Lupita is Beautiful, but Black BEEN Beautiful


I love Lupita Nyong’o. I do. But I am uncomfortable with her image.

Every time I see her, my heart smiles the same way it did in 1997 when I stood in the checkout line at the Winn Dixie on South Claiborne Avenue in Uptown New Orleans and saw Alek Wek’s image for the very first time, on the cover of Elle magazine no less. In that moment, it felt like Alek and I were the only women of *that* complexion in the entire city of New Orleans. Tears in my eyes, I bought every single copy on the stand. Growing up, I never – and I do mean NEVER – saw anyone who looked anything like me on the cover of any magazine that had anything to do with beauty. Ever. Not even on Black magazines. Especially not on Black magazines. It felt like our time had come. Finally.

Read in full at Pretty. Period.

CALL FOR PHOTOS – Girls who Rock Locs

Tiana Parker | Photo courtesy of Medley-Inc. | Photo Credit: Marq Lewis


Last Friday, I shared “For Tiana: A Care Package FULL of Locs of LOVE,” a communal virtual hug for Tiana Parker, the seven-year old little girl who was dismissed from school because her hair violated school policy. My original blog post about the care package has since been viewed  over 20,000 times, the care package itself has been viewed over 165,000 times, and news coverage of the care package has ranged from Jet Magazine, and CNN, to the Philadelphia Daily News and Tulsa’s local Fox 23 News. What felt like a simple gesture to let one of our babies know that she is PERFECTLY beautiful just the way she is, has turned into a world-wide LOVE FEST. And I LOVE IT.

The one consistent piece of feedback that I’ve gotten from the HUNDREDS of emails, posts, and messages is that this is bigger than Tiana. ALL of our little natural little ones could use the affirmation. Hell, some of us natural big ones could use the affirmation. So at the request of SO many, BLACKprint Press will soon release an e-book; the proceeds of which will go to a very special cause.

But in order to do that, we need a little bit more content. More photos. Only now we need high quality photos – photos that will look great on e-devices as well as in print (in hopes that we’re able to get the $upport needed to do a run of full-color printed books).

Calling all girls ages 0-17 who rock locs!

(aka dreadlocks/dreads) 

Please send in:

(1) One high quality photo each 

High quality means High Resolution (hi-res). At least 300 DPI with at least one dimension of 2400 pixels (8 inches). Basically we need a big and clear picture, thus, NO CAMERA PHONE PICTURES.


(2) A note of loc affirmation written by the girl or in the girl’s voice

  • imagine that the e-book will be viewed by all the Tianas of the world – little girls who rock locs but who may not be getting all the love and affirmation about their hair that they should be. This note will be one of encouragement and support for them.
  • Girls should respond to the question “Why do you love your hair?” and/or express why their hair and the hair of other girls who wear locs is PERFECT. AS IS.
  • 5-8 sentences MAX.

Please send photos and affirmations via email to <>

DEADLINE = 10/10/13



A Care Package for Tiana: Locs of LOVE

DSC_5848 a TEXT
Photo Credit: Sabriya Simon

Black women’s hair has made the news again. In the same week that Sheryl Underwood, comedian and co-host of The Talk (CBS) referred to “afro hair” as “curly, nappy, beaded…nasty,” a 7-year-old girl in Tulsa, Oklahoma was sent home from her African-American led charter school because according to school officials and school policy, her dreadlocks are “unacceptable.”
Continue reading “A Care Package for Tiana: Locs of LOVE”

Color Me Beautiful: A Dark Girl reflects on Dark Girls

[for Clutch Magazine]

The highly anticipated documentary, Dark Girls, made its debut on OWN Network last night. In the days leading up to the world television premiere, as more and more promo materials were released, people began to reach out to me; and on yesterday, no less than a few dozen folks emailed, messaged, Facebook’ed, and tweeted me – “Dark Girls is on! Are you watching?” I had already seen the film during its national tour last year, but I needed to watch it again, not because it was just that good, but because I wanted to see folks’ response to the film in real-time. My Facebook and Twitter timelines confirmed what I have long known to be true – we have been trained for war.
Continue reading “Color Me Beautiful: A Dark Girl reflects on Dark Girls”

Get Light or Die Trying

Last week’s post “Skin Bleaching, Self-Hatred and Colonial Mentality” generated LOTS of conversation on the web. What is surprising to me is the fact that many people have never heard of skin bleaching. Borrowing from my research on skin bleaching in Ghana, this week’s post “Get Light or Die Trying” is a brief introduction of sorts to the global phenomenon…


In November 1997, a 58-year old retired female clerical worker presented to the Dermatology Outpatient Clinic of Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, Ghana “with complaints of dark patches on light-exposed areas of the face, arms, neck, hands, legs and feet of about 10 years duration” as well as a large fungating ulcer on the right side of her neck. Despite a continuous regime of treatment spanning the course of 14 months, her condition failed to improve. In February 1999, the patient died. The cause of death — sun-related squamous cell carcinoma with pulmonary metastasis precipitated by the habitual application of hydroquinone and later steroid-containing creams. Translated – this Ghanaian woman’s death was caused by a type of skin cancer, which later spread to her lungs, and was attributed to her ritual practice of skin bleaching for more than 20 years of her adult life.

female clerical worker2
(Addo, 2000, 144)

Continue reading “Get Light or Die Trying”

Skin Bleaching, Self-Hatred, and “Colonial Mentality”

BBC Africa recently posted an article by Pumza Fihlani entitled “Africa: Where Black is not really Beautiful.” Highlighting the well-publicized case of South African musician, Nomasonto “Mshoza” Mnisi, who openly (and unapologetically) acknowledges lightening her skin, the article positions skin bleaching the result of “low self-esteem and, to some degree self-hatred.” While Mnisi herself admits that her decision to lighten her skin is indeed “part of … a self-esteem issue,” can we safely conclude that skin bleaching, a now global, and widely practiced phenomenon, is the result of low self-esteem and/or self-hatred? Among those who bleach, can we be sure that the motivating factors are identical just because they all engage in a similar practice? And if the goal is to understand skin bleaching enough to be able to curb, if not stop the practice, how useful would an individualized approach to skin bleaching be to the hundreds of thousands who bleach all over the world? Perhaps the goal is not to eradicate skin bleaching. Perhaps sensationalizing it is. Continue reading “Skin Bleaching, Self-Hatred, and “Colonial Mentality””