What determines beauty? That is the complex question that Antonia Opiah has set out to answer through the refreshing new web documentary series Pretty.
As founder of Un-Ruly.com, a beauty website dedicated to celebrating the health and versatility of Black hair, the 20-something has already dedicated herself to highlighting and celebrating images of beauty not often portrayed in mainstream media. But with Pretty, she has taken that exploration one step further, shining a spotlight on a wide range of countries and cities to tease out the special nuances within each culture's standards of beauty.
The series trailer and first two episodes take place in the romanticized streets of Paris, where Antonia currently resides. In the second episode, “Beauty Is a Quest," Ghubar Magazine founder Sarah Diouf discusses her effortless Parisian style, her work to bring more diversity into fashion and the ongoing process of finding beauty in one's self.
"Beauty is just about finding who you are and being at peace with it," said Diouf. "And once you're at peace with who you are, I feel like you just bloom. And when a woman blooms, it's just something beautiful."
Just like a digital postcard, the series will journey through Europe, Africa, South America and North America while sharing the beauty-centric stories of three to four women per city. B*Real caught up with Antonia to dig deeper into her motivation for investigating global beauty standards and find out what she has planned next.
B*Real: What motivated you to create the Pretty webseries?
Antonia: Beauty standards are now being held under more scrutiny these days, so I wanted to contribute to that dialogue. Also, I've been living in Europe for the past two years and realized that I needed to take the time to learn what women here are feeling about the topic.
Unless you're working with a team of individuals who specialize in media production, pushing out a great episode every four weeks might seem like an overwhelming task. Can you please shed some light on your process and the nature of the workflow for the series?
The process really just involves sitting with the footage for some time and pulling out the pieces of the interviews that help convey each person’s unique story and relationship with beauty. It’s also trying to figure out how to best communicate the essence of each person, and thanks to two very talented videographers I work with, Maria Cavallo and Sophie Pierozzi, I’m able to capture that each time.
How did you go about choosing who to interview? Were all of the people whom you reached out to interested at the start or did some people require some convincing?
I do a lot of research on social media and tap into my immediate network of family and friends living here in the States and abroad. So far, all the women I’ve reached out to have all been excited to be a part of the project. I haven’t had to do much begging or convincing [laughs].
Pretty has received a great amount of coverage after the release of the first episode. What has been the most surprising or insightful response you've received about the series?
Getting any response at all to me is always very encouraging. It means that what I set out to do is resonating in some way, shape or form with readers. That said, so far the response has been largely positive and I’m excited to see how the response evolves over time.
What do you hope viewers take away from each episode?
I'm using this series to learn how other individuals place beauty, how they view it and what role they let it play in their lives, with the hope of figuring out where I want to place it. And I hope other women will be able to take that away from it, too. My aim is that each episode will be a kind of tool for women to learn from other women.
What kind of an impact do you think a webseries like Pretty would have had on your younger self if it was available back then?
Wow! It would probably have had a profound effect on me. I know that I’m more than my looks; however beauty (or lack thereof) is a form of social currency. The fact that I’m even producing this now, is in a way a result of years of trying to figure out how I want to place beauty, and more importantly, the role I want it play in my life.
What do you have planned for the future for Pretty?
I think that remains to be seen. One exciting element that we’re focused on now, though, is what I like to call a traveling notebook that each interviewee writes to another and travels with us from city to city. The notebook is a tool we’re using to connect the women we interview as well as to have something physical to take away from the piece.
Is there anything you'd like to tell the B*Real readers?
This series is a great opportunity to create a dialogue, so I want as many people to engage in the conversation and share their thoughts with us by tweeting us at @hairunruled and using the hashtag #WhatIsPretty as we travel from continent to continent and city to city.
Patrice Peck is a multimedia maven who spends her time covering important Black stories and individuals and running Fussy, a tech startup for Black hair care professionals.
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