Beauty’s Within


cast and crew for "Beauty's Within" video shoot Spring 2011

A few months ago my dear friend/brother Shannon McCollum plastered on my Facebook page that he was embarking on a project that he wanted to talk to me about. Initially I thought, “Why is he telling me this on my page?” However, when I discovered I missed TWO calls from him, I knew something was brewing!

the 'hip hop Gordon Parks' Shannon McCollum

The following day, I stop by his home and he tells me that he’s shooting a video for the Dead Prez song “Beauty’s Within”. This song is a dedication to Black women who choose to wear their hair in its natural state; something we don’t see everyday in music videos (right?) He plays the track for me and after it finishes, I ask what his ideas are for it. “I want you to work on it with me, so you tell me what you see”, says Shannon.


He expressed his admiration for my visual aesthetics (a.k.a “flyness”- ha ha), and said that I immediately popped into mind when he thought of producing a video. Needless to say, MY creative juices started flowing immediately and we placed the song on repeat. The following hour consisted of “ooohs” “ahhhs” and “…and how about for this part…”, discussing what we visualized for each bar of the song. What he especially wanted was lots and lots…..and LOTS  of women featured in the video who represent the ideals within the song. Lucky for me, I have a golden rolodex of such beauties :-).

(fellas, NO I’m not passing you so-snd-so’s number) 🙂

I was truly honored that he wanted to partner up, and I was giddy with excitement about heading up a project where I can express my femininity. However, I had to keep in mind that we were working with NO budget!


But no worries–as I like to say, “neccessity is the mother of all invention/creativity”. Shannon and I decided on a beautiful sunny Sunday to make it happen, for we were filming the main scenes outdoors.

behind the scenes...

I began calling on talent for the video, sharing the concepts with them and they all GLADLY accepted the offer. Meanwhile, I’m mentally sifting thru my abyssmal closet of items we can use as props and scouting locations for various scenes.

At this point Shannon and I were constantly calling and texting each other, sharing ideas, and visiting locations I thought would work well for what we needed.

The week leading to the main shoot at Perkerson Park consisted of filming pick up shots–various scenes usually recorded after principal photography has concluded–but we did it beforehand 🙂 I began to set up different scenes for each day, calling on my pals to play different roles.

I asked my friend TT Coles to play a love interest, being woo’d by a gentleman (thank you Ade Diop). I had Ayodele Murphy, an aspiring yogini, set up a yoga mat by a beautiful bamboo forest and go through asanas (body positions associated with yoga), representing a spiritual aspect (wardrobe styling by moi :)) Folami Thompson, The World’s First Natural Hair Model, was a no-brainer feature, wearing the crown and sash she rightfully earned this year. I also called on my homegirl Taj Anwar-Jackson (a firefighter and community activist) to represent the hardworking woman in society. However, we captured her, shall I say, gentler side cuddling with her adorable daughter! Sweet :-).  Shannon found tap dancer Vanessa Chisolm to come show her stuff and it was AMAZING!

Shannon also asked me to feature in a scene depicting an African queen **d’aww shucks**…

Fast forward to Sunday–the day of the main scene. I asked the women involved to come wearing white for the first half, with a change of yellow clothing for the second half. We were starting early morning as to have ample time to get all the shots we needed. I got up super early to prepare a lil “craft services” for the ladies: pasta kale salad, pita bread w-hummus and chips and salsa! Simple and filling…hey, we wanted to keep the beautiful girls happy and full!

I couldn’t believe how beautifully adorned these women trickling into the house were! But then again I can–that’s why I called them! Ha! Women of all shapes and colors were arriving like royalty!

Jamila, StaHHR and HaJ at call spot, waiting for make-overs, etc...

While waiting at the holding location, we were getting make overs (thank you Shawneila Pierre and Tcharyne Virgile), fussing over each others outfits, laying claim to the items we wanted to take from each other to add to our collection (hee-hee). You know; typical girly-girl thangs!

We were also eating, hugging, talking, laughing, taking pictures and looking forward to what the day would bring. Shoot, the neighbors were walking by to see all the beautiful women in white pouring out of the house! (There was even a man who went back in his home to put on his ‘good clothes’ so he can come back and snag himself a lady. smh :))

I witnessed friendships budding right before my eyes and it was a wonderful feeling! Sisterhood; gotta love it!

We all made a pilgrimage down to the location and I set-up the scene with the rattan rugs, lawn blankets, and beautiful fabrics brought by the talent, along with baskets of delectable fruits and lots of fans, feathers and shekeres. I added my extra EARTHCANDY touch by tossing fresh rose petals across the grounds, burning aromatic incense, bringing my khantokes (pedestal trays used as small dining tables in Northern Thailand) and setting it up with my silver tea kettle accompanied by Moroccan tea glasses ( hee-hee Amina Robinson :)). The ladies were all watching, cooing over the final touches to the set. ‘Twas a magical setting indeed…

Ahhh….to decorate makes my heart sing!

Check my ‘footwork’ 🙂 :

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I can tell you more details, but I’d rather you check the video, filmed and edited by Ari Johnson, director of photography.

Ari expressed that she had a lot of footage to work with and it was difficult to fit every single woman in the video. I imagine so; having to compress hours of footage into about 3 1/2 minutes! She also had to let a lot of footage go due to unwanted background scenery (bottles on the ground, onlookers in the frame, set photographers *ahem* getting caught on film, and lyrics that weren’t sung quite right for the cameras *another ahem*).

She did a wonderful job with what she worked with and I most certainly learned and have immense respect for the ins and outs of video/filmmaking and editing. Those fulfilling weeks of filming piqued my interest in this form of visual artistry.

I’ve since been involved in other projects (I’ll blog about those soon), and I look forward to being involved in more (holla!). I’m even creating my own!

Art Director: Jamila Crawford for EARTHCANDY ARTS

Thank you M1 and Stic.Man for such a beautiful and neccessary tribute to the beautiful ones and Shannon for allowing me to DO ME  amidst his masterplan. Special shouts out to the women who GRACIOUSLY volunteered their precious time and beauty to make this project successful, Ari for filming to the very end and dedicating your precious time (mama of two :-)) to bringing the vision to life, and ALLLLL the photographers who captured the love of that day and kept the FB photo viewers in anticipation of the video!

ART DIRECTOR- JAMILA CRAWFORD: hmmm…has a nice ‘ring’ to it :-).


5 responses »

  1. OMG! This video LITERALLY brought tears to my eyes! (Maybe I am having one of my *pregnancy moments* – but I am seriously sitting over hear boo-hooing one of those ugly cries. Saying you guys are beautiful is an understatement – so I won’t. I will just blast this video to as many people as I can. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Me too Ayana! (and I’m not pregnant) I was so humbled first by the request to even be there! When I arrived I got chills! The entire day was a God send….the whole collaboration was a God send! Give thanks for you Goddess Jamila and you Mr. McCollum! we made herstory/history together : ) Keep shining bright!

  3. Truly fascinating project from beginning to end…Much respect, love and admiration for the entire concept. Look forward to much more. You’ve captured the true meaning of Beautiful…gb

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