Steph and Mimi are truly inspiring women, living and creating their dreams. Through their community organization Girl’s Room and their clothing brand LDYBY, they are exhibiting the ways they are just two paradigms of female solidarity who showcase their passion and sincerity behind their commitment to bringing “awareness to female creatives, encouraging collaborations, and giving bad ass girl bosses the platform they deserve!” We had the pleasure of interviewing these two fine young LDYBYs where we were able to discuss body image, individual journey, the importance of women supporting one another in their endeavors, and much more!
Beautype: We’re going to jump right in and ask you both what your Beautype is. In other words, what is the aspect you love most about yourself, whether it be physical or not?
Mimi: Right now, it’s my hair. I’ve had a really big journey with it. Ever since I was young, I wanted straight hair. My mom and I were at the Laundromat once, and I remember asking her for a perm ‘cause I didn’t want to deal with my hair. She didn’t want to deal with it either. Two years ago, my pregnant cousin who at the time had damaged bleached hair decided to let her hair grow out. Her curls, when they grew, were beautiful, and I fell in love. I wanted to see what my hair would look like if I did the same. I began learning different things about my hair, what it likes, what it doesn’t like. I enjoyed doing that, learning to take care of and growing to love it.
Internally, one of the aspects I love most about myself is my humor. I can make fun out of everything. I can make people laugh and more importantly, I can make my friends laugh in a dark time.
Steph: When I think of my Beautype, the first thing I can think of is physical. Internally, I would have to think about. But, I think my eyebrows are the aspect I love most about myself physically. I was really self-conscious about my eyebrows, and I used to tweeze them myself and do a lot of crazy stuff. In fourth grade, I shaved half my eyebrows off. I want to say something internal because it seems less shallow. I think it’s a mix of humor and positivity. It kind of took me a long time to get there after college. I had no balance. I’m a worrier no matter how small or big. I started travelling. I was in a certain situation a few years back. I would act very negatively. I can now see the Brightside. That’s what I like about myself, that in growing, I’ve also grown more positive.
B: What makes you feel beautiful?
M: Clothes, putting outfits together and makeup! I love makeup. I love beating the shit out of my face, and it makes me happy. It may be because of the issues I have with my skin. Once I hit college my skin broke out all the time. Then, I got scars and when I figured out makeup, I went nuts on it. I can be on the train or the light rail, and I’m most likely watching a tutorial. Not even realizing, I guess it was because I wasn’t happy with my face. Even though I feel like its frowned upon. Some people think it’s a way to hide who you really are, but if I’m going to be with you, my features shouldn’t be the only thing that matters. Makeup, it allows me to be creative. It been more about me being creative with the way I look than trying to be someone else.
If I’m at an event, I have to be presentable. I’m the type of person that every day is something new. If I feel good about my skin that day, and I’m proud of what I’m doing, lets just say, an event for LDYBY, I have to come as is. LDYBY is so important to me, I wouldn’t let my skin get in the way. It would be a matter of working myself up to internally, but by the time the event is over I’ll have forgotten my skin. Everybody is battling with finding that inner happiness. It’s just one of the things I’m battling with now.
S: For me, it’s when I find beauty in other people, and I make other people feel beautiful, I get happy. You’re not going to tell yourself, so I’ll tell you!
B: I asked what makes you feel beautiful and you answered that this is what makes you happy? Do you equate beauty to happiness?
S: Yeah, I guess I do in a way.
B: When do you feel most beautiful? This could be anything— clothing, makeup, a person, a place, an action etc.
M: When I get something right. Whether is be a new technique of something or starting a new job. If I don’t get it, I’ll be annoyed with myself for not getting, but as soon as I know what I’m doing the right way, I feel it. I love learning new things and building upon them.
S: Being around people. When there’s music and I see people coming together. As much as I say I don’t want to be around people, I get a lot of energy from them. Meeting new people and seeing what they’re into. Places and music can change a mood and bring people together. Music has a big influence on me because growing up, my dad used to DJ. It’s always been around events revolving around music and bringing people together. Lights are like mood rings for their surroundings.
B: How has society affected your view on beauty growing up?
M: In cartoons, there weren’t any girls with curly hair. The girls on the covers of magazines didn’t look like me. I wanted to be smooth like them. I looked at the other girls, and their hair wasn’t as dark or as thick as mine. People would say “God bless your hair,“ when its straight. Well yes! God bless my hair! Say that when it’s curly too. Every Saturday, I went to the salon to get my hair straightened those twenty dollars could’ve been put some place else. I would make sure my mother wasn’t home, and I would shave every part of my body because I hated body hair and they influenced me.
My weight fluctuates. I’ll have one good year, lose 20lbs, and then get comfortable and say, “When are we gonna get wings?” Being younger and having so much curly hair, my weight, and glasses, I had all the odds against me. I’d think, “Im just ugly,” and I wouldn’t want anyone to see me. I would hide. I was always a LDYBY or a tomboy, wearing big t-shirts. You would never see my butt cause my clothes were too big. I’d wear ponytails and air forces, and hide behind my layers. I didn’t want eyes on me. It creeped me out, then slowly but surely, it changed. I wanted guys to see me cause I realized, I got something. I learned to love a lot of me. God blessed me in certain way, and he knew later on down the road I would understand.
S: Body image is really big. I don’t know when were going to ever stop dealing with this. Weight has always been up and down now. Before it was skinny girls in bikinis, now we’re always seeing girl with ass and titties. When you talk to men and women, they praise those women, and people say we don’t expect you to meet these standards. Well, why are my titties not super perky when I don’t have a bra on? Images online is what made me self conscious. I wore loose baggy clothes trying to figure it all out until it became about comfort. I’m not doing it for anybody. It’s still a battle. I was listening to Migos, and he said, “I want a girl with cellulite.” It made me happy. I want be comfortable with my naked body. I want to be realistic about what I expect from myself, my body shape, and type. Comfortable enough to approach myself realistically and admit that I will never look like someone else.
B: How was beauty defined in your household growing up? Have you ever conformed to those ideas if you have, Have you kept such views?
M: Beauty was conservative clothes and straight hair in a house run by a mother with Pentecostal beliefs. I used to conform but today, I rather pay $100 to show my daughter what her curls could do. Dominican women will make you wait forever and then burn your hair straight and tell you that’s what beauty is. Deva curl gives all the attention to you hair, puts you in a robe with a cup of tea or coffee, and romance you.
S: My mom was a hairstylist. She was always fashion forward into having things in her hair. I probably put highlights in my hair before ten years old. I would see her do everyone’s hair, and I was like why don’t you do my hair. I been dying my hair for so long, for me, its become self expression. I’ve had pink, red, everything you can think of. She was into the way I was dressed. If there was so much as a wrinkle, I didn’t care, but she cared. They were never on me about my weight but she would say I was really skinny and then big and then skinny. There would be moment where she said suck it in. I was trained to suck my stomach in. I never felt like anything I did was ugly or the wrong thing once again having a mom in that field made me do things a little earlier. It was instilled, trying to enhance my beauty, look older than I was, etc. I hung out with older people. My mom and dad never saying that what I was doing too grown.
B: What differs between your opinion of beauty and the American idea of beauty?
M: Right now America is infatuated with bodies that don’t look real. I don’t give a f*ck about that, I’m not doing it.
S: Realistic. Looking at everyday people for beauty and not celebrities. America is changing drastically. You see faces in vogue you would’ve never seen a few years back. Everyone’s gravitating toward black and minority now. They want to praise our features now. Now, everyone wants it, when all this time we had it. ‘Cause our skins a little darker, my nose is a little bigger, but now it’s a trend. They don’t understand though, it’s not a trend for us. This is who we are. Certain jobs you get looked at just because they need the diversity, like, “We need 5 Black people and 2 Hispanic people.”
B: Do you think that a person’s physical appearance affects their success in any aspect? If so, why do you think that is?
M: The wave of social media has a reinforced a, “the way you’re supposed to look” mentality. Instagram is not just a place to share photos. Its your brand. It represents you. If you’re strategic, you build your brand properly. I can’t feel obligated to always post something, to always take pictures. It’s a part of life now though. Americas next top model has instagram-based challenges, social media and having a following has become of importance. You cant build anything without online support. Even with LDYBY, I like to live my life, to enjoy some moments privately. I don’t have to take this photo. Can I just see it in real life and be okay? Social media puts the pressure like everyone has to see this. I want to enjoy things for myself sometimes. I don’t want to have that pressure to share everything.
S: Yes, unfortunately depending on the industry, I say yeah just because I see the way people miss opportunities because of the way they look cause that’s how vain the world we’re living in is. You don’t know what a person is capable of because you’re judging them by the way they look. I don’t wear slacks for interviews or straighten my hair. If I have to take this out or do this I feel like, why does this matter? My experience should matter more than a tattoo or a certain hair color. Why do I have to alter myself?
B: Some believe that there is more pressure in our society on women to be beautiful than there is on men? Do you agree, and if so why do you think this is?
M: Definitely but I also believe that now more than ever, there are men that take more selfies than girls. More concerned with their image than before. Maybe its just certain guys, but I feel like sometimes I see men with families making sure they’re on point and, men and women seem to be competing. There’s always more pressure on women, but men are starting to feel more pressure than before.
B: Do you think that women spend more time breaking each other down, than building each other up? Do you think women lack solidarity or need to exhibit more solidarity? What do you think this is a result of?
M: Yes! And I say yes quickly because it’s always been that way. We’re learning to work together. How can you take what you have and what I have and build something. It’s a trend to be in the girl power movement. We’re going to work together. Feminism! and f*ck all that other noise.
S: Yes, you just don’t see it and now were learning to uplift each other. Girls supporting each other, we’re moving toward exhibiting that more, but it’s difficult because we’re so young and there aren’t many opportunities. Girls Room figures though if we cant find jobs, we’ll create them. I can do this. She can do that. We’re going to show it more! Everybody gotta eat. We’re all trying to do something so we support each other and we’re going to help each other build
B: How can we improve upon helping young girls/ladies/ women feel more comfortable in their own skin?
M: Setting an example, showing them that they’re beautiful as is. I’ve talked so much about loving make up because that’s the way I choose to express myself but I always tell my niece to be herself, not to feel pressure to wear makeup. I know how that feels. I didn’t like something and I felt weird because everyone else did, but you gotta let them know every girl is different.
S: A lot of people are afraid to give compliments, but I think if we give more compliments when women are in their natural state, it takes a lot of those compliments for them to start to believe it, but it makes a difference. Even saying thank you to compliments. I have to fight saying something negative and say thank you to a compliment because I know its a defense mechanism against. I have to throw shad eon myself before I accept positive feedback. Giving women good boost confidence and compliments we wont give ourselves to be genuine and grow.
B: Where does the term “LDYBY” come from?
From us being tomboys. I was listening to Amy Winehouse “Stronger Than Me,” and she refers to a guy as a lady boy. When I heard that I was going to make it on a clutch. We were on the phone together and I said, “LDYBOY would be dope and she said pause… it should just be the name of the brand.” It stuck. It rings bells. It sounds hard. We are that. We are girls that dress like boys, and we’re fine with that. I’ll have a beat face and sweats on. Youll still wanna bag me. The way Beautype is redefiing beauty were redefining what’s sexy. It comes from us finally being open about who we are not toning it down for anyone. We are not girly girls. We are aggressive. We can stand on our own, not that we’re opposed to someone standing in our corner, but if you’re not there, we’re fine. Don’t ask us to tone it down, or soften our voice. Why should we do that? So you can be secure in your manhood?
B: Who is your target audience?
Anyone who relates and feels like they’re a LDYBOY. Anyone can wear it. You can style it how ever you want. We’re all women but we want to be comfortable.
B: What’s your endgame? If you could accomplish anything with Girls Room what would it ultimately be?
We know so many of our friends that are stunning and creative. LDYBOY and Girls Room would be the platform in which we could create outlets for their creativity. Something we can grow and build the community with for other people to have their own platform to build a following, to make people feel like they’re apart of something. We want to feel like they have someone to relate. I’m not alone in this. They can do it, we can do it. Building a platform for women to do what they want, to make their own career, their own money, have a business under their own name, etc. We have these opportunities, we just need to seize them.
In a world with so many people around us and still managing to feel alone, we’re trying to make something to fill the void. I wasn’t put in extra curricular activities or sports. I never knew what I was interested in until I started taking workshops as an adult. We want to turn it into an empire where everyone can build something. The younger generation knows that they don’t have to settle beacuse there’s so much more out there. We want to serve as a reminder to never forget that there’s so much more out there. How can you long for something set a goal for something when you don’t know what’s out there.
It’s an organization grounded in community with the message of empowering women. Behind clothing, events, and workshops the more involved with people. Bringing people together. Building platforms and making opportunities for everyone so when we don’t have anything that is our own, we get together collab like we’re doing right now and build. If they don’t have that at home we can be those people. Whether it’s just hobbies, we don’t have to make a career out of it but to get in tune with your options.
Growing up in jersey city you didn’t really think that you can be your own business owner. Sure, you can be a nurse, a teacher… but you can also build from your imagination but your community doesn’t allow you to conceptualize that. I knew I had something I just didn’t know where to put all my energy. We want to steer people in the right direction.
When your classmates going through shit that 40 year olds cant handle, you want do soccer but you don’t have money for the equipment, when you look at your community and you feel stuck there, your govenerment convinces you that’s it for you, when you just get by with no attention, no help, no care, there’s no way you can feel as special as you are cause there are no resources. We want to be there.
We say all this to say that we feel like I made it if we made an impact on kids, we made it. If we can make a change in kids that will be everything to us, no matter how many t-shirts we sell. We have in the works making it involved with all ages. They’re the future so we can try to instill it in older people but we have to get to the root and let them have a safe haven even though my house isn’t good I can come to this place. Kids don’t always have the ambition and the hustle. If someone tells them they can do it, they will.