Throughout American history, ideals of beauty have interlocked with gendered and racialized standards of what it looks like to fit in, and what happens when you are excluded from definitions of beauty and feminism. In limited shades, we find limited access to opportunity, limited representation, and a limited perception of what it means to be whole.
Through interwoven audio diaries and performative documentary, It Starts with a Shade takes audiences on an abstract exploration of personal, multigenerational recounts of self-discovery and acceptance through the intersectional lenses of Blackness, beauty, and womenhood.
The story features Ethel Reid McNeil, a Southern-raised, stubborn-yet-sweet powerhouse who identifies Blackness with grit, independence, and success; Kaliya Ware, an aspiring YouTube beauty influencer who promotes an equal playing field for Black feminist thought and body-inclusivity; and Cherae Ensor (45), a mother of four and creative soul who instills family-grown lessons of Black excellence in her multi-racial household.
In the lifelong pursuit of self-discovery, all three women find common ground in faith, resilience, and deep truths that tie where they've been with where they're going. In their stories, we find seeds of promise: inspiration for stories to come and a reminder of the beauty in reflection.