My mother, the first woman I ever wanted to be, was a fox!! Ex-model. Chameleon. She could do it all. I was her little chocolate drop, but I didn't have a drop of her light brown/reddish complexion. My complexion I had to thank my daddy for. The perfect combination of my two loves. My mother instilled in me a fierce confidence. The knowledge of my beauty and capabilities. But there still comes a time when the world tries to become your teacher.
Kids can be so cruel, and after hearing so many times that my mother wasn't my mother, couldn't be, well why was I so dark?...I began to wish I were lighter. Why can't I be redder like my mom and my grandma? I remember being told not to use vasoline to moisturize because if I went into the sun with it on my skin I'd get blacker and stay blacker. I definitely didn't want that. I wanted to be beautiful like my momma. Like Jasmine Guy. Like Vanessa Williams. Like Lisa Bonet. Like Tia and Tamara. Like Aaliyah. Like Tyra Banks.
Sometimes when I dried my hair after washing it I would let the towel hang and pretend that the touch of the towel on my back was a long straight mane. Freshly washed and hanging down nice and perfect. We didn't have virgin, brazilian and Yaki growing up in the 90s but I definitely made use of my synthetic braids and weave ponytails. And don't even get me started on the blue contacts I started wearing in middle school. Everyone was doing it, but I guess I didn't realize that having temporary blue eyes was me looking into the mirror and not seeing my dark brown eyed soul clearly.
As a tween I began to identify with a #girlcrush on a dark skinned woman who was beautiful on my TV and radio. Meelah Williams, of the singing group 702, was the LEAD singer of a girl group! Not in the background, but the lead. She was so amazing to me. Her skin was glowy, she was talented, and she was my complexion. Every girl needs role models that look like her and although there have been others, she was influential in beginning to change the views on my own beauty. I was 13 years old when their first album came out in 1996. Soon after as a budding teen I began watching Lauren Hill, Jill Marie Jones, Regina King, Naomi Campbell, Brandy as Moesha, Gabrielle Union, and Tichina Arnold.
After maturation I realized that there was Grace Jones, Nina Simone, Cicely Tyson, and Pearl Bailey. But, still today at 33, I am pleasantly surprised when I see a dark skinned woman as the love interest in a music video. When I see a darker skinned woman playing the wife of the main man in a popular movie. Do I see it often enough? Sadly no. Especially in the cultural times when a foreign chick (or close to foreign looking as possible) is a badge of honor. Where's the honor in my skin? Where's the honor in my nappy coils?
Today I feel like younger girls see so many successful darker skinned women represented daily, and that is amazing! Viola Davis, Teyonnah Paris, Kelly Rowland, Tika Sumpter, Anika Noni Rose, Janelle Monae, Lupita Nyong'o, and MICHELLE Obama to name a few.
When I have my chocolate girl I will make sure she knows her beauty, just like my mom did for me. I just hope that when society starts to teach her that her beauty is abnormal, that she will be able to function through it. She'll appreciate her kinky hair, big lips, and wide nose. She'll be able to love herself loudly. She'll see through the praise her hair gets only when her hair is straightened. She'll ignore the stares of men who see her as a dark skinned fantasy and not what's underneath. She'll understand that she is not pretty for a dark skinned girl, but JUST PRETTY. The abundance of her melanin will be a blessing and not a curse. She can affectionately but assertively state that her beauty standards are just that...HERS!
I see and understand that my beauty is just that MY beauty. Each has their own. But it took a long time to fully 100% love Jazmine Jade, and I will not apologize for doing it out loud! Some of you women had a head start, but you better believe the catch up is real. It's full speed ahead and no signs of slowing down. Love yours.