Miss Black America Ryann Richardson is a force. The 30-year old social activist and founder of the TAKE UP SPACE MVMT reaffirms time and again why she won her coveted crown with her thought-provoking commentary and non-evasive truth telling.
In a recent Op-Ed for Medium, she brilliantly sums up what many Black women, Black people, have been feeling these past two weeks. Despite the culture of this country, our identities are not to be lamented, but celebrated, because plain and simple, we’re dope.
“Our Blackness smells like cocoa butter, incense, and accomplishments earned,” she writes.
This isn’t the first time Richardson gave a word. She’s recently given some fascinating Instagram Live talks, including one with Makeup Museum co-founder Doreen Bloch, where she revisited the conversation about beauty as power and what that means. It’s from her TED Talk that was released in March which dives even deeper into this topic and explores how women should not be afraid or ashamed to wield the power of their beauty.
“Beauty, as women, is our unique superpower. Yet we’ve been conditioned to believe that it lacks value. That we ought to distance ourselves from it if we want to be taken seriously,” she said. “Last time I checked men aren’t encouraged to abandon any vehicles for their power. That is a burden that lies squarely on our shoulders.”
Richardson reveals that for years she tried to hide the fact that she was a beauty pageant queen. She clung to the idea that she would not be taken seriously in her tech circles if her colleagues knew of her “frivolous” leanings. Fortunately, becoming the 50th anniversary Miss Black America was difficult to keep private, and she finally merged the two versions of herself and found power in that truth.
“Check your own hangups about beauty at the door,” she charged. “Im going to challenge you to own the inherent power of your own unique beauty. To leverage it boldly and unapologetically, whenever and however you see fit.”
“It’s on us to give permission to the women and girls that will come behind us to be able to take up space as dynamic, complex, whole beings not these one dimensional tropes of what womanhood should be,” she continues.
In our current climate her message not only rings true for young Black girls and women, but for Black people around the globe who have reserved wielding any power available to them in order to make their white counterparts feel comfortable. This notion of not making oneself small is something that we all need to hear right now as we push forward with this ongoing fight for equality and the right to live.
Richardson’s TED Talk is one of the best 16 minutes you’ll have this year. And not because the first six months of 2020 have felt like hell on earth. But her talk is informative, it’s captivating, and if nothing else, it’s empowering.