Have you ever looked at something and were speechless at how beautiful that it was? That was my exact emotion when I saw the images of these beautiful black women on my Instagram feed. I was astonished by all of the magic on the screen.
These photos are from a campaign called The “Colored” Girl. They have now been featured on Essence, Teen Vogue, Fashion Bomb Daily and more.
It took absolutely no time for these images to go viral.
I wish that images like this were around when I was growing up as a brown girl, but I am so glad that we have the power and the platform to change the narrative for our young black girls today. We can start to show them that black is beautiful, in all shades.
That is exactly why the creators of this project, Tori Elizabeth and Victory Jones, are on a mission to spread positive images of black women. They are on a mission to change the narrative and combat colorism that is so deep within the black community. They are here to remind us that black is indeed beautiful…in all shades.
I was able to chat with Tori and Victory personally. I am so excited to share with you this #FROREALlifeStories Q&A session. I hope that it really resonates with you the same way that it has with me. These ladies are truly a force and should not be taken lightly.
The “Colored” Girl Campaign
Questions + Answers with @FROREALDOE
How did the two of you become acquainted with each other and start working together?
– Victory: So, we met on Instagram which is crazy. We started following each other and just started really liking one another’s vibes. We started conversing via comments. If your vibe is positive, then I believe that it translates through any medium, no matter what. I think it translates through what you post, what you say, and how you say it. So,that is how we really connected to one another.
– Tori: I went to New York for a visit and we decided to meet and have dinner. We have been talking ever since. When I was getting ready to move to NYC, I had already put my deposit down on a place I had not seen. I asked Victory to go see see it for me and make sure that it was okay. She went and checked it out and said it was fine. So, I drove from Texas to New York and have been here ever since. That was 2 years ago. People see us together now and think that we are related. We are basically like sisters now.
What inspired the idea behind The “Colored” Girl campaign?
– Tori: There was actually a blizzard in New York and me and Victory were sitting in my living room. We were snowed in. We just started talking about how we are always on Instagram looking at different women and how beautiful they are! “Oh! look at her skin! Oh! look at her highlight.” Since we are both creatives (Victory is a song writer and I am a wardrobe stylist), we wanted to figure out a way to come together. We wanted to create controversy as well as art, while celebrating black women. That is how we came up with The “Colored” Girl campaign.
What is the mission behind the campaign?
– Victory: We wanted to be disruptive. We wanted to be as creative as possible and also have something as prolific as we could, yet still be disruptive. The thing is, even the people who do not love the campaign are still going to be talking about it and that is what we wanted.
– Tori: Coming from the South, we know the term ‘colored’ is derogatory. We wanted to take something derogatory and put something beautiful behind it. We kind of wanted to take it back. Recreate it, because that makes it empowering.
– Victory: One thing that I love about this project is that it showcases our dynamic. Another thing that I feel is very under represented is the solidarity and unity between black women. I feel that’s represented well in this project.
– Tori: We decided to start here because it is our narrative. We are two brown girls in this world, so we had to start with ourselves. It is not to leave anyone else out, but you can’t love anyone else until you love yourself. That is why we started here. I would rather tell my story first and then branch out, and we agreed on that.
How long did it take to put this whole project together?
– Tori: There was a lot going on behind the scenes. The idea started in the winter time and by April we were ready to execute the plans. We started to scout out girls using social media. We already knew we wanted to use @islandboiphotography from the beginning. It was just a matter of finding the right girls for the shoot. We literally picked everyone out via social media. We had the date set for the shoot for like a month in advance, it was in May. It all honestly just kind of fell together. Two of the girls were actually the makeup artist and jewelry designers, but when we saw them, we were like, “We want you to be in the shoot too!”
I love that these images are combating the negative image of the ‘angry black woman’ and the idea that black women can’t get along. How did you execute this so well?
– Tori: We had not met any of the girls for the campaign and they had never met each other. It was a matter of walking into the studio for the first time meeting one another and it was just a vibe and energy that was so positive. It was really euphoric. Everyone had never met but it felt like a reunion. Once the shoot began, we would explain the set up, but all of the energy and the way that the ladies worked together just flowed naturally. Nothing was forced. It was like we were a sisterhood.
– Victory: When the girls walked in all of the energy just came together and it was amazing. I felt like it was a representation of our relationship too. It was an all day shoot, we were there for like 8 hours. Nobody got an attitude, nobody was complaining, everything was all love and positive the entire time.
How have you personally been affected by colorism/racism?
– Victory: My family is Jamaican, so you get a lot of that like you do in the South. A lot of light skin vs. dark, kinky hair vs. a looser curl, and people making jokes like, ‘don’t stay in the sun too long’ for darker family members. I am actually black and indian, my dad is biracial. Some certain members of the indian side of the family might make a joke about someone’s skin being dark. In India they experience a lot of colorism too. The European look is the standard. The lighter people were more highly thought of. I was exposed to it on both sides. Luckily my family is so mixed that it was not too bad, but we still got pieces of it passed down. It is a generational thing. It all goes back to that European standard of beauty, which shouldn’t be a standard, it should not be seen as a negative thing if someone chooses to not follow that way.
– Tori: I experienced it more so when I was older because I went to Texas A&M University which is a predominantly white college. I went there during Obama’s first term. So, I experienced my white friends stop talking to me because Obama won. After Obama won, the black students on campus, we couldn’t go to class. We literally had to congregate in a building and watch people down stairs with their parents, holding signs and yelling racial slurs. I experienced this racism and it was very crazy.
– Victory: I stopped to get gas in a little town that my family would always stop in, it was a half way point. As I was outside of the car, these college kids in a jeep pulled up to me and yelled, “Go home, you f*cking monkey!” I was in so much shock, my body went numb and then I got really angry, and then I just burst out in tears. Like, I had so many emotions going through me at the same time. I couldn’t process it. My soul was so hurt. I was more hurt at the fact that they could disregard someone’s life like this.
– Tori: I also had another experience in class where a white student stood up and said, “if y’all don’t like it then go back where you came from.” I literally had to have a collegiate debate and explain that we were taken from where we came from and can’t even go back there, because we are not accepted by African people the same way, because we are so Americanized. So, having to experience that was also pretty mind blowing.
What inspired you to embrace the color of your skin?
– Victory: As I got older I got to know and see people outside of my family, and started to fall in love with myself too. So, it just became less of an issue the older that I got. Thank God for that. The things that people said to me just kind of fell away, I realized that just was not my narrative.
Have you received any criticism behind this project?
– Tori: Looking at the comments we have seen people saying that there are no lighter skinned girls in the photos, but that’s not true. It is just that a lot of the lighter skin girls appear more tan because it’s summer time, and they have been in the sun. We have been criticized about that, but the truth is we wanted everyone to be included and feel we did that.
– Victory: We even had someone say, “how come they are all skinny?” but, we are all different sizes. I think that they are just people wanting to hate on it.
When did you first see that the photos had gone viral and were you together?
– Tori: We were separate. We were both at work and it was a Tuesday. We already knew that Essence and Fashion Bomb Daily were covering it, because they were actually at the photoshoot. But, I remember going on my Instagram and it was blowing up! All of a sudden, we were in a group chat with the rest of the girls and everyone was posting blog links of the pictures being everywhere. It was so surreal! The crazy thing is that we both knew it would be big, but we did not think that it would go viral. We thought it would just be on Instagram, we did not realize that it would take over several platforms.
How did you feel when you saw that it made it to Teen Vogue?
– Victory: It was crazy because we only knew about Essence and Fashion Bomb Daily. I thought, this is great (that Teen Vogue picked it up)! We are building and debuting our own platform, but we had no idea it would catch like wild fire the way it did. We did not expect the magazines to pick up on it.
What is something that you would go back and tell your younger self?
– Victory: I actually was having a moment about 3 weeks ago. It was one of those days when you wake up super early for no reason and I wrote a letter to my younger self. I was saying things like, “be patient, you’re worthy, love yourself and the things that make you different. The things that make you different, don’t try and change them for other people. Be your own best friend.” Nobody ever tells you to be your own best friend. Yes, our family and friends love us, but we need to learn to love ourselves fully and unconditionally. I was always weird and different, but on the outside I would always try to fit in. It took me a long time to get comfortable with myself fully because I did not know how to love myself.
– Tori: I would tell my younger self to be more appreciative. When I was younger I was always fine with the simple things, but I found myself not being appreciative of the simple things. I was always afraid to show emotions, so I built a wall. I was very guarded and never wanted to seem too excited about anything. That caused me to be a loner and I did not want anyone to get too close. I would tell myself to be more open and appreciative. I needed to learn to live life without feeling like someone was going to hurt me.
In conclusion, what is your greatest inspiration?
– Tori: My greatest inspiration is to make people be more aware. I am all about love and I want people to get to a place where the only thing that matters is love. If you take it back to love then color doesn’t matter, religion doesn’t matter, there’s no room to not like someone because they’re different. My ultimate goal and inspiration is for people to look at one another and love each other for just being human.
– Victoria: I pretty much feel the same way. I am totally motivated by love too. Also, I’m motivated to have no fear. If I am afraid of something I run towards it head first. Be fearless. Everything that I do is based on that. I can’t think of a better way to say it. •
If you would like to see more from all of the creatives that had a part in this project, you can find them below!
If you would like to be featured in your own #FROREALlifeStory or have me cover an event, please follow me on social media (@FROREALDOE) or contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org