Pretty…For A Dark-Skinned Girl

Pretty…For A Dark-Skinned Girl

I came across this article in InStyle Magazine and felt compelled to share.  I’m not surprised of the prevalence of colorism in my race (the black race), because I’m aware of the history and how deep rooted it is, however the levels of emotional and psychological effects it has on the black community are astounding, (diminishing self-esteem in young girls often times even before they reach school age).  It is time we shatter this asinine way of thinking.  Kahlana couldn’t have said it better; beauty transcends physical features. When you know who you are on the inside, it radiates on the outside. That’s what makes you beautiful.  It has absolutely nothing to do with the shade of ones skin.

BY: KAHLANA BARFIELD BROWN
Fashion and Beauty Editor-at-Large Kahlana Barfield Brown opens up about how she cultivated self-love in the face of persistent colorism—and why we should all resist the term “classic beauty.” This feature originally appeared in the April issue of InStyle.

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Posters. In middle school my bedroom walls were covered with them. Literally, from top to bottom. R&B stars mostly. I’d lie on my bed listening to music and stare at them for hours. Janet Jackson. TLC. Aaliyah. All of them pretty. All of them successful. All of them light-skinned. Besides my family, these were the women I idolized. I bought their albums. Mimicked their dance moves. And tried my best to duplicate their wardrobes. I wanted to be just like them. But every time I looked in the mirror, I was reminded I wasn’t. My nose was wider. My lips were fuller. And my skin was darker. Much darker.

I’ll never forget the day I was formally introduced to colorism (i.e., prejudice or discrimination against individuals with darker skin tones, typically among people of the same racial or ethnic group). I was in the seventh grade. I thought an upperclassman I had a crush on was paying me a compliment. “You’re pretty,” he said. Before I could fix my lips to say thank you, he finished his sentence: “for a dark-skinned girl.” I’d never felt so humiliated and degraded in my life. Crazy thing is, the guy who made the comment was darker than me. I couldn’t understand it. Why couldn’t I just be pretty? Why did I have to be pretty—for a dark-skinned girl? I was on the honor roll. Captain of the cheerleading team. And none of it seemed to matter. He couldn’t see past my complexion. In fact, a lot of guys couldn’t. Time and time again, I was overlooked in favor of my lighter-skinned besties. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t affect me. I just chose not to let it define me. I wish I could say that that day back in middle school was the last time I heard the phrase “pretty—for a dark-skinned girl.” Sadly, it wasn’t.

From that day forward I consciously began to mask my insecurities with fashion. My sense of style would take on a life of its own. I made my own clothes. Wore my nails long and dramatic. My hair was ever-changing: braids one day and a bob the next. My style had become a big part of my identity. I used my uniqueness to amplify my beauty. I became popular for “being myself.” But still, I couldn’t help but wonder why my skin color was viewed by many as inferior to that of my lighter-skinned friends. Why wasn’t there one celebrity in the limelight as dark as me who was considered beautiful? On the outside I appeared as confident as anyone, but inside I had to do some serious soul-searching and reflect on what exactly beauty meant to me.

In college at Howard University, I learned in an African-American history class that colorism has been around since long before I felt the sting of that boy’s backhanded compliment. During the 18th and 19th centuries, darker-skinned slaves were forced to work in the field, whereas their fair-skinned counterparts had the “privilege” of working indoors. Even as recently as the 20th century, African-American fraternities and sororities would use what was called a “brown paperbag test” to determine whether a person could join their organization. If you were darker than the paperbag, you were denied. It’s heartbreaking to think that if I had attempted to pledge a sorority back then, I would have been denied simply because my skin was too dark.

Thankfully, I was raised in a household where I was taught to be proud of my skin tone. “Black is black,” my grandmother would say. “And your black is beautiful.” My parents had three daughters. My older sister and I have similar complexions, but my younger sister is a shade or two lighter. So whenever we’d step out together, it was only a matter of time before colorism reared its ugly head. “The baby girl is the cutest of the bunch,” people would casually say. My little sister, who never wanted to be viewed as “better” or different from the two older sisters she revered, began to feel uncomfortable in her own skin.

From left: Kahlana with her sisters, Katrice and Keuna

From left: Kahlana with her sisters, Katrice and Keuna

As a young girl it’s hard not to internalize these messages. But when there’s no Barbie doll that looks like you, it’s difficult to find beauty in your own reflection. What do you do when even some members of your peer group feel that in order to make it in corporate America you need to straighten your hair instead of wearing it natural? I had to make a decision. In the end, what felt right for me was accepting myself for who I am and establishing my reputation based on my character and the merit of my achievements.

I’ve interviewed our current cover girl, Lupita Nyong’o, many times, and we’ve had long conversations about growing up dark-skinned. Although she was publicly recognized as beautiful from the moment she broke out with her Oscar-winning role in 12 Years a Slave, she, like many of us dark-skinned women, also felt insecure about her complexion when she was growing up. “It wasn’t until I saw model Alek Wek in a magazine that I thought I was pretty,” Nyong’o told me once. “I had never seen anyone who looked like us lauded as beautiful by the international media; it floored me when she hit the scene.” Now Nyong’o is having that same impact on girls today. The moment she was named the first black face of Lancôme, the news went viral on social media. “I feel I’m in a place of privilege—an important place, considering how media consciously and subconsciously affects how we feel about ourselves,” she told me. “I’m particularly honored to be a role model for girls with my skin color—to help them feel more beautiful and validated.”

I have worked as an editor at InStyle for many years, and I was moved to tears when Viola Davis was booked for our cover this past January. Although InStyle is dedicated to promoting a diversity of images (five out of 12 of our covers in 2015 were women of color), Davis hit home for me. I see myself in her beauty.

Last September I read an article in The New York Times about Davis being cast for the leading role in How to Get Away with Murder: “The actress doesn’t look at all like the typical star of a network drama,” the writer pointed out. “Ignoring the narrow beauty standards some African-American women are held to, [Shonda] Rhimes chose a performer who is older, darker-skinned, and less classically beautiful than Kerry Washington, or for that matter, Halle Berry.” To me this was the quintessential example of colorism.

What makes a person “classically beautiful”? In middle school, I couldn’t answer that question. But this morning, when I looked in the mirror, I was staring at the answer. Beautiful is unapologetically chocolate skin. My grandmother’s full lips. My mother’s high cheekbones. My father’s light-brown eyes.

Beauty transcends physical features. When you know who you are on the inside, it radiates on the outside. That’s what makes you beautiful. Not just beautiful for a dark-skinned girl—but beautiful as a person. And I don’t need a poster on my wall to prove that.

The History

Slave-owners were partial to light-skinned slaves because they were often family members. Slave-owners frequently engaged in sexual intercourse with slave women, and light-skinned offspring were the telltale signs of these unions. While slave-owners did not officially recognize their mixed-race children as blood, they gave them privileges that dark-skinned slaves did not enjoy. Accordingly, light skin came to be viewed as an asset among the slave community, while darker-skinned black people where often discounted, and this way of thinking was adopted with-in our own race…a discrimination that I feel should be fought with the same urgency as racism, because that is exactly what it is.

Thanks for visiting…and have an awesome day!

Springing Forward

‘Tis The Season

Isn’t it beautiful…Tis The Season of Rebirth…The parade of flowering trees and shrubs displaying their colorful blooms…Nature at its best!  So time sprang a week ago today, and with the days a little longer and the sun a little warmer, I’m springing as well…Yes indeed...although we may be experiencing a couple of days of unseasonably low temperatures…I’m excited about this Seasons Fashion Forecast and I’m moving forward…This weekend I greeted Spring in an ensemble by Alice and Olivia.  In recognition of bare-shoulders being the trendsation of the season, I thought I’d don this off-the-shoulder denim blouse with these dainty double-ruffled sleeves and co-ordinating high-waisted wide leg pant in chambray.  What I love about these pieces; other than the obvious…is they’re great for transitioning, not just for Spring but well into the Summer.  To compliment the look, I find fun-chic accessories like this frayed denim shoulder bag and this straw hat that can be worn from the Beach to the Derby and beyond, and paired them with a denim three-strap sandal.  Classy-Casual-Comfort at its best!

Springing Forward

Springing Forward

Springing Forward

Springing Forward

Springing Forward

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Pant: Alice + Olivia | Blouse: Alice + Olivia | Hat: Vineyard Vines | Shoes: Giuseppe Zanotti | Jewelry: Brighton | Bag: Michael Kors

Thanks for visiting…and enjoy this first day of Spring!

Camouflaging Details

Camouflaging Details

Camouflaging Detail

Out and about enjoying this beautiful prequel to Spring in my new favorite jeans.  If you know me or follow my blog, you get by now that nothing can come between this Girl and her jeans.  I will make a pair of jeans approprié for any occasion…so to say I love a good pair of jeans (comfortable and stylish) is merely an understatement.  I wear them all; skinnies, boyfriends, wide & flair-legged, coated, painted, patched, distressed and destroyed…and just when I think I’ve slayed them all, the innovative-creativity with-in the powers that be, subtly incorporate camouflage in such a way that is nothing less than jeanius!  I stumbled upon this particular pair of jeans and immediately thought; how wonderful a marriage they would make with my camouflage platform’s and this military inspired trench vest I recently purchased from Tar-zhay: Targets in faux French). There’s something to be said about the feeling you get when the look you pulled together in your head turns out just so.

Camouflaging Detail

Camouflaging Detail

Camouflaging Detail

Camouflaging Detail

Camoulaging Details

Camouflage Details

Camouflage Details

Shop The Post

Trench Vest: Who What Wear | Jeans: Denim Supply & Co | Shoes: Saint Laurent | Jewelry: Kendra Scott | Eyewear: Kate Spade

  The chic and smart; Who What Wear Collection is now available on target.com and in Target stores.  A substantial selection of classic staples mixed in with on-trend pieces ranging in size from 2 to 26 and all priced under $50.

Thanks for visiting… and have an awesome day!

Don’t You Just Love A Floppy Brim Hat

Don’t You Just Love A Floppy Brim Hat

Floppy Brim Hat

Don’t you just love a Floppy Brim Hat!  With its effortless style, this ideal accessory is a wardrobe must.  Functional for every season as it provides great sun protection, and is definitely a great go-to for those bad hair days.  Its easy fold-and-stow capability makes it packable friendly so you’re always fashionably chic wherever you go.

Floppy Brim Hat

Floppy Brim Hat

Thanks for visiting…and have an awesome day!

Treat Your Heart Sweet

In Honor of American Heart Awareness Month, Heres a Heart Healthy Elegant Valentines Day Breakfast To Make For Your Someone Sweet

What can be cozier than a delicious heart healthy breakfast in bed this Valentines Day morning (or any morning).  Heart disease affects more than six million american women, and another 37 million are at risk for developing heart disease. It is the #1 killer of women and is responsible for deaths in 1 & 3 women annually, however it’s 80% preventable. What better time than now to begin being sweet to our hearts.

Salmon & Asparagus Egg Omelet with Stuffed French Toast, mixed fruit and Peach Bellini

Salmon & Asparagus Egg Omelet with Stuffed French Toast, Mixed Fruit and a Peach Bellini

 

Omelet: Heat medium pan over medium heat. Coat with cooking spray. I small bowl, whisk together 2 eggs and 2 TBS milk. Pour into heated pan, season with salt and pepper to taste. Once cooked through, gently fold omelet in half. From one end, fold over one-third of the omelet. Roll again to make a 3-fold square. Asparagus: Cut 2 inches off the bottom, discard the ends. In a pot of boiling water, blanch asparagus 3 mins. Quickly remove form boiling water and place in ice water to to stop cooking. Salmon: Cut 4 pieces of smoked salmon and roll into a rose. Drizzle Bolthouse Cilantro Avocado Yogurt Dressing over the entire dish.

Omelet: Heat medium pan over medium heat. Coat with cooking spray.
In a small bowl, whisk together 2 eggs and 2 TBS milk. Pour into heated pan, season with salt and pepper to taste. Once cooked through, gently fold omelet in half. From one end, fold over one-third of the omelet. Roll again to make a 3-fold square.
Asparagus: Cut 2 inches off the bottom, discard the ends. In a pot of boiling water, blanch asparagus 3 mins. Quickly remove from boiling water and place in ice water to stop cooking.
Salmon: Cut 4 pieces of smoked salmon and roll into a rose.
Drizzle Bolthouse Cilantro Avocado Yogurt Dressing over the entire dish.                                                                                 Adapted by Her, Recipe Courtesy of Chef Gerardo Hernandez

 

Stuffed French Toast: In a bowl combine 1 egg white, 1/4 tsp of cinnamon and 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract. Dip Ezekiel Bread into mixture and grill on both sides. In a separate bowl whisk together Laughing Cow Original Swiss cheese, strawberry preserves and Greek yogurt. On one slice of grilled bread layer cheese mixture and strawberries. Top with second slice of grilled bread and garnish with strawberry, 2 TBS sugar-free pancake syrup and mint.

Stuffed French Toast: In a bowl combine 1 egg white, 1/4 tsp of cinnamon and 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract. Dip Ezekiel Bread into mixture and grill on both sides. In a separate bowl whisk together Laughing Cow Original Swiss cheese, strawberry preserves and Greek yogurt. On one slice of grilled bread layer cheese mixture and strawberries. Top with second slice of grilled bread and garnish with strawberry, 2 TBS sugar-free pancake syrup and mint.                                                                                         Adapted by Her, Recipe Courtesy of Chef Gerardo Hernandez

 

Breakfast in Bed

Thanks for visiting…and Have A Happy Valentines Day!

Feeling Blue

Tszujing up a Corduroy Blazer

Hello Fashionista’s, I hope your Friday is shaping up to be as bright as mines.  I woke up feeling blue (in a good way); full of energy and excitement, in part because it’s Super Bowl Weekend and my Panthers have made it to the Super Bowl, giving the Carolina’s cause to celebrate. Also I’m meeting with a long time friend for a light lunch and some much-needed girl talk.  Initially I pulled out this vibrant corduroy (yes corduroy!) blazer to wear with jeans and a pair of black loafers, and though the color expressed the way I feel today…the shoes not so much!  So I decided to tszuj up my look with a silk scarf to compliment the blazer and these suede platforms that make me feel like I’m on top of the world…it’s definitely a Glamsual Friday!

 

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Social Butterfly

If you’re reading this blog, I assume you tweet, or update your status, or pin to a pin-board or maybe Instagram a photo once in a while.  For whatever reasons the girlfriend I’m lunching with today does not engage in social media what-so-ever…in fact she considers it to be the antichrist. I remember a time not so long ago (about 2 years) when I myself was anti-social media.  I’d heard so many terrifying stories that I was determined I would never participate in such cult-like shenanigans (Never say never!).  It was actually my children that convinced me, though I already had a website for my business, they kept riding me to open a Facebook account.  “It’s the way of the world Ma.”…”Everybody’s on Facebook…even Grandma has a page.”…”It will only help your business.”…and so on and so on.  Eventually my daughter opened a Facebook Page for my business and shortly there after in the midst of my turning 50 evolution I opened a personal Facebook Page.  All of the fears that held me back, “It’s evil.” “I’m concerned about my privacy.” “It’s such a waste of time.” None of that held water.

Corduroy Blazer

I enjoy Pinterest because it’s therapeutic, I look at all the different inspiration boards as a variation of vision-boards, it’s also kinda like scrapbooking.  And for me Twitter is almost like an international News Paper; I can watch events unfold in real-time, like receiving a first hand alert when a protest movement is being born in 140-character bursts.  I normally get a good laugh from Instagram and all the hilarious Pop Culture Meme’s.

Corduroy Blazer

I engage for good reasons and also because if I don’t I would not be aware of relevant dates that are particularly important to my family and friends, most of whom don’t reside in the same city as I do.  I wouldn’t be able to see and share all of the beautiful pictures of our children and grandchildren’s lives as they grow up as quickly as I do on social media, or receive notifications for social events going on in and out-of-town, because they’ll assume I saw it on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Corduroy

Whats good is, I can tailor my social-media adventures to my taste and comfort level: If I only want my sisters to see my Instagram feed, set it to private and only receive their requests.  If I’d rather read tweets than tweet myself, I’m in good company-millions of users do the same.  You don’t have to commit to engaging everyday…unless you are drawing an income from it, for most of us our lives are too full, social-browsing and updating a couple of times a week is plenty…like anything else, indulge in moderation.  And if you test-drive Twitter or Facebook or anything else and don’t get the appeal, that’s fine, too.  The point is that you simply must try.  You owe it to yourself to remain relevant. You don’t want to fall out of touch because you’ve decided what is current no longer belongs to you.  Social media wont make you young. But letting the world leave you behind is what makes you old.

Corduroy Blazer

Courduroy Blazer

Blazer: Lauren by Ralph Lauren (no longer available| Jeans: RL Denim Supply & Co. | Platform Shoes: Prada

Thanks for visiting…and have an awesome day!

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