my mom picking out foundation that was two shades too light so I would appear light-
WHO WAS CONSIDERED B E A U T I F U L ."
skinned. If you look at it though, I’m not truly “darkskinned,” but I still feel the weight of colorism. For those who are really dark-skinned, it must be so much worse. Even though I knew it wouldn’t end well, I was really rebellious. I would put on a lot of sunscreen, tell my mom I was going swimming, and later I would look in the mirror and see my grossness and think ‘ah, shit, I should’ve listened.’ I didn’t realize how damaging it was until now. Looking back, I didn’t have anyone. JC: How did you feel when you tried to become whiter, and how did you feel when it didn’t work? SM: I think when I would buy all of those things, I was trying to look as good as the people in advertisements. Any time I put the products on I looked in the mirror, I was so heartbroken because I couldn’t look as good as them. I thought they were the pentacle of beauty, and no matter how hard I tried, I could never reach it. Finally seeing myself look like a model made me giddy for a whole week. I was like ‘damn, look at me!’ I didn’t think that was ever going to happen. I didn’t ever think I would feel that way about myself. My whole life up until last year, I did not at all like the way I looked. I hated my curly hair and my darkness. Then, I did a “no-makeup until I love myself” cleanse for four months. It really helped, because before that, I wore a full face of makeup everyday. I only ever saw my real face right before bed. It was new seeing my bare face throughout the day. I think that was part of the reason why I didn’t like my face the way it was. I only saw my added features. Not wearing makeup helped me appreciate my natural beauty. I used to hear people say ‘makeup doesn’t change you or make you look better, it highlights your features.’ I never understood that, but now I do. 10/10, would recommend.
"Even after making so much progress, I have offdays. I have to tell myself 'remember that one day you looked really good? That’s the same face you still have, you just feel like you don’t look as good.'"
JC: Where are you now on your continual self-love journey, what are some things you’re doing to promote that, and what are things you’re still struggling with? SM: There are still days I look in the mirror and think ‘oh my God, I’m so ugly.’ Sometimes I’ll take a Snapchat selfie and think ‘I can’t send this to anyone.’ Even after making so much progress, I have off-days. I have to tell myself ‘remember that one day you looked really good? That’s the same face you still have, you just feel like you don’t look as good.’ Then, I remind myself how I was made in the image of God. How can God be ugly? I also think about how people say you can’t depend on someone to tell you you’re beautiful, you have to believe it yourself. I never understood why that needed to be instilled in me, but now I realize no one’s opinion matters as much as mine does. No one person will always be there to appreciate you as you need to be appreciated. But, when you do find someone, that relationship is so much better. Knowing you don’t need to be reassured of your beauty by someone else is so liberating. You are beautiful, and you need to know that. I wish I had that years ago, but now, I’m in a much better place. It’s a rollercoaster that only goes up.
Knowing you don’t need to be reassured of your beauty by "someone else is so liberating. You are beautiful, and you need to know that. I wish I had that years ago, but now, I’m in a much better place. It’s a rollercoaster that only goes up.
royalty suits you, bby.
asmine Spicer is incapable of missing a beat. Literally. You can't lag when you're around her, you need to keep up if you want to catch all the fun. Jasmine is someone I am privileged to call my friend since childhood. We grew up together, went to the same church, and watched each other discover who we are. We live in different cities now, and thus, I don't see her often, but when I do, I'm reminded of the lightness she spreads wherever she goes. She's a model, a dancer, a singer, and a giver of life, to name a few
0f her many talents. I'm so happy I was able to snag her for Majesty. Jocelyn: Tell us about yourself. Jasmine: I'm currently going to school full time and working part time. I'm a nursing major. The schedule I juggle between keeps me pretty busy, so whenever I have a truly free weekend I usually spend it doing absolutely nothing. I've developed an introvert personality since graduating from high school in '14, but every now and then I like to go out and get "lit" !
JC: What was your experience with this project? JS: I had a wonderful experience with this project. Portraying a woman in the 90's was a great opportunity for me because I feel as though I fit the part already. I borrowed a lot of my mom's clothes for this because she kept a lot of them, and it felt like stepping into a different version of myself. JC: Can you talk about your experience growing up in a world where white women were the standard of beauty and how that affected you? JS: Growing up in a predominantly white town, and going to a school with a majority of white students played a huge role on how I expressed my culture. My family is Jamaican. The white girls in the school would set the trend that everyone else would follow, but, thankfully I was never too concerned with who was wearing what to feel pressured to dress like the other students. JC: Describe your personal journey to selflove/realizing that you yourself are your own standard of beauty. JS: By not trying to follow the next women's trend, I believe that it has made a huge impact on my self character. I know who I am as person, and I know what I will and will not wear or do. Women today are all concerned with trying to have the biggest butts and smallest waist, but they don't realize we can't all look the same and not everything looks good on everyone. Knowing what fits me and knowing who I am as a young woman helped me define my own standard of beauty.
We can't all look the same and not everything looks good on everyone. Knowing what fits me and knowing who I am as a young woman
helped me define my own standard of beauty.
royalty isn't elected, but dang, girl, i would've voted for you.
I am the ground and I am the sky and the air in between. I am the roots and the trunks and the branches, I am the growth and the stability and the newness. I am the light and the warmth, I am the burn. I am the sting after looking for too long. I am the slow-shut-eye, seven-minute fall into sleep and I am the dream. I am the why-can't-I-stop-thinking restlessness. I am the please-let-me-sleep, I am the -finally. I am the groggy, reluctant blinks into the morning and the first few excited thoughts of a new day. I am natural light spilling from an open window. And I am the lamp that was left on all night, I'm the smudged mascara and the acne waiting to emerge after an interrupted nighttime skincare routine, damn it. Damn it.
I am the most loving and most beloved. I am the first meaningful conversation and I am the first unsuccessful joke and the third one and the seventh one. I am the exhausted laughter and the nervous laughter and the giddy laughter. I am the jump away from the familiar into something a little more risky. I am the fingertip-tracing, I am the affirmation, I am the uncertainty and the excitement. And I am the heartbreak and the desperation and the too-far and the not-enough. I am the not-right-now or maybe even not-ever. I am the torment. I am the socialmedia-stalking, heart-flutter "message sent", hours of waiting, frustration, I am the misinterpretation. I am the pay off and the disappointment. I am the acceptance, I am the thrill, I am the rejection. I am the height and the fall. I am the eventual peaceful nostalgia. Until then, I am the avoidance and reluctance and no-contact. I am the best friend. I am the listener in between bad reality-show sessions. I am four episodes of Dance Moms and three nature documentaries in one day. I am the fence behind our apartment, witness to all our breakdowns and build-ups. I am the lazy, saggy, beautiful cat. I am the phone-call, video-chat, screen-sharing sob-fest. The scheduled and spontaneous and constant. I am distance, but also the most close. I am hours away yet always near. I am flowers and bottles and photographs on alters next to my bed and occasional texts. I am lunch dates and study sessions. I am the hectic GroupMe planning, I am paragraphs of appreciation after a successful meet-up. I am cooking with seven people
in one kitchen, I am reaching over to the back burner while you use the front, I am grocery store trips and cake-buying. I'm the tipsy-dancing and the drunk-crying and the defeated-sleeping. I'm flowers sent by surprise, I am shared videos of tiny tiny tiny things. I am constant. I am a dynamic forever, I am a stable hope, I am commitment, I am love. I am the classroom set-up, the quiet kids smiling and cracking jokes underneath their breath. I am the green pencil left behind on the floor, I am the very complete map worksheet and the barely-finished map worksheet. I am the enthusiastic HELLO at the beginning of every period. I'm the question "do you care about each other here?" and I am the answer. I am the Saturday field trips and sweaty, bumpy bus rides. I am the bus buddy reading through the bunches and bunches of organizing group messages. I am the anger because I care. I am the exhaustion because I care. I am the care. I am the Black, brown. I am the bouncy hair, the dry hair, the soft hair. I am the dwindling funds that can’t support my apparent hair needs. I am the mixture of shea butter and coconut oil, I am the spread-out over thighs. I am the thrill of “going organic”. And the joy after hearing someone, for the first time, say it smells good. I am happy out loud, I am destroyed out loud, I don’t hide anymore. If you can’t look me in the eyes as you hurt me, you don’t own anything in that moment. I am the demand for respect, I am the only one able to secure what I deserve. I am the sisterhood, I am the community, I am the daughter. I am the mother. I am the father. I am us. I am all of us, I am the relationship, I am the connection. I am the struggle and the survival. I am the dry heave and the hand on the shoulder. I'm the negotiation and the compromise and the kept promise and the mistake. I am the miscommunication. I am the look between any two people who love each other, in any way. I am the first reunion hug, I'm the back rub. I'm the goodbye kiss and the look that follows the car all the way to the end of the street, leaving your house. I am the phone call before boarding the flight. I am the flight. I am the new ground, new air, new pathway. I am the missing, I am the longing, I am the hope that carries it on. I am the trip back home. I am home. I am the connection, the expression. I am the love.
the classroom set"up,I am the quiet kids smiling and cracking jokes underneath their breath. I am the green pencil left behind on the floor, I am the very complete map worksheet and the barelyfinished map worksheet. I am the enthusiastic HELLO at the beginning of every period. I'm the question 'do you care about each other here?' and I am the answer.
now that you know who you are,
what are you gonna do about it?