Skin: mahogany and flawless? Check.
Eyes: striking, clear, direct? Check?
Hair: on point? Check.
Makeup: Did you peep the lashes? Check.
Gorgeous doesn’t even begin to describe Rachel Jeantel. Upon first laying eyes on the 19-year-old, I couldn’t get over her insanely even, chocolaty complexion. While the world seemed to be caught up in what she wasn't, all I could see was what she plainly was.
Yes, I said it, Rachel Jeantel is a pretty girl. And yet, I swear I feel like I’m either the only one who feels this way, or I'm the only one who is bold enough to say it aloud.
While everyone was (and still is) talking about her weight, "broken" English and overall lack of sympathetic jury appeal, I couldn’t help but see how stunning the girl was. First of all, from what we've seen, this 19-year-old always looks pulled together (I dare anyone reading this to break out their teen flicks and prove the same about themselves!). From her hair, to her nails (yes, I clocked them) to her perfectly placed lashes, Rachel is snatched.
But why is it that this isn't a trending topic? I’ll admit that even in my group of friends— all young women who say they feel connected to this young woman—not one of them has mentioned her beauty. And when I do: crickets.
Am I really the only one who sees this? Granted, we were introduced to her under tragic, gravely serious circumstances and perhaps the last thing that should've been on our minds was her appearance…though a good number of folks on Twitter wanted to know who the Black female law clerk working for the defense was because she's "fine," apparently. But that's a story for another day.
And of course, Rachel's appearance was on our minds. Are we unable to recognize beauty in the presence of a big dark-skinned Black woman? In a body that has so often been dismissed as asexual, motherly, unpretty, unsexy and unwanted?
How often do we overlook the beauty of sisters who are darker or heavier for no reason but their size or complexion? And how many of us who are doing this dismissing look more like the ones we diss than those that we praise?
As I take a trip down my own millennial memory lane and reflect on the of darker, heavier Black women I've seen on TV, I come up with Oprah, Esther "Florida Evans" Rolle, Iyanla, Whoopi, Mo’Nique, Sherri, Star Jones—btw, is it a coincidence that all the Black women of The View fit this description? All a little heavier, all little browner and all, with the possible exception of Mo’Nique in recent years, seemingly overlooked in conversations of who's beautiful. Beauty and these names are never mentioned in the same sentence. Oprah got a boatload of attention when she lost about 50 pounds in the early 2000’s, but even then, she was known as "skinny," never pretty.
So, was it just impossible for Jeantel to get on that stand and be recognized for her beauty? And I’m not even talking complexion. I’m talking weight, structure, and speech. The full Monty. Were all these factors in the way of the should-be-obvious?
When I've mentioned how attractive I find this young woman, I've either gotten the side-eye, or a room full of quiet women whose silence solidified that they didn’t agree. I’m not saying that everyone has to see what I see, I’m just wondering how often we've failed to recognize the beauty of other darker or heavier girls, because they are just that.
So to say today that Rachel Jeantel is, in fact, pretty amidst the social media trolls that have enveloped her feels like a grand statement—but really, it's just the truth. Shame on wannabe Twitter comedians like wannabe gold medalist Lolo Jones, who early on compared Rachel's looks to that of Tyler Perry's Madea and those who likened her to Precious (which is an insult in itself to the actress who played Precious, Gabourey Sidbe)—the nasty jokes about Rachel are wrong, and as a dark woman who isn't a size 2, they hit me in the bottom of my stomach.
Rachel, if you ever see this, please know that as you resolve to help the world remember Trayvon in the gentle light that you saw him, we see you in the truly beautiful light in which you are. We’re standing up for you, cutie—and all the young women who look like you—Beautifully Brown girl.
Melanie Yvette Martin is the Editorial Assistant and Beauty and Style contact for EBONY.com and a lover of all things beauty for brown women. Follow her on Instagram @melanieyvette and on Twitter @theffgal.