Florence is a brand strategist and a content creator from Atlanta, GA.
There are so many more powerful attributes to me than my looks. I had to stop chastising myself because acne is common. My skin doesn’t validate me, and it doesn’t make me beautiful. Who I am, how I present myself, and my passions make me beautiful. That has been such a hard lesson to learn, but in the end, not having to feel perfect all of the time was worth it.
I’m an entrepreneur, and at first, I used to feel like - “I need to make sure that I am prim and proper. I need to make sure I always have my makeup on and lashes on.” That was in the beginning, but when I really thought about it, I realized that I wanted to come across as natural. I realized that I didn’t want to present myself as something unattainable. Additionally, when you are more approachable, it’s less intimidating for clients to come to you. At the end of the day, it’s about getting work done and helping the client, not aesthetics. Understanding this made my desire to be like everyone else stop. The only person I needed to be was Florence. Today, I always show up as the woman I genuinely am, and that has helped me to build trust and relationships with clients.
So now, I don’t edit my pit scars on my page. However, I used to all the time. I felt the need to look like everyone else on Instagram. But then I thought:
Why would I want to look like everyone else, if I’m trying to present a unique product to people?
Ultimately, I was coming off as misleading. I was trying to sell perfect skin, but perfect skin is a product that doesn’t exist. Real skin has capillaries, it has pores, and it has certain areas with texture. I present all of that to my audience on Instagram now. I show up to Instagram lives with my normal face, acne, no makeup, and I’ve seen firsthand how the shortcomings of my skin have helped me relate to my audience and attract brand partnerships.
Accepting my skin has taken me so far in life. As a black woman with hormonal acne, I had to understand that I will live with life acne and hyperpigmentation like a cycle. Skin regenerates. Skin heals itself, but scars are a part of the process. Scars have power, and scars have stories. I also have eczema, and my legs have scars all over them, but I look at these scars as a roadmap of where I used to be and how I’ve overcome challenges in life. My scars did not end me. They’re a great reminder of how far I’ve come.
In my earlier years when I was a teenager, I used to have red pustules all over my cheeks. I’m Barbadian and Filipino so everyone didn’t have my type of skin. I used to try and wear makeup, but my mother was always like - “nope, not in my house.” I did not cover my skin up, and kids were not nice. They would call me pizza face, and then my hair was a whole nother thing. At age 12, my hair turned, and when it did, people were like - “what is that?” They called me Mufasa, and they called me “bushwack.” I grew up in Valdosta, Georgia, and I was pressured to conform, relax, and straighten my hair. I even used to even wear blue contacts. However, that didn’t fix anything. There were still unsolicited comments like:
“You know you have to wash your face, right?”
“You need to eat better.”
“You need to stay out of the sun.”
“How about you try Proactiv? It worked for me!”
“What’s wrong with your face? Is that a disease?”
Having to deal with this made me constantly wonder if I was good enough. Also, I’m conflict-avoidant so speaking up for myself or sharing how I felt was very tough. I don’t like drama or tension. I’m also a middle child so I was always like - “let me fix you guy’s problems. I’ll worry about my own.”
I had a lot of internalized things in my head, but one thing that really helped was going natural. I think that going natural truly helped me come into my own. Going natural helped me perceive beauty standards differently, and it helped me go against the stigma that was placed on my appearance. I opened up to myself, and I started taking better care of my body, exploring, and learning to appreciate the things that I can’t change about myself. It helped me to share myself with the world, find my voice, and find the right people. It broadened my eyes to who I am, what “beauty” means to me, and how being unable to embody white beauty norms was okay. I don’t need to have a straight nose, and I don’t need to contour my flat nose. If you see me, you’re going to see my beautiful flat nose and my cheek bones without bronzer.
I stopped straightening my hair after my high school graduation. From there, I no longer felt a care to straighten my hair. I’ve just been embracing myself and not caring what people have to say. I care about the opinions of five core people who I care about in my life. As for everyone else, I don’t know them, and they don’t know me. They’re strangers. I’m never going to know them so why does it matter? That’s one of the reasons I like social media. I know it can be problematic, but one of the things I love about it is that I can block any negativity. I don’t have to hear about it, and I don’t have to see what someone is trying to spew at me. When people say something rude, I’ve learned that it’s an extension of them, not me.
When I face situations like that, they don’t break me. They teach me how to show up for myself and reaffirm who I am. Reaffirming myself is a huge part of my daily routine. Being in tune with myself is always helpful. Every day, I’ll write out my thoughts and feelings, and that gives me a lot of peace. The mind can fester so much when you don’t give it the things and the outlets that it needs. I take time for myself, and I am learning to embrace the parts of me that I’ve been criticized for. No one is going to like me 100% of the time, but that’s fine because, in the end, my individuality has been my greatest strength.