"On Beauty" is our original, inspirational series dedicated to beauty, self-love and self-awareness. With fresh-faces and in their own elements, beautiful women from around the world share in their own words what they mean when they crown themselves beautiful. Here is Brandi's story."My older brother dredded his hair when he was in high school. Just this amazing, left-of-the-middle kid in the suburbs of South Carolina that was natty and paid no mind to whether or not it made people uncomfortable. That left an impression on me. I watched how confident he was, and how when he enrolled at an HBCU – people recognized him because of his hair “Oh, you mean the artist with the dreds?!” There were all these black and brown folks that, while admiring his hair, were also trying to make sense of it. That left an impression on me because I’d gotten so much hate in high school for having curly, long hair. People hated to love it and I couldn't understand why. So not only did I follow my brother to college, I shaved my hair off 4 days before I got there. It was freeing for me!
I will have been natural 20 years next year. I've not had chemicals in my hair since I was 17, I'm 36 now so I was way ahead of the movement. I've never attached hair to my identity, ya know? Like, "Brandi, your hair has to be long or straight in order for you to be considered attractive." That was never me. I shaved my head just before I started college in 1994. I went from very long to scalp short and didn't feel the least bit insecure about it. I’ve also had dredlocks for some of that time.
Everyday I use either Shea Moisture Hibiscus and Coconut Hair Milk, Belle Butter’s Unyevu Butter or Giovanni Direct Leave-In Conditioner. For co-washing I use Shea Moisture Restorative Conditioner and for weekly deep conditioning I use Shea Moisture Deep Treatment Masque and Camille Rose Natural’s Algae Deep Conditioner.
Shea Moisture products are my staples. The Shea Moisture Hibiscus and Coconut Hair Milk is something I can’t live without. I’ve learned what my hair likes and what it doesn’t and I pay close attention to ingredients. The fact that their line has simple, all natural ingredients is why I love them. I’ll experiment sometimes, but I always go back. I also really like Giovanni’s Leave-In Conditioner. I use that in conjunction with Shea Moisture. I’m really particular about the ingredients in products and those two brands are all natural.
I cowash and do a deep conditioning steam every Sunday. I also use an apple cider vinegar rinse once a month to control build up. I’m not very experimental with styles. I don’t know how to cornrow or do flat twists. But my girlfriend is very talented in that area so she will often try different styles on me. I really love a good bun! Sleek or messy, it doesn’t matter – I’m a bun girl!! It’s my favorite way to wear my hair but I have to be careful with how much stress I put on my hairline.
My skin and I have a love/hate relationship. Like seriously! I started going to a dermatologist at 13. I've always used expensive, doctor prescribed products that made my skin very angry. In recent months things just turned around. I wash my face every morning with Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap, I moisturize with Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisture in the morning and Mario Badescu Seaweed Night Cream at night. Throughout the week I rotate between Belle Butters Neutralizing Butter for Oily Skin and Mario Badescu Drying Mask to treat my skin. For some reason, it's working!
I wear make-up most days. Definitely five days a week for work and the weekends depends on where I'm going, but I'm not one of those girls that has to wear make-up to the grocery store. My go-to products are foundation, concealer and mascara. I put on lipstick if I think about it, otherwise I don't. I also love a nice bronzer during the summer. As I move through my 30s, moisturizing my skin is really important for me so I try to be diligent about that as well. I want my skin to stay supple and smooth for as long as possible. My favorite foundation so far is NARS in Macao. My skin seems to love it and the color match is spot-on for the most part. As far as concealers go - I'm still searching for the perfect one! I go back and forth between Laura Mercier and NARS. I struggle with under eye circles so I really want to find one where the coverage looks natural. And lipsticks... I'm no fuss really. I absolutely love a creamy, nude lip. I achieve that with MAC Fresh Brew lipstick mixed with Shock-O-Late lip glass. And I'm a fan of a bold, matte red lip. I love NYX matte red! It's cheap, price wise and it stays on forever! When I'm feeling footloose and fancy-free, I'll do a fuschia lip! Slowly but surely, I'm playing with lip colors!
I was always very well endowed as a girl, since 3rd grade. The way I was made to feel for having large breasts took a serious toll on my self-esteem for many years. I layered my clothing and tried very hard to hide my body. I wasn't comfortable fully dressed among people and I wasn't comfortable fully nude at home alone. I had breast reduction surgery in 2011 and since then I've redefined for myself what it means to be a woman. This is my body, this is how things move, hang and sit. I define that now, not other people. And now, bras are optional.
One of my favorite features is my back. It’s an interesting piece of skin because there are a lot of stories (tattoos) on it! My smile, the color of skin, my long forehead, my character – those things make me beautiful.
Beauty, for me equals self-acceptance. You have all these things that make you who you are in this moment...all these experiences, transformations and life lessons and you're at a point in life where you've made sense of it all. Your building blocks, so to speak, are finally sturdy and you're grateful for who you are and excited about what is yet to come! I think that energy shows through in people. I can see it and I find it to be beautiful. Oh, and there’s something so captivating about people who don’t try to hide their shortcomings! Those are the most beautiful people.
I feel beautiful because I know myself very well. Having a low sense of self worth is emotionally expensive, period. I know what I'm good at and what I struggle with. I know what makes me feel strong and what makes me feel vulnerable and I'm really good at expressing all of that. I've done enough self examining and growing over the years that I'm very aware of how all those parts of me effect me and the people I love. That makes me feel beautiful.
I don't even know if I ever even considered who I would become when I was younger. I had a clear picture of who I wanted to be professionally, but I was all over the place mentally and emotionally. Today, my sense of self worth is much, much stronger, I place value on people and relationships in a way I never did at 26 and I'm nowhere near as fear-driven as I was then. If I could go back in time, I would tell my 10 year old self that the journey to feeling beautiful and loving yourself is going to be challenging! For a long, long time, self acceptance will be number one on a long list of things you don’t think you’re capable of. You’ll find yourself, at times, with wounds, fears, and intense loneliness. You will discover that you are deeply compassionate!! You will cry for people and animals with the same level of intensity. You will learn after your 20s that all of your recklessness was because you were hiding who you were - your body and your sexuality. And your 30s will teach you that once you discover who you are, you need to be thoughtful and selective about the kind of people you have in your life. How you treat yourself and how you treat others defines beauty and self love.
When a woman is doubtful about going natural because she thinks she won't be beautiful enough, I say if you choose it for yourself, if it makes you feel confident and expresses what you want it to express, you will look amazing.
I am really proud of the woman I am. I see my vulnerability and my transparency as strong qualities about myself. I don’t always feel beautiful but I always feel grateful. I am grateful for my relationships, I am grateful for the life I’ve created for myself, and I’m grateful that I have sense enough to work on myself instead of allowing my struggles to define me. Self worth doesn’t lay idle – it has to be nurtured if you’re going to grow it and keep it.
I’ve not become who I am by trying to be perfect, emulating anyone else, being complacent or tearing other folks down. I understand myself. I take risks. I cry, a lot. I love strong. And I am Freddie and Debra’s child. I’d say that sums it up." - Brandi
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