The Essence music festival kicks off in New Orleans Thursday with three straight days of music (from Janelle Monae, Jill Scott, Lionel Richie, Nas and more) and speakers (including Alicia Keys, Beyoncé hairdresser Kim Kimble and MSNBC anchor Melissa Harris-Perry). But throughout, there’s an inspiring message of strength and empowerment (seriously, check out this lineup) and we’re kicking it off with a thoughtful documentary about the standards of beauty.
The documentary, “Imagine a Future,” was created by Procter & Gamble as part of their “My Black is Beautiful” campaign. In addition to leading scholars, editors and influencers, the filmmakers talked to stars including Gabourey Sidibe, Gabby Douglas, Tatyana Ali and more about their experiences with self-esteem, societal pressure and more. 12 Years a Slave‘s Adepero Oduye talks about being pressured to change her hair, nose and name — a sentiment echoed by many women in the video.
The documentary follows a teen as she travels to South Africa and meets amazing women who help her break the mold she’s felt she has to conform to her whole life. Watch the whole video for an enlightening, sometimes painful and ultimately uplifting message (one everyone should embrace: You are beautiful exactly as you are!) and let us know your thoughts in the comments. And for more information, check out the Essence festival here/