Reader Sound Off! Why the Nicki & Beyoncé Beauty Standard is WAY Off

January 27, 2012  |  

By Taylor M. Rollins

It’s never been easy being a black woman in America.

Whether it’s implied or said, black females have always been made to feel less beautiful. As a child, you’re made to think that your hair isn’t straight or nice enough, nor is it worth working with, so I’m sure there are many other women out there who can relate to smelling and feeling a tingling relaxer in their hair. Then TV says your skin isn’t light enough and your nose isn’t slim enough. In America, European beauty standards dominate the media and always have, and we are made to think from a young age that we must modify ourselves to fit these ideals as closely as possible. Beyoncé has worn blonde hair for years and has never, and I mean NEVER, shown off or taken pride in her real hair. If our society weren’t as skewed as it is, long, straight, blonde hair on a black woman would look as ridiculous as an afro would look on a white woman. But it doesn’t. Rumors have been circulating for years that Lil’ Kim has been lightening her skin. And once you look at the most recent photos of her, it’s no longer something you wonder–it’s glaringly obvious. Can’t forget all the surgical changes she’s gone to completely change her face and her natural beauty as a whole.

And then there is, in my opinion, the worst public offender of all: Nicki Minaj. She’s hypersexual and sickeningly ridiculous at times, both in her rhymes and also with her wigs a’plenty (including blonde ones), and colored contacts in green, gray, hazel, and blue. In her songs, she frequently uses the term “nappy-headed” to describe other black women, following this derogatory term with claims that her “kitchen is good,” or “you need a perm-inator.” The rumors are that she has a surgically-modified derrière. She raps in silly voices and accents. She attempts to sing with the help of heavy auto-tuning–people, she’s the definition of artificial. And it might not be so bad to me if for every Nicki Minaj we had Lauryn Hills, Erykah Badus, Janelle Monaes and Corinne Bailey Raes who achieve a similar level of mainstream success, proud of their culture and what they look like. But at this moment in time, Nicki Minaj is the only mainstream female hip-hop artist receiving attention. Her fans, who appropriately call themselves “Barbies,” defend and idolize her fervently. And no one sees anything wrong here. When Don Imus used the term “nappy headed hoes,” it caused a controversy. However, Nicki Minaj uses it frequently, and not only are there no protestors, no side eyes, no questions, but people SING ALONG.

This is what we’re being exposed to. This is what is subconsciously increasing our inferiority complex. And I can’t support it. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with colored contacts, colored hair, or extensions. But it becomes a problem when you’re using them to cover up insecurities about your natural appearance. Having pride in your natural hair texture, skin, eye, and hair color isn’t always easy for black women, but I believe that it is absolutely essential. And when the standards of black beauty are being based on these entertainers who rarely embrace their natural beauty, this is when it starts to become a problem. And while fans may argue that it’s “only entertainment,” entertainment and the influence of the people who provide it can be one of the most powerful forces in the world.

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