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Deborah Joy Winans on the Many Faces, Shapes and Sizes of Diversity

Photos: Courtesy of Deborah Joy Winans

Deborah Joy Winans rose to fame through the groundbreaking series “Greenleaf,” executive produced by Oprah Winfrey. Today, the actress and singer uses her platform to promote racial and cultural diversity on and off screen.

“Size inclusivity is important because everyone needs to be represented,” she tells Mediaplanet. “It’s important for young women growing up to see someone that looks like them in a positive, beautiful light.”

It’s this same representation, or lack thereof, that Deborah recalls being absent throughout her childhood. “I attended a private Christian school that was mostly Caucasian. My brothers and I were three of less than ten African American students at the school,” she explains.

Deborah later attended Renaissance High School in Detroit, which boasts a more diverse girl, so I felt semi-invisible there too,” she recalls. “It wasn’t enough that I was a young black woman like a lot student body, yet still found herself struggling with self-image. “At that point it was all about being a light-skinned black of the other kids. My blackness now had a scale of which black was best.”

During moments of insecurity, Deborah turned to family for support. “They gave me the confidence that I would need along the way,” she notes, also citing Dani Brookes, Queen Latifah and Viola Davis as role models. “I am drawn to women who are confident in who they are and what they have. It doesn’t matter their size.”

Tweeting responsibly

Deborah uses Instagram and Twitter to connect with fans and share messages of positivity. “[Some] people use social media as a negative tool, so you have to be careful with who you follow and what you allow yourself to take in,” she explains, adding that she doesn’t let internet trolls impact her self-image. “I was who I am before Instagram and I will be who I am when Instagram is no longer the ‘new thing.’”

She hopes she can use the platform to give her followers the same confidence.

“Don’t aim to look like anyone but yourself, because no one determines your beauty but you,” she urges. “Being you is the most unique thing you can do, and we need unique in a world of look-a-likes.”

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