We created BodyTalk to start a bold conversation around the topics that hold the most weight for women, giving our community a platform to reclaim sensuality as a self-defined state of being.
Our generation’s definition of sensuality has the potential to be revolutionary and powerful beyond measure – but only if it is fueled by all voices, particularly those of BIPOC women who have gone unheard for far too long.
The combined impact of race and gender is too often overlooked. The inequities and racism faced by Black women require that every single person recognize their role in the story and commit to dismantling systemic racism. We are committed to using our BodyTalk platform to be part of this paradigm shift.
We have had the honor of hosting many important conversations on BodyTalk with BIPOC women who have spoken persistently on race, its complexities, and the ways white privilege impacts the world we live in. Over the past few weeks, we have revisited many of these interviews by Black women, and are struck by the consistency of that message.
While the past two weeks have led the world to listen more closely to these truths and to begin to recognize our collective role in boldly demanding and creating change, one thing is very clear: racism has been here this whole time – and it’s beyond overdue that we all pay attention to the people who have spoken to it all along.
Below, we are sharing incredibly important highlights from past BodyTalk interviews with Black women in the CUUP community. We urge you to click through and read the full articles and to actively listen to their voices.
“I am reminded of something I once heard Social Activist and Muslim Scholar Dr. Suad Abdul Khabeer say on Twitter, “You don’t have to be the voice for the voiceless, just pass the mic. This is the most simple way to be an Intersectional Feminist. Pass the microphone.”
“Intersectionality means we can not talk about gender equality without acknowledging the unique ways other marginalizations layered onto gender impact that person’s gendered experience. Here is the good news about feminism that centers other people’s identities - when we are all free then we will all be free.”
Read EbonyJanice’s full Supportsystem article on intersectionality and passing the mic: How To Actually Be An Intersectional Feminist
“Medical options are not offered to black women in the way they are offered to white women. Doctors are making decisions for them, because they think they lack the knowledge [to be part of the conversation.] That shouldn’t be decided by their race. The medical world is not giving full agency and full humanity to black women. Hopefully I can get that conversation rolling. It’s a conversation about listening.”
“The number one challenge of being a doctor is knowing how to listen. If you are not able to listen, you are not able to see the humanity in your patients. If you can’t see humanity, then you are going to mess up. So that’s where I am at right now: trying to figure out how to visually represent black maternal health.”
Read Debra’s full BodyTalk article on the gynecological history of America and her emerging body of work on black maternal health: Painting An Intimate Portrait of Black Maternal Health
“A lot of the time, people use wellness as a means of bypassing what is happening in the world, but I’m focused on using the yoga practice itself to dismantle racism. Privilege [in the wellness industry] is part of a bigger conversation. Many people are able to dip their toe in and say, yes, wellness is not inclusive and it’s not okay, but they are not necessarily eager to unpack what that really means. They aren’t willing to go there.”
“It starts with an acknowledgment that we live in a culture where we are all implicated in white supremacy. It affects everyone. People like to think that ‘being well’ is a very individualistic thing. I come from the mindset that, in order for me to truly be well and truly liberated, I’m relying on you to help shift things. The two things don’t exist separately.”
Read Sinikiwe’s full BodyTalk interview on white privilege in the wellness industry and our collective responsibility to rethink ‘well-being’: Unpacking Privilege in Today’s Wellness World
“As a black girl, a black woman, I felt a lot of pressure [in modeling] to look a certain way. There was a pressure to walk a certain way, talk a certain way. It was at a time when there weren’t many black models doing shows, and I was doing them. I spent hours and money on really long weaves, and it was a lot of time and maintenance to look basically like a black Barbie. I’m slowly learning how to love my natural features.”
“I feel like for a long time in fashion people accepted the ways things were as just ‘how it is.’ Now, you have the power to actually change those things. Social media gave more people a platform to speak up. To say ‘I want to be represented.’ Brands can’t be openly racist if that’s what they are, because people will call them out — they have a voice now.”
Read Mélodie’s full BodyTalk interview on racism in the fashion industry: Mélodie Monrose Doesn’t Want to Be Put In A Box.
“In Canada, race is very covert. Everyone thinks they’re post-race. Not minorities — minorities know they’re not post-race. But the white people I grew up around think that racism isn’t a thing anymore, and that we evolved and landed in this place where everyone loves each other. It’s very well-meant, but it’s also very hurtful — racism is so institutional and expressed in such blatant ways when you are a minority, so if you can’t even talk about it, it can be really isolating.”
“I’m a black woman, a woman of color, and in that sense, those two things are always working on my identity. That’s where the term intersectionality comes into play. There’s being a woman, which is one form of oppression that we share as women. And then there’s being a person of color. That’s not necessarily something I always thought about, but it’s where I sometimes feel I need to untie the two and recognize there are these different forces happening.”
Read AKUA’s fully BodyTalk interview on the intersection of race and gender: Writing Music To Find Peace
“I’m a stylist. I’m originally from New York — Brooklyn, born and raised. I’ve been working in fashion for six years. The industry has changed a lot since I started. I definitely think brands are becoming more inclusive and creative talent are becoming more conscious of the images they create and portray, making sure it’s diverse. You know all shapes and races and backgrounds. Which is really exciting.”
"There’s a long way to go, but at least the conversation is being had. I think people speaking up and calling out brands for not being inclusive [started the change]. That’s been the biggest shift. Especially people in positions of power speaking out.”
Read Tchesmeni’s BodyTalk article on values, beauty standards and aging: Stylist Tchesmeni Leonard Keeps Herself Present
“There has been so much negative masculine energy in the past few years. The shift really occurred in 2016, when people thought the election would go the other way. When it didn't, people had to look in the mirror and really recognize the state our world was in.”
“The toolbox we have been using has been full of this harshly separatist, masculine energy that can be brute. But masculinity can alternatively be strong, unifying and connective, and that’s what we need right now. Not a removal of masculinity, but a healing of it.”
Read Zariya’s full BodyTalk interview on healing by listening and the duty of artists: The Feminine is Rising Up
“From an early age, I was very aware that nobody looked like me. When I started modeling, it was like I still didn’t fit. Every kind of advertisement I’d see, anything I’d buy looked the same. It didn’t really bother me — I was just aware of the way it was. I feel very passionate about putting a different image out there. It’s as simple as that. We should be seeing all different types of people from all different races.”
“I’m in a constant state of, ‘Oh that was great, we’ve made so much progress’ and then ‘No, we have such a long way to go.’ Unpicking your relationship with your body, and unpicking the fashion industry and its archaic rules and statements about how you should be is key. Being able to be part of that movement excites me.t
Read Alva’s full BodyTalk interview on strength of character, underrepresentation and fighting for change every day: Everyone Feels Down Sometimes.
“I know this sounds crazy, but I get anxious about becoming obsolete. Disappearing. We value certain things in our culture now, especially in New York, that creates this feeling that if you’re not doing enough, people are going to forget you. You never, ever take stock of all that you’ve accomplished and all that you do.”
“I’ve had to really heal some pretty bad writer-editor relationships that stuck with me. Those ideas in my head that say, ‘I’m inadequate, or not good enough, and never will be.’ When, in fact, people continue to give me opportunities because I do produce great work and I do have a voice. When you start to feel like you’re off track, that’s the conversation you need to have with yourself again.”
Read Marjon Carlos’ full BodyTalk interview on writing, confidence and finding your voice: Slowing Down Without Disappearing
“I was 18 years old when I started working in fashion. This was my dream: to be able to see the inside of all the magazines I read. There’s this [desire] to be accepted into ‘the club.’ You’re on constant audition to get accepted, but once you do, you look around and think, ‘What’s so great about this?’”
“I pushed myself so hard to get somewhere in my career and when I got there, I hated the life I had built. I went through some personal things – a betrayal, a breakup – but the 2015 election really shifted things, too. I was reading the news, watching everything that was happening, yet my job was to tell women how to dress exactly like Kate Hudson, from head to toe, every day. I finally thought, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore.’”
Read Danielle’s full BodyTalk interview on hustle culture and burnout: Breathing Through The Burnout
“I’ve been thinking a lot about taking more time for myself between modeling and freelancing... I’m learning to put on the brakes. I’m learning to say no. I’m learning that the worry of disappointing someone, because I would rather be at home doing my laundry, should not fall on me.”
“You spend so much energy being really friendly or worrying about how you will be perceived. You care so much about making other people comfortable, that it can be exhausting for yourself. Learning to reclaim time for yourself means cutting out the things that are uncomfortable for you and doing things that feel good for you. I’m learning this more each day.”
Read Imani’s full BodyTalk interview on sizing, standards and boundaries: Measuring Success With New Standards.
“Black generational trauma is a cycle. It’s ingrained in our DNA. The Black population statistically has higher blood pressure and is more prone to heart disease, which makes COVID-19 a death sentence. The reason Black people are dying at a faster rate due to COVID-19 all circles back to generational trauma: the anxieties of living as a Black person in America.
We are so lucky to be in a generation that is extremely conscious and open to tackling the trauma that has been passed down to us. Talking about therapy and mental health is so important, now more than ever.”
Read Matisse’s full BodyTalk interview on mental health and generational trauma: Making Peace With The Present.