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How Amanda Reid Found Freedom and Community in Calligraphy


Calligrapher Amanda Reid enters our Zoom room and immediately fills the screen with her smooth brown skin and infectious smile. Her complexion is warmed by a subtle rosy blush, which contrasts the soft white calligraphy studio in Austin, Texas. For Amanda, her talented script is more than a business that has garnered partnerships with brands like IPSY, KATE SPADE, and JO MALONE (to name a few); it is her self-care ritual.

Before her influential partnerships and the blossoming community Calligraphers of Color, Amanda was your average Black girl growing up in a world that left her confused about her beauty but never her potential. Keep reading to learn more about beauty through Amanda’s lens.

Life Before the Pens

Amanda was born in New Jersey and raised in a predominantly white area in Houston, Texas. Her adolescence mirrors that of many other Black girls and minorities who grew up without representation of themselves. Amanda couldn't help but wonder, “What do people think of me? Am I enough as a Black woman?” She recalls hearing statements like, you’re pretty for a Black Girl, but she credits her parent’s positivity for grounding her in her worth.

“My parents were ministers, and they were huge on affirmations, so they always spoke life into me,” Amanda shares, “I never questioned my looks because they affirmed me so much at home.” She also relied on her art and creativity to express herself, but in her Pentecostal household, makeup and other forms of feminine expression weren’t encouraged.

“We weren’t allowed to wear makeup and jewelry or to cut our hair,” she says. “I’m definitely the opposite of that now. I didn’t start my beauty journey until my 30s. My traditional upbringing forced me to be confident in my own skin because there was never anything to cover up with.”

While there was no hiding behind makeup or glamor, Amanda did hide behind her hair extensions. She constantly battled with hair issues and resorted to covering her hair with weaves and wigs from her adolescence all the way to Baylor University’s Gospel Choir, where she met her husband. She continued this routine even through physical therapy school, where she avoided having her classmates practice certain techniques near her head or neck. “It got to the point where I felt that I was hiding,” says Amanda. “So for my 30th birthday, my husband helped me shave my head. It’s been a fun journey, and I’ve embraced a whole new look. It’s been very liberating and empowering, too.”

Calligraphy Lessons in Beauty and Self-Growth

After spending the majority of her life without makeup, Amanda’s current beauty routine is quick, easy, and effortless. “I feel like I’m a lazy baldy because if I wanted to be completely bald, I’d need to shave every other day,” she shares, “but I usually go about a week between shaves. After I wash and exfoliate my scalp, I use BEVEL clippers. They’re made for men, but as a bald woman, there’s not a lot out there for us. For my skincare routine, my favorite products are from OSEA. I love their Ocean Cleanser, and they have a Body Oil that makes you glow like the sun. I also love their Hydrating Lotion. When you use it with the oil, your skin is popping.”

While her calligraphy is intricate, her makeup routine is simple and to the point—though she does credit her steady hand for her talent of grooming brows and lashes and applying eyeliner. Her beauty routine is minimal, but she notes that calligraphy has led her friends to use lettering and brush strokes for more trendy things, like nail art. “My favorite brand right now is MERIT BEAUTY,” she says. “I love them because the Minimalist Complexion Perfecting Stick is so easy to use, and it melts right into my skin. It’s the same with their blush. I just dab it on, and then I’m out the door.”

Of course, beauty is not the only throughline to calligraphy in Amanda’s life. She credits the practice for helping her to slow down and look at her life differently. “The lesson I get from calligraphy that is most applicable to life is to be present and in the moment,” she says. “Calligraphy is slow and intentional—it’s not a quick process you rush through. If you don’t allow enough time for the ink to travel from your pen to the paper, it won’t come out right. So I’ve learned to give myself the time and space to unplug and be present in the moment to enjoy what’s right in front of me.”

Amanda’s calligraphy has also taught her that being a beginner is okay: “You’re not going to be perfect the first time you do anything. It’s a journey to enjoy instead of rushing to the destination. Things take time, and perfection is overrated. Just because something isn’t good enough to be monetized, doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying or sharing. If you enjoy an activity, do it for the art of it.”

Finding Self-Care in Calligraphy

Amanda found calligraphy while in physical therapy school, using the creative outlet as stress relief. The art form seems to be a natural extension of the types of passions she’s always enjoyed. (She even had a side hustle painting sneakers in undergrad that she called Painted Feet).

“I signed up to take a calligraphy workshop, and after day one I was hooked,” she says. “I just kept taking classes, and I would practice on my notes from PT school. When I graduated, my first job was very high demand and stressful. I didn’t have time for anything else, so eventually I applied for two part-time physical therapy jobs, which is how I work today, and it gave me a flexible schedule for my calligraphy work.”

“I started to share my work online, and the business grew from there,” Amanda continues. “I started doing pop-up markets, teaching classes, and collaborating with brands. When I started to share calligraphy as a form of self-care, it naturally attracted a lot of beauty partnerships. I don’t do weddings anymore, but I love collaborating with brands and teaching others. I have an online course coming out this fall, and I’m really excited about that.”

Creating a Seat at Her Own Table

While Amanda grew in her calligraphy work, she couldn’t help but notice that the leaders in the online space and at calligraphy conferences didn’t look like her. “I remember standing in the kitchen with my husband and saying, I know I’m not the only Black calligrapher out there, but I can’t find anyone else,” she recalls. “I would search for Black calligraphers or calligraphers of color, and nothing would come up. I couldn’t find any people of color in this space, so I founded [Calligraphers of Color] in July 2019 and let them come to me.”

Rather than wait for someone to create this community for her, Amanda embarked on the journey herself. “People like to wait for a table to be set or presented to them, but sometimes you have to start it yourself and create your own table with room for others to join you,” she advises. “If it’s a good table and a product that will benefit others, the people will come. Whether it reaches a lot of people or just a few, people will benefit from it if you’re putting out your best work.”

Calligraphers of Color grew organically and became a community of around 500 enthusiasts. Things were steady until 2020, when the underrepresentation of Black Americans came to the forefront. “Notable calligraphy instructors with large platforms started sharing my work and partnering with me. We went from 500 followers to 14,000 in a matter of weeks. It was shocking,” Amanda shares. While she had to admit that the support might have felt disingenuous or just a little too late at times, she was most grateful for the opportunity to connect with calligraphers of color worldwide. “Calligraphers of Color primarily consists of Black women, but we also have plenty of LatinX women and members of all backgrounds. People have such a sense of relief when they finally find this community that makes them feel at home.”

“Today, Calligraphers of Color has a private Facebook group where they can support each other with advice and tips—whether they use calligraphy as a career or a hobby. The number one question I get is about people seeking Black calligraphers near them. I’m building a website that will be our home base with a directory for people to search and find professionals in their area. I also want to use the platform as a resource for those in the early stages of learning, and my biggest dream for Calligraphers of Color is to host a conference.”

Amanda hopes that her community encourages others to create spaces for themselves. In her words: “The self-doubt is real sometimes, but you can do this. Everything you need is already inside of you. Keep going.”

Feeling inspired by Amanda’s story? Discover more Beauty Through The Black Lens stories and learn How Travel Influencer Francesca Murray Gained a Global Perspective or Meet The Melanin Chemist Debunking Misinformation One Post at a Time. Want in on all the IPSY Glam Bag fun? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started. Already an Ipster? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram @IPSY.

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About the author
Kindra Moné
Kindra Moné is a writer and content creator who works with brands and magazines to create culturally relevant fashion and beauty content. She is also the founder of The Moné Edit: a community and podcast at the intersection of style and wellness.
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Article Last Updated October 26, 2022 12:00 AM