indigo + cypress

Archive for the tag “Media”

The Michelle Obama Factor: The Media, Myths, and Black Women

By Mary Annaise Heglar

(Originally Published in Clutch Magazine; posted below with edits from the author)

In the past four years, you’ve probably learned a lot about black women. We are eternally single but we refuse to marry outside of our race. We are fat and proud, but we’re also considered the least attractive. And, even though our wild curly hair is not attractive, we are still obsessed with it—and boy, do we spend a lot on it!

As a black woman, I learned a lot about myself that I didn’t know. And I didn’t know it because it wasn’t true. I did know, however, that not a single one of these publications, websites, blogs, or think tanks had been at all concerned about black women four years ago. But suddenly they were about as fascinated with us as a puppy with a slab of bacon.

What changed though? Well, the answer is simple. While we have been here for centuries, we’d never been in the White House before. And the 2008 election gave us our first black president and first lady.

Michelle Obama’s presence in the White House is very different from Barack’s. His multiracial identity, while complicated, does not involve a history of kidnapping, rape, and forced servitude. Rather, it involves consensual intermarriage. Michelle, on the other hand, is the descendant of slaves. Her family history is one that America knows all too well and wants so desperately to forget. In his famous speech on race, “A More Perfect Union,” Barack tellingly drew on Michelle’s background—not his own.

As French  writer, Bernard-Henri Lévy, said during the 2008 election, “Obama is, certainly, black. “But not black like Jesse Jackson; not black like Al Sharpton; not black like the blacks born in Alabama or in Tennessee and who, when they appear, bring out in Americans the memories of slavery, lynchings and the Ku Klux Klan — no; a black from Africa; a black descending not from a slave but from a Kenyan; a black who, consequently, has the incomparable merit of not reminding middle America of the shameful pages of its history.”

Michelle has no such merit. Yet, two generations ago, she would have been “The Help,” but now she is Jackie Kennedy. Her very being challenges every myth about black women—we are fat, ugly, angry, stupid, and (now) single. Michelle is slender, a health nut, poised, smart, and happily married.

The Washington Post was perhaps the least subtle of all the news outlets that were hot on black women’s trails. In the midst of their “Black Women in America” series, they released a statement on why they chose this topic. They mentioned Dick Cheney’s 2004 statement regarding AIDS and black women and the sheer mass of data mined from their own survey of black women. Really? Cheney’s well-echoed and anything-but-original statement didn’t spark interest until six years later? Also, their survey was conducted in 2011—when black women were already a hot media commodity.

In between those two factors, the Post stated the election of Barack Obama and the attention paid to Michelle Obama. They could have began and ended the list right there.

Michelle has undone centuries of terrible PR and outright lies. She single-handedly brought successful, well-rounded black women out of the shadows. No longer the invisible women, they now meet with the Queen of England and hula hoop on the White House lawn. She is the First Lady, the face of American womanhood to the rest of the world.

And this is different from Condoleezza Rice, who also broke glass ceilings within full view of the nation and the globe. Black people embrace Michelle, but they saw Condi as a race traitor. Further while Condi had authority, she was at least perceived to have been used as a token and a mask for the Republican Party and the Bush Administration. Michelle is the partner to the leader of the free world, much in the vein of 1990’s Hillary Clinton.

Unlike Hillary, though, Michelle’s  time in the White House has been marked by an unprecedented show of disrespect—unparalleled by any other First Lady’s tenure. A Congressman mocked her “large posterior” to a constituent and a Washington, D.C. cop has threatened to shoot her on sight. Toy makers have even made replicas of her daughters that show anything but a resemblance. And she is still haunted by the shadow of the angry black woman every time she shows a spine or an opinion. The nation’s hostility toward black women is determined to die a slow death.

Michelle is a walking contradiction. And, since they cannot look away, the media launched a full-on investigation into black women’s lives. How could it be that they’d had this demographic wrong all along? Were black women more like Michelle, or more like Tami Roman?

At the end of their probe, what did they find? Well, in January the Washington Post conceded that black women are just… complicated. All they had to do was ask us.


Vogue Italia Declares Oil as the Cosmetic Product of the Moment (Duh!) + 5 of My Favorite Edible Beauty Products

By Naomi Extra

Oil Mania

Repost of the Week: “Oil Mania” in Vogue Italia

Back in the day, I used to grease my hair and scalp with products like Blue Magic or Ultra Sheen and I used Johnson’s Baby Oil on my skin. Today, it’s all about the natural oils. Typically, black and brown women have never been afraid of a little hair gloss. The shinier, the better. I never thought of my white sisters as using oil on their hair or skin until recently when I came across Vogue Italia’s declaration of oil as a current beauty trend. Out in the world that is my life, I have seen minor evidence of this trend. My stepmother (who is white) recently started using coconut oil in her hair. She was turned onto the product through another white woman who was using it on her hair. There is also a book called Curly Girl (2011) that encourages white women to use oil on their hair.

I have to admit though, I snickered a little bit when I read “Oil Mania” in Vogue Italia. Black and brown women have been oiling up forever. Before Carmen Tal branded and marketed Moroccan Oil as the newest thing in haircare, women of Africa had been using argan oil on their skin and hair for quite some time.  Well-oiled hair and skin have been an especially prominent part of black women’s aesthetic not only in the United States, but across the African diaspora. Bling, for us, was never just about jewelry or money. Renown, African American art historian, Robert Farris Thompson hips us to the Yoruba aesthetic value on “shining brown skin.” But you don’t have to have read Farris Thompson to know that, just spend a few days at a predominantly black grade school in the US and listen for students teasing each other about having ashy skin. In places like Italy, India, and Greece, women also have been using oils on their hair and body for centuries. The politics of trendiness gets under my skin in a big way. It’s not just about what’s trendy or cool, it’s also about capitalism and power. Ultimately, it’s a question of whose aesthetic taste matters.

Still, I’m excited about the so-called trend. As a kid, I remember shyly explaining to my white friends why I put grease into my hair, why my hair needs were different. Perhaps this trend will allow little black girls not to have to explain their hair the way I had to. I’m eagerly waiting to see folks of all races running around, blinding us with their shine. Oils are among the greatest beauty and health resources available to women.  Using oil as part of your beauty routine is both environmentally and economically friendly. I encourage women to seek out high quality products instead of brand names. It’s not just about beauty, it’s also about economic agency. Why not buy organic argan oil instead of Moroccan Oil? I have been saving money this way and have found that I can cook, style, and moisturize with the same products.  These days, I’m on a “mostly edible” beauty product kick. If I can’t eat it, then I try to steer clear of the product. Click the link above to check out what Vogue Italia recommends for hair/body oils. I’ve also added my personal list of favorites below. Enjoy!

1.  Coconut oil.

I swear by this product. I love it on my hair and skin. It has so many wonderful properties, it’s a natural antibacterial and it is one of the few oils that penetrate the hair follicle. It’s also excellent for cooking with. Although not included on this list, olive oil is my go to hair product when I can’t get a hold of coconut oil. I often mix a bit of olive oil with coconut oil and use this as leave-in conditioner.

2.  Tomatoes.

I love to use tomatoes on my face. This sounds strange and funny but it works wonders. Not only do they help balance the pH of your skin, they also help with mild acne. I slice a tomato open and then smear it on my face. I then let it sit for a few minutes before washing. It gives the skin (especially darker complexions) a warm glow as well.

3.  Avocado and avocado oil.

I love eating avocado but I also like using it on my skin. Avocado makes a lovely and rich skin mask. Just mash, apply, and let it sit for at least five minutes, then wash. This is another way to get a nice glow.

4. Aloe vera.

I drink about a shot glass’ worth of aloe vera every morning. I use it to twist my locs and also as my number one pimple destroyer. When chilled, the plant is also great for reducing puffiness and dark circles around the eyes.

5.  Castor oil.

This is another product I swear by. I use it on my hair year round. If you have locs or natural hair, this is a great product for styling (twisting and braiding in particular). What’s most exciting about using castor on your hair is its ability to combat hair thinning. For those of you who might suffer from or be concerned about thinning around the hairline, castor oil is your best friend. For less coarse hair, you may want to experiment with using it as a treatment as it may be too heavy for your hair.  You can also thin the oil by mixing it with another oil. When I retwist, I mix it with coconut oil (which offsets the odor of castor oil), jojoba, or olive oil. I have read about many women who use Jamaican castor oil to thicken their hair but I find that regular old cold-pressed castor oil works well for me.

The second reason why I love castor oil is because it does wonders for the skin. In the winter I like to use castor oil on my legs, feet, and arms (sometimes I dilute it with coconut oil or olive oil). It is very heavy and will lock in moisture to keep your skin supple. It is also wonderful for aches, pains, and general soreness. After a hot shower, from time to time, I like to massage my neck, shoulders, and feet with castor oil. You can also make a compress which is very effective as well. It’s the royal treatment right at home. On the face, you can use the oil to prevent and lessen wrinkles. Apply it around the eyes before bed. If you have sensitive or acne prone skin, you may want to be conservative with facial use.

Lastly, you can ingest castor oil as well. Castor oil can be used as a laxative to help with constipation. Be sure to do your homework before ingesting it. Prolonged use of castor oil as a laxative is not recommended.

Post Navigation