May 19, 2024

Says Letitia Wright as she tackles outdated beauty norms

Such is the demand for Letitia Wright RN that she was forced to skip the SAG Awards last Sunday and watch her fellow Black Panther cast mates collect the award for Best Ensemble Cast at home.

“I am very, very happy,” Letitia, who had another job on at the time, exclaims, before continuing, “I was live streaming it from YouTube which isn’t, cool! ”

Away from a glittering on-screen career that has seen her take on one of the greatest Marvel franchises ever, playing Shuri in The Avengers, and star in Ready Player One, 25-year-old Letitia has landed the apt role as bareMinerals’ Power of Good Ambassador.

After all, talking to Letitia is akin to slipping into an incubator of empowerment, as she moves animatedly from candidly discussing how her dual Guyanese and British heritage shaped her approach to beauty and how now fronting bareMinerals’ campaign, she is finally writing the wrong that she grows up with: the lack of true representation of what constitutes beauty in our society.

Get ready to enter the beautiful mind of Letitia Wright, it’s going to be one seriously empowering ride.

I had to fall in love with the way I looked on my own, it was very scarce to see myself reflected back growing up…

I give props and gratitude to Naomi Campbell and Tyra Banks, who I would see in magazines, but they were far and few – like with black actresses. If I did see more of myself in magazines and beauty campaigns, in a natural way, growing up then I wouldn’t have felt that pressure of what society was telling me what beauty looks like. I am very grateful that I snapped out of that quickly and had my own belief in what beauty meant – that’s what validated me. I just did my own thing and fell in love with the way I look and how God made me.

I never thought that anyone would ask me to be in a beauty campaign I didn’t see myself and black girls like me doing that…

For bareMinerals to hit my people up and the fact I used bareMinerals before, meant it naturally felt cool to be part of it. It inspires young girls in general, especially close to home, to have my little sister and Mum walk into Debenhams and my sister see it’s not impossible. It’s inspirational for someone like my sister to have someone she sees everyday celebrated in this way is and for that to have a positive effect on people for a long time to come.

The bareMinerals is ‘free of what’s fake’ – I have removed myself from fake behaviour in the entertainment industry by…

…being very sensitive to how I feel around that person and being wise to say, ‘I can give you love, I will treat you with respect but to be around you is detrimental to me because I can pick up your negative energy. ’ In a sense it’s about being very sensitive about the type of people I am around, and what they are selling to me.

If they are selling me rudeness and entitlement and I know they are bad things to have in your character I tend to step away.

You become what you are around: if you are around really cool people who will encourage you and lift you up that is great but people in the industry, or situations in the industry that aren’t positive I tend to step away very quickly. I don’t want to become that, and I don’t want anyone to feel like that, so I protect my peace.

I had to build my own sense of self from a young age…

Being religious did help me find my sense of self growing up but I wasn’t as connected with god as I was now – although my Mum used to make me pray before bed. Now that I am connected with god in a deeper way, it helps me more now, to be honest. Your twenties are so crazy, you are dealing with your career, relationships and friendships in a more sensitive way.

As a Tom Boy my family never made me feel pressured to put on makeup or change myself…

Having a good family was so influential, like the way my Mum and my Aunts would carry themselves and the way they would never make me feel like I should never have to try a dress. I am a Tom Boy – still am! They also never put pressure on me to put makeup on, they never said, ‘if you put this makeup on you will be perfect,’ they never did that! The only time they would wear makeup was to a family event or to parties and when they took it off, they were comfortable in their own skin.

I never sought validation from anyone else growing up. Makeup should never be used to cover up insecurities…

Naturally seeing that and having my religion meant that I didn’t need validation from anyone else. If I didn’t want to wear makeup then great, or if I did, great! The nourishment and the way you treat your children when they are growing up and society in general -the way we treat and encourage each other – can birth positive change for the future and make people change the way they see themselves.

That can all combine to make you beautiful. If you put on a product like bareMinerals and you feel like you don’t need to put it on to cover up insecurities, the foundation is already there. I know the foundation is already there in myself worth and then when I put it on, I just feel extra fly!

My Guyana heritage taught me that you can feel beautiful and walk with integrity with or without makeup…

I saw beauty in both sides of the world. I saw beauty in Guyana where women didn’t walk around in cakes of makeup, it’s just natural and not superficial at all. The sun naturally gives you that glow, and you are fly. So, the thing I learnt from back home is that women didn’t put on makeup to feel beautiful, they walked with integrity.

I was able to grab that and then coming to Britain where I went, ‘ok people are using makeup in combination with carrying themselves in a very beautiful way. ’ You can marry the two. But in the West, it is a tiny bit more superficial, people still love themselves – to have that truth and have that balance is amazing.

I want to cancel out what society sold to everyone as ‘beautiful’ and what has made us feel inadequate because of the way we look…

I am not super educated in the beauty industry to be an expert but on a human level I want to cancel out what society has sold to everyone. Whether it’s to be a man you have to dress a certain way or in fact, any ideal that was sold to us to make us feel inadequate in terms of how we look.

The conversation I want to change is that a young person should be able to feel happy within themselves and not see a poster of what everyone says beauty should be like, like your hair should be straight, your make up has to be immaculate, you have to go to gym five times a week to have a sense of self.

All that stuff that has a superficial purpose should be thrown out of the window and beauty should be about how you treat people and the inside of you coming out. That’s where beauty starts for me, that’s where you glow comes from when you are in tune with how you treat people and how you treat yourself.

What I want to teach the next generation that beauty is just ‘cherry on the cake’…

If we teach young children hat someone might have say, different trainers to you, or their hair and skin might be different to you, you should still love them. If we teach them this lesson, then you can embrace beauty products without using them to make you feel better about yourself – it’s something you should put on, feel fly about and then take off and still feel good about yourself. It’s an enhancement, it’s a cherry on the cake – beauty starts within your heart.

I try to be a kind person everyday – I don’t achieve it always – I can me annoying to my sisters or talk back at my mum – but I check back in with myself and realise that wasn’t beautiful, that didn’t make me feel good about myself, and how I can change that by bringing out the best in someone by bringing out the best in myself.

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