Just when we thought Tracee Ellis Ross couldn't exude any more #BlackGirlMagic, here she is wowing us again. In a video from a 2015 interview that she did with The Breakfast Club, Tracee sounds off on beauty standards in our society:
"We have told women that there is a standard of beauty that makes them think they have to do things to themselves that they aren't naturally. To look like something that they aren't naturally. As if who they are is not beautiful."
Black women, especially, constantly battle a fight between conforming to society's beauty standards and living in our natural truth. Although this battle might already be over for some, at some point we all need to find an unapologetic way to exist despite what society says. This is the point that Tracee tries to get across.
Some seem to think that this commentary shames women for their personal fashion and beauty choices.
In response, Tracee came back with another video that's twice as powerful. She denounces the accusations that she's shaming women while explaining how society is the real issue, rather than us ourselves.
"Perpetuating this idea that women are only objects and worth love if we somehow match up to this ever-changing always unattainable arbitrary standard of beauty," says Tracee in the video.
If her words don't inspire you, the comments will:
Watch the full video here:
What do you think about Tracee's comments? Share with us below!
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I don’t remember much about middle school. Generally, that time is deemed as everyone’s awkward phase. I think we can all agree that we just don’t talk about those years. It happened, it’s over with, it’s fine. However, I do remember the time in eighth grade that my best friend sat down at our lunch table and proclaimed that anyone who weighed more than 200 pounds was ugly and she couldn’t be seen with them. I laughed and agreed with her. I was such a mean girl. I’m a lot nicer now, I promise.
A few weeks later my mom took me to the doctor for my yearly checkup and when I stepped on the scale it read in big, bold black letters: 204. I looked up to the doctor in a panic and then to my mom. “That can’t be right!” I exclaimed. I played volleyball and basketball, ran the same average mile time as everyone else in gym class – I thought I was healthy. Before that moment, I hadn’t even given my health or my weight much thought. It was what it was. It hadn’t defined me. After all, I was only 13. As soon as I knew I didn’t fit what my peers deemed as beautiful, I panicked. The doctor motioned for me to get off the scale and head back to the patient rooms for the rest of my appointment, so I stepped off the scale and dragged myself to the room.
Later that afternoon, I pulled my (now former) BFF aside and told her what happened. We told each other everything. Her response was not nice or supportive. She insisted I start the same diet that she was on to lose a few pounds, but her method of dieting involved a lot of exercise and virtually no food. Occasionally, it would involve pigging out on ice cream or pizza for a night, but the next day it was back on track (accompanied with a lot of shaming). I wouldn’t learn that this method of 'dieting' was problematic until college.
When I first got to college I chuckled at the thought of the freshman fifteen because my campus was huge. There was so much walking I had to do to get from one place to the next; I knew I’d shed all of my unwanted weight.
But the walking didn’t outweigh the all-you-can-eat dining halls. So, instead of losing weight, I gained it, fast. By the time my first semester ended I had easily gained the freshman 15 (and then some), so I made it a point to lose weight the healthy way. I began working out a few times a week, I opted for a more balanced meal instead of the ice cream sundae bar, and I made sure to treat myself to my favorite foods about once a week. Sometimes the scale budged, sometimes it didn’t. I quickly realized that being healthy and making healthy choices has almost nothing to do with the number on the scale.
I’m almost ten years removed from my breakdown at the doctor's office and four years removed from the beginning of my health journey, and at this point, I’ve completely tossed out my scale. Weighing myself daily and even weekly allowed me to slip back into middle school habits and I didn’t want that.
When talking about weight loss or getting healthy, you only hear about the exterior. You hear about the new wardrobe a person buys or how they met their current partner at the gym. No one ever talks about the process of acceptance or what it really takes to love your body. Even once you lose the weight, you still feel like “the fat girl,” and sometimes no matter how far you’ve come, it never seems good enough.
That’s why you have to start loving your body right now.
Seriously, right now. It doesn’t matter if you’re on your way to class, just got out of the shower or if you’re lounging on the couch. You’ve got to love everything that your body can do — as is — right now. It’s not always easy, in fact, it’s really hard. I still struggle to see my beauty and all that I am daily. But I don’t want to be ruled by food, my jean size or the number on a scale, so I strive for health and happiness instead.
Truth is, you could reach your goal weight, fit into that outfit by your big event and still be unhappy. Your accomplishments and the goals you are working toward are more important than your weight. I challenge anybody struggling with body issues to look yourself in the mirror and tell yourself you’re beautiful. Name the things that you love about yourself out loud – shout them if you need to. If you don’t appreciate and love the body you have now, you won’t know how to do it as it changes. Do this every day, smile when you do it, flip your hair, and, eventually you’ll notice a change. And it won’t have a thing to do with your weight.
On Saturday, May 21st, we’re hosting our inaugural conference about how creativity and technology are changing our daily lives, from our hobbies to our work. Will you be joining us? Tickets here.
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Now that Zoe Saldana has been thoroughly read, we can focus on another important element of Nina Simone's remembrance: Giving her a film that actually authentically depicts her life in its complexity, struggle and brilliance.
I saw the Netflix documentary, What Happened, Miss Nina Simone?, which I found demoralizing in its title and horrifying to watch. Once I learned that Simone's daughter actually had a lot to do with the production of that documentary, my horror grew. If you haven't seen it yet, I won't go into much detail. However, giving Ms. Simone's abusive husband a platform — which he used to mostly berate Nina — was an egregious error on the filmmaker's part. I left that documentary feeling like I knew her less than before I'd begun watching it. The Hollywood production can only be summed up as a circus, sensationalizing her life in ways that are just downright false.
But did any of you know that there is another documentary, and it's actually fantastic?! Jeff L. Lieberman's The Amazing Nina Simone was so thorough, thoughtful and precise that I reached out to Jeff after seeing it to gain more insight into his thoughts surrounding the film. I found him to be as thoughtful and honest as his film. Check out our chat below:
Blavity: Who is Nina Simone to you?
Jeff Lieberman: Nina Simone is an artist like none other. She is fierce and unapologetic. She is unique and unfiltered, giving listeners a true authenticity often unfound in our music universe. She is a freedom fighter, a woman of brave choices, bolds stands, a style icon, a serious risk-taker and uncompromising in her vision of black freedom and equality. She is also a brilliant musician who could take a song and totally make it her own, adding piano flourishes and unique vocal stylings that can induce utter joy or complete sadness. She is an overlooked musical genius, beloved around the world by devoted fans, and someone who has been saying Black Lives Matter since the 1940s, starting in her small Southern town at age 11, to Carnegie Hall when she proclaimed "Mississippi Goddam" at 31 years old and throughout the entire course of her life. As a fierce believer in social justice, she is truly my hero.
B: What has her music meant to you?
JL: Her music has had a special place in my heart. It's introduced me to a time and era that I find especially captivating, and given a counter-narrative to the Civil Rights Movement that is hard to find anywhere else. I've danced to her music, sang her music, been consoled, been uplifted, and listened in awe to some of the ways Nina brings life to a song. It's hard to describe exactly why her music touches me, whether it's her sound, tone, lyrics, piano interludes, the deep androgynous lusciousness of her voice or her choice of song, but it's been a big part of my life for the last 20 years.
B: What do you hope people take away from your documentary?
JL: My intention with this film was to help tell Nina Simone's phenomenal story, and help bring more context to her music, life and incredible accomplishments. When I discovered Nina's classical music background, her politicization among friends such as Langston Hughes, Lorraine Hansberry and James Baldwin, and her tremendous unrecognized musical role in the Civil Rights Movement, I felt that her fans would gain an even greater appreciation for Nina and her music. One could watch the film and then go home and listen to her music again with new context and knowledge to the meaning of her iconic songs. I also felt that many of her fans often wondered about Nina's behavior and that too often Nina was dismissed as crazy. I felt speaking about Nina's mental illness could perhaps bring compassion and a new understanding to Nina's life, and at the same time, I wanted the film to show that it wasn't just mental illness that drove Nina's bold and controversial choices. I wanted people to understand her bravery and brilliance, and what it takes to truly be an artist that fights for the causes near to one's heart. In 1963, people were not used to a black woman demanding equality and respect, and they certainly weren't used to hearing someone like Nina voice outrage at segregation, racial violence, and economic inequality. It's easy to dismiss Nina as "crazy" or "violent" as often people like to do when they don't know her story or when certain films choose to focus on the most sensational elements of her life. When you see The Amazing Nina Simone, I challenge anyone to not realize that her defining characteristics were brilliant and brave.
B: What was the most difficult part about creating the film? How did you overcome that challenge?
JL: Making a documentary is tough work, and even more difficult when producing it independently, without the strings of corporate or investor interests. Taking on a subject as complex as Nina Simone adds another level. I also wondered if not being from Nina's era or culture would affect my ability to truly understand the nuances of her experience. I also feared that others would have the same question. To add to this, once I began the project, another VERY well-funded production began a competing documentary on the same subject, which posed a whole new set of challenges. Carving a place for the film has been a challenge, but out of the 3 Nina Simone films, I am most proud that I overcame all these challenges, completed the film, and been on the right side of history. The film has been embraced by audiences in over 65 cities, and Nina's fans have heard the TRUE story of Nina's life, career, challenges, ups and downs, as told by over 50 of her friends, family, band members, lovers and fellow activists. That has been no easy task, but every audience member that sees the film and gasps, laughs or sheds a tear has given me a tremendous confidence that we are truly honoring Nina.
B: If you could have cast someone to play Nina Simone in the Hollywood depiction, who would it be and why?
JL: Impersonating Nina Simone is a job that I wish on nobody. Nina is a powerful figure, and more complex than any of us will ever understand. Even those who I've interviewed speak about all these different sides and personalities that I'm not sure anyone could ever capture completely. I think it would take an actress of tremendous experience and acting chops to even begin to take on that role. My best suggestion would be Alfre Woodard, who has proven herself throughout many decades as an extremely strong actor. I would also suggest Viola Davis or Lorraine Toussaint. No prosthetics or dark-skinned makeup would be needed for any of these actors — elements that are a distraction and make a caricature of Nina Simone. It goes without saying that Hollywood has a history of casting lighter-skin actors, and Nina even felt that her dark skin and wider nose were obstacles throughout much of her life, including the reason she was never featured on the cover of a magazine, like Aretha Franklin and Diana Ross, her lighter-skinned contemporaries.
There are also plenty of young women who I feel truly "get" Nina (like India Arie) and could potentially capture Nina's height of artistry in the 1960s. However, I think it's important to recognize that this biopic chose to portray Nina in the 1990s, the final decade of her life when Nina was in her 60s. In the controversy over the black-face makeup, prosthetics and casting choice, this is scarcely being mentioned in the press, and this is my larger issue with the film. While I believe Clifton Henderson (whose story "Nina" is loosely based upon) had good intentions when he first began caring for Nina, he ended up isolating her from friends and family, over-medicating her, and taking large percentages of her payments. This is not an uncommon ending for many celebrities of a certain era, and perhaps an interesting story if Nina had not had six other decades of phenomenal musical accomplishments, civil rights stands, and been a symbol for so many people of freedom, pride and artistry. To overlook these moments in favor of sensational drama like Nina brandishing a gun and throwing champagne bottles is not only an insult to her very rich and complex life, but is a blatant white-washing of her achievements as a black woman in 20th century America. It exposes the deep ignorance of the cast, director and production team. Having read the script for the film four years ago, I can say that anyone involved in the production was deeply aware of the choices they were making with this production and should be held responsible.
I love narrative films and have seen great films that portray real people. However, I think the only person who should be playing Nina is Nina. Her story is not fit for the condensing and sensationalizing that are part of the formulaic approach to conventional Hollywood biopics. Nina's story and genius lives on in her performance clips, and anyone who truly wants to know the real Nina should see the real person as told by over 50 of her friends, family, band members, lovers and fellow activists in The Amazing Nina Simone. I say this not as the director of the film, but as a fan.
For More Information About Jeff's Documentary Visit www.amazingnina.com
What are your thoughts about how Nina Simone is portrayed? How would you like to see her story told?
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Barbie has announced that they are expanding their Fashionistas® line, adding three new body types --- tall, petite, and curvy --- as well as additional skin tones, hairstyles, and outfits. By the end of the year, the brand will have 33 new versions of Barbie out for sale.
In the past, Mattel has been taken to task for the unrealistic approach to their doll's body proportions and non-inclusivity when it comes to representation for girls of all shapes, sizes, and skin tones, but this is a step in the right direction. Senior Vice President and Global General Manager Evelyn Mazzocco says, "We are excited to literally be changing the face of the brand – these new dolls represent a line that is more reflective of the world girls see around them – the variety in body type, skin tones and style allows girls to find a doll that speaks to them."
The new Barbie dolls are available for purchase online starting today and will be hitting the shelves on March...