black woman, you've taught me well.

9A720C62-044D-4DD2-8F0C-4B2B6A3E65AD.JPG

if you are no stranger to my line of work, by now you have learned of my incessant celebration of the black woman. you've grown adapted to seeing: 

me. 

you.

and the women who look like you.

at the forefront of a gorgeous aesthetic. an aesthetic that grows even more beautiful + compelling with time. 

with that in mind, it's quite easy to assume that my love for us has always been present. 

nah.gif

but as the gif implies: nah, fam. lol. 

up until the last 5 years of my life, i struggled with seeing black women, including myself, as beings who are worthy of love, celebration and admiration, especially those who were of a darker hue. i remember growing up in the south, wanting so badly to escape my own body out of fear that my complexion wouldn't grant me certain "privileges." the privilege of being "pretty." the privilege of being accepted by white people. the privilege of gettin' chose by dudes or the privilege of even being mistaken as someone who was mixed with something other than black on black. 

as you can see, i had some serious issues. 

simply put: i hated everything that affirmed my black identity. 

480w_s.jpg

i was really out here completely unaware of the inimitable beauty + aura that i inherited from my creator + black ancestors. i was really out here feeling like my worth + my beauty was contingent upon whether white people and certain types of black people accepted me or not. i viewed myself through a gaze rooted in anti-blackness, which resulted in many years of self-hatred + low self-esteem. 

it wasn't until the start of my creative journey, that God orchestrated a shift in my eye (i) + my mind.

 

i am a firm believer that blessings reveal themselves through people + relationships. through the intimate nature of photography, God has used the beings that reflect me to show me that i am worthy of celebrating. there is something extremely transformative + therapeutic about visually narrating a black woman in her element. so-much-so that photography has become a restorative, healing practice for me and also the black women that i shoot. my approach to visual documentation is such an intimate exchange rooted in human connection, acceptance and vulnerability. it is a safe space for black women to feel affirmed in their skin. in who they are. and in who we are as a collective. every woman who has become my muse has also imparted to me the courage to love myself + the courage to celebrate my beauty + my blackness. 

for so long, i felt trapped in a body that i perceived as undeserving not realizing that being a black woman, even in the face of oppression + stereotypes, is one of the greatest gifts God has given me. 

for so long, i robbed myself of the joy that my black existence has to offer + i suffered so much as a young black girl because i didn't love myself, maybe because i didn't see women like me being celebrated, who knows? 

but i know this much: that is no longer my narrative. i am surrounded by brilliant, black women who are unapologetic about who they are + how they navigate through this world. God has intentionally placed these women in my life to let me know that i am perfect just the way i am. i am free from that white gaze that refused to let me see myself as i am: a beautiful creation.

for those of you who are struggling to love yourself: my desire is for you to see yourself the way God sees you. 

the way i see you: powerful, beautiful, resilient, brilliant and special. 

this is why i create for you. for us. 

because i want to prevent another woman or little girl from feeling the way i once felt when i looked in the mirror. 

this is why i created my visual journal black women + good grain.

when you read this book, i want you to hear my voice gassing you up to no end lol. 

it is important that we celebrate each other. affirm each other. 

and create work that reflects our beauty + magic.

because representation matters. 

and you taught me that. 

black woman, 

you've taught me well. 

p.s: shout out to packlane for sponsoring the release of my book by partnering with me for the packaging design. it's stunning. and it makes the black women + good grain experience even more special. 

IMG_4543.JPG

be sure to purchase your copy of my new project :)

 

 

and feel free to share your story.  

xo — deun ivory  

note to self: one.

                                                                                  

 
 

deun,

you will never live your best life, be your best self or give your best efforts, if you are not entirely free from the judgements of other people. when the need for validation doesn't exist, you are truly able to walk in your purpose because your most authentic self comes alive. and that's when the real magic happens. your most authentic self is free to be present. she is no longer a slave to opinions that really don't matter. she is fearless. she understands the value of her thoughts + ideas. she is not afraid to be the only one of her kind. she is able to communicate her highs + lows unapologetically through art, sound + real emotion - with no desire to disrupt the original state of her expression. why? because she knows that her best life is only accessible to her if she is bold + courageous enough to always remain true to herself. 

every time you adjust yourself for the appeasement of other people, a little part of you dies. if you don't stop now, you'll end up living such a small life because you never got a chance to explore your own thoughts and capabilities. all because you live in fear. fear of being rejected. fear of not being good enough. fear of what other people think. 

why do other people + their thoughts matter to you so much. why are YOU CHOOSING to create + sustain these restrictions that keep you oppressed. why are you committing yourself to a life that refuses to let you be?

if you continue to worship the thoughts of other people, you'll end up sacrificing your time, your energy, and most importantly yourself. you'll be deprived of so much because YOU didn't allow yourself to be free. true liberation is giving yourself permission to be the complete + whole person that God created you to be. 

with love, 

your best self. 

p.s shout out to my bestie, victoria banjo, for inspiring the last quote. 

leave a comment below. i'd love to hear your thoughts 

'16 was lit.

during the last 365 days of my life, I have reaped some of the greatest rewards in exchange for my pursuit to explore the unknown. I willfully walked out on faith to find a home in unfamiliar faces, places and experiences. let's see: early in the year, I landed a feature with NBC Today for the stretch-marks photo that went viral, I got engaged in March, was a married woman in June, 2 days later, I relocated to Chicago from Houston, in august, I officially started my full time freelance career as an artist, in October I joined the Black Girl in Om team as visual content director - now the art director, I illustrated two published books with two amazing black women writers: anisah a ali + alex elle, I launched lifestyle with ivory + ash: a stationary and home goods brand rooted in affirmations, mantras and illustrations for women of color, recorded my first podcast, officially joined the BGIO podcast as a co-host, scored a feature by instagram, re-launched my website, became a blogger, traveled to New York +  Mexico for the first time, and successfully branded myself as a photographer, illustrator and "influencer".

it was an exceptional year to say the least. '16 ignited an undeniable fire inside of me. it will forever be exalted as the year I came into my own as an unapologetic black woman creative + black creative entrepreneur. I walked into 2016 with a desire to be used by God in the most unconventional ways, learning to trust Him with all of me. and as a result: I'm exiting this phase of my life with a heart filled with gratitude and an awareness of self.

this year, I managed to speak over my life with affirmations that catapulted my career and confidence as a creative entrepreneur. I reacted to every vision revealed to me by doing what was necessary to make those visions tangible. I also realized that all of my desires manifested themselves in different ways at the appropriate time and that it all happened in God's timing, God's way.

through my exchanges with different people in Chicago, I developed a sense of urgency and responsibility to be more intentional in my creative practices. I found satisfaction in creating art that reflected and resonated with women who look like me. God, so gracefully, revealed to me the necessity of my position as a black. woman. artist: one who knows God, is loved by God + desires to please God.

I firmly believe in the power of my creator, the power of my tongue + the power of my mind. these are three things that I can confidently take from '16:

- I am capable of living the life I desire.

- I  have a responsibility as a black artist to create spaces, experiences and art that reflects, inspires and educates people of color.

- God can use me at ANY TIME for His glory.

 - I've come to discover just how exciting life can be when I approach God's word as it is: the truth. God did not give me a spirit of fear. life and death lies in the power of the tongue. For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. 〰 proverbs 2:6

I will continue to exude black joy, thankfulness and confidence in the new year. if '16 is any indication of what my '17 bout to look like: *flies across room* 20-selm-teen will be revolutionary, and of course lit den a mug. 

enjoy the visuals. all taken on iphone. 

 my husband, his sister and I on our wedding day. 

my husband, his sister and I on our wedding day. 

 me and bae/co-worker: lauren ash

me and bae/co-worker: lauren ash

 cozumel mexico :) 

cozumel mexico :) 

 me after being rained on aggressively hahaha.

me after being rained on aggressively hahaha.

 a preview of these fire street photography shots I captured in Progreso, Mexico

a preview of these fire street photography shots I captured in Progreso, Mexico

 Purple Panty from Ivory + Ash's gratitude collection. 

Purple Panty from Ivory + Ash's gratitude collection. 

I have a laundry list of goals for next year and I will accomplish them all. why?                                   because I'm capable. '16 revealed that to me. 

join me in sharing the good news. please share your '16 experience in the comment section. I'd love to hear any mantras you're bringing into the new year. drop below.

perspective is a major key.

I have grown fascinated by this idea that so much of what is manifested in our lives is a product of our perspective. 

when I begin to think about my past + the pessimistic disposition that used to paralyze me, I realize that had I not changed my outlook on life, I wouldn't be here, today, rejoicing in the abundance of beautiful opportunities that have emerged because of my intentional way of looking at life. 

I remember drowning in my doubts + always wondering: 

what if I fail? what if I'm not successful? or what if I don't have what it takes to go this route? 

all of these ridiculous outcomes pointed to a bigger issue: my belief that I wasn't good enough + my fear of failure. I held on to this ideology that failing, in any capacity, was ascribed to my value as a human being. Instead of viewing failure as a learning opportunity, I feared this idea of being incompetent. and naturally, this discouraged me from putting myself out there as a creative + opening myself up to receive my blessings. 

this mindset persisted until I grew tired of racking up regrets.

I wanted to give myself a chance to create a life that I enjoyed, which is the life I have now. and that came with the active decision to stop terrorizing my mind with negative thoughts.

throughout my challenge to defeat pessimism, I put a few things into practice. 

1. I had to develop self-confidence, which required me to really spend time in God's word + find affirmation in the way He looks at me. 

what I learned: when I truly feel good about who I am, I reward myself with decisions that are advantageous to things I want to accomplish. 

2. I had to cultivate a more mindful approach in how I expressed myself. for example, instead of saying: "I don't think I have what it takes to do this or that!", I'd combat that negativity by saying: "I'm willing to bet on myself + explore my talents to see where they take me." 

what I learned: the weight of my words matter. my choice of rhetoric has the power to either encourage me or keep me in fear. 

3. I had to be critical of my surroundings + what I allowed to occupy my space.

what I learned: I am a reflection of the things I consume. If I revel in good thoughts, I create space for good things to manifest. 

4. I had to do the work of someone who actually believed in themselves, which required me to SHARE MY WORK.    

what I learned: "unsuccessful people make decisions based on their current situations. successful people make decisions based on where they want to be."  - unknown

the ultimate lesson is this: once my mindset shifted, so did my actions. it became clear to me that the beauty of life was rooted in my perspective: something so small but makes a world of difference. when I allowed doubts to occupy my mind, I rejected the idea that I could be happy + successful in my own right. I didn't have the courage to give myself a chance to explore my potential because I always expected the worst. when I realized that I could opt of that mindset, I did + my life hasn't been the same since. 

God has given us the authority to plant good seeds + make room for amazing opportunities to present themselves. my hope is that you don't let your fears rob you of your ambitions + that you experience all the blessings that are accessible to you by way of good thoughts, good energy + healthy anticipations.  

 

I'd love to hear your thoughts. if you struggle with pessimism, please share any methods you use to combat those thoughts of negativity? drop a response, below! let's chat :) 

comparison stifles creativity

let me be the first to say: as a black woman who is currently cultivating my own signature aesthetic as a photographer, illustrator, full time artist + influencer, I am beyond honored that my work, specifically photography, has been compared to the likes of Asiyami Gold, Bee Walker and other phenomenal black women creatives that I love. 

these women are extraordinary visual storytellers + their work is so inspiring.

and although, it is nice to hear my name being mentioned in the same context as these dope black creative women, at the end of the day, it is still rooted in a comparison - which doesn't sit quite well with me. I say that because when I hear comments like: 

"oh you could be the next so and so!"  or "I picture you going the route of this person" 

I'm left feeling like I'm not there yet. and in my head, it's like "well, where is there?" is it that person's aesthetic, their following, their style. their level of success? I genuinely don't know but I am bothered by it. 

I invest so much of my time + energy into everything I produce because I believe wholeheartedly that my artistic perspective is invaluable - as should any artist. I believe in creating from an authentic place (lauren ash). and when I'm told that I could be the next so and so, which sounds harmless, it hampers the authenticity of my work because now I'm trying to live up to an expectation. now, I'm second guessing myself + I'm trying to play catch up not realizing that I'm in no competition with anyone but myself. 

my creativity wasn't birthed out of a desire to be the next so + so. following the path of another creative was not + is not my goal. my intention is to create. to inspire. to be myself in all ways, always - alex-elle. and to encourage other creatives to do the same.  

I understand that people aren't being malicious when comparisons are brought up in a conversation. I mean hey, it is deeply embedded in american culture (but truth be told, sometimes that's not a good thing) 

comparison is the enemy of authenticity because it robs you of your initial confidence as an artist. it stifles your creativity. you can't create freely when you're bound to the expectations of other people.  the beautiful thing about being a creative is that everyone goes into it with a different approach, a different goal + a different outcome. and no one way is right. so in other words: let me do MY thing.

food for thought: Solange wouldn't have impacted the world the way she has if she were trying to be the next Beyonce. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts. drop a response below. let's chat :)