Pride celebrations over the past month have looked different this year because of the coronavirus pandemic and the nationwide protests against police brutality. In place of the corporate sponsored parades and parties that have become standard over the past few decades, the monthlong celebration of the LGBTQ+ community has gone back to its roots: Stonewall.
This year's marches, however, have been particularly focused on achieving justice for Black trans people, who are some of the most vulnerable in the community and have largely been left out of mainstream media coverage of police violence.
Beauty giant Dove has captured this moment in its new Pride campaign, titled Nothing More Beautiful. The film spotlights six activists in the BIPOC LGBTQ+ community—Raquel Willis, Stoyan Francis, Stella Martin, Courtney McKinney, Bamby Salcedo, and Marvin “Mimi” Shelton—who have worked their entire life pushing for change.
Not only does it showcase their tireless work and moving words, it celebrates their beauty, joy, and pride in themselves. In a dark and uncertain time, it's a ray of light, and you can tangibly feel the heart behind every single word or image. While there's an understandable skepticism when it comes to brands making projects like this, this one rings true for two reasons: who's in front of the camera and who's running the show. Dove is also donating funds and personal care products to each organization the activists represent.
“I think it's so wonderful when people who are living these experiences have the platform and the resources to share about our lives,” says Tourmaline, the filmmaker and activist Dove tapped to create the film. For Tourmaline, who is a Black trans woman, hiring people with the lived experience being discussed in these sorts of projects goes beyond just offering them a seat at the table (which is desperately needed as Black trans people are four times more likely than the greater population to experience unemployment and poverty)—it also makes for better art.
“We bring all of who we are into that conversation, and we bring the beauty of who we are,” she says. “It's so clear and meaningful when that happens, when brands resource the people who are living these experiences, we can feel the power of that.”
Her film, above, is proof. The reason it feels so joyous, so powerful, and so much like a real call to action is because we're seeing it through her eyes.
While the beauty industry has long been welcoming of the LGBTQ+ community—and their depictions in media have increased—it historically hasn't represented the full spectrum of identities. While films like this remind us the industry is heading in the right direction when it comes to empowering the community at large, it still has a long way to go.
We caught up with Tourmaline to discuss how the industry can better serve the community, how the film with Dove came together, and what finding joy in times of darkness looks like to her.
Glamour: How did the project come together?
Tourmaline: It’s all a little bit of a blur, it happened so fast. Dove was really interested in making a campaign around this moment we’re in and approached me about it. Before I was making films, I was an organizer for 15 years around issues like police violence and prisons, queer and trans issues, and access to our basic survival needs.
I had been wanting to make something about this moment—and about the momentum behind this movement—that is really palpable. You can feel the electricity of what's going on right now, and Dove was really excited about that vision. At the protest at the Brooklyn Museum, 15,000 people showed up for Black trans lives, and I think that was a real awakening. It was such a powerful moment. I was excited to bring that energy into the work.
The other part of the campaign is about supporting local, grassroots organizations that are doing the work with communities that were impacted by the pandemic. It's important to shine on people who are doing the work on a local level and have been doing it for a long time.
How did you decide who to feature in the film?
To me, it was really important to feature people who are powerful, whose beauty is an ongoing self-actualizing process, who are leaders in local community or national community, and who are doing the work with vital organizations. There’s an abundance of BIPOC leaders across the entire LGBTQ+ spectrum.
What was it like to put the film together remotely?
I'd never made any kind of film or work like this before. But part of the history of Black art is that we can create meaningful, moving work regardless of the conditions. Sometimes that work is seen by the world, or sometimes it's just drawings that are seen by us or some close friends. I love the softness of the Zoom footage. I love the selfies that were incorporated. It's a reminder that we're surrounded by beauty all the time.
The video is so joyful and full of life. Why is it important to celebrate the community's beauty and pride, especially at such a heavy time?
I wanted to make a film about two things: the ways that we can be in a mess of a thing and still reflect back our beauty and our joy, and then share how we do it all the time. It’s important to reflect that back and to amplify that message. I've experienced firsthand how remembering our power—which is so entangled and tied to our beauty—creates the possibilities for a world we want to live in. Meaning, when we are really in our power, we have such a huge effect on the world.
Everyone in that film is a visionary, a brilliant leader, and offers great insight to the world we ought to be moving toward. A world where we’re all feeling free. I think that's a thing to celebrate. What we’re saying is: “It should feel good to be alive. It should feel really easy to be in our beauty.”
And here are some things that would allow for that: access to our basic survival needs, the freedom to come together, the power of adornment, and remembering the people who started Stonewall and Pride were living that every day. You can’t separate that out.
What can the beauty industry as a whole be doing better to support and serve people of color in the LGBTQ+ community?
I would like to see us all remember that everyone deserves to feel beautiful. And in order to feel beautiful, we have to have ease in it. Meaning there are structural barriers that prevent people from moving around and feeling beautiful. Whether it's laws that regulate what people can and cannot wear or whether it’s violence that happens when Black trans people are expressing who we are, those barriers affect our freedom to express our beauty.
So first we need to address what those barriers are, then work to dismantle those. Then we need to make sure we're centering and lifting up the voices of people who are directly impacted by those barriers. When they speak about what needs to happen in order for them to find beauty and have an easy time in that, everyone should listen. Then we need to give them the resources to do that.
What does beauty mean to you?
Beauty is so important to me, but I'm also in my own process of remembering—on a personal level—that I am beautiful. I'm a person, just like other Black trans people, who has been hit with a lot of messages contrary to that.
That's why it's so important to me to make art and express myself. And to lift up and resource other people in my community who are doing that all the time. Because when 15,000 people show up for Black trans lives, it helps me remember my beauty. Or when everyone on Instagram is sharing about the beauty of Black trans people, it helps me release some of these beliefs I was trained to believe about my beauty or my body looking a certain way.
When it comes to my community, I know that we’re beautiful. But when it comes to me, it's like, “My God, no one look at me.” And so part of what my work is about is healing. I know I’m not the only one who was hit with these messages. It's meaningful to be able to reflect back how wonderful we are, how beautiful we are, and how powerful we are.
So beauty, to me, means feeling easy in adornment. Feeling comfortable in my body. Feeling like it's easy to move around and easy to find pleasure. It's easy to go out in what I want to wear, and meet up with the people I want to meet. It's easy to laugh, and we don't have to worry about violence. It doesn't have to be a life-or-death situation every time we want to move around—it shouldn't be.
It's being showered with loving reminders about how beautiful we are. It's dismantling the barriers that control us. It's people coming together to remind us of and celebrate our power—just like at the Brooklyn Museum and just like with this film. That's what beauty means to me.
Bella Cacciatore is the beauty associate at Glamour. Follow her on Instagram @bellacacciatore_.
Originally Appeared on Glamour