While Aaliyah was perhaps the first time I saw some of myself in an entertainer, it wasn’t until Bronx native Jennifer Lopez, graced the scene that I saw praise for a round derrière.
What does it mean to come to accept your own attributes through a body alleviated from the extent of your experience? This query extends specifically to black women who experience what I did, seeing my face appropriated on a black female celebrity, but my physical attributes embodied on a non-black woman. What does it mean to come to accept signifiers of your blackness on non black bodies?
As a black woman, I feel as though media portrays me in pieces. There appears to be a general inability or indifference to capturing my being in its entirety. However, my attributes are often most celebrated when placed onto non- black bodies, as if this detachment enables said attribute to truly be beautiful. Learning to love your attributes by seeing them on those outside of your racialized identity, works to further alienate an individual from their own beauty. Thus, young black women are taught to devalue their own assets through the observation of heightened value of attributes detached from black female bodies.
Media and popular culture are not foreign to the showcase of big booties. From music videos, to strip clubs to pornography-big booty black women are everywhere. These large derrieres however, lack the vanity, glamour and mainstream appeal of non black booties like Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez. A round derrière, despite being a traditional trait of black females, gains accessibility to glamour and praise only when it’s detached from blackness.
Young black girls of this generation, are served their version of Jennifer Lopez in reality star Kim Kardashian. Kardashian, much like Lopez finds a redeeming trait in her derrière. Interestingly, both women have also made wavelengths from their presupposed distance from whiteness. Being of Puerto Rican ancestry Lopez’s lineage is as diverse as the city she is from, but her status as a non black woman is withstanding. Despite being a white woman, Kardashian’s ethnicity is often questioned by her father’s Armenian roots. Perhaps this attempt of diversity works on those who fail to recognize or acknowledge ethnicity within whiteness, but for those who do, it obvious that their ancestry is employed as a means to place these women as an intermediary between whiteness and blackness. By presenting these women as an intermediary between whiteness and blackness, they are granted the opportunity to appeal to both groups by not appearing to be neatly fit into either, countering black attributes with their placement outside the realm of blackness as access to beauty, glamour and mainstream appeal.
While some may thank Jennifer and Kimberly for placing booties in a position of desirability, my sentiments are bittersweet. For the black girl whose body curves like the letter C, seeing non black women celebrated contributes to the subjugation of black femininity.
While it’s nice to see a traditional African attribute appreciated, why must it be separated from the black body to be beautiful? As blackness is the antithesis of western beauty, non blackness is the epitome. Thus there is a high degree of comfort with celebrating beauty on non black bodies as it fails to disrupt the traditional bearers of beauty, as non black women.
So to the young black women, nurtured by a society that praises big booty white and non black women I say consult the cliche phrase: imitation is the sincerest form if flattery. While society’s dedication to mimicking black beauty on non black women is undoubtedly to discredit and eliminate black female presence, it also veils an anxiety around admitting and showcasing the reality of black female beauty. Black beauty is the best kept secret of the western world, as we are the silent muse of popular culture. While our irrelevance is spoken, our essentialism is shown, so walk tall brown sister- we’ve got trends to set.