Dark Woman, Phenomenal Woman
25 years on this planet and I still haven't quite figured it out.
How do you accept yourself, when you don't fit any of society’s standards of beauty? How do you find the strength to call yourself beautiful when you're reminded on a daily basis that in the world's eyes, you are not?
From a young age I’ve struggled with accepting my complexion, and I really wish I could say that I’ve come to a point where I fully love myself but like anybody else who struggles with insecurity, I often hit speed bumps. Some days are much better than others.
I think people, even black people, tend to dismiss the struggles associated with being dark-skinned as something of “the past” but I’d make the argument that those who feel that way are extremely privileged. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “dark-skinned women are just less attractive” or how it makes me feel when people consciously (or subconsciously) associate the “ideal woman” with skin tones akin to that of Beyonce or Kerry Washington.
This past summer, I’ve been studying Chinese in Beijing where saying things like “You’ve tanned!” is an insult. Being dark here, more so than any other place I’ve lived in, is a handicap. It’s synonymous with ugly. It’s re-ignited a lot of the insecurities that I thought I had dealt with in the past. Every single day I wake up here, I know that in everybody’s eyes by virtue of my skin color, I am ugly. It’s really difficult to dissociate these warped societal standards with the feelings I have about myself.
But every day, I pray and I think about how blessed I am. My skin color is a reflection of my heritage, which I am incredibly proud of. I am the daughter of two amazing Cameroonian parents. I come from a lineage of activists, fighters, of feminists, of go-getters.
When put in this context, associating my skin color with “ugly” doesn’t feel right. I can’t change how people think but I can change how I let others’ thoughts influence my own. I don’t need society’s approval to approve of myself.
I’m definitely a work in progress but every day gets easier than the next: I was nicknamed Julie “LaJolie” for a reason.
‘Cause I am a dark woman. Phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, That’s me.