Danielle Brooks is body-confidence personified as the wise-cracking, booty poppin’ Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson on Orange Is The New Black. But underneath that khaki uniform is a woman who, like many, has struggled with self-acceptance.
Growing up in Greenville, South Carolina, Brooks was as self-assured as her Taystee alter ego on the outside, but on the inside, was self-conscious about being “too dark, too curly, and too fat.”
“Being a teenager can be one of the hardest phases of a person’s life. For me, I struggled every day tricking myself into appearing confident. After reading over old journal entries, I realized some days were less successful than others,” wrote Brooks in a personal essay for Glamour.
For years, she measured herself against an unattainable and oppressive standard of beauty. That is, until she found acting.
In her acting classes, she was able to be herself, unabashedly. She learned that it didn’t matter if she looked like the other actresses. She found value in her talent and her fearlessness, not just her appearance.
“In acting I found my confidence, my joy, my safe place.” — Danielle Brooks
Today, Brooks is so many things. She’s 25-years-old. She is a graduate of the presitigious Julliard School. She’s the star of one of the most popular shows on Netflix. She is someone who walks red carpets in fancy gowns and attends high-profile award shows. She is so much more than her weight or her stretchmarks.
She still doesn’t look like the other actresses and that’s a powerful thing.
“I might not have the power to change what media puts out there, or to single-handedly convince young girls like me that they should love themselves. But what I can do is start with me: living each day, embracing who I am. Embracing who I am by refusing to hide my legs or cover my arms because they make someone else feel uncomfortable.” — Danielle Brooks
Danielle Brooks learned to love herself by fully embracing her passion for acting, and you can do the same. If you struggle with self-confidence, find out what you’re good at and love to do and throw yourself into it. Whether the pursuit is mental, physical, or emotional; whether it’s writing poetry or running marathons, do what you love and marvel at the wonderful things your body can achieve.
“So if you see me on a carpet with my arms and legs out glistening, or my midriff exposed, it’s a reminder to myself and the world that I know I’m beautiful.” — Danielle Brooks
Image Credit: ebony.com