By Tamara Madden
When I was growing up, I was constantly told how ugly I was. My mother was stunning and always had men running behind her, but I never thought that I would look like her and never wanted to, surprisingly. I would look in the mirror at my dark skin and big forehead and wonder why people judged me. I always felt like I was a nice person, but nothing seemed to matter more than my outward appearance. My mother was light and I was dark and I often wondered if her complexion and the length of her hair made her more attractive to people. In high school many girl’s got their self-esteem battered because the ‘pretty’ girls would berate them for some physical attribute that they considered a flaw. It always disturbed me and still does to this day. Black women sometimes spend far too much time putting each other down, and comparing themselves to one another instead of building each other up. We are all born with different features and bone structures, but we’re programmed to think that there is only one type of beauty. I find beauty in everyone, because everyone is beautiful in their own right. It’s not an insult and not a statement that’s meant to demean, it’s simply a fact. Some of us have assets that others don’t, but so what? We can still embrace our sista’s and say,” you’re beautiful sis.”
Recently, I posted some images on the blog that received some interesting feedback. Since the site is centered around the beauty of natural women; I thought that viewers would embrace the model’s unique beauty, but things didn’t happen that way.
We live in a society where we are judged by our physical appearance, and anything other than the norm is unacceptable. Even in the world of natural beauty, many people still lean towards the traditional–it’s ok to have locks if they are well kept, but if not you’re immediately judged, it’s ok to have a bald head–only if you have the face for it. It’s almost like we’re saying that our beauty has to meet someone else’s standards, but isn’t that the very reason we choose to go natural in the first place?
As an artist and photographer, I like to focus on all types of beauties. We already live in a world where many people deal with ageism, racism and sexism so let’s not perpetuate these negatives in the black community, and particularly in the natural community. I think that differences should be celebrated and that we should be more open and accepting to all those who don’t fall within societies standards of beauty. Who among us can really live up to society’s standards anyways? and why bother to try?
We are living in an age where women around the world are bleaching their skin to get lighter so that they can be more appealing to their men, where ads of blond haired fair skinned women are placed in the middle of Sub-Saharan Africa, and where many feel that it’s necessary to alter themselves physically so that they can feel better about themselves. There is so much pressure to be beautiful and with that pressure comes pain and sacrifice. My mother used to always tell me that in order to be beautiful, I have to go through some pain; that was while my scalp was burning from the pressing comb in my head. Well now, I know better. I am beautiful every second of the day, with makeup and without, with my locks twisted and with them unkempt, with a bald head or a nappy head, because I said so and I know so. All of my sisters are beautiful as well, and we need to take that old standard and tear it down!
It’s time to set the standard for yourself!
Tamara Natalie Madden is a Jamaica-born Painter and Photographer. She has exhibited in a number of group and solo exhibitions and her work can be found in private and public collections including Vanderbilt University, TN; and Alverno College, WI. She was a recent recipient of an individual grant from the Puffin Foundation for her project “Never Forgotten” which focuses on combatting poverty. Check out her extraordinary photography on the blog for the Pangea’s Garden Project. You will some of her painting there too but for a more extensive collection of her works go to her website at www.tamaranataliemadden.com
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