Filmmaker and blogger Antonia Opiah is not new to speaking out about race and misconceptions of beauty. Opiah gained national attention for her short film You Can Touch My Hair, which appeared on her website Un-ruly.com, and an accompanying live event that indeed let strangers touch Black women’s hair on the streets in New York City. The project became a part of a global conversation about Black women’s beauty.
She’s revisiting the concept again in Pretty, a documentary series she launched in January that asks Black women around the world for their thoughts on beauty. Each episode showcases different women—and we mean truly different, across ages, lifestyles, experiences, and personal styles—sharing their stories and ideas on what is beautiful.
“I really want people to watch the videos and find someone they can connect to and understand,” Opiah says.
Society often has a non-inclusive definition of beauty, one that Opiah hopes to burst through with each episode, with conversations that emphasize listening rather than seeing. So far the docuseries has gathered perspectives from Black women living in from Paris, Tel Aviv, Morocco, and London. The Tel Aviv episode was especially popular: Yityish Aynaw, the first black Miss Israel, and other women of color in Tel Aviv discussed the controversy over the pageant’s recognition of her beauty.
While the videos focus primarily on Black women, Opiah says no one should count themselves out of the conversations.
“The weight of a woman’s appearance is greatly linked to her value,” Opiah says. “Her value, her worth, is determined instantly by how she looks, but that doesn’t happen to men. This happens to women no matter their age or race, making this series more than a series only for other Black women. Anyone can watch and see and discover a story they can relate to.”
Shooting Pretty has also given Opiah the opportunity to travel and have these powerful conversations. She’s based in Paris, and spends time in New York City. Though she had a small team of three women help her with filming and editing early episodes based in Europe, she now travels, films, and edits the episodes by herself.
New episodes of Pretty are uploaded to Un-Ruly every Thursday. Stay tuned to see where Opiah will find herself next, and whom she’ll run into along the way.
“Beauty is ongoing,” she says, “and I’m excited to see where the discovery is going.”
Kacie Trimble is a student at Northwestern University.