JessB Shares Her #BeautyTruth

23.04.19

Working on the #BeautyTruth campaign for Bobbi Brown was an incredibly special and soul-affirming experience for Zeenat and I, because it speaks to a level of progress within the industry. The stories you’ll read here and on Sauce in the coming weeks will, hopefully, suggest that beauty doesn’t need to be “redefined”, but that it needs to be un-defined. Let’s stop limiting beauty to everything it can’t be and instead open our minds to all the possibilities of what it could be. Expansive. Inclusive. Bold. Just like the women we spoke to for this campaign.

Here’s JessB, the New Zealand rapper on the rise, as told to The Twenties Club.

 


“Growing up as a mixed-race African in New Zealand, I had a very whitewashed idea of what it meant to be beautiful. I never thought I was beautiful as a teenager, and I think that was largely because I rarely saw women who looked like me. I wanted to be physically shorter, I wanted my hair to be straighter and I wanted my skin to be fairer – basically everything that I love most about myself now I spent my youth wishing I could change.

It wasn’t until I left high school and immersed myself in creative scenes that are typically more diverse that I was able to find community and meet people who had a similar lived-experience to mine as a mixed-race woman. Musicians like Ladi6, who was one of the original trailblazers as a brown female musician in New Zealand, battled prejudices around her identity long before I was in this space and she’s become a big sister to me. The relationships I made at the time I came into the music scene came at such a pivotal moment in my life and really made me redefine how I think about beauty. I’d meet these women of colour who I could relate to on multiple levels and think “If I can look at you and see your beauty, why I can’t I see that in myself?”. Those relationships became a kind of mirror. Beauty to me is about standing tall in who you are, and in your truth. I try to use my social media platform in a genuine and open way, and I hope that because of the representation we are now seeing at these levels, and the diverse communities that exist on apps like Instagram, young girls of colour hopefully don’t feel the same way I did when I was 14. Social media allows younger generations to have access to musicians and people who are multi-faceted and use their status to speak out on real issues that make their audiences feel included. I’m proud of who I am and I don’t want to be portrayed or portray myself as anybody else.

My concern is getting people of colour into spaces where they can be seen. It’s so important. My song “Pushing The Space” is a statement about people of colour literally occupying physical spaces and not conforming to standards that don’t account for our diversity. To even exist in these realms is a positive protest but it’s all pointless if the broader societal issues of race and discrimination aren’t changing. In that sense, representation and social change are two different conversations. Thankfully there are now more African immigrants moving to New Zealand, so our community is growing and young children hopefully don’t feel as isolated as I did. I’m still growing into who I am, I still doubt my work and get insecure about the music I’m putting out or how it will be received, but if the Jess from ten years ago could see the woman I am now, I think she’d be stoked.”

Jess wears Skin Long-Wear Weightless Foundation, Limited Edition High Shine Liquid Eye Shadow in Copperhead, Highlighting Powder in Bronze Glow, Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner in Black and Crystal Lip Gloss by Bobbi Brown

Twenty Seven Names coat and Amber Sceats earrings from Smith & Caughey’s


Styling and Production: Zeenat Wilkinson at Sauce
Words: Madeleine Walker at The Twenties Club
Photography: Clara Pafundi
Makeup: Blair Gamblin
Hair: Shirley Simpson