A group of Florida sorority sisters posed in the azure waters of Costa Rica for what they called a "Melanin Illustrated" photo shoot that went viral Wednesday.
“We wanted to convey the message that beauty is being confident; that you are good enough and that is beauty in itself, no matter your size or shape,” said Amanda Byrd, 32.
The women had gathered in Costa Rica last weekend to commemorate the 10th anniversary of their induction into Delta Sigma Theta at Florida A&M University.
The viral photos of the women were shared across Instagram and other social media sites with the hashtag #MelaninIllustrated.
The women wanted to share a message about the diverse beauty within their community — and to encourage and empower women to embrace their own unique facets.
“Beauty is bringing your personal best to the table. That's what beauty is to us,” said Byrd, a pediatric occupational therapist now living in Atlanta.
They also wanted to showcase the many shades of beauty of African American skin, from ebony to caramel.
“Even though we are all African American women, we are not all the same shade,” Byrd said.
Vandoline Ivey, 31, echoed Byrd's thoughts, saying the photos shed light on the "different types of beauty in the African American community."
Ivey remembers feeling inspired after seeing black actress Tyra Banks on a Sports Illustrated cover in 1997.
The shoot did take some convincing, Byrd recalled. Not everyone felt comfortable posing in a swimsuit; some donned one-pieces and cover-ups. But no matter what they were wearing, they made it a point to “help each other feel that we are beautiful in the skin that we are in.
“We really just started celebrating each other."
You can read the original USA Today article here.