Meet Teaunna Gray

Meet Teaunna Gray

Photographer Christabelle Pausey

What is your name and what do you do and/or what is your passion?

Hiiii, I’m Teaunna- I'm a recent graduate with a background in social service work and I have a passion for humans in marginalized communities. I aim to shed light on these groups with my varied creative ventures, which are largely based around sex and love!

I hope to use art and creation to empower these communities by giving a voice to those who otherwise remain unheard.

Photographer Christabelle Pausey

Tell me about Sex & Love in Modern Times, what was the inspiration behind it? Why is this issue so close to home?

Sex & Love in Modern Times is a project of mine that I started at the end of 2016. Sex and love is all around us and what I believe is the root to basically everything in life. They’re topics that I use to explore myself and society’s views on gender roles, relationships, societal biases and the “standard’ of human’s physical beauty.

Photographer Christabelle Pausey

Where will the donations that you gathered be distributed?

In my art show, Sex and Love in Modern Times, I expanded on my previous bra drive by including menstruation hygiene products. 

I’ve been a partner with an amazing organization called Free the Girls, an international non-profit organization who is devoted to the reintegration of sex trafficked women into their communities. By collecting bra donations (gently used or new) and delivering them to these communities, it gives the women an economic opportunity to start their own businesses. Selling bras in their local markets while they recover aid in building their new life. 

A goal of mine is to give back where I can in my own city of Toronto.

I want to  start programs in low-income housing apartments, drop-in centers and homeless shelters where women don’t have to worry about breaking their banks to buy menstrual products- something I strongly feel the government should fund 100% of. I’ll be personally delivering menstruation hygiene products to these places and hope to be a consistent face in these communities. 

Photographer Christabelle Pausey

You also paint, can you talk a bit about your paintings and what drew you to painting vaginas in particular?

I grew up in a family where sex wasn’t a topic that was talked about at all. As I grew older, I realized that this was a way for my mom to protect my sister and I because of some traumas her family had experienced. Like all young girls, I was curious but also developed a sort of OCD, which impeached on the way I felt about my vagina. If I ever touched it “accidentally”, I would wash my hands forever because I was always told that it shouldn't be touched and that it is a private part of my body. There was a day in my life, I think it was like 12  or 13 where I decided to face my fears, so to speak; thus began a ritualistic “check-in” which consists of me squatting over a mirror, completely void of clothes! I laugh now because it’s normal for me, but I remember staring at my vagina in the mirror for the first time being amazed. I thought to myself- wow, this isn’t scary at all!! 

It's now something I preach to females of all ages- get to know your vagina and don’t be afraid of your body or your sexuality. 

All that to say, my self exploration started that day which led to me sketching my vagina at all the angles my body could bend, and then I began painting it. Furthering my vagina study, I incorporated all types of shapes, sizes and colors. I called this series Black Belt as a way to mock the media’s widely interpretation of black female’s sexuality. I wanted to show the delicacy and intricacies of a vagina. And also to show that all vaginas are the same color inside (where it counts) - and that color is pink ;).

Photographer Christabelle Pausey

What has the reception been like?

The first time I ever exhibited my vagina paintings, I stood in the background and found that females were very uncomfortable going physically near my work. A lot of them whispered to the person they were with asking if “that’s what I thought it is”. Alternatively,  males would go up close and ask aloud what they thought the artist’s inspiration was and shouting things like , “cool!”, “that’s crazy!” etc… And isn't that interesting?!

Why were females, who own a vagina, so uncomfortable with the thought of them on an artisitic display? It really inspired me to continue this conversation through more paintings and art shows.

Photographer Christabelle Pausey

In what moments in your life do you feel most powerful?

I feel most powerful when I am lifting someone else up.

I truly love encouraging and empowering artists who may be holding back when it comes to their creativity. That is why I take care and time to choose artists for the shows I create. I also feel powerful when I’m listening- learning while actively listening and observing are some of the most important things to me. Taking the time to listen to a disadvantaged human on the street is something I do often as I become inspired but them. I truly do what I can to uplift them, to let them know I hear and see them as human being first. And that makes me feel powerful in a very honest way.

Photographer Christabelle Pausey

What women have been most influential to you and why?

I mean, it’s cliché to say “it’s cliché to say”… but my mom is an influential woman in my life. The things she went through as a teenage single mother is something I am so grateful for.  Along with my aunts and Grandmas. They endured a lot of unfair struggles at my age and younger, but they came through. And we are able to be such a tight knit and supportive family because of it. I’m truly so thankful!

Photographer Christabelle Pausey

What advice would you give our easy community on their journeys to creative and fulfilling lives?

The advice I would give is the same advice I try to take every day! Don’t be afraid of your imagination and try everything your brain comes up with, creatively. Talking about ideas  and goals can go on forever, so something I’ve been focused on is the execution.

Do it all!! And be excited to learn.

Follow Teaunna's journey on instagram.

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