I was in Shoppers Drug Mart a couple days ago. I glanced over the magazine display as I typically do. And then: I stopped dead in my tracks. I saw something I have never seen in my lifetime. There were seven Black women gracing the covers of seven very prominent mainstream magazines. This is a big deal.
There was a time when you would never have seen this ( ahem, a few months ago). To have one Black woman on these covers would have happened once in a decade, and until maybe 10 years ago, then once in a few years. Why? The response was that when Black models or celebrities were on the cover, less magazines were sold. I’m not sure how accurate that response was, I didn’t really believe it. It was just one of those excuses I filed away under Racism 101. And it’s not lost on me that they are appearing in the current climate, to support the awareness of anti-Black racism. And Vanity Fair has gone one step further to feature Breonna Taylor. The true test will be a year from now when it’s not at the forefront of the minds of mainstream society. But nonetheless, to see it brought a smile to my face.
We live in a society that traditionally uses physical characteristics as the basis to value women. And the standard of beauty – historically, considered the epitome of beauty by which all women are compared – is the Caucasian, blond, blue eyed, fair, straight hair woman. And if placed on a continuum of beauty, the opposite least valued are Black women’s features.
And in communities of colour, beauty is judged by how close one’s features are to Caucasian women, hence the issue of shadism. This is like comparing apples to oranges, makes no sense – how could one race’s standard of beauty be used as the universal standard? There is beauty in all races, all women.
Mindsets are changing as society becomes more open and exposed.
But let me be clear, within the Black and African diaspora, even with the influence of colonialism; there has always been a rich appreciation for the beauty of Black women. Magazines such as Ebony, Essence and various others have shown and highlighted the wide range of our unique beauty.