I’m a black woman. Obviously. Born that way. Don’t know any other life. Any other life, as Evelyn Lozada would say, I wouldn’t be “about it.” Not about that other life. But sometimes I can’t help but wonder – humorously – what if?
What if I was something other than what I am? And, I’ll be honest, I think my situation would be drastically different. Not worse or maybe even necessarily better, but – by golly – it would be different. For one, I might be markedly less focused on whether or not how I look physically has affected my career as a journalist.
Male political pundits on TV don’t seem to have the same – ahem – looks-based standards.
But it’s not just me I play the “What if” game with, I do that with famous people too.
What if … they were black?
So let’s play the game – me here in the column and you in the comments – of what would happen to these famous and infamous individuals if they suddenly came down with a case of the permanent tan that never ran.
Case No.1: Kim Kardashian
Famous for being famous, KimmyKakes has somehow made her 15 minutes of fame far surpass that of the mentor she trained under – Paris Hilton. Kardashian took the party heiress’ playbook and turned into a reality TV, fashion, sex tape, diet pill, book, perfume-scented empire.
BUT WHAT IF SHE WAS BLACK? She’d be a PARIAH.
America isn’t too kind to wayward black girls. Even if they are the well-heeled daughters of the elite. Black people accuse you of trying to make us all look bad while to most white people you’re a curious Hottentot novelty at best, invisible at worse.
Case in point: KarrineSteffans. Where’s the love for the world’s most famous video vixen? For some reason you don’t seem to want to do a photo spread of her in Elle Magazine. Then there’s the tragedy known as Montana Fishburne. And before you try to toss out former Paris Hilton compatriot Nicole Richie out there as the “exception” what sex tape was Nicole Richie in? The worst thing she ever did was once have a drug addiction that she thankfully overcame. And no one sold a video of that.
Case No. 2: Charlie Sheen
This “winning” actor is probably the worst guy possible for you to ever date. He once (possibly) shot actor John Travolta’s now-wife Kelly Preston. (He claims she shot herself, but … um … OK.) Then there was that ugly divorce from ex-wife Denise Richards and the stampede of party girls, call girls, hookers, models and professional pretty women Sheen has abused, terrorized or humiliated. And I didn’t even start talking about his “career,” marked by drug abuse and insults.
BUT WHAT IF HE WAS BLACK? He’d be DEAD* (Or In JAIL).
He probably wouldn’t have made it out of the 80s. Think about it. He’s drowning in beat up starlets and prostitutes. He’s high all the time and seems to be mentally unstable. Maybe some people will tolerate you and find your violent horndog charm “endearing,” but I have a hard time believing Samuel L. Jackson would still be working (or alive) today if he had conducted himself in the same manner as he struggled with his own crack cocaine addiction. Time is not kind to the brother who snorts up all the drugs and fights all the women. And that doesn’t change if you’re famous.
Case in point: The Temptations’ David Ruffin; blues legend and infamous abuser of Tina Turner, Ike Turner; Sam Cooke of the beautiful voice and the violent death after fighting with a woman after being robbed by a hooker; my favorite and most troubled member of Wu-Tang Clan, Ol’ Dirty Bastard; and … technically Bobby Brown, although his career is more so dead, while his body lives on.
Case No. 3: Coco
Let’s just all say it. None of us would know who this woman is if she weren’t A) married to former pimp-turned-rapper-turned-actor Ice T and B) Didn’t take tons of gratuitous photos of her in a thong with that ridiculously large posterior. But, defying the odds, she’s on reality TV, talks in a baby voice and is the definition of T & A as the latest version of what Pamela Anderson and Anna Nicole Smith were before her.
BUT WHAT IF SHE WERE BLACK?She’d be INVISIBLE.
While there are some white girls with big butts and some black girls with flat butts, people – for better or worse – associate a round booty with black women. So if comedian Aisha Tyler could once joke that being a black girl with no butt was like having a handicap, a black girl with just a large butt is called “Tuesday.” As in, you can see that any day of the week. Black girls with big butts have to do more than just be black girls with big butts if they want to stand out among the sea of big booty sisters. You need a gimmick. Do rappers and athletes really like you? Maybe you could be on Love & Hip Hop or Basketball Wives? Can you sing or rap? Maybe you could be Nicki Minaj? Everyone else? Good luck breaking out of the pack, Black Cocos of the world.
Case in point: You, if you have a big butt, but only the bus driver seems to care.
Case No. 4 Lindsay Lohan
She’s like Charlie Sheen, but looks more like one of the women he would take out on a date and ruin. Also known for some really cool teen movies like Mean Girls and the Freaky Friday remake with Jamie Lee Curtis. But lately, she’s mostly known for being a hot mess. She’s in the middle of mounting a “hey guys, I’m clean again, give me some work” comeback, but we’ve heard this story before.
BUT WHAT IF SHE WERE BLACK? She’d be DEAD.(Or SAVED!)
See everything I said about Charlie Sheen, but replace the “fighting women” with stealing things, crashing cars and stalking her ex-girlfriend Sam Ronson. Although LiLo has managed to cheat death, she’s still young, meaning there’s always a shot that if she were black she might just denounce Hollywood, find Jesus and start doing nothing but Tyler Perry films. Sure, that’s not mainstream success, but it is SUCCESS. And you get to be alive while having that success. Can’t ask for much more than that? But it bears repeating that black women – even famous ones – cannot suffer the career suicide of breaking the law, having a mental breakdown and being high all at the same time without some deadly consequences. Especially when they never get it together.
Case in point: I’m still really mad over Whitney Houston, but I’ll still go see Sparkle opening weekend
Case No.5: George Zimmerman
The most infamous man in American right now, Zimmerman was recently arraigned in court for the death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin, who he shot believing the 17-year-old was a robber instead of some kid walking home from the 7-11.
BUT WHAT IF HE WAS BLACK? He’d be INVISIBLE.
For one, he probably would have gotten arrested immediately. None of this “Oh, you say it was self-defense? Heh. We believe you. Here’s your gun back. See you at the church picnic.” Which also means Zimmerman would be invisible to us outside of the Sanford, Fla. community. The fact is a story only becomes national news when the death is seen as especially tragic or unusual. Zimmerman going un-arrested, plus the race angle (most people die at the hands of a member of their own race), is what made this story and the outrage over it grow. Without it, is just another tragic shooting lumped in with the many local, tragic shootings that befall black and white people all over America everyday.
Case in point: If you still have a local newspaper, turn to page two of the Local section and read how most homicides are communicated in a sentence or two, and not broadcast on MSNBC.
Case No. 6: Justin Timberlake
He brought “Hotback,” but when Prince retorted that “Hot never left” that piss-ant wrote a whole rap with Timbaland about it. He’s an actor now.
BUT WHAT IF HE WAS BLACK? INVISIBLE (OR … BETTER?)
Justin was always an above average-to-excellent pop music guy, but that’s often when compared to other pop music guys. While he came from the “House of Mouse” – which create white kids for public consumption regardless of their level of singing ability – most black male vocalists of R&B have to deal with a little something called “black audiences.” Black people have a certain “standard” about who can and cannot sing. Competition is stiff and we celebrate our history of booing people off the stage. I’ve often said that as much as I’ve enjoyed Timberlake, if he’d been a black guy he would have struggled. There are too many black male R&B acts, running around, pretending like they wereThug Michael Jackson.
Instead of dancing causing wardrobe malfunctions with Mike’s sister, Timberlake would have been fighting to get out of the background of Chris Brown, Usher, John Legend, Ne-Yo, Trey Songz, Mario, Jaheim and Omarion. But there is an upside of being forced to deal with intense competition.
Timberlake might actually be a BETTER performer if he was black.
You don’t learn how to be the next Michael Jackson or Prince when you have no competition. You get that when you are expected to beat and exceed the best. So maybe Justin Timberlake could have been a one-hit wonder stuck on the R&B Hot 100 list … or he could be the Greatest. We’ll never know, because he had just enough talent, plus novelty factor to blow up anyway.
Case in point: I’m not a Chris Brown fan, but I would assume his dedication to being a well-above average dancer while maintaining his singing chops is because he knows the competition is always one hot beat and hook away. Also, an example where if you’re white and a novelty, but surrounded by good mentors forcing you to push yourself … cough … Justin Bieber. Cough. Again, not a fan, but he can play more instruments and I’m sure that swagger coach will pay off any day now.
Case No. 7: Casey Anthony
She was accused of killing her young daughter, but got off. Nancy Grace hasn’t been the same since.
BUT WHAT IF SHE WERE BLACK?She’d be INVISIBLE.
She’d be the most evil black woman that ever existed that no one would ever speak of because it would just be some horrible, tragic local news story, not on Nancy Grace. Just like with George Zimmerman, it was the continued media obsession with attractive white women (whether missing or murdering their kids) that caused the case to skyrocket. Black mothers who murder their black children are a local story, rarely making it to CNN. Or Nancy Grace. Probably has something to do with how folks cried when the “angelic” character Rue was killed in the book “The Hunger Games,” but were “upset” when they found out they’d been crying over “some black girl.”
Case in point: The horrible story of Jhessye Shockley and the child welfare system that failed her.
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