Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Who you calling Beautiful!

Miss Universe Leila with Mum + family members
Ok so we all saw folks go hard after Miss Universe to ‘catch her riddn' dirty.’ So far they have said she is not Angolan, others say she did not enter validly and there have been talks about forged papers (why is it that whenever a black/non white person is scrutinized we will soon come up with the ol’ illegal immigrant routine). In addition to all the ‘she came in the wrong way’ talk, Miss France directly attacked her win by taking the issue directly to her looks and her manner (google it if you want to read that whole business not worth the folder it is saved in!).

I guess we can all admit that all these reactions speak to a ‘discomfort’ in Miss Angola winning the crown of Miss Universe. One wonders at this because she isn’t the first black woman to win it.

I reviewed a few youtubes after the event and what I saw gave me an inkling into all the nervousness. I saw a woman having fun with her beauty, a woman who was in no way doubting that she should be there and comfortable with the idea of being judged as worthy of the crown. I believe this is the root of the discomfort. ‘If you are a black winner, act like you know it was ‘given’ to you seems to be the general consensus for black beauty queens, not that you took your place among the beauties of the world. Leila wasn’t arrogant, but relaxed with her beauty.

As an aside, I see a lot of bautiful black women around me but very few are relaxed in their beauty, there is often a hard edge there as if waiting for someone to come and accuse them. Are they psyching themselves up to accept looking beautiful, or is it the same ol' life beat down at work? 

From start to finish there was a knowing twinkle and fun to Miss Angola as a woman she was relaxed with her beauty.

The other thing I noticed was that in many folks mind there was a resistance to the idea of now having to take black women seriously in the beauty stakes.

I was reading a few message boards and their comments before Miss Angola’s win. They noticed that she was there but very few put her in top 10!

Peoples impression of beauty and of beauty queen winners adjusts itself to the judges vote over time. Case in point, no one doubts that Miss India is always a serious contender in these Miss universe and Miss world pagents, when over a decade ago they would have made anyone’s top twenty list. We have learnt to ‘appreciate’ the beauty of Miss India (which by the way has been there all along), because India pulled off a back to back win  at a Miss world contest (or was it Miss universe) a few years ago. When an Indian winner suceeded another Indian winner, well, we no longer take Miss indias for granted.

I also remember the first time reality shows like ‘American idol’ hit our screens. In the beginning no one could call the winner, we all sat glued to the TV, pitting our wisdom against that of others. Very soon a formula emerged and we started to pick our winners based on how we thought the judges would vote and it was all unconscious. When they did win we hailed them the real and undisputed winners and held our judgement as ‘independent’. But was it really!

I saw the message boarders do the same thing, that is pick winner who were the usual suspects. So they raved about Miss Ukraine, Miss Russia, Miss USA and they didn’t pick one black contestant but tokenized Miss Angola (so they weren’t blind to her beauty afterall!).

Anyway when she won, many started reassessing their judgement and admitting they could now see why she was Miss Universe. They could see 'this' and 'that' beautiful trait in her (which had been there all along mind you). So she could well have been veiled until the judges decision forced them to go back to their initial impressions which they discounted and buried in their subconscious bid to choose the winner according to the usual ways these competitions tend to go.

Of course the usual racists emerged with the usual stereotypes to keep things rooted in the past.
I wasnt too worried about them but am happy some folks were jolted into the place where they would have a 'quiet' reflection on how and who they judge to be beautiful!

You are the Pathfinders for your life
Black women need to understand that they are the pioneers in this new and exciting life of abundance and liberty they hope to enjoy. Many of you are having a hard time because you are looking to older others to provide guidance. These others either have stale and even dangerous advice for you or they are like many black mothers I see today who dont even know which way is up!

I live on the outskirts of London at this point and I often see young African girls left to fend for themselves. The mothers are there but being socially backwards, isolated, church mad and of course working low paying gigs, these African mothers dont have the vital and strategic information needed to help direct their daughters to a higher plane of living.

Yes I am being a bit harsh here but the gist of what I am saying remains true, many black mothers are so out of modern life, they have out of kilter prorities and funny notions in place that it is actually dangerous for these women to give advice to anyone! Many of the daughters understand this ,but when they look to others they still get offered outdated directives on how to take on life. See many black women are carried away by women who look together, have their hair 'did', wear expensive shoes and gold watches but they are still continuing the agenda of 'farming' black women for the work of the black community. These women have refused to come to terms with modern society but want to hold to black indignation and continue ancient feuds and keep ruminating on past slights. They still want an us versus them situation with black and white and they would rather die than allow a reapproachnment between the races. They are so emotionally attached to never ending the black-white feud almost as if they are sworn to it for eternity. This mindset keeps them and women who look to them for advice in emotional and social lack and limitation regardless of the rolex watch!

I have instructed a freind to let go of the emotionally draining battle she is having with her mother and just accept that she is on her own and going to have to rise to the task of finding her way through this world. She is going to have to be savvy, look for mentors and cultivate the necesary attitudes to enable people take to her and show her the ropes. Her mother is one of those who still talks about 'finding a man in church' lol, she could well be in a bubble for all the advice she gives and insists her daughter follow.

No wonder many black women fail, or they reach a career hieght and then make a false move. Most of our mothers never walked the corriders of power and werent privy to how things are run so even with the best of intentions they dont have the right advice for their daughters. For many black women who live in europe, we will actually be the first 'elder' generartion to pass on wisdom for living, to those coming behind!

I will expand this discussion in a future article.

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trish said...

It was clear that the crowd saw something in her because they were not waiting for the judges. They openly and unabashedly cheered her on even though their own Ms Brazil was a finalist. If that does not say it nothing else will. There was something a little different about her. To me the others seemed like peformers.
Ms France looked ridiculous in "slutty" dress. The audience as well as the judges gave her a very low score. The irony of all this is that I stopped watching this program years ago but my mom called and said a black girl won so I caught the repeat show. I paid particular attention to the crowd's reaction as well as those of the judges. Sorry to say I may not have watched if she did not win. It was a good day for black women everywhere, conidering what we have to endure from the mainstream media.

KimP said...

Halima and the BWE women have always mentioned the need for confidence and an attitude of feeling as if you deserve the best. Leila's win proved this notion. When a BW is at the top of her game, some people will question how she got there?

It's important to have rock solid confidence, practice good manners all the time, and just be a pleasant and graceful person because there are some people who will try to force you into type and it can get ugly.

As far as mentors, I encourage young girls to have many professional female mentors, of any race or color. Anyone can provide valuable advice, you may have to tailor it a bit, but take the good advice/direction and leave whatever else doesn't apply.

shan said...

Good post. Yes, I've noticed that black women are discounted simply because they are not taken seriously on a general basis. Every few years there may be one or two that get projected to make top 10. This is why I am so anxious for bw to get a clue. Latinas take pageants very seriously and prepare like it is a life and death situation. These women are comfortable and take pride in their beauty and it shows on stage.

I've watched pageants for years and have been in them and coordinated them. That is the impression I get from latinas and of course white women. But it seems that many black contestants don't prepare themselves to win; they just prepare themselves to be in the pageant. That's the difference I believe, and I truly believe that if more black contenders took on that "win" attitude we will see more black contestants in the top 10 on a regular basis and not just every few years.

shan said...

I forgot to add that I wear my hair natural and on yesterday I wore it in a big beautiful puff. I love it. It makes me look much younger than my 31 years.

On yesterday I was in theater practice and a black male castmate called attention to it by sarcastically referring to it as a bush. An asian female snickered. And then a white man spoke up and said, I like it. I said thank you and kept it moving.

The thing is that he called attention to it as if it is not normal for women to wear their hair like this. I was not the least bit offended which surprised me and made me happy because that means a lot of maturity and growth on my part. I ignored his comment and behaved as if my hair is normal because it is.

This is something bw have to learn. We are the most standout women in the world in terms of physical looks, coily hair, darker skin, curvier bodies generally speaking, so there will be some people including black men who will try to make us feel as if our "looks" don't belong, but if we treat ourselves as if we belong and our demeanor shows that then everyone else will have no choice but to accept it.

Zabeth said...

Halima, do you happen to have the links to the videos you watched of Miss. Angola? They might be a great teaching tool for other BW.

Jamila said...

Her mother is one of those who still talks about 'finding a man in church' lol, she could well be in a bubble for all the advice she gives and insists her daughter follow.

This reminds me of something that my own step-mother told me. I told her that I was no longer interested in dating black men for a variety of reasons; her response to me was that I should just try harder to be one of the ever dwindling number of black women who marries a black man. Really. That was here advise to me:compete harder with other women for the few black men that I would deem worthy of marriage.

It's like you said, many black women are going to have to learn and accept that their own mother's may have little to offer them in the way of useful advise for being successful in life. Sadly many of these young black women are going to have to learn this the hard way, after they have already made careless mistakes and certain doors are closed to them that will never be reopened.

In the book "Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman," author Michelle Wallace names the same phenomenon that you are addressing in this post: the way that black women so often fail to prepare their children for real life and don't honestly discuss their own missteps with their daughters. So each generation of black women ends up following the same steep learning curve that her own mother followed, they fail to pass the information gleaned from their life on, and the next generation of black women follows the same path. That is why so many of these negative indicators of well-being are stagnant or getting worse amongst black folks--no one is learned the lessons of history until it's too late to benefit from those lessons.

Black women have to begin passing on information to their daughters instead of so often standing by and watching them fall into the same traps that the mother already fell into.

shan said...

I just got through watching clips of the pageant on youtube, and couldn't help but notice how elegant, poised and beautiful Miss Angola was compared to the other contestants. I went to the Miss Universe site to see who all the judges were, and something I found to be interesting. None of the telecast judges were black men, which was surprising because usually it's one or two black men and no black women as judges. Could this be part of the reason why Leila made it this far? Just something to think about. Oh and there was one black man as a preliminary judge.

Out of Darkness said...

On yesterday I was in theater practice and a black male castmate called attention to it by sarcastically referring to it as a bush. An asian female snickered. And then a white man spoke up and said, I like it. I said thank you and kept it moving.

@ Shan

You handled that well. I ounce had a BM ask me if " I don't own a relaxer" with reference to my fro. He was sitting between myself and a WW at the orientation conference we had. She kept touching her hair as she stared at me awaiting my response. I told him I don't want to perm it and loved the way it looked. I said with a smile in a calm voice. No way I was going to give him the satisfaction of seeing me get extremely angry esspecially with a second party looking.

After that I thought to myself in the back of my mind....." its a good thing its not for you ;-)

shan said...

Halima's Post:
Leila wasn’t arrogant, but relaxed with her beauty.

As an aside, I see a lot of bautiful black women around me but very few are relaxed in their beauty, there is often a hard edge there as if waiting for someone to come and accuse them. Are they psyching themselves up to accept looking beautiful, or is it the same ol' life beat down at work?

My Post:
I went back to reread your post and you are dead on with this one. I almost became giddy because I just had an "ah ha" moment. Bw are not supposed to be relaxed in their beauty and neither are they suppose to maximize it. Growing up, I've always wondered why black students/kids would always say to me and other black women, "Why are you so dressed up?" They would ask this if I had on a casual summer dress in the summer time for example. Or if I wore a nice pair of slacks with a blouse. I always found it to be mind boggling because to me dressing up was wearing your Sunday best, not casual clothes. When I reread your post just now, it hit me. They were really asking: How dare you maximize your beauty? Sad to say this was asked mostly by other black girls/women, especially if we were in a group.

I noticed that other non bw don't make it a habit of asking their other non black peers that. It's almost expected for them to always maximize their beauty. And if that non bw who usually doesn't maximize her beauty but does so one day, she gets praised for it.

Black people have a lot to learn and a long way to go. They never expect the best from their group.

Thank you Out of Darkness. The reason why I was able to keep it moving without batting an eyelash is because I am so over bm. You handled yours well too. Bm seem to be invested in controlling bw.

Halima said...

zabeth, i didnt book mark the videos but any youtube in which she has to do a walk and those in which she is shown making the cut. i think you can search alphabetically. I noticed the playfulness when she had to announce who she was first time. it seemed like she was in a fit of giggles from something funny before she had to say who she was. it wasnt in my esetimation 'pagentry' like some of the others!

Halima said...

shan bw have resigned themselves to being second fiddle and everything you are pointing out attests to the fact that many bw are suprised and seem to resist any signs that a fellow bw didnt get the memo.

there is an epidemic of dowdiness among bw in the Uk and bw themselves will come out and fight you if you try to 'scrub up' your appearance and depart from dowdyville. i have had it happen to me and i can only say those bw have internalized their relegation in the feminity stakes and accepted it as part of the identity of bw hence why they knee jerk into fiercely opposing others who try to neaten up and also why those who dress up seem to go around looking hard and looking like the 'accused' because they know they are stepping out of line!

I saw a sight today that made me very sad. a school girl in the most busted weave i have ever seen. I dont know if she put the thing through the washing machine but it looked so bad and then in front of the weave she had her real hair sticking up to cover the edges and i was really suprised how bad it looked at her age. and she was with two white school girls. i felt bad because I just know that she will be in line for torture from the black boys. black girls are mocked at the best of times not to talk when looking unkempt. i started to wonder, when did mothers stop looking after their daughters hair/appearance.

Us BWe owe it to the young ones to have hair well groomed to dispell the idea that we bw cannot grow hair or our hair has to look in a mess. I felt sad to be in braids today because of that girl. My Hair is of considerable length and also quite full and maybe I should wear it out more to send a message. A school girl said she thought I was from XYZ because I had long hair, i was very suprised at how prevalent the idea that umabigious bw cannot grow hair :(

Anonymous said...

I have finish reading your article about black mothers who donot prepared there daughters for the future. This article was painful for me to read because my mother share some of these views about how the church and black males will set you free. I have never look toward my mother for any advice about relationships because she is not a progressive and evolutionl thinker. Now I know why I always come back to your blog. Thank You.

Jamdown said...

I'm like Trish (first commenter). I started watching the Miss Universe pageant, but when I saw the low marks Ms. Angola was getting, I turned it off. When I heard the next day that she had won, I went back and watched the entire show.

Miss Angola is absolutely gorgeous!! It may be that since she was competing in Brazil that she had somewhat of an advantage (re Portuguese as the official language of both countries), but so what? I am sure that beauty pageants, in general, are very political since beauty is highly subjective.

I don't remember Ms. France being that beautiful anyways. LOL!!

Toni said...

I will forever laugh at Miss France's scornful comments. She couldn't be more bitter if she tried. And it's interesting reading this post how the judge and audience reaction to her loveliness and sparkle was the exact opposite of what she had to say about the winner.

Clearly for some people who aren't checking for black beauty and don't see it, they can either re-evaluate, or try and pretend that it's not there and everyone is mistaken.

Clearly one option is more sensible than the other.

Anonymous said...

My sister was dating a guy who went to Ghana on some kind of field work and he told her he did not expect to see so many pretty girls there. he assumed he was going to Africa and the women would just look bedraggled and blah, but he got the shock of his life to see that the women were just as gorgeous as the women are in anyplace else in the world.

The thing I realize about black beauty is that it is not always immediately obvious. Most times it is not right in your face, it's a softer, subtler beauty that creeps up on you. To this day I think black women have the most beautiful eyes. The almond shaped eyes and the glow of the eyes is so different from what I see in any 'other' woman. Black beauty is ancient, original beauty that will never die. It doesn't demand a ton of makeup or even hair to shine through, it just is.

Out of Darkness said...

I totally agree with you Halima. This post was very much on point. Its one of the reasons that attracted me to your message. Many younger black women are getting very outdated advice about dating in the 20th century from their mothers. You wont believe how many of them still believe its taboo to do online dating.

I know that everyone online isn't a saint but neither is every man in church , yet many BW are pressured to navigate that particular dating feild even be prepared to stay single for the rest of your life.

The mothers are not to be blamed so much either.Because this is a result of black women for many generations never allowed to have their pick of the alpha males of their races or even other races of men. Its no wonder people hate Michelle Obama. People are not accustomed to seeing black women on the arms of powerfull men. We have been the babymamas, the mistresses and dirty secrets in much greater numbers than women of other races.

When women are sucessfull in getting a husband chances are their daughters will be too. Because the mother will pass on the ways in how to vet men and the best qualities to look for in a mate to the daughter. The daughter will grow up in a home where she'll have a father who will help to keep DBRs from her and teach her how to look for a good man. Thats why those women who end up prostitutes and jumpoffs when you come to find out they grew up without these important foundations.

Its saddened me that my mom never married. That none of my aunts never married and my dad has many children with different women. I can't ask my mom for advice about getting a husband when she never got one. I can't look at my dad as the example of what to look for in men. Obviously from his breeding practices his morals are not up the " ideal man alley". My half sisters have already followed in the path of their mother with kids of their own and shaking up with their boyfriends. My father lives with the mother of my half sisters now for over 24 years and never married her.

Its a sad state for me but I refuse to be a victim. I want a career and a husband.

shan said...

Anonymous, I agree with you completely. I think there is something about the beauty of black women that is not immediately apparent generally speaking. And that could be because black women on average don't wear as much makeup. I don't. I usually just wear lipgloss/lipstick and sometimes eye makeup.

No offense to bw who wear their hair straight; this is merely my opinion, but I think if more bw wore their hair natural, then their beauty would be more apparent. The hair is what makes bw stand out because it's unique, and therefore adds to the overall package.

Anonymous said...

From Halima,

Uk and bw themselves will come out and fight you if you try to 'scrub up' your appearance and depart from dowdyville. i have had it happen to me and i can only say those bw have internalized their relegation in the feminity stakes and accepted it as part of the identity of bw hence why they knee jerk into fiercely opposing others who try to neaten up and also why those who dress up seem to go around looking hard and looking like the 'accused' because they know they are stepping out of line!

To be honest,

There are places where black women are workin´it and places where they aren´t

Increidible the differences.

Some place like the Dom. Rep. or Colombian Coasts where all women and very much so black women are really making an effort, and it shows.

and then there are places like the U.K. and U.S.

Even the Dominican Women who start salons in the U.S. come to dominate( hell, white women go to them, too); they´ve got the experience.

I´ve not been to Ghana but even this old white dog has heard about the beauty.

So black women, make a little effort and then

Dominate the world.

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Anonymous said...

I don’t blame black women for being shy about expressing their beauty, it has come with great back-lash from other women. Men see beauty in any women (if he is straight). Women set the culture and the norms. They train and teach and aim where the next generation will go. What is considered attractive, what to notice in beauty, what to respond to. I believe black women are just as attractive as any other women, it’s not hidden or unnoticeable. It’s just that in a cultural context when you are taught ‘look for “this” that’s your trigger and then look for the “that” as well’…fill that in with whatever current trend. That’s why you will see extremely unattractive ww dye their hair blond, and then act like they’re ‘sex on a platter’. They are demonstrating a code, for ‘ I’m attractive’.
When black women straighten their hair, they are putting themselves in line with a code-a pattern. It sets her up to be compared to ‘other’ women with straight hair. And when the comparison starts they go down the line to see if everything lines up with said code-the hair, then the nose…as parts are evaluated to see if the ‘said code of beauty’ lines up. But when a black woman wears her hair natural-you break that code-and you can be evaluated by something new. You begin a new pattern of what beauty is. For some that threatening.

Anonymous said...

Now I’m not suggesting that all black women must wear their hair natural. If you can pole-vault above and beyond their code -then go ahead and match them at their own pattern (or provide some refreshing variance). I straighten my hair and I have always gotten complements from straight haired people about my styles. But now I also wear it natural-and they can’t touch that! I just wonder why some black women who look like they are struggling to even make a fashionable style with their hair (once it is straight) just don’t at lest try to style it natural. You know the ones I’m talking about the ones with really short hair that has been straightened, except it’s not straight and it sticks out when they are even just trying to put it in a pony tail. That says to me (as bad as it looks) that as long as it is “straight-ish” they just feel better.
I also wanted to inform ya’ll that many women engage in something called ‘projected talk’. It’s when you have a question, statement or are feeling something-you project your voice onto someone else. No, not verbally, but by emotionally being in that strong state of your thought then projecting it through your eyes or by the ‘feeling of the atmosphere’ to someone who will speak up for you. Know this tactic, use it, pay attention to who is really speaking when someone speaks.

Anonymous said...

Black men have always been the door-men for white women. They seem to enjoy the role and I don’t see them putting any restraints on ww’s crass behavior towards them. I’m not sure why. I was watching an episode of Bridezilla ***, and there was a black man limo driver for a ww who was just so nasty and rude, as you can well imagine. She told him that she helps him to pay his child support and he doesn’t get to say what happens. Later when she calmed down, he thanked her-yes, HE thanked HER for ‘allowing him to be able to pay his child support’-is what he said! WOW. And this happens quite often as I’ve taken note. They seem to love getting demoralized by these women. I don’t understand it myself. But yes, if bm will allow those things to be done and said to them, they for-sure are going to usher a white women in to knock you upside the head!

*** please don’t do something simple minding like judge me based on saying I watched ‘an’ episode of Bridezilla. The truth is I haven’t had cable in YEARS because I don’t like the content on TV and I’m pretty conservative (non-secular) in my selections ( I usually just try to get a roundup of the news). But we all have seen clips of this or heard lyrics to that-right?- that is how you know you don’t like it-right??

shan said...

From my personal experience, I find some bm to be emotionally immature and vindictive. It seems that they expect bw to just fall over them, and when you don't or just don't show interest if they are interested, then they try to embarrass you publicly.

Have any of you experienced this and how did you handle it?

Anonymous said...

Great site and great comments. This is a site for encouragement. PAB BW, keep up the good work. You are doing well. Don't settle.