Lenora’s #daremebeautiful Instagram Movement Will Force You to Love Your Imperfections

Lenora and I developed our girl crush on Instagram. I don’t know how I found her, or how she found me. But, she caught my eye with her beauty and her unapologetic attitude towards it. Her bold photos, striking full lips, pronounced cheekbones and golden brown skin always has me on the edge of my Instagram seat ready for a new post. That’s what I’ve grown to love about Instagram: the ability to girl crush and then connect with some of the dopest brown girls on the gram. Read Lenora’s beauty journey below.

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Do you ever get told that you look anything other than Black or African-American, rather?

I do actually. So, in my neighborhood, it’s primarily Dominican. I get told a lot that they assume that I’m from an island. They think that I’m West Indian, which, I’m not. Or, when I travel even, they’re like “Oh, you must be from Cuba or something.” I’m like no, I’m just from Chicago. Regular black folk. You know? [Laughs]

You know, I thought you were West Indian though.

I get that a lot. Which isn’t a bad thing. I love being Black American. West Indian women are beautiful, too.

Growing up, did you ever have like, “brown girl beauty” insecurities?

Absolutely. I actually struggled a lot growing up because I have a chronic illness. I have a condition I would liken to arthritis. But it’s a long name that no one cares about, and I’ve had to have several surgeries as a child, so I have lots of scars. So, that was definitely something growing up that I was very insecure about. You know, having all those scars on my body. I also have very prominent features. So like I have a big nose; I have my momma’s big nose! [Laughs]

I don’t think you have a big nose. You have do have nice full lips.

I have high cheekbones, which never bothered me but I would say my nose and my lips bothered me growing up for sure. I didn’t get teased. Wait, I’m lying, I did in high school. I had to think about it. In high school, there were a few times when girls teased me about having a bigger mouth.

A bigger mouth?

I remember this one time this girl was like you poke your lips out a lot. And I’m like…no that’s just how they are.

Was she black?

She was not … you know! So yeah, I definitely had a number of different body issues growing up. And I’m a curvier girl; I’ve always been even as a little girl. I always joke and say I have the same body that I’ve had since I was little, without the boobs. [Laughs] So I definitely got teased for being a curvier kid. I definitely struggled with that.

And the shift in your confidence seemed to happen when? Because you exude confidence despite your insecurities.

That’s a good question. I think for me it was gradual. My mother really impressed upon me at a younger age to really accept myself, period. Never compromise, have a complete love of self. That started very young. I would say personally the shift began to happen like post-college, to be honest with you. So I was good and grown! I went through high school, college too, still struggling with those insecurities a little bit and then I kinda grew up and was like F it, this is the body I got. This is just what I have, and I just think over time you make things work for you. Like, I hated my big nose, and big lips and you know whatever else back in the day, and now it’s like those things are celebrated. So, it just happens over time.  

photography / cicely ford

So let’s talk Dare Me Beautiful.

Yes definitely. So #daretobebeautiful started, I’m gonna be really embarrassed to say this, like ten years ago. [Laughing] It started as like a random beauty blog and I was bad at beauty blogs!

I was dealing with my own issues with my own appearance. It was like something else was calling me, but I put it [Dare Me Beautiful] away for many moons. And recently, I reintroduced the hashtag randomly on my social media. I just felt like after dealing with my own issues and insecurities, that my story wasn’t unique, especially for black women. You know? We get it from all sides. You know we get media telling us how we should look, we get our community telling us how we should look, and you know that affects you. So for me, my interest in beauty, my hashtag, my ambitions around that really birthed Dare Me Beautiful.

I love the hashtag and I think you’re doing great. What is the most frustrating thing that you feel the media either says or does to Black women and our bodies?

Ooh, so much yes. It’s so much. I would say, first of all, you know as black women we’re over-sexualized anyway, so that’s number one. That comes from you our music, hip-hop music, and really it’s just been this way historically, since the beginning of time. Our bodies have been objectified. Right? Particularly if you’re curvy and so, what I was coming up against with talking with other black women, was this topic of “what if I don’t have big lips and a fat butt, am I not beautiful and black enough?”

Stereotypical stuff around how black women should look that really bothers me the most.

But then it’s like when we do look like that…

Exactly! Because you and I do. As a matter of fact let me bring up another great point being a curvier child, I definitely struggled with that, people made assumptions about me.

Oh my God. Me too.

As a kid, because I had big boobs and a round bottom at 12, they thought I was promiscuous. I’m like okay. So again I think those negative seeds are planted in black girl’s minds early. And that really bothers me.

I remember I was on the phone with this guy in college, and I told him I was a virgin. He said to me, “you’re not a virgin”, and I was like excuse me? He was like, “I mean, I mean you’re like really curvy.”

It makes me feel worse when black women say these things about my body, though.

I think it’s a conversation that needs to be had, honestly. Because like I say, our bodies are again, defined by every other community. But it’s like, it’s ours. We get to define what we consider beautiful, our sexuality, our bodies and how we see ourselves. That to me has very much been a passion.

Follow Lenora on Instagram and her #daremebeautiful movement. Check out her site when you get a chance, too.