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Curly Nikki

African American Beauty: Reconstructed

By January 27th, 202112 Comments

The beautiful and insightful Leslie, of Naturally Leslie, will be contributing cultural pieces to CN.com weekly! Today will be the first of many fabulous posts. Check it out, and weigh in!

African American Beauty: ReconstructedI came across this research paper by a student from Georgia State University (2004) entitled Emulated through Images: The Globalization of Misconstructed African American Beauty and Hip-Hop Culture. The abstract below gives an overview of the what the paper is all about:

From news coverage to entertainment, the media shapes, reflects, reinforces and defines the world in which we live. In publishing, theatre, films, television and popular music–industries largely controlled by white men–Blacks continually struggle for both a voice and representation. Many scholars write about the stereotyping of Blacks in the media (Meyers, 1999; Davis, 1989). Light skinned Black women with classic European features predominate in beauty pageants, music videos, and in the world of modeling. It is with respect to the world of modeling and music that this discussion will examine the globalization and commodification of Black female beauty. I will examine the historical creation of Black beauty in the United States and Europe and how theses misconstructed images play out globally.”

It’s kind of long but a good read. How do we reconstruct our own beauty within the context of the greater society in which we live? How do we grow to feel comfortable in our skin and celebrate our sexuality without conforming to or perpetuating pre-existing stereotypes about the oversexed Black woman? It’s complicated but an open and honest discussion is the best way to start. Check out the paper over here.

African American Beauty contestants from 1949 supported by a local pie shop
2008 Natural Beauty Contest from ymib
African American Beauty: Reconstructed

You can find Leslie, and her gorgeous hair, on her blog, HERE!

12 Comments

  • Vincent441 says:

    "Racism is still alive and well even with our history being made with the President."

    "Some people think they're so slick with their under-the-radar racism."

    what racism are you talking about?

  • Anonymous says:

    I am so glad I had a mother who valued me and my siblings. I grew up in the 50's and blacks had and still have a great sense of self. She often said to us "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and when God and I look at you we both see the same thing…. a priceless work of art. Beauty begins within. You cannot start with the appearance, you must begin with the soul!

  • Unknown says:

    I know I'm coming late to this conversation. Thanks for the link to the article. I find that I'm having to re-define what = beautiful for my boys – and they're only in pre-school! The negation starts so early and is so pervasive. *sigh*

    Also, I often wonder how said magazine editors justify O Magazine, Oprah's publication, which sells as well as any mainstream (read: white) magazine – and she's on every cover. I also wonder if these editors believe putting First Lady Michelle Obama on the cover would cause that issue's sales to plunge? How about the all-black model issue of Italian Vogue? Didn't that sell out? Some people think they're so slick with their under-the-radar racism.

  • Unknown says:

    Gotta love my Alma Mater! Great post!

  • Miz B says:

    Namun, you're welcome:) on the flip side; you are absolutely correct. It's evident with magazine covers, as soon as a black celebrity or model is on a cover; the excuse the editor gives is sales were low. Your point is well taken, however, at least we can put forth the effort to make change. Racism is still alive and well even with our history being made with the President.

  • Anonymous says:

    Great post and great research paper. Thanks

  • Namun says:

    Miz B, thanks for your input and congratulations on your business endeavors. My question is: Does it really boil down to the descision makers in the industry or to the public/consumer? The public often buys into what they are fed without digging, questioning or analyzing what they are really buying into. In my opinion, the decision makers can make any decision they want, but if the public doesn't buy into that idea or product, then they have no sale.

  • BekkaPoo says:

    In other words, we have to be the change that we want to see in the world. I agree 100%.

  • Miz B says:

    YES! Thank you Leslie and Nikki. I have been in the fashion industry as a model, and I have these discussions with a friend of mine all the time who is also in the business. I am guilty of conforming to make money, and yes it bothered me. I understood that the way to make a difference would be to get behind the scenes. I soon started my own fashion styling company. It boils down to the descision makers in the industry and we all know what color they are. This is something I wish Tyra would really chime in but she is still conforming on alot of levels.

  • Anonymous says:

    I agree with Namun-what a great way to start hump day! The article was very timely given the recent debate about Black Women beauty sparked by "Good Hair". Now I have peer reviewed/scholarly quotes to use in my next discussion with friends and family. Thanks!

  • KeetaRay says:

    Wow… Very insightful! Thanks for this.

  • Namun says:

    What a way to start my Wednesday. This is a heavy read, but good and important. After reading this article, this is what impressed me the most: "The bottom line is that many Black women conformed to societies ideals of beauty. "We were willing to conform. We didn’t fight it. If you don’t give much thought to your identity you didn’t wear it right. You didn’t wear it with confidence. You had to feel and accept it. But most of us don’t have that type of strength. We just go with the flow. (Summers 1998:141)"

    If I don't give much thought to my identity, I won't wear it right. This is the spark that should light the fire within ourselves. The spark that will drive us to make changes in our lives.

    Thanks for sharing Nikki and Leslie.

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