11 Year old Me if I had money — The case for Lil’ Kim

Recently everyone has been commenting about Lil Kim’s updated body modification. Her skin is porcelain and fair, far from the deep brown she was born with. Her hair bleached blonde like a Swede, cascading down in blinding waves. She even had blue contacts, which changed her face into an unfamiliar one.

To see such a transformation is jarring to the senses. But the naysayers don’t know, that Lil’ Kim would be 11 year old me if I had money.

At age 9, I discovered what cute boys were. By age 11 I was a stir boy crazy. I distinctly remember my first crushes were Jason Scott Lee from the Bruce Lee biopic and the guy who played Calogero in a Bronx Tale. I stayed in my head fantasizing daily — wanting to be the girl at the end, the one that was worth it all. Reality has never been that simple. I was never liked by the black and brown boys because I was too thin and too black. I was never liked by the white boys because I was too black, period. I also had eczema covering most of my body, a sad and shy disposition and poor raggedy clothes. I was enamored by so many boys at such a young age and realized fast and quick that I wasn’t their type. I was told I was burnt. No one wanted to touch my skin, in case the blackness and eczema was somehow contagious. I was treated at a young age like a pariah because of who I am and how I existed in the world. I hated myself, for so long. For so many years I interrogated every part of my flesh, wishing it was smoother, brighter, lighter, whiter. Smoother, brighter, lighter, whiter.

Lil Kim would be 11 year old me if I had money. Because 11 year old me was told her hair was nappy and ugly. 11 year old me fantasized about replacing her thick brown hair with blonde flowing follicles that shined brightly in the sun. 11 year old me wanted to wash away every scab and deep seed of melanin and reveal light, creamy skin and light eyes. Why wouldn’t I feel this way? Why wouldn’t she? When all we ever see as black women is how ugly society thinks we are? How replaceable we are? How undesirable? How we are only worthy if we are enduring pain and suffering for the sake of everyone but ourselves?

11 year old me turned into 16 year old me, who started to actually bleach. Bleaching products are sold at every beauty supply store in every hood. Why wouldn’t we try? Why wouldn’t we attempt to fit into the narrow boxes? Why wouldn’t we obsess over diets, workouts, asses, breasts, waists, lips, brows, hair and complexion? When that is the only place society thinks our worth lies.

Lil Kim’s experience is not juvenile, but incredibly sincere. White Supremacy is the ruling force in our world — yet everyone criticizes when black women buckle under it? If we confirm? If we try to fit in? If white is perfect and beautiful, and you are black, what does that make you? And what does that mean for you and your identity? These are real things I have felt before in my life. I am at a place now where I embrace my blackness more than ever before, because 19 year old me stopped bleaching. At age 24 I now love my complexion, my hair, my heritage. And I am willing to admit that I am quick to anger when I believe other black folk don’t feel the same. But seeing Lil Kim made me go back to that place. That place where I was truly lost in my identity. Where I didn’t want to be black because the world told me they didn’t want me to be black. The world tells me everyday, still. But all I can do is stay black. Every black person has the psychological burden of white supremacy, and how it seeps through how we feel about ourselves. Not every black person learns how to cope. We shouldn’t judge, because we all are succumb to the pressures of assimilation, and perhaps we would if we had more money. 11 year old me sure would have.

When we see people make drastic decisions we should only pull them closer, for they are fighting a battle we might not understand. I write this for empathy and understanding. Black women deal with deep seeded body image issues and need support in any decision they make. We should be dismantling white supremacy, not the victims of it.

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