image I am a black woman and I wear a size 4. My five feet, nine inch, 125-pound frame is a bit of an anomaly in the black community –- no Beyonce body here. Think Cameron Diaz, dipped in rich chocolate.

(And for the record, my slim frame is hereditary, not something gained by unhealthy means. A lot of the women in my family were also very thin when they were my age.)

Because of my slender body frame and proportion, I have been asked about my weight more times than I care to remember. It is usually peppered with positive or negative overtones, depending on the woman asking. White women tend to envy my size, whereas black women tend to pity me for it. It’s as if I straddle two different worlds –- praised by white and mainstream culture but enduring ridicule and countless cruel jokes from the black community for the same reason –- being thin.

And quite frankly, I am tired of the praises and criticisms I’ve received from both sides, finding these comments about my weight intrusive and downright rude.

Although mainstream America praises my slender figure, my people celebrate the curvier body type as beautiful. Just look at the covers of Kingor Black Men Magazine, graced with photos of rapper Nicki Minaj or actress LisaRaye turned around and poppin’ it out. Heck, even Coco, rapper Ice T’s wife, has a Thong Thursday photo posted via Twitter each week and Kim K’s famous curves are everywhere you turn. I mean, any time a white girl is thicker than you are….. I’m just sayin’.

The message is clear: If you are a black woman, or if you want to be with a black man, this is what your body should look like. Subsequently, there is a lot of pressure for thinner black women to have a fuller shape.
When I was younger, everywhere I went -– church, school, the hair salon –- other black women felt the need to comment on my weight. “Guuurrrlll, you look like a toothpick! Dontcha know no one wants a bone but a dog?” In restaurants, other black women would press me to eat more food, order dessert or ask me if I had an eating disorder. I would drop my head in shame, mumbling some reply about how I had tried to gain weight, and silently pray they would stop discussing my body openly like some sort of salacious celebrity gossip.

Today, I accept my body the way it is, but I would be lying if I said I have never wanted fuller hips or plump backside. In the past, I spent hours in the gym on the Stairmaster, doing lunges and leg presses -– the very exercises that fitness magazines promised would fill out my flat fanny. I wolfed down tons of sugary snacks and fast food, enough double grease burgers to make a competitive eater sick, all in an effort to pack on the pounds.

I even found myself at a nutritional store, eyeing the weight gainer that a friend had recommended to me.(For the record, I left the store empty-handed after someone told me it all went to her belly instead of her backside; the last thing I wanted was to be a skinny girl with a gut.) Sometimes when a stranger in class or at the mall would ask me how much I weighed, I would change the subject or lie about my weight, adding 10 or so pounds to the actual number.

And I know that I am not alone: recently, I read that black market plastic surgery is on the rise among women of color, particularly buttock enhancement injections. In the book “Shot Girls,” author Vanity Wonder writes about receiving “shots” or illegal buttock injections in a motel room in Detroit; she also describes how the practitioner used cotton balls and super glue to close the injection site. “I had always wanted a better body and, on top of that, I liked the compliments that I’d got when I was a little thicker,” Wonder wrote.

Although I would never put my health at risk in this way, I understand the desire to fill out those Apple Bottom jeans and be considered desirable by the vast majority of black men everywhere. But after the Stairmaster and lunges failed to work, I began to examine the definition of beauty in black and white culture. Why do I, or any other woman for that matter, have to subscribe to someone else’s idea of what is beautiful? And why was I trying to force my body into a mold it obviously wasn’t naturally designed to fit into?

I thought of the white women I had seen on television or featured in magazines who starved themselves or purged after every meal, all in an effort to be thin, to be considered beautiful. Wasn’t I doing the same thing, just in reverse?

I decided that it was high time for me to define beauty for myself. I started focusing on all the things I liked about my body –- the shape of my legs, the fullness of my lips and most importantly, my health –- instead of what I didn’t. Soon, I noticed the fellas sittin’ up and taking notice; see, I discovered that although there are a lot of men like curves, all men love confidence. Feeling good in the skin you’re in is the ultimate definition of beauty. It’s all in the way you carry yourself, whether you are a size 2 or 22.

XOJane

This post originally appeared on XOJane. Republished with permission. Click here for more
DeLana Nicole on XOJane!

 

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  • Alina

    I am also a young thin Black female who has been skinny shamed since elementary school. It also happened to my mother who lived her youth in the 60s and 70s. In Black American culture, a female with an exaggerated hourglass or pear shaped figure is seen as attractive. A female who is skinny, thin, or small breasted, small bottom is seen as unattractive. Also, there are some older Black Americans who associated thinness with poverty especially before the 70s. So, it’s something we – Black America – need to grow from and change. We Black people have a lot of work to do. We are the worst at dividing and destroying the self esteem of our own people. So, what worked for me being skinny shamed by people of all races is just to say “thank you,” “ignore them,” or tell them they are rude/hurtful (only if they mean a lot to me). BTW, the men have been the worst but what can you expect from them in the first place lol.

    • maya

      I AGREE WITH YOU! Im a skinny black girl with no chest or hips. Im a size 2, 5’8 and im 15. At school, i always get picked on by black guys and girls. They continue to make me feel bad and lower my self esteem. I come home from school wanting to kill myself most times. Blacks keep making fun of each other and its very sad. This culture needs to open their eyes. If they are open, then they aren’t open wide enough.

  • Raven Alexis

    I’m a white 20 year old living in the Southern states of the U.S. Only 5’5 and 87 pounds, people gladly tell me how they feel about my body. Mind you, the south is notorious for fat people because of the popular Barbecue and fast-food/convenient food around. Everyone drives and there exist more churches than gyms. This lead to fat people being the norm. Growing up, my family always told me I was beautiful and I never cried when people insulted me as a teenager, namely boys. Girls envied me – I didn’t care. Boys were disgusted with me – again, didn’t care, because I was always called beautiful at home. Well, I moved out, got interested in the opposite sex, received less loving compliments and realized how painful words came when they’re constantly said.

    I used to think to hell with other people because they suck. Articles like these never made since to me. But now I can relate. This is no sob-story but an issue with self-image and the audacity of others. It’s mentally confusing – “my family women are curvy so why not me?” Is there something wrong with my body? Did I really not eat enough? It’s even better when your own mother insists you have a thyroid problem and your doctors assume anorexia. “Don’t worry, you’ll fill out.” Who said I was worrying in the first place? Thanks for pointing out a non-existing problem.

    Bottom-line – people suck. I never was a person to comment on something someone else couldn’t control. Why don’t fat people work out more and eat better? It’s not in my control but theirs. Sorry for the long rant. This is the best article I have come across so far that articulates this misery, especially about the part when we try to change ourselves into “better looking.” I am also pursuing the stair machine and carbs in hope of a better rear. There’s no hope for chest. But I want to but instead now so ohwell. But back with opinions – That’s like telling an ugly person to get cosmetic work done because they’re not good looking. What’s wrong with being ugly? Nothing, until someone claims there is a problem. The media sucks and so do people. Our insecurities are not innate but trained. But just because society is brainwashed and critical doesn’t mean we have to follow. Screw everyone else. Even super-models are badgered by agents and photographers. No one is ever good enough for everyone. :P

    • pcmustgo

      5’5 and 87 pounds? That sounds Anorexic to me.

    • Raven Alexis

      Is it anorexia if I eat 5 times a day?
      No, it sounds like High Metabolism