Archive for the ‘beauty’ Category

My favourite pictures from Le Coil. Five of these pictures have already appeared elsewhere on my blogs.

Nina Keita, Ivorian model

India Arie, American singer

Angela Davis, American professor

Jessika M’Bengue, French model

Pharah Y, Swedish clothes designer

Solange, American singer

“Frame” by Dawn Okoro, American artist

Res, an American singer, with Talib Kweli

Valerie June, American singer

Cassandra Wilson, American singer

Tara (model) and Nydia (graduate student) in Crown Heights, Brooklyn

Vintage hairstyles

Naimah, writer from the Lower East Side in New York

Alexandria, make-up artist from Soho, New York

Pictures by Brianna McCarthy, who blogs at Passion Fruit

Photo by Adam Tilman-Young

Photo by Laurent PIRAM

Karine, model from Guadeloupe

Sharri in Soho, New York, who blogs at The Brisk Convergence

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I am going to give this thing a second try, having failed to get my point across the other day when I wrote “Why black women are seen as ugly”. Fingers crossed:

Black women are not ugly, not hardly, yet many Americans seem to think so because they see them through racist eyes.

Mainstream American ideas of beauty are based on white women. Because whites run the fashion and film industries that affect what millions see as beautiful, even people of colour:

  • thin figure
  • pale skin
  • blue eyes
  • long, straight, flowing yellow hair
  • large breasts

Most black women fall well short of that. Not because they are ugly, but because that idea of beauty is not based on them.

This Hollywood idea of beauty is just a matter of taste. I know because I do not share it. I also know because White American ideas of beauty have themselves changed through the years. For example, Heidi Klum or Gwyneth Paltrow would have been considered ugly in the 1960s – an age when white beauties had lovely hourglass figures, like Brigitte Bardot and Raquel Welch.

Since it is just a matter of taste it cannot prove anything about the beauty of black women. Why should we suppose Hollywood’s taste for thin blondes is any better than, say, mine for thick black women with pretty eyes? But it does prove one thing: that despite the best efforts of Hollywood, millions of men still find black women to be beautiful.

Some think black women look too much like men. Yet, from what I can tell, black women in general have more of a womanly figure – one that clearly sets them off from men – than most white or Asian women.

Some think black women look too much like monkeys. That is kind of odd when it is white people who have so much in common with chimpanzees:

  • thin lips
  • straight hair
  • white skin

Strange how these are some of the very things black women are looked down on for not having.

These sort of beliefs about how black women look are not based on careful anatomical comparisons but flat-out racism that views black women as being neither truly human nor truly women.

Many of the black women you see in Hollywood are stereotypes: they are either too ugly or plain (Mammies), too mean (Sapphires) or too loose (Jezebels). Very few are women of grace and beauty. The effect is to make black women seem less desirable than they truly are. These stereotypes come from racism not from the “preferences” white people presumably have for the beauty of their own women.

This racism has absolutely nothing to do with the supposed ugliness of black women. It has everything to do with white people’s need to look down on blacks – so that they can feel good about themselves and their unjust position in society.

And that is why white people think the lips of Angelina Jolie look good on her but not on black women.

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Warning: Some will find this post offensive as it deals with some ugly racist thinking.

Black women are beautiful, but from the American media you would never know it. Maxim, Playboy and Vogue magazines, for example, make their living by showing beautiful women, yet show hardly any black women – as if they came from Sweden or Utah, not New York and Chicago.

Some possible reasons black women are seen as ugly:

  1. Black women look too much like men. Steve Sailer says it is because they have more muscle mass than women of other races. J Richards of majorityrights.com says it is because their jaws are too big. And so on.
  2. They look too much like monkeys and gorillas. It has been shown that white people in the back of their minds think of monkeys when they see black people. So you see even Michelle Obama compared to a gorilla.
  3. It is just a matter of preference. White people prefer the beauty of their own women. How does that make them different than any other race?
  4. The white lens. Most Americans, even those of colour, are brainwashed to some degree to prefer white beauty because of white control of the media and of the culture in general.
  5. Racial scripting. Whites are trained to notice blacks who fit their stereotypes. So they notice the Mammies (fat and ugly), the Jezebels (who look like prostitutes) and Sapphires (mean looking) while discounting the graceful and beautiful Sades and Phylicia Rashads of everyday life.
  6. Flat-out racism. Whites look down on black women so much they do not see them as women, missing their beauty.
  7. Envy. Deep down whites know that black women are better looking than they let on but do not want to admit it. So when Jennifer Lopez or Angelina Jolie have some feature of a black woman, it is called beautiful, but not when the same thing (only better!) appears on  a black woman. Or: when white women lay in the sun to darken their skin it makes them look better. Yet when a black woman is born with skin the very same colour it does not.

Uncle Milton, a white commenter on this blog from California who is intellectually honest, said this about the envy argument:

In my 48 years as a white male in the US, the number of white men seriously attracted to black women seems to be in the distinct minority. … for the most part white guys are attracted to white women (well ok.. a pretty significant minority are attracted to Asian women).

That matches what I have seen in New York: a white man can walk right by a beautiful black woman and not even seem to notice her. Like she is not there. She is on every black man’s radar but not his.

There is a bit of truth in some of these arguments but I think in the end it comes down to flat-out racism, which in turn drives most of the others.

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Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and to this beholder Halle Berry is hardly the most beautiful black woman in the world. I have several lists of beautiful women on this blog and people keep asking, “Where’s Halle?” So this keeps coming up. I will write my opinion in this post and point readers to it.

First of all, I do think Halle Berry is beautiful. I never said she was ugly and never would. I am not blind. I have thought she was beautiful ever since 1992 when I saw her in “Boomerang” (pictured). She was in “Jungle Fever” the year before but there she played a crack lady so her beauty was not apparent (not unless you thought about it).

So it is not a question of whether she is beautiful but only if she is the most beautiful. On that score I think there are plenty of black women who are better looking, like  Angela Bassett, Sade, Tyra Banks, Gabrielle Union and Lisa Bonet to take some better known examples.

Some women I just cannot tear my eyes off of – like Gabrielle Union, Lisa Bonet and Sanaa Lathan. Halle Berry does not affect me that way. So that is another way I know she is not the most beautiful, not to me.

When I look at Halle Berry I can tear my eyes off of her. She is pleasant to look at and has a nice smile, but there does not seem to be anything deep to it. When I look at her eyes I feel nothing. When I look at Lisa Bonet’s or Sade’s eyes, for example, I do feel something, they get to me, they draw me in. I generally like women with beautiful eyes and lips and a thick figure. Halle Berry has none of that.

Even in “Boomerang” itself I thought Robin Givens and certainly Lela Rochon were better looking (but not Grace Jones). Even Toni Braxton, who sang a song for the film, I thought was better looking.


Back then my judgement on the matter was much purer: Halle Berry was not yet a big name in Hollywood and I did not know she was half white, so those things could not affect my judgement.

It seems like what Beyonce is to music, Halle Berry is to black beauty: both seem to be pushed by Hollywood, their publicists or whoever, way beyond their merits. They are both good, but not that good. You wind up getting sick of them, almost hating them.

Hollywood seems to push Halle Berry as the height of black beauty. I mean, she is a black beauty, of course, but I cannot help but think that what they see in her is not her black beauty but her white beauty; that she is just another piece of their effort to push a sort of beauty that most certainly is white.

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sexual selection and race


According to Jared Diamond, author of “Guns, Germs & Steel” (1997), the races of mankind were shaped more by sexual selection – who we choose to have sex with – than by natural selection – the forces of nature determining how we look. Darwin said the same.

Take skin colour, for example. It seems like a straightforward case of natural selection: light skin is favoured in places with a weak sun to prevent rickets, while dark skin is favoured in the tropics to prevent skin cancer.

That makes sense, but it is not quite that simple – for two reasons:

  1. Almost no one dies of skin cancer young enough to affect having children. So it does not affect natural selection.
  2. The amount of sunlight a place receives does not quite match up with skin colour. The general pattern holds but there are plenty of places where the two do not fit, like Tasmania, the Amazon or parts of Africa.

For things like eye colour and hair the match-up is even worse. Why do people in Europe, for example, have blue eyes but nowhere else? The conditions in Europe are not that strange.

Diamond says that physical attraction, what we like physically in a mate, messes things up. Nature matters but sex does too: To have children you must not only live long enough in good health, you must also be desirable to the opposite sex.

That is why women have large breasts, for example: not because babies need it, but because it turns men on and helps to create the babies in the first place.

But what determines what turns men on? Is it something they are born with? Diamond says no: it comes from who you grew up with. We know that from studies done on birds: if a bird is raised by a different race, it will tend to mate with that race even when given a chance to mate with its own race.

It is not just birds. Diamond notices the same thing among Chinese American women: those who grew up among whites tend to marry white even when given a fair chance to marry Chinese. Likewise, those who grew up in Chinese neighbourhoods tend to marry Chinese American husbands even when given a reasonable chance to marry white.

180px-Founder_effectThat tells us why most people prefer their own race, but it does not tell us how the races arose to begin with.

Partly it is from the forces of nature, but mostly it is from the founder effect: humans spread across the earth in little bands. When a band settled in a new land, the genes of that band would have a huge effect on those who came after for thousands of years. That is why blonde hair is native to Europe but also to Australia. It was not because of the sun or anything, but because a few people in the bands that settled those places turned out to have blonde hair.

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Here are the world’s most beautiful East Asian women that I know of. As you will soon be able to tell, I live in America  and know next to nothing about film or music in East Asia. I count only women who are famous enough to have an article in the Wikipedia and who are at least part East Asian by blood (but not part black). I count South East Asia as part of East Asia.


1. Patricia Ford (1969- ) was an American swimsuit model from Hawaii. Back in 1995 her pictures were on the Internet like free dollar bills. The pictures from her calendar back then were amazing: I could look at them forever. She is a mix of German, Irish, Portuguese, Chinese and Hawaiian. More.

2. Nicole Scherzinger (1978- ) is an American singer, also from Hawaii. She is best known as the lead singer of the Pussycat Dolls. Her father is Filipino, her mother is part Hawaiian and part Russian. Whatever she is, she is beautiful!

3. Pia Reyes (1964- ) is a model from Manila in the Philippines. She was the Playboy Playmate of the Month for November 1988.

4. Tia Carrere (1967- ) is an American actress, also from Hawaii. She was Cassandra in the Wayne’s World films of the 1990s. She is full Filipino by blood.

5. Sung-Hi Lee (1970- ) is an American model, best known for appearing in Playboy. She was born in Seoul, South Korea and moved to America when she was eight.

6. Ann Curry (1956- ) is an American news presenter. I used to see her on the morning news on NBC and hear only half of what she said because she was so beautiful. She was born in Guam to a white father (who is part Cherokee) and a Japanese mother. I thought she was ten years younger than she is.

7. Faye Wong (1969- ) is a singer from Hong Kong. She has sold over 97 million records, making her the best-selling female singer of Cantonese pop music. In Japan she is called the Diva of Asia. I am not a fan but I keep running across her pictures on the Internet being struck by her beauty.

8. Nancy Kwan (1939- ) is an American actress from the 1960s. I know her from the Hollywood film, “The World of Suzy Wong” (1960). She was born in Hong Kong. She is half Cantonese and half Scottish.

9. Vanessa Mae (1978- ) is a British violin player. She was born in Singapore to a Thai father and a Chinese mother.

10. Sonia Couling (1974- ) is a Thai model and actress from Bangkok. Her father is English, her mother Thai. I only know about her from seeing her on someone else’s list of beautiful women!

Honourable mentions: Lisa Ling, Vanessa Hudgens.

No, I did not forget Lucy Liu. She looks kind of mean or something.

I love black hair and high cheekbones and East Asian eyes are often pretty, but I do not go for paleness and thinness in women.

Women from the Philippines, Thailand and southern China are better looking to me than women farther north.

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Denise Milani

White Goddess (2008- ), formerly known as White Meat, is a white woman worship blog  run by a black man who calls himself tnameat on WordPress and Professor Fenwick on YouTube.  His blog is full of pictures and videos of white women, particularly those with large naked breasts. He has posts about why white women are the best and argues that black women’s bottoms and their cooking are not as good as people think.

In a video called “European Features White Women are Fantastic Part 3”, Professor Fenwick plays Beethoven and shows us pictures of Bianca Holland, a beautiful Puerto Rican swimsuit model. He says she is living poetry, that her beauty nearly brings tears to his eyes, that he has been thinking about her all week. She looks like this:


He says she is beautiful because she has European green eyes and European hair.

One commenter advised:

lol if this is not self hating i don’t know what is get it together bro..

There are black men who prefer white women to black women. That is not news. There are black men who are fed up with how black women act and say white women are way nicer. That is not news either. But there is more than that going on here.

A post called “A Tribute to My Salvation” starts with these “beautiful words”:

There is no love that is equal to the love that a black man can have for a white woman. As black men we have been privileged to have a view of your eminence in a way that is unique only to the American experience.

You have a sense of confidence and self understanding that no other woman can share, because from your earliest experiences, you knew that you were special. While understanding what sets you apart from other women, your exceptional love and compassion forces you to dim your own light as not to burden them with your greatness.

You could argue that I am just so many bad dates away from creating a white goddess website myself, but I would never write something like that unless I had either lost my mind or meant it as a bitter, sarcastic joke.

At least two other things point to some kind of joke:

  1. His WordPress username, tnameat – tits-and-ass meat – also seems to be part of  a joke. Who calls himself that with a straight face?
  2. When he wanted to change the name of the blog from White Meat to something more respectable, one of the choices was “Bluest Eye”. That is the name of a Toni Morrison book about black self-hatred caused by white ideas of beauty!

For a while I thought the Professor was a black woman, but his taste in white women is too close to my own. Come to think of it, it is just the sort of blog I would do if I struck out with black women and tried to talk myself into making do with white women.

Thanks to Sweetme1993 for bringing this website to my attention.

Postscript: By comment #34 it was clear to me that the Professor is dead serious. His blog is not satire at all! As blaqueconscious put it, he is “a racist white man stuck in a biracial man’s body”. His mother is white.

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VogueChinaJanuary2009NaomiCampbe-1-1It all started when I moved my blog to WordPress and wrote a post on Naomi Campbell.

I used to be on Blogger and could not tell why people were coming to my blog. With WordPress I could see which search engine keywords were bringing them here.

So I made it a practice to write a post every week on the top unsatisfied search. One week it was “beautiful black women”, another week it was “thick black women”, and so on.

As it turned out, the Web was in effect interested in what it was that I liked in black women in terms of looks. As I later found out, people have written about the inner beauty of black women but not so much about their outer beauty, not from a male point of view at least. The Web knocked and I answered.

But, of course, it is not quite as simple as just that. It never is. Ever since my mother-in-law died my marriage has been going through a very rough patch, which I have written about, though not at great length (I keep going back and forth about how personal I should get on a blog this public). Sometimes a whole month would go by without sex. The less I have sex the more I think about women. It starts to crowd out other thoughts. It is like when you are hungry, all you can think about is food. Same sort of thing.

So, given that I have a blog where I write “500 words a day on whatever I want”, the subject becomes almost unavoidable.

Another thing that comes into it is that my idea of female beauty is at odds with what the American film and fashion industries push. So sometimes I get worked up about that too. Not that I think their idea of beauty is wrong – just too narrow.

Before I had this blog I never thought much about what it is I like in a woman’s looks. There was no reason to. I just liked what I liked. It has been interesting for me to break it down. But in breaking it down and writing about it in 500-word posts, it gives some people the wrong idea. For example, that I like only thick women or condemn those who do not fit what I prefer or that I only care about looks or that I do not love my wife because she has gained weight. None of that is true.

My troubles with my wife have nothing to do with her looks. She looks fine the way she is. I still love looking at her – and more. But I did marry her in my younger days when I valued looks over character, an error in judgement that I pay for now. I should have spent less time looking into her beautiful eyes and more time thinking about why she would not honour her bets.

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Is it just me or do most black women on American television look either ugly or loose? While Asian women, on the other hand, are pictured as being better looking than they are?

SingaporeAirlinesGirl_4I have no facts or figures or university studies to prove it, but it has seemed this way to me for a long time.

I am pretty sure I am right about Asians: when I came to New York one of the first things I noticed were the Asian women: they were not nearly as good-looking as I expected. But then it hit me: most of the Asian women I had seen before then were on television or in magazines – nearly all of them model beautiful. Like in those ads for Singapore Airlines (pictured).

claireNot so with black women. There is like the Pine-Sol Lady (“That’s the power of Pine-Sol, baby!”) on the one hand and video vixens on the other, with not all that much in between. Where is the broad middle of Claire Huxtables? You have to pretty much go back to R&B videos from the early 1990s to see black women regularly pictured as having both grace and beauty.

The cover story of the June 29th 2009 issue of TV Guide is “Hot Bods!”  You turn to the story and all the men and women are white. Go through the rest of the issue and there are only five black women (listed here in order of age):

  • 55: Oprah Winfrey
  • 45: Michelle Obama
  • 45: Gloria Reuben
  • 39: Niecy Nash
  • 37: Jada Pinkett-Smith

I do not know anything about Nash, but the rest are admirable women. I think Gloria and Jada are still physically beautiful. But the youngest of them is 37! All the young, beautiful women in that issue are white. They do have young, beautiful women who are black on television, but, apart from old network reruns, most seem to be video vixens in rap videos shaking what they got.

A good example of what I am talking about is “Night Court” from the 1980s. I loved that show. It had both black and white characters, so it was doing good on that count, but look at the top female actresses, black and white, Marsha Warfield and Markie Post:

Marsha WarfiieldMarkie Post

Markie Post is pretty. Meanwhile Marsha Warfield is what? The Pine-Sol Lady.

So why is this? I offer the following reasons:

  1. Television is written and produced mostly by white men who do not take black women seriously as women: they are either undesirable or prostitutes – sexless or oversexed. There is no healthy, ordinary male reaction to them as women.
  2. Blacks mostly play supporting characters. Supporting characters are not supposed to upstage the main characters. So in practice that means blacks on the whole are not allowed to upstage whites.

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I love these pictures! Although some have appeared on this blog before, it is good to put them together in one place. I got most of them from a beautiful, beautiful post at Gorgeous Black Women (link to follow):


Lauryn Hill, American singer

Dakore Egbuson

Dakore Egbuson, Nigerian actress


Oluchi Onweagba, Nigerian fashion model

Vanessa A. Williams

Vanessa A. Williams, American actress


Erykah Badu, American singer

India Arie

India Arie, American singer

Loews Lincoln Center

YaYa Da Costa, American model

Clara Aker Benjamin

Clara Aker Benjamin, South Sudanese fashion model

Amber Efé

Amber Efé, American stage actress


Rojane Fradique, Brazilian fashion model

Abang Othow

Abang Othow, South Sudanese model


Goapele, American singer

lisa_bonetLisa Bonet, American actress

Naty Soul

Naty Soul, Congolese model

Atong Arjok

Atong Arjok, South Sudanese model (Nubian)


Genevieve Nnaji, Nigerian actress

Algebra Blessett

Algebra Blessett, American singer

gloriareubenGloria Reuben, Canadian actress

aissa02Aissa Maiga, Senegalese-French actress

jill-scottJill Scott, American singer

Why I love these pictures: First, because the women are beautiful. Second, because their hair is natural (or looks it – some of the models might be wearing wigs. I am easily fooled about that kind of thing). Just the idea of it being natural makes them even more beautiful. At least to me.

Natural hair tells me that they are not ashamed of being black, that they are not ashamed of being themselves. And so that alone makes them more beautiful. Like when Lisa Bonet played Denise Huxtable on “The Cosby Show”  she dressed in her own style and said just what she felt, not being afraid of other people thinking she was messed up or something.

It is like the difference between Beyonce and Lauryn Hill – or Erykah Badu. It is no accident that Erykah and Lauryn mostly wear their hair in  a natural style while Beyonce rarely does. It speaks to how they see themselves in the world.

I am one of those people who do not like Beyonce. Part of it, certainly, is that she is trying to be what other people want her to be – and not just her plain old self, her true self. Her younger sister Solange wears her hair black, at least, and just that alone makes me like her way more. She says she not trying to be like “picture-perfect Beyonce”. That is the trouble with Beyonce: she can sing pitch perfect and look picture perfect, but her true self gets lost in her attempt to be perfect. She is shell not soul.

Lauryn Hill, on the other hand, is singing from somewhere inside herself. And as to Erykah Badu, half the reason I like her so much is that she is completely unashamed of being herself.

I know women have straight hair for all kinds of reasons, like wanting to look professional for work or to be in fashion or to get a man. But sometimes I do have to wonder whether it is not always as innocent as all that, that maybe deep down something else is going on, in at least in some cases.

For those living in America, a country that is mainly white and which spends billions pushing white beauty, and a particular kind of white beauty at that, it would be surprising if there were not some amount of internalized racism at work.

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Here is the list of the women with the most beautiful lips in the world, who are famous enough to have an article in the Wikipedia (I have to draw the line somewhere). Merely my opinion, of course.

I am well aware that some people think big lips are ugly, but I am not one of them. Growing up people made fun of my lips, so maybe that has something to do with it.

Note that this is very much a work in progress as I am sure there are some who have slipped my mind or who I do not even know about yet.


1. Paula Lima (1970- ) is a Brazilian MPB singer from Sao Paulo. I love the way she moves her mouth, so that is probably why I love her lips as much as I do.


2. Jill Marie Jones (1975- ) is an American actress. She was on “Girlfriends” (2000-2006) and was once a cheerleader for the Dallas Cowboys.

3. Tweet (1971- ) is an American R&B singer, probably best known for “Call Me” (2002).

4. Naomi Campbell (1970- ) is a British supermodel from the 1990s.

5. Erykah Badu (1971- ) is an American R&B singer.

6. Gina Torres (1969- ) is an American actress. She was Chris Rock’s wife in “I Think I Love My Wife” (2007). She is married to Larry Fishburne. No single picture does her lips justice.

7. Regina Taylor (1960- ) is an American actress. She played Lilly Harper, the maid on “I’ll Fly Away” in the early 1990s.

8. Bre Scullark (1985- ) is an American model. In 2005 she came in third on season five of “America’s Next Top Model”.

9. Sanaa Lathan (1971- ) is an American actress who made her name by starring in “Love & Basketball” (2000).

10. Estelle (1980- ) is a British R&B singer best known for “American Boy” (2008).

11. Angelina Jolie (1975- ) is an American actress, girlfriend of Brad Pitt and mother of children from the four corners of the earth. People make a big deal about her lips – and they are great – but it is not like black women did not have lips as good as or better before she came along.

12. Lisa Bonet (1967- ) is an American actresss, best known for playing Denise Huxtable in the 1980s on “The Cosby Show”.

13. Bipasha Basu (1979- ) is a Indian model and Bollywood actress.

14. Rosario Dawson (1979-) is an American actress.


15. Sophia Loren (1934- ) is an Italian film actress, a Hollywood beauty from the 1950s and 1960s.

16. Solange Knowles (1986- ) is an American R&B singer, best known as Beyonce’s little sister.

17. Molly Ringwald (1968- ) an American actress best known for starring in a string of John Hughes films in the 1980s:  “Sixteen Candles” (1984), “Breakfast Club” (1985) and “Pretty in Pink” (1986).

18. Natalie Imbruglia (1975- ) is an Australian singer and actress best known for the song “Torn” (1997).

19. Keri Hilson (1982- ) is an American singer and songwriter best known for singing “Knock You Down” (2009).

20. Tisha Campbell (1968- ) is an American television actress. She is best known for starring in “Martin” (1992-1997) and “My Wife and Kids” (2001-2005).

Honourable mentions: Sharon Leal, Sade, Heather Headley, Serena Williams, Isadora Ribeiro, Monica Vitti, Meagan Good, Rojane Fradique, Vilayna Lasalle, Eve, Lauryn Hill, Toni Braxton, Brandy Norwood, Gloria Reuben, Lil’ Mo, Phyllis Hyman.

– Abagond, 2009.

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kmaudelI think black women are beautiful. To a degree that is just a preference of mine that not all men can be expected to share. I understand that and have no trouble with it. But in America it seems to go beyond  just that: people’s racism makes black women seem uglier than they truly are.

It is not just white people either. Many blacks see light skin and long, straight hair as beautiful. What does that say about dark-skinned women with short, natural hair? And what can “You’re pretty for a dark-skinned girl” possibly mean?

Wendi Muse has a great article on Racialicious about how race is different in Brazil than it is in America. She is a light-skinned black American who teaches English in Brazil. Her students keep telling her she is not black – her skin is too light. Shopkeepers seem to agree: in Brazil she is never followed.

Among many other differences she noticed this:

I am pursued romantically and openly considered attractive by people of many different races. …  I cannot say the same with regards to my experience living in the United States.

She looks the same in both countries, yet because in one country she is not seen as “black” she is more desirable to men than she is in the other country where she is seen as black. It is not the woman or her looks that have changed, just her race – and the racism that is applied to her.

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This post is very much a work in progress. What follows is just my first attempt at it:

Here are some of the top black beauties in America through the years. Which ones wear their hair naturally? Which ones do you think could pass the brown paper bag test?

1940s: Lena Horne

1950s: Dorothy Dandridge

1960s: Diahann Carroll

1970s: Pam Grier

1980s: Vanessa Williams, Phylicia Rashad

1990s: Halle Berry, Angela Bassett, Tyra Banks

2000s: Beyonce, Gabrielle Union

Before the 1960s black ideas of beauty were pretty much white ideas of beauty. White is beautiful. Good hair was straight hair, beautiful skin was light skin, and a pretty face had a thin nose and thin lips. Women  straightened their hair and tried to lighten their skin. Men tried to marry the lightest-skinned woman they could. Little black girls, when asked, mostly preferred white dolls over black dolls.

While there are plenty of blacks who still feel this way even now, back then people were far more open about it. There was little shame in expressing such ideas and they were rarely challenged. Blacks had been brainwashed by living in a white country, a country where light-skinned people were favoured by whites, where both blacks and whites were taught in a thousand and one ways that white is right and black is bad, ugly and no-good.

But even back then there were  men who loved black women in all their natural glory. They could not help themselves despite all the brainwashing.

In the 1960s came the Black Power movement. One of its catchphrases was “Black is beautiful”. Black ideas of beauty, which were in fact just white ideas of beauty, were questioned. Malcolm X was married to a woman much darker than himself. Many blacks stopped straightening their hair. In the early 1970s you see both men and women wearing huge Afros, like Pam Grier.

The civil rights movement died out in the 1970s and the Afros not long after, but it did open the way for many blacks to move up into the middle-class. But to move up meant fitting in, fitting in with white ideas of talking, dressing, acting and looking. Some did not give in to that, but many did. For some it was the price of success, for others it seemed like a purely private decision that had nothing to do with white power or black power.

But if you cannot wear dreadlocks at work, then how many women will? In the 1980s with the growth of the black middle-class white ideas of beauty made a comeback. Not just through the workplace, but through magazines and television too, through entertainers like Beyonce.

So much so that women like Vida Guerra and Kim Kardashian made the cover of black men’s magazines, magazines that prefer women with light skin and long, dark hair, even if their figures are still thick (though even that might be changing).

So much so that little black girls still prefer white dolls.

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jourdan_dunnNew York Fashion Week (February 13th to 20th 2009), one of the top fashion weeks in the industry, has just ended. Of the appearances by models on the catwalk, 18% were made by models of colour. While that is well short of the 26% of America as a whole, it is much better than the 12% of last year.

Two years ago a third of the designers used white models only. This year only 9% did.

For years Bethann Hardison and Diane von Furstenberg have been saying that more models of colour were needed. Maybe their message is getting through at last. Or maybe it is the Obama effect – or the effect of the all-black Italian Vogue which sold out last summer.

Here is how the New York catwalk looked in 2009:

  • 82% white
  • 7.4% black (outnumbered last year by Asians)
  • 6.5% Asian
  • 4.0% Latina
  • 1.8% other

Compare that to how America looked in 2006:

  • 74% white (66% if you do not count white Latinos)
  • 14.8% Latino (some also counted as white or black)
  • 13.4% black
  • 4.4% Asian
  • 7.3% other

Here is the degree of over- or under-representation:

  • 148 Asian
  • 111 white
  • 55 black
  • 27 Latina
  • 25 other

Whites and Asians were over-represented.

The counting was done by Tatiana the Anonymous Model of Jezebel.com. For some models it was a matter of her judgement where they fell: while most Latin Americans were counted as Latina, some got counted as black, like Sessilee Lopez, while others were counted as white, like Pilar Solchaga. Them’s the breaks, as she says.

These shows had no models of colour:

  • Altuzarra
  • Davidelfin
  • Jenni Kayne
  • Julian Louie
  • Koi Suwannagate
  • Temperley London
  • Vera Wang Lavender Label

These shows had models of colour, but no black models:

  • Alexandre Herchcovitz
  • Behnaz Sarafpour
  • Costello Tagliapietra
  • Erin Fetherston
  • Halston
  • Marchesa
  • Max Azria
  • Milly
  • Miss Sixty
  • Monique Lhuillier
  • Nicole Miller
  • Philosophy
  • Reem Acra
  • Tibi
  • TSE
  • United Bamboo
  • Vena Cavahad
  • VPL
  • Vivienne Tam

These had the most models of colour (30% or more):

  • Tracey Reese
  • Sophie Theallet
  • Rachel Roy
  • Victoria Beckham
  • Ports 1961
  • Oscar de la Renta
  • Badgley Mishka
  • Diane von Furstenberg
  • Tory Burch
  • Yigal Azrouël

Here are the black models who appeared, ranked by the number of shows they appeared in (the first three account for more than half of the appearances made by black models):

15: Jourdan Dunn: Alexander Wong, Anna Sui, Carolina Herrera, Donna Karan, Isaac Mizrahi, Jason Wu, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Oscar de la Renta, Proenza Schouler, Ralph Lauren, Rodarte, Thakoon, Tommy Hilfiger, Zac Posen.

9: Sessilee Lopez: Badgley Mishka, Diane von Furstenberg, Isaac Mizrahi, Jason Wu, Malandrino, Marc Jacobs, Narciso Rodriguez, Oscar de la Renta, Tommy Hilfiger.

8: Arlenis Sosa: Diane von Furstenberg, Donna Karan, Isaac Mizrahi, Jason Wu, Michael Kors, Narciso Rodriguez, Oscar de la Renta, Tommy Hilfiger.

6: Georgie Badiel: 3.1 Philip Lim, Diane von Furstenberg, Isaac Mizrahi, Malandrino, Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta.

5: Gracie Carvalho: 3.1 Philip Lim, Carolina Herrera, Diane von Furstenberg, Ralph Lauren, Vera Wang.

5: Chanel Iman: Diane von Furstenberg, Jason Wu, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Zac Posen.

2: Ubah Hassan: Oscar de la Renta, Ralph Lauren.

4: Aminata Niaria: Isaac Mizrahi, Malandrino, Oscar de la Renta, Vera Wang.

1: Lyndsey Scott: Calvin Klein.

1: Rahma Mohamed: Malandrino.

1: Kinee Diouf: Yigal Azrouel.

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Here are the black women that English-speaking black people think are the most beautiful (See below for how I came up with this list):

Halle Berry (9 lists) – an American film actress, the first black woman to win an Oscar for Best Actress. That was for “Monster’s Ball” (2001). Her mother is white. More.

Vanessa Williams (7 lists) – an American beauty queen, singer and actress. She was the first black Miss America (1983).

Angela Bassett (7 lists) – an American film actress, a much better mone than Halle Berry.

Tyra Banks (6 lists) – an American supermodel. She is the first black woman to make the cover of GQ magazine and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue (1997). More.

Gabrielle Union (6 lists) – an American film actress.  More.

Beyonce Knowles (6 lists) – an American singer. She was in Destiny’s Child and then on her own. More.

Toni Braxton (5 lists) – an American singer from the 1990s. Best known for “Un-Break My Heart” (1996).

Nia Long (4 lists) – an American actress who plays the lead character in black films and a supporting character in white ones. More.

Naomi Campbell (4 lists) – a British supermodel from the 1990s. A great face and great legs. More.

Sade (3 lists) – a Nigerian-born singer from the 1980s. Her mother is white. More.

Phylicia Rashad (3 lists) – an American actress best known for playing Claire Huxtable on “The Cosby Show” in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Janet Jackson (3 lists) – an American singer, sister of Michael Jackson.

Honourable mentions (those who made 2 lists): Whitney Houston, Tatyana Ali, Serena Williams, Sanaa Lathan, Queen Latifah, Nancy Wilson, Meagan Good, Lena Horne, Laila Ali, Kim Eternity, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Diahann Carroll, Chilli Thomas, Anita Baker, Amerie, Aaliyah.

I have a list of black women just like this only it is according to white people. Here is who made which lists:

  • Both white and black lists: Halle Berry, Beyonce, Tyra Banks, Vanessa Williams, Angela Bassett.
  • White only: Iman, Mariah Carey, Thandie Newton, Alicia Keys.
  • Black only: Gabrielle Union, Toni Braxton, Nia Long, Naomi Campbell, Sade, Phylicia Rashad, Janet Jackson and all of the honourable mentions.

In the white list nearly half of the women had a white parent. In the black list only one in six do. Halle Berry topped both lists.

I made the list like how I made the white one: I put “the most beautiful black women” into Google and went through the first 100 websites. If a website had an open-ended list of beautiful black women, then I recorded the top ten women it had. I threw out any lists that were duplicates and any that were clearly made by white people. That left me with 21 lists. Then I found out which women made the most lists.

Nearly all the lists were done by black people, where the race was knowable, so I think the same is true in general. After all, it is hard for me to imagine a white person picking Nia Long, Meagan Good, Tatyana Ali or Anita Baker. They simply would not come to mind. Most white people do not even know who Nia Long is!

– Abagond, 2009.

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