In the age of social media, perceptions of perfection and beauty have become increasingly distorted. Feelings of inadequacy can abound when what we see on our timelines doesn’t reflect what we see in the mirror. For Black women in particular, who are already told more often that we’re somehow lacking, the pressure to change our bodies and how we look, is even more prevalent. And while we know deep down in our hearts that we’re beautiful just the way we are, it feels good to hear it, and see it from others that look like us.
Thankfully, that’s where Black body-positive influencers and content creators step in to let us know that we are already more than enough. So, as we celebrate the feats, firsts and fabulousness of Black women all month long, TheGrio reached out to some of Instagram’s top motivators. And whether you’re looking for some style tips, need to jump start your fitness journey, desire words of affirmation or are looking for artful inspiration, here are 10 women you need to be following.
Pia Schiavo-Campo, Body Image and Style Expert (@mixedfatchick)
“Living in a marginalized, politicized body is an act of bravery.”
There’s a pretty good chance you’ve seen this fashionista styling down your Instagram feeds. In early 2011, Pia Schiavo-Campo launched her now insanely popular blog Chronicles of a Mixed Fat Chick, following years of dieting and suffering from an eating disorder. For her, the decision to share her journey towards self-love and acceptance came at a time that the industry needed it the most. “In my mid 30s I grew exhausted of complaining about the lack of representation of women of color and women of size in the media,” Schiavo-Campo tells The Grio. “Fat women and women of size, are terribly underrepresented, and when we do see them, they are the subject of weight loss ads or play the fat, funny sidekick.” Since the creation of the blog, Schiavo-Campo has gone on co-author the book, Love It!: 234 Inspirations and Activities to Help You Love Your Body, and continues to be fashion inspiration to thousands of followers. For women of color in particular, Shiavo-Campo will always continue to advocate. “Living in a marginalized, politicized body is an act of bravery. And it simply shouldn’t be that way. We should all be able to exist safely in our bodies no matter what color, size, gender or level of ability we have.”
Erika Nicole Kendall, Healthy Body Image Expert (@bgg2wl)
“The only way a woman can be her best health advocate is if she approaches her body from a position of compassion.”
A trip to Erika Nicole Kendall’s page will leave you seriously salivating. This body image expert found her calling after health problems caused her to change her relationship with food and exercise. “To me, as someone who had health issues that made weight loss necessary, I wanted information that would help inform my choices without all the language of shame and size hatred. I didn’t hate my larger body. I wanted information that was just as compassionate to me as I aim to be to myself.” Kendall, who proudly describes herself as feminine with a hint of alpha dog, wants women to know that it’s okay to like what they see in the mirror. “I think that the only way a woman can truly be her best health advocate is if she approaches her body from a position of empathy and compassion.”
Sonya Renee Taylor, Founder and Executive Officer of The Body is Not An Apology (@sonyareneetaylor)
“We are radically and unapologetically perfect as we are, and just as we are not.”
Sonya Renee Taylor is all about the “radical.” Radical self-love, that is. The Founder and Executive Officer of The Body Is Not An Apology, a digital media and education company promoting self-love and body empowerment, is shaking up the way people see themselves. “Much of the beauty and fashion industry exists to tell us we’re deficient in some areas and sell us some solution for that deficiency. My message is that we are radically and unapologetically perfect as we are, and just as we are not.” When Taylor isn’t busy living between the California Bay and Aotearoa, New Zealand, she spends her time promoting her best-selling book, The Body is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love and delivering powerful commencement speeches at universities such as Smith College.
Latoya Shauntay Snell, Founder of Running Fat Chef (@iamlshauntay)
“I started coming into my voice through fitness.”
With 10 marathons, three ultra-marathons and a 100-mile marathon in this year alone, Latoya Shauntay Snell is a busy woman. “I started coming into my voice through fitness, and the fitness gave me this placebo to try different things,” she says. The running enthusiast and weight-lifting powerhouse is adamant about not allowing the opinions of others to affect the way she, or others see themselves. “I ended up putting myself in the hospital in 2015 by listening to people tell me that I should eat 1200 to 1400 calories while doing marathon training.” It was that turn of events that shifted Snell’s mindset toward body positivity and has inspired her to doing things the right way. If you want to follow Snell’s journey, nab some amazing recipes, or just need some words of encouragement, visit RunningFatChef.com.
Kourtney Pope, Fashion & Beauty content creator (@editressinchic)
“I find it interesting that we aren’t seeing more plus faces in campaigns— but, I’ll be changing that.”
“I have always felt it was my responsibility to put out into the world what I have always received ever since I was a little girl. For me, that was consistent encouragement and love,” says content creator Kourtney Pope. The NYC-based social media queen whose Instagram is bustling with fashion-inspo for days is making it her mission to change the industry she loves so much. “I find it interesting that we aren’t seeing more plus faces represented in campaigns— but, I’ll be changing that.” Though Pope appreciates the recognition she’s received, she wouldn’t consider herself a ‘body positivity advocate.’ Instead, she says her only goal is to be a good person, work hard, and to aid intersectionality within the fashion and beauty space.
Marie Denee, Founder of The Curvy Fashionista (@mariedenee)
“We are all unique, possess a beauty that makes each and every one of us special.”
Since its inception, The Curvy Fashionista has worked to showcase plus size women in a light that mainstream media hardly shares. That empowering spirit, comes straight from its dynamic founder Marie Denee. “We are all unique, possess a beauty that makes each and every one of us special. Society likes to put parameters on beauty—setting their ideal definition or perception of it,” she says. The creation of the hugely popular body-positive blog came from what Denee calls a ‘beautiful accident.’ After losing her job in retail, Denee used her ability to make women feel beautiful to form the platform that now has a following of over 90,000. The media powerhouse has a message for anyone struggling to love their body: “Instead of focusing on what you do not like, what you wish you could change… change your mindset. Change what and how you see yourself.
Mirna Valerio, Runner and Author (@themirnavator)
“I’m still on a fitness journey.”
“It was never my intention to become a body positive influencer. I was just on a fitness journey, I’m still on a fitness journey. I started this in 2008 during a health scare when I thought I was having a heart attack,” says Mirna Valerio of her now decade-plus quest to encourage people to get moving. Thankfully, it was just a panic attack, but after a doctor asked her if she wanted to be around to see her son grow up, she made the decision to recommit to getting active. In 2011, while training for her first full-marathon, Valerio started Fat Girl Running, a blog that she never expected to gain such popularity. Since then, the mother of one, who’s recently published her first book A Beautiful Work In Progress, is currently living and training for her next adventure in the snowy mountains of Vermont.
Jessamyn Stanley, Yoga Teacher & Author (@mynameisjessamyn)
“Instead of judging someone else, focus on moisturizing your spirit and minding your own business.”
Jessamyn Stanley has rapidly become one of the most sought-after yoga instructors in the country. Selling out yoga classes from New York to California, Stanley is breaking down the belief that a plus woman can’t be an active woman. The journey hasn’t always been easy, however, especially being in the public eye. In an Instagram caption, Stanley penned a note to the trolls of social media, many of which, had passed blistering judgment about her body. “Stop commenting on the lifestyles of people you don’t know. You are judging on the basis of internet curation and you look stupid as a result. The people you choose to judge are just as complicated as you. Instead of judging someone else, focus on moisturizing your spirit and minding your own business.” We couldn’t agree more.
Raval Davis, Actress & Body Confidence Expert (@ravaldavis)
“I hope you look at yourself in the mirror today and say I love you.”
Raval Davis wears quite a few hats. She’s an actress, a writer, a cycling instructor, the list goes on. But in the day to day hustle and bustle, she always makes sure to encourage others to see the light within themselves. And when she’s not hosting events or creating content designed to make women of color feel beautiful, or starring on the big screen, she’s using her Instagram platform to send messages of self-love: “Above all I hope you look at yourself in the mirror today and say I love you.”
Nona Faustine, Photographer & Visual Artist (@nonafaustine)
“It was about defiance … it was about my protest as a woman and as an artist, [to talk] to the art world where [no one] would never see anyone like that on the walls with my caliber, body type, color.”
Take a trip to Nona Faustine’s Instagram page and you’ll immediately be engulfed in a world of Black art. Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Faustine came from a family of artists and photographers who made it their mission to display Black people in a light of celebration. Her most famous work, came in 2015 with a collection titled White Shoes, in which she portrayed the history of slavery, while incorporating how her own body and the body of other Black women were represented in the media. The nude photoshoot was critically acclaimed and went on to be reviewed both in the US and around the world. “It was about defiance … it was about my protest as a woman and as an artist, [to talk] to the art world where [no one] would never see anyone like that on the walls with my caliber, body type, color.” Faustine said, reflecting on the inspiration for the “White Shoes” series.”
Blake Newby, a Houston native, and Howard University graduate, is a freelance beauty and lifestyle writer living in New York City. Her passion for creating content that is inclusive of women of all races and ethnicities has lead her to writing for TheGrio, Glamour, Madame Noire, Teen Vogue, and Stylecaster. When she’s not stocking up on the latest and greatest in skincare, she enjoys keeping up with pop culture news and binging YouTube makeup and hair tutorials. Follow Blake on Instagram: @blakelawren.