Featurism: A Growing Epidemic

Featured Image Credit: Raviyah Singh

Every time I scroll down my social media feed, I notice a pattern of which type of advertisements are shown to me. I usually search for other freelance writers of color so I can learn and grow from them. I guess Facebook and Instagram examines my data input. Their ads cater to my likes and dislikes. Chocolate models often pop up marketing various hair/beauty products. And although I love me some chocolate, I am often disappointed to see that the variety displayed lacks Afrocentric features.

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Image Credit: Raviyahsingh.weebly.com

What Is Featurism?

Featurism is “a prejudice towards individuals with certain features and a preference towards those with features that correlate with a set beauty standard.” Although colorism and featurism are closely linked, they need to be put in separate categories. If you watch fashion runways, you will quickly notice that although dark-skinned models are featured, the ones that are used more possess European features.

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Image Credit: Youtube

African models that are not biracial usually have bigger noses, and bigger lips. Those who have tighter coils, larger noses, and larger hips, are most likely to be excluded from mainstream fashion projects.

Self-hatred within the Black/African community is very real. And at times it can start with our facial features.

Back in the day when exclusive commercials in the United States where geared towards people of color, they would exaggerate our features. This has led to many older brands being pulled off the shelf. For example, Aunt Jemima’s pancake syrup. Quaker decided to remove the image and title after being flooded with customer’s complaints of its racist past.

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Image Credit: Lovebscott.com

And featurism does not just end with black people. In Asia, going under the knife to have a double-eyelid surgery is popular. Many Asians do this so they can appear to have bigger eyes. Larger eyes conform more to Eurocentric features.

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Photo by Ike louie Natividad on Pexels.com

Why Is Featurism So Problematic?

When you receive a lot of praise and likes online, but not in real life, you start to wonder: Is my version of black really beautiful?

It is estimated that 40 percent of black businesses will have no choice but to shut down during this coronavirus pandemic. As a black freelance blogger, this means that this pandemic will either make me or break me. A beauty blogger’s salary can range anywhere from $100 a month to $100,000 a month. But when I see Facebook or Instagram ads of the successful bloggers who claim to be millionaires, they are 9 times out of 10 women of European descent. Are talented Africans who look more African worth less?

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We need to promote self-love even in a world of hate. While others might find this time as an opportunity to riot, steal, and kill, we need to reinforce confidence in our black Queens. That means stop showing favoritism. Don’t tell your daughter that she is more prettier than your other daughter because her nose is more thinner and her curls are looser. And don’t tell your girlfriend that you broke up with her because her butt was not big enough. Stop with the hate. Promote love.

Personally, I find beauty in all shades and all races. Microaggressions coincide with racism. When you hate your own kind, your own kind, in the long run, gets paid less. So the next time you see someone who looks nothing like what you normally see on the T.V, complement them. We can all stop this self-hatred once we see that all-natural, unalterable features are made to be treated equal.

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Image Credit: Pinterest

Sources: http://www.therotundaonline.com/opinion/we-need-to-recognize-featurism-and-its-effects/article_1c841d3c-4313-11ea-a12f-fb4b83810632.html

https://deardarkskinnedgirl.com/2020/05/04/what-is-featurism/

Colorism Is Not the Only Thing That's Problematic, So Is Featurism…

Rihanna Rocks A Classic African Hairstyle For Vogue

For the May 2020 issue of Vogue, Rihanna chose to represent with a beautiful, classic hairstyle.  Her hair was styled in what is called the Betsimisaraka hairstyle. Such homage brings awareness to the distinctive styles that women of color display.

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Image Credit: UK Vogue

 

The Betsimisaraka Hairstyle Originates From Madagascar

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Image Credit: eBay

What makes this hairstyle so iconic, is the fact that Madagascar was discovered by women. Tropical and serene, this island is located off the east coast of Africa. The natives that inhabit the land carry Indonesian genes. A vessel arrived 1200 years ago on the island holding 30 women. It is a possibility that they sailed off course. Extensive DNA studies have traced today’s residents to these 30 women, who probably mated with African men who were already there. Indonesia and Madagascar have a distance of 5000 miles. So their trip across the Indian Ocean was quite a lengthy one.

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Image Credit: Picuki

Madagascar prides itself on having a mixture of Asian and African descent. They have many tribes, one of them being Betsimisaraka. Plaiting hair is seen as important to one’s beauty among their women. The Betsimisaraka hairstyles includes 5 tufts, 2 on each side, and one behind. They also wear numerous plaits that are not fully braided at the end, as Rihanna modeled.

Gold and silver pins are sometimes put in their plaits, right above their forehead. Other ornaments used are crocodiles teeth, bones, or shells. In the late 19th or early 20th century, the way you wore your hair let people know your rank and financial level. The rich would wear many silver and gold ringlets in their hair. Married women would wear their hair twisted up. Unmarried women would let their hair flow over the shoulders. In the year 1822, the Europeans arrived, and they introduced their unique way of styling hair. But that did not stop the Madagascar women from wearing their native hairstyles.

A Barbados Singer Who Pays Tribute To Culture

“I feel like I have no boundaries. I’ve done everything – I’ve done all the hits, I’ve tried every genre – now I’m just, I’m wide open. I can make anything that I want.” – Rihanna

This is not the first time Rihanna has shown love for her people. Just recently she donated $700,000 to Barbados so her people can have respirators during this pandemic. And for the cover of her Limited edition i-D Rihannazin cover, she sported cornrows. Her stylist for both magazines was Yusef Williams, a British-Nigerian. Cornrows are another popular African hairstyle. They have been seen in ancient paintings dating back to the early 5th century BC.

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Image Credit: i-D Magazine

Our motherland is where civilization started. So many inventions that began in Egypt have reached every corner of the globe. This includes different stylings of hair. How amazing. Our roots don’t only grow past our scalps. They have grown to touch many hearts.

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An African postal stamp, Image Credit: Dan’s Topical Stamp

 

What classic African hairstyle do you like to rock? Comment, like, and subscribe.

Sources:

https://www.seeker.com/madagascar-founded-by-women-1765687347.html

https://www.msn.com/en-za/lifestyle/lifestylebeautyandstyle/crowning-glory-rihannas-top-3-iconic-fashion-cover-looks/ar-BB120Xet

History of Madagascar, By William Ellis, Joseph John Freeman

Queen Boss: Madam C.J. Walker

Many self-made bosses jumped for joy when they heard about Netflix coming out with a new series, centering around the life of Madam C.J. Walker. It was inspired by her great-great grand-daughter A’Lelia Bundles’ biographical book “On Her Own Ground”. As Black History Month comes to an end, let’s all learn more about the first black female millionaire in America.

Humble Beginnings

Madame C.J Walker’s real name is Sarah Breedlove. She was born on December 23, 1867, on a cotton plantation in Louisiana. Her parents were slaves. By the time they had her they were free, which made her the first in her family to be a free-born child. By age 7 she was an orphan and by age 14 she got married. One of the reasons she married so young was because she was trying to escape an abusive household. By age 20 she was a widow and had a 2-year-old daughter.

Ambitious Spirit

Sarah knew she did not want to live a life of financial distress. Plus she had a baby looking up to her. So by 22, she moved to St. Louis Missouri. There she became a part of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, where she met many business-minded black men and women. This inspired her. She was a washerman only making a measly $1.50 a day, but she had dreams of building an empire.

By the early 1890s, Sarah had financial troubles and a scalp disorder. Her hair was falling out and she needed a solution. She became her own hero and created hair care treatments with home remedies. She used Annie Turbo’s Malone “The Great Wonderful Hair Grower”. Annie was a successful black hair care entrepreneur. She recognized her ambitious spirit and hired her as a sales agent.

From Rags To Riches

Sarah moved to Denver Colorado in 1905. There she fell in love with Charles Joseph Walker, an advertising agent, and got married again. With that marriage she reinvented herself, learning about marketing from her husband. She changed her name to Madam C.J Walker and created her own hair care line. Her husband was a great supporter. He was the driving force behind her getting promoted all across the country. Before she knew it, she went from making $1.50 a day to gaining thousands of customers and employing 3,000 workers. Indianapolis became the state where she relocated, and from there she built a factory for her products. She created countless job opportunities for women of color. She educated, trained, and encouraged many through her various clubs/conventions. With 40,000 workers in the United States, Central America, and the Carribean, she truly transformed herself into a self-made boss. Her net worth was the equivalent of several million dollars by her late 40s.

As she got older, she developed high blood pressure, which caused the health of her kidneys to deteriorate. But that did not stop her from being a kind, giving person. In her will, she asked that one-third of her money be given to her daughter. The remaining two-thirds was to be given to charity.

To this day there are hair products bearing her name. Madame C.J Walker Beauty Culture is available at Sephora retailers. The United States Postal Service issued a stamp in the remembrance of her. She proves that if you want to be a successful entrepreneur, your past does not determine your future.

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Sources:

Featured Image Credit: fromgirltogirl.com

https://www.biography.com/inventor/madam-cj-walker

https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/madam-cj-walker

https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/madame-c-j-walker

How Cornrows Saved Slaves Lives

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Image Credit: Face2Face Africa

Cornrows have a long history. They hold a lot of significance in African culture. It is worn by children, men, and women all around the world regardless of their ethnicity. Originally from the Sahara region, paintings show that this hairstyle has been worn even in 3000 B.C.

The most known way to wear it is straight down, which each cornrow paralleling each other. But it also can be worn uniquely in zig-zags or by mimicking the form of a snake.

In the Carribean region, it is called “canerows”. They do this to respect all of the slaves that planted sugar cane. What many World History classes won’t teach you, is that cornrows are lifesavers.

Cornrows Were Used As A Map To Escape

In many African communities, cornrows convey a person’s social status, age, marital status, and even their amount of wealth. Blackdoctor.org has written this about cornrows: “Depictions of women with cornrows have been found in Stone Age paintings in the Tassili Plateau of the Sahara, and have been dated as far back as 3000 B.C. There are also Native American paintings as far back as 1,000 years showing cornrows as a hairstyle. This tradition of female styling in cornrows has remained popular throughout Africa, particularly in the Horn of Africa and West Africa. Historically, male styling with cornrows can be traced as far back as the early nineteenth century to Ethiopia, where warriors and kings such as Tewodros II and Yohannes IV were depicted wearing cornrows.”

When the Atlantic Slave Trade occurred, millions of innocent civilians were stripped from the Motherland against their will. Some rebelled by jumping off the slave ship before they even arrived on the land. They viewed death as a better option than a life of being treated as property. Others who fought back where terminated immediately. And some cleverly used another approach.

Upon arriving on North/South American soil, slaves were forced to shave their heads. Slave owners claimed that the shaving of their heads was just for sanitary purposes, but it was more behind it. Thick African hair has a lot of weight to it. Some slave owners would say that our hair was “unruly” and a distraction. This was a tactic used by Whites to strip Africans of their identity and culture. But not every slave would keep their hair cut. Some would grow their hair out because they had a masterplan in mind.

Cornrows are styled in a neat and tidy way. The creative geniuses amongst us used this beautiful hairstyle as a map with directions to escape plantations. All across North and South America paintings have been seen of zig-zag cornrows. A story that proves this is the story of Benkos Bioho.

The Brave Benkos Bioho

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Image Credit: Alchetron

Benkos Bioho was a King that was captured from Africa in the 17th century. He managed to find a port city on the Colombia Carribean coast. It took several attempts to escape from his masters. One day he finally managed to escape. He then proceeded to build San Basilio de Palenque.

This King strategically built a walled city within a foreign land that he was forced to be in. It was with the intent of saving slaves and giving them a place of refuge. A place that they can experience freedom while getting their lives together.

After building a village, he invented a new language. Then he got an army to assist others to freedom. He came up with the idea to create maps in cornrows.

Most slaves did not know how to read or write. And even if they did know how to read or write, if they were caught writing messages of escape, they would have to bear extreme punishment.

Cornrows were a way to communicate without getting caught.

Braids And Gold

Another informative fact that many do not know is that gold and seeds were hidden in slave braids. After escaping, to survive you needed food and money. So the seeds were used to plant their own crops. The gold was preserved so they could make transactions on their own land. Today San Basilio De Palenque still stands. It has a population of about 3500 people.

In this modern age, from West Africa to North Korea you can see humans showing off their own version of cornrows. We no longer have to hide gold in our hair. We can proudly intertwine them over our braids. The tradition of wearing this hairstyle will be popular for years to come.

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Image Credit: Youtube

Sources: https://face2faceafrica.com/article/how-cornrows-were-used-as-an-escape-map-from-slavery-across-south-america

https://www.edtimes.in/africans-used-to-hide-escape-maps-from-slavery-in-their-hairstyles/