This Is How One Fashion Photographer Is Changing What "Beauty" Means
Fashion photographer Alexi Lubomirski's Diverse Beauty is a fashion book, but it's more than your average, purely decorative tome that can bring your dreams of a Pinnable coffee tablescape to reality. Yes, there are pages of pretty photos of pretty people wearing pretty clothes, but this one carries a message that's as substantial as its weight: to redefine beauty. And it all started with a conversation he had with Lupita Nyong'o.
"I was shooting Lupita and one day she asked me: 'Listen, can you do me a favor? Can you make sure that in post-production that they don't lighten my skin?'" Lubomirski recalls. "I wasn't aware that this happened and I looked back at my previous work, and I realized that a lot had been lightened in some way. I was shocked. And when Lupita gave her speech at the Essence Black Women in Hollywood Awards about how it wasn't until Alek Wek came onto the scene, that she didn't see anybody who looked like her, who had the same dark, rich skin as her, being celebrated as beautiful. As a father, that struck me, and it inspired me to create a book, where so many different girls can find a page and see themselves in a beautiful, inspirational, and fashionable way."
Lubomirski tasked himself with the goal to cast the most diverse range of stars, tapping everyone from A-listers, like Nyong'o herself, Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayek, Kerry Washington, and Demi Lovato, to transgender models to older women to those who are Muslim. "We are all a part of this beautifully colored, different textured tapestry," he says. "And we need to represent a broad spectrum of beauty."
Diversity aside, the book also explores the very notion of "beauty." Lubomirski spoke with a professor specializing in diversity who suggested that he ask every one of his subjects to describe themselves in five words. "Because of the way we're brought up, we can't help but assign labels to people we see on the street," Lubomirski explains. But those superficial labels, he continues, aren't how people think of themselves.
By having people take ownership of their labels ("fighter, brother, sister" versus "black, Asian, gay"), it becomes an empowering, more meaningful and humanizing message. "The answers we got were so amazing," he says. "It added more depth to their beauty as well."
Lubomirski knows that this one book won't revolutionize the industry and change people's perceptions of beauty overnight, but at least it's a start. "I'm hoping that the more people see of different types of beauty, that it'll become the norm," he says. "You have to keep tapping people on the head."
And Lupita's reaction to Diverse Beauty? "She was very happy to see how her story has inspired a movement."
Scroll down to see a small sampling of Lubomirski's work in Diverse Beauty, and then head to amazon.com to purchase the book for $50 (all proceeds will be donated to the humanitarian charity Concern Worldwide).