You can’t walk down the street these days without seeing a black woman crowned with her own natural hair. Marvel’s upcoming film, Spiderman: Homecoming features two black female love interests starring opposite Tom Holland. Other films featuring black women like Hidden Figures stormed the box office, while our stories continue to be brought to the small screen by black female creators like Issa Rae, Ava DuVernay, and Michaela Coel. Beyoncé, a black woman, is one of the most famous and influential woman in the world, as is Michelle Obama, the former First Lady of the Free World. Never before, as black women, have we had it so good. #BlackGirlMagic reigns supreme!
Understanding the trend of black beauty is somewhat challenging, as only a decade ago, it was considered a beauty faux pas for a black woman to be seen in public without a weave or hair extensions. So ashamed were we of our hair, we would relax, straighten , blow dry, and even hide it at all costs. Around this time, the natural hair trend became a movement, and the black community worldwide began to celebrate all things African again. We began wearing those colourful scarves on our heads once more, just as we began to adorn ourselves with jewellery from the motherland. Black men who had, for decades, been indoctrinated to shave off their hair in shame began wearing it thick, long, and proud. Those big, round butts and thick thighs some of us grew up despising suddenly become the sought after ideal of beauty in women of all races and colour. How wonderful to be part of the first generation of black society that isn’t taught that blackness equates otherness and, worse, ugliness.
Who can forget Angela Davis’ big , thick, curly afro, or the 1968 Olympics Black Power Salute of Tommie Smith and John Carlos? These people fought the political fight, yet their struggle helped us reach our present position. Without Smith’s and Carlos’ fists raised in the air, and other such decisions of bravery, we would not understand this current trend for accepting black beauty. These great fighters demanded equality for black people in a white world, and slowly, those powerful waves of black political struggle crashed into the social and the cultural sphere of the mainstream.
On the other hand, history is famous for eventually integrating the outsiders into the mainstream. A decade ago, plus sized people were invisible in mainstream culture, yet fat acceptance becomes ever more prominent today. This decade has also witnessed the prominence of gay culture and gay politics into society’s mainstream. With the Gay Rights Movement continuously linked to the Black Rights Movement, it shows no sign of ever being reverted. Yet, if last decades’ beauty ideal as the skinny white woman could be so massively overturned to today’s ideal of the thick, brown woman, could it be possible for this trend of black beauty to be eventually overturned?
The answer does not lie in the society at large, but within our communities. We stopped waiting around for the media to tell us we were beautiful just the way we were, and we began to love our big butts and gravity-defying hair. We demanded that the world take us just as we are, and soon, others began to appreciate, and even imitate, our ideals of beauty. There is no “trend” of accepting black beauty. There is only a “standard” of accepting black beauty. We cannot allow our beauty to be defined as “ugly” once again.