Since I’d written about Brandy’s admission of having had an eating disorder early on in her career, I wanted to also make sure I shared this here, as well.
When asked if she, like her friend Kelly Rowland, struggled with learning to love her brown skin and her beauty:
“Absolutely. Just…my mom used to always say, you know Brandy you have a unique beauty. You know it wasn’t the typical what you see on magazines. You know just having far apart eyes and having different features, you know, high cheek bones and different things you kinda have to grow into. I definitely struggled with that. I didn’t think I was you know cute for a very long time. But, I know it’s kinda cliche’ to say that inner beauty it comes from within. But, it really does. When you work on yourself and when you take care of yourself and take care of your body, you grow into your beauty. You realize that no one looks like you, no one can be you, no one is you but you. And you really connect with that and embrace that. You know it took a long time to get to that point, but I definitely feel where Kelly is coming from. You would never think, cause’ I’ve known Kelly for a very, very long time and she always seem to be so…..not only confident but she was always beautiful within. So it just always…showed through her eyes and through her smile and everything. You never would’ve known that. And I’m just glad that she’s able to not only recognize her inner beauty but recognize her outer beauty. Because you are a BAD You know what! I don’t wanna say it on camera!”
“It’s great to be in a position where you can be honest and realize that you know, your light or your celebrity can be a testimony to other people to not feel like their alone. You know you want to be relatable and I love that about Kelly that she’s relatable and you just…feel like she’s your sister and I know my fans, they feel like I’m auntie or big sis or cousin because they feel like they can relate and that’s so important. So many of us don’t wanna feel by ourselves, like we’re the only ones going through something. Because it’s not true.”
After today’s earlier post, I really needed to see this. I needed my mind on something else.
I really appreciate hearing Brandy – someone I loved while I was growing up – talk about the things that made her different, like her eyes and cheekbones. It did, however, crush me to see her – instead of reifying her own outer beauty – going to that old trope about “inner beauty.”
I’ve written about this before, that “inner beauty” is foolishness – can you be a great person? Absolutely, but to rest comfortably on the idea that “inner beauty” is as valuable as “outer beauty” only further perpetuates the idea that there isn’t multiple definitions of beauty. I don’t have to be conventionally beautiful, with fair skin and thin, blonde hair, in order to see myself as beautiful. I’m not “only allowed to call myself beautiful” only I’m actually someone’s definition of “pretty,” like Kelly Rowland. I’m allowed to have my own belief of what “beauty” is, and I’m allowed to call myself as much.
I have to tell y’all, it’s hard out here for a big-haired, afro-wearing girl. You’ve seen my videos – you know full well just how much hair I’m dealing with, and I wear it shamelessly. When I went back to Indiana to be at my Mother’s bedside, I wore my hair out every day, and I’m entirely certain that half of Indianapolis was confused. Entire families of white people, sitting in the waiting room of the ICU, joined together to giggle at “whatever the hell that is on her head,” because “it needs to be tamed.” If I didn’t have my own definition of “beauty” that allowed space for me to exist peacefully with my big hair, pointy nose, big forehead and brown skin? I’d still be rocking a relaxer, wearing foundation that’s too light and asking the Gods why I couldn’t be born to look more like my passe blanc mother.
I’d also still be trying to shit on other women and make them feel less than, because a cornerstone of “beauty” being so “valuable” is that you can’t let everyone have it. Beauty is one of those mangy carrots that we keep dangling in front of women. Beauty begets “favors” – like favors from men, which is what we all want, amirite? – and if everyone has beauty, then everyone has to split the favor… and we can’t have that, can we?
I’m overjoyed to see Brandy, Kelly and women like them talk about the challenges they’ve faced to accept themselves, but I want more for all of us than this. I want them to be able to say “Of course I am beautiful.” I want them to be able to look at each other and say, “Of course you’re beautiful. You look just like me!” I want them to be able to look at women who don’t look like them and reinforce their beauty, too. I want us all to be able to look at each other and think we’re all beautiful when we’re at our best, without feeling like finding beauty in someone who looks “different” means that you think you are, somehow, not.