Beauty For Freedom: When Beauty And Fashion Become Powerful Allies In The Fight To End Human Trafficking

Eradicating human trafficking and creating a free world for all is near and dear to our hearts at ENTIRE Magazine. When we found Beauty For Freedom we knew we found the real game changers who we could be hands-on with in New York City and around the world. If you have followed us from the beginning, you know this has been an important cause to us. Beauty For Freedom (#BFF) supports survivors of human trafficking by empowering them through the arts.

Beauty For Freedom Empowers Survivors Through The Arts

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We are grateful to now be allies in the fight to end human trafficking with BFF and our Editor-In-Chief, Lori Brown, and the team will be traveling with abroad with BFF next summer to help continue the initiative to help fight human trafficking.

Entire Magazine sat down to interview Beauty for Freedom's Co-Founder and Executive Director, Monica Watkins and got more details and news on upcoming projects, which includes New York Fashion Week event September 15th. And we would love to see you there! Beauty For Freedom has published a book of photography, Illuminate shot by young survivors of trafficking in India. India alone is home to 40% of the world's estimated over 45.8 million slaves. Survivors of trafficking are not truly free until they are free from trauma. Globally, there is an increased need of healing services for survivors including art therapy. 

They launch the book this NYFW Friday, September 15th 6-9pm at Helen Yarmak and hosted by Fashion Executive and Activist Suwana Perry where 100 percent of proceeds from Illuminate will be donated to survivor services. All you need to do to attend and support is purchase one book and if you can't make the event you can still support and purchase the book.

You're Invited: Attend Beauty For Freedom Fashion Week Event Septemeber 15th

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ENTIRE: How did Beauty For Freedom come to be?

Beauty For Freedom: There are an estimated 45.8 million slaves in the world today. Human trafficking earns profits of roughly $150 billion a year for traffickers, according to the ILO. The following is a breakdown of profits, by sector:

$99 billion from commercial sexual exploitation

$34 billion in construction, manufacturing, mining, and utilities

$9 billion in agriculture, including forestry and fishing

$8 billion dollars is saved annually by private households that employ domestic workers under conditions of forced labor

Remarks made by President Obama during the Clinton Global Initiative in 2012 presented a call-to-action that was undeniable and this inspired our team to take action!

“It ought to concern every person, because it is a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every community, because it tears at our social fabric. It ought to concern every business, because it distorts markets. It ought to concern every nation, because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime. I’m talking about the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name - - modern slavery.”- President Barack Obama, September 25, 2012

In 2013 our team of founders came together from the industries of fashion, entertainment, production and art who have been avid supporters of the anti-trafficking abolitionist movement and met to discuss creating our own platform to support the anti-trafficking movement.

We wanted to create something innovative and sustainable that could be a support system for survivors and a fundraising mechanism for non-profits doing rescue, recovery, and reintegration on the ground. Our four founders Monica Watkins (Fashion Model and Artist), Jerry Chu (Marketing Executive & Artist), Amer Nassar (Medical Doctor) and Suwana Perry (Fashion Executive) have committed ourselves to furthering this movement and have expanded our programming in the past 2 ½ years to include a global teaching program rooted in art therapy for survivors. To date, we have donated our art therapy programming to over 1500 survivors of trafficking in Ghana, Cambodia, India and the US. 

ENTIRE: What are the goals/initiatives behind Beauty For Freedom? And who or what can help to increase the awareness?

BFF: Beauty for Freedom’s goals are to expand our art therapy programming in the next two years to serve over 10,000 survivors in several additional regions globally and to effectively fundraise to facilitate rescues of an additional 500 youth that are enslaved. We currently have a roster of 10 teaching artists and would like to expand that to 25 global teaching artists. We need financial support through donations, sponsorships, and grants and we need global ambassadors and influencers to help us spread the word about our platform and work and to help us reach our yearly fundraising goals. Our Beauty for Freedom art therapy programming goals and objectives are to empower survivors through the arts and to create a safe space for creative freedom and expression for our survivors. We are accomplishing this, but would truly like to grow our Beauty for Freedom family to do this on a larger scale.

Art is the greatest equalizer. Anyone can create and in those moments we are all acknowledging that we are the same. We share our hopes, dreams, fears, love, disappointments and every other emotion through creative expression. 

The process of creativity can help anyone transcend difficult circumstances and can transport us, in those moments, to what the human spirit can create. Survivors benefit from this experience in so many ways. 

They are able to compartmentalize their experiences through art and this can be dissected, through counseling, to make their experiences bearable and healable. Many of the nonprofits we partner with use art therapy in their programming for survivor recovery. 

ENTIRE: Where has BFF traveled to work and help victims of sex trafficking? 

BFF: We have currently traveled abroad arts therapy programming in India, Cambodia, Ghana and the US. We’ve worked with young survivors of sex trafficking and labor trafficking and will expand our platform this March to work in South Sudan with Supermodel Mari Malek’s Foundation stand4education creating an art therapy workshop series for the young South Sudanese refugees served by the organization. Many of these youth have suffered unspeakable abuses, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse and have been denied a proper education and medical care. Our great hope is to be able to raise awareness for the organization and our partnership and to be able to lend financial support for the Malek Primary School. 

Children who have suffered the harshest of abuses and have been enslaved through sex trafficking and labor trafficking have a very specific recovery and we have to be sensitive to their privacy and also their precise needs. 

We offer love and affection on their terms, offering hugs only when they initiate. This is something our team is briefed on before each project. Every country has cultural differences and we always try our best to respect and adhere to traditions and cultural guidelines. Our greatest hope is that we add value to the lives of these youth. I believe we are doing that on a consistent basis and we will continue to work towards sustainability in giving to these amazing organizations globally.

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ENTIRE: How can someone sign up to volunteer, support or donate? 

BFF: We are constantly seeking support through our volunteer program for events, our BFF teaching and mentoring programs and advocacy campaigns. People interested in volunteering can sign up directly on our site HERE

For those wishing to donate, they can do this directly on our website by clicking the “donate” tab. www.beautyforfreedom.org

We review all applications within 7 days of receiving them and respond to set up phone calls and additional interviews shortly thereafter. Additionally, we require references and a background check for all teaching artists. Many of our teaching projects are with high-risk youth and we have a pretty rigorous vetting process for all applicants interested in working with our youth.

Recently, our organization has publishes a book.”illuminate” 

ENTIRE: Beauty For Freedom focuses on engaging the beauty and fashion industries, when did you realize this would be a way to truly fight human trafficking?

BFF: The Beauty and Fashion Industries have always been two of the most powerful industries we have in the world. The Beauty Industry alone is a $445 Million dollar enterprise, and yet there were very few brands that contributed to the abolitionist movement before 2012. There are more fashion brands doing their part to end modern-day slavery like Malia Designs, FREESETand isanctuary.

Many other brands have the capacity to do more and aren’t doing their part.

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Beauty for Freedom definitely saw the need and the void that could be filled in this space and we make it our mission to do so.

Photo Credit: Dasha Dare

Purchase Illuminate here and RSVP to our New York Fashion Week Event at https://beautyforfreedom.org/event/illuminate-fashionweek-eventtix/

Illuminate Book Project Teaser

https://vimeo.com/220296408

Project India & Cambodia Teaser

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G1E5UignCe0&t=5s