@YouBelongNow Turned a Fashion Controversy into a Movement for Black Women’s Empowerment
Ladies First highlights women and girls who are making the world better for the rest of us.
During the second week of January, clothing retailer Revolve came under fire on social media while promoting an international social influencer trip to Phuket, Thailand. While the brand’s #revolvearoundtheworld trips are nothing new, this time followers of the brand couldn’t help but notice that many of the influencers and bloggers invited were the thin white woman of the industry.
This is when Valerie Eguavoen decided that enough was enough. The 26-year-old, Durham, North Carolina-based blogger behind the plus-size fashion site On a Curve called out the brand to her over 10,000 Instagram followers
“I have a serious question,” Eguavoen wrote in an Instagram story addressed to the brand. “Where is the diversity? You mean to tell me that the lifestyle/beauty/fashion influencers you include in your projects cannot have over a certain amount of melanin?”
The following day, Eguavoen published a blog post titled, “#YOUBELONGNOW — Responding to Revolve and the Fashion Industry, on its Consistent Exclusion of Black Women.” There, she wrote candidly about how “influencers of color, who do not fit into the oppressive European standard of beauty are consistently overlooked, underrated and underpaid.” Rather than allow herself to become discouraged, Eguavoen decided she would start an Instagram page titled @YouBelongNow that would be dedicated to highlighting influencers and content creators who were consistently overlooked because of their skin color, ethnicity, religion, gender, or size.
In an interview with Brit + Co, Eguavoen explains that she was tired of seeing brands like Revolve continue to perpetuate a narrow ideal of beauty in the fashion industry. She wanted to help amplify the dialogue about why inclusivity in advertising matters.
“Now people are talking about discrimination in the industry and relating it to society as a whole,” she says.
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@salemmitchell - Model - 19 - We could all learn a thing or two about confidence from this beauty. In an interview with @highsnobiety she says, “My advice is definitely to be yourself! It’s really easy to get caught up in comparing yourself and your journey to others, especially with social media. You constantly see people sharing different things they’re doing, you see all the trends, you see who’s “hot” right now, and it can really make you feel like you need to fit into the social standards you see online. When in reality, you’re who’s hot right now, you can be setting trends, and being you...” #youbelongnow
A post shared by Founded By Valerie Eguavoen (@youbelongnow) on
According to the New York Times, the buying power of the African American consumer (according to Nielsen) was estimated to reach $1.3 trillion in 2017. While Eguavoen explains that many fashion and lifestyle brands are aware that a huge chunk of their customer base is Black, they often “continue to perpetuate exclusionary and supremacist standards of beauty because it is the norm.” Her hope is that the @YouBelongNow page will not only highlight marginalized content creators from across the globe but spark a conversation on what exclusionary beauty standards say about North American society.
The first post went up onto the Instagram account on the same day of the blog post and, in just three short weeks, has gained over 6,000 followers. @YouBelongNow has featured over 100 talented Black women to date, though, as Eguavoen points out: “It still doesn’t scratch the surface of the vast number of talented Black women on Instagram.”
The official You Belong Now website launches on February 1. Eguavoen admits that she wants to take the time to lay the groundwork for her project in order to sustain the long-term goals she hopes to accomplish. Until then, we’ll stay tuned..