Heard about The Colored Girl Campaign yet? Search for it on Tumblr or Instagram, or use any hashtag that starts with melanin and you'll find a range of images that shows a far wider range of brown skin tones than any of us would usually come across on a daily basis. Each woman featured is celebrated for who she is, and, so far, there has been no negativity - which, let's face it, is pretty damn good considering how much of a platform for judgement and hate social media has become.
For me personally, what I love most about this campaign, and what comes through in this interview, is that there's none of this 'team' shit about it. To me, dividing ourselves into light and dark is essentially doing what many other races have been trying to do to us for centuries. If we are divided we are weaker; and while we're busy choosing teams we are distracted from what is really going on in our global community.
But that's my take on things; read on to make up your own mind and to find out why you're going to be hearing the names of TCG founders Victory Jones and Tori Elizabeth a lot more often.
Now, as the great Ms Badu once said: ‘I’m an artist, and I’m sensitive about my shit,’ so I want to let you know that when I first interviewed Victory and Tori it was via Skype. It was 9pm in London and 4pm in New York, and The Colored Girl founders were getting their hair done on a Friday afternoon. Over the next thirty minutes I had one of the most enjoyable interviews, and I was sure I’d struck ‘gold’ with many of their comments and insights.
So, a week later when I had time to transcribe the interview I put my fave iTunes playlist on in the background and was ready to work. And then: nothing. I kept hitting play on the tiny recorder but no, it insisted that the media was not compatible and could not be played. So what I’m trying to say is, these ladies are amazingly motivating in person and I hope this comes across, in what had to become an email interview in the end.
First up, I asked singer/songwriter and voice actor Victory and wardrobe stylist and marketer Tori to break the whole thing down: what is The Colored Girl about?
The Colored Girl is a creative initiative that’s about love, awareness, beauty, empowerment, celebration and unity.
The strongest inspiration is love, firstly – and women secondly, then women of colour thirdly. And not just black women, ALL women! We believe that we are truly all ONE race (human), and each of us is merely a different shade. So in effect we are all ‘coloured’.
Our aim was to start other conversations, create an awareness of the range of black beauty, while sparking something positive in people – mainly women of colour. We figured we’d start with this campaign to launch the brand, by using our own authentic, unique perspectives as black women, since that is the lens through which we see the world. We both feel that there is not enough positive representation of women of colour in mainstream media, as well.
How did the campaign come about?
We really wanted to do something disruptive that would spark conversations and awareness about colorism. We are also feminists and hippies at heart, so everything we do is about love and empowerment. As we mentioned, everything is motivated by LOVE - first and foremost. We are both creatives, so we figured joining our artistic forces and using strong visuals would be the best way to draw attention to an issue that plagues so many of us.
So the Colored Girl campaign was specifically curated to depict powerful, beautiful images of black women of various shades, ages and sizes coming together in sisterhood to break the stereotypes associated with black beauty. We chose the word 'coloured,' because we wanted to take something that’s historically and culturally seen as derogatory and controversial, and use it for something amazing and empowering. We also wanted to redefine the idea of black beauty with these images, so that women of colour would see positive depictions of themselves and feel empowered, and inspired. We wanted to show part of the range of beauty within the black community as well.
How did you finance the project?
We were fortunate enough to have some awesome individuals involved who believed in the vision and volunteered time, energy and services, and any expenses incurred were paid for out of pocket. So nearly everything was done on trade – it was truly a blessing!
How did it feel to see your imagery be embraced and shared?
We are still truly amazed, grateful and humbled by all the love, support and positivity!
Your launch occurred at a time of serious unrest and pain for the black community – how do you think this affected your reception – if at all?
What we created was needed – more than we even realised. This time of injustice, civil unrest and political turmoil is exactly when we should stand up and proclaim our self-love and love for others. Show unity and celebrate our differences. People need to see and feel positive images and energy right now more than ever! We think our campaign helped to contribute to fulfilling that need.
Is this the first of a series of shoots – how do you see the project progressing?
We are currently planning to expand the brand and the scope of experiences we create. We can’t say exactly what that is yet, as that’s confidential info. Let's just say it will be even more boundary-breaking, more beauty, more fashion, more art and more sisterhood! (FYI, there’s a new series up on the TCG Instagram right now, so check it out @thecgirlinc!)
How can people support you and/or get involved?
As a start-up, we’re always looking to collaborate with others who are willing to volunteer their time, services and resources with us to help grow our initiative and spread the movement. From interns and assistants, to models, graphic designers, videographers, designers, bloggers and more. For those who are unable to do so, simply following us online and sharing our campaign is appreciated too! Every little bit helps.
Who are the women in your lives that you look up to?
Victory: I’ve always been a bit of an independent, 'think outside of the box’ kinda girl. A doer. Ever since I can remember. My parents are two of my biggest influences and supporters, even if they don’t always understand or necessarily agree with my choices. They respect my courage and they support me as a person: as a woman, and as an artist. And that’s so very important. Invaluable really. I have also been influenced by the many amazing women and men in my life. As well as those women whose stories I’ve been watching throughout my life, like Nina Simone, Maya Angelou, the Williams sisters, Solange, Michelle Obama, Alice Walker, Beyonce, and countless others who have been brave enough to overcome boundaries and limitations, to do extraordinary things – even on an everyday level.
Tori: My mother and grandmother showed me the true meaning of hard work, dedication, and unconditional love. My mother always told me, 'I don’t care if you are a broom sweeper, be the best broom sweeper you can be; always take pride in the things you do.' Also, watching my grandmother work as a landscaper and caterer until the age of 75, helped me decide that I must be just as strong as she is, and work for everything that I want. In April of last year, when my grandmother passed, I decided I must live this life to the fullest. If not for me then at least for her.
Where do you find peace?
Victory: I practice yoga almost daily and meditate often. Also, whenever I create, whether it’s a campaign ideas, music, food… I find peace in that (creative) process; it’s a place where my mind, body and soul are in perfect harmony. I get to let go and be free during those moments. It’s very intuitive.
Tori: I also find peace in creating – it’s liberating.
Is there a mantra that you live by?
Victory: Love, truth, courage, honour always – I have that tatted on my ribs over my heart.
Tori: Stand up for yourself, and live your truth.
Collectively: Love yourself. Love each other. Never be afraid to create change.
Stay on top of all The Colored Girl news over on Instagram @thecgirlinc – and to my London friends, there’s talk of an event coming soon… Watch this space!