November 24, 2008

It’s Nice To See A Brown Girl Get Some Attention

In the December 1 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands November 24), "The Meaning of Michelle," Allison Samuels examines how Michelle Obama will change the stereotype of African-American women when she becomes first lady. Plus: Obama and FDR's influence; growing up in the White House; the crisis in D.C.'s public schools; the importance of China; photos from the Congo; the development of next-generation batteries; Rachel Maddow's rise to fame; and Michelle Williams on her new movie and Heath Ledger.  (PRNewsFoto/NEWSWEEK)

In a cover story by Allison Samuels that includes the following very meaningful passage…

As my brunch friends and I continued talking about Michelle, our conversation wandered into one area we seldom discuss, even among our families and closest confidantes. Michelle is not only African-American, but brown. Real brown. In an era when beauty is often defined on television, in magazines and in movies as fair or white skin, long straight hair and keen features, Michelle looks nothing like the supermodels who rule the catwalks or the porcelain-faced actresses who hawk must-have cosmetics. Yet now she’s going to grace the March cover of Vogue magazine—the ultimate affirmation of beauty.

Who and what is beautiful has long been a source of pain, anger and frustration in the African-American community. In too many cases, beauty for black women (and even black men) has meant fair skin, “good hair” and dainty facial features. Over the years, African-American icons like Lena Horne, Dorothy Dandridge, Halle Berry and Beyoncé—while beautiful and talented—haven’t exactly represented the diversity of complexions and features of most black women in this country.

That limited scope has had a profound effect on the self-esteem of many African-American women, including me. “When I see Michelle Obama on the cover of magazines and on TV shows, I think, Wow, look at her and her brown skin,” said Charisse Hollands, a 30-year-old mail carrier from Inglewood, Calif., with flawless ebony skin. “And I don’t mean any disrespect to my sisters who aren’t dark brown, but gee, it’s nice to see a brown girl get some attention and be called beautiful by the world. That just doesn’t happen a lot, and our little girls need to see that—my little girl needs to see it.”

… I thought it was quite contradictory — and a lost opportunity — that this cover was black-and-white … and Michelle is so (bathed in) light.



(image: still researching)

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Michael Shaw
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