An Anecdote on Black Girl Beauty
|Illustrator: Nicholle Kobi|
As I was walking to the bar, this woman grabs my shoulder, turns me around, and squeals "Oh my goodness! You're gorgeous!". I'm a little taken aback by the outburst but I smile, tell her thank you and go to turn back around and grab the bartender's attention. She stops me again.
"I saw you walking out the bathroom earlier and was taken aback. You're really pretty and... you kind of look like me. Looking at you made me think maybe I could be pretty too.."
I stood there frozen. In front of me stood a woman with toasted almond skin, jet black hair that was styled in bouncing curls that danced around her clavicles, and sparkles of light and warm charisma behind her big brown eyes. How did she not see her pretty?
Moments like this make me wish I were a more quick witted individual because I'm sure my silence extended over into awkwardness. But, truthfully, I really didn't know how to react. I couldn't understand why she didn't not recognize her pretty nor could I understand why looking at ME inspired her believe her beauty could be possible. To be quite frank, I've never been one to think too much into my appearance. I like my face, my family likes my face, and the men I have interest in tend to like my face but I'm definitely not the girl that gets generally fawned over. So, it was a bit weird, to be called out on that.
Anyway, I chuckled, told her she was far too kind, remarked that she was absolutely beautiful and I'm humbled that she thought my looks were on par with her's. She smiled, took a sip of her drink, and turned back to her friends.
I don't know if that was the appropriate thing to say but.. I hope it helped.
I hate when black girls, especially older dark skin girls, don't see their beauty. We all know the literature surrounding the why this issue continues to persist (i.e. colorism, lack of representation, lack of affirmation, hypersexualization, negative stereotypes, etc) but it still strikes a certain nerve in me when I see the doubt there. I remember living through that angst and its something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. I always prayed that it was something others did not tussle with.
Its one thing to struggle with self-acceptance at thirteen but its whole other beast to be tormented with doubt and self-worth in your twenties and thirties. I'm a firm believer that the feelings of unease only get compounded the older you get, thus making it that much more trying to work through. This journey to self-love that far too many of my melaninated sisters have to go through in our lives is the worst kind of birthright. I wish the narrative was different, for our sake and especially for the next generation.
I keep replaying this scenario in my mind over and over again. I wish I would have responded better.
Nevertheless, feel free to affirm dark skin girls today outside of the usual realm of hypersexualization and fetishization. Avoid the "you're pretty for a black girl" and appreciate her for who she is period. Remind her that she is beautiful, that she is loved, that she valued, and that she is enough.
Do this exercise tomorrow. And the day after that. Help them to see the beauty that you see. Let's uplift those around us until they are strong enough to hold themselves up. It will be appreciated.