Black Girls, More Selfies Please
Be Vain & Stop Apologizing.
I saw her.
She looked around a crowded shopping mall, drawn to the light streaming down from the sky-high windows. She checked her reflection first, timid, cautious, scanning for watchers. Not sure if she was even entitled to love herself, her reflection. Not sure if it belonged to her at all. But I saw her. I watched her pretend she was making a call instead. She put her phone away and stepped out of the light that had illuminated her. Because someone probably told her once that resting in her own beauty was foolish.
Let me just jump right in.
I will absolutely pull my phone out while stopped at an intersection, or during a commercial break, or in line at the concession stand or as I walk out into the grace of a warm day and take a photo — or seven — of myself if I feel exceptionally beautiful that day. If I feel happy or if my lipstick is reminding me of how incredible my own mouth (and everything it utters) is. I will absolutely do that.
And so should you.
Most of us have been told at some point that our beauty is nothing more than an exception to the rule and that — sure — it looks good if it’s done right, but it has to be, like, really done right. It has to be perfect. And even then — it’s not perfect perfect, it’s just a perfectly acceptable version of what beauty is supposed to look like.
Thanks for coming, here’s your consolation prize.
We’ve had our hair tugged by pale pink fingers. We’ve had our men tell us — at one time or another, in hushed tones or boisterous jest — that we’re hardly good enough and that maybe we should work on that. We’ve been told to cut it, perm it, shave it, wax it and tone it down. We face a world in which most of the images in the media are attached to white faces and we’re supposed to all pretend like that somehow represents us, too. Like we can jazz that shit up and make it our own.
But it’s not our own. We are not colored versions of white people. And as I scroll through this or that website and see more and more Black women holding their hands up to capture their glorious, vibrant, highborn reflections in order to freeze in time what God hand-crafted — I smile. I smile hard.
Because that is hundreds of years in the making.
Because we are also measured by how many babies we can carry, how much weight we can hold on our backs, how diverse we can make an advertisement seem. Because extra points for hiring the young Black chick and double points if you pair her with a White guy.
While our beauty is trending, while urban edge is becoming more and more integrated into the societal norm, while more and more women who look like me are shaking out their glorious crowns and showing their own raw footage without edit or apology — I beam.
And I hope they understand this is an uprising.
I hope they understand their beauty inspires progress, shifts sands, moves mountains and unearths thousand-year-old thought patterns.
So, yes, you’ll have to wait. Because this light right here… These cheek bones. This melanin.
And how dare you tell me not to, or roll your eyes, or scoff at my pride as I snap another selfie? You should encourage any notion that involves a Black woman looking at her own image and loving what she sees. We should celebrate it. It should be a damn requirement in schools.
“Good morning class. Everyone take out your phone and snap a selfie. Hashtag I-am-beautiful-and-so-are-you.”
That isn’t vain.
Vain is interrupting my selfie to tell me I’m vain. Vain is flipping through a fashion magazine and seeing twenty-three versions of the same boyishly figured model. The same vapid smirk on her face. The same boxy rhythm to her movements.
Vain is telling me that one kind of beauty is the only kind of beauty.
There’s a spilled box of crayons now. Its contents rolls around, leaving marks all over the place. They call it a mess, we call it art.
They call it conceited, we call it necessary.
You call it a selfie, I call it a movement.