Growing up, I adored Jennifer Lopez. Like ADORED. I even had a poster of her in my room guys. That is a big deal because the levels of my adoration were secret because I was the kid who did poetry and went to underground hip-hop sessions in Newtown and had a rep to maintain. I would watch and listen to anything she was in, be it music or movies and in fact, that made me love her even more. Most of all I loved how beautiful she was (is). Delicate features, caramel skin, golden hair and pearly white teeth. The thing is, I don’t know who told me this, but I genuinely believed I would grow up and look just like her. Like…magically. Okay yes, you are allowed to laugh at me, I will wait.
*takes a short walk*
I genuinely believed that somehow once I got passed puberty everything would just fall into place and I would be just like her. Its weird right? The crazy thing is I only realised that I believed that around last year when coming to grips with the skin and hips the good lord gave me. It was like finding an old diary entry when for some reason my mind saw it fit to bring that old memory to the surface. I laughed myself (like you just did) because I look nothing like J-lo. Like noooooothing fam, Zero! My skin is far from caramel, features are far from delicate and my hair is far from long and golden, okay, maybe my teeth are white-ish. But that’s all we share really, that and that we are both women.
I remembered my teenage years, my younger self and how I couldn’t wait to grow up because I was waiting to become beautiful.
Having been on TV a few times or even on stage, I have gone through every possible insecurity. I would tense up when an episode of mine would be aired. “Am I tall enough? Is my skin right? Is my nose too big? Maybe if I had higher cheek bones. My cheeks are too chubby. Why do I do that weird thing with my shoulders? Ag I smiled too wide! How much is plastic surgery really? No actually, just lose some weight and you’ll be good Lilly.”
People would take pictures of me and I would be so scared to look at them when I got the tag notification. Scared that maybe I didn’t pull my tummy in enough or that I did the thing with my head that gives me a double-chin. I got sick of it and needed a change. And then it began.
So the revolution started when I was about 24. 24 was a weird year for me because my life just didn’t look right in so many ways and so I started cleaning up. My issues around beauty were one of them. So the first thing I did was I cut off all my hair yes I am #teamnaturalhair and with hard work my afro is flourishing but for those of you who missed it I had a full on brush cut. I was basically bald.
Something about having my whole face out, without the hair to hide or add anything was empowering. I found myself just looking in the mirror and really engaging with my features. Perhaps because I was forced to. And it was not in a vain self-indulgent manner but really…just…looking and finally seeing. Finally seeing me, erasing and seeing past the girl waiting to look like J-lo.
At the same time I started engaging with ideas of beauty and what they mean. And why I felt like I didn’t have the right to think I was beautiful. Why I thought people were lying if they said I was. Maybe it was just the lighting or the colour of my clothes on that day. Or maybe they were being nice. The more I investigated the more I discovered the ever changing ideas and trends of beauty. How one part of the world can praise a feature that another part of the world will not. How #BodyGoals are everything from the fitness guru doing pull ups, to the skinny model on all the billboards, to the bodacious curvy woman on Instagram wearing short shorts. In the movies when a woman asks “does my butt look big in this” she always wanted the answer to be no and now in 2017 the answer MUST yes, always yes. When I was in varsity (and most of my life) yellow bones were it and now it’s all about “that melanin” Okay, just like that? Beauty standards are always changing and I feel like it comes with no warning.
So with that I came to the personal conclusion that one doesn’t become beautiful, or wait to be chosen to be beautiful, one must not wait to lose the weight, or get the tan or the abs to be beautiful – one must just BE. Be the skinny arms and the broad shoulders and fat nose and the nice lips and chubby cheeks and the strong jawline and freckles and tiny ankles and big waist and big bones and small bum and big muscles and weirdly shaped hands and the funny toes and the tummy and, and, and, and… Just be it. This is for you. Walk with your back straight and head up and JUST. BE BEAUTIFUL. What a revelation!
Looking at my features and seeing them as beautiful and letting them be exactly what they are and loving them (I know it’s kinda corny and a bit cliché) but it is true.
There is an inner confidence that comes from that and a self-assurance that no amount of Instagram likes or lack of thereof, can get you. In my opinion, beauty is a decision and it is yours to make. And it is a big one because at every point there will be something you see trying to make it for you. Something or someone that will remind you that you have something missing or you have too much, and it will drain you trying to keep up to that ever changing tune.
So while I still think Jennifer Lopez is beautiful, I think I am too and so are you. And it’s great to see more women who look like me being used in mass media. Praise God for variety and praise God, there is room for all of us…there is room.
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