Friday, April 22, 2011

smart beauty!

over the years, the beauty industry has taught me in no uncertain terms that they simply don't care about me as a black woman. i'm hardly a presence in their ads. my skin tone isn't included in their makeup foundations or powders. when creating cleansers and moisturizers, my specific needs aren't assessed or considered. and i'm not even going to get into what my hair requires in its natural state, and all of the ways that isn't even remotely addressed. i'm simply not accommodated. period.

this is the reason why subconsciously i'm always on the lookout for things that work specifically for me, beautywise. just about every sister i know constantly falls into the habit of interjecting tidbits about something they've discovered that works, no matter how casual or convoluted the conversation happens to be. and it's almost always a big fat wow moment. we're all so excited to find something, for us. clearly, we're behind enemy lines and we're dissecting information and sharing it and passing it along to help each other as best we can. it's like we're in a secret society of some sort. finally coming to terms with the way we look and finding ourselves beautiful on our own terms is a subversive act.

you know what? that's exactly what it is.

to be black and to dare to think of yourself as beautiful is to defy everything that this culture says that you are, that you should be. it's almost as though every single day, every black woman assembles herself visually in her own way and moves forward with this singularity of thought, somewhere in the recesses of her soul. i am beautiful -- not because of you, not in spite of you. i just am.

imagine my surprise when a survey from essence magazine confirmed all of this, and more.

last week, essence presented smart beauty V, which basically gave the beauty industry a glimpse into the mindset of the african-american beauty consumer. they decided to do this by presenting the four archetypes that their survey revealed in the form of four actresses that embodied those ideals. we were placed amongst the audience as they watched the presentation, listened to the panel, had breakfast and took notes. as the descriptions were given, we presented ourselves. to tell you the truth, it felt like performance art. what better way to get your point across than to have it come alive before you. and come alive, we did. it was fun!

here are the four archetypes.

the first is queen bea. her beauty motto: "beauty is a strategy." what does she want? brands with proven results, expert advice and organic and natural ingredients. her quote: "i am always willing to pay a premium for beauty products that have lasting results."

the second is sheree de la sol. her beauty motto: "beauty signals to the world that i have arrived." what does she want? prestige, innovation and anti-aging techniques/products. her quote: "i use my beauty to express that i've made it."

the third is amber b. free. (yep, that was me.) her beauty motto: "beauty is a celebration of me." what does she want? products (preferrably organic) specifically created for me, good price points and value. her quote: "I do not follow beauty trends."

the fourth is jane jones. her beauty motto: "beauty should be simple." what does she want? simplified options, inspiration and guidance. her quote? "i buy fragrances endorsed by celebrities i like."

although the facts they presented definitely raised my eyebrows, one thing was crystal clear: for african-american women, beauty is unconditional.
  • a whopping 84% of african-american women agreed with the statement, "i think i am a beautiful woman" vs 41% of the general market.
  • how about this one -- 58% of african-american women agreed with the statement, "i'm always proud of my looks" vs 22% of the general market.
  • this really blew me away: african-american women spend a whopping $2.6 billion on beauty products. sisters, that is quite a lot of cheddar.
for the life of me, i can't even begin to fully comprehend why white people in this country (and elsewhere, for that matter) don't understand that we live in two completely different worlds culturally and in spite of whatever the media may have you believe, it's fairly bleak on this end of the spectrum -- all the way across the board. most of what's out there in the beauty industry says that i'm not relevant. it doesn't affirm who i am. my response? i refuse to believe them. i go my own way.

still and all, there are more special moments than i'd care to reveal. like traipsing past several beauty counters in greenbriar mall -- arguably the blackest shopping spot in the atl -- and having mpb ask rhetorically why did all of the ads at every counter have white women in them. or slathering on raw shea butter onto my backside in the gym and having some white woman remark to her white friend that if she put any of that grease on her skin, she'd have acne everywhere, and why was i doing that. or approaching a beauty counter and having the makeup expert not have any foundation for me. or not know how to contour my face.

oh, i could go on. but you get the idea.

as we left the w hotel that morning after the event, i murmured to my three compatriots, "i feel a little blacker, ladies. how about you." and they all laughed. because really, we all did. it couldn't be helped. for one bright shining moment, someone stood up and said it, and it all came together beautifully. i think i probably floated to my boxing session, high heels and all.

maybe someday i'll be rich and famous. maybe i won't. who knows. no matter what happens, i'm not going to believe that i've really made it until i'm on the cover of essence.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

popcorn, anyone?

summer is coming, believe it or not -- and that means watching (usually) visually bombastic, (sometimes) mindnumbingly cool, (almost always) fun hollywood pap. and why not? film was meant to be a great escape. it's when you think you know where it's taking you that makes it even more fun than you assumed it was going to be.

this is the stuff i'm looking forward to seeing, in all of it's seemingly innocuous glory.

of course, something in me can't help but pay very close attention as to whether or not any actors of color are in supporting roles. because yes, it matters. statistics have proven time and again that when other cultures and perspectives are included in the storyline by simply having that person of color on screen as a non-stereotype, the powers that be are inadvertently teaching everyone how to get along. and then there's that bottom line, again -- i mean, seriously. don't you want everybody's money?

well, now. thor has idris elba in a co-starring role. 'nuff said. and yes -- for that reason alone, i'll be seeing this one first.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

you and your awards

i fell backwards into this blog entry by esquire writer chris jones and i couldn't climb out. simply put, his sense of entitlement blew me away. even though he'd already won two national magazine awards -- TWO! -- he couldn't stop whining about the one he felt he deserved. at one point, i thought, well at least he's being honest. but this guy is someone who, by his own admission, hasn't had much adversity in his life or his work. basically, he's won with each of his nominations. Lord God. adversity, that's a bigger part of what some of us have ever had. the word "no" is just about all that some of us ever hear. and he's only 36.

if this guy had to be a negro for a month, he'd never make it. hardly a week would go by and he'd probably throw himself out of a window.

awards matter, i suppose. but art is a funny thing. it's rare that an artist can know the impact of their work in their own lifetime. what you do can matter a great deal while you are here. you are rich, you are famous, maybe you get loaded whenever you want. and then you're gone -- and your precious work is a mere mention in an obscure footnote in some book somewhere. just think about all those movie stars from the 1920s, for example. there were gobs of them. i'll bet you can't name ten.

do you know who pola negri is? this chick was a really big deal, back in the day. totally one of my favorites. she was valentino's last girlfriend, a massively popular actress internationally, hollywood's first foreign import (from poland!), a former ballerina, even. and she could sing. she was rich, she was gorgeous. she's definitely got a star on the hollywood walk of fame. and now? well, who knows. the 1920s is making such a big comeback these days. it's only a matter of time until some starlet makes her their template and perhaps she'll burst forth all over again. her work is waiting to be rediscovered -- the thing is that thankfully, she left something worth watching.

i love that line from the end of the movie basquiat, when the artist tells him that the audience for his work probably hasn't even been born yet. or that chuck palahniuk quote: we all die. the goal isn't to live forever, the goal is to create something that will. none of that has anything to do with awards.

a talk given by dr. richard hamming at bell labs gave a talk called you and your research and although it was primarily about science and scientists, he dropped a massive amount of wisdom about process and what it means to challenge yourself and do great work.

Saturday, April 09, 2011 two cents...

I have a question.

If the government shuts down, do you think that members of Congress will collect their paychecks anyway? This is something that they get to decide -- why wouldn't they give themselves paychecks? -- and with hours left to spare before the government shuts down, no one seems particularly interested in taking that vote. At first glance, it may seem that, like Cartman, they do what they want but I think they're at the mercy of The Tea Party. Lobbyists. Corporate interests. Bipartisan issues. Blah, blah, blah.

Oy, gevalt.

As I channel surf, listlessly giving lawmakers the side eye as they yammer on and on about policy and constituents and what's best for America, certain things almost always come to mind.
  1. Lawmakers make way more money than I do. Majority and Minority Party Leaders in the Senate and House earn $193,400 annually. The Speaker of the House makes $223,500 annually. Each Representative earns $165,200 annually. A cost of living adjustment happens every year, unless they vote against it. And they can vote for salary increases, too. Don't forget, they've got lots of expenses -- travel, assistants, staff. The final payout can be substantial. Just remember: we're footing the bill.

    How much does the average American make? Less than $40,000. Everyone in Congress should be forced to live on that much money -- or our collective salaries should rise to their six figure level to accommodate the cost of living, just as theirs does.

    And to think that Benjamin Franklin thought elected government officials shouldn't earn any money from their positions.

  2. As federal employees, members of Congress have access to good health insurance. It's not free, but here's an important thought: When one of them or their family members has cancer or any other debilitating illness, they aren't refused treatment or denied coverage. They can get the care that they need. If Blue Cross/Blue Shield won't handle it, they can also utilize taxpayer-subsidized care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Something to think about, while you watch them go off on each other over the national health care bill.

  3. Members of Congress have paid vacations. They're called non-legislative days. There's quite a few of them in 2011. Last year, all of their time off added up to 23 1/2 weeks. Yikes! That's almost 6 months.
They also have pensions. Think about that. A six figure salary that accommodates the cost of living, health insurance and a pension -- and a paid vacation. This is what teachers should get, not members of Congress.

My solution? Get out of all three wars and stop policing the world, cut the defense budget and tax the rich.

It may not be much, but -- to paraphrase Tony Brown -- that's just one black woman's opinion.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Happy April Fool's Day

Funny April Fool's Day Ecard: Congratulations on effectively deceiving and humiliating me.

Let's face it -- today's the day that I should probably say something like, "Hey, everybody! I'm pregnant!" What with the way some people in my life have been riding me about having a baby, I should say it in neon. But there's way too many folks out there that would take that remark seriously. And if it got back to my grandmother, that would seriously kill me.

So instead of pulling your collective leg and shanking myself somewhere down the line, here's a lovely card. And yes -- here's hoping someone else gets your goat.