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Archive for the ‘black women’ Category

Pretty-in-Pink-movie-03I never thought I would be writing a part three so soon, but when a post gets more than 300 comments, then it is time.

To review:

  • In part one I said that it boiled down to racism on the part of white men: they do not want black children.
  • In part two I said it is not quite that simple: way before marriage it is women who apply race to dating decisions, not men. Men are dogs and will go for any halfway good-looking woman they think they have a chance with. A Columbia University study on speed dating supports this view.

Now for part three: A big thing that keeps coming up in the comments is how white men approach black women. Often they wait for a black woman to show some clear sign of interest before they ask her out! It seems like a cowardly excuse. Man up and just ask her!

Dalyn Montgomery, also known as brohammas, has an interesting take on this at his blog, Pages From My Notebook. He is a white American man who lives in Philadelphia. He dated in the 1990s and, in the end, married a black woman.

He says white men have three main ways of approaching women:

  1. The scuzz ball: He expresses his interest directly. No games. If he gets shot down, he moves on. What his approach lacks in quality he makes up in quantity. Sooner or later some woman will say yes. He wants sex, not a girlfriend.
  2. The “normal” guy: He plays a cat-and-mouse game with a woman to show his interest, but not too directly or strongly: he does not want to seem like a scuzz ball – or appear too desperate (even if he is). That is why in “Swingers” (1996) they wait three days before they call a girl back.
  3. The “friends” guy: He becomes your friend, but he hopes to take it to another level later on, hoping that by then he has gained your trust, etc. This is how Duckie failed to get Molly Ringwald in “Pretty in Pink” (1986).

Most white men try each of these at some point in their lives. Some white men follow none of them: Montgomery calls them the curve balls.

Now he adds to all this that white people are taught that black people hate them.

So with all that in mind, here is how each approach views black women:

  • The scuzz ball: Black women, especially young ones, are easy and I need to get laid.
  • The normal guy: If she is extremely hot or if I have something to prove, then I will go after her, otherwise going after white women is way more promising.
  • The friends guy: What? Me with a black woman? Come on. (They lack confidence even with women of their own race.)

How do black women see this? Scuzz balls have the wrong sort of interest, of course, while the other two, from what I can tell, come off as having too little interest.

See also:

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DanyelSmithDanyel Smith (1965- ) is an American writer, best known as the former editor-in-chief of Vibe magazine. Yesterday she started work as executive editor of theroot.com. She has written two books: “More Like Wrestling” (2002) and “Bliss” (2005). She is married to Elliott Wilson, former editor-in-chief of XXL magazine!

I know I have read her stuff because her name is familiar, but I could not tell you what. She has written for Vibe, the New York Times, The Rolling Stone, Spin, The New Yorker, the San Francisco Guardian and others, writing mostly about music, particularly hip hop.

She was born in Oakland, California. At seven she started writing. At ten her family moved to Los Angeles, There she went to an all-black Catholic high school for girls. She got into Berkeley and went there for a few years but then dropped out without telling her parents.

She lived with her sister in Oakland and started writing. This was the 1980s when hip hop was something new:

When I first heard hip-hop, there’s no way to describe how it affected my life . It was such a great conversation, and no one was writing about it. I was happy to.

Then her stepfather appeared, driving up from Los Angeles, and asked what was going on. He took her to the offices of the San Francisco Bay Guardian and made her show her work to someone who could gainfully employ her. She met Tommy Tompkins: “Danyel was a remarkable individual, strong-willed, interesting, and cantankerous.”  He saw her talent and hired her. His advice to her about writing: “Just tell the truth. Tell your truth and you will be fine.”

Her articles started appearing in Rolling Stone, Vibe and others. In 1993 she took an offer to work for Billboard in New York. That did not work out but soon she landed at Vibe. In 1997 she became its first black editor-in-chief. Then in 1999 she left.

Over the next three years she wrote “More Like Wrestling” about two sisters living in Oakland in the 1980s in the age of crack. It is one of the first novels by and about black Oakland.

One editor saw the book and told her that she had to make a decision whether or not she was writing for black people or white people. And that she needed to have clearer heroes and heroines in the book.

The New York Times said her prose was “lyrical if sometimes rocky”. Michael Eric Dyson said it was “a work of beauty and moral complexity about love in its resplendent and damaging incarnations.”

The writers she looks to are Zora Neale Hurston, Terry McMillan, Toni Morrison, Gloria Naylor, Joan Didion, Cristina Garcia, Sister Souljah and Ernest Hemingway.

“Bliss”, came out in 2005. It gives an inside view of the music industry. She says it is about “living with pain – not about forgiving or forgetting it”.

In 2006 she returned to Vibe. It was troubled and under new owners. In 2009 it went broke.  Now she is at The Root.

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AliciaKeysAlicia Cook (c. 1979- ), better known by her stage name of Alicia Keys, was one of the top American R&B singers of the 2000s. She is best known for “Fallin'” (2001) , which made her name and is still her most unforgettable song to date. Smokey Robinson says she is one of the best new singers.

So far six of her songs have hit number one on the American R&B chart:

  • 2001: Fallin’
  • 2003; You Don’t Know My Name
  • 2004: If I Ain’t Got You
  • 2004: My Boo (with Usher)
  • 2007: No One
  • 2008: Like You’ll Never See Me Again

“Superwoman” and “Teenage Love Affair” never hit number one.

Half these songs also hit number one on the American pop chart:  “Fallin'”, “My Boo” and “No One”.

For comparison, during this same period Beyonce had five number one hits on both the R&B and pop charts in America and Mariah Carey had three each.

Mariah and Beyonce have sold way more records than Alicia Keys: they have been at it longer and their music crosses over to white audiences better.

Alicia Keys is not only talented and successful but beautiful – one of the most beautiful black women according to white people. She is half Italian by blood and looks nearly white.

Her father is black (Jamaican); her mother is white (Italian-American). She considers herself to be black, not biracial or mixed race. Unlike with Mariah Carey, it has never been a question. Also, unlike Carey, her early music was more clearly black too.

She was born in Harlem. Her parents split when she was two. She saw little of her father, a flight attendant, though he did remain in her life. Her mother was often poor but somehow she always found money for Alicia’s piano lessons. Alicia:

I’ve had a deep love for music since I was four… . Music came before everything, everything, everything. I would risk everything for it.

By seven she could play classical piano. By 11 she was writing songs. One of the songs on her first album she wrote at 14. She continued to learn and practise her singing and piano.

In 1997 she got a record deal with Columbia Records – and dropped out of Columbia University. But then Columbia Records did what they did to Aretha Franklin and Bruce Springsteen before her: tried to make her into someone else:

I felt that they wanted me to be a clone of Mariah or Whitney, and I couldn’t do that. I’m not the sequined dress type, or the high-heeled type, or the all-cleavage type. I’m not coming like that for no one.

They parted ways.

Clive Davis, the very man who brought us Whitney Houston, stepped in. He was struck by her talent and beauty. She was struck by how he took her seriously.

After many delays – Davis was kicked out of Arista and formed J Records, bringing Keys with him – she completed her first album in 2001. “Nothing before its time,” she says. Davis got her on Oprah’s television show and the rest is history.

– Abagond, 2009.

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OBIT AALIYAH

Aaliyah Haughton (1979-2001), better known as just Aaliyah, was an American R&B singer who sold 24 million records worldwide and was an up-and-coming Hollywood actress. She died eight years ago today at the age of 22 in a plane crash. She called her singing “street but sweet”. As one fan at her funeral put it, she was beautiful both on the outside and on the inside.

Her number one songs on the American R&B charts:

  • 1994: Back & Forth
  • 1996: If Your Girl Only Knew
  • 1996: One in a Million
  • 1998: Are You That Somebody?
  • 2002: Miss You

I mainly remember her for these (their chart position in parentheses):

1998: Are You That Somebody? (#1)

2001: More Than a Woman (#7)

2002: Rock the Boat (#2)

Aaliyah was born in Brooklyn but mainly grew up in Detroit. Her mother gave up being a singer so that she could bring up Aaliyah and her older brother, Rashad. (Despite their Arab names, they seem to be Catholic.)

Aaliyah had singing lessons from an early age, took part in school plays and at age 11 appeared on the television talent show, “Star Search”:

Aaliyah in Star Search

1990: My Funny Valentine

She lost, but later that year she performed with Gladys Knight in Las Vegas and a year later got her first record deal. You see, her uncle was married to Gladys Knight and managed R. Kelly! Kelly wrote and produced Aaliyah’s first album, “Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number” (1994).

It came out when she was 15 and produced a number one hit, “Back & Forth”.  But she was not the only 15-year-old girl with a number one hit that year: Brandy had one too: “I Wanna Be Down”.

That summer Aaliyah and R. Kelly got married! They both deny it but there is a marriage certificate. Aaliyah put down her age as 18, not 15. Her parents had the marriage annulled because she was underage.

After that Aaliyah and R. Kelly parted ways. She went to Atlantic Records where Timbaland and Missy Elliott wrote and produced her second and third albums: “One in a Million” (1996) and “Aaliyah” (2001).

She graduated from high school in 1997 and then went into acting, her second love. She appeared in “Romeo Must Die” (2000) opposite Jet Li  and in Anne Rice’s “Queen of the Damned” (2002).  At the time of her death she was set to appear in the Matrix films and was on a level with the likes of Rosario Dawson, Jessica Alba and Zoe Saldana in terms of the sort of parts she was getting.

Flying back to Florida from the Bahamas on August 25th 2001 after doing the video for “Rock the Boat”, the plane went down right after take-off and blew up. She and seven others on board died instantly. The plane was overloaded.

At her funeral in New York her body was taken to the church in a silver casket inside a glass carriage pulled by horses. At the end of the funeral they let 22 white doves fly into the sky, one for each year of her short life.

– Abagond, 2009, 2015.

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esther11

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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dotsonVirginia Dotson is an 84-year-old black American woman who was violently thrown to the ground by the police outside a Walmart near Columbus, Ohio on August 1st 2009. She was thrown down so hard she was bleeding from her head.

Dotson did have a steak knife, but she also had a cane and did not seem to be an immediate threat: people passed right by her.  Onlookers were more upset by how the police acted than by Dotson herself – so much so that four more police cars had to be called in to keep things under control.

One of the onlookers recorded it on his mobile phone and posted it on YouTube (video to follow).

Dotson’s daughter had left her in the car while she ran into Walmart to buy some things. She was taking a chance because Dotson has Alzheimer’s: her memory is failing so she does not always understand what is going on. Her daughter thought she would be safe, though, because she did not know how to take off her seat belt.

Dotson saw a steak knife in the car and cut herself free, cutting herself in the process. Dotson left the car to look for her daughter. She was bleeding with knife in hand! Some children approached her and it seems she threatened them.

By the time the police arrived people seemed calm, though Dotson still had a knife in her hand.

Officer Tammy Scott, a white woman, came towards her and asked her to drop the knife. Dotson would not. So Scott took her by the arm and violently threw her to the ground and then got the knife out of her hand. But she threw Dotson down so hard that onlookers were shocked and began to gather. They were afraid the police were going to hurt her even more.

It seemed like they cracked her head since she was bleeding from there. But she was not knocked out, though she did need stitches later. Her wrist may have been broken too.

This took place a few weeks after the police went overboard against another older black person with a cane: Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

But unlike the Gates thing, this case got very little press. According to Google News a week after the event there were only four news stories on it. While it did make a top newspaper in Britain (Daily Mail) and a top blog in America (Gawker), it was not picked up by AP, CNN, the New York Times or any large news outfit in America.

Why is that? Is this acceptable behaviour by the police? Are black people so threatening to white people that they see nothing wrong in this? Or is it because Dotson is black and so the whole affair does not matter to the white people who make the big decisions about what gets reported nationwide as news? You know, the same people who like to report on missing white women.

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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):

LaurynHill

Lauryn Hill, American singer

Dakore Egbuson

Dakore Egbuson, Nigerian actress

OluchiOnCoverOfI-D

Oluchi Onweagba, Nigerian fashion model

Vanessa A. Williams

Vanessa A. Williams, American actress

ErykahBaduBW

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

rojane08

Rojane Fradique, Brazilian fashion model

Abang Othow

Abang Othow, South Sudanese model

goapele

Goapele, American singer

lisa_bonetLisa Bonet, American actress

Naty Soul

Naty Soul, Congolese model

Atong Arjok

Atong Arjok, South Sudanese model (Nubian)

DWF15-817346

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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a_cosmetics102Naomi Sims (1948-2009) was a black American supermodel from the 1960s, one of the first. Before there was Naomi Campbell, there was Naomi Sims. In November 1968 she became the first black woman on the cover of Ladies’ Home Journal, the first to appear on a mainstream women’s magazine in America. She later went into business selling her own line of wigs and make-up designed for black women and wrote books about beauty and modelling. She died yesterday of cancer at age 61.

She was born in Mississippi but her family later moved up north to Pittsburgh, where she lived in a largely poor white neighbourhood. By 13 she was already 5 foot 10 (1.78 m) . She was picked on and became a loner. Growing up in an age before Twiggy and “Black is beautiful”, she was too tall, too thin and too dark to be considered beautiful. But her upbringing and her Catholic faith taught her to always walk with pride and dignity.

In 1966 she went to New York to live with her sister and study at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Her scholarship money was not enough, so she turned to modelling to put herself through school.

The model agencies all said no because she was black. So she called fashion photographers herself. One of them, Gosta Peterson, agreed to meet her.  His wife, it turned out, was the head of the fashion pages of the New York Times. In August 1967 she appeared in the Times.

After that success she went back to the model agencies but they still said no! So she talked one of them into letting her use their name and sent her layout in the Times to 100 advertising agencies. To the model agency’s utter amazement the calls started coming in! By November 1968 she was on the cover of Ladies’ Home Journal.

a_allmagcovers02

life1969Her dark skin worked to her advantage: This was just when “Black is beautiful” was becoming a catchphrase and black tokenism was cutting edge stuff.

Within two years she was in all the fashion magazines. She made anything she wore look great and had her own way of walking down the runway that was beautiful to watch. She modelled for Halston, AT&T, Virginia Slims, Life magazine and others.

In 1972 Hollywood wanted her to star in “Cleopatra Jones”, a blaxpoitation film. When she read the script she said no: she was shocked at how racist it was.

In 1973 she made the cover of Cosmopolitan and then quit modelling.

Four years before she had said, “There is nothing sadder than an old, broke model.” So she went into business making wigs. She found out how to make hair that looked like straightened black women’s hair and then designed wigs in all the latest styles. In the 1980s she branched out into perfume, skin-care and make-up. By the 2000s, however, large white companies started to push her out.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s she wrote five books. One of them,”All About Health and Beauty for the Black Woman” (1976),  is still in print.

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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.

paula12.jpg

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.

jill06.jpg

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.

sophia26.jpg

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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JuneJordanJune Jordan (1936-2002) was an American writer, poet and professor. And one of my favourite authors. By the 1990s she had become one of the top black women writers in the country. She was best known as a poet, though she wrote children’s books and essays too.

She was born in Harlem. Her parents came from Jamaica and believed in the American dream. They later moved to Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn. Her father was a postman, her mother a nurse. Her mother was “shadowy” but her father was “very intense, passionate and over-the-top. He was my hero and my tyrant.”

Her father beat her, from the age of two, while her mother stood by and did nothing. Her mother would later kill herself. Jordan was sent to an all-white boarding school in New England, when that kind of thing was rare.

Growing up she read and studied the writings of dead white men, but one of them she particularly liked: Walt Whitman.

She went to Barnard and fell in love with a white man. They married – in 1955 when that kind of thing was rare, even in New York. She dropped out of school, had a son and helped to put her husband through grad school. But it did not last: in 1965 they divorced.

After that she supported herself mainly by teaching English literature at universities: City College (late 1960s), Sarah Lawrence (early 1970s), SUNY Stony Brook (1980s) and Berkeley (1990s). At Berkeley she taught black and women’s studies. She made full professor in 1982. She cared about her students and loved teaching – she did not see it as a burdensome duty like some professors do.

Jordan began writing poetry at age seven. She never stopped writing, whether it could pay the bills or not. She saw words like a lover, seeing their naked beauty and their naked faults. She did not write the sort of books that could be made into Hollywood films or be safe enough to become best-sellers.

But that was her strength. She wrote the truth, she wrote what she saw with her eyes and felt in her heart. But they were not just in her heart: The things that were inside me that I did not know how to say, she knew how to say them and she did.

First they said I was too light
Then they said I was too dark
Then they said I was too different
Then they said I was too much the same
Then they said I was too young
Then they said I was too old
Then they said I was too interracial
Then they said I was too much a nationalist
Then they said I was too silly
Then they said I was too angry
Then they said I was too idealistic
Then they said I was too confusing altogether:
Make up your mind!
They said, Are you militant? Or sweet?
Are you vegetarian or meat?
Are you straight? Or are you gay?
And I said, Hey! It’s not about my mind.

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meagan-good

Meagan Good (1981- ) is an American actress and beauty. She was named for an NAACP Image Award for playing Cisely Baptiste in “Eve’s Bayou” (1997). But despite her beauty and talent, she mostly winds up playing supporting characters. She has yet to play the lead in a film that makes it big.

meagan1She is one of four children of a Los Angeles police officer, growing up in Canyon Country north of the city. She is part black, Cherokee Indian, Puerto Rican and Jewish. Her father’s father came from Barbados.

She started acting at age four in television ads. In her very first ad she had to skate but did not know how! She was in ads for Barbie, AT&T, Pringles, Burger King, etc. But it was not till much later, when she saw Danielle Harris in “Halloween 4” (1988) and “Halloween 5” (1989), that she knew she wanted to be an actress.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s she guest starred in over a dozen television shows, like “Moesha”, “The Steve Harvey Show” and “Touched by an Angel”.

She started getting into films too. When she was hired for “Eve’s Bayou” she was just 16 and pretty much unknown. But after that she started getting steadier television work: she was Nina on “Cousin Skeeter” (1998-2000) on Nickelodeon and Katie on “Raising Dad” (2001-2002) on the WB. She was Vanessa, Junior’s girlfriend,  for five episodes of “My Wife and Kids” in 2003 but then was suddenly replaced by Brooklyn Sudano for reasons unclear. After that she gave most of her attention to film acting.

She has been in some well-known films, but almost always as a supporting character. None of the films she has starred in has been a big hit, though some have done well, like “Stomp the Yard” (2007). She has yet to take off as an actress.

Her dream come true would be to play Aaliyah:

I really, really want to do Aaliyah’s life story; I was a huge fan of hers. I think she’s such a positive role model. She really kind of handled the industry with such class and such respect for herself. Even though there are things that you may have heard, here or there, the way that she handled it and the way that she was, was just so classy and so beautiful.

She has also been in music videos, like 5o Cent’s “21 Questions” (2003) and has made the cover of King magazine, entering the whole video vixen world through her acting, which is the opposite way of how most do it.

She is much better known for her looks than her acting. It is not too hard to find websites that have over a thousand pictures of her!

She has black hair, high cheekbones, thick lips, beautiful eyes and a thin but nice figure. She is 5 foot 4 (1.63 m) tall. Her measurements are 36-24-34 (91-61-86 cm) and has a waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) of 0.71.

According to at least Internet rumour she has dated Jamie Foxx (he denies it), Joseph Gordon, Nick Cannon, Ty Hodges, Thomas Jones and Soulja Boy.

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mercyMercy Johnson (c. 1982- ) is an actress in Nollywood, the Nigerian film industry. She has been in more than 70 films, the best known of these being “The Maid”, “Kill the Bride”, “Last Kiss” and “My Heart Your Home”. She is good at playing crying women.

She is known for her sex appeal: she has a great figure. The press often calls her “dark-skinned”.

She does not always dress well. She says, “I’ll rather sponsor a child than spend 180,000 nairas on a designer bag.” Yet even when she first tried out for a part in a film she showed up with bedroom slippers on her feet!

She seemed to have come out of nowhere and, well, she did: she did not know anyone in Nollywood. She did not even have any training. She just showed up at the national theatre, trying out for part after part till she got one. She just kept at it, never giving up:“I knew what I wanted and I had to go for it.” It was that or computer school, like her father wanted.

She says her success is simply a matter of hard work and the favour of God, which gave her talent.

Her first film was “Moving Train” (2000). Her big break came two years later when she got the lead  in “The Maid” (2002).

Despite all that, and despite having acted in high school plays, she never wanted to be an actress! Instead her aim was to be like Genevieve Nnaji, the top actress in Nollywood, whom she admires (and has since worked with). She still has a ways to go.

She is known for her kissing on film. She feels nothing when she does it – for her it is just make-believe, part of her work, which she wants to keep separate from her feelings.

In 2008 she was buying up property. Partly to put her millions of nairas into something, but partly to buy land for what she calls the House of Mercy, which will be a home  for unwanted or parentless children.

She used to sell water on the streets of Lagos. She can prove by marks on her legs from the many times she fell down in the gutter.

She was born the fourth of seven children – four girls, three boys – in Satellite Town, Lagos. She had a strict Christian upbringing. Because her father was an officer in the navy she spent part of her childhood in Calabar. She was the apple of his eye and loves to talk about him. Yet she will not talk about her mother – or her current boyfriend. She hopes to get married by 2010.

She went to Lagos State University for an English degree but did not complete her studies.

She is a homebody who likes to play Monopoly at home rather than go out dancing.

In 2009 the Nigerian press, which sometimes just makes up stuff, says she was going with singer D’Banj and fought over him with Rukky Sanda. Both of them deny it up and down when asked.

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missingRomona Moore (c. 1982-2003) was a student at Hunter College who lived on Remsen Avenue in Canarsie in Brooklyn, New York. One night she left to go to Burger King  and never came back.

On her way there, a few blocks from her house,  a man pulled her off the street and took her down to his basement where he and his friend beat her up and raped her.  Repeatedly. They took off her clothes and put her in chains. They sodomized her and tried to saw off her hands and feet. They beat her face with a hammer, they cut the webbing between her fingers. This went on for four days.

They checked the news: no word of her missing. They were upset.

They kept her under a big piece of plastic. One day when a friend dropped by they said, “Say hi, bitch,” and pulled back the plastic to show her. Their friend talked to her. Afterwards he went to a baby shower and then drove back home to Maryland. He never told the police.

She became too “feisty” so they beat her to death and put her in a crate. They found another woman and started on her.

When she did not return from Burger King her mother worried. The next morning she called the police. They said, “She’s 21. We’re not supposed to take the report.” But they did anyway and told her to call that night.

She did, but they said, “”Lady, why are you calling here? Your daughter is 21. These officers should not have taken the report in the first place.” They closed the case the next morning.

aronovJust two months before Svetlana Aronov, age 44, a rich white woman on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, the wife of a doctor, took her dog for a walk and never came back. The next day the police called a press conference and put 24 detectives on it full-time. They went door to door and passed out flyers. They looked through her telephone and bank records, they looked at surveillance tapes of nearby buildings. And so on. They even hired a psychic and a bloodhound. They later found Aronov’s body in the East River.

Moore’s mother, getting no help from the police, called the press. They were not interested either. She made flyers and passed them out. The police would not help her till the fourth day, the day her daughter died: she had called a politician to get on their case.

The detective assigned to the case sometimes would not return calls for days. After spending less time on it than the police had spent looking for that rich white woman’s dog, he gave up.

The next day, the day before Mother’s Day, her body was found – not by the police – under an old ice cream truck just a few blocks from her house.

Her mother is suing the New York police for racism. They say it is a hard thing to prove in court.

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FatouN'DiayeFatou N’Diaye (1980- ) is a French actress and model who was born in Senegal. She is not the dancer of the same name. Since 2001 she has appeared in both French film and television. Her best film to date is probably “Nha fala” (2003) though “A Sunday in Kigali” (2006) seems to be better known.

She was born in Saint-Louis in Sengal. Her native language is Wolof. When she was eight she left Senegal with her mother to live in France.

In 1997 at age 17 she was discovered by photographer Oliviero Toscani, who is famous for the United Colors of Benetton ads. He urged her to become a model. She is tall, thin and pretty

She is 5 foot 10 inches tall (1.78 m) and her measurements are 31.5-23-35 (80-58.5-89 cm), giving her a waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) of 0.66.

She did do some modelling, but her heart was set on acting. She wanted to go to drama school,  but then director Daniel Vigne asked her to play the lead in a made-for-television film he was making – even though she had no acting experience!

She spent  a few days with an actress who taught her the tricks of the trade and then did her best.

The film was “Fatou la Malienne” (2001). It was the true story of a woman from Mali who lived in France but was forced to get married. It got her noticed: 8 million people in France saw it.

After that she worked with the famous French actor Charles Aznavour. She loves jazz and he was able to tell her about all the jazz greats that he once knew.

In 2002 she had a small part in “Astérix et Obélix : Mission Cléopâtre”, starring Monica Bellucci. It was her first experience of a big film production.

In 2003 she starred in “Nha Fala” (“My Voice”), directed by Flora Gomes. It is a Portuguese-French-Luxembourger musical comedy (yes) set in France and Cape Verde.  It is in both French and Portuguese Creole.

She plays a mixed-race character who comes from a family where the women die if they sing. When she leaves Cape Verde for France she promises her mother that she will not sing. Not only did she forget her promise, she became a singer! People were amazed at how well she could sing. She came back to Cape Verde to prepare for her funeral – but she did not die!

N’Diaye says the film is about expressing yourself. Some see it as a metaphor for colonialism, about how trying to be white goes against being your true self – which is why her being mixed-race is important.

In 2006 she played the female lead in a French-Canadian film, “Un dimanche à Kigali” (“A Sunday in Kigali”). It is abouat a man who comes to Rwanda and falls in love with a woman there. Separated by the genocide he tries to find her.

Her next leading part was in “Tropiques amers” (2007), the first French television series about slavery in the French Caribbean. It is a historical drama set in Martinique in the late 1700s.

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Note: Some of this post might not be strictly true: most of what is written about her is in French and my French is not very good! So corrections are welcomed.

Aïssa Maïga (1975- ) is a French actress who was born in Senegal. She is not just charming, beautiful and talented, she is also the highest-paid black actress in France and a regular at Cannes.

Some of her films:

  • “Les Poupées Russes” (2004) made her name in France. She plays the lover of Romain Duris.
  • “Paris, je t’aime” (2005) – she starred in this. See below for a bit of it I found on YouTube. Watch all the way to the end.
  • “Il faut quitter Bamako” (2006) showed that she can write and direct as well as act.
  • “Bamako” (2006), almost the same name as her own film, is probably her best performance to date. She played a bar singer, who always seems to be pictured as crying. Danny Glover was an executive producer, by the way.

As beautiful as she is, she is almost completely unknown in the English-speaking world. She does not even have an article in the English Wikipedia as of June 2009. I had seen her face before on the Internet, but I had no idea who she was until a commenter on this blog, Asha, brought up her name. Thanks, Asha!

Maiga was born in Dakar in Senegal. Her father, a journalist, came from Mali. Her mother is half Senegalese, half Gambian. The family moved to France when she was four. Her father died when she was eight.

After high school she did not know whether to study sociology or theatre. But then one night she saw “L’important c’est d’aimer” with Romy Schneider and knew she wanted to be a comedienne. So she chose theatre. A few months later, though, she dropped out of school and became a waitress. She thought the courses were heavy on theory, light on practice.

Her aunt, it turns out, was a comedienne and was able to train her. At 17 Maiga was acting in a musical comedy, “La nuit la plus longue”, something she did for three summers.

In 1996 she got her first part in a full-length film, “Saraka Bo”. It is a police drama that takes place in a black part of Paris. That led to parts in police dramas on television, something she did for years, but it also got her noticed by directors, like Claude Berri.

In 2005 she appeared in “French Beauty”, a television show that asked some of the great beauties of French film, like Bardot and Deneuve, what it is like to be a beautiful French woman.

Blacks in French film: Just like in Hollywood, most of the few parts there are for blacks play to stereotypes. But on top of that blacks are often seen as foreigners in France even when they grew up there, just like Asians in America.

She lives in both France and Senegal. She has two sons by her one-time boyfriend, Stephane Pocrain.

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