When I was a little girl I always imagined being on TV but I never thought I could. Simply because I never saw that many people who looked like me so when I did I’d get so excited up until they opened their mouths and I realised they sounded different to me too.
I became obsessed with American TV because that was how I would see actresses who looked like me which ultimately led to my obsession with America as I always wanted the accent. After slightly growing up in age, not really in attitude to the big child I am now I’ve realised that’s not real life.
Striving to find someone who looked like me in mainstream media back when I was a young girl was near to impossible. I could go on forever about wanting representation on TV but I like to focus on the positives of where we are at now.
So when I found out about the YouTube series Awkward Black Girl (which later became Insecure on HBO) I knew I had found a gem because regardless of Issa Rae having a different accent to me I related to every single other issue her character was going through and yes even the rapping to myself in the mirror of the bathroom.
Which brings me to this amazing, internet breaking worthy April Essence Magazine cover with Issa Rae. I mean can we just…
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If you haven't recovered from our April cover with the incomparable @issarae, raise your hand 🙋🏾♀️. Yeah, we thought so. Photographer: Itaysha Jordan – @itayshaphoto Stylist: Jason Rembert – @jasonrembert Hair: Felicia Leatherwood – @lovingyourhair Makeup: Joanna Simkin – @joannasimkin Manicure: Vontrell Jiles – @sparklev789 Katalina Mitchelle – @katalinadoesnails
When I saw this I was like WOAH, not only did she look stunning but also everyone attached to the shoot was a black person. This was extremely inspiring to me and this is one reason why I love social media. It allows people to see someone who represents the the type of person they are in a way that was not accessible before.
So of course I had to recreate one of the looks from the shoot after reading what Issa had to say (with my own personal twist of course).
She spoke of her journey of self love and understanding that black is beautiful through sharing this part of her story:
“My parents helped me and they hurt me,” she reflects. “My mom was extremely pro-Black, and I believed her. My dad is Senegalese, and I grew up around my dark-skinned cousins and just thought that they were the most beautiful women in the world. I was surrounded by beautiful dark people,” she said.
Adding, “And then middle school hit, and I was like, Oh, they think I’m ugly. They think I’m big. They think I’m unattractive. I went back to my mom like, ‘What the f—k?! Y’all lied to me my whole life. What is this?!’ I started realising, Mom, you’re light-skinned. So I don’t know what you were talking about. It’s not like you can relate to being dark. And your hair is not the same texture as mine. So what do you know about telling me I’m beautiful? Why would you lie to me? That definitely had an impact on how I saw myself.”
I believe most melanin rich black girls can relate to this, I know for myself I can 100%. In a similar way to Issa’s parents my mum always told my sister and I that we are beautiful girls and our complexion is beautiful. So I ultimately grew up being Pro-Black despite being told I’m a bounty for most of my life by people who went through the same struggles as I did but that’s a story for another time.
I can sometimes be consumed by this celerity culture but I just want to emphasise the importance of representation being a form of inspiration. I do not wish to be Issa Rae because I believe God has a plan and a purpose for each and everyone of us. However, thinking of my younger self I would have really benefited from seeing an Issa Rae on my TV screen (Ideally with a British voice but it seems we have a little further to go… maybe I’ll be that girl hahaha).
Lets embrace what we have and use this to inspire more, to look at the positives because life is negative enough. Don’t get me wrong I’m not that naive to think we don’t have more to achieve because we do, for example it would be nice to see more black people on covers of world renowned magazines, not to take away from the amazing work that Essence Magazine do but we need to be on the covers of Vogue, Elle, Harpers Bazar etc and not just as a trend, because being black is not a trend.