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Sat, Mar 23


Oakland SOL

The Ugly Conference

Please join us for an intimate, experiential, day-long event full of good food, healing, loving community, facilitated discussions and creative activities dedicated to unpacking ugliness as systemic disenfranchisement and coercive isolation.

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The Ugly Conference
The Ugly Conference

Time & Location

Mar 23, 2019, 9:30 AM – 10:00 PM

Oakland SOL, 1236 23rd Ave, Oakland, CA 94606, USA

About the event

Are you familiar with the nuance and painful experience of being regularly perceived as ugly or unattractive by other people throughout your life?

Has being perceived as ugly impacted the trajectory of your life, your relationships, and/or your access to social, educational, and professional opportunities and connections.

Are you ready to have deeper, more vulnerable and intersectional conversations about lookism in a facilitated space to heal, connect with others who have a shared experience, and dream of what change can look like?

Do you want to exchange stories of healing, resilience, and resistance?

Great! Because the PleasureNess Literary Academy, and so many others amazing people and groups, are ready to have more intentional, intersectional, and generative discussions about the disenfranchising experience of the cultural myth that is ugliness – and we want to include your beautiful and critical voice in the process.

Please register here if you'd like to join us.

This inaugural Ugly Conference will an intimate, experiential, day-long event full of facilitated discussions and creative activities dedicated to unpacking the way concepts of ugliness have been used to justify systemic disenfranchisement, coercive isolation, capitalistic exploitation, imperialist colonization, medical violence, and so much more.

Together, we will explore the intersections and commonalities in our personal stories of ugliness, beauty, heartache, healing, resistance, and resilience. We will learn about the work others are doing to combat the oppressive history and impact of the ugly-beauty binary. And we will dream up creative solutions, societal interventions, and other steps towards change, healing, and the eradication of ugliness as we know it.

Ugly Conference Q & A

1. The conference is pretty long. Do I have to attend the whole thing?

You're right. The conference is SUPER long. However, we've broken it up into four parts for your ease and convenience, and you're welcome to stay for the entire event or come and go as you choose.

Part 1: 9:30 - 1:30

Focus: Welcome & Intro, Keynote, Desirability Politix, Healing

Food Offerings: Breakfast, Beverages, Snacks (TBA)

Activities: Welcome, Keynote, Storytelling, Creative Expression, Other Interactive Activities

Part 2: 1:30-4:50

Focus: Creating The Intersectional Narrative of Ugly

Food Offerings: Lunch, Beverages, Snacks (TBA)

Activities: Healers, Elders, and Fighters Panel, Small Group Discussions, Whole Group Discussions

Part 3: 5:20 - 8:00

Focus: Imagination, Solutions & Next Steps in our Respective Creative and Professional Fields

Food: Dinner & Beverages

Activities: Break Out Groups and Report Back, Closing Ritual

Part 4: 8 pm - 10 PM +

Focus: Decompress and Chat

Food: Dessert, Drinks, Snacks

Activities: Chill, Dance, Flirt, Talk, Bond, and Dream in the Oakland SOL Storefront and Garden

*note* Peacock's LOL space will be closed for this section, which means we will no longer have an accessible bathroom. I'm so sorry friends.

2. Who is the Ugly Conference for? How do I know its for me?

The Ugly Conference is for any one who has been impacted by ugly stigma as well as for those who want to be a part of creating a difference. We have strong intersectional values and recognize that ugliness shifts as our ages, bodies, health, wealth, and other things shift in life. We also understand that some people are impacted by looksism in ways that others will never understand. We're not here to police the experience of being perceived as ugly or who attends. But we do ask for your care, your conscientiousness, and your ability to compassionately respect and acknowledge your privileges if you attend. As a transformative justice centered organization, we will center those who are most impacted in regards to space, but we hope for the voices and contributions of every one who wants to create a change in our world and in the system.

3. Can you tell me about the conference's accessibility?

  • Oakland SOL has no steps from the street and is mobility device accessible. Our bathroom is scent free, but not ADA accessible.
  • Our next door neighbor, Peacock Rebellion's LOL space has invited us to use their ADA accessible bathroom for the conference. Their storefront is also fully mobility device accessible.
  • There are multiple couches and sturdy armless chairs available for people who's bodies don't fit comfortably in folding chairs.
  • Are storefront will be cleaned in scent-free product, and both bathrooms use scent free soap.
  • There will be runners to support participants who need it with food, beverages, participating in the interactive wall displays, and more.
  • We will have multiple trauma informed therapist volunteering their time and nurture for people who need that support.
  • Peacock Rebellion's LOL Storefront will be a whisper space for people to sit if they need time away from the conversation and stimulation.
  • Oakland SOL's Garden, which is not mobility device accessible, is another place where people can take space to breath.

4. How much does it cost to attend The Ugly Conference.

Thanks to the incredible and generous sponsorship of Black Girl Dangerous and Oakland SOL, the conference and all its accommodations are free. However, we would graciously appreciate any donations you can offer in order to:

- Pay the keynote, facilitators, and organizers a small stipend for their work

- Create smaller, more focused events and workshops dedicated to unpacking ugliness in this way.

- Apply for funding to generate more media that directs more attention to how beauty standards are weaponized against so many people and the harm it costs

5. Why is PleasureNess hosting The Ugly Conference?

We want to create a much needed change and offer a little bit more love to the world. In the winter of 2018, a local event producer and party planner named Sean Grant googled "ugly, Black, woman," found a picture of Vanessa Rochelle Lewis (founder of PleasureNess Literary Academy) from her mid 20's, and posted it with a caption along the lines of...

"Me: Looking for baddies for the VIP section of a concert.

The type of woman that in my inbox and messages."

This post was cruel and trite, but also common and completely unsurprising. Vanessa is a fat, dark-skinned, disabled, nerd of a woman, and like so many people in the world, has been called ugly for the majority of her life. Fortunately, it came at a time where she had done enough work that other people's reflections of her appearance, especially strangers, doesn't hurt her as much as it did in the past.

But, it reminded her of how much comments like that hurt her in her childhood, her teens, and her twenties. It forced her to realize that there is so much work that must be done around the attitudes and behaviors that lead people to dehumanize and harm others based on their appearance, so she wrote the following articles:

1. A Man Called Me An Ugly Black Woman, But The Harm Doesn't Start Or End With Him

2. UGLY: How Beauty Was Built Upon White Supremacy

After publishing those articles, so many people wrote to her about their similar experiences, their continued pain, and their desire to have vulnerable conversations about the topic. She realized that merely writing about Ugliness was not enough, that we need spaces to unpack it in community, to lovingly nurture each other with stories of resistance and resilience, and to study it so that we can make drastic and much needed change. For Vanessa and PleasureNess, The Ugly Conference is just the beginning.

6. Can I volunteer at the Ugly Conference?

Absolutely. We'd be SO very grateful for your support. Please email us at to tell us how you'd like to volunteer.

Here are some of the roles we need filled:

Set Up - Friday

- Decor & Interactive Posters

- Help Set Up Chairs and Tables Accessibly

- Last Minute Errands and Needs

Food Prep - Friday

- Support with prepping meals for Saturday

Registration - Friday

- Papers, Stapling, Organization + Decorating

Food Support - Saturday

- Help set up and serve meal and snacks.

- Serve food and beverages to people who need that support during the workshop and during the breaks.

Space/Facilitation Runner - Saturday

- Set up and take down chairs and tables.

- Make sure that there are always accessible pathways.

- Support participants and facilitators during workshops.

Interactive Wall Displays/Registration Runner - Saturday

- Encourage, support, and assist people to engage with the wall displays.

- Support the registration table.

Whisper Space/Peacock Protector - Saturday

- Hang out in Peacock's LOL (which is where the ADA bathroom is) to ensure that only participants enter the space.

- Ensure that all conversation in that space is kept to a soft whisper.

Registration Table - Saturday

- Greet and Register people as they come in

- Information Hub for participants

Thanks so much for wanting to help. Please send us an email at to tell us which role you'd like and what hours you can share with us.

7. Can I donate to the conference?

Oh yes, Yes, YES! Absolutely. We need and appreciate it so very much. Please venmo us at @pleasurenesslitacademy and we'll write you back with SO much gratitude and a 501c3 number for your tax purposes. Your donation will help cover the facilitation, archival, and future events.

8. I cannot attend on March 23rd, 2018. Will there be similar events as the Ugly Conference in the future?

Yes. There will be so many more offerings in the upcoming months and years, and we'd absolutely LOVE your participation.

The inaugural conversation on March 23rd is only our first stop on this journey. Afterwards, we will be hosting a plethora of affinity, healing, and change forced panels, talks, and workshops that explore the subject.

Some examples are:

1. Examining how concepts of ugliness and beauty are recognized and taught in different racial, cultural, and ethnic groups.

2. Unpacking how looksism, beauty, and ugly stigma inform who's leadership, voice, image, and expertise gets centered in activist spaces and communities – including fat liberation movements, disability justice, and anti-racism work.

3. What do educators, healthcare providers, emergency workers, and other service providers need to know about ugly stigma and looks bias to do their work more justly.

4. How can artists, performers, academics, and other creatives use their work and platform to fight concepts like ugliness and engage with the subjectiveness, nuance, and temporality of who is perceived as beautiful.

5. How can parents and educators curb looksism and teach young folks to celebrate body diversity and self-expression in all children. Also, how do we teach intersectionality, confidence, self-worth and prepare our youth to engage with looksism early on.

6. How do we address beauty bias and ugly disenfranchisement in the court system and prison industrial complex.


We also hope to have a much longer, multiple day conference in 2020, and we'd love to invite you to be a part of the visioning process. We also would love to collaborate with different groups and orgs to bring a version of the ugly conference to other cities.

Please join our mailing list or email us at to learn more. We're so excited to do this work with you.

9. Are children welcome at the Ugly Conference?

Older children, such as a teenagers, are welcome with an adult. This event is not catered for youth and we will not limit the way participants share their experiences to make it child-friendly. However, we'd love to create a age appropriate version of this workshop for your school or youth group. Please send us an email to let us know your needs and desires.

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