Why These Stunning Images of Black Influencers Represent So Much More

My adolescent eyes were entranced by the stunning covers of magazines. I flipped through glossy pages of high-fashion publications in search of inspiration. As a young black girl growing up in Portland, Oregon, I was reminded of my differences early on. I was always the only one in the room—in a way, it was like I was the exception. I quickly discovered that my distinct kinks and curls paired with my melanin-rich skin tone were the minority in town.

Because of this realization, I yearned to see images of women who looked like me in the media. At that time, the standard of beauty in the media idolized everything I wasn't: stick-thin and light skinned, with straight, silky hair. The fear of standing out too much among my friends compelled me to straighten my naturally curly hair so I could look like everyone else. Like so many other women of color, the glaring lack of representation deeply affected my self-esteem.

Thankfully, the media landscape is changing for the better. More than ever before, diversity is pushed to the forefront, and women of color are spearheading major ad campaigns, beauty companies, the runways, and more. These powerful women in the media include Aysha Sow and Micaéla Verrelien, who are digital content creators spreading the message of inclusivity that women need. They've both been featured in major campaigns and inspire their thousands of followers with true beauty that radiates in everything they share. However, they both realize that although progress has been made with regard to representation, we cannot stop here.

They created the WOC Project, a campaign featuring an array of stunning images that highlight diverse influencers in the media. The brown girls pictured are making waves in the industry and represent more than just pretty faces—they advocate for change. Beyond the striking visuals of digital influencers in Afrocentric hairstyles, bold makeup, and colorful clothing, what makes this project special is the meaning behind it: telling mainstream brands not to cast black influencers to simply fill a quota, but to be true advocates of representation.

Below, take in the infinite beauty of these images—the epitome of black girl magic—but more importantly, listen to what their creators have to say.