Black is beautiful just as is

2009-12-18 13:59

THERE was a time when I was a huge fan of Oprah Winfrey. I’d be glued to the television when her show was on, hanging on to her “live you best life” talk. i was also part of the masses who were excited that she chose South Africa to be the only country other than the US to be graced by her wisdom and vision in the O magazine.

Some thought she was thoroughly narcissistic by being the magazine’s only cover girl. I thought “good on you Miss Winfrey, I’d be on my magazine’s ­cover every month if I had loyal followers in more than 150 countries”.

The magazine came. It was fabulously styled, spiritual and as good as her television show minus the envious feeling I’d get every time she told her TV audience to “look under your chairs!”

The four words of Santa Oprah on print went something like; it’s about time South African women had a magazine that gave them something substantial, which she said True Love was incapable of providing. After a while I got over the ­woman and the show but still kept on buying the magazine.

Then I had a break from South Africa and magazine shelves I thought I had to empty ­into my trolley via my purse. Meanwhile, some nearest and dearest kept copies of various magazines they knew I would enjoy reading, stacks of ­Oprah, True Love and Destiny.

When I came back I started with O magazine, which left me incredibly ­irritated and ­unsatisfied. The woman was photo-shopped to the plastic perfection of Hollywood standards on most of the covers. Where was the promise of the magazine being a level above traditional glamour magazines?

That elevation was never going to be about content; female magazine’s follow a set news pattern. ­Oprah came here sounding like she was promising me that I could find myself represented in her read. I could be beautiful without being turned into plastic.

But O magazine was just typical. I associate it with a dire need to ­belong to a club one can never really be a part of. I felt like Oprah was saying, “You are no longer my audience”, believing as I do that plastic is an environmental nightmare I do not want to be part of.

On to True Love. My former ­employees are still my bread and butter. The singers and actresses who grace the magazine are always made über attractive in cover shoots featuring a glamour squad of top make-up artists, stylists and fashion photographers. It is the way glossies are.

Then out came the news that Lebo Mashile’s cover was photo-shopped to make her look thinner. It rattled me to the core.
Putting Lebo on any cover is ­recognition of her talent and the beauty she refuses to put in a mass ­media box. She doesn’t buy this idea that black beauty is about fake hair and acrylic nails.

So I am wondering what inspired the True Love team, a team of women who embody beauty in various forms and states, to choose trimming their cover star’s curves. Could it be that having a mind, talent, personality and substance are pretensions female that magazines no longer feel like keeping up?

I hope not. Certainly not with products aimed at black women; those that keep affirming that black is beautiful as is, that it’s richly diverse and far too glorious to be reduced to the beauty factory specifications of thin and blonde as the ideal.

This definition is not just false, it perpetuates myths that have turned half of the nation’s black female population into a flock of sheep in bad weaves, fake nails, fake lashes and suppressed diversity. What’s next? Fake boobs and bums? 

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