When I don’t have the answers, which seems like hourly in these chaotic and uncertain times, I often run to a handful of people, particularly creators of color, through my Twitter and Instagram feeds. Their voices serve as a chorus of sorts that help me find clarity, resolutions, and solace.
Turning to the brilliance, splendor, and work of these folks allows me to recognize that none of us are alone. We are all part of a larger collective looking to create a more beautiful and just world. It’s this sort of communal care that fills me with strength, to-dos, resources, and art that keeps me going.
Being in community is also a recognition of how small I am in this world which is a humbling experience, but it’s also a deeply gratifying one. It enables me to release myself from isolation and connect with us, to tether myself to those doing remarkable work.
Below, I asked some of my favorite voices to answer one question: What makes you feel most beautiful, confident, and content?
Poet, Culture Strike‘s managing director, and founder of (Un)documenting, both vital and rare spaces for undocumented and migrant writers to speak out about their experiences. She’s also the author of Nostalgia & Borders.
Waking up next to my plants, dog, chosen family, or partner, and being a cultural worker all femmed-out makes me feel most beautiful, confident and content. To expand, I feel beautiful when I am able to wear the perfect outfit that fits my body just right and I am wearing the heck out of my purple lipstick. I feel beautiful when I’m around people that are femme like me, who are gender-nonconforming like me, who speak in accents, whose bodies range in size, that adorn their fat brown or black bodies in all the glitter or jewelry or latest Fenty shimmer they want, that are audacious and daring with no fucks given about respectability politics, being the oceans of possible marvelous ways to exist.
I am swallowed in jubilation watching us shine.
My mother’s random 6 a.m. call asking me how I am doing and how proud she is [of me] makes me the most confident Brown migrant daughter there ever was. Growing up witnessing all her glory, and here she is now naming and uplifting my cultural work.
I’m the most content when I am able to see my friends who are migrant or undocumented artists and writers pursuing their creative work because it has been a long journey for us to get access to these spaces. I am swallowed in jubilation watching us shine. I’m my most content when I am able to carve out time to imagine and work on my poetry. The mere fact that many of us are still alive, makes me the most content because these have been trying times and here we are, brilliantly creating and managing to exist graciously and with ferocity.
Writer & filmmaker who is at work on directing the documentary No Fats, No Femmes, and wrote a powerful New York Times op-ed on navigating trans-ness, desire, and death as a black trans person.
Self-autonomy and self-determination to shape a person of my own making makes feel most beautiful, confident, and content (*sings* “I am what I am; I am my own special creation”). That I am molding a fat femme masterpiece every time I look into the mirror to see myself. The looking inside of myself, in search of myself, daily, makes me feel this way. This kind of confidence building, in addition to challenging hierarchies of beauty in my work and with my physical presence, is how I actualize my own power and liberation in my body. It’s powerful and dangerous.
Freelance writer and the managing editor of Wear Your Voice Magazine, who most often writes about politics, pop culture, and race through a feminist lens.
When I excel at my job — like when I write a dope piece that resonates with readers and makes them feel affirmed and seen, that’s when I feel at my best. Writing is an extension of who I am. When I don’t write — because I’m not in the right emotional space, or I’m too busy with editorial work — I feel less like myself, less powerful, less confident and as an extension, less beautiful.
My work, my ability to think critically and my intelligence are at their strongest in my pieces — I carry my words like armor and I walk taller, with more confidence and strength. I feel like my value as a person and self-worth is intricately woven into my work as a writer, if I didn’t have my words, I don’t know who I would be. When all else fails and I’m not in the mood to write, a good bath with Epsom salts and jasmine oil, followed by lots of scrubbing and moisturizing, always makes me feel deeply happy with myself and my body.
Artist, activist, and host of First Person, a PBS digital series on gender identity, sexuality and queer community.
I feel most beautiful when I allow myself to be vulnerable, most confident when I excel at something that terrifies me, and most content when I am understood.
Founder and project coordinator of Disability Visibility Project, an online community dedicated to amplifying disability stories. She’s a must-follow on Twitter, where she spits fire on the organizing power and resiliency of disabled activists.
I feel beautiful when I speak out on my own truth and keep things as real as possible. I feel confident and content whenever I can help connect people in my various communities because no one should feel alone.
Author of The Boy & the Bindi, even this page is white, & She of the Mountains who, as an artist, released the EP Part-Time Woman. She also started her own publishing imprint, VS Books, to support young writers who are Indigenous, Black, or people of color in overcoming the barriers to publication.
Writing a song that conveys an emotion I wasn’t otherwise able to express, or a sentence that has lasting impact. Also, I have just discovered — and am addicted to — the glamour of a blowout.
Editor-at-Large of The Establishment who recently wrote this must-read profile of Rachel Dolezal for The Stranger. She also authored The Badass Feminist Coloring Book and the forthcoming So You Want to Talk About Race, out in January.
I love seeing what many would call my “flaws” in the people I love. I love seeing my own squinty eye in my gorgeous and goofy 9-year-old. The hair that I was always told was too kinky in my creative and compassionate 16-year-old. The gap-toothed grin that had me smiling closed-mouthed as a child in my hilarious and talented brother. My frenetic, ADD forgetfulness and my oddball creativity as a neverending supplier of excitement and entertainment in both of my children. I love hearing my too-loud laugh in the mother who gave it to me.
I love seeing everything that I was told to hate about myself in so
many people that I love and respect.
I love seeing my broad hips on countless black women marching for black lives. The voice that I was always told was too loud, shouted over megaphones by women of color demanding justice. I love seeing everything that I was told to hate about myself in so many people that I love and respect and realizing that it is because, not in spite of, these characteristics that they are beautiful.
Agender writer and speaker who was featured in TIME’s “Beyond ‘He’ or ‘She’” cover story and is an essential, affirmative voice for challenging the gender binary.
When I spend time with myself. I have a tendency to avoid my feelings, and often, to avoid truly looking at or seeing myself as a result. It’s hard to sit with myself sometimes. When I take the time to work through all of that, when I see past the walls and obstacles I build for myself in hopes of protecting myself, I see who I really am. I am beauty, confidence, and contentment.
Organizer, speaker and the Executive Director of The Marsha P. Johnson Institute, which centers Black trans women and gender-nonconforming femmes in gaining resources necessary to help end violence.
What makes me feel most beautiful, confident, and content is to see my skin. To see it as it is. Clear and free. I feel most confident knowing that I come from a beautiful mother and being able to see her face in mine. And I feel most content when I can just be still in all of my beauty and admire the beauty around me.
Feminist and designer, most known as Gabi Fresh, who co-founded PREMME.us (with one of our dearest friends Nicolette Mason). I first became aware of her work when she shook the world with her swim collections for Swimsuits For All.
When I am doing something physical with my body, whether that’s working out or volunteering to help others — it may seem weird, but the less focused I am on how I look, the more beautiful I feel. Instead, my focus is on the functionality of my body and how it serves me and others — that’s beautiful. Of course, I can also feel really great when I get all dressed up for a red-carpet event, but those moments of physical beauty can be fleeting and overlap with when I can be the hardest on myself due to societal expectations.
Read more stories from Beauty Beyond Binaries:
Now, watch Jacob Tobia explain what makes them feel most beautiful: