International Studies and French Double Major
The Brains with Beauty Project
Black Women Can Have It All
Young, but off to a promising start, Nailah Barnes, a student at Spelman College, already has a non-profit organization that is on its way to obtaining a 501(c)(3) status. When asked how her organization began, she recalls how she passing her time reading books while her mother braided her hair; however, she began to notice that other girls did not do the same. Perplexed, Barnes adds, “I began to process the images of black women on social media and found that a lot of times, these images predominately emphasized beauty and the exoticizing of our bodies” rather than as intellectuals, artists, or creators. Thus, Nailah founded, The Brains with Beauty project, an initiative to show that black women, “can have it all” or in other words, that black women can be both interested in fashion and beauty but also politics, economics, or medicine.
The Brains with Beauty project began with Barnes bringing baskets of books to salons in her hometown of Massachusetts. With support and inspiration from her mother, a Spelman alumna, and from her father, Chair of the Math department at a prestigious boarding school, Nailah was not only able to appreciate learning and gain a quality education, but she was also able to receive support and funding to get her organization off the ground. She recalls, “my mom would dedicate the whole day to driving me around to all the salons so I could deliver new books.” And now, Nailah serves twenty-two salons across seven states. “I just wanted to create a space where all black girls could see being beautiful and smart as a possibility,” she says.
As a sophomore International Studies and French major at Spelman College, Nailah has advanced the project to an online platform called the One Stop initiative. This website provides academic and beauty tips and blog posts that are tailored towards black girls needs. Posting daily, Nailah has organized her website into modules. These modules include a book list featuring a black woman as the protagonist, monthly writing prompts to provide girls with something to journal about, articles to help students prepare for the SAT, and study abroad information with directions on how to find funding for these experiences.
Coming to Spelman College, Barnes says the environment is the embodiment of what her organization wants to represent, black girls being brilliant and beautiful. Her next steps include providing accessibility between Spelman Students and the young black girls ages 8-18 living in and around the West End communities. She envisions Spelman students as role models for these young girls and plans on bringing these two groups together for a Saturday afternoon full of activities. This community engagement event will have six stations, twenty minutes each, that will focus on skin-care, hair care, affirmations, Generation Z, navigating social media, and more. At the end of the day, she hopes to have Spelman Ambassadors give tours to help students see college as a reality and as a place for their fulfillment and flowering. Through the support she has received and through her connections at Spelman, Nailah hopes the Brains with Beauty project will not only grow and prosper but also serve as a resource for young girls.
Senior, Economics Major