The Missing Links: Self / Expression

Words by Jasmin Alexandria • Photography by Richard Brooks

Since I was a little girl I expressed myself out-worldly through style. I can remember leaving the house in an arm full of plastic bracelets, beaded necklaces, wearing traditional Indian bindis, and sometimes chandelier earrings. I would eagerly go to school to showcase my latest obsession. I took it as an opportunity to push the limits of what was acceptable adornment for a 10-year old. I would try to convince my dad to let me wear face jewels to church or butterfly hair-clips to choir. I was looking to stand out rather than fit-in. It was a natural extension of true self. And my style mirrored all my eccentricities. My parents created an environment in which I never felt insecure and allowed me to naturally gravitate toward all that sparked my interest. When I was old enough to tell my mom how I wanted to wear my hair, she would take hours to perfect it. Styling my hair further allowed me to further express myself. Whether I wore it in single box braids, or half-up-half-down, in bantu knots, or even cornrows with beads on the ends; my hair was and still is a part of my identity.

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In Spring of 2002, I lost both my parents. I was completely astray. I struggled with who I thought I was and fought against the reality of what I was- an orphan. I found myself looking back in the past and comparing it against my present situation. It was extremely difficult to understand how it came to be so. I was in a foreign place amongst familiar strangers and rightfully shell-shocked. I was barely a pre-teen and battling the side-affects of post-traumatic stress disorder. I went from having it all, to having nothing in a matter of moments. My world had completely shattered and I lost the biggest pieces that held it all in place. My style began to mimic all that I was trying to understand- it was erratic and confusing. It was during that dark period in which I dug deeper to express myself. I turned to writing poetry and painting, as creative outlets to help me cope with trauma I experienced. I began searching for other ways to feel whole again.

It was years later that I began my journey with jewelry. A dream that I had spoke of with my dad, many years before. I started making jewelry because I was searching for new ways to tame my restlessness and combat depression. I was fresh out of high school, with no real solid plan in motion and had recently chopped off all my hair. I began making ornate jewelry pieces. With no knowledge of design or color-theory, I presented my portfolio to Savannah College of Art and Design. And to my surprise, was immediately enrolled into their Metals and Jewelry Design Program. Working in the studio was therapeutic, it was busy work that put me into a meditative state. I was making things that I dreamt of and beginning to heal all at once. It was as if the storm that had been hovering over me, finally let up and I could see the sun. The hopelessness faded away and my confidence sprouted back. My creative process paved the way for me to discover self-love. Which in-turn brought me back to expressing my style again. 

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I’ve worked tremendously hard to stand proud and live in my truth. While my wounds show no visible scars, my style displays them like badges of honor. I’ve learned to embrace change and pain as the ultimate guides to my growth. To be pushed, pulled and stretched in new ways have allowed me to remain open to all that this life has to offer. It’s given sovereignty for my style to morph freely. The woman I am today owes that brave little girl, wearing costume jewelry and box braids so much.