I’ll never forget what I learned in high school religious studies (bear with me here): that depictions of Jesus varied from country to country. So in Asian countries drawings of Jesus had Asian features, and in Scandinavian countries Jesus was drawn with blonde hair and blue eyes. Why is this? Because to truly believe in something people must see themselves in it. So Jesus was made appealing to the person drawing him, because something so great had to look like them to offer the chance for them to be great too. It’s quite like the idols we choose for our selves or are inspired by. I also remember my dad yelling at TV adverts ‘Black people eat cornflakes too!’ and it’s those memories that started to shape my understanding of the ideals put in place by society and the importance of mirroring real, everyday people in media.
Without genuine representation you’re left with thoughts such as ‘am I the only one here? Is there something wrong with me? Am I pretty enough?’ Especially with instant, constant images on TV or in beauty campaigns. Is it only one type of person that’s able to afford expensive things, look good, be valued? It can be detrimental when your thoughts are ‘how do I look like that and not me’.
Blogging became that real mirror. You could find your double, so to speak, online feeling exactly how you felt at the lack of clothes fitting all shapes, sizes and heights. Skin tones that gave you an idea of what foundation wouldn’t make you look like a ghost. Or people just letting you know that it gets better. I still believe blogging gives me this: regular people with honest ideas and relatable stories, but with the surgance of social media popularity the commerical side comes in and once again you’re faced with the idea that to be successful you have to be a ‘certain way’ or that beauty, as reflected through major brands using the same look, is the ‘ideal’ beauty.
I can only speak to my experiences as a black woman and even recognise my own place within this, having ‘fairer’ skin. I have to be honest and say I found myself falling through a gap where I’m outraged that PoC aren’t offered the same opportunities and then thinking: ‘is there something about myself that I can change?’ and ‘if I present myself differently maybe I stand a chance’. So essentially I fell for a trap in thinking I needed to be/do/look like those on the campaigns to get somewhere or be perceived a certain way.
But the thing is my blackness is not a monolith, I share in unique things within my culture but am not reduced to these things nor stereotypes created from it. If I don’t fit a brand that’s fine, but I refuse to dilute myself in any way to conform. How can I say I as Me is good enough if I’ve changed to fit in? I certainly don’t want to be wanted because I’m black or ‘tick a box’ I wish to fight for honest representation; media that wants to reflect the society in which it’s placed and doesn’t shy away from the needs of it’s people, which with social media couldn’t be more obvious as consumer comments on Facebook brand pages can show you.
It’s not that I can’t watch a movie with an actor who’s not the same race, or read a blog with someone talking about their straight hair. Quite the opposite, it delves into the fact that there are things we can share in such as being a woman, being British, having similar ideologies but there are things that I might not be able to share in with everyone. Its both the experiences that we do share, and realise have societal issues, and the ones we don’t that hopefully will let people empathise with the need for more representation across the board.
So what can I do?
I hope with my blog and social media I reflect an honest human experience. I want to make a conscious effort to continue supporting what I want to see (I also plainly like to support, small, local and black owned businesses as much as I do the bigger corps). With my natural hair channel I wish to add another voice that furthers self love and the idea that coils, kinks and afro textured hair is just as beautiful as the larger ringlets, waves and straight hair others have. I will continue to speak up and out, even if it’s just sharing a story (Kristabel recently articulated some of her experiences as a Black British Blogger) and doing this can open up a dialogue not only for people who may not have thought about representation but also for those of us who do and want to know if the feelings are shared. I think it’s important to open out a space that says ‘we’re all important and valued’ regardless. Thought’s like this often stir around my head, it’s certainly something that can go deeper and wider.
What are your thoughts on representation, do you feel there’s enough?
Hope you enjoyed this post, Zig x