I remember the first time that I didn’t want to be black anymore.
I must have been about 6 years old. I was at a friends house for a sleepover, yes my white friend–I was the only black girl in my kindergarden class. Her mom had just taken her hair out of a braid and it was long and flowing liked in the commercials I saw on TV and it look beautiful as she was running around. I remember feeling, I wish I had hair like that. My hair was always in braids. Always. When you’re hair is down to your ass, it is just easier to manage that way, so thats the way my mom kept it. I asked my friends mom to take my hair out of braids too. I just wanted to be like her. I wanted to be free. She asked me if i normally take my braids out, and i lied replying with a yes. After she took my hair out, and it came out puffy and fabulous as most old braid outs do when you don’t take them out properly. But, it didn’t make me feel beautiful. My friends mother laughed at how “big and fluffy” it was and they– my friend, her mom and her little sister–proceeded to pet my head until they were satisfied.
When I got home, my mom braided my hair again, and I never asked to have my hair out again. I didn’t like feeling different. When I was 9 years old and we went to go visit my mothers side of the family in Florida, my aunt snuck me off and took me to a hair salon.
“Hey Gabby, do you want to get your hair straightened?”
This was the day I discovered relaxer. The magical cream that made my hair long and silky like everyone else. My mother was pretty mad, because she had no idea we were going but she has always been lenient when it comes to me and making my own choices so she didn’t make a big deal of it. I wish she did. I wish she told me what it was going to do to my curls, I wish someone told me I was beautiful just the way I was. I wanted it because then, with relaxed hair, I could have my hair out and flowing in the wind just like my friend and I would fit in.
When I walked the streets, with my long flowing hair, I would get stares and asked “Is that her real hair?” people would ask. “Yes, it is.” my mother would say. “Wow, it’s beautiful!” they would reply. my mother would reply. I never understood why people would always ask that. Why was it impossible for my hair to be beautiful? Why were they always so shocked?
As I got into middle school, and I started developing sexual attraction to humans, I really began focusing on beauty. So, I looked to the magazines, and TV for inspirations. Which, I also wish someone told me not to do. Even though the 90’s had many black icons, and the 00’s had their share of inspirational people of colour. I still found myself drawn to the european look. Even though I LOVED Scary spice, I always said that baby spice was my favourite. The hatred for my skin tone grew and grew as I got older. By the time I was in high school, I would literally hide from the sun out of fear of getting too dark. All my friends would be laying on the beach, trying to get a tan and I would be under and umbrella. They wanted to be “black like me”. I wanted to be white like them, so I never left the house without my green contacts (well, not always cause I sucked at putting those bitches in) my hair straightened with my extensions in and some cover up that did not match my skin tone at all.
I had a boy friend in high school and I realize now, what I thought was love, was simply attachment. He was just one of the first guys to give me the attention I was fighting so hard to get. He made me feel special and beautiful and that is what I loved, how he made me feel because before that, I didn’t feel special, or beautiful. So when he broke up with me, my entire existence crumpled beneath my feet and I begged for him to stay with me. He left me because he was going through changes and I was too “co-dependant”. I didn’t understand it at the time all I knew was that “I needed him”. He did me an amazing favour by leaving me. It forced me to get back to myself and what I really needed.
What I really needed, was to find myself. My black, beautiful, magical self.
I’m not sure I ever would have changed had my best friend aka sister Ray didn’t tell me one day in class “you should just wear your hair natural”. She probably told me a 100 times but that summer, I did it.
I did it and I felt fucking fabulous.
I didn’t have the courage back then to do a big chop, so I chose to transition. So no, my hair looked nothing like it did now. And, I still questioned my beauty consistently.
BUT, I felt lighter. Suddenly the pressure to fit in and look like my friends was fading.
I was happy. I was happy with what I was given for the first time in 17 years.
SO, what does all of this have to do with Lil Kim?
As stated in an article on Daily Beast:
We are witnessing Kim’s transformation into someone less-black and more desirable. She’s admitted to not feeling “pretty enough.” She’s reflected on having lovers cheat on her with women who were more “European looking.” We’re literally watching her attempt to create a new reality for herself.
I understand her pain. I understand why she changed her appearance. I probably would have continued down the same path had I not been blessed with an angel of a best friend telling me that it was time to embrace who I was. I understand her and I know I am not the only one who has felt the pressures of white america. To all the people shaming her for her choices, you are part of the problem. Her whole life she has struggled to see herself as beautiful and so she did what she felt she needed to do with HER body to feel beautiful. Was she beautiful before she made all her changes? Yes, she was gorgeous. Is she still beautiful now? YES. She is a human being and an artist, that alone makes her beautiful.
Instead of giving her shit and telling her she is ugly, and continuing to try and destroy her self esteem wake up and realize that she is just another black woman trying to feel beautiful in a world that is constantly telling us we are the opposite. She is just trying to love herself and that is a battle I understand far too well.