Posts Tagged ‘Fashion’

Emancipate yourself from mental slavery,
None but ourselves can free our minds
— Bob Marley, Redemption Song (lyrics adapted from a speech by the Honorable Marcus Garvey)

While none but ourselves can free our minds, sometimes an image or a verse helps with the calibration process.

Alek Wek Elle Magazine Cover 1997

In November 1997, Alek Wek made history as the first African model to grace the cover of ELLE Magazine.

Lupita Nyong’o’s tearful speech defining beauty at Essence’s 7th Annual Black Women in Hollywood event gave honorable mention to Alek Wek and Oprah for reshaping her self identity.

An excerpt:

‘Dear Lupita,

I think you’re really lucky to be this Black but yet this successful in Hollywood overnight . I was just about to buy Dencia Whitenicious cream to lighten my skin when you appeared on the world map and saved me.’

My heart bled a little when I read those words. I could never have guessed that my first job out of school would be so powerful in and of itself and that it would propel me to be such an image of hope in the same way that the women of The Color Purple were to me. I remember a time when I too felt unbeautiful. I put on the tv and only saw pale skin. I got teased and taunted about my nightshaded skin. And my one prayer to God, the miracle worker, was that I would wake up lighter skinned…

…and then Alek Wek came on the international scene. A celebrated model, she was dark as night. She was on all the runways and in every magazine. Everyone was talking about how beautiful she was. Even Oprah called her beautiful, and that made it a fact…

It’s easy to gloss over all the hoopla around fashion and beauty surrounding awards shows and media as superficial and materialistic.


But bedecked in her Nairobi blue gown, this is not a Cinderella story, this is a redemption song, a song of freedom, widening the landscape of elegance, beauty, talent, strength and class.

Lupita Nyong'o in Nairobi Blue

In Lupita Nyong’o’s own words taken from her Academy Award acceptance speech:

It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s….

When I look down at this golden statue may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from your dreams are valid.

Lupita Nyong'o 2014 Oscar Win

Lupita Nyong’o accepts her Oscar win for Best Supporting Actress (for the role of Patsey in the film 12 Years a Slave). 2014, 86th annual Academy Awards


Read Full Post »

“In life you cannot always choose what you do, but you can always choose who you are.”

Peace, cultural and gender identity, nation building, community, trade, economics, genealogy and family through the vehicle of fashion.

Read Adweek’s article “Ad of the Day: Congo’s Sapeurs Star in the Best-Dressed Guinness Commercial Ever: Central African elegance By David Griner.”

We need more stories like this about the continent of Africa. (Swagger not sympathy.)

A toast to Guinness for widening the lenses of collective memory and collective views of  Republic of the Congo, and to Adweek for recognizing the paradigm shift.

Edit 2/14/2014:

I’ve added the Sapeurs documentary below, because it is too good to overlook. It adds layers to my respect for both the Sapeurs and Guiness for recognizing them in such an elegant way. I love good storytelling.

Read Full Post »