Even in quarantine, we all have to look into our closets or chest of drawers and answer the question: “What should I wear today?”
While our answer today is “just something stretchy,” our time was once taken up with fashion choices, hair, makeup, shoes, the works.
On July 23, the USA TODAY Network’s Storytellers Project will share personal stories from five of your neighbors about how fashion, self-expression and beauty have shaped their lives and careers. The live storytelling show will be streamed on the Storytellers Project’s Facebook Page and YouTube channel at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET.
“This storytelling theme often prompts the most illuminating and intimate stories because everyone has to deal with their hair, has to put on clothes, has to figure out how to present themselves to the world,” said Megan Finnerty, founder and director of the Storytellers Project. “So while we all might not think of ourselves as concerned with appearance or fashion, we all have to answer the question: ‘What to wear today?’”
Crissanka Christadoss, 37, of Flower Mound, Texas, first told her story on stage in Des Moines, Iowa. Coached by a team of journalists at the Des Moines Register, Christadoss was selected to share her story with a national audience as the Storytellers Project pivoted to virtual storytelling shows.
“I hope to convey that beauty standards are bogus — who you are right now, your beautiful warts and all, is perfect and more than enough,” she said. “As long as there are unrealistic standards for how we should look or act, I think this message can never be heard enough.”
In her teen years, Christadoss says she was overly self-conscious about a particular aspect of herself and at times it consumed her.
“Now, as an adult, I realize our physical imperfections, or what we think are imperfections, are really a source of strength and beauty,” she said.
Jason Franklin, 42, of Phoenix, Arizona, was just 10 years old when he broke into the fashion industry as a third-generation clothing designer. The founder of Sportiqe Apparel in Tempe, Arizona, is now one of the NBA’s most-popular apparel providers. And celebrities, including Jay-Z, Beyoncé, and Justin Bieber, have been photographed wearing his T-shirts and hats.
“I believe that my story can give young entrepreneurs, and young people, in general, hope that they can follow their dreams and be their best self,” he said.
“Anything is possible if you put your mind and passion to it. Everyone has the ability to be great at something.”
Vanessa Thomas-Wilson, 61, of Tempe, Arizona grew up in the early 1960s surrounded by images of beautiful Black women. While forming her own sense of self during her early years, she says these images were in contradiction to what she was seeing and hearing around her.
“The bombardment of this biased input almost erased my memories of what natural Black beauty looked like until I saw one of my heroes on the streets of New York City,” she said about her glimpse of renowned poet and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou.
“I believe this story conveys how my understanding and appreciation of beauty was formed, the impact systemic racism and then seeing one of my heroes in person had upon my concept of beauty.”
Thomas-Wilson said it can be difficult for many people to put themselves in another’s shoes without living the same experience, but sharing personal stories is an impactful method of creating empathy.
The Storytellers Project’s virtual series, called “LIVE, In Your House!,” has been drawing hundreds of thousands of views since debuting April 2, when the COVID-19 pandemic started closing down venues where in-person shows had been held. Viewers can now tune in to the Storytellers Project’s Facebook page or YouTube channel to watch and comment live.
The line-up July 23
Vanessa Thomas-Wilson, 61, of Tempe, Arizona
Helen Jean, 40, of Phoenix, Arizona
Crissanka Christadoss, 37, of Flower Mound, Texas
Jason Franklin, 42, of Phoenix, Arizona
Jared Yazzie of Chandler, Arizona
Aug. 6: Fresh Starts
Aug. 20: Lessons Learned
Sept. 3: Stories About Stories
Sept. 17: Entrepreneurship and Hustle
Oct. 1: Love and Heartbreak
Oct. 15: I Made This: Stories About the Arts
Need to know
What: Storytellers Project LIVE, In Your House!, “Stylish Stories”
When: 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET on Thursday, July 23
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Storytellers Project to share stories of beauty, self-expression