Actress Amandla Stenberg

The Importance of #BlackGirlMagic

This was originally a Facebook note and is simply being republished here.

Lately I’ve been seeing #BlackGirlMagic trending, and I’ve been sharing more and more photos of beautiful black women. I do in fact follow a lot of accounts dedicated to the beauty of black women, both on Facebook and Instagram, so I’m fairly used to this. However, many people might not know why this is so important.

Actress Laverne Cox

The thing is, black women throughout history were perceived as ugly. Go to Google images and search “pretty”, and you will see so many white women before a black woman, and even then we still don’t see many other women of colour. Now if you search “ugly”, you’ll see black people immediately. This isn’t a criticism of Google, but society. In many countries around the world, there’s an explicit emphasis on lighter skin, as there are literally ads for skin lightening creams. As a child I remember colouring pictures of little girls using a specific brown crayon that wasn’t “too dark”. I had Bratz dolls and chose Yasmin over Sasha because I thought Sasha was “too dark”.

Actress Lupita Nyong’o

The thing is, being a black girl wasn’t just an issue of worrying that I was “too dark” for some people’s liking. As a teenager I spent hours reading articles and watching videos about how black women are unattractive and ultimately undateable. That we were the demographic group that the least amount of people were attracted to. These articles and videos weren’t just made by white people, but people of all races. I remember reading about how Asians have more “feminine” features, and now Africans had naturally more “masculine features”. What were these features you may ask? Dark skin, a broad nose, and pretty much everything that differentiates black people from non-black people. Which of course, is ridiculous. An entire race of people should not be associated with a gender especially since there’s more than one gender in that race. Of course, I didn’t get angry about this stuff when I had read it at 13 or 14 years old. Instead, I just accepted that people would see me as ugly because my skin is too dark, my hair is too curly, and my nose is too broad.

YouTuber Kat Blaque

When I started wearing makeup and looking at makeup tutorial videos, I saw a lot of anti-blackness there too. I noticed this when I learned that I was supposed to make my nose look more narrow, and make my skin look lighter. This was the message I was getting from both the black and white YouTubers. When actually doing makeup, it took me forever to actually look for a foundation because I knew it would be a struggle finding a colour that actually matched my skintone, despite the fact that the makeup aisle of any store is guaranteed to have fifty shades of beige. Even when watching Buzzfeed videos of women getting their makeup done, there was almost always an issue of not making the black woman (and in some instances, other women of colour) look as good as she could have been. I’ve heard of black models complain that makeup artists in fashion shows don’t know how to do makeup on them, and so they have to bring their own makeup which must be annoying as hell. Buzzfeed recently brought out a few videos about black women trying nude fashion, which emphasized that the beauty industry pretty much doesn’t cater to us.

Daysha and Freddie from Buzzfeed

The beauty of #BlackGirlMagic and #BlackIsBeautiful is that it undoes the harmful messages I received and have taken in from my childhood and adolescence about a part of me that not only can I not control, but I can’t even hide. And I shouldn’t be hiding my blackness when I can embrace it. By showing that black is beautiful, this helps black girls and black women to love themselves, even though things in the media and online are telling them that they shouldn’t. Just like how we need to show that big, curvy women are beautiful, when society tells us that in order to model and be beautiful and be loved that you have to be thin. It took me quite some time to realize that black women are beautiful because I didn’t feel that I myself was beautiful, but I’m glad I reached that point and every new #BlackGirlMagic photo that I see on social media just reaffirms that.

Stating that black women are beautiful doesn’t harm anyone, but it sure helps a whole lot.