Category Archives: Blog on beauty

Natalie’s View of Beauty

For the past few years I’ve been seeking to learn more about my family’s stories, wondering and questioning about their personal thoughts and characteristics. Including those in the midst of transition.

Although little-by-little I am connecting the dots, one thing that have become distinctively clear to me is my yearning to know the stories of people. Given my own experience  with beauty, it’s a topic I tend to focus on but in general understanding the view points and backgrounds of others is incredibly intriguing to me.

Through the process I’ve learned that although our deepest personal experiences shape how we see ourselves and others, we are ALL in the process of learning. We are all on this journey called life simply doing our best to figure things out.

As I continue to work on I Am More Than My Hair and film interview segments, I am also capturing footage of various individuals asking one question.

“What is beauty?”

Natalie tells us her view.
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Interested in an interview? Contact me via my website.

I couldn’t stop with the interview. I had to take her picture too.

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Connected

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“The thing I’m most passionate about in life is music. There are so many different types of music that includes singing and instruments. Music makes me happy and want to dance.”
~Zoe, 11

Zoe is my oldest niece, now 16. When she was a baby I played music (I’ve always loved music) hoping she would stop crying…and she did as she would stop and listen to it. I’ve never seen a baby do that before. She always connected with music and danced to EVERYTHING. I would play CDs in my room and Zoe and my 2nd oldest niece would dance non stop. We were obviously connected by genes, but in music there was another relation. To my amazement she memorized the words in songs before the age of two (it started off as a toddler mumble then actual words as grew older). Although we may not hang out as often as when she was younger (those darn teenage years) I’ll always have these memories and we will forever be connected.
‪#‎FeminineTransitions‬ ‪#‎naturallybeautiful‬‪ #‎naturalbeauty‬ ‪#‎selflove‬ ‪#‎giveyourselflove ‬‪#‎allnatural‬ ‪#‎DontPhotoshopM‪#‎memories‬ ‪#‎music‬‪ #‎dance‬ ‪#‎BellHooks‬

 

My Encounter with Beauty…Reflected Through My Lens

I vividly remember questioning beauty at the age of 10. There weren’t any examples of little brown girls that looked like me on TV, magazines and definitely not on billboards. As I went through the early stages of puberty my body, as well as my mind, went through the transitions.

At the time, and for the first time, I questioned beauty. I wondered if I fit the picture of “pretty. As I was going through these changes an encounter with my aunty lead me to believe I truly wasn’t beautiful. It lead me to doubt my worth.

My aunty looked me directly in my eyes, as my face was full with pimples and discoloration, and said to me with her distinct Trinidadian accent, “You’re getting ugly.” Although my father made it a point to always tell me that I was beautiful, on that day my father’s words had no significance.

I allowed those three words to make me lose sight of loving myself unconditionally. My confidence crumbled in a few seconds.

Eventually, and as I went through adolescence, my father’s positive affirmations became constant reminders of my worth. Then I began to understand what the true meaning of beauty…and I was her.

Once I became a mother I found myself consistently reassuring my child of who they are and made a point to create a space of feeling comfortable in their own skin. I came to the realization that I do this with my children because I didn’t want them to be negatively impacted by outside influences as I was.

I do however recognize that they cannot completely avoid this reality. School and family can be the biggest influence of our own self-perception. Positive or negative.  Regardless, I have faith that with the support of my husband and myself, our children can and will overcome self-doubt.

Through this journey I recognized I created projects that in some way are a reflection of my personal experience.  In some way I believe I am speaking to the little girl inside me that was affected as a child.  I unconsciously focus my photography to represent raw and unaltered (without Photoshop) beauty.

Amber-17

I Am More Than My Hair: Bald and Beautiful MeThrough my photography I gave birth to photo books that celebrate the natural beauty of women and girls. The first being Feminine Transitions and my current project I Am More Than My Hair. In the near future my hope is to also create documentaries that reflect the same concept in a video format.

It’s a start on creating positive change and it’s a blessing for me to be a deliverer of a healing revolution.

Daddy, Tell Me I’m Beautiful

Growing up, my household was far from perfect. As a matter of fact, my family fit the category of dysfunctional. My parents experienced certain challenges in the childhood causing them to be a product of their environment.

It wasn’t until I get older that I appreciated, despite my father circumstances due to his upbringing, that he planted a seed of self-assurance within me which I believe helped me throughout my life. My father also encouraged me to honor my feelings, always seemed to understand and relate to my intuition/spiritual experiences, told me that I must tolerate nothing less than respect and wholeheartedly love who I am…Unapologitically me.

Let me take you back…

I remember as a little girl, putting a towel on my head and feeling, in that moment, that I a had beautiful long hair. It felt good. (I know some of you reading this now did the same. It was one of those things that many little brown girls did.)

Although my dad would let me be in that moment, he would gently tell me my hair is thick and beautiful and go on saying that many women wished they had hair like mine.

4 year old Alyscia
This is me when I was 4.

In all honestly, despite my fathers had good intention, I didn’t feel as pretty as he told me. It was difficult seeing myself pretty when I didn’t witness little girls that looked like me on high platforms. Although my father pumped “beautiful” in my head, the media, my classroom and society in general was a impact on my self-esteem.

At the age of 11 and feeling a boost of self-confidence, my Aunty told me something that crumbled my self-love. While transitioning through puberty, and a face full of pimples, she looked me in the middle of my eyes and said, with her distinct Trinidadian accent, “Yuh gettin ugly.” I wrote about it in the introduction of my book, Feminine Transitions.

Though that one statement affected me for a few years, because of my fathers influence I grew out of that perception.

If I had not the significant voice at home to assure me of my beauty, there is no doubt that my journey self-awareness would have been much more challenging.

My fathers words, assuring me that I was beautiful just as I am (speaking completely against any enhancements, including make-up, chemical changes to my hair, and medical alterations) stuck with me, even throughout my adult life.

I clearly remember when I started getting attention from boys, and feeling nonchalant when they complimented me. Of course it felt good and I appreciate it, but in all truth their flattery didn’t phase me. It never went to my head. Why? I already knew it because I’ve been praised for as long as I can remember by the most important male figure in my life…my dad.

Can you imagine the walking confidence of a woman that was always told, by her dad as a little girl, that she is beautiful?

I was that little girl…one of them as I am sure we are many. Unfortunately, our stories are not told. Society tends to get too caught up with what we lack… fatherless daughters and sons…

I pay respect to the fathers doing their job!

(Oprah, I’m feeling this topic on Lifeclass coming. Let’s make it happen.)

I truly believe that if we had more dads telling their daughters (and son’s lets not forget them) they are beautiful just as they are, we will build generations of radiating confidence. Maybe even better relationships as people wouldn’t feel the need to cover up who they really are.

As Michael Baisden said, “Stop introducing your representative and introduce yourself.” That’s well said Michael.

The same goes for mom’s and their daughters. If our children do not hear it from us, they will simply seek approval elsewhere.

The reality is my dad and I do not have the best father daughter relationship. It simply is what it is. Regardless, I give Jack his jacket. He has instilled something within me that is powerful beyond measure. Certainty.

To my dad…thank you!

Me and my dad
Me and my dad in 1995.

Daddy’s…tell your daughter she is beautiful. You will awaken her soul.

Did your daddy tell you that you were beautiful? Is there a difference in a womans’ love for self who grew up with a father as compared to one who did not? To dig a little deeper, when a father often tells his little girl that she is beautiful, does she develop a more positive self-esteem than the little girl who was never told this by her father? Please share your experience.

*Posted originally at The Girl God blog http://thegirlgod.blogspot.com/2014/05/daddy-tell-me-im-beautiful-by-alyscia.html

Feminine Transitions: A Photographic Celebration of Natural Beauty

As young as I can remember, my father always made it a point to tell me I was beautiful, just as I am. He was completely against me altering my hair from its natural state and wearing make-up as a necessity.

Image of girl looking in the mirror

Despite my Dad’s positive reinforcement, I went through a period of not feeling very beautiful. I was at the beginning stages of puberty and it wasn’t an easy time period. Besides that, when I looked in magazines and viewed TV the “pretty girls” didn’t look anything like me.

After a few years I grew to see the beauty that my father embedded in my head. And although I did perm my hair as a pre-teen, 5 years later I cut it off and went back my natural.

Hearing such positive reinforcement from the first man in my life, prepared me for what I believe would have most likely destroyed me. Society.

My project, Feminine Transitions: A Photographic Celebration of Natural Beauty, is a photography book that promotes the importance of self-love for our authentic selves as women.

I started off photographing younger girls before moving on to increasingly older women. At the beginning of each photo shoot, I asked the models to pose without accessories such as earrings, necklaces and nose rings with the exception of a few, since they recently received a piercing.

My objective was to truly express the bare beauty of each model without distractions.

I vividly remember looking at one of the older women through the lens of my camera and feeling displeased.  At that moment, I was unclear about the issue.  It took me awhile to realize that my hang up was with her makeup.

I couldn’t see her skin. Her makeup filled in the natural lines on her face, and gave her an unrealistic appearance.

Realizing that her cosmetics hid her face, I politely asked her to remove it so that I could see her authentic beauty. From that point on, my project embodied a new focus.

ImageMy original idea for Feminine Transitions was to simply create a photo book celebrating the beauty of females young and old. The topic of make-up never occurred to me prior to this day.

After that day, it became a requirement that all models remain bare, free of makeup, accessories, or wigs for the photo shoot. All images are also free of digital enhancements (NO PHOTOSHOP).

Unfortunately, this prerequisite became the deciding factor to those who chose not to participate.

It was then I realized many women had serious issues with their self-image. For several, not being able to put on their “face” was a huge problem.

My intent was not to cause any discomfort. I simply wanted to create a photographic celebration of womanhood in their organic state.

Those who decided to participate despite their hesitation seem to discover a part of themselves on a deeper level. As they took off the mask they had been wearing for most of their lives, they felt the sensation of freedom.

To make each woman look as subtle as possible, it was necessary for them remain simply bare. So I requested that they pull their shirts down below their shoulders.

Some of the models felt comfortable enough to take off their top completely. When they did, they felt a growing sense of release. Quite a few of them said to me, “I felt like I took a load off my back.”

ImageThere was an emotional significance attached to the bareness in the photographs. The women became vulnerable. There was only the individual and the camera — nothing in between.

It is quite obvious that our society plays a major role in perpetuating a negative attitude towards aging. Commercials, magazines, advertising, and even doctors do an effective job of marketing “age defying” products.

I will never understand why growing old is considered taboo, particularly in the United States.

In spite of this, even while being bombarded with such negativity, we must take responsibility for embracing our true selves and not look to the media to do it for us.

When we do, we will help the younger generation develop a healthier view of aging.

Thankfully other artist and some companies are promoting material to encourage positive self-esteem. I believe we are at the peak of a natural beauty evolution.

It is my hope that Feminine Transitions will be an aide in this progress by bringing forth a movement of change in the confidence of females in all age groups.

As girls and women we experience the bulk of pressure when it comes to accepting our physical appearance. We’re constantly told by society that our bodies, our faces, our skin, our graying hair, our weight and height are not good enough.

My mission is to foster a woman’s love for herself and encourage women to believe in their own beauty, despite what we are being fed. We must also acknowledge that our mind may be our own culprit.

ImageUpon reflection, I know now that Feminine Transitions is a tribute to that little girl who is constantly told by society that she is not beautiful. I want that girl to know that she is beautiful, just the way she is.

And for the older woman who hides behind her makeup and colors her gray hair, I want her to take off her “mask” and be free to celebrate the changes that come with aging.

ImageAnd finally to the senior woman who feels that her wrinkles are a negative reminder of growing older, I want her to know that each line is a story map of her soul and her wisdom. I am not alone in honoring you and looking up to you for guidance.

I want every woman, young and old, to know that you are beautiful, just the way you are. Let the radiance you were born with shine through.

Adapted from “Let your Light Shine Through: Celebrate Your Natural Beauty,” published in Advocating Creatively: Stories of Contemporary Social Change Pioneers.

Above image of girl looking in the mirror copyright: Image from http://blackhairmedia.com/beauty/black-women-mainstream-society/