Every February, the US celebrates the achievements and history of African Americans as part of Black History Month, honoring the rich cultural heritage, triumphs and adversities that are an indelible part of the country's history. To celebrate Black History Month and the importance of recognising the historical contributions of African Americans, we asked some of our favorite writers, editors and content creators to share with us the people that have inspired and motivated them - and to highlight the heroes that have had a positive impact on their lives.
I'm Maya, a beauty editor and expert. For me, Black History Month is every month, 365 days of the year. I celebrate the beautiful magnitude of Blackness in every element of my life.
Growing up in Portland, Oregon being tokenized was my norm and the images I saw in the mainstream media only further pushed the false and limiting narrative that Black women were not included in Eurocentric standards of beauty. I made it my mission to be a part of the change using my chosen medium: the written word. There’s so much power in what we read, see, and the images we internalize. Flipping through magazines I didn’t see women who looked like me.
As a long-time beauty editor and expert who has held positions at Cosmopolitan, Byrdie, Marie Claire and most recently, InStyle magazine, where I worked as the leading Beauty Director, embracing beauty in all of its diverse glory is my form of activism. I’m committed to amplifying the richness of representation through storytelling that breaks boundaries.
The person who encouraged me to pursue this profession is my mom, my first and forever beauty icon. She is the most dynamic woman I know. Her joyful soul, caring spirit, and fiercely positive outlook on life has encouraged me beyond belief.
My mom is the first person who introduced me to my life hero and legendary namesake, Dr. Maya Angelou. The contributions this icon has made to the culture are boundless. The first book I ever read that made a lasting impact on my life is Angelou’s, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, published in 1969. As a young girl, I memorized her poem “Phenomenal Woman” line by line and aimed to embody every word.
Throughout many moments of my life, particularly at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, I found myself revisiting her books, speeches, and poetry, all of which have made a profound impact on my progression to womanhood.
28 February 2022