In the midst of going through my own process of self-discovery and self-acceptance, a late night session of Instagram roaming somehow led me to StyleLikeU’s profile. A familiar face from the fashion industry caught my eyes, the caption caught my attention, and led me to a YouTube page that resonated with my heart. Here was a page where they were taking style beyond the surface,and sometimes shallow, definition. Over the following nights I lay in bed glued to StylLikeU’s YouTube page, watching videos of various individuals sit in front of a camera and be vulnerable as they talked about what past challenges, successes, and experiences have impacted who they are and what they chose to put on their bodies. I was unaware I had just become another supporter of StyleLikeU’s on-going global movement.
As I watched each video with a different subject (from fashion, film, theater, music, creative arts industries, etc.) spilling out the truth about their personal experiences, their identity, and how it influences their style, I was able to learn things about people who I may have never met. I was able to gain insight on how we all share common vulnerabilities no matter how different we are, be encouraged by people who have been through circumstances similar to mine, and find strength or compassion in their stories. Some of them were people whose work I looked up to, some I was just being introduced to via this YouTube page.
StyleLikeU is the brainchild of mother-daughter duo, Elisa Goodkind & Lily Mandelbaum. Their What’s Underneath series, literally peels back the layers of each person they interview, by asking questions which cause them to reveal their personal story and what has impacted who they are on the inside and outside today. While doing so, each subject removes all of their clothing-piece by piece-to get down to the bare truths and discover what the body carrying their style truly means to them.
Stop and think. When you pass someone on the street, can you tell what their story is just by looking at their appearance? What does your style really say about you? How does what you wear on the outside reflect who you are on the inside? Are you being authentic or presenting a false image of yourself to the world just to fit in? Take it a step beyond your clothes, and consider how your personality, beliefs, and past experiences play into your style. How you dress yourself is your armor. Elisa & Lily have spent the last few years getting under people’s armor and capturing it all on film.
“Underneath every person’s clothing, no matter how different we might appear, lies a universal struggle for self acceptance. True self acceptance is the bravery to be in this world exactly as you are and not in the image of others.” –Elisa & Lily
It started when Elisa realized her successful 20-year career as a fashion stylist was losing its luster. To her, the industry seemed to have become about facade over art, magazines began picturing the same 5 faces and designers on covers repeatedly, and the industry was not portraying what she believed to be an accurate view of positive beauty standards to young women like her daughter Lily.
In 2009, Elisa gave up her career and her daughter, Lily, gave up her lifestyle of constant dieting to fit the industry mold. They picked up a home camera and documented exactly what is behind the style of people who may not fit the industry standard. With each interview, closet haul, and What’s Underneath segment, they’ve uncovered how “our identity extends way beyond our clothes”.
Along the way, What’s Underneath explores truths and myths about cultures, race, sexuality, gender, beauty, effects of our childhood, rape, disabilities, mental health, and STDs. They give viewers an opportunity to briefly walk in another person’s shoes. See the world from behind the eyes of another person. See the strength in their vulnerability and gain strength by hearing the story of someone that may be similar to yours.
While featuring familiar names and faces including model Shaun Ross, fashion activist/model Bethann Hardison, celebrity stylist Lysa Cooper, OITNB’s Lea Delaria, Fashion Director/Designer Kevin Stewart, and writer Ryan O’Connel, we’re introduced to a host of amazing individuals who may be flying under our radar.
What started as a pursuit to find a voice among the roaring of the industry liberated not only Elisa and Lily, but others too. They’ve left a lasting effect on everyone who has sat in front of the What’s Underneath camera and the people who have heard the stories. StyleLikeU celebrates those whose inner spirit influences their style and who don’t fall into the trendy trap of “an army that looks like the same”. This is for people who welcome style as a true artistic representation of themselves.
When you create from your heart and with genuine purpose, it speaks to people, so it’s no surprise StyleLikeU’s work has received not only media coverage, but a supportive fan flowing of people who they have inspired…and even moved to tears. What’s Underneath is a movement.
They’ve recently gained a partnership with Allure magazine. As a team, they’ve challenged more stereotypes head on. The first collaboration, the Dispelling Beauty Myths series shares the experiences of women over the age of 50 choosing to age gracefully, women who wear their body hair proudly, and individuals living in the middle of the world’s gender identity debate. Their second collaboration with Allure, Mothers and Daughters, explores the dynamics of self-esteem and individuality.
The series has already been filmed in several cities including New York, Los Angels, and London, capturing inspiring stories along the way. Their next goal is to bring us a full length documentary capturing how What’s Underneath became the inspirational viral video series that has pushed a global movement of self-acceptance. The documentary is already in progress with $135,655 worth of donations from a month long Kickstarter campaign.
Watch their mission statement and catch their most recent video: Michaela Angela Davis: Celebrating Her Race & Age with Fiery Truth (& a Tight Slip Game)