WE'RE NOT ALL NW45
ETHNICITY: CARIBBEAN CANADIAN
EBONI ON CONNECTING TO HER BEAUTY AND HAIR
Makeup and hair, ever since I was a little girl, have been huge parts of my life. I guess the biggest turning point where I realized makeup and beauty and fashion were a passion of mine was when I realized that there was a huge under representation of black women.
Many people have the ability to go to Walmart and find the colour that matches their skin tone. Whereas for black women, for example my mom, my sister, and I are all relatively within the same shade of black, but definitely not exactly the same. We all went to MAC and we all got paired with NW45, which is MAC's favourite thing to prescribe to black people. I started realizing how much more of a passion I had for it, because there was such a lack of putting forth black women who had those skills or who had that passion.
From young to now, I feel the connection, for me it is just being able to utilize a platform to show other women we don't have to follow these paradigms. There's another level of beauty that we have that we have to start embracing.
MAKEUP AND HAIR professionals
My sister is signed to a modelling talent agency. For a lot of the things that she gets booked for, she'll have makeup on set, which is pretty normal. It's the same drill for actresses, actors, whatever else the case may be. She's there and she has to bring her own foundation to these castings just because they aren't equipped with that. To me, it's crazy because not every model is going to be the same skin tone, so obviously you want a wide range of foundations. But it's never been a necessity to have makeup that matches anything darker than a paper bag, let's say. It's just you hear about these situations all the time.
There's Naomi Campbell who always said she had to bring her own makeup and I'm sure there are many more other people who live in the same industry who have to do that. To me, it's just disgusting. I don't understand how only one sector of it is so necessary. Whereas everyone else is just like "if we have it, we have it, and if we don't, oh well. Bring your own."
They're not getting the same treatment. My sister and I used to be in part time competitive dance. I remember they were like "you have to change your hairstyle in between every dance." I was like "I'm not changing my hairstyle for four different dances." It is staying in this bun for the whole night. My instructor was pretty okay with it because I think he understood black hair is not the same way, a white girl can throw her hair up into a ponytail, that is not how sh*t goes with black hair. He was like whatever. We can handle having your hair in a bun for all of the dances. One of the other girls was like, "Why can't you just change your hair?" And I'm like, "You clearly don't understand." It ended up being this level of animosity because she just doesn't understand why I can't and I don't understand why she doesn't get it. That's so reflective of so many different things because people don't realize this is not as easy for us as it is for you and just because that's how you've experienced doing it doesn't mean it's the experience for everyone. When it comes to makeup and people are like I don't know why you're angry that you can't find makeup at Walmart. Who wants to drive 40 minutes out from where you live to find a colour that maybe will match you. I just feel there's just so many different experiences that people don't realize exist.
It's just a respect thing. I'm sure when you have a judge and you have two, three girls who are dancing, are you going to pay attention to how much skill they have or the fact that their hair is curly and they have a curly bun rather than the next chick who has a straight bun? I just don't understand why there's so much weighted on it. I get that you want everyone to look congruent. It's a team. I'm sure there are ways around it other than to straighten your hair. It's just a micro aggression that I'm at this point really over.
I was born in Edmonton, Alberta. Spent the first two years of my life there and was raised in the GTA. I lived with my mother and my sister in a townhouse in Malton. At the time, I think I was about 3. From age 3 'til about age 10, you do a lot of growing up between those ages, and everyone I was surrounded by either were Black or South Asian. They all pretty much understood what it was when it came to hair and when it came to what we viewed as normal and what we viewed as beautiful. Personally, I could go to school one day and have long braids and then the next day have my hair in two puffs and everybody knew I just took my braids out. After age 10, I moved to Stouffville which for those of you who don't know is in the middle of nowhere. It's very Caucasian, very white. Your basic town that's not really close to the city. When I went there, it was a whole shift in identity, because I had always been able to have my hair natural and I never was insecure about it. When I went there, obviously none of these kids understood what it was to have black hair, what it meant to have curly hair, what it meant when your hair gets wet.
All of those sorts of things that were just common knowledge to where I had lived before. It would just constantly be, micro aggressions and these questions that were like, "So you don't have any hair under your braids, right?" Or, "You're bald, so is that why you wear braids?" Or "You have black people hair so it can't grow long, right?" I literally have had people ask me these questions to my face and especially at that young of an age, it has a huge effect on you. I ended up perming my hair when I was about 13 and it didn't last very long because I was in competitive swimming, so I don't know what went through my mind at the time that perming my hair was smart when the sport that I'm doing constantly would cause my hair to sweat out, break, everything that you should not be doing with a perm. It would always go back to me realizing the girls that get attention from the boys look like this. If I want attention from the boys, I got to look like this. If I don't look like this, I cannot possibly be considered beautiful. And that took a long time to unlearn. Especially being that I still live in Stouffville at 21 years old. If you look at that age gap, from age 10 to 21, almost 22, there's a lot I had to go through to mold myself to realize that's not the only standard of beauty. Even though that's what we're constantly fed.
Just something as small as changing demographics can have that much of an effect, especially on young girls and especially on young marginalized girls who don't even know they're marginalized yet and they won't know it until later.
It's those experiences that shape you to realize what's wrong in the beauty industry and how you can utilize your own platform to say this conventional idea of what's supposed to be beautiful is not the only definition of beauty. Personally, there's been to me a whole movement of girls who are like "I'm not accepting this as the only standard of beauty." It's like why do I have to have a super small waist and proportionate hips and proportionate boobs and no blemishes on my face, right? Even more so for black girls, why do I have to have long hair? Why do I have to have a straight nose, a straight bridge? A whole bunch of different things. Why do I always have to have this bomb physique. It just feeds into so many different scopes of what's beautiful. Just unlearning is the beginning, because there's so much more that goes beyond that. Just learning that there isn't just a single standard of beauty and you can actually be beautiful without looking like half of these women is the first step.
EBONI & SOCIAL MEDIA
Being black and a fashion blogger, there is a very distinct image of what a fashion blogger is supposed to look like, and heads up, I'm not that in any way, shape or form. It's interesting to navigate my own beauty through that, because a lot of the time there come points where certain girls are getting certain bookings, and I'm not because I don't look that way. And that probably goes back to boys. They aren't giving me attention because I don't look like this. What do I do to make sure I'm attractive to boys? I think you just gotta stop giving a single f*ck about what people consider to be beautiful. As long as you have that in your mind, you're gonna constantly try to reach that. The one thing that you can't do is try to reach that, because you won't. It's not static.
What people view as beautiful, and what they want is always gonna change. If you're constantly striving towards what people want, you're never going to get there. You kinda have to define it for yourself, and for me it's been unfollowing people who give me no sort of motivation, no sort of inspiration on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. I think a lot of people fill their feeds with people they want to be like, and I don't really want that. Sure I want things to aspire to, and if somebody's further along than me in the blogger community, I'm gonna follow to see how I can get to that point. But if I'm looking at you and constantly comparing myself, and feeling bad and that's not even a them thing, that is totally a me thing. That's not to say I'm shaming anybody that I've unfollowed on Instagram, but it's just more so that I can grasp how I want to look, and not constantly be in that cycle of, "This is how I look now, but I want to look like this, but this is how I look. So, I'm gonna try to look like them." then when I don't, I'm gonna go back to what I am, and then try to look like the next thing that they think is hot and fresh and new.
I think it's a huge matter if you have to sit down and have that conversation with yourself about how you look, and being able to completely accept that. A lot of that comes with number one, learning.
First of all you have to realize that you're comparing yourself to people, and that it's detrimental to you. If you never get to that point, you'll never realize how much you're hurting yourself. Two, you start unlearning. You start to realize, just because I don't look like this doesn't mean I'm ugly. Just because I don't have my sh*t together doesn't mean I'm not great, doesn't mean I can't do this. Then after that comes the actual action of it. It should never mean that there's animosity between the two of you. Even though a lot of people seem to take it that way. "You don't follow me on Instagram, so how could we possibly be friends?" Or taking social media breaks. If you don't wanna unfollow someone, just take a break, and sit down with you, and get comfortable with you. I'm preaching this all while I'm still navigating through it. There's still days where I wake up and don't think I look great. Everybody has those days, but you have to get to a point where you are, for the most part, comfortable with who you are despite what people want you to look like. Despite what people tell you to look like. You have to completely ignore it, and only then can you be truly happy with how you look, and navigate your own path through everything that people try to throw at you. You just gotta get good at dodging. You gotta deal.
COLORISM IN THE MEDIA
Colorism. It's a real thing. And it's a surprising to me that people don't realize that it's a real thing. I think it was Patricia Hill Collins who came up with the four images of black women that they are boxed into. You have the gold digger, you have the hoe, you have your average depictions of black women in the media. Any movie you go to, she's a single black mother. If she's not, she's gold digging. If she's not, she's a hoe, and if she's not that, she's a baby momma. If you pay attention closely to who's taking up those images, it is quite often dark-skinned women. You already have a negative connotation with, not only black women, but specifically dark women. You almost have people looking at you, waiting for you to act like a "dark skinned" black woman,because it's just an image that's depicted. Even when you get into the black community alone, you have lighter skinned black women who have always been more valued. Looking at them as, "Oh, they must be more exotic." Or they must have white in them.
Navigating through that was difficult too, because honestly to say that I've seen a lot of black women in positive roles would be a lie. There's a reason why Black Panther the movie was so lit. It is because, if I look back when I was going through all of these identity issues the way that preteens and teenagers do, to see those images depicted in a light where these women are strong, they're independent, and they're very passionate - they're not depicted the way other black women are. At that age, ten, you're navigating yourself through what you see. You see an image and you think that you're supposed to fit that image. So you do. A lot of that goes on when black women are constantly depicted as a certain image, there gonna fall into it. Unless they realize it and stay woke, and reject it. I just think, personally in my platform, I never wanna put forth a negative image, because it's not only a negative image for me, it's a negative image for black women.
I don't think people realize that being black in itself is a burden. When you put forth the images they expect you to put forth, you're not just disadvantaging yourself, but you're disadvantaging every other person in the black community, who is also going to feel like, "Okay. Now I'm being placed into this box because you fit that image." I personally utilize my platform to try and say, "just because we're supposed to be in these images, and we're supposed to fit these descriptions, doesn't mean we always do." I'm coming now to be like, "Hey, I'm not like that. Stop coupling me with people who are like that. Stop painting us all with the same brush."
Lala Skin Essentials, they have this hand cream body butter. It is the best thing ever.
It smells like vanilla. They have a body oil that I use too, which is shea, papaya and mango scent, it's great. The Facial Bar. They have a really nice highlight, and these are both black owned. I like Bite Beauty too, I think their whole outlook is great, and from the two products that I've tried, they're great quality. I don't think they test on animals either.
Next up would have to be Gabrielle Union's hair care line, 'cause that is the bomb. Fenty Beauty. Rihanna's highlighter sticks are good. You also can't go wrong with more whole ingredients. So, it might not necessarily be a brand, but almond oil is my everything. Skin, body, you're set. Vaseline. It's like a black proverb. Then Benefit, "They're Real!" mascara is really great, because I can't figure out how to put on false lashes, and I'm kind of afraid to get lash extensions. People have actually asked me, "Oh did you get your lashes done?" I'm like, "No. It's just mascara."
I was 13 when I decided to do the big chop at 2:00 am in the morning with my own scissors. I don't know how I came up to the point where I was like, I'm gonna go buy professional shears and cut my hair, but I did. My family, I don't think they knew until I walked in and I just was like "hey!" I think I had two inches of hair, and they were like, "Oh my God. Okay." But they were really supportive of the whole thing.
The reason I even decided to go natural was because of my father. He was constantly like "you should just wear your hair out." I thought it was a hassle, which it is a hassle. It's a lot to deal with, but there's a lot more to it than just going through doing you're hair. I actually view it as therapeutic, and a way for me to get in touch with my roots. He was constantly saying to do it, and at the time blogs that were big were like CurlyNikki, which a lot of naturals still swear by. I cut my hair and had it in braids on and off until about recently. Every so often I'll leave it out for one to two months.Personally, I love being natural. I think it was probably one of the most liberating things I could have done, especially when people are like, "Oh, but you don't have hair, right?" And I'd just be like, "Girl, combing my hair alone is a workout. But I don't have hair though?"
I found it to be really enlightening, to utilize that platform to show other women who are like me, that you don't have to have your hair this way or that way or the next way, other than just natural. Just embrace having your natural hair, and nobody can say anything to you. Be comfortable in it, because at the end of the day, that's your hair. People will always be like, natural hair is only for some people. I never understood how people could say that the hair that grows out of my head isn't for me. What sense does that make? I just don't want women to always feel like they have to make all of these altercations to fit a standard. Just be carefree. There are a lot of women who don't wanna go natural, and they wanna keep their hair permed, and that's fine. Personally I found that through cutting my hair and growing it naturally, I've unlocked another side of myself that I want to share with other women who want to go down the same journey.
TO FOLLOW MORE OF EBONI'S WORK CHECK OUT HER BLOG http://www.ebonicurls.ca/