Blogger Lesego Legobane, aka Thick Leyonce, is a big supporter of body positive posts. Picture: Instagram
Blogger Lesego Legobane, aka Thick Leyonce, is a big supporter of body positive posts. Picture: Instagram

Shattering beauty stereotypes, one image at a time

By Marchelle Abrahams Time of article published Apr 30, 2019

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Project #ShowUs is the world’s largest stock photo library with more than 5000 images, created by women and non-binary individuals to shatter beauty stereotypes. The aim of the campaign is to put an end to the narrow definition of beauty consistently portrayed around the globe.

Featuring individuals from 39 countries, each image was created by women and non-binary photographers.

For Masego Morulane, it was an easy fit. After receiving a DM from Girlgaze, she knew she had to be part of the initiative. “My street photography project #spotthemane aims to document the beauty of black hair in our time. So I submitted my portfolio, created a Girlgaze profile, and later I was selected to work on Project #ShowUs,” said the designer and photographer.

With her experience of working in the fashion industry, Morulane uses her craft as a tool to document and share images of black hair and beauty. Now, Project #ShowUs serves as a platform to achieve her ambitions on a much larger scale “which is something I wouldn’t have been able to achieve on my own”.

As a Girlgaze photographer, she works very closely with the women she photographs. For this project, she involves them in the selection process, tagging their search terms for Getty Images. “It was less about me and more about my subjects feeling proud about how they identify themselves, and giving them a platform to share their stories with the world,” she said.

Masego Morulane

For her, the project resonates deeply. “We all have insecurities and some of them are caused by society’s beauty expectations. This is why Project #ShowUs is so important.”

But there’s another aspect to the campaign, probably the most important. Dr Tshepiso Matentjie was invited to work with Dove on Project #ShowUs in an advisory role because of the work that she had done with them in the past on the Dove Self-Esteem Project.

“Due to the nature of my work as a psychologist and life coach, I encounter many young people who struggle with self-esteem related issues, often because they do not feel represented by the picture of beauty painted by the media,” said the registered psychologist who runs a private practice.

Matentjie believes part of building self-esteem is about exposing young people to images that represent them and allow them to feel like they are accepted in society.

Dr Tshepiso Matentjie

“In the past, we have not always held the media and advertising outlets accountable for how they represent women, and this is key to helping South African women come to terms with their unique version of beauty, based on what they consume in the media every day,” she said.

As body positivity becomes a bigger part of the narrative, many young people are now celebrating their bodies, faults and all. Photographer and blogger Lesego Legobane, also known as Thick Leyonce, has no qualms about showing off her bits. She’s now part of the #ShowUs initiative, campaigning fiercely on Instagram.

“If you’re only supporting bodies you find attractive, you might want to rethink calling yourself body positive,” she said while posting a picture of herself wearing a THICK AF T-shirt.

She, like others, are slowly smashing stereotypes, choosing to call out body shamers and other who still subscribe to the notion of the conformity of beauty.

Khethekile. Photographer: Masego Morulane

Matentjie is glad that the conversation is happening. “We tend to have an overinflated sense of what a person in the public eye needs to look like and compare ourselves to that, highlighting what we perceive to be negative aspects of ourselves.

“But when we see more people celebrating who they are, no matter what they may look like, it makes it possible for us to learn from that as well,” she added.

How do we teach young people to embrace their bodies without shame?

For Matentjie, it’s simple: “True beauty lies in being your authentic self and accepting yourself in your authentic state.”

Elle Rose. Photographer: Olivia Mortimer

How to get involved

Media and advertisers:

View, license and use the photos in Project #ShowUs for your next project or campaign at

Women around the world:

Join to share your images and you could become part of the Project #ShowUs photo library.

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