You can’t put black beauty in a box (PHOTOS)

Dec 18, 2014 at 11:30 a.m. ET
Image: Kunle Ayodeji

When I first read the New York Times article about Viola Davis where the writer called her "less classically beautiful" in comparison to Kerry Washington, who has lighter skin and straight hair, I was pissed and offended. I have dark skin and natural hair like Viola Davis, so what does that make me?

Aside from the backhanded compliment, that statement was also loaded with racial prejudice and informed by a culture that promotes a very specific set of images of black women.

Abi Ishola, a multimedia journalist who also happens to have dark skin and natural hair, took this "less classically beautiful" tag as an opportunity to broaden conversations about perceptions of beauty about black women and within black culture. The result is a photo story featuring a diverse group of exceptionally beautiful black women who are all completely different and "beyond classically beautiful."

Ishola says she was inspired by the women who took to Twitter in defense of Viola Davis, all tweeting photos of themselves with the hashtag #LessClassicallyBeautiful as a show of solidarity. "I thought about how diversely beautiful black women are, I couldn't accept that label. From there, the idea for 'Beyond Classically Beautiful' was born."

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Here are some photos from the series:

Vonecia

Mame is Beyond Classically Beautiful

Nia

Vonecia is Beyond Classically Beautiful

Mame

Dionne is Beyond Classically Beautiful

Dionne

Christina is Beyond Classically Beautiful

The full photo series can be seen on her website and Abi has the T-shirts for sale at her Etsy store. BRB, going to buy one.

(Images by Kunle Ayodeji)

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