Photo Series "We Are Queens" Reminds Us of Black Women's Inherent Royalty

by Debbie-Jean Lemonte

As a young girl growing up, we all were given the Barbie doll, the supposed ideal of "real beauty." For some of us, that ideal of beauty is what takes root in our minds as little girls. We must be skinny, fair-skinned, glamorous with expensive cars and great jobs to be considered beautiful. As we are growing up, we see in the media the same exact ideal constantly and persistently pushed into the faces and brains of not only our children, but also the women who are elected to build our communities and nurture our future generations.

How do we expect to teach our daughters about real beauty if we are struggling with our own acceptance of what our beauty is and where our beauty lies?

I've witnessed friends and family members suffer through depression because of this beauty ideal, one they couldn't reach. Some have contemplated suicide, including myself. I remember staring at a knife, ready to cut myself, ready to slice away the self-hate because I didn't think I was pretty enough. I didn't have long nice hair or amazing skin. I didn't have a "Ken" to fulfill me as a woman. However, in that moment, I was able to remind myself that there will never be another me. I am unique. I am special. I am great.

After a special encounter with a young lady whose mother flew her from Chicago for a birthday session, I devoted the "We Are Queens" project to little girls and women like her: women who are trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in. We Are Queens is an ongoing photo series and movement, in collaboration with other creatives, that aims to destroy the media's constant portrayal of narrow beauty ideals, as they corrupt the minds and self-esteem of our young women and girls who walk through life searching for approval. The purpose of this series is to inform, inspire, and motivate our women (both young and old) to understand their value as human beings and to be a positive catalyst in their communities. Our women are just as important as our men, and their value to society must be acknowledged.

Regardless of the path each of us takes, we are still ROYALTY. So when you feel down, alone, and misunderstood, remember that you are a QUEEN. You will fall sometimes and things will get rocky, but never lose your sense of self or your crown.

Check out some of the images from "We Are Queens" below.

Photos: Debbie-Jean Lemonte

Debbie-Jean Lemonte is a NY-based photographer. She aims to use photography as a therapeutic avenue, as well as to inspire others.