Affirming Life—Boldly, Bravely, Beautifully
Sometimes an artist has a vision that is bigger than a single medium. This vision—a call to create—is what drives Cierra Lynn Taylor as a mother, artist, and self-described mental health advocate.
From her clothing designs brimming with bright, bold colors to her empowering body painting and the words of encouragement she paints in public schools, Taylor is fulfilling her calling as an artist and advocate.
From an early age, art came naturally.
“As a child, creating art was something I loved to do; it was my favorite hobby, subject in elementary school, major in college, and now my career. Art was always that outlet I gravitated to, and I realized that it was my gift,” Taylor said.
But what makes her art especially distinctive are the affirmative words and phrases she includes in her designs, an endeavor she started in 2009 after being laid off from a position as an art teacher. As an entrepreneur, Taylor was now free to pursue her vision and share her messages on her terms.
In the years since, Taylor’s online boutique has evolved as a showcase for her daring designs on jackets, dresses, purses and backpacks, and other items. Empowering words adorn them all. Looking back on her business’s growth, Taylor realized she had tapped into her clients’ hunger for messages of unconditional acceptance and love, needed boosts for flagging self-esteem. “I am inspired by many things women can relate to such as single motherhood, job loss, even alopecia. By reading an empowering affirmation or seeing a beautifully painted image, I hope my audience feels empowered and confident.”
But Taylor wasn’t content with clothes as her canvas. “I have always infused affirmations,” she explained. “It all started with clothing. Now it has progressed to the body.”
She started close to home by using her 11-year-old daughter’s skin as a blank canvas. After applying a black undercoat over her back, Taylor used white paint to envelop her neck, shoulder blades, spine, arms, and entire rear torso with empowering words: Black and Proud, Worthy, Beautiful, Enough, Queen, Peace, and Powerful, among others. I Am anchored them all. “Painting words on my daughter’s back was my way to teach her and others the importance of loving the skin you’re in,” Taylor recalled.
Her boutique clients were surprised by Taylor’s daring turn. “Initially, [Art Body Language] was a shock to my audience, but it was quickly accepted and celebrated for the purpose and mission behind the body art.”
Taylor kept at it, gradually expanding her clientele. “The movement started to take off when I became more consistent with talking about different topics including body positivity, healing from miscarriage, and—most important—telling the stories of other women,” she said.
Her clients’ reactions to the finished product are testaments to the power of the words they proudly wear. “Many sessions have the clients in tears. It’s literally more than body paint. It’s like therapy. When they finally see that they are a work of art, their emotions take over.”
Taylor’s spirituality is part of her process.
“Before every project, I pray about it. Before every design, I pray about it. When I am inspired, I believe that it’s God answering my prayers, or speaking to me,” she said.
Seeking emotional health and body and mind positivity for herself and others has led Taylor to become a mental health advocate. “Through being a caregiver to my now deceased mom, I learned the importance of mental health, self-care, and therapy. As an entrepreneur, I have also learned why taking care of mental health is important. My art empowers me to practice what I preach.”
And she knows her struggles as a woman and an African American are not unique. “The Black community has always had a negative stigma around mental health. With more and more conversations around the topic, more people will feel comfortable in sharing and getting the support they need,” she said.
Taylor’s newest pursuit is her Affirm It with Art initiative, using her signature affirmations and vivid imagery to beautify bathroom stall doors in Washington, D.C.,-area elementary and high schools.
It’s another way to bring positivity, self-love, and awareness of bullying and mental health issues directly to today’s youth.
“I try to be and do what I didn’t have growing up,” she explained. “To be able to inspire the youth to love themselves is my goal.”
For Taylor, the future is as bright and positive as her creations. She will continue with Affirm It with Art and Art Body Language, and expand her on-site collection to include more home decor. And she’s dreaming big. “I hope to have more community-based projects where different communities can come together to create artwork to beautify spaces.”
Through it all is her ethos to help those needing support. “I hope my artwork will give hope to those who feel like giving up and encouragement to keep going. When people see my art, I want them to say, ‘Wow, that made me feel good after reading those affirmations and looking at those colors.’”
See more of Cierra Lynn Taylor’s work at cierralynncollection.com.
This article appeared in Daily Word® magazine.