More often than not we're able to see the beauty of others -- but not of ourselves. The struggle to find self acceptance, especially when it comes to body image, is real no matter your size, race or age. But thankfully folks like Abi Ishola are making the journey a whole lot easier.
Ishola, writer and editor-in-chief of BeyondClassicallyBeautiful.com, has dedicated much of her professional career to celebrating the beauty and all-around awesomeness of black women. That work has continued in her latest project called "Body Noire," which features five black women -- author Christine Patrick, artist Roseline Lawrence, realtor Xiomara Small, yoga instructor Latarria Whitehead, and ballerina Tyde-Courtney Edwards -- striking a pose in stunning black-and-potraits that reveal their beautifully unique figures.
"Many of the standards placed upon women are simply not realistic," Ishola told Essence. "We've been made to feel that beauty is one thing--one look so to speak. I'm just happy we live during a time when women are standing up and saying, 'no, I am who I am and who I am is all that I need to be.' It's so refreshing."
That same spirit was captured in the project by Ishola's husband, photographer Kunle Ayodeji. The images of the women -- who range in size from slender to curvy -- are accompanied by touching stories of their self discovery and acceptance.
"I’m at my heaviest, but I’ve never loved myself and been more confident than now," Lawrence proclaimed in her testimony. "When you have a light shining so bright within you, it’s hard for it to not be shining on the surface. I love myself fully inside now and it has helped how I look at myself in the mirror. Stretch marks and all!
Ishola was inspired to tackle this particular issue of self acceptance after all the body shaming targeted at Serena Williams last year and hopes the project will encourage women to celebrate one another.
"We want black women to constantly be reminded of how amazing they are. It feels good to celebrate black women because we know the truth," Ishola told Essence. "We know how amazing and beyond classically beautiful we are, so we will continue to make it our business to remind the world."
Head to BeyondClassicallyBeautiful.com to see more of the photos and check out this behind-the-scenes video of the beathtaking shoot.