Karyn Washington a 20 year old junior majoring in Public Relations at Morgan State University is the founder of For Brown Girls. She is a Western High School graduate, born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. At Morgan State she is involved with the Public Relations Club and outside of school is a member of Parts of Peace, a student run charity organization.
Karyn currently interns for Zoë Damacela Apparel as a social media intern while running and maintaining her own blog as well. She is the founder of For Brown Girls a project created to uplift and encourage females with darker skin complexions to feel confident. The ultimate message is to promote self-love along with self-acceptance. Karyn believes that when you become truly comfortable with yourself, you are then able to uplift others and embrace your purpose in life.
I was able to interview to Karyn. Check out her story:
When did you start up For Brown Girls?
The blog was created in June of 2011 by my cousin and I. Later on, we decided to go in separate directions and I carried on with the blog, started the site and continued to build the brand on my own.
Why did you start up FBG?
When the blog was initially created, my cousin and I were dealing with self-esteem issues relating to our complexion and we would vent to each other. Through talking it out and building each other up, we felt better but also didn’t like the fact that we were even having these feelings to begin with. We also realized that other girls may be going through the same thing and wanted to use Tumblr as a means to vent, encourage others and overcome. Since then, I have gained a greater passion for the cause and helping others. I have dedicated my time, money and efforts to building and developing the brand. I very much enjoy running the blog because I feel like I am making a small difference. I want to encourage and inspire girls to overcome this complex about their skin color. I want to help all girls with a darker skin complexion feel confident and comfortable in their skin. To hear that even one person was blessed by my efforts ,that they were inspired or that something on the blog made them smile, makes it all worth it.
Who are some of your favorite celebrity ‘brown girls’?
“Brown Girls” whom I admire and who inspire me would have to be Oprah, India Arie, KeKe Palmer, Andrea Lewis, Bre Scullark, Aeshia Devore Branch, founder of TeenDiariesOnline.com, Maya Angelou, Kerry Washington, Gabrielle Union, Michelle Obama, Iyanla Vanzant and Amber Riley.
I wouldn’t say the site has received any “hate mail” per say, but a question I have gotten quite a few times is why it’s only for girls with darker complexions, excluding lighter skin as if FBG is some sort of clique. At times, it is frustrating only because I feel that my efforts can be taken in the wrong context. My purpose is to build others up, not to bring anyone down. My answer to them is just that- and that “for” also means “in support of.” Anyone, no matter age, shade or gender is welcome to view and share on the blog. I’m sure most are aware of colorism and I know it can affect those who are light in complexion too, but I can only relate from my experience, and that has been being a girl with a darker skin complexion. Also, there are instances of people thinking I don’t want to claim being a black girl by calling myself brown. In calling myself and others “brown girls” I am only referring to our complexion. I’ve also received submissions from girls on the blog sharing their experiences and have found some extremely heartbreaking. This further motivates me to help them change their perception of themselves and claim their beauty. What is also very encouraging are the positive comments I’ve received from young ladies, and a few times guys, thanking me for creating the blog and sharing how it is helping them. I’ve gotten positive feedback on the site and blog from men and women all ages and shades.
Do you think colorisim in the black community will eventually come to an end?
I am really not sure but am extremely hopeful. The only way to stop this cycle of self-hatred is for people to really believe that all shades are equally beautiful. The media and the home are the two biggest influencers, in my opinion, on young girls self -esteem.
Who do you considered a ‘FBG’? Some people classified brown or darker hue people/women differently, are there qualifications to being showcased on your website?
My site is for girls whose shade of brown is on the darker side of the color spectrum. For those who have been made to feel less beautiful because of the color of their skin. There has been a bit of confusion because there are light shades of brown as well but I really loved the name ‘For Brown Girls’ because even if a girl is darker skinned she is still a shade of brown. It’s like “ok she’s dark,what?” It’s funny because some people call me “brown skinned” and some people call me “dark skinned.” I used to prefer being called brown skinned over the latter, but now I can truly say I love my complexion and I don’t mind either one. I also didn’t want to use the name ‘For Dark Girls’ for fear of people getting my project confused with the documentary by Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry of the same name. Some still do. I got the privilege of seeing the documentary when it came to Baltimore. It was excellent! I recommend that everyone go see it when it comes to their city!
Is your site just for black girls, or other racial groups such as Afro Latinas, South Asians, Middle Eastern women, etc?
For the most part, the content is geared toward black girls, because I am one, and that is how I am relating my experiences. But, I realize the effect colorism has on brown girls of other ethnicities and cultures. I make sure to post articles and pictures relating to other ethnicities that are affected by colorism as well. While I don’t specifically address them all the time, the message is universally the same: To love and accept yourself, because you are beautifully and wonderfully made. They too have possibly had thoughts of wishing have a lighter complexion to fit society’s idea of beauty. I hope to help young girls and women overcome their insecurities. I’ve interviewed one young lady of Indian descent and interacted through the blog with a few others as well. Running the blog gives me the opportunity to learn every day so I do welcome others to share their thoughts and experiences with colorism. The purpose of this blog is to not to discriminate but to uplift and encourage, empower girls to be confident, and embrace the skin they are in. On the blog I seek to recognize beauty in darker skin, discuss experiences and share with one another (whether it be hair/makeup tips, links , articles, poetry, pictures etc.) Unity is key, especially among women. We all need to support and uplift one another.
Explain what your ‘brown skinned girl spotlight is about’?
I really appreciate those who follow the blog and support FBG. It warms my heart see to young ladies excited about the project and to hear that it makes them feel special. I created this spotlight because the blog is for them and I wanted to feature them on it! I ask the girls to fill out a short questionnaire so I and others can get to know them. In the feature, the girls also share their favorite quote, what they love about themselves and what inspires them. They send that along with their picture to the FBG email. I then format it all in a post and feature the ladies throughout the week on the blog. I also wanted to do something a little different than other blogs which also focus on darker skinned beauty. Instead of just pictures, I want to make sure my blog has substance.
Where do you think this will go in the near future?
I would like for ‘FBG’ to be a catalyst for change encouraging self-love and instilling pride in one’s skin complexion. The movement’s goal will be for new generations of darker skinned girls to not even have one thought of wishing to be lighter, to never doubt their beauty. My hope is for this “issue” to eventually be nonexistent but it does start with us. I’m also hoping I can do my part and make a change to where , darker skinned girls know they are beautiful no matter what anyone says. I want to mentor, do meet-ups and organize events to reach out to girls. I am also working on coming out with a t-shirt line to further enforce these ideas, promoting self-love. The first T-shirt design of my collection is out right now, the “I Love My Shade” Tee. It’s to encourage anyone no matter what complexion they are to love their shade! It’s available for purchase on the site and blog.
Karyn hopes to start fundraising and getting donations for her organization in the near future so she can finance her meet ups and speaking engagements.
Check out For Brown Girls’ pages: