Erica Campbell believes in open and honest conversations about beauty. In addition to being a Grammy-winning artist, a social media presence to be reckoned with, and a partner to a new hair venture, she is the mom of a pre-teen. That role requires her to be intentional about discussing image.
"Beauty is an actual conversation in my house. I monitor TV shows [my daughter's] watching, so she sees people who look like her. "She ensures her daughters see reflections of themselves, despite limited representation in media. "We show her Ebony and Essence magazine, so she sees someone who looks like her, so she understands what our beauty looks like."
The foundation of this intentionality? She gets it from her mama. I recently chatted with fellow My Black Is Beautiful community members, Erica Campbell and her mother and stylist Thomasina Atkins to hear their reflections on beauty and style.
Ms. Atkins was raised to take care in her presentation. Much like her daughter, she gives credit to her mother and grandmother for instilling those principles. "They all took care of themselves and really believed in handling life in a way that made it pleasant for them." Ms. Atkins shares, "So what they did, they took care of themselves. They made sure they looked good, smelled good, dressed good."
Both Erica and her mother emphasize the importance of conversations on beauty being a reflection of self-love, rather than one of comparisons or impressing others. Ms. Atkins clarifies, "How they say you dress to impress, for me, it's not about proving a point to anyone. I want to make sure I look good, I feel good, I smell good."
Erica shares the sentiments she was raised with, with her own daughter. "Enjoying her beauty is never bashing anyone else, or saying anyone else isn't beautiful, but I want her to know 'you are beautiful with your skin, your hair, your nose, your lips, your curves.' Everything that is you is great."
Erica believes representation can help change beauty and other conversations and that artists should play a role in seeking that representation, "People's first thought isn't always to diversify, so we cant just be so upset when we aren't in the conversation. We just have to get in the conversation."
She notes that it will require a blend of humility and self-promotion. She shares that she's had many interviews, where despite her success, she is asked who she is and what she does. She does not get offended. "It takes more education on our existence so, we are apart of the conversation. So then, when awards happen, we can be celebrated just like everyone else."
It's hard to believe some don't know she is, when she's breaking barriers like being the first gospel artist to top one million followers. She attributes her popularity to her honesty with fans and followers. She doesn't curate her image to show only the good times. "I'm honest about the pieces of my life that I share. Whether it's me not having a good day or... I'm up late and my kids are sick. I think it just resonates with everyday women that have the same struggles that I have." And when things are hard, Erica does not put on any façades, " I never play a superhuman... Instead, I tell people if anything is broken, God can fix it. If anything is empty, God can fill it. And I think sharing that with people is encouraging and inspiring."
Erica implores that same honesty in her partnerships. She endorses products she actually uses. "All of the products that are under the MBIB umbrella are actually in my house, my purse, and in my makeup bag." She raves, "Queen Covergirl lipstick...Olay Microscoping cream are my favorites and Pantene natural clarifying shampoo is literally in my shower right now."
Here, her mother's influence also rings true. Erica declares, "I remembered I saw my mom, my grandma use these products for and I thought my mom is pretty, I think it will work for me too."
The mother-daughter pair rely on each other to keep growing in their style journeys as well. When thinking about what to wear, Ms. Atkins notes, "I don't want to embarrass anyone and I don't want my children to go ok now mom, what are you doing wearing that?"
Erica chuckles, recalling that her she tries to make her family proud in her style as well and hasn't always gotten it right. "There has been a time or two where me and Tina would get a phone call from my mom saying - now wait a minute, maybe don't wear that next time."
Ms. Atkins is really great at constructive feedback with her daughters. "She'll say it in a nice way, but she'll definitely let you know that's not reflective of who you are. I really, really appreciate that you can reprimand somebody and do it in love. Without attacking, judging, or belittling someone. When approached that way, I'm then more inclined to think about things differently and make different choices next time."
Still the biggest style and beauty tip, Ms. Atkins passed on goes far deeper than any clothing choice or product use. Erica shares that the true key lies in faith. She says, "It's how I look at myself before I put anything on my face, because if it's not in the inside, it doesn't matter what you put on your face. What has to be apart of your daily process is your faith in God, your belief in yourself that you can make anything possible, knowing that you can overcome any challenge with the help of God." While beauty products might help, Erica notes that is all secondary, "If you keep your mind in the right place and space that beauty is gonna be there no matter what lip color you put on."
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