Yesterday, on my favorite entertainment blog, images popped up of celebrities at the MET Costume Gala 2013. Most were jokes about how terrible everyone looked. I mean the point is they are supposed to look outrageous, not a hot mess :)…But, what really caught my eye, was this photo of Nicki Minaj:
I was shocked at how pale she looked. It’s obvious she has been lightening her skin. It seems par for the course these days, that black women can no longer look black in the media. I wrote a bit about this in my latest zine issue. In the piece “the destruction of the brown skin diva,” I looked at the marginalization of the black female soul singer, in favor of white ones (e.g. Adele). Besides their music, black women are being white washed in other ways, and that’s how they look. They now have to be the white standard of beauty. I have nothing against black women wearing blonde, changing hairstyles/colors, because some black women can rock the style. But, it’s a bit disconcerting when the majority of our black women celebrities, are blonde. It’s also disturbing so many are whitening their skin.
Nicki Minaji just a few years ago:
As an almost forty-year old woman, sometimes it’s hard for me not to get suckered into this white supremacist imagery. So, I can only imagine the impact it’s having on young black women/girls. Our Lauryn Hills, are far and few these days. As a 90’s high schooler/young adult, I remember all the popular dark/brown women singers, at the time. Brandy, Monica, Tanya Blount, Brownstone, Jade, Total, etc. I remember when Lil Kim, was a cute brown girl. Their style was attainable to me, because they looked like me. Because of the whitewashing of black women celebrities, black women must work even harder to provide alternative images for our young women.
UPDATE: just saw this new single cover for Tamar Braxton…sigh
I’m sure most folks have heard/seen this racist ad courtesy of Las Vegas.com…If not, here ya go:
The Sapphire stereotype is an image mainstream media loves of black women. They can project all of their hatred of blackness/women on this caricature. The loud black woman rolling her neck with long acrylics at her customer service job, dehumanizes black women who work in these positions . The Sapphire stereotype has been around forever.
As noted on the website, For Harriet: celebrating the fullness of black womanhood:
“Hard, strong, emasculating, overbearing and controlling are all characteristics of the traditional Sapphire stereotype. Sapphire was created to threaten the power of the black male and to place a negative gaze upon any black woman who dared to critique the horrible conditions black women had to face. The Sapphire stereotype was popularized by the character, Sapphire Stevens, in the mid 20th century television show Amos ‘n’ Andy. Today Sapphire has evolved into the angry black woman. This stereotype is probably the most popular characterization of black women today. This woman is always yelling, starting fights, and insulting men. Reality television is perpetuating this stereotype more than ever by highlighting fights between black women and failed relationships with black men. This stereotype has become such a popular way to view black women that our first lady, Michelle Obama, who exudes grace and class has been classified as a modern say Sapphire.”
I agree with the blogger’s sentiment. It’s obvious the images of black women have grown worse due to the presence of Mrs. Obama. There seems an urgent agenda to degrade and tear down the self-esteem of black women/girls. They can’t have other black women/girls thinking they can achieve all that Mrs. Obama has, now can they? Mrs. Obama was also initially portrayed as an angry black woman/Sapphire. The early criticisms included: her not smiling enough, her words “for the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my country,” and her insistence on being viewed as equal to her husband. It’s not surprising that Mrs. Obama has now been regulated to background status. Now she is loved by the masses, because she no longer posses a threat. It’s obvious she has been forced/coerced to soften her style. White feminists have criticized this change, but it just show that they have failed yet again, to look at the complexities of women of color lives. It’s a thin line Mrs. Obama teeters on, as the first black First Lady. While I wish she would do more, I understand. In any case, this commercial shows that black women must be diligent in resisting these stereotypes. These images are being put out there to destroy and colonize our minds.
I recently watched “Luv” on Netflix. I remember hearing about the film, a few months ago, but lost track of it. So, after watching the movie, I am surprised it hasn’t received more buzz. The film offers great performances from folks like “Allstate” man–Dennis Haysbert, new/young actor–Michael Rainey Jr, and rapper– Common.
The representations of black women are brief (although it was great to see the underrated Lonette McKee), but that’s okay, as the film is about what it is to be a man/(black)masculinity. It’s disturbing to see what the young boy witnesses, as he spends a day with his rough/around the way uncle, Wood.
However, the film is surprisingly moving, I teared up a few times. I would recommend it. The film offers a fresh take on an “urban” story.
This summer, we are hosting our 2nd Women of Color Zine Symposium. Saturday, Jun 8th, 2013 @ Portland State University/Smith Memorial Student Union. 10am-4:30pm. The schedule is still being determined.
The event is free and open to the pubic. Allies are encouraged to attend.