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From Deun Ivory’s Squarespace website

Deun Ivory has a saying: “Authenticity is my superpower.” As a photographer, illustrator, writer, and art director, she’s built a thriving career by staying true to herself. Ivory empowers women of color to feel seen and heard; her portraits of Black female movers and shakers feel honest, beautiful, and strong, while her words inspire countless others to accept and embrace their talents. It’s hard to put this artist in a box; as a former English and Art teacher, she straddles genres and media with grace and purpose, bringing her dreams to life while encouraging young women to follow their own.

This year, Ivory released her first book black women + good grain, incorporating pictures, prose, and poetry. In addition to her photography projects, Ivory serves as the art director of Black Girl In Om, a preeminent health and wellness platform for women of color. At the same time, she continues to host workshops both online and in person for fellow creatives. With all she has going on, it’s easy to get lost in her stellar website, which includes stunning imagery, powerful essays, and an online shop.

When it came time for Ivory to set up an online presence, she chose to do it herself with the website builder Squarespace. While she’s out and about reshaping culture and uplifting others, Squarespace makes sure she can showcase everything in one place using one of their award-winning website templates. With a website design that’s both engrossing and minimal, the artist invites us to explore her world at our own pace. She’s even used Squarespace to show some of her clients how to make a website that reflects their personal vision. We interviewed the artist about her work, her muses, and her website.

From Deun Ivory’s Squarespace website

Why did you choose Squarespace to build your site?
“Squarespace is EVERYTHING, and all my clients know what’s up! They know that I only use Squarespace when designing their sites. It’s functional and easy to learn. I feel like all the templates offer something different, in a way that offers no room for comparison. My site reminds me of my book black women + good grain: a collection of visuals, affirmations, and inspiration. It’s beautifully formatted.”

Was it important to you to have creative control over your website, as opposed to hiring an outside web designer?
“It’s important for me to express and expand myself creatively. There is no way in the world I could use words to describe what I wanted my site to look like outside of creating it myself. When you visit the site, you see me, you hear me, you feel me. It’s important for me to be intimately connected to everything I create.”

Tell us about your blog.
“My blog is a place for me to release my truths. I am able to better understand myself as an ever-expansive human and a constantly evolving creative the more I sit and write out my thoughts. Through writing, I am able to affirm myself through this journey as well as the women in my community.”

Have you received any feedback from clients or followers about your website?
“Everyone thinks it’s absolutely gorgeous! It’s a lot of chocolate (women). A lot of inspo. And a lot of self-affirmations.”

You have a major Instagram following. In what ways is your Squarespace website different from your IG?
“My Instagram is curated to a ‘T.’ I don’t play around. My feed looks like a mood board of all my favorite visuals, tones, and people. The Squarespace website allows you to see a full range of my creative work. It allows you to explore how multifaceted I am as an artist.”

From Deun Ivory’s Squarespace website

Why is it important for you to use your talents to celebrate Black womanhood?
“It’s important for me to celebrate black womanhood because it’s what I’ve been called to do. I am sustained by the joy of my community, and I use that joy to radiate through my work and gift black women with the affirmation that they are beautiful and brilliant.”

How does your background as an educator influence your approach to photography?
“I used to struggle with the idea that people could actually learn something from me, mainly because of my unorthodox way of teaching. I was aware of how differently I perceived things, and I used to think that it made me incompetent, but in retrospect, my time as an educator was God’s way of showing me that my approach to life and my gifts were uniquely powerful. He affirmed this truth for me: my gifts, when rooted in authenticity, make room for me to inspire and empower the world beyond my wildest dreams.”

How did black women + good grain come about?
“People who are familiar with my style of photography notice a common thread in my work: black women + good grain. I wanted to create a book that honored where I was at that time in my creative journey. Furthermore, I wanted to create a physical home for some of my favorite visuals. My work is far too striking to only exist in the digital realm, so I created what I desired to see in the world: a book like mine.

“The most rewarding part of working on this book is the impact that it has on my community members. I love that I’ve been able to create a beautiful series of visuals celebrating the beauty and brilliance of black women. My hope is that women will read this or gift this to their daughters.”

From Deun Ivory’s Squarespace website

You write on your blog, “every woman who has become my muse has also imparted to me the courage to love myself + the courage to celebrate my beauty + my blackness.” Tell us a bit about one of these women.
“The creative energy between me and Abena Boamah has been absolutely electrifying. She is my muse, and working with her helped me to realize the importance of my work. It was through watching her and guiding her during photo shoots that I realized how stunning this woman was. Beyond the physical, her display of self-love and celebration of self challenged me to reevaluate how I navigated the world. Her favorite saying is: ‘Black women are fine as sh*t’, and she encourages all women to feel that way about themselves and others. I love that. And I receive that.”

“She would often talk about how her photo shoots with me helped her appreciate her own beauty. I remember when I posted an image of her on my Instagram, and she texted me and said, ‘Wow, I’ve never seen myself this way before.’ It’s a common thing with me and the black women I shoot; they all walk away from the session feeling seen and celebrated.”

From Deun Ivory’s Squarespace website

Could you tell us a bit more about the idea behind Black Girl In Om and your role as art director? Is there a recent project you worked on for the platform that was especially exciting?
“Black Girl In Om is the culture-shifting wellness platform for black women. We create space for black women to breathe easy. My role as the art director is to create a visual experience for the brand that radiates the essence of who black women are and what is rightfully ours: joy, healing, mindfulness, love, abundance, etc. Recently, the founder, Lauren Ash, and I spoke with angel Kyodo williams, an ordained black zen priest, for our podcast, during Wanderlust in Palms Springs. The conversation transformed my life.”

You’ve spoken about diversity and inclusion in the wellness industry. What about the photo industry? What would you like to see more of in the photography world? 
“I’d love for Pinterest to have more images of black women in wellness, and I’d love for more black women to shoot magazine covers. I sometimes feel like the photography world is intimidated by our genius, so they don’t allow us to even come into those spaces simply because they’re threatened.”

Why is it important to you to pass the torch by teaching and empowering other young women through your workshops?
“My creative vision is bigger than me and my influence. It’s about empowering women of color to believe that they are beautiful, brilliant, and capable of shifting culture. I can only do that by transferring my genius to other black women so they can build upon that and evolve in ways I couldn’t. My workshops are an intimate experience into my creative process. I’m not creating mini-me’s; I’m creating a safe space for black women to realize their own genius.”

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