beauty matters

Naomi Sims, Beverly Johnson, and Iman are all figures of beauty from my childhood. Proof positive that dark-hued women should grace runways and magazine covers.

Beauty matters.

Especially in a Western culture shaped by Kantian aesthetics. Black girls who have grown up since the late-80’s have had an even narrower range of cultural images of beauty available for their appreciation. Most mag covers today look like a variation on a “fair”-skinned, blond-haired theme.

(randomly selected mag cover):

Recently, beauty and its relationship to colorism was broached in critiques of Lee Daniels’ Precious as the light-skinned Miz Rain (Paula Patton) seemed to embody all the goodness and love Precious’s darker-skinned and larger-sized mother Mary(Mo’Nique) lacked. The oppositional duo calls to mind Glinda the Good (Lena Horne) and Evillene (Mabel King) of The Wiz.


Black feminist writers and scholars continue to take up the politics of aesthetics, race, and gender. Two recent works that explore the contested nature of beauty and aesthetics, include Deborah Willis’s superb Posing Beauty and Sarah Nuttall’s thoughtful Beautiful/Ugly: African and Diaspora Aesthetics.

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About jennifer williams

Jennifer D. Williams is a writer and professor of English and Women's and Gender Studies. She has published in academic journals and online at Ms.blog, PopMatters, among other sites. Jennifer is currently working on a book that looks at black women's urban literature between the Depression and the civil rights era.

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