I gained my superpower the day God decided I would be born a Black woman. My skin color prepared me for years of strength, resilience, power, and drive. I learned early on that my complexion would cause me to be under-represented in media, overlooked for work opportunities, racially profiled, underfunded in the business world, and so much more. I also learned that despite the negative effects of being Black, I was born with the drive to combat every obstacle thrown in my way.
Everyday we’re inspired by the powerful Black women observed in media. This year we made history by electing Kamala Harris, the first African American and Asian American Vice President to run for office. In sports we have Serena Williams, a professional tennis star who was dubbed the greatest athlete in the world, and Simone Biles, the most decorated American gymnast. We can’t talk iconic Black women without mentioning artists like Beyoncé, Rihanna, Toni Braxton, Regina King, Ava DuVernay, Yara Shahidi, Stacey Abrams, and so many more.
We have a wealth of Black women in media that inspire us from afar, but what about the women who directly touch our lives everyday? From teachers and lawyers, to mothers and aunties, we are surrounded by influential figures who are making shifts in the world on a daily basis. Because Photographer Dom Pierre and makeup artist Natalia Restrepo firmly believe the future is female, the two artists came together to launch the “Extraordinary Women Meet Afro Futurism” Series, a 36-photo collection that highlights the everyday strong, Black woman.
The series, although in it’s beginning stages, has targeted 3 of the 36 strong Black women to be captured on film. Among them are author Nyesha Davis-Williams; Lawyer Shari Mattis; and me, fashion and beauty editor for HelloBeautiful. I sat down with both Dom and Natalia to explore the inspiration behind the project, why Black women, and the direction of the series.
Dom: This is Nyesha. Her and her wife wrote a children’s book “Umi and Uma: The story of Two Mommies and a Baby”. I chose her because her energy screams confidence.
Marsha: What inspired you to highlight Black women specifically?
Dom: Well, I got into photography because I wasn’t seeing enough positive representation of Black women in my world. I recently realized women of color weren’t in many of my favorite depictions of the future growing up, like The Jetsons or Star Wars. If they were in any futuristic depictions, they weren’t represented in the best light. While exploring that I found the term “Afro-futurism”. It fascinated me because Black women are the original mothers of civilization and I want to make the statement that there is no future without them. They are the portal to our future. So when Nat and I started working together it was a perfect opportunity to highlight these extraordinary women of color in all shades, everywhere, doing and being everything and looking beautiful while doing it.
Dom: This is Shari Mattis. She is a married mother of 2 and a claims lawyer. Currently she is one of few Black female managers in her field. Her look demands attention then when you get to know her, her warm energy keeps you engaged.
Marsha: What qualities do you look for when targeting a woman to be featured in this series?
Dom: Energy. The energy that she gives off that adds to, or sometimes over powers her physical attributes. While working on my passion, and I think Nat will agree, I’ve come across a lot of beautiful people; models, celebrities, dancers, actresses but there are women who I find even more beautiful that don’t fit in those categories. I think that featuring essential workers, mothers, best friends, professionals, daughters, sisters and grandmas and giving them an opportunity for their beauty to be celebrated is key. I want to say to these women… “I want to show the world the beauty I see in you.”
Natalia: Beauty standards are continuously changing and they always seem to make us forget two things: 1. Beauty is relative and 2. Everyone has that one thing that makes them individually beautiful. On a visual level, I study a person’s face, focus on their strongest feature and build an entire look around that feature, but as Dominic said, on an emotional level, sometimes it’s just their energy that creates a look all on its own. I think we both thrive off of that energy!
Dom: You! I chose you because your energy is bright and warm. You seem to always glow.
Marsha: I’m humbled to be part of your project! I am a fan of anyone who promotes Black women because that’s a continuous mission of mine. Black women are the most powerful, beautiful, and resilient beings in this world. You’ve selected 3 amazing people to kick off your series, but you’re looking for an additional 33 phenomenal women. What is the process to be part of this project?
Dom: Yes, I’m looking for 33 extraordinary women of color to be apart of my new collection. The Beautiful, hard working, entrepreneurs, essential works, mothers, grandmother’s, sisters, and daughters. We will create a mood board together. Discussing and play with ideas for hair, make-up and lighting for 2 different looks. The entire session will take about 3 hours. You’ll spend some time with our MUA and Stylist. You’ll receive 12 professionally edited images and a 20×30 canvas of your favorite image. If you’d like to apply, please follow me on IG and DM me for more pricing.
Marsha: What is the exact name of this collection?
Dom: The title is still in the works. The project has evolved since Nat and I started in 2019 but the focus has stayed the same. Creating art with melanin rich women and all its spectrums.
Between managing full-time jobs and their respected passions, Dom and Natalia plan on shooting one woman per month. Hopefully post COVID-19, we’ll be able to view all portraits in a gallery. Until then, you can keep up with both artists on their Instagram pages. As mentioned above, Dom and Natalia charge for the experience, but if you’re personally selected by the photographer and makeup artist, there is no charge. You can follow Dom here and follow Natalia here.
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