International Women's Day Special ✨

Celebrating International Women's Day w/ a Focus on Young Women Today

In a heavily image-conscious and looks-focused social environment to which young women and men are consistently exposed, BEZALEL asked these 2 female influencers on Instagram, Oby Grace (@oby.grace) and Nicole (@nicccb), some deep questions pertaining to the self vis-a-vis media that nearly every young person faces. 

Oby Grace talks about challenging yourself, embracing yourself, and beauty.

BEZALEL Womens day special

1) Your Insta profile says that you're a Visual Storyteller. Tell us about what this is and how you came to this line of passion. What is your story?

Some people can tell their stories through writing or music, but for me I have been telling my story as a photographer. I remember getting my first camera at the age of 11 and that was the start of my obsession; the love of capturing my moment began.

2) Your pictures are stunning; not only because of your natural beauty and fantastic photos, but you emanate joy and inner light. What has your journey been like such that you've built the kind of confidence, beauty, and strength you display in your photos?

This will sound uber cliché but I have always been myself and worked hard to be the best version of that self, never trying to change myself to fit into anyone’s mold but mine. I used to joke around that my name is an acronym for Only Be You, and with that daily reminder in my name, there was no one else I could be but me.

3) What advice do you have for minorities or women of color who aspire to model and represent themselves in pictures/photos the way you do?

If you don’t know something, learn it. Always look for an opportunity to learn new skills and techniques. Never use the excuse that you don’t know something to stop you from doing what you want to do; all it means is that you just have to be patient and learn that new skill.

Know every aspect of the process in the field you want to be in so that you can always add value and have the skill to adapt. You don’t have to be an expert in all the process, but you should understand them well enough to get by.

4) Your Insta profile is the Nigerian flag. What is your relation with Nigeria? Do you speak any other languages?

I was born in Nigeria and it was my first home. I don’t [speak any other languages] but I wish I did.

5) How do you feel your bi-cultural or Nigerian influence contribute to your identity as a visual story-telling, beautiful female model on Insta with a major following in the U.S.?

I don’t think being bi-cultural influenced my identity as visual story teller; but more of my family. My uncle always used to tell me amazing African folktales with such detail that it felt like I was watching a play or movie. He would bring those stories to life for me as child, and it inspired my love of telling stories.

6) What is your definition of beauty? How would you define it, and what are the characteristics that entail "beauty"?

Beauty to me is confidence, uniqueness and being unapologetically yourself. Be an Audrey in a world full of Kardashians.

7) How do you want to acknowledge International Women's Day, or what would you like to say pertaining to the overall history of women's issues and how far women have come?

I am not going to talk about the issues because I feel like we focus too much on the problem and not enough time on praising the amazing accomplishments that women have done all over the world in history and today. So instead, I want my Women’s Day to focus on the heroines whom we often take for granted and that are Moms. Moms are our heroes and we should always champion and cherish them, not just one day a year. I learned how to be a strong woman by watching my mom being a strong woman. So for this Women’s Day, call your mother, your grandmother and aunt, and just tell them how much you appreciate them.

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Nicole's interview also speaks to the youth of today. Here are some deep questions pertaining to self-image issues nearly every young person faces.

1) In such a heavily image-conscious environment, especially one that pressures women to be sexy or always appear sexy, how does one manage or handle insecurities that come one’s way?

I always tell myself that these images we see online—-especially in magazines—-are trying to sell us. So they edit, refine, and stick to a specific standard of beauty.

As consumers, we become insecure, then the companies we buy from make money from our insecurities.

Do I get insecure once in a while? Sure, if I constantly expose myself to pictures of models, or if I listen to my friends go on and on about what they think they need to fix about themselves.

This is how I manage it: by not allowing myself to get consumed by images.

Get away from images. Get into words. Read. Read about other people’s experiences. Read about their reflections. Read about how they got over their fears and insecurities. Watch TED Talks. These mediums are nourishing and fulfilling, and while I don’t think it’s a terrible thing to be sexy, it shouldn’t be the only thing on our minds as women.

For more on this, I recommend the documentary “Miss Representation.” I also wrote about this subject in-depth when we launched Beyond The Interview.

2) What are some ways the older and wiser can teach young girls about defining their self-worth not by their appearance and desirability, but by other aspects that make a human being (the female human being) attractive?

The way I have come to understand it-—and again, this is by reading about it and through conducting interviews with wiser women-—is that self-worth is something you give to yourself. It has nothing to do with attraction. You have to wake up and tell yourself “I am worthy” and “I am enough.” And not for any reason other than the fact that you are a human being and that’s what makes you worthy.

But if you want self-esteem, that will come from your abilities. That will come from trying things that you want to do, but that you are afraid of doing. That will come from setting personal goals and reaching them. I read somewhere that if you are simply reacting to life and the problems it gives you, then you’re not really living. Create your own problems and conquer them-—that’s what will make you feel good about yourself. It’s yours, and nobody can take that from you. A little foundation, lipstick, and mascara? You can wash that off.

Sometimes I feel like we worry too much about being attractive, and we should be more concerned about our minds and our overall health just as much as we worry about our faces and bodies and the way we look in the eyes of other people. So I’ll get into that.

On a personal level—-and I have witnessed others go through this too-—worrying about what other people thought of me in the past has been the most paralyzing. It stopped me right in my tracks, because I was always wondering “well, what if I do this… what will people think?” and most women don’t like to admit this, but we are trained to think that way.

We are trained to worry. “What will men think?” “What will my boss think?” “What will my parents think?” “What if I won’t fit in?” “What if I don’t get invited to the party?” and that’s the worst thing that we have been fed as women-—that we need to cater to everyone else’s needs so that they will like us and approve of us. That’s not self-worth. That’s emotional slavery. You are a slave to the people whose opinions you value.

Every woman who I have ever spoken to or interviewed about her “younger years” has confessed to me, at least in private, that when she stopped caring about what others thought of her, everything changed for the better.

3) What makes women, who don’t necessarily have the typical pretty or beautiful looks, attractive? And what are your thoughts on men who are drawn to the non-typical pretty female? Do you think there are men like that?

Attraction has more to do with character and confidence than with “typical” standards of beauty. If looks were everything, every model on earth would be in a long-lasting marriage, and everyone else would be struggling, but statistics will show you that’s not the case. A woman’s looks can spark that initial attraction, but that’s it.

Beauty will fade, but attraction grows when someone has good character, kindness, wit, intelligence, and qualities that go beyond the surface.

I think men who are drawn to the non-typical female are looking for other qualities that are more important to them than an adherence to “magazine-standard” beauty. They find their partners beautiful because they don’t feed into the hype.

Think about it. When you hear people talk about their long-term partners, you hear them talk about the qualities that really matter. I hear a lot of men say “she’s so sweet and kind,” or “I love her cooking,” or “she’s an amazing mother,” or “she makes me feel appreciated,” and THAT’s what makes their partners beautiful. I never hear a man say things like “I love her fake lashes and protruding cheekbones”—-or I haven’t heard it yet, at least.

4) While social media can affect young girls in negative ways (less human interaction, self-image issues, etc.,) how can social media be used to promote the kind of human value that tells our youth a woman’s worth is not based on her desirability by men?

Do you see how much inspiration is on social media? We have Gary Vee, Brendon Bruchard, Gabrielle Bernstein and many more shakers and movers on social media. They post inspirational videos that we can watch, almost daily. We have podcasts. We have the resources we need to feed our curiosities about how to make our lives better.

The access we have to information because of technology and social media is a huge benefit. You can have an extremely specific need, and if you search online or on social media, you will likely find someone who is solving the exact same problem you are facing. What does this have to do with women? We’re on social media a lot. Tagging our friends. Sharing inspirational quotes during tough times. It’s a thing. Trust me.

With social media, I also see a surge in the amount of female founders, and the message they’re sending is that a woman’s worth IS NOT based on her desirability.

Follow Glossier’s Emily Weiss, LPA’s Pia Arrobio, The Dry Bar’s Alli Webb, The Wing’s Audrey Gelman, or Girl Gaze’s Amanda de Cadenet, and you’ll see what I mean.

5) After the upheaval of exposing sexual misconduct or general misbehaving towards people by those of authority and power, this has become a sensitive issue in Hollywood and other arenas of the workplace. How can both men and women incorporate into their daily living, ways of not leaving things open to misinterpretation?

This is a hard one. I respect and admire the women of the #metoo movement, but I’ve heard from men that they feel like they can’t even flirt with women or make a move now, because they’re afraid of being labeled or seen as offenders. That makes me sad because women and men—-when it’s appropriate or when they’re in the moment—-should feel free to engage in witty banter and flirting.

Both men and women should make sure not to make anyone uncomfortable. A lot of women were afraid to speak up before the movement because it was shameful to admit that little things made them uncomfortable. But it’s not shameful. It’s okay to speak up right away when someone does something to make you feel uneasy. In fact, it’s even better because you’re preventing the situation from escalating.

Women, you have boundaries? Set them. Men, you’re confused about what’s appropriate and what’s not? Ask. Neither of the sexes should be living in fear. Not in that situation. Not in 2018.

6) What is your definition of beauty? How would you define it, and what are the characteristics that entail "beauty"?

Beauty is all about how you feel about yourself. It can include your appearance, and that’s fine as long as it doesn’t consume your daily thoughts. Your make-up regiment should be a routine, not something you constantly think about during your days. Find the look that makes you feel good, and own it.

In terms of desirability, different people are into different appearances. You’ve heard that saying: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” I’m not saying anyone is trash, but the point is that someone may not be into you… but trust me, another person will be. All shapes and sizes are desirable to someone out there.

Characteristics that entail beauty, as far as I’m concerned, are: empathy, the ability to apologize and say you are wrong, resilience, kindness, generosity, gratitude, intelligence, curiosity, and passion for whatever it is you are doing in life. That’s what I think of when I think of a beautiful person.

7) How do you want to acknowledge International Women's Day, or what would you like to say pertaining to the overall history of women's issues and how far women have come?

We’ve come far, but not far enough, so I am both proud, and a little disheartened, but I don’t blame women for this at all.

We’ve come far because we can now vote. We’ve championed abortion rights. We are leading companies and more of us are entering fields like engineering, and succeeding beyond measure.

I’m sure Tina Fey’s character in Mean Girls would appreciate this one: We support each other more than we try to destroy each other, which is the best part of all of this. But I still feel like this area could use a bit more progress. I heard someone say the other day that our biggest problem as women is that we are taught to compete with each other, but if we collaborate with each other instead, we’ll all win. I hope in the coming years, we learn to internalize this.

Women really have been through so much. They’ve been harassed at work, been victims of domestic violence, and continue to receive less pay than they deserve. Now there are so many voices, both young and old, screaming about this, when it was once a mild whisper.

When I went to the Women’s March in Los Angeles this year, I cried. I had never seen anything like it. I saw young girls, older women, and even older couples who looked like they were well into their 90s, holding up hand-made signs, and fighting for women’s rights. Like… (sorry, I had to use that “like” for emphasis), those 90-year-old couples didn’t have to be there. Their years are almost over, and they’re spending their time fighting for us—-for women they don’t even know. That’s progress.

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You can reach Nicole by e-mail at, on Instagram @nicccb, on Twitter @nicolebehnam, or on LinkedIn.

You can find Beyond The Interview on Instagram: @beyondtheinterview
and on Twitter: @ByndTheIntrview