On Monday, over 250 people attended Instagram’s launch of #MyStory, a celebration of women on the social media platform. Every day, women use Instagram to share their visual stories. In the process, they are building audiences and leading communities all over the world.
#MyStory seeks to draw attention to these women—artists and activists, scientists and skateboarders, moms and midwives—who are breaking stereotypes, overturning clichés, and helping others find their voice through personal and profound storytelling. Instagram celebrated the beautiful and amazing women of #MyStory with a photo exhibit at the ACE Gallery in Los Angeles, where they featured the work of some of these inspiring women.
The launch event, which was co-hosted by actress Rowan Blanchard and Instagram Chief Operating Officer Marne Levine, featured photographs from 28 powerful female storytellers. And the best part of the whole celebration? The ultimate storyteller, Oprah, shared a very special message for the attendees.
If this initiative proves anything, it’s that women’s powers are multifaceted, beautiful and worth sharing. I managed to get some time with one of the women honored, Denisio Truitt, and she explained why she was chosen as part of #MyStory, why her Instagram speaks to thousands (if not more) and how Instagram saved her life.
The Root: Who are you, and why has Instagram honored you?
Denisio Truitt: I’m a fashion designer. I have a company called DOPEciety, which I run with my partner, Michael. It started as a way for me to show my artwork on T-shirts, and it’s evolved into a full-on clothing company. But … we do events as well, mostly in the New Orleans area, but we’d love to travel!
I also have a blog that I started a few months ago with Mwende Katwiwa, a girl who lives in New Orleans, who is also of African descent. That’s actually [where] the photograph [appeared that] Instagram reached out to me about that they really liked. Me and my friend were wearing menswear-inspired outfits. It was taken by photographer danielle c. miles. It was striking to me that this was the picture they chose because I think, especially with this blog, we’re trying to delve into what womanhood is and what my story is, and it’s not a stereotypical cisgender woman. I’m excited to be a part of it; I’m honored.
TR: When you started your Instagram, what were the types of things that you posted?
DS: I joined Instagram three years ago, and about two years ago I went through a divorce, and that’s kind of the turning point for me. With my personal Instagram, I was just sharing more personal and vulnerable stories about what I was going through; also from suffering with depression, talking about that. I guess, for me, this was the pivot or the turning point—finding people with similar stories and people who could relate to things that I was going through.
I share a lot with my circle of friends, and sometimes it’s difficult to talk about the depression stuff. Especially being a black woman and finding other communities and pockets of people who are going through the exact thing, or who have gone through the exact-same thing. It was kind of awesome.
TR: How do you combat the idea that all black women are strong, along with fighting against everything on social media being perfect?
DS: That’s what I found a lot of people connect with online especially, being a black woman. We’re seen as being very strong, powerful and these superwomen, especially for me growing up. My mother is African; she is from Liberia. And growing up in an African household with primarily women (I grew up in a single-family household with all her sisters), it’s like we don’t get sad, we don’t get depressed, we don’t get down, we just do what we do and that’s it.
I think being in my 30s now and realizing that’s it OK to show the other sides of me—because that’s, in fact, what a lot of people connect with—has been the main thing I like to tailor my Instagram to. Also, just showing other sides of me: being a black woman, being a queer women, being an artist, being a weirdo, being awkward, being socially awkward, being completely candid and honest with what it means to be me in my womanness, and what that looks like.
So I think it’s just being able to capture all of that, you know. It’s the imperfections, it’s the shirt that’s not quite ironed out—that’s great. You know, my body’s not a model’s or whatever society deems beautiful. I think, for me, it’s being able to post those flaws and seeing them not so much as flaws but as a part of me and part of why I’m kind of cool.
TR: As part of the Instagram initiative #MyStory, what is your story?
DS: I think the biggest part of my story is that I’m still trying to figure it out. I’m still trying out … what I want to do. I’m still fiinding myself, and that’s OK. I think a lot of times on Instagram, on social media, we have this representative of ourselves, and there’s a lot of smoke and mirrors. There’s a lot of pretty pictures. A lot of lifestyles: “My life is so great!” “I’m traveling here and I’m eating this great thing and I’m at this expensive hotel” or whatever. And there’s this emphasis on things and objects appearing greater than you are. I think, for me, being an entrepreneur, being self-employed, I like to show that it’s not glitz and glam; it’s hard.
Editor’s note: Check out the full list of honorees:
Toyin Ojih Odutola