For many years, I grew up believing that I was not beautiful. As a skinny African American girl in a White world, nothing on TV looked like me. My hair was nappy and, in my community, the girls who were considered beautiful were either White, Latino, or from some other “exotic” non-American culture. It left no room for me to develop a positive identity for myself. Over the course of my life, I have found myself in a variety of places and developed an identity that is unique to me. My road to beautiful is surrounded by lyrics and experiences.
As I grew up in the 90s so did the Hip Hop Culture. It was here that I found myself for the first time. In the beginning, it was simple a few gold rings here, a little bagginess there. My father’s clothes became a secondary wardrobe. There were no rules to what “females” should wear, and no expectations other than natural beauty. I wasn’t nervous to stand up for my beliefs and I had power and U.N.I.T.Y with other girls like me. I found beauty in my blackness, my curly hair, in my youth and in my ability to do the Kid N Play flawlessly. My parents didn’t let me get my ears pierced, but the clip-ons did the job. I found my tribe and a dope rhythm with it.
However, as the Hip Hop culture began to shift; mostly due to the takeover of White male executives, I once again lost the connection to a larger idea of beautiful. Now featured in the videos were barely covered girls, with big butts and tight waists. I had none of that and so I drifted away. Looking for confirmation of my beauty in the gazes of Hot Boyz who weren’t looking for someone like me and kept Passing Me By. Much of what was defined as beautiful still surrounded the European standard of beauty. Not only White or Latino women, but the Black women that White men fantasized about. These depictions of a 21st century Sarah Baartman all over the screens, gave way to a warped perception of what a Black woman could look like; and I wasn’t close to being a Ms. Fat Booty.
So I moved forward and focused on the C.R.E.A.M instead. Putting my energy into escaping this place where I was never going to find my Happily Ever After. It was a Hard Knock Life, working and going to high school. I tried on a few identities looking for myself, but found myself Back At One. Into college, the neo soul sound remined me to love myself. I found safety in the headwraps of queens, the cocoa butter of kings and the frayed jeans of women who celebrated their vulnerabilities and flaws like jewels on a crown. Here I learned to love my Brown Skin, to pick out my ‘fro, be bold in my approach and take control of where I found love. I rekindled a relationship with the smoothness of sensuality. Found healing with Marvin and become proud of the history of my people with Mr. Brown. In college, I mastered the balance and found a way To Be Real.
As a woman now, I see my beauty. It’s filled with Doo Wops, and a little Kirk Franklin. I can Act Up like an Around The Way Girl, or mellow out with the Temptations. I am complex, educated and Feel so Good when I look at myself in the mirror. I R-E-S-P-E-C-T myself now and I just ask that you do the same….and Don’t Touch My Hair.