Danielle Brooks' Emotional Keynote At R29's Every Beautiful Body Symposium

The moment Danielle Brooks took the stage at Refinery29's Every Beautiful Body Symposium in New York City yesterday, the whole room whipped out their iPhones and burst into applause. After all, Brooks — best known for her role as Taystee on Orange Is The New Black — has become an icon of body positivity, appearing in the #ThisBody Lane Bryant campaign and serving as a spokesperson for Refinery29's 67% Project.

Brooks
shared a story that helped drive home the importance of representation: She once moved into a new apartment where the previous tenant had forgotten to discontinue her magazine subscriptions. An issue of one magazine arrived, and Brooks was ecstatic to see First Lady Michelle Obama on the cover. So, she read through it, and was incredibly disappointed that her body type was barely reflected at all inside the magazine. Throughout the 330 pages, Brooks counted a measly two plus-size women. As she noted in an essay for Refinery29 earlier this month, "Reading that magazine sent yet another message to my brain that society doesn’t deem me — or your mother, your sister, your daughter, maybe you — as worthy of being seen." At this point, Brooks paused to collect her thoughts and — it seemed — to avoid crying. There were few dry eyes in the audience.

After Brooks pointed out the clear injustice of the lack of visibility and representation for plus-size women, she pivoted toward a brighter moment: "I remember the day Lane Bryant launched its #ImNoAngel campaign, blasting images of plus women across TV screens, billboards, even subway cars. I walked around with my head held a little higher, my strut a little firmer, and my smile a little brighter. I saw myself in those women."
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My first solo billboard in New York and it's in the middle of Times Square!! Leaping with joy! #voiceofthecurves

A photo posted by Danielle Brooks (@daniebb3) on

And that's the vision: As Brooks wrote, "Editors, we want to be seen. Designers, we want to be dressed. Retailers, we want options. Women, we must do this together."
Learn more about Refinery29's 67% Project here.