“Beautiful, inside and out.” “Pretty is as pretty does.” We’re all familiar with the platitudes, but beyond being our kindest, most generous selves, what does putting it into practice actually look like for Black women? We’re well accustomed to taking care of everyone else, but as InStyle’s October cover star Cynthia Erivo reminds us that true beauty is an inside job—and it starts with taking care of our mental health.
The Grammy, Tony and Emmy-winner has added her star power to a GoFundMe for DRK Beauty Healing, a digital platform aiming to provide free therapy for women of color. “[Black women] aren’t always given the opportunity to take a minute to discuss how we’re feeling, to process our feelings, and to get other people’s help to do that,” Erivo tells InStyle.
Launched in mid-May, DRK Beauty Healing aims “to give away 10,000 hours of free therapy to those who identify as women of color in the US and have been affected by COVID-19,” according to its site. To do this, the organization has asked clinicians across the country to donate 10 or more hours of therapy. With Erivo’s help, DRK Beauty is hoping to garner additional financial support for the mental health initiative, toward which 80 percent of donations will help enable clinicians to continue to provide free therapy. According to the GoFundMe, the remaining 20 percent “will be allocated for legal and administrative fees to effectively resource the initiative.” Altogether, the aim is to “ensure short and long-term sustainability of DRK Beauty Healing and will undoubtedly have a generational healing effect.”
As Erivo tells InStyle, the effort couldn’t be more timely. “After George [Floyd], after Breonna [Taylor], I was, like, deeply sad. I was just sad, tearful, crying. I couldn’t really shift the feeling,” she shares. “I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if I could use this platform to spark joy?’ If anything, that’s my job.”
I can personally attest that Erivo—she of the golden-voice and contagious, gap-toothed smile—does have a tendency to spark joy. As her appearance on InStyle’s cover (photographed by Joshua Kissi) indicates, the diminutive star is also helping to shift the paradigm on beauty. Her always adventurous beauty squad is also unambiguously and unapologetically Black—including stylist Jason Bolden, hairstylist Coree Moreno. and makeup artist Terrell Mullin. So too is Erivo herself, telling the magazine: “I do think there has to be a point where we stop being afraid of seeing Black people be Black. And people are afraid when it’s on display proudly. I don’t know how to hide my Blackness, so I live in it as it is. I really love it.”
And we love to see it—especially since we don’t know when we’ll be seeing Erivo’s version of late musical icon Aretha Franklin in National Geographic’s Genius: Aretha. Deadline reports that the series “was originally designated to premiere on the Disney-owned network on Memorial Day, as an Aretha big screen bio from MGM with Jennifer Hudson was set to follow.” However, as with most things we were anticipating in 2020, COVID-19 intervened, shutting down production. InStyle reports the biopic will premiere later this fall.
In the meantime, Erivo is devoting her energy to making this dark moment in history just a little bit brighter and more bearable for Black women.
“I am aware of how brutal this time is, and some of us just don’t have the space or the means to have people help us,” she says. “So I want to help.”
If you or anyone you know is feeling depressed, suicidal, or considering self-harm, please the National Crisis Hotline by dialing 988 on your phone or calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255). For more information on DRK Beauty, visit firstname.lastname@example.org.