“Who I am in private, even without my makeup, my mess, my failures, my joy, my imperfection, my complexity—all of that is beauty.”

For the State of Black Beauty, ELLE.com chatted with six Black icons to hear how they define Black beauty and how they see themselves in the space—in their own words.

Black beauty, what it means to me is Maya Angelou’s poem, “Phenomenal Woman.” It’s loving your hips, your nose, your hair. It’s embracing all of the cultural attributes that are in your faith, in your voice, in your mannerisms, in your past, and what makes you different from everyone else. It’s also making peace with the parts of you that are strong, confident, but also vulnerable and the parts of you that sometimes need help. It’s all of it. It’s embracing fully, absolutely, who you are.

I wish I knew that who and what I am was enough—that who I am is just perfect. If someone would have told me back then, I would’ve maybe thought that was conceited. I would not have seen that as confidence. I spent so much time trying to erase and re-imagine myself as someone else—Diana Ross, Oprah Winfrey, any person at any given time. I wish I had known that the palette that God gave me was enough. I wasted years. A lot of that had to do with quieting the outside noise, especially with social media. You can’t measure life by material things. I feel at the end of the day, my worth comes from my authenticity.

“I wish I knew that who and what I am was enough—that who I am is just perfect.”

The thing about our beauty industry is, it was an extension of our culture where historically, Black beauty and Black femininity have been at the bottom of the totem pole. We were chattel. I feel like the beauty industry was an extension of that and what made it worse was growing up with the internal hatred that happens within our Black communities.

Read the full interview/article in our press library.

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