Never underestimate the power of a woman. Thanks to a group of tenacious, determined ladies from the National Women’s History Project, they petitioned to change Women’s History Week to Women’s History Month. In 1987 congress passed Pub. L. 100-9, which designated March as a celebratory month of all things powerfully female.
Thirty-six years later, we’ve watched women dominate in sports, music, acting, comedy, fashion, and more. As they lead and inspire us to stretch and discover our greatest potential, we also know that women, specifically Black women, have inconceivable hurdles to jump over, simply because of the color of their skin.
Despite the hurdles to success, Black women are winning. Meet Francesca Andre; mother, celebrity photographer, and overall magical being. The Haitian immigrant tells stories by capturing joy, beauty, and pain through images. “A major responsibility I have is staying true to my identity as a creative individual and Black woman storyteller,” she tells us in an exclusive interview.
Andre is the photographer behind various magazine covers and fashion spreads, including her most recent masterpiece, Naturi Naughton-Lewis for Elements Magazine. When the multifaceted talent isn’t capturing the essence of a woman with her camera, she’s pouring into herself and her family.
“Over the past few years, my story has undergone significant changes. My primary focus now is being a healthy, nurturing mom to my son, which also involves caring for myself,” she said.
“As a Haitian immigrant and dreamer, I carry more than just my own aspirations and stories, and it’s become clear to me that it’s my spiritual responsibility to help bring them to reality. It can be challenging to balance the art of surviving, providing, hustling, and overcoming, and at times, even breathing can feel difficult. But in the midst of grieving, healing, recreating, and resurrecting myself, I am learning to sit with my inner voice and release my stories to the world, bringing hope, healing, and joy,” she continued.
Andre does a lot of editorial work, but her favorite project was a photo essay titled, “Fanm Kanson.” And while she never got to finish it, the photo series holds a special place in her heart.
“It was a tribute to Haitian women street vendors, the non-glamorous entrepreneurs who are the backbone of my country, and the women who raised me, including my grandmother. However, I always take great pride in photographing Black women and bringing their stories to life. It is a way to celebrate and honor them, and it always brings me joy,” she explained.
The obstacles, resilience, and strength of being a Black woman
Andre has encountered many obstacles during the course of her career, but they’ve only served as fuel toward her goals. Some of the most beautiful forms of art are inspired, conceived, and birthed from your darkest hours.
“Transforming my pain into hope and courage has been the most significant hurdle I’ve encountered. It’s challenging to feel hopeful in the midst of hopelessness, but it’s what keeps me standing. Some days it knocks me down, but I always find a way to rise again. Listening to my pain, seeing myself, treating myself as a friend, and forgiving myself for being strong, and at times, not strong enough have all helped me overcome this obstacle. Learning to love and accept myself has been crucial, and I’ve learned that being a friend to myself is essential for healing. As a Black woman, I have learned to be on my own side, to create my own circles of support, and to stand up for myself,” she said.
We learn the most about ourselves when we’re maneuvering life’s valleys. That’s where we develop and fine-tune our strengths because it’s all we have to lean on. Black women have learned how to cope in ways that empower them to be stronger. For Andre, her faith and her humor have been her source of strength.
“Faith has helped me keep going during the most challenging times, and humor has helped me find joy even when things seem hopeless. Having a sense of humor helps me stand when life throws its wicked punches, and my faith provides me with the strength and courage to keep going,” she said.
As adults, we spend a lot of time healing our wounded younger selves. The experiences we pick up as children and young adults ultimately shape who we become, how we interact with others, and how we perceive the world. Looking back, it’s easy to connect the dots and see where you could’ve done things differently to release some of the anxiety and fear that growing pains create.
“I would tell my younger self to have more fun and enjoy life,” she said. “Growing up, I learned about being strong from the women in my life, but I didn’t learn about having fun and finding joy in the moment. It’s essential to work hard and overcome obstacles, but it’s also important to take time to relax, have fun, and enjoy life’s simple pleasures.”
Although Andre creates magic behind the camera, she’s aware that her magic transcends beyond photography. “I’m not entirely sure what’s next for me, but I’m open to new opportunities and experiences. I have made some beautiful plans, but life has taught me that things can change quickly. I hope that my future endeavors bring me joy, happiness, and fulfillment, and I am looking forward to continuing to create and tell stories that bring hope, healing, and joy to others,” she said.
The key to Andre’s success is her willingness to prioritize self-preservation. Being her authentic self and catering to her needs helped her create the life that she lives. She gives herself grace through the highs and the lows and leaves everything else up to the Universe.
“I would like to encourage everyone to bet on themselves and show up for themselves. It’s important to create your own circles of support, do what makes you happy, and take care of your mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Remember to be kind to yourself, forgive yourself when you make mistakes, and have faith that everything will work out in the end,” she said.
You can keep up with Francesca here.
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