You don’t need curves to be poppin’

Hey y’all,

What a weekend! Something cool happened on Saturday—as you can see from the beautiful smiling faces in the screenshot above, we had a great time at the Carefree Kickback! And on Sunday? Our girl Meghan Markle chose the best kind of violence after sitting down with Oprah and finally exposing the monarchy. Buckingham Palace is shaking in their British boots. Either way, Black women were glowing this weekend.

Back to our event—I’m still on cloud nine. One of our past writers, Arlene Ambrose, who is also a mental health advocate led a powerful conversation around self-love with the group. We openly discussed how to get past limiting beliefs, the beauty in our imperfections, and techniques to get rid of negative thoughts. We learned quite a few gems, but this was my fav: the traits you admire most in others are the traits you also have within you, you just haven’t fully tapped in or allowed that side of yourself to shine.

I’m grateful to everyone who came (and those who had to leave early!), and if you weren’t able to make it we’ll have more of these in the future!

On to this week’s story….

All Muscle, All Black: How I Learned I’m Still Worthy Without Curves

by Shayna Conde

I have vivid memories of the sermon that was delivered on Friday nights after worship service in my youth group. 

The youth pastor gave an open invitation for people to come to the altar, open their hearts to the Lord and have an intimate conversation with their creator.  

While some of my friends were going through serious life moments—abusive families, possible moves across the country, questions about purpose and why good people suffer—they brought to God in prayer, I remember regularly going to a secluded spot on the corner of a small set of steps near the grand piano, getting situated, and honestly praying for boobs. And when I say praying I mean, face down, tears-streaming, Pentecostal level praying for boobs. And a butt. No. A whole shelf booty. 


Now, I never spoke these prayers out loud because I knew that 1) the church elders would look at me like I was a crazy 12-year-old, and 2) modesty, humility, and godliness were the highest qualities a woman could have in the church. And asking for boobs and a butt was neither of those things. 

But, I was not a woman…yet. I was a pre-teen and I just wanted to know that puberty was going to rectify all of the gaslighting that I had experienced about my body and blackness until that point.  

I am a first-generation West Indian-American woman. My mother’s side of the family is from Jamaica and my father’s side is from Haiti. Both sides are filled with beautiful curvy women with hourglass figures. Even though my mother and her sisters are pretty slim (they got it from their father’s mother), I grew up believing and being subtly taught that the “correct” way to exist as a Black woman was to be curvy with sizeable “assets”.

Since my features didn’t fit within the common gene pool of my family, I was always told that my problems were not “Black problems”. I tried to hide my muscle tone in high school because I was constantly called “masculine” in mostly non-black spaces. It made me uncomfortable and none of my Black friends or family understood what I was going through at the time. And so, it was not a “Black problem”. I was told that Black boys, and eventually men, would not find me attractive because of the “lack of meat on my bones.” This, too, was not a “Black problem” in their books.  On the flip side, because, I was in the orchestra, all honors classes, and I didn’t “look” like some of my fellow Black students at my predominantly white and Asian school, non-black students told me how I was “different from the other ones” and how that made me “better” and “more approachable”. 

I didn’t know where to go with all of the discrimination and body shaming I faced. I was exhausted, and eventually, I stopped talking about my problems altogether. While I internalized more and more self-hate, I began to persuade myself that the discomfort and isolation I was feeling maybe wasn’t as bad as I thought it was.

These are all thoughts and feelings that I had no words for at the time. I didn’t know that I could string these words together and still feel legitimate.

My breakthrough moment came when I least expected it. 

In 2013, my second year of undergrad, the movie was released. I wanted to watch it, but I didn’t want to watch it in theaters. I knew it was going to bring up some deep ancestral trauma for me, so I waited until I could watch it online in the comfort of my home by myself. 

I sobbed throughout the entire movie (as was the general consensus), but also had a weird mid-movie epiphany: Lupita Nyong’o was stunning. 

She was petite, muscular, and had a body just like mine. She was brilliant and so insanely beautiful. I had never seen an actor like her before and for the first time ever, I felt seen. 

After I finished the movie, I took some time to compose myself and concluded that I was obviously the only person who felt so strongly about how gorgeous this new and unknown actress was, so I stored her image in my mind and kept it just for me. She was my own special gem that I could admire whenever I felt insecure. 

Then, the Academy Awards came and she won Best Supporting Actress. From there, she started appearing on red carpet events in gowns that flaunted her muscle tone. She didn’t wear padded bras, and she was both the love interest of the King of Wakanda in and the face of Lancôme. Everyone started calling her “beautiful” and “attractive.” My mind was blown. Because if she was beautiful then maybe I was, too.

I think we all know that the Lord did not give me the body of my prepubescent dreams to use for his glory. In looking through my decades worth of journals, “a more feminine figure” (worded in a multitude of ways) was one of the most popular things I asked for; it was second only to “finding my true love”(…yes…it makes me want to vomit, too). 

Every woman, but especially black women, has to go through a journey towards self-love in her own time. The more we hate ourselves, the more capitalism profits off of our “self-correcting.” Sometimes there is so much trauma to be undone that it can take months, years or even decades to heal from it, and that’s okay, it’s worth the liberation in the end. Each experience brings something new to the table; another insight, another metaphorical weapon to use to liberate ourselves, and I think that’s pretty dope.

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