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What photographer Nancy Floyd and Ibram X. Kendi can teach us about being free and equal.

This week I came across an article in The New Yorker about Nancy Floyd's new photography book, Weathering Time. I had never heard of Nancy Floyd. The life she portrays in the book is not "remarkable" by American standards of fame and glamour, but she is remarkable—a subdued, "anti-perfectionist."

At age 25, she set out to document her own aging process by taking a single full-body photo of herself every day over the course of 20 years. The project ended up spanning nearly 40 years, with irregular gaps as life swept her along.

Johanna Fateman writes in The New Yorker:

"The metamorphosis or decline of her own body turned out to be, it seems, less interesting than—or inextricable from—the major events, changing backdrops, and interdependent relationships that made up her life... We see Floyd’s haircut shorten, the lines of her face deepen, but her distinct, solid bearing and forthright (she says “sullen”) demeanor before the lens is unwavering—a persistent, uncalculated anti-pose, absent of vanity or clichéd tics of conventional femininity."

Nancy possesses a kind of beauty many of us aren't accustomed to acknowledging, quiet dignity accompanied by pets and people, parents and partners who come and go over the course of a lifetime. Instead of chronological order, she puts her photos in categories like Underwear, Telephone, Protest, The Month Dad Died, Pets Misbehaving, and Shirts with Words.

This type of present, unaffected beauty made me think about the people I coach—some of whom I have worked with for over fourteen years—about their beauty and how they inevitably come to see more of it over time.

It also made me think of the unfamiliar freedom many of us have found in the midst of lockdowns: Freedom to be as we are. Freedom not to comply with dress codes and social expectations of how we carry our bodies.

Since the world went into quarantine, our voices have grown with a global outcry for racial justice, echoes of #metoo reverberating with real consequences, and a Get Out the Vote initiative unlike any other. Our bodies are not far behind.

We've seen a shift in models portrayed in advertising and diverse voices being heard in the media. And finally, at long last, Ibram X. Kendi writes in the current issue of Time Magazine, This Is the Black Renaissance: "The racial groups are equals, and what makes the racial groups equals is our common humanity; and our common humanity is imperfect and complex... Black Renaissance is stirring Black people to be themselves. Totally. Unapologetically. Freely... The Black Renaissance is the freedom of being. We are free."

It's time, well past time, in fact. Beauty is diversity, and we can't honor diversity if we're all trying to fit the same mold. As I wrote in The Habit Trip, "This life is an equal swagger opportunity."

We're approaching the prospect of emerging from isolation this summer or fall... back to workplaces and concerts and dinners with friends... and I'm curious if you see beauty any differently than before.

  1. What beauty do you see in yourself that you couldn't see before?

  2. What beauty can you see in the people around you?

We get to write our own definitions of beauty and power going forward. For what it's worth, I see them both in you—and in every one of us.



As Black History Month continues, I wanted to look not only back, but forward, to learn from some of the youngest, most influential activists working at the intersection of climate and racial justice. This article from links directly to the Instagram accounts of seven young people who are working to reverse the disproportionate impact of climate change on communities of color. The links make it easy to follow and support their efforts.


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