Naturally, Oprah Got it All Wrong

I thought Akiba had snuck on here with a post when I saw our last  headline was “Gabby. Work!” — like, look at her being up on the Olympics on our blog when I didn’t even know she was watching. Turns out, no, she was talking about a 2010 Elle cover of Gabby Sidibe, not the gymnast champion. Whatever the blog equivalent of cobwebs is, now’s the time to dust ours off and show small.medium.large a little bit of love.

Speaking of Gabby, I refuse to talk about a child’s hair on the internet or even to discuss that people were discussing a child’s hair on the internet. Anyone raised with a smidge of sense knows better than that.

However, I’m nowhere near above talking about Oprah’s hair. This “natural” hair that she is reportedly wearing on the new cover of O is not, as anyone with Black hair can attest to, “natural.” Or that’s what I thought…until Twitter and Facebook informed me that “natural” hair now means hair that you didn’t buy it. Oprah, via her magazine’s website, is publicizing this as natural because it is “…the first time ever, Oprah’s appearing on the cover of O without blow-drying or straightening her hair. She says that wearing her hair naturally—as she often does on weekends and on vacation—makes her feel unencumbered.”

Oprah, a child of the 60s from Mississippi who lived in Black Hair Capitals Baltimore and Chicago, knows that this is a real stretch of the word “natural.” Missing a date with the comb attachment on your blow dryer does not make your hair natural, it makes it un-blow dried. Oprah considered going for real natural with a close-cropped Camille Cosby look, but Bill told her she had the wrong-shaped head for all of that (mind your business, Bill, lest we start telling you that you have the wrong belly shape for all those tight sweaters). So instead we are left with this cover, where she looks more 80s crimped out than 70s Afro’d out.

I suspect Oprah is enjoying this. She has been looking for hair accolades for as far back as when she was wearing those green contacts on her show. In the early 90s she told us she’d always wanted “hair that moves.” Then, in the early 2000s she was so happy to have it, she told Chris Rock to stick his fingers in her roots to prove it was all hers. Everyone cites Tom Cruise trampolining on that couch, but the Root Feel-Up was the ultimate inappropriate moment of her talk show run.

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Connie. Gabby. Work!!!

Yesterday, as I was writing about Constance Jablonski’s blackface-with-a-random-Black-baby shoot, deja vu struck. Hard.

I was all like, “Is it that this chick looks like ‘fro’d out Claudia Schiffer on the cover of Stern Fotographie? Like French Vogue‘s shoe-polished Lara Stone? Al Jolson freaking “My Mammy”? Marsha Ambrosius?”

Then it hit me: Under the frankenlights of an ignorantly conceived and poorly executed photo shoot, the ruddy Frenchwoman Jablonski and a dark brown, Senegalese-American superstar by the name of Gaboure Sidibe are about the same complexion—chestnutty, with newborn baby poo undertones. Fashion magic!

Pantone, MAC, Sherwin-Williams: If you’re looking for a color-branding specialist, I’m available.


Filed under Blackface, crazy+racism=cracism, Shady lady stuff, Should be embarrassed, the devil's work, Uncategorized, Vogue

High fashion is confusing to Ak

a White model named Constance Jablonski. A Black child. Grass, ostensibly African grass..

This is a swipe from a recent Numéro magazine shoot. The French model, Constance Jablonski, usually looks like this:

Constance in her natural habitat

Now, if you’re a pedestrian size 8-to-10 like me, you may not have heard of Numéro before. According to its website, what may look like litter pan liner to you is actually an “international” magazine that offers “an avant-garde view of the worlds of fashion, art and luxury.”  Apparently, “both today’s icons and tomorrow’s master talents” contribute to Numéro.

In comparing the magazine’s stated mission to the clichéd, colonialist-porn pictured above, I got confused. I hate being confused. So for my own clarity, I jotted down a few questions:

1. What is Constance doing in this picture? Why is she wearing an afro wig circa Foxy Brown and brownface circa Soul Man?”

2. Why is that baby standing in dried grass damn-near naked when Constance is layered and aggressively accessorized?

3. Of the 17 covers crawling atop Numéro‘s homepage, why is there a White person on every single living, loving, motherfucking one? And of some 60 back issues for sale, why are there just two people of color on the covers? I mean, the White woman with bangs, the White woman in orange eyeshadow, the White woman in green eyeshadow, Kate Moss in turquoise eye shadow, the White man with black fishnet on his face, the White dude spitting water into the air, and Jude Law are perfectly lovely. They are. But doesn’t this seem strange to the current icons and future masters and avant-garde-y people of all stripes who rabidly consume high fashion and images of it?

If I come up with some sensible answers, I’ll let you know.

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Filed under Blackface, crazy+racism=cracism, Shady lady stuff, Should be embarrassed, stream of consciousness, Uncategorized

If there were a Pulitzer or Nobel Prize for body image work…

…this arresting photo essay by photographer Carl Bower would certainly be a contender. These 30 images and the accompanying text tell the story of a single mom named Diane who underwent a mastectomy, six months of chemo and breast reconstructive surgery. Diane is a hero. Not because she’s aggressively chipper, uncomplaining or stoic. This work is not a visual platitude. It’s real and the result is some serious beauty.

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Aiyana Stanley-Jones and Our Confused, Grieving Hearts

Ak wrote this for

Aiyana Stanley-Jones and Our Confused, Grieving Hearts.

Save the babies.

RIP Aiyana Stanley-Jones and Je’Rean Blake.  Justice and peace for these children’s families.

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Rape and resistance in Haiti, post-quake

From Ak:

I don’t have expertise or on-the-ground observations about the sexual violence or other conditions sisters are facing in Haiti’s post-quake tent cities. But some people do. Go to this site–please–to find out more.

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The cost of being a Strong Black Woman

Via my homie Carla Murphy, I came across this MS. interview with DePauw’s Tamara Beauboeuf-Lafontant, Ph.D., author of the new-ish book, Behind the Mask of the Strong Black Woman. The good doctor clarifies why the seemingly positive Strong Black Woman identity doesn’t serve us well:

A strong black woman is a woman who expresses a lot of fortitude, a deep wealth of caring and a lot of persistence—those can be seen as noble qualities. [But] they were used against us during slavery and I think they continued to be used against us by the white community and by black patriarchy. You can extort a lot of work from people who subscribe to the notion that they are strong and invulnerable. (Emphasis mine.)

What I love about this quote: She defines, in plain language, what the Strong Black Woman identity embodies. Then she places those positive, sensible and HUMAN traits within the perverse parameters of slavery, white supremacy (my term, not hers), and black patriarchy (her term, not mine; still sorting that out, will track back in another post). Good ish.

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Hurt people hurt people: The Jimi Izreal and Ak incident

Please listen to yesterday’s Micheal Eric Dyson radio program. I’m on there trying (unsuccessfully) to reframe the dialogue about Black women’s love lives with The Denzel Principle‘s Jimi Izreal without losing my ish.

It starts at about 33.01.

Juxtaposed with the preceding segment–an interview with Simeon Wright, who witnessed the August 28, 1955 kidnapping of his 14-year-old cousin, Emmett Till–my and Jimi’s exchange sounds so silly and cynical. To borrow a phrase from Raiyshe, a commenter from the Precious post, my spirit feels dirty.

I hope Jimi’s does too.


Filed under Choosing love, crazy+racism=cracism, double standards, Faux empowerment, the devil's work, Uncategorized

Good ish from Melissa Harris Lacewell and Courtney Young RE the “Why y’all iches can’t get a man” circus

Read the whole post on The Nation‘s “The Notion” blog.

If you don’t have time, this is my favorite part of Lacewell’s painstaking critique:

“But even if we accepted the simplistic framing of an extant marriage crisis offered by the program, Nightline was stunningly simplistic (even for mainstream media) in its response to the issue. The solution offered most frequently in Wednesday’s conversation was familiar: professional black women need to scale back expectations. Black female success is an impediment to finding and cultivating black love. Hinging heavily on humor and black female desperation, like so many other conversations, articles, and news programs before it, this conversation missed the opportunity to offer a thoughtful analysis of structural, sociological, historical and political realities that serve as an impediment to fruitful partnerships between black men and women.

For example, the panel failed to address the reality that black boy infants are significantly more likely to die in the first year of life than are black girl infants, creating an immediate gender imbalance. The panel did not address the devastating effects of urban violence or mass incarceration on African American communities. The panel did not mention the systematic nature of inadequate educational opportunities for black boys or the continuing realities of employment discrimination effecting black men and women. These structural realities have an enormous impact on the shape and function of families.”

JEAH! Erudite. Thorough. Idiot-proof.

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An aside about that Black women with jobs cain’t git a man show

Since no one signed on for the guest post (you know who you are!) I was going to try live-blogging about Nightline’s “Face-Off: Why Can’t a Successful Black Woman Find a Man?”

Sadly, I kept falling asleep.

The part I did see featured a very unmarried Hill Harper using Barack Obama as an example of the Black Everyman’s potential—you know, the stuff Sisters of the Big Shoulder Pad Tribe ignore because they’re too busy chasing upper middle class pipe dreams and Sapphiring out on blue-collar brothers.

Anyway, I was gonna wake up early and watch it online then do a catchup post. Except I was working on a bill-paying, old media assignment–about what men like in bed. (Ha!)

So now I’m  too late. Everything good to say about this essentializing, divisive, ahistorical, overly general fra fra has been said by the Crunk Feminist Collective and the Facebook pop-Womanist massive.

One teeny scrap I can’t resist riffing on:

The headline for the online version of the broadcast reads like this:

Nightline Face-Off: Why Can’t a Successful Black Woman Find a Man?

Sparks, Sincerity, Sass Fill Atlanta Auditorium in Seventh ‘Nightline Face-Off.

I understand the impulse to abuse alliteration (see?). But if you’re using the odious “sass” in reference to Black women–financially successful or otherwise–you don’t need to be selling ad space on our backs. Keep our romantic lives, our hair, our sexual health, our income, our weight, our desires, our souls, our fate out of your greedy, hype-riding mouths. You don’t really mean us well. So just stop it.


Filed under Barack Obama, Choosing love, crazy+racism=cracism, Faux empowerment, Should be embarrassed, stream of consciousness