Lupita Nyong’o, The Black Girl Pedestal and the Other Girls

Lupita Nyong’o has been the center of all of our attention for weeks and it has reached a fever pitch now that she has an Oscar on her mantel. I readily admit my admiration for Lupita even though I have been too chicken shit to see 12 Years A Slave. She’s smart, beautiful and talented and it is uncommon to see a girl like Lupita be so celebrated. She is someone we need to see more of in addition to Viola Davis, Quvenzhane Wallis, Tika Sumpter and countless others that are doing the damn thing.

Still, I worry about Lupita.

I worry about any black girl who is placed upon a pedestal, deserved or not. I worry because the Black girl pedestal tends to be a bit steeper and if we fall, our fall is rougher. The Black girl pedestal requires a lot from the woman who occupies it.

She has to look a certain way. Lupita is deep chocolate but she is also thin and has model-like facial features.

She has to be smart. Lupita is Yale-educated and is lauded for being articulate.

In addition, she better stay covered up. There can’t be a titty or butt cheek in sight.

The Black girl on the pedestal can’t fuck it up because she doesn’t want to be like the “other girls.” Who are the other girls?

Be respectable or go in the trash. No in-betweens girls.

Nicki Minaj is one of them with her colorful wigs, big booty, pasties and tight clothes. Beyoncé is one of them too because she wears hoochie clothes and sings about sex despite having a husband and a baby. Those other girls are the ones that wear weave because a truly respectable woman doesn’t like that 18″ wavy. The other girl is the one we can catch p-popping in a head stand while other ladies cross their legs and sip their Smirnoff. The other girl doesn’t speak proper english and double negatives are among her favorite things because she just doesn’t know no better. The last quality, perhaps the most important, is any woman can be the other girl. Yes, including Lupita.

Depending on the situation, everyone woman can possess the aforementioned qualities and be disqualified from the pedestal. Why? Because black women are complex and multi-faceted like any other human being.

Shocking, I know.

I am educated and can hold my own in “intellectual” circles and I tend to favor a reserved style of dress. However, I am loud as hell, brazenly use ebonics and I wore booty shawts and a crop top to Pride last year. I wrote a term paper critiquing Nicki Minaj’s gender politics in her music but Stupid Hoe is my shit. I have my contradictions, hypocrisies and plan ole shit in my craw but so does everyone else.

THAT is what we need to teach our daughters. We need to stop letting them believe they have to be on the pedestal and risk being stripped of love should she fall off. My first niece will be born this summer and I want her to live in a world where the Lupitas of the world are celebrated. But, I also want her to know that it’s okay to be loud, twerk and fuck up sometimes. I want that for every girl and so should you.

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4 thoughts on “Lupita Nyong’o, The Black Girl Pedestal and the Other Girls

  1. Aaliyah1963 says:

    As usual a well written and eloquent commentary on black women and the way we are perceived in the public venues. Everytime I read your blog I learn a little something new or I have something new to think about. Even as a woman of color I have found by reading your blog a lot of my own self hatred and stereotyping that needs to be overcome. So I thank you very much. Keep blogging and PREACH that girl!

    Aaliyah

  2. Brittany Touris says:

    You’ve perfectly articulated something I’ve been thinking about. I wish that with Lupita’s success that it brought more acceptance of cultures outside the white culture. And people like her do to some extent. But I believe that her acceptance speech wouldn’t have gone viral if she didn’t explain what she had to say with perfect English that white people could understand and accept. I love what she did, but she isn’t the only black female role model out there. I hope others see that.

  3. theezu says:

    This post, I feel, truly speaks to every black girl in this generation trying to make a way for herself in society. I can confidently say that I am a classy ratchet. Intelligent, but is not afraid to twerk when my jam comes on. But that’s just me. There’s so much to black women, it’s amazing.

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