Who Are You as a Black Woman? — Laurel Handfield
As a young black girl growing up in American in the 70s and 80s, I found it difficult to figure out who I was. In all the images I watched on television, in all the books I read, in every magazine my mom bought, I saw no one that looked like me. I saw no one with darker skin, curly hair, thicker lips, and a wider nose. All the “pretty” girls were blonde and had white skin and blue eyes. Being so young, I quietly accepted that. What some fail to realize is that even though it’s not blatantly shouted from the rooftops, the message is clear, You are not pretty, black girl.
Then came middle and high school when crimping was a style all the white girls wore. I ran out to the store so fast and bought a crimping iron, but when I tried it, I looked like a fuzzy werewolf. Once again, I accepted that my hair wasn’t going to do the latest style. When summertime came, a new product called Sun-In hit the market. You spray it in your hair, sit in the sun, and fifteen minutes later you have beautiful golden highlights. Two sprays in, I realized, nope, not gonna work on my hair. The rest of the bottle was trashed along with my hard-earned $3.50 of babysitting money.
As a teen, I wanted a makeover for the prom. A makeup counter at the mall offered a free makeover, so I thought, why not? When she finished, I couldn’t get home fast enough to scrub off the red and orange clown makeup on my face. I remember going to popular hair salon chains like J.C. Penny and Supercuts only to be disappointed when they had no stylists that knew how to style my hair texture.
Fast forward to today. Yes, images in magazines and on television are diversifying, but we need to stay diligent when it comes to reinforcing positive messages to our young girls. We don’t have to rely on someone to be able to do our makeup, we figured it out ourselves. We don’t have to wait for someone to figure out how to do our hair, we’ll do it ourselves. Just check out the numerous Youtube tutorials.
It’s very important to continuously remind our young girls that they are beautiful, they are strong, and they are resilient. When you’re not telling them, show them the best they can be by being the best you can be. You’re not better, but you’re not worse either. You are just as. You are just as beautiful. You are just as good. You are just as strong. You are just as worthy. If you truly feel and believe this, young girls will, too.
Stop waiting for someone to define you. Define yourself! Love yourself unconditionally and watch that natural beauty shine through enough so that this generation and the next generation of young girls will continue to define who they are.
Laurel Handfield is the owner and creator of Happy Island Press, a publisher that creates coloring/activity books for children of color. Her work has been featured in Highlights for Children magazine, and the award-winning apps Farfaria.com and Readabilitytutor.com, To date, she has written over 50 children’s stories.
A vacation to the islands turned into an unexpected romance when she met and fell in love with her now-husband. After two years in a long-distance relationship, she decided to move to the Bahamas permanently and continue her writing.
Today, she still calls the Bahamas home and enjoys the laid-back island life with her husband, three children, and two dogs.
Be sure to connect with Laurel on LinkedIn and follow Happy Island Press on Facebook and Instagram. Then check out Happy Island Press’ black and brown girl’s empowerment coloring and activity books on Amazon.