I’m not proud of this but I’m going to be honest: I used to wonder why Tyra Banks always chose the unconventional black girls on America’s Next Top Model. I always noticed she favored them too. I was confused because there was one early episode where this aspiring model comes up and brags about how her hair (long) was one of her best traits. She was pretty in a conventional way. And as she was talking, Tyra kind of gave an eyebrow raise and seemed unimpressed. Needless to say, she didn’t make it on the show.
And I was mad because the black girls Tyra did pick were “ugly” to me. I was about thirteen and had major self-esteem issues so I couldn’t identify with those girls because I felt in order to be seen as beautiful in the media, we all had to look like a Cassie or Tyra. I thought Tyra was being petty because she herself is a conventional beauty aside from her “forehead” and I was like, “Oh, she just wants to be the only ‘pretty’ black girl on the show.” That real ignorant and misogynoiristic/colorist. And now that I’m older, I get why Tyra does that. She puts conventional looking black women on her show as well, but Tyra has more of a vision than a lot of people in the modeling industry. The same as Naomi Campbell. They’re both black women who had it hard in the modeling and outside world being perceived as beautiful even though they have conventional features. So they understand colorism and beauty privilege in the black community in spite of their own struggle.
Tyra is simply a black woman who sees potential, desirability, style, and beauty in any black girl, but especially those who are underrepresented and are told they’re not beautiful enough to be seen as worthy and desirable. She gives all black girls a chance to be put in the spotlight and doesn’t just pick black women based on conventional aesthetics or how marketable they are. That’s what I always liked about Tyra. She keeps it real and always let people know how she felt about colorism and beauty privilege in the black community. Now that I’m older, I’m just like her. When I decide who is represented as beautiful on my blogs, I put every black girl, but I also represent more “unconventional” beauties than the conventional ones. I see any black girl, and put her on my blog. Being black is enough for her to be seen as beautiful and lovely to me. I want every girl to see they’re beautiful. But if I were in Tyra’s position or told it was up to me to make the call on who plays a part as the “desirable” one, my choice will likely go to someone I see beauty in but know is not represented as much. It’s not picking “diversity” for the sake of it. It’s creating an even balance on who is represented and increasing self-esteem in all black women while telling the world that they are all valuable.