I grew up feeling like I was outside the norm of conventional beauty. I had smooth chocolate skin, 4C hair and while I was considered nice looking, I rarely found products that enhanced my looks. Luckily, I was confident at being a ‘natural,’ and have literally jumped for joy over the past decade as products for Black women became plentiful and fantastic. As significant, Black women and girls started to embrace their beauty and the world began to emulate, buy, borrow and appropriate Black aesthetics. That’s when I realized I wanted to understand the structures behind the beauty standards we all accept. I also wanted to deconstruct why so many of us grew up feeling hurt, insecure and sometimes ugly. I wanted to be a part of telling our story as Black women and why our beauty holds power.
I am blessed with three beautiful daughters, currently teenagers, aged 13, 17 and 19. Over the years, I’ve watched them develop into glorious young ladies and my hopes and dreams for them have soared. Like many mothers, I also want to protect them from the pain I felt growing up, before I grew into loving the skin I’m in. Then 5 years ago, a surprising thing happened my girls began to tell me how many of their non-Black friends coveted their beauty. Big booty – they want that. Fuller lips, – they are getting products for that, slim fit, slim-thick, small waists to full hips ratio, they are working out for that, baby hairs, braids and extensions – they are buying that. Beyonce, Rihanna, Lupita Nyong’o, even Naomi Campbell (this lady does not age), women who are considered the creme of the crop in beauty, belong in our camp. And yes white beauty standards have remained dominant, but an interesting shift is unfolding too. That’s when I began to understand that while many things remained the same from my youth, a great deal has changed too. I want to tell the story of whys and how this is unfolding.
Featured on the IMDb Instagram Page along with Yance Ford, QuestLove, Dawn Porter, and Raoul Peck as one of Five Black Filmmakers to Watch
Jennifer Holness Bio
Jennifer Holness brings a fresh, authentic perspective to telling powerful, thought-provoking stories.
Jen has worked as a documentary filmmaker for nearly 20 years. She is a co-producer of the feature doc, Stateless, with director Michele Stephenson (American Promise) for PBS’s The America Series and the National Film Board. Stateless premiered digitally at Tribeca and at Hot Docs in 2020 where it won the festival’s Special Jury Prize, followed by a Best feature doc award at Black Star. She is the Executive Producer of Maya Annik Bedward feature doc, Black Zombie, that is in production with CBC’s Doc Channel.
She was recently awarded the CMPA’s Indiescreen Established Producer of the year Award in recognition of her contribution to Canada’s film industry and her incredible career achievements.
Jen has directed her first feature documentary, Subjects of Desire, about Black women and beauty. The will have it’s world premiere at SXSW and it will air on TVO and Crave in Canada.
Jen who is passionate about Black Canadian History ( and redressing the lack of) is producing her first History Channel Series, BLK: An Origin Story. She will serve as series showrunner and a director with partner Sudz Sutherland.
She has also produced numerous TV documentaries, including; Badge of Pride (CBC & PBS) Min Sook Lee’s film about gay cops that has sold internationally from Israel to Europe. Brick By Brick (Omni), Yin Yin Jade Love (TVO), and Dolores: The Art of Art Modeling (Bravo!). Speakers For The Dead (CBC/NFB), which she co-directed with Sutherland, reveals a hidden Black history in Ontario and she and co-director Sudz Sutherland were invited to Harvard University to present a talk about the film and Canadian Black history.
Along with her creative work, Jennifer is a dedicated advocate for diversity and mentorship. She is a founding member of the Black Screen Office, a national organization that advocates for creatives and producers in the screen-based industries. She has mentored/hired scores of African Canadians and diverse talent over the past decade and a half, both personally and through working with organizations like The Reel World Film Festival, Black Women Film!, Through Their Eyes, The Toronto Black Film Festival and the Montreal Black Film Festival.
Jen is co-chair of the newly founded the Canadian Independent Screen Fund (CISF) and the Ontario Creates Industry Board. Other board work includes the Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA), The Regent Park Film Festival, Women In View, Innoversity Creative Summit and CMPA’s Prime Time.
Even when Jen is working, she enjoys keeping up with her three spectacular daughters!