October 20, 2020

The State of Black Beauty

2 min read

Back in January, or a full lifetime ago in the year 2020, the Black girl coalition at ELLE.com—Nerisha Penrose, Angel Lenise, and I—came together to create an editorial package centering the joy and beauty of our communities. The brief was simple: How can we use our platform to spotlight the beauty of Blackness in all its complexity and splendor?

When Black people are given the space to share their stories, magic abounds. And while inclusive storytelling has always been central to our mission, it requires something extra to keep Black beauty centered in a world calibrated for whiteness. Enter The State of Black Beauty: ELLE.com’s ongoing exploration of—and destination for—beauty at the intersection of Black culture.

As the package came together over the past several months, I realized what made it so special was that it was made for Black people, by Black people. We recorded real women sharing the microaggressions they’ve faced for their hair styles in corporate America. London-based graphic designer Joelle Avelino illustrated moving backdrops to their experiences. Avelino also created a mural of Black beauty innovators—the Sir Johns, the Pat McGraths, the Lacy Redways—rendering them in all their beautiful details. We talked to activists, actresses, politicians, and thought leaders about their personal relationships to beauty. Meanwhile, photographers Katherine and Mariel Tyler (aka the Tyler Twins) captured the world-famous Bronner Bros. International Beauty Show, where pivotal Black hair trends are born before showing up in, say, Calabasas.

For ELLE.com’s inaugural State of Black Beauty cover, we invited actress and icon Tracee Ellis Ross to share how she reframed the Black hair narrative on her road to creating Pattern Beauty. Her photo shoot—led by an all-Black team and guided by the creative direction and brilliance of the star herself—pays homage to the legacy, resilience, and artistry of Black hair. Ross’s one mandate: That the resulting art be our vision as Black women, together.

The thing about Black beauty is that it is infinite. There is no limit to the stories that can and should be told. They cannot be contained in a single issue or month in the calendar year. This is our commitment: Black beauty is and will be at the center of everything we do at ELLE.com. We will launch the visuals, stories, videos, audiograms, letters, and covers dedicated to our community. As editors, writers, producers, friends, and sisters, it’s our job to keep telling these stories and using our platform to amplify our stories and the stories of our community.

This is just the beginning.

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