SOUL&STORY ft. Braelena
est. 2011 Soul&Story is a project that’s all about your natural beauty and your story. Featured women are not wearing makeup and there are no “touch-ups.” The hope is that their story inspires you to share you story with others and to encourage the women around you! contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org instagram @soulandstory
How would you describe the standard of beauty?
â€™m half Black and half Chinese and coming from a mixed background, I grew up with a very skewed idea of beauty. My idea of beautiful was LITERALLY unattainable. Being Chinese meant I had to be small, thin and pale. But growing up Black meant I had to be yellow-boned*, have long, straight hair, a tiny waist and a big butt. See? So like they kind of contradicted each other. In my head, a beautiful girl had long, straight hair, was pale with a slight tan and skinny with a little bit of curve to her.
Yellow-bone: A light skinned Black person; used to describe women
What is your story?
didn’t really struggle with weight growing up because for the most part, I was small for my age. But of course I felt that there was always room for improvement. I desired to be smaller still because of comments my grandmother would make towards my mom, but like, it wasn’t detrimental to my health or anything. I mean, yeah, I was extremely self-conscious about my “thunder thighs” and my large butt (I was curvier than most of the members in my Chinese family), but I just wore loose pants or tied sweatshirts around my waist. YAY 90’s!
y biggest struggle was with my black identity. I would hate going to the pool because I didn’t get sunburned, I’d get sunburnt..like I would get so dark! But worse than that, my straightened hair would get like super, curly and frizzy. I was taught by both my Black family and society that it was inappropriate for my hair to be too big, that I look better with it straight, and I equated my natural curls to being sloppy and messy.
t wasn’t until I left the country that I became more secure in who I was. Going abroad and being so far away from my family made me rely even more on God and in that, I focused more on my faith than I did on my appearance. Traveling through the rural villages of China, I didn’t really care what I looked like and it was the most liberating feeling. For the first time in almost 7 years, I let my hair breathe and wore it naturally. I still totally struggle with my hair and most days, you’ll see me sporting a bun, but ideally, I’d like to get to the point where my hair has gotten a chance to heal and through that I can accept the body that He has blessed me with!
How did it feel to not wear makeup during the shoot?
felt extremely uncomfortable at first. On a normal day, I feel fine going out without makeup but I don’t like to take pictures without make up on because I feel like I look prettier with it, you know? It was such a hurtle but truth is, I didn’t even notice I wasn’t wearing makeup. It was so much fun and I felt beautiful doing it!
When do you feel most confident?
ell if we’re talking about confidence, I’m putting that in a different category than beautiful. I feel most beautiful when my makeup and outfit are on point… but i’m working on a less superficial meaning of beautiful.
feel most confident, when I accomplish something. Like one time, I had a really good day because I helped a Kindergartener unscramble a word that no one else could unscramble. So like the letters were all mixed up and you had to rearrange them to make a word using all the letters and I was the only who figured it out. Little stuff like that.
What makes you feel selfconscious?
know itâ€™s super weird, but I feel most selfconscious when people stare at me when Iâ€™m wearing my hair naturally or if they over compliment my appearance!
What is your favorite part of your body?
y smile is my favorite! I love the effect smiles, in general, have on people but more specifically, I think my smile conveys the joy I feel everyday. Plus, after 5 years of braces, Iâ€™d hope my smile be in my top 3 favorite parts of my body!
What was the last meaningful compliment you’ve received?
How do you build your own self-confidence?
donâ€™t actively do anything, really. More than anything, I just kind of put myself out there. I think itâ€™s really important to love yourself. I know things tend to be scarier in your head than it is in reality and Iâ€™ll be the first one to admit that I fear social judgement, but I think the best way to overcome your fears is to face it head on.
Charm can lie, beauty can vanish, but a woman who fears Adonai should be praised.” Proverbs 31:30 (CJB)
es, dress up and look professional and/or presentable. Yes, looks do matter but only if you’re using the right scale. Don’t adopt someone else’s idea of beauty as your own. It’s up to you to define what that is for yourself.
Photography by Megan Won