Nu Bride, Co-Host of {un}convention London, is Changing Race Representation in Wedding Media

Nu Bride is Working to Change the State of Race Representation in Modern Wedding Media

Nu Bride is led by Nova Reid and is a UK-based wedding blog for the contemporary bride looking for inspiration, planning advice and guidance. Nu Bride is also our amazing co-host for {un}convention London, and she'll be delivering our opening pep talk. Keep reading to find Nova's piece on race representation in wedding media from Volume Three, and then register for {un}convention to get to meet this game-changing personality in person. 

Photo by Davi Matheson

Photo by Davi Matheson

I’ve always been a bit of a skeptic about romance, a little bit of a feminist. I’m not really sure why, but despite the usual narratives, I never dreamed of being rescued by a handsome prince. 

Perhaps it was because when I was a little girl, the elegant leading ladies in the love stories and the classic Disney princesses didn’t look anything like me. I was black, with tough afro hair that felt impossible even at the best of times (just ask my mum!). The princesses and protagonists usually had long, flowing, blonde hair, porcelain skin, and blue eyes. We were polar opposites. 

Subconsciously I disassociated with those ideals; being beautiful, successful, and desirable enough to be worthy of a prince did not apply to girls who looked like me, so the romance that accompanied that standard of beauty could never be my trajectory.

So when my husband proposed after five years (clearly, I was a slow burner), you can imagine my joy and surprise. Joy that THIS was happening to ME and surprise at how quickly I turned into a hopeless romantic, how I became seduced by all the beauty and the romance the wedding industry encourages.

After absorbing myself in every UK wedding publication and wedding show known to humankind, I felt a pretty immediate and powerful shift. That joy soon dissipated. 

I felt completely invisible. 

I was surprised. The mainstream wedding industry seemed to have the same perception of beauty as Disney did in the 80s. Why haven’t we moved on? I thought. Even Disney has!

I was craving to see myself represented in basic wedding inspiration. I wondered why so many designers chose to continuously shoot their collections with models of only one skin tone. I wondered why runway shows had little or often no ethnic diversity at all—in London!—one of the most diverse capitals in the world, and don’t get me started on body shapes! I wondered why all these brilliant articles about hair and makeup did not show just one or two examples for different skin tones and hair types.

In the deliciously multicultural society we are lucky to live in, where falling in love and marrying crosscuts all forms of difference, the mainstream wedding industry didn’t seem to reflect this at all. It just did not make any sense. 

Why should I have to look outside of the mainstream industry for basic wedding inspiration that includes women (or men!) of various ethnicities? Am I not part of society, too?

Rather than wind myself up about it, I quickly became inspired to try to help. I took on a little challenge to encourage the industry to be more visually inclusive in the way it markets bridal beauty by starting the wedding blog Nu Bride in 2012. As a young adolescent who overcame low self-esteem and also experienced racism, I felt it was important to raise awareness of the potential impact of this profound ‘silence.’

I’ve been asked: Why does it matter? Cultural traditions aside, weddings are universal, right? So why does it matter what race the woman on the magazine cover is if we can all relate to the theme of love? 

I am asked: Aren’t there any UK wedding magazines for black women? Well at the time there weren’t, but it made me think…Doesn’t this attitude simply feed into an already segregated society, one that is growing in its division? Now don’t get me wrong, specialist publications will always serve an important role and resonate with niche audiences. But what does it mean when you don’t even have a choice to see yourself represented? Why should I have to look outside of the mainstream industry for basic wedding inspiration that includes women (or men!) of various ethnicities? Am I not part of society, too?

Photo by Davi Matheson

Photo by Davi Matheson

Planning a wedding is a unique time of life; you are celebrated for who you are. The journey to your wedding day should be positive, and you should feel important. You should feel beautiful. How can you feel these things when you are continually underrepresented, or worse, ignored?

The way mainstream media chooses to market beauty and desirability, particularly in the wedding industry, is outdated and insults the consumer, assuming we wouldn’t appreciate or accept anything other than what is continuously proffered. Ultimately this ‘silence’ can and does lead to indirect discrimination.

To be validated is to be humanized, and this enormous gap in the industry and in society can wreak havoc on self-esteem and social behaviour. Along with the absence of representation, people are frightened to even discuss race for fear of being branded a racist. Caring so much about political correctness in the UK has resulted in low tolerance for difference. People avoid having conversations about race so as to not cause offense and to avoid potential awkwardness. If we can’t talk about race and difference, how can we move forward? 

I watched a documentary called Dark Girls four days after I started Nu Bride, which explores the complex issue of colourism. There was one clip that has stuck with me ever since. It featured a toddler who was asked to identify which cartoon characters were ugly, beautiful, and clever based on their appearance. There was no differentiation between the characters except for race. Each time, the toddler assigned the positive attributes to the cartoon with the whitest skin and the negative attributes to the cartoon character with the darkest skin. That’s learned behavior. Children of that age are not born with ideals about success and desirability or race perceptions instilled in them; they learn them, from media and from us.

Is the media all to blame for these perceptions? Of course not, but it is a powerful influencer. 

This clip and my early experience in the wedding industry made me even more determined to do something to change the trajectory—to raise awareness about the real implications this powerful ‘silence’ can have. 

By simply not showing more diversity, we continue to send a message—subconsciously or otherwise—that only one type of beauty is acceptable, and this message gets communicated and underscored by what society deems successful, to what young girls aspire to be and what men should desire, to the complex cauldron of self-worth, race inequality and how the impact of slavery is still embedded in our behaviors.

If you are not represented, how can you truly feel human?

We’re all delicious, and it’s our gorgeous imperfections, differences, and uniqueness that should be celebrated. Sure, we all have our aspirations when it comes to bridal beauty, but should we all look the same? Our uniqueness is what makes us beautiful, and no type of beauty is more beautiful than the other; to me, it’s about leveling the playing field. It’s about representing and inspiring gorgeous couples who have been lucky enough to find each other (because let’s face it, if you get through the dating world alive, it’s a miracle!). 

Getting married takes you to the greatest of heights; it is one of the most wonderful moments that should not be overshadowed by this ‘silence.’ We all have the power to change this by simply recognising, and acknowledging, and showcasing inclusivity and diversity in beauty. 

If you're a wedding professional and you love what Nova is doing, register for {un}convention London to hang with Nova and help us change the industry for the better!

Nova Reid

Nova Reid is Founder of multi award-winning wedding blog; Nu Bride, dedicated to adding a splash of diversity into the mainstream wedding industry. Nova is also an established wedding expert, frequent mentor at Women of the World Festival and NLP Life Coach.

Passionate about encouraging the industry to be more visually inclusive; Nova is a leader for change and proudly works with progressive brands, business owners, leading publications that are keen to showcase diversity in an inclusive and authentic way, to attract a wider demographic of clients and to change the discourse of the way the UK wedding industry markets beauty.