I saw this on Facebook a while ago and it hurt my soul; coming to the realization that a magazine made for celebrating BEAUTIFUL, AMAZING, GORGEOUS Black women would think a cover like this was empowering, ESPECIALLY in the 60’s, is so disheartening. Not to mention, these women aren’t even close to representing ALL of the “pretty negro” tones we embody. Not even a small portion. Being that these women are all “fair-to-middling” in skin tone, it gives the impression that our women aren’t beautiful in ALL our shades; from creamy beige to blackberry molasses. I call bullshit. This cover is the EPITOME of throwing shade at our shades! It was circulated online at a time when our beloved Jet magazine had announced it is ceasing print publication. How crazy… the Jet beauties of the week show every aspect of our beautiful women.
The saddest part is that we are still trifling over which of our plethora of skin tones is the most desirable… in 2014. On any given day you can see the “light-skinned vs. dark-skinned” debate firing up on social media. Memes depicting the perceived traits of light and dark women cover my feeds. Light-skinned women are still seen as the prettiest and most wanted, dark-skinned women are still seen as ugly or low. How old are we? Are we in elementary school? Why are people throwing these things at each other as if it’s somehow helpful to us as a people?
A Nigerian pop star by the name of Dencia came under fire earlier this year for hocking skin bleaching cream. Her before and after pictures are startling and sad; how could her beauty as a darker woman not be adored? She was beautiful! And now? She looks like a ghost. How fitting, I suppose, she is a cartoon version of her former self. Making matters worse, this cream she’s peddling sold out in just days. She’s unrecognizable in the after photo, and I wish she saw how fly the before picture was. Her customers obviously like the latter photo better, and for that, I weep.
Even more recently, A Los Angeles agency issued a call for Universal Pictures’ upcoming “Straight Outta Compton,” set to be released in August 2015. The movie will tell the story of the prolific rap group NWA, and it was one I was looking forward to as a fan of Hip Hop and a former femcee. Unfortunately, after reading the info for the casting call, I decided I will not be giving Universal Pictures or the surviving members of NWA any of my hard-earned ducats. Why? See the casting info for yourself:
■ “A GIRLS: These are the hottest of the hottest. Models. MUST have real hair — no extensions, very classy looking, great bodies. You can be black, white, asian, hispanic, mid eastern, or mixed race too. Age 18-30.”
■ “B GIRLS: These are fine girls, long natural hair, really nice bodies. Small waists, nice hips. You should be light-skinned. Beyonce is a prototype here. Age 18-30.”
■ “C GIRLS: These are African American girls, medium to light skinned with a weave. Age 18-30.”
■ “D GIRLS: These are African American girls. Poor, not in good shape. Medium to dark skin tone. Character types. Age 18-30.”
Are you… kidding me? In 2014, THIS is how we are still seen. We’re still props in the background, and our value is still assigned by skin shades, as if we were still on the auction block. What the hell?
It is insane to me that we haven’t yet seen and fully recognized three key points:
1) Our Blackness is BEAUTY. Our Blackness is STRENGTH. Our Blackness is what connects us to a broader community than any other people on the planet. From the whole of the Americas to Australia to Asia, brown skin covers our world in a way that is universal. Because of the Diaspora, we share so many amazing traits with our brothers and sisters all over the world; a dance move here, a favorite dish there… we are a people who have risen over and over, and it has taken each of us and our unique traits to get us over those mountains. Embracing everything about who we are, especially our beauty, is to take a step in the right direction.
2) We have no choice but to become who we are meant to be, a strong people who love each other and ourselves, or we WILL perish… together, feeling alone through this division we create.
3) We have to find a way to create more and to support each other, in business and in life. Ebony is an old model for us. Jet has moved into the online realm, and is still making money. We have women like Curly Nikki and her blog celebrating our curls and coils; I am grateful to her for what she has done. Bringing us into a collective conscience about the beauty of our hair may seem small, but thanks to her efforts and those like her, our drug stores now have whole aisles of natural hair care products. Our men are finding our natural coils more and more attractive, I am happy for that. But we have to do MORE. We need new models for our beauty; the old ones are tired and contrived. We need to DEMAND that we are celebrated. Black women have ALWAYS been pretty, in all of our iterations… it will be a great day when WE see that and embrace it.