With the goal of addressing society’s superficial obsession with looking red carpet ready for a simple selfie, journalist and first time filmmaker Angela McCrae recently directed the short, “#WhereIsBeauty”. In the film, singer/songwriter Goapele stars as Nina, a visual artist who takes a break from her timeline to walk through the streets of Los Angeles in search of unfiltered glimpses of beauty. As the short makes it’s way through the national and international film festivals, McCrae and Goapele speak exclusively to the Sentinel about the collaborative process of making the film and their goals for the project.
LAS: How did you decide on “#WhereIsBeauty” being a short film with no dialogue?
Angela McCrae: As a first time filmmaker, I didn’t want to over extend myself because it was definitely more an experimental piece that April Mabry wrote after we worked together on a web series. We spoke at length about the state of black women in America and our daily trials. I felt like a lot of things we deal with, all women can relate to in terms of how we view ourselves as well as the pressures and standards of beauty. As the script was being developed, I felt like the demographic that needed to hear this story was multicultural millennial women and I believed using social media would help drive that message and add value to the piece. Since we wanted to make it encompassing of all women, I thought it was best to make the film black and white which gives you a monochrome palette. Having it with no dialogue was a choice by April in her writing which made it into more of a visual story that focused on the beauty of the cinematography. We also included a lot of symbolism including quotes from Maya Angelou and visual art by Michelle Robinson to further reiterate the message.
LAS: Have you had to overcome any pressures of adhering to certain standards of beauty in order to succeed as an artist?
Goapele: I feel like images of beauty and how it’s defined is something I’ve thought about since I was a child. I’ve always looked at different women and reflected upon myself what defines us. I think being an entertainer is one more layer on top of that. Within entertainment, there’s pressure to look good and with social media, we’re exposing ourselves even more. It’s not even about looking good for a red carpet, because of social media, we’re overly concerned with how we look everyday. It’s a challenge to continuously define beauty for myself and not try and fit all of the other standards out there but it’s a struggle some days.
LAS: What do you want people to take away from Nina’s experience in the film?
G: I’ve wanted to build an acting career so for me this was a wonderful opportunity to get more experience with a character that I really related to. I loved the way the script was written. I liked the fact that she felt real in the way in which she was just observing the world; nothing felt objectifying, it was an empowering slice of life story.
This is an important time to talk about how social media is affecting our confidence. I have a daughter and she’s a little too young for social media but she’s totally aware of it. I watch my friends daughters, some of them are teenagers all the way up through adult women, when we scroll through our phones we’re bombarded by all kinds of images and whether it’s subconscious or we’re spending time thinking about it, we’re constantly all looking at camera ready made up faces on everyday people. It’s got to be affecting something in us in some way so I feel like this is a good time to open up the discussion.
LAS: As the director, what do you want the audience to takeaway from the film?
AM: My goal is to have women be comfortable in their own skin. I want them to look deeper and know that beauty shouldn’t be externally focused because it’s internal. It’s how you are as a person, your spirit and how you connect with others. That’s what I wanted Nina’s character to embody in the film when she was in her community engaging with other people and documenting what she felt was beautiful which were people’s interactions with each other, their energy and love that they exuded.
I would love to integrate this within youth groups and schools and continue the dialogue so they can dig a little deeper as far as their usage of social media and how they feel about themselves as young women.