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Are African-American Girls Getting Prettier?


Troy

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Seriously, this is the question Ebony magazine asked 50 years ago

 

ebony-magazione-cover-february-19661.jpg

 

Whatever the answer was, the imagery has not changed.  It may have even become more extreme as long blond hair is common place and the use photoshop is mandatory.

 

 

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Women wear long blond wigs not so much because that is the way men want to see them, but because that is the way they want to see themselves. 

 

Of course this is the image that Black media promotes, as they work hard to conform to the white standard of beauty.

 

When we see a Black woman with rocking a natural style, we "freak out," the way we do when we see a more accurate world map.

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LOL! The Michael Jackson pic at the end... brutal. Note that none of the pictures are of Lupita.  But the image of Black women in America is changing. This is seen in the hair business and should actually be studied. In the last 10 years the shift to natural hair has been kicking the hair relaxer business in the ass. It's to the point now where traditional hair companies are purchasing natural hair companies left and right. Consider Carol's Daughter as a reference point. There are more and more natural hair women being featured than the straight haired woman especially in marketing campaigns. Take the time to look at tv commercials and more than likely any Black woman on the spot will have natural hair.

 

Now this doesn't mean that men are becoming more accepting. As a matter of fact Black men are the major reason Black women perm (huge generalization I know). Most natural hair women are married to White men. I'm not doing research to support this so I'm just making a claim, but google Natural hair women and White men and note the number of articles written on the subject. I know personally I've had black friends who just won't marry Black women and definitely won't be seen with Black women with natural hair or short hair. It's crazy.

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Interesting points Chris.  I don't have any data either, but the attention paid to Lupita is much more of an aberration, more of a function of white America's embrace.  As far as I can tell (based upon a few internet queries), Lupita has never graced the cover of Ebony magazine, but she has been on the cover of many white magazines multiple times.

 

Besides man, in your heart of hearts, despite her grace and beauty does Lupita's boyish frame really appeal to you?  :wub:

 

I agree there has been a lot more attention paid to natural hair styles lately.  There has also been a spate of new books on the subject, but again, if you go to anywhere Black women are you will see for more extensions, weaves, wigs, and processed hair than you will see natural styles. 

 

In the early 70's many women rocked afros.  How many sisters do you see rocking afros today?

 

We can debate whether women process their hair because that is the way men want to see it, versus it being the way women want to see it themselves.

 

In any case, Black men and women are indoctrinated to want to see Black women minic European standards of beauty. I think we can agree this is pretty obvious.  Sadly much of this indoctrination comes from Black media.

 

I'm glad you got the Michael Jackson joke  :D  

 

lupita.jpg

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I guess with Lupita, I think she's just beautiful as hell, I never really paid attention to her body. Just like with Jill Scott, a lot of guys don't think she's attractive but I think she is gorgeous. My perspective on natural hair is skewed. I've always dated women with natural hair or when I dated them they went natural... But my wife runs www.natural-ness.com with her sister and although she is not as engaged in the site anymore, her work had her featured in Curly Nikki's book released last year. She even has a natural hair comic strip book I published. 

 

The hair industry is taking a serious hit though with perms. peep this article: http://www.mintel.com/press-centre/beauty-and-personal-care/hairstyle-trends-hair-relaxer-sales-decline

 

And that was a few years ago. I think the more interesting statement is White America's acceptance of Lupita's look more than Black America's acceptance of her look. All of the women in my immediate family are natural and you are right, I see more women with weaves, perms, etc, but the numbers are changing really fast.

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My wife rocks a natural style as does my sister.  My adult daughters have their hair straightened (high heat or relaxer) by the Dominicans who appear to have lock on the hair straighten business, or braided by the west Africans who dominate that segment of Black hair care.

 

The article you referenced said, "...in the past 12 months, nearly three-fourths (70%) of Black women say they currently wear or have worn their hair natural (no relaxer or perm),"  It would be interesting to know the number and demographics of the women they asked.

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References are always made to black women wanting to emulate  European standards of beauty but very few women of any race are perfect examples of this idealistc paragon.  It's not like Caucasian and Asian women don't strive to change and improve their appearance in an attempt to replicate the ideal image.  No white woman wants a pale complexion, stringy, mouse brown hair, a flat ass, and small boobs and they do whatever it takes to improve their appearance, When it comes to hair, they color it, have it straightened if it's too frizzy and curled if it's too straight and add extensions for length and fullness.They also patronize tanning salons to bronze their skin and, of course, keep plastic surgeons in business, having their eyes, noses, and  lips "fixed".  Most women  are weight conscious and very few want to be fat.  Vanity thy name is woman.

 

Black women nowadays wear their hair anyway they want to, switching off from time to time.  They have many options and they choose between wigs, weaves, perms, dreads, corn rows, and "naturals". there is no one style more popular than another. The female characters on the hit TV show, EMPIRE, for instance, all wear their hair different ways

 

Lupita has become the "it" girl thanks to the fashion industry which is always looking for a certain look and her "little boy" image fits the bill. Dark skin is also considered exotic by many of these movers and shakers. 

 

From what I observe,  Society is no longer preoccupied with hair styles making a ethnic statment.  Anything goes.  Black men have a whole spectrum of appearances to choose from and some of them are even liberated enough to like a woman for her brains and personality and other hidden assets.

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Cynique--absolutely!  Corporations target all women.  I'm sure you've noticed all the hair extensions white women have been wearing lately. White, however, can more easily approach the gold standard of beauty than Black women, and I suspect are under much less stress as a result.

 

Many Black women (of all classes) spend a great deal of time and money going through all the different hairstyles, like the characters in Empire. Of course the these fictional characters, on Empire, make it look make it look easy, cause they never show them spending 3 or 4 hours languishing in a salon on a Saturday afternoon.  It is sad, to see more men headed down the same path.  

 

I'm glad I started shaving my head several years ago.  Makes life really simple.

 

I agree about Lupita, she makes me think of newer version of Alex Wek.

 

cover-of-elle-magazine.jpg

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I've always loved Alek Wek! I happen to have always liked darker skin basically because the skin has very little damage or flaws in comparison to light skin which has a lot of blemishes and gets acne a lot easier. That's a personal preference which is why I have also been partial to natural hair as it shows a lot of confidence in my opinion, not saying that not having natural hair makes a woman less confidence or that hair creates confidence. That doesn't mean I haven't dated women with straight hair, I have.

 

Anyway, Lupita is beautiful and not the flavor of the moment or boyish looking, but you two are older than I am and I almost expect that level of thought in regard to her look from older Blacks. (ooooohhhhhhh, lol) Seriously though, in the South from the moment we come out we are told that light is right, and more beautiful. I mean there are girls in the south who are worshipped because if their light skin and long straightened hair. But they have moustaches, acne and are typically built up funny, but they are still considered more beautiful than darker skinned women. 

 

The reality is beauty and grooming are billion dollar industries. I know guys that pay 40 dollars for a haircut every week and they are geting basically bald heads!!!!! We all adhere to some idea of what we think we should look like.

 

In regard to the natural hair industry it is pretty doggone big and continuing to grow. Think about this Carol's Daughter (which actually sold), Miss Jessie, Jane Carter and Cara B Naturally are million dollar companies that cater to natural hair. This is a completely new thing and has only happened in the last few years. I think as Black women become even more independent and stop waiting on Black men to marry them they will start caring less about the straight hair that men want. (Is this kinda sexist?)

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Hummm... It is hard to write this without coming across as disparaging Lupita.  But how in the world can we even understand each other if we can not even agree on terms.

 

Lupita has the stereotypical garden variety boyish build, flat chested and narrow hipped.  If she does not have a boyish physique, then I do not know who does.

 

This reminds me of the conversation with Nah'Sun who described some women as "thick" that clearly fit the textbook definition of morbidly obese ("thick" is a desirable, attractive quality)

 

Now I appreciate every guy has different preferences, which is perfectly natural.  It is great to find Lupita attractive (many do) but to suggest her build is anything but boyish, seems defy reasoning.  Is this another one of those blue-dress-gold-dress type of things, where I see boyish while others see voluptuous?

 

 

lupita-nyong-o-86th-annual-oscars-press-

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I agree about Lupita, Troy. I also disagree with Chris' observations about certain skin flaws occurring more among one complexion as opposed to another.  Good skin doesn't discriminate.   A smooth flawless complelxion comes in all colors as does a pimply one. Genes play a role in this.  As for moustaches, with razors and all of the dipillatories available, no female has to settle for facial hair - unless she wants to.  And don't get me started on bikini waxing.

 

People do see things differently, and what strikes one person as pretty doesn't necessarily impress another. No accounting for taste.  Anthropologists say that a female of any race appeals to the male eye if the arrangement of her facial features have the symmetry that conforms with what is referred to as the "golden ratio".   Whether natural or treated or enhanced, if hair provides a good frame for the face, it has served its purpose.

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I'm not sure that someone with a lighter complexion is more susceptible to acne; it could be that it is just easier to see.

 

Yeah I guess the issue of hair is a loaded one.  As someone who is male, has never taken much interesting in styling his own hair, and currently sports a baldie-bean, I'm not sure how qualified I am to speak on the subject.  

 

Opinions aside, we clearly spend a lot of time and money on hair.  I think we spend too much money, and most of what we spend is directed by market forces we don't take the time to consider.  

 

It would also be interesting to know what percentage of the Black hair care industry's profits goes into the pockets of Black people.

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I think Lupita is fit and and attractive and not boyish at all. Troy you used the word voluptuous... Serena Williams is voluptuous and athletic. She has larger breasts and a larger butt, which is associated with womanhood obviously, but you also hear people say that the Williams sisters look like men in drag. The common conception of Blacks it seems is that fitness and healthy body shapes are less womanly and more manly. Hence your opinion. The sister just has small breasts and let's be real White people do not like small breasts (unless you are referring to fashion only where they want small frames so clothes can hang like on a hanger)

 

Like you said though that is personal preference. The former athlete and coach in me admires women who are physically fit. Most women who are really ahtletic tend to have smaller breasts (by default because the fat distribution is different for athletes). I think that idea of "boyish" is what stops a lot of Black women from shooting for more athletic and physically fit bodies. I mean I've heard women say, "I don't want to look like a man." Which is directly in line with the idea of your "Lupita is boyish." I simply think she is small and while you state that she is what White America finds beautiful, that totally overlooks Queen Latifah as a cover girl spokesperson (an especially high profile spokesperson).

 

In regard to skin, I guess because when I worked as a teacher in San Diego my Sudanese and darker students very rarely had acne problems and they had issues with hygiene (I say this to establish that they didn't have the best regimen for skin care). Those genes were strong, but so was their dark skin. While my lighter skinned Ethiopian students had acne problems. 

 

But darker skin is less prone to acne. I haven't researched this, but it is true. here is an article that discusses skin types: http://www.crutchfielddermatology.com/treatments/ethnicskin/doesskincarevarywithskincolorandtype.asp#.VQrkLI7F-So

 

I do agree that people spend a ridiculous amount of dough on hair and beautification products, but that's okay. Our appearance is the first thing we are judged on so it makes sense. Unfortunately, our community, Black people, we just have a lot of history that I still think has been shaped by our grandparents and parents about what beauty is. I guess all cultures have this issue. It's the idea that a dark skinned Puerto Rican reserves the right to claim his race as White on a birth certificate. White is right and this is never more evident in the south than when a woman cuts her hair off and goes around older Black women who all say that women with short hair look like men and must be THE gay.

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Lupita is short in stature, slight and flat chested body-wise, and her close cropped hair is groomed by a barber.  It is not a stretch to call her little "boyish". This is not to be construed as a put-down; it is simply a fashion industry "type".  Voluptuous women are chesty and curvaceous and pliant.  They are not muscle bound and hefty like Serena Williams.  

 

I didn't see anything in the article you provided a link to, Chris, that said dark African American women have  less acne than lighter skinned ones.  But I did see that they have a tendency toward keloids which can blemish the skin. They say "black don't crack" but that applies to wrinkles, not acne.  You tread a slippery slope when you try to generalize about African Americans because their skin tones run the gamut of colors and their gene pool is hybrid and there is no typical model. Diet has an effect on skin condition and oily skin does contribute to pimples and these factors vary from individual to individual.

 

Obviously, when it comes to what appeals to whom. - to each his own. Aretha croons about "giving him something he can feel" and a lot of men claim "nobody wants a bone but a dog".  But, since they're a lot dogs out there who follow their inner feelings, thin women with tight coochies have nothing to worry about.   

 

Women  are a tad less superficial than men when it comes to what is attractive.  A good personality, along with a good job, scores high with them.

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Yeah but Lupita also has a nice ass, and that's not boyish. Some guys like breast, some don't and the idea that a woman's hair is groomed by a barber and that aligns her with being boyish is absurd. Once again, I had Sudanese female students who thought they were ugly and not beautiful based on similar comments as yours. I spent all of my time making sure they understood that they weren't boyish and that their high cheekbones and smooth skin was attractive and beautiful. That their short natural hair was just as beautiful as the mixed race, latino and asian students at the school. This wasn't just me saying this to make them feel better it was true. The girls were just beautiful. But I do get that you are saying it's a fashion industry type, I choose not to say they are boyish so that is what it is.

 

In regard to voluptuous... most of the time Black women and any women who consider themselves as such are just fat. That's it, they are fat. Very often women who think they are thick, are just fat. I chose Serena as an example of an athletic woman who had curves. I do know what the word means, but I was giving an example of a different athletic body shape since we were talking about Lupita.

 

In regard to the article, I chose that because of this section: We know that genetics have a major influence on our skin colour, skin resilience and vulnerability to certain skin problems. In addition, people with a lot of body hair, often have a greater tendency to oily skin and blocked secretory glands resulting in pimples and other similar skin conditions

People of different races have the same number of melanocytes but they are more active in dark-skinned people. Oil glands tend to be more numerous and large in black skin, and follicles tend to be larger, so black skin tends toward oiliness, although it is less acne-prone. The darker the skin the more protection melanin provides from ultra-violet rays of the sun and from premature aging and stays younger-looking longer.

 

If those lines don't state that darker skinned people specifically women like Lupita or Sudanese people tend to not even grow beards or a lot of body hair. This means that they don't have as many blocked pores so they have less acne. In the second part it states clearly that "black skin is less acne prone." I'm certain there is more evidence out there, but I'm not going to look it up, I'm just basing this on the student populations I taught where we had over 50 dialects and at least 10 different African nationalities and my African students who were darker simply didn't have as many facial blemishes as their peers. The only students who did have blemishes has tribal scarification.

 

There are a number of factors that affect skin, but in general darker skinned people tend to have less acne. 

 

Everyone likes what they like, so arguing what's attractive is really a waste of time because we all like certain things. In regard to women being less critical, only when they begin to run out of their first options/choices. LOL

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Nobody said Lupita wasn't pretty or that short natural hair was unacceptable.  The fact that you read this into what I said says something about you, Chris,  and the girls you had to "console".  Short hair is a preference many women of all ethnicities choose, myself, included, whether it is a pixie or gamin cut. It is a style that dates back to the 1920s when the Flappers wore boyish bobs. Over the years, natural hair has never gone completely out of style and is now back in vogue, so the girls you had to counsell were overly-sensitive. You, yourself, are biased in favor of people who conform to your preference in body types that are the result of working out. Cookie on Empire is voluptuous and she is not fat. And, just because an African American is is not Lupita's complexion does not mean they are light-skinned,  It means they are a lighter skin as in the many hues of brown which is why I have a problem with you quoting white studies pontificating about negroid Americans.  What is the explanation for those of Lupito's color who do have acne or the "red bones" who don't have acne or the multitudes of brown skinned ones who don't have a lot of body hair. But, everbody is entitled to their own opinion and mine is based on my years of observation.  

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So I guess I'll find a black article that supports what I've seen but it won't matter. I know what light skin is. You really crack me up. When I bring up my history it's to make a point about how people describe dark skinned women. My discussions with those students was important since they dealt with a lot more than the other immigrants at the school. My mother was yellow and so is my sister. I've dated every shade and find women attractive in a variety of shades. I tend to personally like athletic women, but I think Jill Scott is stunning. Natural hair goes in and out of fashion but there has never been a time like now in regard to the kind of narrative being built around natural hair and the culture that has been created to support women who are natural. Black women are beautiful which gets us back to the original point but I'm sure we will find something else to debate. As far as lupita being the it girl, janelle monae actually holds that title in my opinion and she is incredibly beautiful...Dorothy dandridge beautiful. Good discussion though over a pretty straightforward topic.

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LOL Well, Chris, maybe you should broaden your history when you make your assertions, then you wouldn't have to back track. And excuse me but "the debate about natural hair and the culture built around it" was what the black is beautiful era during the 1960s was all about.  The pro and con arguments have changed very little since then. 

 

janelle monae the new "it" girl?  Incredibly beautiful  - in a tradional way, which is why I beg to differ.  Or do you see fashion designers vying for the prestiege of having her wear one of their creations on the red carpet.  That distinction goes to Lupita, in spite of the fact that janelle monae doesn't have acne, either.  ;)

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Janelle actually just became a Cover Girl and despite her being very counter culture in her music and art, she is now being featured on all of the night time talk shows (almost in more places than Lupita but it's hard to compare since they are in completely different industries). She is pretty calculated in her approach and she will only wear black and white in homage to her mother when she is on stage or in performance mode which is why she isn't in the gowns at award shows so much. If she's wearing a different color, it's an accessory and we see Lupita at awards shows because it's her job to be there. Janelle's mother was a maid hence her uniform of black and white. She tends to only attend shows where she is performing primarily so she wouldn't be selected to wear the designer labels.

 

I didn't backtrack, I simplified my discussion points. I still think darker people are less prone to acne, I still think Lupita is beautiful and I really think that the Natural hair movement today is a lot more involved than it has ever been in our history. I don't have to prove this, a basic Google of natural hair will show how diverse the discussion is and how the current movement has actually sparked financial wealth for a lot of those involved. I don't think the Black is beautiful movement created wealth... tell me if I'm wrong. Until Carol's Daughter sold, the natural hair market was being pretty much dominated by Black owned companies (and Coconut Oil, but I'm overlooking that for the sake of my point, lol). I think the same empowerment is definitely there, but this movement is something completely different. I think it actually deserves to be studied in depth based on the social ( which is similar to the 60s) and the financial (curly Nikki, Cara B, Carol's Daughter, Motown Girl, my wife's site www.natural-ness.com  and a host of other sites out there) ramifications that are allowing women to discuss the decision to become natural in a fantastic old school empowering way as well as a financially empowering way.

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