Why Danai Gurira’s Women’s Health Magazine Cover Makes Me Emotional
The world is shit right now — and while that isn’t a newsflash — being on social media — particularly Twitter — eventually takes a toll. And yet — I can’t tear myself away from the jarring images of disheveled immigrant families — and the weary children who are playing a role they didn’t sign up for.
And because my feed is fucked up and in dire need of cleansing — I’m also treated to Kim Kardashian West — and her seamless transformation into the Black wife of a rap star — who has been “canceled” by the fans he betrayed. Her braided style at the MTV Movie Awards has been hailed as “glamorous” and she dons it with the authority that only a White woman with zero originality can muster.
Yes — it’s just a damn hairstyle — and Black women straighten their hair — so does that make them dying to be White?
That argument is absolute shit and I’ll tell you why.
The politics around Black women with hair textures like mine — that don’t yield so easily to the heated iron — and definitely don’t form the shiny tendrils after a quick shower and a dab of gel — is a longstanding battle that’s still waging.
It’s deeper than the pettiness of not wanting Kim to rock the “braids of the moment” — because it involves real-life scenarios — that are invasive and hauntingly embarrassing — especially when you were once threatened by a temp agency to improve your grooming habits — which basically meant altering the way you style your natural hair for the benefit of upscale clients.
And as long as young girls are being shamed by school officials who think it’s inappropriate for a child to wear her hair in it’s natural state — because of the wildness of presentation or other reasons that are invalid — it will never be okay for a White woman to steal our aesthetic in ways that aim to weaponize.
But — my seething against the woman who uses Black culture as currency for deceit came to a screeching halt when I was greeted by the image of actress and playwright — Danai Gurira.
Gurira is best known for her work on AMC’s The Walking Dead and her most recent starring role in the global blockbuster — Black Panther. She also enjoyed an Off-Broadway run of her 2009 play — Eclipsed alongside co-star — Lupita Nyong’o.
Examining the images made me surprisingly emotional as I imagined how excited I would’ve been twenty years ago — when I was young and impressionable. I had just moved to New York City — and possessed the capacity to be many things — and one of them was to possibly pursue an acting career.
But — the mid-’90s to early 2000s wasn’t a receptive period for diversity or the era of being “woke”— and Black women who didn’t have the exoticness of mixtures to help refine our “regular” features — suffered from the stigma of our non-viable looks — which left us out in the cold when it came to fair representation.
As a result — I spent my young adulthood — searching for signs of life through my fixation on public figures in the realm of fashion and entertainment.
I sadly only acquired a handful of examples that came somewhat close to my template.
I eventually concluded that I would have better luck as a writer — and even that decision proved to be just as intimidating — due to the lack of mentors and the cold shoulder from Black women in the publishing world — who felt that the younger ones needed to climb up that same hill — with little assistance.
Thankfully — things are different and this cultural flexibility has birthed a new movement — that equips Black women in powerful positions with the tools of progression that extends to those who are talented enough to garner the opportunities that were non-existent in my time.
And there’s also the magazine cover that features an intelligent and impossibly beautiful Black woman — who is relatable on a primal level — which is refreshingly inspiring. Dark skin on women has been historically devalued as a nonsensual attribute or not palatable enough to justify our level of desirability — which is why this magazine spread deserves a major shoutout.
It’s emotional to digest the breathtaking images — and at the same time hope that young Black girls who look like her and me — and have the dreams of someday becoming stars in their own right — will feel the boost to go far and beyond — because they know it’s possible.
The standard default continues to be anything but the dark-skinned beauty — and that’s because we’ve been taught to reject that version — for the blueprint of colonialism — which dictates a more diluted solution that has encouraged tragic legacies — in the form of the skin bleaching epidemic.
Seeing Danai Gurira — embody the mantra of “strong and sexy” — on the cover of a major magazine about health and fitness is sending the message that confirms why our beauty matters — in the sea of women who still dominate the scene based on the fading rhetoric of their superiority.
There’s still a long way to go when it comes to satisfactory representation — and as annoying as it is to witness staples like Vogue — still relying on the rotation of Kendall — Gigi and Bella as a pathetic attempt to remain relevant — we have to celebrate the wins.
As a dark-skinned woman who is old enough to remember the stretch of time when my beauty wasn’t trending — I’m still young enough to appreciate the value of seeing a woman of African descent — who is closer to my age — showcase the splendor of what we are — with the sensuality and femininity that has always been assigned to women of a certain hue.
The rules are finally changing — and while this victory may not seem like much — for me it’s literally everything!