All Articles Tagged "beauty standards"

Can A Black-Owned Business Market To All People?

October 23rd, 2015 - By Charing Ball
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Source: Black Opal

Source: Black Opal

Is a Black business obligated to always cater and market to a Black clientele?

It’s an provocative question considering the current dustup over global cosmetic company Black Opal’s new marketing campaign.

Let’s just say that it is pretty…ahem…diverse.

As reported by Black Girl Long Hair:

Black Opal, a well-established cosmetic line, found themselves in hot water yesterday when they responded to a series of Facebook comments regarding ads which seemed to distance them from their overwhelmingly black customer base.

When Black Opal’s Twitter and Facebook followers saw the ads, they asked some valid questions. Most were black women who were under the impression that Black Opal was a brand geared toward black women or brown-skinned women in general.

You can read the exchange between Black Opal and its customers here. The company does assert emphatically that “our leadership has never issued a ‘non-inclusive’ statements” about its product offerings or sales objectives.

Also, on its Facebook page, the cosmetic company posted an archived New York Post profile from 1995 of the company with the caption:

Here’s a little history on Black Opal. Black Opal has never been sold or acquired since it was founded in 1994.

An opal is a precious gemstone that can take on many variations of colors. The black opal is the most rare and most valuable.

Skin of color, like the Opal, is varied, unique and precious. It comes in many diverse hues and tones and demands specific skin care products to address its special needs. Black Opal was born out of that need to treat the rare jewel that is skin of color.

Today we are are a brand for every shade of beauty and as our founder, Carol Mouyiaris stated in the 1995 article below “We are not exclusive.”

And the company also issued a statement to us about what exactly they represent:

Black Opal is a cosmetics brand for every shade of beauty. Black Opal was founded in 1994 by Carol Mouyiaris, a woman of Jamaican decent, and Dr. Cheryl Burgess, an African American board certified dermatologist, to address the skin concerns of women of color. Black Opal has never been sold or acquired, and we continue to support the original brand mission today, by bringing to market products that address the needs of all women of color. As the global environment continues to blend ethnically and culturally, Black Opal is working to ensure we are developing beauty solutions for the wide array of ethnicities, cultures and multihued skin represented in today’s women of color.

Although it claims that it was never exclusive to Black customers, the company does admit that it was founded to “address skin issues for African Americans,” which sounds exactly the same to me. But I’m not a lawyer…

Still, even without the acknowledgment, I think the cosmetic company will have a hard time explaining then why its marketing for the better part of its existence was aimed at Black people, particularly women?

Honestly, I really don’t see why it can’t just be forthright with the people and say, “look, we are trying to grow our market and stay competitive. So while we will continue making products for Black folks, we also, for the sake of survival, have to say All Skin Matters…”

Maybe I am being idealistic here, but I really don’t see folks not being able to understand that. I certainly think it would have been a much more respectful response worthy of a customer base, which has held the company down since its inception.

And in many ways this escape clause Black Opal is using with its consumers is very reminiscent of how we are often treated by mainstream businesses, particularly in the entertainment field, which builds bottom lines using Black dollars, only to dispose of us completely when more White and affluent audiences/customers begin to notice.

It also doesn’t help that this renewed commitment to all diversity follows a growing number of Black-owned businesses that have allegedly “sold out” to either White investors or White clientele. Like last month’s announcement that the makers of Shea Moisture and Nubian Heritage partnered with Bain Capital, making Bain minority stakeholders. In lots of ways, Black Opal’s newest ad campaign speaks to deeper fears and concerns we have as a community about the inability to build and sustain not only wealth, but a cultural identity (i.e. a beauty standard) in this country and beyond.

Still, the cosmetic company’s new focus also highlights the tough position in which many Black businesses find themselves. What I mean is that in addition to competing for sales within an already niche market, Black Opal also have to compete with major international cosmetic conglomerates who nowadays are now more willing to actually market to customers outside of the European beauty standard.

So, in spite of our desire to want the products and services we created to always remain For Us, By Us, the reality is that the structure to keep our businesses within the community is just not in place.

And who is to say, that if it were possible, Black businesses should only cater to a Black clientele? As Sundial’s founder and CEO Richelieu Dennis previously told MadameNoire in response to some of its customers’ fears that it was selling out:

“Black companies, like every other company, have to grow and broaden its customer base. If Black businesses don’t do this this, they die on the vine.”

I don’t know about anyone else, but I do believe that it is possible to be a Black-owned business that does not exclusively market or target Black people. And although I’m not co-signing how Black Opal went about explaining this to its customer base, I do believe that it does make sense, from a survival standpoint, to broaden their reach.

After all, who better than to represent the standards of beauty for people of color within the cosmetic realm than a company that was originally founded with the formulaic needs of Black women in mind?

Now, what we should be concerned about is whether or not any of these Black-owned businesses are not only taking Black dollars but helping to generate them, by hiring Black people.


Serious Question: Should This Intern Straighten Her Hair For Work?

September 17th, 2015 - By Charing Ball
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Madison, WNCT Angela Green's Facebook Page

,Madison, WNCT Angela Green’s Facebook Page

The natural hair topic has long run its course. But, nevertheless, I’m going to ask this question: Should a woman be forced to straighten her natural hair to appease her bosses?

The inspiration for this question comes by way of Angela Green, weeknight anchor for WNCT in Greenville, N.C., who recently posed the same question in a video post on her Facebook page. For those with Facebook, you can watch it here.

For those without an account, here is my best early-morning transcription of Greene’s statements:

The topic is natural hair in the workplace. Very sensitive to a lot of people. I’m natural. As many of you may or may not know, I’m biracial. My mother is from Thailand and my father is Black. See my hair? Straight. Y’all comment about it all the time. But if I were to go natural, my hair would be curly. But for right now, we’re not going to do curly hair because my bosses like it that way, so that is what we are going to go with.

Okay, let me pause this transcription to point out how Green declares herself both natural and not natural at the same time. While it sounds like an oxymoron, it is also an important detail to note in the context of the question posed below. She continues:

Green: Let me let you meet Madison. Madison is a…what year are you?

Madison: I’m a sophomore. 19.

Green: 19 years old. This is the style right now for everybody, rocking natural hair every day. Well, she is about to do a production for work. She is in TV and broadcasting and the topic of her hair came up. She was told that it was what?

Madison: Too big and I needed to straighten it. Straighten it out. It would be distracting.

Green: Distracting, well that is a very interesting word. But in the world of TV we see it all. It just depends in what market, what audience you’re looking for right now. And really, your bosses and what they allow you to do. My advice is straighten for the sake of the school project. Depending on what market you get in, when you’re older, that is something that you have to deal with. But in the workplace, just for this one, my suggestion was to just straighten it out just to please everybody. But everybody won’t roll with that answer. What would your suggestion be to Madison and other young professionals rocking their natural hair?

Well, I am glad she asked.

Again, what is interesting is how Green defines “natural hair.” In this context, she uses it to describe her own hair, which is naturally curly, but has been pressed straight. Granted, she may define natural as being free from chemicals, which is a commonly held belief among Black women. But it also clear that she sees natural hair as more of a style than an actual state. This is evident when she points to Madison’s head of natural curls and says, “This is the style right now for everybody, rocking natural hair every day.”

In essence, her question is less about if Madison should be natural, but rather, how she should be natural.

And her question does have some relevancy. Be it wash and go or Freddie Brooks on fleek, big and bountiful curls do appear to be the most sought-after hairstyle choice among natural women. Even as some folks’ hair doesn’t naturally curl that way and even though there are more natural hair styling choices out there, including a press and curl.

And while Madison’s hair does naturally hold that curl pattern, there are more reserved ways she could maintain her natural, which does not comprise hair principles, health, style choice or job standing. For instance, a nice bun or classic updo.

Plus, it is not like European women in media aren’t asked to tame their tresses – and other “distractions” too. I don’t ever recall seeing a White anchorwoman with big, bountiful curls. Sadly, Green’s advice is the cold, hard truth of what it is like to work in television news, where the image of the person reporting the news counts just as much as the news itself.

Still, I find it quite disheartening that we are encouraging young women to accept the status quo, particularly as it pertains to beauty ideals and standards, instead of pushing them to break down those barriers. While it is true that image has always counted, it does not mean that we have to continue to breed new generations of women who continue to make image a priority just because that’s how it has always been.

Somebody has to be brave enough to say no. Somebody has to have the courage to walk into human resources and say, “Listen here you cogs of White supremacy, I’ll do a bun, but I am not straightening my hair. People will get used to to it. Anything else is discrimination.”

That’s how things change.

What I find most odd about this entire question about the appropriateness of Black/biracial women and natural hair – no matter how you define it – is how in one breath, society is encouraging us to accept White women, specifically with cornrows and faux-ethnic hair, while still telling women of color that their natural hair is too distracting.

But that’s how I feel about it. What are your thoughts? Is natural hair just a style or an actual state? Should Madison straighten her hair to appease her bosses and advance her career (i.e. earn a paycheck) or should she stick to her hair principles?

If You Want To See Plus-Size Bodies Of Color Celebrated, theCurvyCon Is Where It’s At

June 24th, 2015 - By Brande Victorian
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Cece Olisa, Gabi Gregg and Chastity Garner

It’s no secret — or surprise — that by and large the entertainment and fashion industries aren’t checking for fuller figures, and even when they are it’s rare that those plus-size bodies are round and brown. That reality has hardly been a deterrent for curvy fatshionistas who proudly flaunt their colored curves on social media and popular websites, and this past Saturday that community came together in New York City to celebrate that curvy confidence at the first annual CurvyCon.

theCurvyCon, brainchild of bloggers Chastity Garner and CeCe Olisa, was created to celebrate plus-size fashion, beauty, lifestyle and wellness with a day-long event featuring speakers from Kierra Sheard and Amber Riley to Gabi Gregg, Nadia Aboulhosn, and more tackling subjects like confidence, dating at any size, and plus-size health and fitness.

On site for the festivities, we couldn’t help but notice the influx of Black and Brown beauties, spanning ethnicities from African American and Caribbean to Latina and Middle Eastern, so we chatted with a few notable attendees about the state of full-figured minority acceptance and whether we’re still at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to European beauty standards or progress is actually being made.

Style Blogger Gabbi Gregg of said she completely understands the frustration of mainstream brands and media not focusing on or featuring women of color, especially Black women. “It’s hard,” she told us on the red carpet.”There’s the colorism issue and the racism issue so it kind of trickles down into every aspect of the industry. Unfortunately, we’re included in that so we’re fighting an uphill battle, having to fight the fashion industry, both because of our size and color. But that’s not to say there’s not progress because I do see more and more people being featured and included.”

One such woman being included is Chanté Burkett of who was recently featured in a very special “Target Loves Every Body” campaign, aimed at proving swimsuits can flatter body types of all kinds,  including those that are full figured. “For someone like me to be featured on that level was amazing,” Burkett told us at the CurvyCon. “To showcase an obviously brown person in a campaign that big just goes to show we need more of us in that light. It’s always a struggle and it’s hard, but we keep on fighting. Eventually we’ll take over.”

CurvyCon is certainly a great start, particularly because the idea behind the conference isn’t exactly novel – at least among minority women. As conference co-creator Chastity Garner of GarnerStyle told us, “As women of color, it’s almost natural that we started something like this. We’ve always embraced our bodies; we’re just bringing along more people for the ride.”

Conference co-creator CeCe Olisa of echoed that sentiment, saying “The ethnic communities kind of gravitate towards a little more curvier figures and we’re kind of leading the way and embracing that. Now we’re just letting everyone else in on our secret.”

Hopefully Hollywood and the fashion industries don’t sleep on that well-known fact for too much longer. But if they do, oh well. There’s always next year’s CurvyCon.

#NoShaveNoShade: New Trend Lets Armpit Hair Hang All Out

June 16th, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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If you’re a hairy woman, like myself, you know that shaving is often frequent and requires a lot of effort. Between your legs, bikini/mons area, your armpits and even some of your upper lips, hair removal is a chore.

But the game might be changing ladies. All on social media websites, most prominently Tumblr, there are #NoShave and #NoShaveNoShade hashtags which seek to promote and encourage women to forgo shaving the hair that grows naturally on our bodies. There are tons of young women who are refusing to wax, shave or laser of the hair, particularly under their arms, in celebration of what adult female bodies really look like.

And unlike the #Movember movement, where men stop shaving their beards to raise awareness about prostate cancer, this is more of a lifestyle change.

One Tumblr user, Uselessblogga wrote:


I decided a little while back that I was going to stop shaving.

This is the first time I wear a tank out and about and EVERYONE will see zomg!!

The only reason I ever did it was because it was taught. Shaving in general has never come natural to me, I always forget and I end up feeling self conscious when we randomly decide to go swim or something.

So why should I do something, that I don’t even like doing, only to please complete strangers or to feel “normal”

Nah man, fuck that.

I like this. This is normal.



Another user remembered how, in the fourth grade, hearing one of classmates call another “monkey legs” scared her into shaving.

I’m sure many of us have a similar story. But shaving hasn’t always been a mandatory thing. And I’m not talking about in Europe. In middle and high school, I played volleyball and we had to wear shorts well into the fall for our games. One day, after practice, I was loudly lamenting about needing to shave my legs soon. That’s when one of our volleyball mothers proudly showed me her legs, which, as I was noticing for the first time, were very hairy. She said, “Back in the day hairy legs used to be considered sexy.” I looked at her in disbelief but my mother, who is naturally virtually hairless, offered a reputable cosign.

In middle school, I wasn’t trying to hear that. But now that the summer is here and my legs are seeing the light of day again, I’m reminded of how tedious and annoying shaving every 3-5 days can be.

I like the smooth, clean look and feel but I’m also lazy and am not particularly fond of the nicks I often give myself when I’m rushing to shave just so I can wear some leg-revealing outfit.

And while I could possibly be swayed when it comes to letting my leg hair grow in the summer like it does in the winter, I’m definitely not so sure about the armpit part. We all know that hair holds odor and if you sweat a lot, or at all, as most of us do in the summer, you might find yourself a little musty. And that’s no bueno. But the ladies participating in this new trend are not only letting their armpit hair flourish, they’re dying it and sharing it on social media.

In the words of Outkast, “Whatever floats your boat or finds your lost remote…”

What do you think about this no shave trend ladies? Is it something you could see yourself doing? Is it something you’ve been doing for years? Or will you leave this one to the ladies on Tumblr?

Accepting My Big Feet

February 25th, 2015 - By Kendra Koger
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Accepting My Big Feet

Source: Shutterstock


When you have siblings, it’s almost a need to try to find ways to differentiate yourself from your kin.  I have two older sisters, and one younger, and I was always compared to them.  On top of that, people always made me feel less, because in a family of lighter toned sisters, I was the only dark one and the shortest.  So, I was thrown into the “cousin” category for strangers and acquaintances whenever they saw us together (“Why is your cousin always with y’all?”).

But, I love my sisters, and I love my dark skin, so it was more so a small annoyance than a life changing complex.  However, I still wanted to one-up them on something!  That day came when we went shoe shopping when I was in about fifth or sixth grade.

Eastlands were the shoes to get that time, and while we all got pretty much the same shoe, but with different tones to them, I was happy when I realized that my feet were bigger than everyone’s (including my mother’s).

The next day at school I puffed my chest out and proudly proclaimed my 7.5 sized foot.

After that, I don’t think I really thought about my feet that much.  They were there, they helped me to move, march (I was in marching band in high school), and I always had really cute shoes.

It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college, when I was at my job at the Main Stacks library that I thought about them again.  I was getting an order of books when a woman who was in the elevator with me started yelling while pointing at my feet.  I was scared that there was some type of bug or rodent around my feet, so I started screaming as well, while trying to climb on top of the assistance bar.

After asking asking/yelling:  “What?!  What’s wrong?!”  She finally answered.

“It’s your feet!  They’re so huge!”

By that time my feet were a healthy 9.5, and it caught me off guard because that day I was wearing a cute pair of knock off Pumas (the Bakers’ kind) that were actually a size 8.  So to think that if I took the shoe off, and for my feet to unfold like a rewound version of the Wicked Witch of the East’s feet under Dorthy’s house, how would she react then?

I thought I could mentally recover, but after we got back to the main floor, she brought one of her friends to the checkout counter and asked me to show her friend the size of my feet.

At that moment I felt incredibly insecure.  How could something that I felt so proud about a few years ago, bring so much shame in a single elevator ride?  But it did.  I began mentally dissecting what was wrong with my feet.  Was it the fact that I’m really short, so my feet stick out like boats in front of me?  Was it the style of shoes I chose?  Were the shoes too audacious, and brought too much attention to them?

I’d never obsessed about my feet more than I did in those days.  They were big, they were Flintstone-ish, but at the end of the day they were mine, and that’s what I had to come to terms with.

How could I hate something that literally brought me to where I am now?  That helped me run, jump double dutch, dance, and walk to where ever I wanted to go?  How could I dissect something that was so stable, was my literal foundation, and allowed me to maneuver my path in life?

I couldn’t.  My long feet helped make me who I am, not just physically, but mentally.  They were the first inclination to me that I could stand out from my sisters, and that I could find something of my own to be proud of.

They were a source of multiple adventures, strength, and had an uncanny appearance to baked potatoes when I was pregnant.  I love these big suckers!

So to you, dear readers, in a time where we obsess over our appearances, and focus on innocuous flaws, I encourage you to love yourself how you are.  If you do decide to change your perceived flaw, do it under the name of improvement, not the guise of misplaced vanity.  Also, don’t allow someone else to usher shame into something that you were so proud of before.  You never know if your “flaw” could be the one thing that could put you a foot above the rest.

Kendra Koger likes to tap dance her size 9.5 feet over to her twitter @kkoger.

What’s So Wrong With Us Seeing Beyoncé’s Pre-Photoshopped Face?

February 20th, 2015 - By Charing Ball
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Image Source: WENN

Image Source: WENN


Why is everyone in super defensive mode over the leaked L’oreal pictures of Beyoncé’s pre-photoshopped and untouched face?

I mean I understand the superstar entertainer and her stans are still licking wounds after she stole…er, I mean, borrowed that gospel song from Ledisi for the Grammys and got dragged for sounding like Barry White on it. But really are those pictures such a big deal that they require this much offense?

I mean, it’s not like the pictures are really unflattering. If anything Beyonce without all the filters and good lighting, is still pretty and actually looks perfectly normal. In fact, she probably looks more normal than the images of herself that she passes off as natural.

But let her stans tell it, the internet has shamed Beyoncé. I’m not calling out any folks directly (this time) because there are just too many of you all to quote. However you can pretty much search “Beyoncé leaked pictures” and find a plethora of angry think pieces and tweets from stans, shaming and wishing death upon anyone caught passing the photos around. Hell some stans even called the FBI over the leaked photos.

I get the angst to an extent. All photos are deceptive. Even the ones we take on our personal cameras. We may not have fancy-schmancy editing program; but we do tend to stand in the good light, pose on our good sides, and wear our good makeup and outfits to make us look more “flawless” than what we actually are normally. If some folks are like me, we’ll might even take a dozen or so pictures of ourselves until we find that one “natural” selfie that will do us justice aesthetically. In a sense we are all guilty of not keeping it photogenically 100. So why should we expect anything different from celebrities, particularly ones whose careers are based around keeping up appearances?

But that’s kind of the point. The unnecessary need to keep up appearances and the overall importance we put on beauty, even over other more useful attributes (like brains and skill) seems counter productive. Like the folks who are dismissively asking “why does it matter” and saying things like “everyone has a bad picture” only seems to confirm that there is something legitimately wrong with the pictures even though there isn’t.

Likewise folks, particularly those who write and care about eradicating social ills and empowering impressionable minds, know why untouched photos of celebrities matter. In a world where folks, particularly young people, are not only comparing themselves to these altered images, but doing all sorts of surgery and suffering through all sort of body dysmorphic disorders, the continuation of projecting false images of ourselves is genuinely hurting people. And we can all talk about “loving ourselves” and how proper self-esteem starts with the parents, but some folks weren’t nurtured that way. And some were, but still have trouble seeing themselves through a wall of images and beauty ideals, which have been reinforced by society and counteract everything they grew up believing. Therefore in the interest of healing all of society, we should call more attention to when folks are not being their authentic selves.

Like Beyoncé once said, “pretty hurts.” And the assault on our individual psyche is real. And the insecurity that those assaults create is how the powers that be go about getting all of us to be good consumers to products and services which we really don’t need, including L’oreal makeup. I mean, I can understand if we were talking about removing a blemish or two, but the advertisers literally resized her face so that it was thinner and altered her neck, so we wouldn’t see the normal folds we all have while operating our body like a human being. I mean, who is looking at and judging that child’s neck like that?

Quiet as it’s kept, it’s likely the pressure from many of her stans themselves, which forces Beyoncé to want to be perfect all the time. I honestly believe that some of them are scared to see Bey without the lights and glam as it will ruin the shallow illusion of immortality. Yet most times, it’s her critics who don’t have a problem because we have no problem seeing her as what she truly is: a human being just like the rest of us.

On Female Empowerment: Are We Really Liberated When We Expose Our Bodies?

November 4th, 2014 - By La Truly
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With so many women declaring that exposing their bodies and casual sex are acts of liberation, a battle cry of sorts for women who want to push back against the tyranny against the female body, I wonder what message we truly want to send to young women and girls? Somehow, in today’s culture, exposing ourselves physically has become synonymous with taking the control back of our bodies, redefining “sexy” and what agency entails. I can’t help but scratch my head in confusion. If feminism and womanism are about the fair treatment of women and recapturing the ability to be and define ourselves for ourselves, how has expressing control of our images and our bodies become so one-dimensional? Why isn’t the pointed choice to cover one’s body seen as equally empowering? 

I modeled many years ago in college. I felt ugly and awkward back then, but I fought past all of that to don skimpy clothes and stand in front of a camera in a desperate attempt to feel beautiful. When I posted those photos to my social media accounts (back then it was Myspace and BlackPlanet), the attention I received from the opposite sex was intoxicating. It validated me. It made me feel anything but ugly or awkward.

I didn’t stick with modeling for long, so when I finally had an opportunity to pick the hobby back up this year, I was jazzed, but for brand new reasons. I could finally carve out time to work with an especially creative friend and come up with fun and creative concepts, angles, backgrounds and more, in order to create great photographs and great artwork. The difference between modeling for me then and now is that I shoot without baring much (if any) skin. It was a subconscious decision as I have become increasingly aware of the fact that I can feel attractive, s*xy and good about myself on my own terms. I’m not comfortable baring too much skin. I have never been. Instead of trying to fight that, I embraced it. The decision to dress to my own liking and not bare it all struck me as valuable in a brand new way.

My younger cousins, some of my students, and my mentees have seen the photographs. In a world that is pretty much completely driven by sex and money, simply seeing a photograph of a woman they know who is fully dressed but is still “attractive” has given them a new view of what it means to be s*xy and how they want to define it for themselves. Some of my students who’ve only ever thought of themselves as attractive when they were baring as much skin as possible are now rethinking and asking themselves what they like about who they are and how do they really want to dress? That was a revelation for me.

It’s not healthy to equate a woman’s control of her body with nudity and sexual suggestiveness, especially not for girls and young women who are still exploring themselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. What narrow trajectory does that line of thinking offer them? Instead, I would argue that the power is in having the option. The power, the control, and the appeal is in the ability to say, “This is what everyone else thinks and feels, but this over here is what I think, feel and believe and THIS is how I choose to define myself.” Whatever the decision chosen is, it is well-informed and it is your own. It’s easy to go along with popular trends because a favorite actress or singer has suddenly made this or that “cool.” We’re not taught to question the groupthink of pop culture. We’re taught to give in to societal demands and fall in line with ideology that does not serve our higher selves.

Are nudity and sex horrible things? Absolutely not, but they certainly aren’t the end-all, be-all of all things s*xy and attractive. And they certainly aren’t what girls and young women should be seeing exclusively as womanhood. Knowing that we have the right to step into our own beauty in whatever way we choose is where our power lies as women and as human beings. Fearing that we somehow score within the lowest beauty percentile if we choose not to expose our bodies is just as damaging as trying to force virtue through never discussing the body and sex. Our power, as 21st century women, is not in succumbing to sexist stereotypes and reclaiming them as our “liberation.” Our power is in realizing our intelligence to think outside of anyone’s boxes and choosing the option that best elevates us individually, and those who will come after us.

La Truly is a writer, higher education professional, and young women’s empowerment enthusiast. She mixes her interest in social and cultural issues with her life experiences  to encourage thought, discussion and positive change among young Women of Color. Follow her on Twitter: @ashleylatruly and check out her site:

Ooookay: American Apparel Wants To Fight Beauty Standards By Having Mannequins With Bushy Pubic Hair

January 20th, 2014 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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American Apparel pubic hair

Jen Chung/The Gothamist

Just imagine walking down the street one day on your way to one of your favorite shops, and as you turn the corner, you come upon the site of three mannequins, not only wearing sheer lingerie in a store window, but rocking a full bush down there. Well, that’s what will happen if you find yourself at the East Houston Street American Apparel location in New York City.

While the response to the store’s display has allegedly been pretty lighthearted according to The Gothamist (they claim folks were mostly just laughing like pre-teen boys at the spectacle), the director of marketing for American Apparel, Ryan Holiday, told them in a statement that using pubic hair at the East Houston street location is something they’re serious about, because they want to promote the natural beauty of women.

“American Apparel is a company that celebrates natural beauty, and the Lower East Side Valentine’s Day window continues that celebration. We created it to invite passerby’s to explore the idea of what is “s*xy” and consider their comfort with the natural female form. This is the same idea behind our advertisements which avoid many of the photoshopped and airbrushed standards of the fashion industry. So far we have received positive feedback from those that have commented and we’re looking forward to hearing more points of view.”

Great. A man wants folks to have a conversation with the general public about the female form…

It’s one thing to try and have a conversation about beauty standards, but why start with pubic hair?? Why not diversify the mannequins? Why not switch up their body types to show that one size doesn’t fit all? I guess that’s not as controversial as placing hair on the private parts of plastic mannequins, but I think it would have been taken a little bit more seriously. And considering that American Apparel gets a lot of flack already for what many deem exploitation of the bodies of young female models in their ads, who are often captured damn near naked, putting attention on the vag*na (and basically saying there’s an epidemic where women are oh so pressured to be bald down there) and the hair on it doesn’t help them to get taken more seriously. It’s an interesting conversation, but the folks behind this company aren’t necessarily the right ones to start or facilitate it.

But what do you think? Was it a good idea or just another move by American Apparel to shock folks?

How Important Is A Big Butt?

January 9th, 2014 - By Toya Sharee
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big butt

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Did we really land on the moon?  Who killed Tupac?  How far will that bright future behind you take you? For about the past decade, with the help of twerking and booty shots, some women have become obsessed with who has the biggest booty and men have exhausted all efforts to have the winner on their arm…or at least in their lap.  It got me started thinking about petite girl problems and how many women with bigger backsides I have witnessed getting wifed up (or just booed up) because they’re on #TeamClappers. I blame Nicki Minaj. But seriously, it makes me wonder: How important is the size of one’s backside?

Am I hating?  Maybe a little.  I’m no Miley Cyrus, but my booty probably wouldn’t inspire any Lil’ Wayne lyrics.  But I have been blessed with big booty friends who have used their super powers to get us everything from free drinks to good seats on the Megabus.  I’m sure many women with the ample gluteus maximus God (or their neighborhood booty shot beautician) gave them have never given too much thought about if men’s heads were turning to get a better view of their back, their beauty or if it even mattered.  Now I don’t like to call people anything but cute, but I will say I’ve noticed a very unsettling trend of not trying.  It’s like there are some women who feel like they can walk out the house looking any ol’ kind of way because their milkshake will bring all the boys to the yard. Men are ruining their credit, cheating on their wives, pro-creating with women who I wouldn’t trust to care for a Chia pet with nothing to show for it except for, “Did you see that a** tho’?”  And in response, some women are thinking they don’t even have to come correct.  They could have a missing tooth, no edges and a mustache that would make Drake’s dad blush and as long as they can make it clap they’ll never want for a man’s attention. And for those that don’t have all that going on behind them, they start to think they need to have it. Will men always choose a big booty over everything else?

“Don’t get me wrong, men have always liked a**, but it wasn’t necessarily a deal breaker on if a man would try to hit on a girl or not.  But now it’s a fad and dudes are obsessive about it.  You could have face like Beyoncé, but if you have an a** like Miley Cyrus to dudes nowadays, you’re automatically a five.  Now the girl with the big booty looking like Gollum from Lord of the Rings, she’ll get play for days. But that bothers me, because at the end of the day I have to talk to your face, not your behind.  That shows you right there what a man’s intentions are.”

These are the words of a male friend of mine as we debated over the phone the other day about the importance of an ample backside for some men.

Beauty standards change all the time.  In the eighties and nineties you were beautiful if you were a broomstick rocking big breasts, but it seems that in the past decade, if your behind isn’t galloping behind you when you walk down the street, then all of a sudden you’re not as beautiful as you could be, and that’s a problem.  Women just can’t seem to break this cycle of men defining beauty standards. Sisqó told folks that he likes the way your booty goes “duh duh, duh duh” and quite a few young girls and women ran out and bought thongs to sit on their hips. Big Sean told you to make that thing “Hammer time” and women suddenly made squats a priority in their day.  Do women truly even know what WE think is beautiful anymore?

Now every once in while the rare phenomenon occurs that a woman has a face like Sanaa Lathan and a body like Melyssa Ford, but usually life sees fit to give you one or the other, which is fine as long as women and men alike would stop giving the almighty booty more credit than it deserves and focusing on one body part like the others don’t matter.  I can’t help but wonder how great having a big booty on a woman could be to a man if you have to lift up a chick’s back fat to get to it?  Women are injecting everything from tub caulk to toothpaste so they can have a behind that looks like Blac Chyna’s, but neglecting that they have dents and bumps all down their thighs.

“I feel kind of deceived.  Women have all of these things like Spanx.  The worst thing is to see a girl with a big behind sitting high, only for it to fall to the back of her knees when she takes her clothes off.  That’s not a turn on.”

This according to a colleague as we discussed beauty and booty.

So how far will your booty take you? Most men I talked to agreed that basically a big behind would get them talking, but if you aren’t bringing much else to the table, it’s going to be a short conversation. And that’s all fine and good if the only thing you want is attention and to discuss your favorite position.  You may have a bright future behind you, but if a man has no interest in having face to face interaction with you, do you really want any kind of future with him?  You have to wonder how much you really want your butt or any body part of yours for that matter to account for your self-worth or opportunities in life.

Toya Sharee is a community health  educator  and   parenting education coordinator who has a passion  for helping  young women  build  their self-esteem and make  well-informed choices  about their sexual  health. She  also  advocates for women’s  reproductive rights and blogs about  everything  from  beauty to love  and relationships. Follow her on Twitter   @TheTrueTSharee or visit  her blog Bullets  and  Blessings .



#DarkSkinRedLip Project Tells Chocolate Girls To Pucker Up!

August 7th, 2013 - By Veronica Wells
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My mother always tells me this story about her beloved red coat. My mom, a dark skinned woman, with a dark skinned mother was warned from an early age that bright colors weren’t for her, that they wouldn’t look right against her skin tone.

But my mother has always been one to get what she wants. So one day when she was around 9 or 10 years old, my grandmother took her coat shopping and told her to pick out one she wanted. My mother quickly grabbed a red wool coat, telling my grandmother that’s what she wanted. Motivated by her own conditioning and hang ups, my grandmother tried to tell my mother that she should choose a different color that red wasn’t for her. My mother, as a child, told her mother that if she didn’t buy her the red coat she wasn’t going to wear anything else.

Now, my grandmother could have easily told her she was buying something else and she would wear whatever she told her to. But I think she respected my mother’s resolve at such a young age and perhaps even recognized that her hang ups were just that her own. There was no need for her to pass that on to her young daughter.

But just because my mother was able to get her way with the coat, didn’t mean that my grandmother’s beauty rules and regulations didn’t affect her in other ways. To this day, my mother will not wear bright colored lipstick. A lot of it has to do with her preference for dark colors, (which do look good on her), but she does admit that she shies away from her bright colors because she was always told dark girls shouldn’t wear those colors. When we look at lipsticks she’ll show me a shade that she thinks will look good on me or my sister, (We’re considerably lighter than her.) But when we suggest she buy it, the answer is always “I’m too dark.”

It’s probably too late for my mom but I would love to get rid of these ridiculous notions that dark women don’t look good in certain shades. Which is why I can dig the new #DarkSkinRedLip Project from For Brown Girls. For Brown Girls, an organization founded by Karyn Washington, aims to celebrate dark skin women while combating colorism and promoting self love to all women.

The #DarkSkinRedLip Project attempts to break barriers by inviting women of darker hues to submit pictures of themselves wearing a red lip. So far, the project has collected 200 photos and has a goal of collecting a 1,000 pictures.

“Along with abolishing that stigma, the project will serve as inspiration to any girl or woman who have given into this stereotype and shied away from wearing a red lip.In viewing such images, a darker skinned girl who is hesitant to try a red lip will find the confidence to step out of her comfort zone, disregarding the opinion of anyone else. In an effort to better understand the feelings, attitudes and experiences of women relating to this issue we have also created a brief survey for participants to complete which has received numerous responses as well. Not only does this project encourage women of a darker hue, but sends a message to all women, everywhere to be confident in who they are and what they like, never letting someone else dictate that for them.”

If you’re interested in submitting a photo, for the #DarkSkinRedLip project, you can send your photos to including your name, state and brand/name of the lipstick you’re wearing.