It’s a chilly, rainy day at a coffee shop in Greenwich village and the Colored Girl Campaign founders, Victory Jones and Tori Elizabeth, are laughing it up with a few fans of their latest photo campaign series, Rebirth. The rain kept a few people home from the meet and greet, but the ladies decide the few new Black lady faces crowded around the wooden tables are more than worth the time. Soft chit-chat eventually melts into everyone contributing info about their careers and diverse ambitions. Jones and Elizabeth engage each woman in the circle like cousins—complimenting dreadlocks and inquiring about families. The cozy meet-up concludes with swapped Instagram handles and promises to meet up with this one and email that one. In many ways, it was the embodiment of what The Colored Girl Campaign promotes with its photography: Unity, inclusion, acceptance, friendship.
The series, which first hit the web this summer, celebrates women of color in every shade and works to dismantle notions that Black or Brown beauty are at all inferior.
“We saw a need for diversity in media amongst women of color,” says Jones.
“We decided to build our own movement to showcase that. Our aim is to inspire, unite and empower women of color while creating awareness using disruptive content, organic beauty and fashion campaigns with a deeper purpose.”
Clad in rich, brown and nude tones—the models pull you into the photos heart first as they stand together in poses that empathetically evoke sisterhood. The internet went appropriately nuts with outlets such as Teen Vogue, Fashion Bomb Daily, ESSENCE, InStyle and Cosmo covering the images. Thanks to the buzz, Elizabeth and Jones recently attended Women’s Entrepreneurship Day and discussed beauty on the TD Jakes show—all with one of their campaign’s breakout stars, Khoudia Diop. Because of CGC, the Senegalese model’s Instagram now holds 325K followers—and counting.
But who are these ladies who decided to put their powerful two cents in the visual conversation about women of color?
Elizabeth and Jones “30 something” met—in millennial fashion—on Instagram. “Mutual admiration led to a meeting and we’ve basically been besties ever since Tori moved from Texas almost two years ago,” says Jones, who splits time between New York and New Jersey. When Elizabeth, who works as a personal stylist, isn’t putting together more melanin magic for the CGC—she’s hanging with her boyfriend or traveling. Jones is more into yoga (“I can do a handstand!” she says), reading and cooking when she isn’t working on projects as a recording artist and voice actor. Even with their full lives, they still make time for self-care and maintain easy beauty routines.
Both women cite lots of water and plenty of sleep as their go-to methods, but they both also swear by African black soap and essential oils.
The women are also no strangers to having their self-images challenged—hence, their commitment to redirecting the beauty narrative on women of color. “In middle & high school, I was teased for being skinny and having petite features, by other curvier black girls,” Jones shares. “I remember feeling less than because the other girls had more womanly bodies and teased me for being different ‘like a white girl’. It made me feel inadequate. But I learned to like and love my petite features because they’re mine. Passed down from my parents and their parents. I look like my family and what’s not to love about that!?”
As the Colored Girl Campaign expands from its initial photo series format to larger, multimedia projects, the ladies hope to address a variety of improper standards of beauty that women and girls must battle. They will collaborate with the YouTube brand for their next campaign, which guarantees a larger audience filled with more “colored girls” to empower.
“We (women of color) deserve to be represented properly in media and seen to be just as beautiful,” they declare. “We do not need to adhere to a Westernized, Eurocentric standard of beauty to be seen that way. And even if we choose to, it’s still beautiful. But the point is that WE SET THE STANDARD for ourselves, and don’t let anyone impose their own upon us. Our brown is beautiful!”