Words by Kets Mamabolo
Hollywood has its crushes that are as erratic as Cape Town’s weather, however when a large amount of noise was made about a certain African actress I took notice. My thoughts were running wild…How long before they bring her looks into it? Are they praising her because she’s African? It didn’t take long for the world to answer my burning questions. Immediately I heard the generic compliments about how amazing it is for an African to make it in Hollywood and finally what I had been waiting for the most: “Lupita Nyong’o is so beautiful.”
Then Twitter began exploding. Some were expressing their admiration for her talent and others began their parade of the Kenyan and Mexican dual-citizen. Her beauty suddenly became a hot talking point. I for one have not seen 12 Years a Slave and don’t plan to anytime soon, so naturally the talk of her beauty interested me more.
People latched onto the concept of her being a symbol of “black beauty”. To them she is a sign that dark skin is finally “acceptable”. When someone asked me if I think she’s beautiful, I said no after a few seconds of pondering. Aesthetically I don’t find her beautiful. I believe her passion for her craft is beautiful and I assume she has a beautiful personality, but I won’t lie and say that she’s aesthetically beautiful to me.
Beauty is an incredibly subjective thing. I think Carey Mulligan is beautiful; others don’t share the same view. We see things differently and that is most evident when we get onto aesthetics. Men and women alike shall never fully agree on what constitutes an aesthetically beautiful person. Our opinions differ greatly, which in itself is a beautiful thing. It’s the basis of the term “everyone is beautiful”. I find that quote interesting because anyone who uses it is merely trying to convince others that they are a “better” person.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer in the concept of everyone having their own form of beauty. It could be a warm smile, a bubbly personality or anything for that matter. I personally try to avoid using the word ‘beautiful’ loosely.
The placing of Lupita on a pedestal irritated me because suddenly the pseudo African activists became her defence force. I witnessed people stripping down Africanness to purely opinion of her looks. I was worried by the fact that finding her beautiful all of sudden became the determiner of how African I am. Furthermore finding her aesthetically unbeautiful has become an indicator of your dislike of dark skin. This horrible fallacy is perpetuated by young black Africans who parade their pseudo-African-activist badges with joy and self-righteousness.
So what if I don’t think she’s beautiful? Does that mean I am un-African? What do her looks have to do with my mother being black? Why do you immediately assume my opinion is based on her skin tone?
I am well aware of the modern issue of black girls hating their skin. I know that my fondness for white girls is due to the predominantly white environment that I grew up in, however that doesn’t mean I am not African. I was born in this continent. That makes me an African. It also makes everyone born on this continent an African. But any issue of identity among black girls won’t be solved by guilt tripping people into saying she’s beautiful. By all means applaud her talent, however leave politics and psycho-analysis out of it. You can’t make me find her beautiful. Don’t place my Africanness against your checklist, because like aesthetic beauty, it is purely subjective.
Twitter – @KetsTheLad
Image sourced from Lupita Nyongo’s Facebook page