Blonde Ambition: Are Black Women Aiming To Be Marilyn Monroe?

March 9, 2014  |  

Every once in a while in the black beauty world the blonde bomb drops. Celebs hop on the hair color trend and trade in their dark tresses for something a little fairer. When I was a teen there was Mary J. Blige, Lil Kim and Faith Evans. More recently it’s been Nicki Minaj, Ciara and Ashanti.

I’ll be the first to admit everything isn’t for everybody.  But for the most part when done right blonde on black can be very flattering. But of course whenever a woman makes a bold statement regarding her own beauty there will be critics to remind her she doesn’t make the rules. Because of course every woman who dyes her hair blonde wants to be a white-washed, sun-kissed surfer from Pasadena.

Now the truth is some of us look like fools. That trendy red lip or bubblegum pink pout is a fail for some. But the great thing about beauty is that it is in the eye of the beholder. And the quicker we stop letting everyone but black women decide black beauty for women, the better off we’ll be. Every woman that buys a pack of #27 remi doesn’t want to be Marilyn Monroe, just like every woman with blue highlights doesn’t aim to be Marge Simpson.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t exactly understand women in general’s obsession with Marilyn Monroe. It’s not only black women; Lindsay Lohan, Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears and Mariah Carey are just a few of the artists who have portrayed the late actress in photo spreads or performances. Nicki Minaj did a small tribute to her in an issue of XXL magazine and even has a song of the same name in which she raps:

“Sometimes I feel like Marilyn Monroe, I’m insecure, yeah I make mistakes.”

I think Nicki makes a good point. I‘m willing to argue that many woman not only admire Monroe’s apple pie “all-American” beauty, but can identify with her story as well. Monroe’s story is that of many superstars: The tale of an industry that builds up celebrities based on their beauty (and sometimes their talent) and doesn’t make any extra effort to intervene while watching them inevitably breakdown beneath their demons. Maintaining the balance between inner and outer beauty is a struggle that all women can identify with: blonde, brunette and everything in between.

Blonde with blues eyes is just another fad like big booties and small waists and tattoos and piercings. Our community needs to be a little less critical about what one another look like and pay more attention to other underlying issues. The truth is every woman who wants to rock a blonde bob from time to time doesn’t have a secret wish to be white. I grew up looking at beauty icons like Lisa Bonet, Chaka Khan and Aaliyah. Marilyn Monroe was just one example of American beauty, not the only one and the sooner we allow little girls to expand their definitions of the word, the less eager we’ll be to accuse each other of self-hate just because someone doesn’t want to rock an afro and a dashiki. I’ll admit, some of us have some deep seeded issues, but some of us just get easily bored with narrow definitions of beauty.

I can’t argue that there are plenty of black beauty icons to go around from Lena Horne to Lupita N’yongo, but if blonde hair and blue eyes are what some of our women look up to, does it honestly have to be that deep? Will we crucify women who tan their skin and crop their hair in an effort to look like Lupita if that’s what we begin to glorify? I don’t think black women or any women for that matter aim to be Marilyn Monroe as much as they aim to just be seen as beautiful. And as long as we keep allowing the media and corporations to decide exactly what that means, the longer we will chase it whether it’s blonde hair with blue eyes or hydrogel inflated booties. What’s most important is that women are able to embrace the many definitions of beauty and not just what the media, a man or their own “brothers and sisters” tells them is acceptable.

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.

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