Natalie Manuel Lee Spotlights Black Culture with New Series 'Beyond the Surface'
The content creator partners with Buttah Skin to speak with ‘New Girl’ star Lamorne Morris and others on Black culture.
Now With Natalie creator Natalie Manuel Lee has partnered with long-time friend and Buttah Skin founder Dorion Renaud to create an empowering new digital series, Beyond The Surface. The pair saw “the need to create purposeful content that would serve the culture” during these unprecedented times, as Lee tells us in an interview. Driven to amplify the voices of some of our generation’s most authentic and talented creatives, the digital series explores a plethora of topics from inner beauty to lessons learned from the pandemic.
With guests from New Girl’s Larmone Morris to fashion designer Nina Parker to Renaud himself, the star-studded lineup highlights Black culture at its finest. Keep reading to hear from Lee on the inspiration behind the series, how she balances motherhood with work and more.
Beyond the Surface is live on Buttah Skin’s website and available to stream on the brand’s official Instagram. Watch the trailer for the digital series below.
How did the concept of Beyond The Surface come about? What’s your relationship with Dorion?
Dorion and I have been friends for over a decade now, and always knew that we wanted to collaborate. Beyond The Surface came about primarily because we knew and saw the need for the culture, given where we are today. With many of us in a state of transition and being forced to look inward, as well as trying to find that work-life balance with the new normal, I wanted to create content that would serve the viewers with tools of hope, transformation and introspection, as well as mental health resources. For me, it was a wonderful opportunity to give the audience and the generation what I see is needed.
Could you expand more on examining inner beauty in the series, particularly from the lens of a woman of color?
As a society, we tend to focus more on our appearance, forgetting that it’s the internal that makes the external shine brighter. As a woman of color in this current climate, I knew that we needed to focus on inner beauty. Connecting with Dorion was a part of that, because his goal and desire for his brand is to express beauty from the inward out.
Could you discuss your personal relationship to beauty, both in terms of appearance as well as inner beauty and self-worth?
To be transparent, I only recently became comfortable not wearing makeup, and I think a big part of that is the inner work that I’ve done to get here. It didn’t happen overnight, but I think the reality is that in order for us to be comfortable and confident in our own skin, we need to do the hard work to improve ourselves. My own sense of confidence certainly derives from my faith and knowing that I am more than enough. Becoming a new mom has definitely influenced my growth as well, partly because I don’t have time to put on makeup, but with the birth of my daughter, I often think about needing to be confident for her.
What would you say to younger women who are having a hard time with self-worth and confidence?
Trust the process and know that the process is molding you. You are already enough, even if you haven’t done anything else. I think for me, I was so focused on “doing” when I was younger and thinking that my confidence was derived from my productivity. In time, I realized that my sense of self-worth doesn’t come from what I do, but who I am. A career is important, but in order to sustain the career you desire, you have to know who you are. You’re enough, regardless of what you do.
What’s the best advice you’ve learned from the show’s guests?
All the guests had profound advice that they shared. Lamorne Morris said, “Fail and be okay with failing in front of people. You need it.”
What’s your favorite thing about Black culture and what is that you want to highlight most in the series?
My favorite thing about the culture is our boldness. What I want to most highlight in this series is that the troubled waters we all have faced in the past few years were not intended to drown us, but were intended to cleanse us and evolve us into more of who we are called to be. Our resilience is special and that is what truly sets us apart.