Most of my life I was a dancer. As a dancer, it was initially brought to my attention that I was different, but expected to fit in. When dancing in a group, unless you are being highlighted, the idea is for everyone to blend together and look as one. So, in costuming and basic dance uniform, nude tones are essential. In the mass market, nude has always been represented by one color, pink/peach. When I was told I needed to get nude colored bodysuits or even dance shoes, I had to dye leotards and spray paint my pointe shoes.
After dancing, I moved on to pageantry. When modeling in the bathing suit or evening gown phases of competition, the idea is to focus on the beauty of one’s frame (in a healthy/athletic way) or the gown being modeled. So, once again, nude tones are essential in footwear to complete the look. In my experience in pageantry as the first African American to represent the state of Illinois at Miss Teen USA, I was asked to get nude colored shoes to complete my interview and evening gown look. I had difficulty finding a nude dress shoe and nude platform shoe in my color. After several google searches, weeks and hundreds of dollars later, I ended up finding shoes that matched my color, but they were uncomfortable and not flattering. At Miss Teen USA and appearances, I ended up wearing the same nude as the girls who were clearly not the same nude as me. In my mind, it affected my confidence because I felt like everyone was staring at the fact that my shoes didn’t match my skin or my outfit.
One of the most prevalent questions I was asked after becoming the first African American to represent Illinois at Miss Teen USA was, “Do you feel an extra amount of pressure being the first black girl to represent for Illinois at Miss Teen USA?” My answer was no because I knew that my responsibility was to represent ALL girls, with the understanding that representation matters. As females, we all struggle with acceptance or inclusivity in some way. My personal struggle of the lack of diversity in essential items for dancers and pageant girls fueled my passion to create my shoe line Diverse Style, which recognizes that NUDE IS MORE THAN ONE COLOR!