Even though it’s 2014 and we often see many women of color on the forefront, they are closer to the European standard of beauty such as having lighter skin, long straight weaves and sometimes colored contacts. In retrospect, we all can count the number of how many dark skin women such as, Indian, Asian, Hispanic, Native American, Black and so on who has gotten this much publicity and did not have to submit to any European standard of beauty. She is who she is without anything artificial added. She’s an idol to all women of color who get taunted, teased and bullied daily. Girls who suffer from this will have low self-esteem and think that they can never amount to anything. Unfortunately, dark skin in this society is associated with being poor, uneducated, ugly and worthless. This is what many young girls and even adult women feel about their skin complexion because it is what society and the media has taught us since the first slave set foot on the Americas.
When I was a child, I had these feelings as well. It’s something that unknowingly happens as soon as a child is able to make their first observations of the world. There aren’t many people who look like them throughout the media and when there is they are representing a European standard of beauty or is not being shown in a positive light. Most families of African heritage encourage their children to straighten their hair, most of the time with the aide of a toxic chemical concoction called a relaxer. “I need a perm, my naps commin’ back” is something that you learn to say. Once you became a certain age, some earlier than others, you had to get a perm. Most of these women including myself made sure their hair was freshly straightened before any important event. (You know we had to look presentable.) Where I’m from, the summers in Texas are brutal, and when I mean brutal, I mean hotter than hell that not even the devil himself could stand it. Summer and I had a love and hate relationship. I would love it because I didn’t have school for two months and could play outside for most of the day, but I would absolutely dread how the sun would darken my skin. I was already brown and didn’t want to get any more color added.
You see, I wanted to be like the girl in the 2nd grade who was light skinned and had her hair relaxed. She wore half of her hair up in a pony-tail and the rest was laid down straight swinging past her shoulders. All of the boys loved her. In high school I over heard a lighter skinned black girl say, “I don’t need to put effort into being pretty… I’m light skinnded, they already like me.” Once I moved to San Francisco for college I began to miss the sun and warm weather because it was cold where I was. I called my cousin and told him that I couldn’t wait to go home and lay out in the sun. He replied, “Don’t stay out there to long, you don’t want to get dark.” I began to dislike the fact that God chose to make me so brown with kinky-coily textured hair; I had to put “effort” into looking pretty. I always had to make sure my hair was relaxed and if I chose to wear a weave I had to make sure my “naps” didn’t show. In the summer I had to plan my day to do things in the evening when I wasn’t at the sun’s mercy.
A year or so passed and I decided to go natural only because I had extreme hair breakage and unhealthy tresses, but you better believe I was perming my hair right back. I wasn’t planning to wear it out in it’s natural state. I didn’t want to look unkempt. My plan was to cover it up with weaves until it got to a certain length so it could be long and pretty like the girl from my 2nd grade class. Nevertheless, my journey to going natural was a spiritual journey and I began to see the beauty in all women of color of all skin tones and hair textures. When I did my big chop I felt relieved it was an amazing, but indescribable feeling. I was chopping away all of the lies I was ever told and shown about how dark and brown skinned girls couldn’t be pretty and women with highly textured hair couldn’t be seen as beautiful.
I’m pretty positive that all women of color looking at Lupita is like saying, “Yes, we can.” Yes, we can be beautiful without putting in effort. Yes, we can look presentable with out straightening our hair and Yes, we can and we are exceptional by being our authentic selves. Last night, the ever so elegant Lupita showed us that “…No matter where you are from, your dreams are valid.”