'Melanin Illustrated' - The Viral Photoshoot Of Sorority Sisters That Is All About Beauty In Every Size And Shade

'The fact that this went viral is proof that it's not common that you see such a large group of REAL women ― mothers, doctors, lawyers, business owners, educated black women, saying 'This is what beautiful is.''

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When you meet up with your mates from uni what do you do? Head to the pub to relive those blackout-drunk nights at the student union? Get piercings out of nostalgia for your long-lost youth?

Well, the women of the Beta Alpha chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority (say that three times, quickly, after a couple of glasses of wine) had something a little different in mind at the reunion of their 2007 line up.

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To celebrate 10 years since those halcyon days at their college, the historically black Florida A&M university, the women of Tite 56 (the name of their Sorority 'line') went on a three day trip to Costa Rica.

Heading out at the end of last month, 28 out of 56 of the women were able to make the holiday, that was complete with its own Sports Illustrated-inspired shoot to celebrate their decade-long friendships.

According to HuffPost, although the name of the shoot, 'Melanin Illustrated' was decided by Melissa Butler, the owner of a beauty brand called The Lip Bar, the art direction wasn't.

Jardan Doneghy, an Atlanta-based brand communications manager who graduated in 2008, told HuffPost that all they planned was that each day of the trip coordinated with a theme:

We really didn't know when or where the photo would take place, but we knew we'd be ready when the perfect photo op happened. We didn't want to do the typical on-the-sand beach photo, so when we saw those rocks, we knew we had the perfect setup! They were actually super sharp and slippery so it was a bit dangerous but worth it in the end!

So with Doneghy's art direction and other line sister NFL cheerleader Shardia Washington telling everyone how to pose, they made this, quite frankly, stunning photo:

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We know!

Jordan is well-aware of the impact of the photograph- seeing that many beautiful women in all different sizes and shades is arresting. She told the newspaper:

The media, and especially social media, have a way of telling us what beauty should be. We say, beauty is being confident that you are good enough, and that is beautiful in itself. We represent various shades and sizes and want to send a larger message of self-love, especially to our African American sisters who may sometimes feel overlooked and underrepresented.

when your line sisters are your goals.

A post shared by TITE 56 (@thisistite) on

This particular shoot, as well as all the different snaps from the holiday, for example them all in a rainbow of colours on the lawn or all in black, have gone completely viral just from their individual Instagram accounts and the meaning of this is not lost on Doneghy, she said:

I think the fact that this went viral is proof that it's not common that you see such a large group of REAL women ― mothers, doctors, lawyers, business owners, educated black women, saying 'This is what beautiful is.' It is bringing your personal best to the table ― that is beauty to us. It is not a way of saying we are better than any other group of people, it's an empowerment for all women to embrace and love themselves.

TITE QUEENS. || #thisistite

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We could not agree more.

These photos are asking all of us important questions like, 'why aren't we seeing more women like this?' as well as less pertinent ones, like, 'why aren't you art-directing and choreographing all of your holiday snaps?'

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