Black woman wearing glasses with a beaded glasses chain reading Black Feminist Thought

Fashion and Feminism: Taja Lindley of Colored Girls Hustle

I used to think that if I was going to be a Serious Feminist, I would have to give up my eyeliner and outfits. It wasn’t until years later that I would come to realize exactly how misogynist that was, how deeply the devaluation of the artistic elements of fashion is actually due to its proximity to the feminine.

In an effort to further the dialogue on fashion, adornment, and feminism, I’m doing a series of interviews with feminist designers and artists that create beautiful things to wear. Check out our previous installments here! – Vero

Like Ana Marcela, I first met Taja doing reproductive justice work. She’s still on that tip — just on a whole different level, incorporating music and adornment as part of her feminist practice in her work as one half of Colored Girls Hustle.

Two fly black women holding mics in the middle of a performance

Taja (left) and Jess (right) of Colored Girls Hustle

Colored Girls Hustle creates and sells handmade adornment that affirms our bodies and encourages us to be our boldest selves. They invigorate and nurture creative practice and self-expression, and they amplify women of color artists, entrepeneurs, healers, and activists who hustle hard for their communities. Also, they are fly as hell. Check ’em out!

Y’all talk about adornment as “a ritual of ornamenting and honoring our bodies, a mindful routine of self-love not to be confused with vanity.” How did you come to see adornment as political? 

Anytime we choose to enjoy and celebrate our bodies, it is a big middle-finger-up to all of the systems and people who would like us to hate ourselves instead, that would like us to be dead instead. Honoring and affirming our bodies by ornamenting them with adornment is a pleasure ritual. It is a freedom ritual to discover and express pleasure in a body that is under constant, severe, calculated, and systematic policing, surveillance, hypersexualization, demonization, marginalization and other forms of attack.

I discovered this for myself around the time I founded Colored Girls Hustle. I was working full-time at a movement-building non-profit org where many staff viewed their lack of effort/care/concern in their appearance as a form of their activism — their solidarity with an anti-capitalist economy, with low-income people.

As the daughter of a single Black mother, I was raised to care and take pride in my appearance. So under-dressing for the movement has never really resonated with me. I grew up witnessing expressions of sisterhood and love in the ritual of getting ready. I enjoyed watching my mother and her sisters get ready for their parties, helping each with their hair and makeup, dancing and laughing loudly. I come from a family of Black women who wear sequins and brightly colored lipstick.

Taking pride, celebrating and honoring our bodies even though we are being policed, incarcerated, and killed is a radical act. Reproductive justice activists know this…. It’s no coincidence that while RJ activists fight for bodily autonomy, they still look fly.

How does Colored Girls Hustle mix up cute accessories, music, and art? Where do you see those intersecting with each other? How do you see them all working together?

Colored Girls Hustle is about bold self-expression and (re)defining hustle. The products we provide — adornment, music and more to come — are meant to be tools for how we can all live boldly, out loud, with passion and purpose. Our offerings are an affirmation of women and girls of color and our possibilities. My long-term vision is to leverage the business’ earned income to make investments in our communities (i.e. programming, artist grants, events, etc).

CGH earring

I’m interested in the ways that cultures of resistance can be integral to any form of art. Do you see elements of feminism in your art? Of queer liberation? How do you incorporate those things?

Feminism, freedom, and liberation are not just elements of our work… it is our work. For reasons I stated above, how we treat and decorate bodies is part of our freedom and liberation.

We released the Colored Girls Hustle Hard Mixtape on Juneteenth  — the anniversary of the enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation and a commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. In the spirit of freedom and liberation, our Mixtape is amplifying the voices of women of color through music.

In the Mixtape we talk about ways we get free — like twerking. Dancing and expressing our sexuality on our own terms is a freedom ritual. We created a twerk song that we wanna twerk to. Sometimes people can feel conflicted about dancing in ways that get us free to lyrics that may not be aligned with our values. “Ooo Oh #PirateBooty” is the song where that conflict does not exist. Twerk, feel good about it, fuck respectability politics.

We say that our music is for the movement — we name what we fight for, what we fight against, and celebrate who we are all the while. It takes real courage to hustle hard for our communities. We make music to help us overcome fear and stand boldly in our courage.

Outside of Colored Girls Hustle, Jessica and I, Taja Lindley, independently create art with and for our communities. As a queer femme feminist Black woman, I see my visual and performance artwork as healing rituals for myself and others. Our healing, our pleasure, our creativity and our transformation are integral to any movement for liberation.

You’re in a desert island and you get to take one food, one beverage, and one feminist. Your picks?

Kale. Ginger Beer. Alexis Pauline Gumbs (she will conjure all of the other feminists I wanna bring!)

New York, NY

Verónica Bayetti Flores has spent the last years of her life living and breathing reproductive justice. She has led national policy and movement building work on the intersections of immigrants' rights, health care access, young parenthood, and LGBTQ liberation, and has worked to increase access to contraception and abortion, fought for paid sick leave, and demanded access to safe public space for queer youth of color. In 2008 Verónica obtained her Master’s degree in the Sexuality and Health program at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. She loves cooking, making art, listening to music, and thinking about the ways art forms traditionally seen as feminine are valued and devalued. In addition to writing for Feministing, she is currently spending most of her time doing policy work to reduce the harms of LGBTQ youth of color's interactions with the police and making sure abortion care is accessible to all regardless of their income.

Verónica is a queer immigrant writer, activist, and rabble-rouser.

Read more about Verónica

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