It's funny how life sometimes sets random episodes in your path, and then suddenly, at a future time, they are all connected in a way you never anticipated.
Take Lupita Nyong'o. A few months ago, very few people—even those, like myself, who had seen 12 Years a Slave—knew her name.
Take my daughter, age five-and-11/12s (as she's fond of saying)—never before has she had a negative word to say about her "short" hair, which only looks short because it is so tightly curled that it recedes towards her scalp as it grows. Yet, last week suddenly she commented that girls with short hair weren't pretty.
Couple this with the fact that sporadically in the past my daughter has also expressed a desire to have white skin. No, it is not a racist commentary, it is a pure and simple little girl's wish to "match"—her word, not ours—the rest of her family. Thankfully, she is starting to outgrow that concern and to love and appreciate the skin she's in. But the worry lies underneath all the time that we aren't doing enough to support her in owning her race and loving herself as she is.
Welcome to the world of trans-racial adoption, folks.
So, how are these two gorgeous females connected?
When my daughter voiced her complaint about her hair, the first thing I did after assuring her that PLENTY of women with short hair were gorgeous, was pull out my phone and Google a photo of Lupita Nyong'o. Not only did I show my daughter her picture, but I explained to her that this woman was beautiful to look at, but also strong, smart, and successful in her chosen career. I gave the details that this incredible woman had been nominated for an Oscar (and explained what that was), and that she was a Yale university graduate who speaks several different languages.
My daughter was duly impressed, but I wasn't done. I wanted her to understand that beauty isn't only what you look at with your eyes or what you achieve academically or professionally. I went on to tell her that a person can be very nice to look at on the outside or have many accomplishments, but if they are not kind, loving, and honest person, then they are not truly beautiful. She pondered this momentarily and went back to playing, leaving me to wonder if my message had been received.
Fast forward to the day after the Oscars. Naturally, social media was inundated with Lupita photos—she certainly is a fashionista!—and stories about her background and rise to overnight success. But then I came across this:
I knew why this video had fallen on my path.
I showed the video to my daughter, watching her expression as Lupita spoke about wishing her black skin away. Her eyes widened—she wasn't the only one! Then, she realized that this was not the point of the video.
I hope you do, too. And your daughters.
In fact, let's not limit this message to only black females.
Men, women, children, black, white, any race—Lupita Nyong'o has it right, we can ALL be beautiful. It's inside all of us.
Hi! Thank you for reading this post. If you liked it and want to read more from Jackie, try this article about what she learned from a black angel, or this article about her opinion on "parenting problems."