In 2013, Yaba Blay noticed that pictures of Lupita Nyong'o were flooding her Facebook feed. Friends sharing photos of beautiful actresses was nothing new, but something irked Blay when her social media friends started fawning over the breakout star of 12 Years a Slave.
"I felt people were being disingenuous," says Blay, 41. "For you, Lupita is the magic unicorn who fell out of the sky—a gorgeous dark-skinned woman! But I see Lupitas every day." So Blay took to the Internet to start #PrettyPeriod, a visual celebration of black women's everyday beauty. For her, the hashtag was personal. "It's a response to that backhanded compliment I heard growing up: 'Oh, you're pretty for a dark-skinned girl.' No, I'm just pretty. Period." Blay has received some pushback from women who reject the idea of putting so much emphasis on appearance. But to her critics, Blay says, "Focusing on my beauty is as important as focusing on my work ethic or degrees. I don't have a cheerleading section, so #PrettyPeriod is about pushing you to see me and women who look like me."