Looking at marketing for the fashion and beauty industries, you can be forgiven for thinking that it is all smiles and happiness. Adverts show smiling women flicking their hair, putting on mascara or twirling in their pretty dresses. This must mean fashion and beauty is all fun and games, right? It must be superficial with no deeper meaning or relation to our personal lives, right? The reality is that it is not. I believe that the way we choose to style ourselves says more about ourselves than words ever can. It speaks to the way we, and others, view ourselves. It speaks to what we believe in and what we struggle with. It can be an act of protest or an act of surrender to social norms and beliefs. Despite the adverts we see, it’s not all smiles. Styling ourselves can often bring as much pain and hurt as it does fun and happiness.
This has been something that has been on my mind lately. Something about these adverts never sat right with me. We’re meant to believe that these adverts are a representation of a world that we live in and how much better we would be if we had that one product. We often don’t even take in the implications of these adverts and lose sight of the fact that they portray a fashion and beauty world that continues to exclude a variety of people. People who are deemed different because of their race, gender, ability, class and even their styling choices. As I grow older and explore my own style, I have noticed that I have and had made specific choices to either fit in or stand out. I felt that it was often implied that as a black woman, there was a rigid box in which my style must fit. I was sure that I was not the only one whose life experiences shaped my choices. I had seen countless conversations online where people shared how issues such as body image, colourism and culture shaped their navigation of fashion, beauty and style.
They say if you don’t like something about the world, change it. I wanted to give a voice to those who are unheard and unseen. I wanted to get real about fashion, beauty, hair and style. I wanted to expose the difficult parts. In doing so, I wanted to highlight that engaging in these things didn’t mean that you were vain or superficial. Sometimes, it meant you had gone through, or are still going through, difficulties to engage in these practices. This inspired me to create a documentary series that explored the complexity of areas. Get Real With Me (GRWM) is a docuseries that explores our connections with fashion, beauty, styling and hair. A play on the Get Ready With Me style videos, each episode tells the highs and lows of navigating self-styling and explores the wider topics at play here. The way you look isn’t just superficial, it tells the story of who you are.
Words by Ronita Awoonor-Gordon