Tiffany Haddish: The Last Black Unicorn

As a supporter of black television shows and movies, I believe watching some of the latest films starring or created by black people a necessity to maintain my black card. Some of the recent films that hit theaters within the past year included the thriller Get Out produced by Jordan Peele; the play turned movie about father son relationships, Fences starring Viola Davis and Denzel Washington; Hidden Figures, the story of three influential black women in NASA; the story of black men and uncovering their sexuality, Moonlight; and the summer adventure movie Girls Trip starring Tiffany Haddish, Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, and Jada Pinkett.

Despite the recent snub by the Golden Globes 2017, as mentioned by none other than Jada Pinkett herself, Girls Trip has proven what the power of  women supporting films created by and about women, black people supporting films created by and supporting black people, and what can be done with a small budget, a great story and amazing acting. After watching the movie with tears in my eyes from laughter, I am not surprised that the $20 million budget movie became a $138 million success. The movie was a hilarious depiction of what would happen if the Girlfriends series had a baby with the movie Hangover. It’s a story of rebuilding broken friendships, supporting friends through financial and relational problems, and being grateful for the ones who have always had your back, all while having fun and embracing black culture in the city of New Orleans. Although all of the ladies starred in the movie were amazing, Tiffany Haddish, with her larger than life personality, insanely hilarious commentary and reckless acts was the source of much of the laughs in the movie. From grinding on P. Diddy to teaching us what can be done with a grape fruit and a fine man, the 38 year old comedian and actress became the breakout star of the movie.

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Tiffany Haddish was, as a family member once told me, “an instant success that only took ten years”. However, since Girls Trip, her fame has skyrocketed with successes including her HBO Special, becoming the first black female comedian to host SNL and most recently her book, The Last Black Unicorn. Despite her comedic SNL skit as a future predicting black unicorn with Leslie Jones, her book takes her readers through a range of emotions from happiness to fear to anger to redemption and more. Trevor Noah in his interview of Tiffany Haddish on December 7, 2017, emphasized how great this book was and highlighted just how insane Haddish’s life has been. This book does not disappoint.

It is common knowledge from her interviews that Tiffany Haddish was once a child in the California foster care system which further stole the hearts of many with her Cinderella story. However, her book extends far beyond demonizing the system and those involved with it with the usual stereotypes of neglectful evil parents to lost cause children to indifferent social workers to careless foster parents collecting checks. Haddish put a face on a system that we prefer to ignore. Her heart wrenching relationship with her mother shows the diversity in paths to how children end up in foster care. I believe we in the United States mentally file foster care as the unfortunate outcome of a few bad apples that was self inflicted. However, Trends in the Foster Care System recorded by Children’s Bureau statistics tell a different story. As of 2016, there were approximately 687,000 children served, 118,000 waiting for adoption and 57,200 adopted. These numbers don’t even scratch the surface of each child’s story before, during and after their lives in foster care.

Haddish’s relationships with the men in her life are so emotional, so dysfunctional and for many who have experienced abuse on any level from verbal to physical, so familiar. Unlike other domestic violence survivor stories that write those moments in the Tyler Perry style where they graciously found courage after one last traumatic moment to escape that situation (which is a type of story that many need), Haddish’s story was as if it had happened yesterday. In her book, Haddish became the best friend that made all the wrong, impulsive decisions. If you don’t have that friend, either your life is incredibly boring or you might be that friend. Either way, Haddish’s willingness to open her life to readers in a way that feels real and recent is what many victims of abuse may need. Leaving an abusive relationship is not always a clean cut or easy decision for those invested in that relationship, and Haddish’s story is just one example of the difficulties of leaving.

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Her life as a comedian was equally an emotional roller coaster as her personal life. She may have started her comedic career  as a teenager, but by no means was her success or involvement was a steady, consistent climb to the top. Her story as a woman trying to make it in a man’s world (or so we’ve been falsely taught) is one that resonates with all women with goals of making it big in any industry.

Her book was genuine and more like a long conversation with Tiffany Haddish herself rather than an autobiography. The book itself was short and the words were so conversational, I read it in a weekend. I now understand Trevor Noah’s excitement in pitching this book.

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Is The Dark Skinned Mean Girl A Step Up

Supporting black films and shows, shows created by or starring black people, is sometimes a double edged sword. On the one hand, I believe it is a necessity to show support for participants of an industry notorious for shunning and misrepresenting black and brown faces. For instance, black and brown actors and actresses are paid significantly less than their white counterparts. But, on the other hand, there seems to be a zero sum win where those of darker skin get the negative part of that equation.

A recent depiction of colorism can be found in the new recent ABC show, The Mayor, the story of local rapper, Courtney, who ran for mayor of his city as a promotion for his music but unexpectedly wins the election and becomes mayor. The moment I saw the trailer, I was disinterested. Although I love the female supporting actress, Lea Michelle, the feeling I felt watching the show’s trailer felt similar to the elephant in the room when the trailer for The Mountain Between Us starring Idris Elba and Kate Winslet played in the theater full of women of color. I was just tired of uplifting and supporting black shows and movies that do not uplift or support those that look like me. Nevertheless, I watched the show for the comedic dialogues between the characters played by Brandon Michael Hall, Lea Michelle, Bernard David Jones, Marcel Spears and Yvette Nicole Brown. In episode 6, Will You Accept This Rose?, like so many shows and movies before, the formula of caring, nice, light skin girl, recently introduced as the Transit Union lawyer in Episode 5, played by Kali Hawk, versus selfish dark skinned girl that threatens the reputation and respect of black men, played by Meagan Tandy as reporter Danielle, was evident. However, I was relieved that despite once again being portrayed negatively, reporter Danielle was seen as not only ambitious but equally desired by the main character Casey and his friends.

Colorism in black media has been discussed time

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(Coming To America, 1988)

and time

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(Tyler Perry’s Diary of a Mad Black Woman, 2005)

and time

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(Martin, 1992-1997)

and time again

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(The Proud Family, 2001-2005)

These are just the movies and shows I know from memory and the ones where the comparison between dark skin and light skin are blatant. Systematically, the script has remained unchanged for roles of black people, particularly black women, which fall into three categories: Mammy, the dark skinned, heavy-set asexual figure who typically works herself to death while holding the family together best she can

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(Gone With The Wind, 1939)

Sapphire, the dark skinned, more muscular, angry woman whose sole purpose is to belittle the black man

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(Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family, 2011)

And, Jezebel, the light-skinned hypersexualized figure typically viewed as the most attractive of the three

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(Nicki Minaj, Paper Magazine, 2017)

This mindset has permeated the mind of the black community since slavery days so there is no surprise that the dichotomy between the civilized white skin versus savage dark skin has transferred to classy, gentle light skin or mix race versus ghetto, ratchet dark skin. That is with the assumption that media, whether black or white, even acknowledges dark skin women versus placing the racially ambiguous girl as the representative of all things women of color in a show or film.

Despite the lack of or poor representation of dark skinned black women in media, we have a greatly progressed with shows and movies including: Queen Sugar, Insecure, Scandal, Being Mary Jane, Girlfriends, How to Get Away with Murder, and Girls Trip just to name a few recent shows and movies. Actresses like Tracy Ellis Ross , Yvonne Orji, Lupita Nyong’o, Viola Davis, and to Taraji P. Henson show the diversity in occupation, personality and beauty in black women.

However, there is one role that has me perplexed about the progression of media representation of dark skinned women, the role of the high school mean girl, the bitch.

The term bitch has a similarly complicated history like the term nigga that I will not delve into, and it comes in various connotations. So, I will elaborate. I do not mean the baby mama drama bitch or the ratchet bad bitch or the video hoe bitch. I’m talking about the high school mean girl that we could not stand but we all remember. I am talking about one of my favorite bitches, Regina George from the Lindsay Lohan movie Mean Girls. Regina George was a bitch because her manipulative and controlling nature was encouraged and fueled by the adoration and obsession of others.  She was what many would call the epitome of beauty which is what allowed for her arrogance and confidence. She was the girl everyone hated because she was the one everyone wanted to have or wanted to be. Seriously, who did not want to be Regina George?

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Look at any Disney Channel show or teen movie and this role will be there, typically played by the white blondes, maybe an occasional brunette.

Even while digging into my deepest memories the closest to that role that I remember seeing black girls play is the rule of the mean girl’s best friend, the henchman.

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HBO’s Insecure lead actress and producer, Issa Rae, also tackled the conversation of representation of black people in media, specifically black teens, in a proposal for a black teen drama stating:

“I would like to pitch you a new show about black teenagers. Think 90210 or Gossip Girl for black kids. . .Maybe we call it Ladera Heights 90041. It could be Potomac Maryland 20854. . . . I would definitely have a ho character, always on her ho s**t. Just thirsty. . .No goodie-goodies over here, not in this show. Nobody was watching 90210 for Tori Spelling.” Vibes Magazine, 2017

Would placing a dark skinned actress as the role of the mean, popular girl, the bitch, be a step forward in the representation dark skinned women in media or merely perpetuating the light versus dark skin stereotypes? Regardless, to have a dark skinned actress be placed in roles that command such respect, interest and admiration would say a lot to the young black girls who wished there were more shows that represented young girls with their melanin and curls.

FKSP A Fashion Testimony

The search continues for black owned brands as I came across the Style Pantry Instagram page by Folake Huntoon. As mentioned in a previous post, my style can be described as a more colorful and form fitting Olivia Pope style with sleek cuts and usually minimalist patterns. This style is exactly what Style Pantry embodies. Folake’s high-waisted shirts and pants can be worn everywhere from business meetings to classroom settings to semi-formal events to date nights. I have been following this Instagram page for about a year, and each post has yet to disappoint with its slayage.

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Many of her styles came from her original line Loft324 founded by herself. Similar to her Style Pantry Instagram page and blog, Loft324 pieces were everything I could ever want in a wardrobe. To my disappointment, my first shopping experience involved the constant message on each piece I liked being out of stock.

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Despite my disappointment, I continued to follow style pantry for style inspiration.

Many moons (in reality about 2 months) later, I found Loft324 has become FKSP. Despite the name change, the Los Angeles based online store is still filled with the sleek, sexy and elegant styles I love. As a post graduate student, finding this site where the prices were majority under $100 for quality pieces was a blessing.

I decided my first step to maturity would be to place my tank tops, crop tops and hoodies in the back of my closet and add more button ups and blouses to my wardrobe. Of course, FKSP had just what I was looking for. one of the models wore a beige pussy bow tie button up blouse matched with a bright orange A line skirt. The shirt was $42 plus $10 shipping, and I received it within a 2 week period of ordering it.

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At first glance holding the blouse, I was nervous about the quality of it after holding it to the light and being able to see through the shirt. However, I wore the shirt for a teaching assignment and went through the ultimate wardrobe test.

What better test of the longevity of any item than seeing its ability to withstand the wrath of a stain.  I would not recommend actually pouring anything on your clothes to see what happens, but if the fashion gods decide to give you a test for a testimony, just go with it. So, here is my fashion testimony. Of course, I eat in my car on the ride to work everyday without dropping so much as a crumb. . . until the morning I decide to wear my newest pieces. You can imagine my horror and despair as a quarter size drop of deep purple jelly from my soy nut and jelly sandwich lands directly on the bottom of the attached scarf. Really the stain looked something like this. . .

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But it felt like this. . .

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By the grace of the fashion gods I happened to have class in the science classroom which included its own set of sinks. I rushed to the sinks like a Grey’s Anatomy scene and drenched the edge of the scarf in cold water 10 minutes before the start of first period. I thought I’d be walking around like a G rated wet t shirt contest for the majority of the day, but to my joy, by the beginning of second period  the shirt was completely dried and the stain was gone.

 

Just like any relationship, there will be hard times to test the fate of the relationship, and this jelly test showed the start of some awesome outfits with this shirt (once I watch enough YouTube videos to figure out how to properly tie this bow).

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Return of the Legends Fashion Show

My mission in finding black-owned clothing brands for the working millennial continued at the Return of the Legends Fashion Show by Set It Off Productions on November 5, 2017. As soon as I stepped into The Rosen Plaza Hotel, I felt as if I had become a part of the end scene in the 2017 movie Girls Trip where Regina Hall’s character is surrounded by proud and encouraged black women of all background as she gives her speech about self love and relationships. The hall was filled the people of color of all ages and shades wearing everything from stylish jeans to three piece suits and dresses of all lengths and styles. The show itself matched the #blackexcellence that shined in the room.

The first designers set the tone in the show’s opening “Queens of Gold”. The Egyptian themed fashion brought out the models’ melanin glow in regal prints with gold accent jewelry. Between the Egyptian-inspired pieces, the actual Egyptian costumes and Michael Jackson’s Remember the Time video playing in the background, it was impossible not to feel this sense of timeless black pride. The opening showcased black royalty. To end the scene, designers Diane Simon of Kiana Kouture and Lance Stephens of The Pharaoh of Fashions (HakatRe) captured the audience with their regal aura. Simon walked out like a golden Egyptian goddess in one of her pieces as Stephens escorted her down the runway with such grace and elegance in all black.

While the first set of designers highlighted the essence of the black queen, the second scene, “Kings of Gold”, showed the essence of black kings. Male models of various physiques and shades captured the predominantly black female crowd’s hearts a they strutted, swag-walked, danced and glided down the runway. However, the true stopper was the silver fox who proved age was just a number. The minute that man hit the runway, the audience erupted with applause. His silver beard shined along with his white suit against his dark skin. he walked with confidence occasionally showing off his dance moves watching this handsome, seasoned black king having fun was what everyone in the crowd needed and what set the tone for the younger models who followed.

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While scenes 3 and 4 were filled with interesting pieces that complimented each model well, one of the most memorable scenes was Scene 5. While the opening male and female scenes reminded us of our African royal bloodline, scene 5 “Black Power” reminded us of where we are now and our ongoing fights against institutional oppression that tried to force us to forget our royal bloodline. As images of African American activists past and present mixed with heart wrenching images of slavery, famous riots and victims of racism including Trayvon Martin flashed across the two screens on ether side of the runway, we are reminded of why events like this fashion show are needed. Events held by black people for black people matter. The models also reminded us of the importance of legacy and black pride. The Haya Boutique modest dresses by designer Rasheedah K. Muhammad reminded black women that our power was in our voice and presence in politics, economics, education and in the community and not in our bodies. The scene featured two beautiful young models that looked about 9 or 10 years old. The two young girls, wearing the modest pieces with pride and confidence, reminded us of the struggles that we unfortunately will pass on to the next generation. However, the girls were also a reminder of how far we as a nation have come. As images of our past and present fight for equality flashed across the screens, the amazing remix of Michael Jackson’s They Don’t Really care About Us, Beyonce’s Freedom, and K Pop or J Pop played as the models walked. This remix spoke so much about black history in America including our anger towards the injustices of our people, our fight against inequality and inequity and our universal influence on music and culture despite those same injustices. The dresses emphasized modesty and modernity in a way that was flattering for various body types, sizes and ages. The music and video playing in the background were beautiful, nostalgic and inspiring. However, the most powerful moment in the scene was the end where designer Muhammad steps onto the runway as all of the models stood on either side of the runway with one fist in the air as Beyonce’s Freedom played in the background.

The following scenes showcased a performance by Central Florida artist Eric Green singing his song “I Belong”. The final three scenes showcased designs by designer Dianne Simon’s Kiana Kouture, Suit City, and Lace-Style Agency and Resale Emporium and designer Chanel Diana.

In totality, the fashion show was entertaining and the clothes were unique and fitting for all style preferences. Set It Off Productions did an excellent job in bringing the black community together to showcase the beauty of the black community through fashion and design. It was a window shopper’s dream. Unfortunately, outside of the stands in the front of the hall and the little information about each designer provided by the brochure, I have searched for these same brands online with little to no luck. Although experience is important, this fashion show was also a networking and advertising opportunity that leaves me unimpressed. The beautiful images of the show have disappeared into obscurity as I am unavailable to find any runway photos of the event. The names of these designers are difficult to find online. I have little reference of such an encouraging event outside of my memory, word of mouth and faded or dark photos taken from my phone, which is disappointing with the plethora of platforms on the internet. Similar to what I mentioned previously, this show reminded me of how far we as a black community have come in accepting, appreciating and showcasing our beautiful melanin and talents, however in execution and maintaining lasting effects in the community, in many ways, we have a long way to go.

 

Where’s the Black H&M

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I am wearing a dress from the e-commerce shop, Swank Blue. Although the dress itself is an apolitical fashion piece, it was bought as a statement against injustices against marginalized groups. After the unjust deaths of black men Philando Castile and Alton Sterling in 2016, I was tired. I was tired of the same story of police brutality. I was tired of the videos and articles. I was especially tired of the hashtags. I wasn’t just tired of White America’s willful ignorance and neglect of addressing their racist counterparts. I was also tired of Black America’s slacktivism. Slactivism by formal Oxford definition is ” The practice of supporting a political or social cause by means such as social media or online petitions, characterized as involving very little effort or commitment”. Although these hashtags are followed by helpful information, long angry emotional posts and on occasion a march with more hashtags and photos of cardboard signs and millennials, it feels as if nothing has changed and I am just waiting for the next set of hashtags and cardboard signs. The internet and social media activity, although necessary, means nothing without significant change in the judicial system, economy, educational system or health changes.

However, I myself cling to slactivism because of my perceived limitations. I am a recent graduate primarily concerned with eliminating student debt and finding a job with a high enough salary to live fully independently and not live paycheck to paycheck. I used to convince myself that my role in this #blackgirlmagic #melaninpoppin #blackexcellence #kneelwithKaepernick movement could wait. The reality is it cannot wait. Even if the steps are small, the first steps are the start to change. Charlamagne tha God in his book Black Privilege discusses how we all have a privilege whether it is our race, upbringing, physique etc. At the time of the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, I had already acquired a B.S. in Marketing and en route to my M.A. in Communications. It was for this reason, out of the judicial system, economy, educational system and healthcare, I decided to do what I can to contribute to black economics because that is where my educational privilege lies.

Contrary tthe frustrating stereotypes: “black people have bad credit” or “black people are bad with money”, there was a time where black businesses and the black economy thrived, specifically in the 1920’s in Tulsa, Oklahoma where the most prosperous African American businesses thrived, achieving the name, Black Wall Street. After the accusation of a black man raping a white woman in a newspaper, Black Wall Street was attacked and destroyed by white, racist terrorists. However, this one instance, although devastating, is not the sole reason for the stagnant movement of the black economy. Other factors include: lack of generational capital needed to start and maintain a business, black people are less likely to be approved for loans by banks, lack of education of the time, money and talent needed to start and maintain a business, and stigmas toward the quality of black owned businesses and services. As someone who studied business, I recognize it’s influence in all of the other institutions. With a healthy economy, we can contribute more to our education programs. We can afford better healthcare and a healthier lifestyle. We can have more political power and influence in the judicial system. Also, many will be lucky enough to not have personal experiences in the judicial system, no longer be connected to the education system after graduation unless the person has children themselves and may never have a hospital visit until possibly old age, but we all contribute to the economy.

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However, as mentioned before, I am in a point in my life where money is tight and I rarely buy outside of the necessities. I am at a stage in my life where I am slowly leaving college life behind and stepping into my professional career. That means placing my crop tops and ripped jeans in the back of my closet for weekends with friends and transitioning into professional wear, which I had little of. I thought, because black people are the front runners of trends from street wear to hoop earrings to traditional Ankara print to braids, dedicating my transition to professional wear so that most or all of the apparel in my closet would be black owned would be easy. . . I. was. wrong. Finding clothes for my physique from any brand was difficult due to my small but very athletic frame. In addition my style is a trendy mixed with timeless look. Think of it as a more colorful, form fitting Olivia Pope style. The best example of my style is H&M. Many of the colors are muted and earthy tones, which I like. H&M is also of a higher quality fabric than many of the urban city Main Street stores with their stretchy body con clothing that I grew to know. H&M was also affordable.

I spent hours in one day going through the Huffington Post, Complex magazine and black bloggers’ lists of black owned businesses looking for those similar H&M styles finding the same frustrating issues.

  1. Lack of apparel- I found a lot of these sites and pages were limited to accessories like Afro-centric jewelry and brightly colored glasses and necklaces.
  2. The style- I find a dichotomy in pieces. A lot of the black-owned clothing brands were limited to trendy pieces and pro-black shirts and accessories appropriate for your college Black Student Organization and less for a business interview. I don’t mind pro-black clothing but I need diversity in my styles and I do not want my blackness to always be the very first thing someone sees in me, although sometimes inevitable no matter what I wear. On the other end, there are designers with pieces specifically for Parisian runways that cost far beyond the average person’s budget.
    1. BLACK BY POPULAR DEMAND® Unisex Short Sleeve Hockey Hoodie  (HGC APPAREL BLACK BY POPULAR DEMAND® UNISEX SHORT SLEEVE HOCKEY HOODIE, $64.99)
    2.  (AZEDE JEAN-PIERRE SILK COTTON BLAZER, Midnight Black, $995)
  3. Availability- For some sites, just when I felt I found what I was looking for in size shape and color, to my dismay, the style was “out of stock” where sometimes I’ll never see the style again.

Even after hours of searching, there were still sites like Swank Blue that fell through the cracks of my search seeing that I only learned about Swank Blue through word of mouth from my roommate. Even then, the majority of Swank Blue pieces in 2016 with their revealing cuts and shimmery and sparkly designs seemed more appropriate for a New Years Eve party than a Tuesday office meeting.

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(Swank Blue pieces from left to right: Good Good Dress, $68.00, Champagne Dreams Dress, $98.50)

Since then, Swank Blue has included a few more pieces I find on its site that are business casual, trendy and timeless.

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(Swank Blue pieces from left to right: No Stop Signal Dress, $57.00; The Oz skirt, $68.00)

This is not to criticize the artistry and design of these brands mentioned by any means. We need designers across the whole spectrum of shoppers of varying price ranges and style types. We need brands like HGC Apparel that use fashion to openly display social issues related to race. We need the the Cushnie et Ochs-like designers on the NYFW runways to represent the exceedingly low numbers of black designers and models represented in international fashion. This post is to acknowledge that there is a demographic of black shoppers looking for black owned brands that are affordable and can be worn in diverse occasions. As Millennials and African Americans are increasing in spending power, I wish there were more brands catering to this overlapping group of working, e-commerce shopping, black pride showing, trendsetting young black demographic. I also wish these quality, sophisticated and trendy combination brands that do cater to this group, like FKSP (formerly known as Loft324) and Taylor Jay Collection, were easier to find. I will note, the internet is a big platform with many brands that I have yet to find but am excited to search for. The fashion industry is also ever changing and growing with the changes in socio-cultural trends and beauty standards. Black fashion designers like the ones mentioned continue to break barriers and open doors for future black influences in the fashion world.

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black cowl neck 1.jpg (Taylor Jay Collection, Black Cowl Neck, 78.00)

 (FKSP, “Philo” Bell Sleeve Wide Leg Jumpsuit, $85.00)

 

Wonder Woman and Everything Everything Say Sorry Mom

I have seen both the movies Everything Everything and Wonder Woman back to back and I have never seen two movies so different and so similar back back. Everything Everything is the story of an 18 year old girl who is believed to have a serous sickness which prevents her from ever leaving her home. After meeting and falling in love with the boy next door, her small, safe world is forever changed (more spoilers as this article continues). It is a teen romance movie where the characters wear trendy clothes easily found in H&M and the soundtrack can be found in any Top 40 playlist with various up and coming pop and eclectic artists. Wonder Woman is based off of DC Comic’s female superhero, Diana, an Amazonian princess who meets a man that leads her on her own adventure (see the similarities yet?). Compared to Everything Everything, the movie Wonder Woman was an action packed movie where most of the music was mixed with roaring sound effects of explosions, bombs and gun shots. In addition, I don’t think Diana’s outfit can easily be found in your nearest mall. There are a lot of spoilers in this piece but the messages are spot on.

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Despite these movies seeming to target different audiences with different tastes, the messages and story lines almost mirror each other. Early in both movies, a handsome man comes infiltrates these women’s “safe spaces” forcing these women to accept the truth about themselves. In Everything Everything, the star’s safe space is her home. This home was a beautiful California home. The rooms were impeccably clean. The furniture and appliances were modern and state of the art. The home was specifically designed to let nothing of any risk even so much as touch the well off and sheltered girl. In one of the first scenes, the neighbor tries to give the mother a bunt cake which she rudely refuses. The daughter shouts from her room, “I’d rather try a bunt cake.” The mother replies, “It’s dry.” From my own experiences, I’ve had plenty of bunt cake conversations with my own mother, as I will assume other mothers and daughters have had. Many times, my mother looks at me like I am the most fragile thing to ever exist and make the decision to shelter me from dangers with the power of ignorance. Wonder Woman was no different. The first scenes of the movie start with Wonder Woman as a little, the only little girl in her world, her sheltered safe paradise. Like Everything Everything, Diana’s world was safe, there hasn’t been war or outside threats to this world hidden behind magic and fog for years. Like Everything Everything, Diana was seen as the most delicate and fragile thing to exist. For that, her mother, the queen, hides Diana’s true identity. As a woman, I find ignorance used as a weapon more often as I get older. There is a global fear and misunderstanding of women with knowledge not only about the world through books and education but about themselves. In both movies, the mothers keep a massive secret from their daughters that have kept them sheltered or better yet captive in these safe spaces.

I won’t delve too much into the hunky male superhero that, through fate, comes into these women’s lives. As a single woman all I can wonder is “Where the hell is mine?” But I will skip to the end. I forewarn, there are serious spoiler alerts so I would suggest saving this article once you have seen both movies or have no intention of seeing either movie. Both characters discover the strength within them once they have left their homes. It was not until the main character in Everything Everything, Madeline, returned from her life threatening adventure in Hawaii that she discovers she was never sick (I warned you reader). It was not until Diana realized that the evil she thought she was meant to defeat was actually the complex concept of human free will and inborn evil rather than some singular evil bad guy  that she discovered she was a goddess herself. Not only is she a fictional goddess but in many ways she is a feminine depiction of a God many people are familiar with. The theme of the movie is that humans, in their tendencies towards evil, don’t deserve her power and mercy yet she gives it anyway (sound familiar Christians?). Steve, played by the beautiful Chris Pine, also thanks her for saving him by bringing him out of the water (sound familiar ladies). Diana’s strength is incomparable yet her mother hid it from her all her life.

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I have lived in a safe space my whole life. For years, I was a sheltered child whose media intake consisted primarily of Disney Channel, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network. I had many toys and never worried about physical harm or hunger. I had a lovely safe space. Many women and girls like me have or had those spaces. Maybe they were not paradises, but they were the safe because they were familiar. Women are often pressured to stay within the family, not always for their own good but for the benefits of their family members. Even with good intentions, sexism often pressures women more than men to take less risks, desire less adventure, and require less self awareness of one’s own strength in order for these women to feel more obligated to watch over the family. However, no one, man or woman, can stay within their familiar zones and expect to really discover who they are and their true potential. Sometimes it takes the push of someone who is different to take us out of those comfort zones.

My final point refers to the title, the strain of growth on a mother daughter relationship. In both movies, neither women return home to their mothers who nurtured and cared for them all their lives. Back home, they did not exist. Madeline mentions in Everything Everything that only a small handful of people knew she even exists. She was her mother’s. In a similar fashion, no human knew Diana’s world existed. In her world she was simply the princess. In Everything Everything, Madeline says “You’re not alive if no one knows you exist.” In different words but with the same message Diana says to her mother before she leaves home, “Who would I be if I stayed?” As a millennial, I’ve learned a lot of the things my older relatives have taught me were wrong. That is the hardest thing to realize because you know there is usually little to no malice in what they teach you. However, you know what they say is not always what’s best for you. In similar tone with love and persistence both characters in summary say, “Sorry mom, but I have to be myself.” As Gen Y people we have to get out and discover the truth about the world around us and Gen Xers need to trust us with the truth.

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These story lines aren’t new. Disney has used these stories in movies like the animated Rapunzel or Brave. However there is something about these two movies that make the similar message different. Maybe it’s the use of actual people. Madeline, played by the girl who played Rue in Hunger Games, can be any black girl, you meet. As a black woman mentioning her race is relevant because it is nice to see people that look like me on the big screen. However, Madeline can be any girl who knew they were in a safe space but knew they didn’t belong there. Wonder Woman was edgier than the Disney princesses. At times she was stone faced and cut and dry with her responses. She did not flirt or sing around those who doubted her to make a point. She looked her doubters in the eye and said, “Watch me”.  There was something more real about these ladies discovering their physical strengths, history and sexuality.  Regardless, both movies make me proud to be a part of a generation where slowly women, people of color, people of foreign descent are in control and making a difference in the world.

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