When I turned on my TV and watched commercials of women who are super thin, blonde, tanned, and flawless, I barely flinched. Those images were not my reality, not my problem.
However, as I watched shows like Love and Hip-Hop Atlanta or 106 & Park, I couldn’t help but wonder what the industry puts in the water to produce black women who are “thick” in all the right places and don’t have anything less than a Coke bottle shape.
It’s not the water I should have been worried about – it was my perception of the images that I thought physical appearance should represent.
Since I was about 12 years old, I obsessed about being thick. I define “thick” as being proportionally curvy, tiny waist, flat stomach, and…just turn on MTV or BET and you’ll see exactly what I am talking about.
Being thick wasn’t an option for me; it was a life mission. My pursuit for bodily perfection introduced me to a lack of confidence, depression, and an eating disorder throughout my teens and early adulthood.
By the time you read this paragraph, you may have realized one of two things: A) She’s crazy, black girls don’t have eating disorders or B) She’s absolutely right, being a certain size, conforming to what the world believes a black woman should look like can (or does) ruin your life.
Black girls have eating disorders whether you would like to believe it or not. A 2013 study shows that African-American females are more likely to practice Binge Eating Disorders (BED), which is the consumption of large portions of food over a short time period accompanied by feelings of a lack of control of eating habits.
The study also shows that African-American women watch a hell of a lot more television than their Caucasian counterparts, thus invoking more exposure to body types that aren’t realistic for a majority of its viewers.
Some of us skip meals and purchase body wraps to get a desirable waist size, and some of us indulge in eating every type of carb available, hoping that our stick figures will evolve into a full-figured body type irresistible to any and every man that crosses our path.
Our society paints a picture that if you can’t step out your house with a body like Beyoncé or K. Michelle, then you must be doing something wrong.
God did everything right.
Never question why you were created the way you are because an alteration is a declaration of discontentment. If you are dissatisfied with what you have, you will become unhappy with your tireless efforts to change things that weren’t meant to be changed. This is a statement that goes for ANYONE, regardless of the skin you are in.
It took a long time for me to accept being 5’4, 120 pounds, barely out of an A cup bra, and not much cushion behind me. It wasn’t disappointing to realize I would never be the women I see on TV; it was a relief.
Michelle Tillis Lederman, author of The 11 Laws of Likability said her father once told her “the world is a mirror.” This simply means, what you show the world, is what the world will show you.
The world (as in mainstream media) shows us a perception of what body type all women should aspire have and as Miss Representation, a 2011 documentary, points out, most of the things we see on television are not representative of a female-point-of-view as most of the agenda setters are men (More than 80 percent to be exact).
Why chase an image created by someone that doesn’t even share the same reproductive parts as you? Why go through changes that will temporarily provide happiness but won’t permanently get rid of bruises and blemishes created throughout your lifetime?
In the beginning, I said that being blonde and thin wasn’t my problem. That was then, and this now.
White, black, or brown –WHATEVER color you are doesn’t matter when you are a woman. We are all beautiful, yet all manipulated to believe that our physical make-up is flawed. I realize that even though two very different images are presented among Caucasian and African-Americans in the media, we all face the same struggle to accept who we are.
Turn off the TV. Block out the music. Celebrate your curves, skin and bones, beauty marks, crooked smiles, kinky hair, breasts, butts, and whatever blessing you think is a flaw.
It may be hard, but it’s worth your confidence and your sanity. If you already have it together, encourage someone else to drop the perception and accept the person looking back at them in the mirror without interference from distractions that diminishes the quality of a woman’s existence beyond her physical appearance.