Toronto
3 min

The Beyoncé effect

Beyoncé. She’s stunningly beautiful and so famous she no longer requires a last name. Her songs are on constant replay on radio stations across North America and she regularly graces the covers of fashion magazines like Elle and Cosmo. I can’t seem to walk into a drugstore without finding her face on the magazine rack, her caramel skin, light brown hair with golden highlights and blinding smile reflecting back at me, inviting and seductive.

There’s no doubt that hip-hop culture has risen to incredible heights but the effects have been both positive and negative. The popularity of entertainers like Beyoncé has ingrained itself in mainstream culture and yes, in the queer scene too. The evidence is shown in people’s vocabulary (foshizzle my nizzle, anyone?) and in their wardrobes (just think of the everpresent hoodie and ridiculous baggy jeans).

On the positive side this means the perception of beauty in North America is changing and it’s about damn time. Finally there seems to be room for many different types of beauty. Lucy Liu, Jennifer Lopez and Halle Berry are now considered some of the most beautiful women in Hollywood which sends the message to the masses that you no longer have to be blonde and blue-eyed to be a babe.

The negative side to all this is that there are a lot of stereotypes being projected onto black women and this is just as true in the lesbian world as it is in the straight world. I sometimes find it difficult to navigate my way through the lesbian dating pool (which, I think we can all agree, is small enough that it’s already pretty tricky) without bumping into other women’s assumptions of who I’m supposed to be.

I’m not blaming Beyoncé. She’s just doing her thing. It’s just that I don’t like being exoticized and this is where what I call the “Beyoncé effect” comes into play. I resent my sudden coolness now that black is beautiful again. I was always beautiful. I resent the sense that I’ve suddenly been discovered, like I am a new phenomenon. I’ve been here all along just as many black women have been before me.

I get the sense that I’m not always viewed as a pretty girl but rather as a pretty black girl. It’s a subtle difference but one that has a big impact on the ways other women interact with me. Lately I’ve had girls who are hitting on me tell me they like Kanye West too, how they hear black girls are wild and how they can handle my black woman’s “attitude.” Personally I like Coldplay and Bloc Party, I consider myself to be quite civilized and what the fuck do you mean I’ve got an attitude?

It’s not that there isn’t some truth to stereotypes; there’s a tiny grain in there somewhere. But at the end of the day stereotypes aren’t actual facts. Don’t confuse the two.

I’m not asking people to not see colour; I think that’s bullshit. Feigning politically correct blindness is ridiculous. But it’s frustrating to try and talk to a girl only to realize she’s seen far too many music videos on Black Entertainment Television, that she’s expecting a caricature of every black woman she’s ever seen in the movies or on TV and that she’s not really seeing me at all.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that every white girl I meet has these opinions. I’d love to think that it’s all in my head. But I’ve had more of these encounters than you might think.

The fact that society is only now waking up and realizing that black women are beautiful is insulting. Black women have had to champion our own beauty, to put ourselves on the beauty pedestal so to speak. We couldn’t wait to be discovered. Now that we have empowered our own chocolate, caramel, mocha, cinnamon shades of blackness, our broad noses, high behinds, our curves and our ability to freely shake our booties with unashamed pride, now we’re cool.

But the thing about being cool is that what’s in can also be out. The thought of being a trend scares me. I don’t want to be a passing fantasy; I’m a real girl who’s an individual and has quirks like anyone else.

I think it’s important to have open and honest communications when the conversation is about race. This is how barriers are broken down and people are able to be seen as uniquely themselves. The colour of my skin is just one aspect of my identity. It doesn’t encompass all of who I am. I’m a femme, a fashion addict, a Scorpio and an unapologetic carnivore.

I think it’s wonderful when I see Beyoncé on the cover of Cosmo magazine or showing off her perfectly styled and colour-treated hair in a L’Oreal commercial. But what I really want is a genuine come-on that has nothing to do with her.