For some, a lipstick is just a lipstick. But for others, it's a source of strength, creativity, and expression. In our series Power Faces, we'll explore the relationship between strong women and the makeup they choose to wear — or not. Our latest subject is 19-year-old model and rising social media star Choyce Brown. This story was told to Aimee Simeon and edited for length and clarity.
I've always had a shaky relationship with confidence and seeing my beauty. Growing up in middle school, I got bullied a lot for my appearance. I felt like the awkward Black girl. I was tall and dark and had textured hair which made me feel pretty odd-looking compared to my predominantly white and Asian peers at the time. I subconsciously grew up thinking the standard of what was considered beautiful was white or light skin and loose hair. I used to Google how to make my skin lighter because my image of myself was so distorted. It was something I really struggled with.
Grade school brought a lot of those feelings to the surface, but I am thankful it didn’t last long. Being around my mom, who is a beautiful Black woman, and the people she brought around me helped me see myself in a different light as I got older. This may seem silly, but I watched a lot of America’s Next Top Model. Seeing so many different beautiful Black women on screen planted the seed that I could be like them and feel beautiful, too. Towards high school, I slowly began to see that I was beautiful all along — I was just different from those who were around me.
Despite those feelings, I've always had an interest in modelling. I started with some modelling work as a kid, and I lost interest at an early age because I didn't see the point of it. I thought that all there was to it was standing in front of a camera and looking pretty. As I grew up, I realized that modelling is a true form of self-expression for me. I'm grateful to have found that outlet early on in my life.
I've had moments of discouragement, for sure. There were plenty of times where I would care about what others thought about me and my abilities. I've gotten some comments about it on social media, too. But going into shoots lately has proven that not only can I do this, but I am actually good at it. Pursuing my passion despite any doubt or negativity has taught me that I am allowed to explore different sides of myself. I am able to tap into different characters and personalities on camera. My body literally becomes a tool to express different emotions, which puts the fun back in the path for me.
Modelling has also helped me connect with my love for makeup. Beauty is a direct reflection of how I feel. I didn't start wearing makeup until high school, but YouTube played a huge role in why I became interested in it. My mom [Tabitha Brown] would let me wear eyeshadow, and that's when I started experimenting. I learned that I love playing up my eyes with fun colors and liner. I watched Jackie Aina and Alissa Ashley a lot, and I essentially learned how to do my makeup from them. I've gotten the chance to work with Alyssa, which ended up being shared by Fenty Beauty. It felt like a full-circle moment to me.
I appreciate that makeup allows me to enhance different sides of my personality. Some days I feel playful and want to wear two-toned lipstick. Other days, a natural glow and lip gloss are enough. It spills over into my personal life because the way I choose to present myself is a reflection of how I feel. If I don’t feel too great, I probably won’t look too great.
Beauty is therapeutic to me, so I try to be intentional with the time that I get to make myself look good and do everything with purpose. Everything down to using ingredients that are good for me to taking my time to massage my shea butter in at night is essential because I know that I am doing something good for myself.
I love that I've been given a platform on TikTok to be myself. It's the one place on the internet where I can be me in my rawest form. I know that my followers aren't expecting much out of me; they're just expecting me.
That doesn't mean that negativity doesn't exist. I've gotten some comments about my modelling career or closing my tooth gap. I've never hated my teeth, but I knew that given the opportunity to close my gap and have pearly whites I would jump on it. My motto for beauty alterations is: 'Your body your choice.'
Growing in my confidence hasn't made me immune to internet trolls, but my past experiences with bullying have prepared me for now. I am learning the art of ignoring and understanding that people project a lot on social media. When people are unhappy with themselves, they come on social media and project the things they don't like about themselves onto you. I continuously remind myself of that. I've quickly learned that it's unhealthy to put too much thought into what other people think of you because it's not your business. Plus, not everyone is going to like you, and that's okay. Haters are an indicator that you're doing something right.
I think now, more than ever, it's so important to love who you are. For so long, we didn't have anything to be joyful about, and I definitely cherish Black joy. So many beautiful Black people have been deprived of their joy, and it's our human right to be happy.
My mother is the most beautiful Black woman in the world, and she's been a great example of Black joy in my life. I've watched her work really hard, and I've seen all the small moments that have led to her success, and it's super motivating for me to go after mine. She's taught me to not quit on anything. She's a testimony to me that hard work pays off.
More importantly, she's always been confident, and even when she wasn't, she's been honest. She’s helped me be comfortable with being honest with how I feel about myself. She tells me to look in the mirror when I’m feeling down and say, 'I know I don’t feel so good but I am great'. It's so important for young Black girls to be kind to ourselves and know that we are beautiful regardless of what anyone has to say. We’re supposed to be unique. The things that make us different are what make us individuals. You’re not supposed to be like everyone else.
It's a cliché, but this year was supposed to be our year — full of independence, opportunity, or at least a few weekend afternoons spent with more than 10 friends with fewer than six feet between us. But with COVID-necessary social distancing, a shitty job market, and closed campuses, 2020 hasn't given us much to work with. Past generations have had to deal with a recession, social upheaval, and changing norms: We've had to deal with all of it at once.
So, what now? What do we do with our careers, our relationships, and our lives? How do we move forward when we're still stuck in our high school bedrooms? These stories are for us — filled with the resources, blueprints, and people who are finding ways to turn all this garbage into something like lemonade.