As an artist who writes, I pay close attention to what we love, loathe and what we fear. I must say it’s been a pleasure for me to see the birthing of a new creative soul force that has been awakened recently in Lupita Nyong’o. The recent Oscar winning actress has delighted movie-goers with her passionate and heart-wrenching portrayal of Patsey in 12 Years a Slave and left lovers of fashion wall-sliding and professing their adoration for her slim figure and ability to wear color bursts of loveliness and gowns that make her look like a princess. Beauty professionals are also lusting after her dark and seemingly flawless skin.
Even in the middle of the love-fest, some pop culture and entertainment critics are warning against focusing solely on Lupita’s beauty as she is building a career as a serious actress. I do find that the line between appreciating a woman’s beauty and her brains has always been blurred. I am also wondering how long the love will last for Lupita as…
I’ve also noticed our love and adoration turn to hate and judgement when the people who create art reflect images we may not be comfortable with. Case in point, when actor Omar Epps recently visited The View to promote his new show Resurrection, he was dressed in what some may call avant garde garb, others just saw it as a skirt and were none too pleased with seeing someone that most regard as masculine break his man code so to speak. Actor and comedian Marlon Wayons and rapper Lord Jamar of Brand Nubian fame sparred on Twitter about it and underneath the insults, wisecracks, shade and bashing was a need to express anger and passion about seeing a man and especially a black man in attire that we are conditioned to believe is only for women.
For Lord Jamar, it was something to be ashamed of. I think he called it the continuation of the feminization of black men. Honestly, with the exception of a few movies that feature men in drag for comedic purposes (these include men of other races as well) I don’t see how someone’s personal or professional choice to wear a dress or skirt can be misconstrued to be seen as a deliberate feminization movement. Marlon is more open minded and sees Epps as a fashion pioneer, someone expressing himself though garments. Epps himself got in on the discussion and said he was paying homage to his African ancestors.
As a society we tend to need to have someone or something to love and hate simultaneously. With the advent and popularization of the internet it’s easier than ever to gauge our level of lust or disgust these days and what I have seen is very troubling. For a country that prides itself on being democratic, diverse and a universal melting pot, we sure have a lot of biases.
From men wearing skirts and hoodies in the rain, to women modeling weaves and extensions to the varying pigments we come in to the people we choose to marry and date to who we vote for or the health care we choose or what music we listen to, we have become a society that revels in disgracing and sometimes harming those who do not put it down or pick it up like we do.
We don’t have to agree with everything we see and we have a right (Thanks good ole U S of A) to speak out on it, but I challenge the next Skin-Wrapped Walking Soul to be more willing to see and experience rather than critique and berate. How about the next time we see or hear something we don’t like, instead of spewing out how much we are offended and taking physical action against others who may not be dressed in a manner that makes us feel comfortable, we instead investigate lovingly. If you are able to approach the person directly, try having a conversation and asking questions about the very thing that has you so bothered. I would be willing to bet that this method would be more healing to our world than what we’re doing now.
At this rate we’re going to shade and read each other to death. Now, I don’t think that is what our creator intended.
What do you think?
© 2014, TamekaMullins. All rights reserved.
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Excellent post, Tameka, with some really astute commentary. No change comes without struggle, but I’m really heartened to see these positive signs. It’s nice that a woman with very dark skin is seen by the masses as beautiful, though I agree that her beauty should not be the only criteria for her worth. Also, kudos to Omar Epps. Women have been wearing pants for years and I think his skirt is fashion forward. When it catches on, Lord Jamar and Marlon Wayans will be wearing them, too!! Write on, girl! <3
Thanks AD! The only thing that worries me about Lupita is that some people are reducing her to someone who wears clothes beautifully and we know there is more to her story. I also don’t like when we idealize people and when they do something that we don’t agree with we take pleasure in chopping them down to size.
As people of color there usually isn’t any leeway for us to make mistakes, so…
I’ve been seeing men wear skirts like the one Omar wore on the runway all the time. Everything doesn’t have to be related to sexuality and I hope we become more observant and appreciative of differences as a society. No one likes being discriminated against for any reason and people like Lord Jamar should reflect on this!