What is your beauty narrative?
(military term) to turn so as to face the opposite direction. a complete change of opinion or policy.
to transform the stories and conversations surrounding our bodies by embracing the greater narrative of beauty as defined by our Creator.
One of my earliest memories is of me, at age three or four, earnestly praying for God to make me white. I don’t remember when the idea that being black was wrong first invaded my mind, but I do remember internalizing a deep sense of humiliation that warped my ideas about beauty and belonging. As a black woman of Christian faith, I struggled with feeling disembodied in places of worship—where my spirit and soul were being fed, but my body was demonized, or at best, ignored; and my blackness was pitted against my belief.
about-face. is a storytelling project that seeks to transform the stories women tell ourselves about our bodies. Through visual documentation and a series of intimate conversations, I explored with sixteen women the experiences that have been most critical to shaping their perceptions about beauty and identity. Often times, and for obvious reasons, women are told that we are more than our bodies; but I believe we are our bodies too. The experiences that these physical bodies have brought us have helped to shape who we are beyond them.
I believe storytelling to be a dignifying, sacred, and revolutionary act—a space where we can feel seen and wrestle with reality and recognize glory even in the ordinariness of our lives. Through this work, I hope to provide a space for women to give voice to our ever-evolving journeys: when our bodies are being perceived and experienced (positively or negatively) by others; when our choices about how to wear our hair reflect a deeper conversation within ourselves; when our noses seem too big or our skin seems too dark or our hips seem too small; when our bodies fail us or fall ill, and heal.
Lastly, I have found great confidence in this truth: ours is not a salvation that provides an escape from our bodies, from the physical, from the Earth and all that is in it. No, our salvation is tangible. It is the fullness and redemption of all things seen and unseen. I believe there is much to be said, and still yet to be discovered, about the glory of God in the human frame—that the redemption of our bodies is not excluded from, but rather consummates our eternal freedom.
"The redemption of our bodies consummates our eternal freedom."
I am forever grateful for these women who trusted me with their stories; for the women who will find themselves in these stories and bravely begin the journey of unlearning and re-learning who they are; and for Tariq Tarey, an incredible visionary and photographer who believed in my own vision and artistry, and helped bring this project to life.