9 Self-Portraits Challenge Mainstream Perceptions Of Beauty & Race

Photographer Genevieve Gaignard started taking self-portraits to better understand her place in her family as well as her place in society. "I’m interested in exploring what it means to grow up biracial as well as investigating ongoing issues with body shaming and the myth of the ideal woman," she told Refinery29. As a woman who faces these issues every day, Gaignard says, "My own body became the perfect vessel to address these questions."
Gaignard adopts radically distinct styles and appearances in each of her self-portraits, whether she's posing in a beehive and miniskirt or in braids and bamboo earrings. This is how she explores her own identity. Each look or "character" is inspired by portrayals of women in popular culture, pieces of clothing Gaignard finds, and, of course, how she views herself.
"The notion of 'passing' also surfaces a lot," she adds. "I identify as a woman of color, however, I pass as white. My light skin tells one story, but I am more complex than my complexion might reveal." The ease with which Gaignard inhabits each of these characters, some of which are styled to pass as white while others are not, challenges how her viewers perceive her identity — "It’s important to me that enough ambiguity exists in these stories to allow the viewer to engage," she says. As she owns the complexity of her identity, she asks others to do the same.
"Whether it’s hashtagging #effyourbeautystandards or #mixedchick, I’m trying to send a message to my followers that embracing who you are in any given moment is an act of agency and power." We couldn't have said it better.
Click ahead to view a selection of Gaignard's self-portraits.

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