Cipriana Quann believes that it’s our imperfections that make us beautiful and strong.
She felt caged in by the culture’s concept of beauty during her childhood and early adulthood. And, as a model, she struggled to build and accept her own identity in the face of unrelenting and conservative standards.
Finally, she cast-off the bonds of everyone else’s demands: she left her high fashion career to co-found Urban Bush Babes, an online destination, where visitors connect about similar journeys of self-realization and acceptance.
Here, Quann talks about her struggle to measure up and the freedom that came with letting that all go:
Live The Process: Was there a time when you struggled to accept yourself and your body?
Cipriana Quann: Yes, there was! Specifically, accepting my natural hair was an issue. I spent years being afraid to wear my hair not only in its natural state, but how I wanted to wear it: in big, up-do styles. As simple as it sounds, it was hard for me to see my up-do styles as a norm, though in my spirit it felt right. Now, I realize my hair was just a physical manifestation of what I was feeling within. I was tired of measuring up to others’ physical standards of what I should look like. The more I tried to live up to that standard, the unhappier I became, because in the end I was battling myself! I was physically drained. Even in an unconscious state, the act of trying to be someone you are not is exhausting and frustrating. Eventually, everything came to a head and I’d had enough!
To be honest, I am not sure what triggered the shift. It may have been just time, but I do remember the feeling when it happened—it was like falling in love. You can't explain it or pinpoint the exact moment, but, all of sudden, you are in love and the feeling is indescribable.
LTP: How have you rebelled against oppressive representations and expectations of beauty?
CQ: That moment began when I stopped modeling. It was actually the sole reason I ended my career: I was losing my sense of identity. I was sacrificing the identity with which I was happiest for money and abiding by standards of beauty that others defined. To walk away from a career that stifled my individuality and to create my own standard of beauty with my site was the biggest way to rebel without even trying. The rebellion was not purposely done, but a way to find my own happiness.
LTP: What tips would you offer people who find it hard to stand up to criticism?
CQ: No one else should dictate your true sense of identity, and that includes family and friends. Criticism comes from a place of insecurity, fear or hate, so why would you measure your self-worth against those factors? Individuals who judge harshly are often envious of those who feel free to just be. With freedom comes happiness. You would be surprised by how many people will try to keep you in a state of blind complacency, either purposely or because it is the only state they themselves know.
LTP: What inspired you to co-create urbanbushbabes.com?
CQ: Nikisha [Riley] and I started Urban Bush Babes because we wanted to share our experiences and connect with people, who might not be exposed to a positive and supportive environment. It was important to create a platform that not only highlights inspiring individuals, but also uplifts. In a world where the ideal standard of beauty has brainwashed many of our young women, negatively impacting their self-esteem, it is important to us to show that our uniqueness, imperfections and life journeys—the good and bad—not only make us beautiful, but showcase our strength.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
CQ: Happiness is love. As hippie or flower child as this answer may seem, in my eyes, the answer is truly that simple: happiness stems from love. The moment you love yourself, including what you consider flaws, you are able to love everything and everyone, no matter how different.
LTP: What does it mean to you to "Live The Process" and how do you do that every day?
CQ: To me, living the process means being your best self: love hard, forgive easily, but never forget. Like a flower in heavy rain, you may wilt, but the sunshine is always right over the horizon. So, even when we falter from our best, we are strong enough to own up to our mistakes and move on. Love hard, forgive easily, but never forget is the only way to grow, and it’s the way I “Live The Process.”