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Close your eyes for three seconds and imagine the most beautiful celebrity in the world. What did she look like? Were her eyes a deep brown hue? Was her nose full with wide nostrils? What about her skin—did it have an umber tone? Was her shoulder-length hair full and coily? Probably not. When asked to picture the most beautiful celebrity in the world, few imagine a black woman. My efforts to help her think of black women as beautiful in their own right has included calculated conversations since she was four—because I know the female standard of beauty is set at a young age.
Fellow mothers of Black girls understand this relentless effort—there is no moment off. At any given second, our daughter can consume a second piece of media from TV commercials to YouTube videos featuring an actress that makes her ask:.
I wish I sounded more like a princess too. I find it even sadder when the confrontations occur in the form of prejudice from their own race and gender. The study showed that Black girls as young as five years old were deemed less in need of nurturing, comfort, protection, and support by adults from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds. As mothers, how can we teach our daughters that Black girls and Black women are beautiful when they face criticism, ridicule, and discrimination from women who look just like them?
I, too, have frequent conversations with Maya about Black celebrities who I consider to be beautiful, but as psychologist Dr. And for decades, that beauty standard has been warped and objectified by commercial forces outside of the home. I encourage mothers of Black girls to move beyond questioning commercial beauty standards and stressing the power of diversity.
Maya will be judged regardless. We need to shift the conversation from a place of embracing inclusion to teaching pride. Young Black girls should consider women like them and hence, themselves the most beautiful in the world.