Sorority Sisters Empowering Melanin Beach Photoshoot Goes Viral

A group of women have gone viral after staging a photo shoot that spotlights the beauty of black women — and the fact that they come in all different shapes and colors.

The members of Florida A&M University’s Delta Sigma Theta pledge class of 2007 recently met for a sorority reunion in Costa Rica, and did more than just bond over their college days.

To celebrate their friendships — and themselves — the ladies all wore skin-tone swimwear and posed together on the beach in a series of stunning photos they called ‘Melanin Illustrated’.

The women like to get together every five years for a reunion, and this year added a little something special to the trip.

They decided to come together for a joint Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue-style photo shoot, standing together on the beach in sexy, powerful poses.

‘We wanted to convey the message that beauty is being confident; that you are good enough and that is beauty in itself, no matter your size or shape,’ Amanda Byrd, 32, told USA Today.

‘Beauty is bringing your personal best to the table. That’s what beauty is to us,’ she added.

Fellow sister LaToya Owens told Yahoo! Style that they wanted to promote the beauty of black women in particular.

‘Black women are often overlooked in beauty. This was our way to shine a light on all types of black beauty,’ she said. ‘We want to serve as an example and [show] appreciation of black women. Our commitment is to scholarship and service, and this was to honor the sisterhood.’

The women decided to coordinate outfits, too, to give the photos an even more powerful punch. Each of the sisters found swimwear to closely match her own skin tone, embracing the nude swimwear trend.

This is where things proved a bit tricky. Though there are plenty of ‘nude’ swimsuits on the market, retailers often use the word to being beige or peach, which are only ‘nude’ for white women.

Sister Jardan Doneghy told Glamour revealed it took four months of research for every sister to find a shade of ‘nude’ that worked for her, since black skin can range so much in color and there’s already a death of options for them.

‘We had a group chat where we would share swimsuits to help each other out. Kenneth Cole came up in our chat twice. Some people got their suits at Missguided and Forever21 and one or two from Hot Miami Styles and Topshop,’ she added.

‘I spent time reaching out to brands directly, and one in particular has a lot of nudes, but not a lot of brown nudes. They had a lot of pale to pink swimsuits in what they consider “nude,” but that’s not African American nude, so we did have a lot of difficulty there. It took a lot of planning.

‘Even though we are all African American women, we are not all the same shade,’ said Byrd.

The result was a set of images that have gone viral. In the most buzzed-about one, all 28 women are spread out near the shore. Some sit, some jut out their hips, and some raise their arms above their heads — but they all look confident and sexy.

‘We had no idea this would go viral,’ added Jardan. ‘But the fact that it did is proof that it’s uncommon to see such a large group of real women — mothers, doctors, lawyers, business owners, and educated black women — saying, “This is what beauty is.”

‘The media has a way of telling us what beauty should be,’ she went on. ‘We say beauty is being confident. Knowing that you are good enough — especially our African American sisters who may sometimes feel overlooked and underrepresented — that is beautiful in itself.’

By Carly Stern For

Leave a Comment