LOVE Tag: BeautyGap
Part of Embody Love Movement’s mission includes empowering girls and women to contribute to meaningful change in the world. We intend to share and highlight this type of work through a LOVE TAG. This month, our LOVE Tag lands on Amber Koonce at BeautyGap.
In 2009, Amber traveled to Ghana to work in their detention center for young women and taught at a local grade school. It was her first time in Africa and it wasn’t long before something caught her attention. She noticed that most of these girls of color not only spoke about wanting to be white but that they all had baby dolls with blonde hair and blue eyes. “It was disheartening,” she said when we spoke on the phone. “Western culture dominates globally which creates a standard that is unnatural.” Amber felt a calling to provide a vehicle through which girls could affirm their natural beauty – not an imposed standard. She started the BeautyGap with a simple donation drive at her church asking for dolls of color that she could ship to orphanages across the globe. She was flooded with support. And so the BeautyGap was born.
Today, the BeautyGap delivers black and brown dolls to girls in Ghana, Kenya, Haiti, and the Philippines. When asked how it was that Amber knew she could contribute to meaningful change in the world she answered, “It was the success of the idea that gave me the confidence. You know you’re on the right path because things come easily. There was no resistance. I know that’s not how it works for everyone but that’s how it was for me. Things were just happening organically.” The naming of BeautyGap even seemed to be a natural occurrence. In Kenya, a gap between a woman’s two front teeth is considered an indicator of beauty and is identified as the “beauty gap.” Many of us may be more familiar with the concept of the Beauty Gap – that space between our understanding of the standard of beauty in minority cultures and that in Western society. Both ideas seemed to fit – and Amber knew it was meant to be.
“It was the success of the idea that gave me the confidence. You know you’re on the right path because things come easily. There was no resistance. I know that’s not how it works for everyone but that’s how it was for me. Things were just happening organically.”
Video from BeautyGap.org
Amber hopes that the BeautyGap can “open up the space where we can have an unapologetic dialogue about self-love. We haven’t quite realized how much unrealistic standards have impacted us. We need to have more conversations about messaging in our country.” Oh how right she is! The impact of imposing one dimension of beauty standards on a diverse globe can leave us confused, unrecognized, and unappreciated. We need to call up and have more conversations about what societal standards are doing to our self-esteem and our investment in self-love.
When asked what the concept of self-love means to Amber she took a thoughtful breath and slowly responded, “Embracing yourself from head to toe, from the inside out, in a way that allows you to pour into others.” Amber, YOU are LOVE tagged. Thank you for your contribution.
Social Media: Amber Koonce (on Facebook), @AmberKoonce (Twitter), BeautyGap (on Facebook), @beautygapinc (Instagram)
Dr. Lara Pence, Executive Director of Embody Love Movement®