Rare, Maybe Exotic, But Ethnic: A reflection on GQ’s hottest list

pretty-for-a-black-girl

I am so tired of being the other woman. And I am especially fed up with being the other beautiful woman. Why can’t I just be a beautiful woman?  As a Caribbean woman I have been placed into the rare, maybe exotic, ethnic beauty box time and time again. In high school, people always told me that I was beautiful for a black girl. I could not say thank you to such a back handed compliment or could I? I always felt awkward when people made these compliments because it seemed like black and beautiful were a paradox. And I was beautiful because of my Caribbean heritage.

Reading about GQ’s offensive hottest women’s list barely caused me to bat an eye lid because GQ clearly did not label these women in its magazine as ethnic others. The author of Shine questions why Beyonce, who was on the cover of GQ, was named Miss Millennium instead of Miss African-American Millennium.  And why wasn’t Mila Kunis’s Ukrainian roots or Kim Kardashian’s Armenian heritage mentioned. But Beyonce, Mila and Kim are all American, why does their ancestry matter? I don’t support men’s magazines but GQ did the correct thing by not pointing out their heritage, because they are American. Isn’t GQ an American magazine?

GQ also goes on to mention hottest women from countries around the world. Describing a woman, for example  as a “hot Indian chick,” and “hot for an Indian chick” are two different things. One implies it is rare for Indian chicks to be hot like the example I gave from when I was in high school, and one is a compliment using the woman’s ethnicity as a description.  I don’t think the GQ list is racially offensive because it is highlighting beautiful women from around the world and stating their respective countries of origin.

The point is that women of color have been placed in a beauty box.  Their beauty is confined to their ethnicity either as something exotic or a rarity and I find that insulting. Whereas white women, or white- looking women can break through racial beauty barriers and are seen as just beautiful.

It would be interesting if the media, and everyone else saw ethnic women the way I see myself; before I am a black woman, a Caribbean woman, I am a woman.

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3 thoughts on “Rare, Maybe Exotic, But Ethnic: A reflection on GQ’s hottest list

  1. I’ve heard that myself growing up and still to this day. “WOW you’re gorgeous” as if they have never seen a beautiful black lady that it takes them off gaurd. Or “ive never met a black girl like you.” Hardly a compliment at all if you ask me. How could i accept a partial compliment that praises me but lets down my other african american sister who do not look exactly like me. Culture in the U.S has always gravitated toward white, mixed race or foriegn women as real beauty.

  2. This proves my point that people of African decent in the diaspora face similar parallel lives. I’ve also experienced comments such as what you mentioned, however more so in my adulthod as I’ve become more sociable with people from different races, than in school. In school even I didn’t believe I was pretty, much less my peers!

    “It would be interesting if the media, and everyone else saw ethnic women the way I see myself; before I am a black woman, a Caribbean woman, I am a woman.”

    I’ve faced this complexity for a while of ‘what came first, the chicken or the egg?’ in relation to being a woman with proud African roots.

    I think for me personally, it will continue to be a complexity as I wouldn’t be the woman I am without being African. I’m not satisfied with just being a woman.

    One the other hand, while in Brazil having a conversation with a Belguim film director, he mentioned to me “You’re more black than the people of Bahia!”
    Of course this statement came as a shock and I asked what he meant by such a remark. His response was that he was complimenting my skin. Saying he thinks the people walking by are staring because they are ‘jealous’ of my ‘blackness’.

    And at this moment I thought what does colour have to do with it? If you want to compliment me what happened to the simplicity of ‘you look nice’…? No colour needed!

  3. Hi Kai, thanks for your comment. It is actually our comment of the day. One of the reasons why we created our blog was to create a community where black women can share their experiences. It is interesting to learn that your experience in Brazil is similar to what we experience here in the US.

    Both my sister and I are proud of our heritage. However, we never really began to identify as ‘black’ until we moved to the US. We would wake up in the Caribbean and we were Catherine and Kelsey. We didn’t wake up or go through life thinking we’re black women. But once we moved to the US race became the overriding identifier.

    In the US, woman = white woman. Being a black woman is somehow seen as a deviant from ‘woman.’ And we would like to challenge that view. We are not magical, strange, unfeminine women. But thinking over your comment maybe we should challenge the view that white = ethnic or racial neutrality.

    Anyway thanks again for your comment. 🙂

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