Yahoo’s Diversity in Beauty Awards (the DIBs) highlights and celebrates personalities, brands, and products that embody inclusiveness and innovation. We enlisted eight experts who have championed diversity in their careers and cover all bases of the beauty industry to vote on the best in makeup, skin care, hair care, and more. Here, DIBs Model Activist winner Leomie Anderson opens up to Yahoo Beauty Director Dana Oliver about the harsh realities of being a minority in the fashion world and creating a “safe space” online for young, female voices.
One day last year, one of my Twitter followers direct messaged me and asked me to write a piece on my own personal blog, Cracked China Cup, on consent, the pressures young girls were under, and their right to say “no.” Although I had never written anything similar before, I knew I had a lot of young female followers and wanted to set an example for them. I wasn’t expecting it, but the post went viral and was covered by nearly every major media outlet, and I realized then that I had a responsibility to be a voice for young women.
I was given the opportunity to speak at an all-girls school, and when I asked who these girls would turn to for advice on situations like consent, they all said if they didn’t have an older sister or family member they were close with, they had no one to ask for advice. This is what truly pushed me to start LAPP. Three of the girls I spoke to knew someone who attempted to or succeeded in committing suicide because of their leaked sexual images, and I felt like I needed do something to help these girls.
In my industry, I come up against a plethora of situations, especially as a woman of color. From being 17 years old in Milan and waiting at a casting for nearly three hours to be told “We don’t want African people this season” to being berated with insults by a hairdresser because I said a certain product wouldn’t work for my hair, I’ve experienced a lot. It’s one of the reasons I am so vocal when it comes to the treatment of black models. I want younger girls to feel they have a right to speak up for themselves.
In today’s society, women’s voices are silenced; our concerns and experiences often erased or distorted under misogyny and the male gaze. I wanted women to have a safe space on the Internet to find advice and inspiration from other women all over the world and have the opportunity to have their voice and perspectives heard.
So many people have something important to say, but in a society obsessed with follower count, some people never put their voices out there in fear of not being heard by a lot of people. I felt it was important I use the following and the influence that I have for good and allow other women to be heard and seen in the process.
As hard as running LAPP is, the thing that keeps me going and knowing I’m doing the right thing is reading over people’s submissions. We have women of all ages and all walks of life submitting to the blog, but the pieces that stick with me are usually from sexual and domestic abuse sufferers. Some have been girls I went to school with who I never imagined to be in violent relationships, but that’s the whole point — you never know what someone is going through.
A recent submission is about a girl’s arranged marriage. It didn’t take place in a country where these things are common practice; she lives down the road from me in London and had never spoken to anyone about the situation before submitting to LAPP. These are the posts that make me realize I’m doing something really good, because not only am I offering a place for these women to open up (anonymously if they wish) and speak about their experience, but LAPP allows others who may be going through the same thing to know they’re not alone and get advice from someone who fully understands their situation. It’s kind of like therapy for these women.
I started LAPP from my tiny box room in South London, and six months later, it is still run from there but has developed into something much more than I could have ever imagined. I want more women to come forward and share their stories and perspectives with us and join a community of epic women who want to be heard.
Your voice matters. Our voices matter, and we can truly instigate change by uniting and fighting to be heard.
Read more on Yahoo Style + Beauty:
- Yahoo’s Diversity in Beauty Awards: Celebrating Inclusiveness and Innovation
- This Makeup Artist Saw the Cosmetics Industry Failing Women of Color — and Changed It
- Beauty Brands That Broke Diversity Barriers in 2016