I very rarely speak about, write about or highlight anything related to my big butt. It’s pointless to me. It’s there and has been there since I was 16, a part of my body, naturally. I had never even thought about my behind one way or another until Ashley made such a big deal about it: “Oh my God, Melanie’s butt is so big, y’all.” And everyone started laughing. But then she qualified it, “No, but it’s cute, because she has such a little waist!”
And then began my obsession.
I could no longer not notice my body in relationship to the other girls in my all-girl Catholic school. I hadn’t noticed how different I was, in part because I looked like all of the women in my family. But in school, I was definitely more voluptuous than everyone else. And my body type was nowhere to be seen on TV and in the magazines that I poured over. It wasn’t long before I accepted the fact that I would probably never see a woman on TV with a body that looked like mine. In middle school I was chubby, if hippy, but never truly noticed myself—or the absence of my reflection in the media. But in high school, when it all clicked that I was the girl with the big butt, I began to look for body soul mates and they were nowhere to be found. Partially because most of the women on TV were White, and partially because no one was praising women with curves like we’re doing in today’s society (or think we’re doing).
Then I noticed King magazine.
Finally, other small-waisted, big butt girls (!!!)—and finally, the truth about what having this body type would mean.
As a grown woman, I am aware of the fact that many Black women share my body type. Today, unlike in girlhood, I see these women in real life and in pop culture—and I often think to myself , what is her story? How does she feel about her body? Because for me, having my behind is complicated. I have good days and bad.
Today, the pear shape is idolized, romanticized, surely hyper-sexualized. But what does this mean?
To be confronted with a piece on Vogue.com (so known for all those big butt models, not) on how our society has now “embraced the big booty” was comical, culturally disrespectful and somewhat a joke to me. I imagined a flat-booty White girl in front of her laptop, pontificating about something that has been my actual experience. Even my non-Black besties whom I share so much with have a very limited understanding about Black culture, Black issues and more importantly, the sh*t that Black women go through when it comes to our bodies. I just can’t imagine that this writer knows any more.
And while I’ve never been in the business of discrediting White, mainstream culture for acknowledging Black and other ethnic cultures, I do have a problem with the cultural appropriation that continues to willfully ignore and delete the source of every trend, style or asset that finds its way to White America’s dinner table conversations. Or Vogue.com. What this writer didn’t understand is that the minute you decide to inject yourself into the infamous big booty conversation, you inject yourself into an often painful reality that stems from the degradation of Black women and our bodies, dating back to slavery—and even before that.
(We’ll get to Nicki Minaj.)
My initial reaction was literally, “Is this a joke?,” a very serious and honest question I had to ask the writer via Twitter. Because after reading the piece twice, it felt like one. Let’s begin with the fact that Jennifer Lopez, in all of her fabulousness, didn’t start any big booty “revolution.” Well, maybe eventually for White America, but Black people, again, been on. I do mean eventually, because there was even a time that J.Lo was told that she would have to lose weight. Big butts have been frowned upon by mainstream for a loooooong time. Remember, J.Lo’s body was initially given the seal of approval from hip-hop, not White, mainstream America.
But for Black women who are naturally endowed (like myself) and not the new school of women Black and White (who in an ironic twist are now seeking big butts), we know the immense and intense scrutiny, judgment and unwanted sexual attention that being Black with “body” brings. There is a true burden that comes with the booty, trust. And while I’ve pretty much mastered self-acceptance when it comes to my body, that 10 percent of the time that I’m not at peace with my large backside is real. From disrespectful catcalling to being asked if my butt is fake (an editor literally asked me this on Saturday after a Fashion Week show), walking around as an über-curvy Black woman can be daunting and haunting.
So to hear that “we’ve” now decided that the big booty is worthy of praise because Iggy Azalea has a round, fake behind or because Nicki has reached her pop culture peak and alongside that success has a nice fat ass, or because Miley Cyrus decided to start twerking, is gut wrenching. Iggy is an Australian rapper thrust into a rap world filled with Black men, at a time where our culture is putting wild emphasis on having a large behind. In all honestly, would we have paid attention to her if she didn’t have that butt? And where was Vogue when Black people were in love with Nicki Minaj, pre-big booty? Oh, and y’all just love Queen Bey’s round derrière, but after she’s a good 15 pounds lighter from her real curvy body era, circa 2001, right?
Thanks, but no thanks Vogue and the rest of the booty-come-latelies. We don’t need the validation that you assume comes with you finally having come to terms with having a little meat on your bones and a little junk in your trunk. In our world, curvy women have always been accepted, even sometimes more so than thin women (insert yesterday’s skinny shaming piece here). Having a booty isn’t a trend for you to hop on, like you did when bootcut jeans decided to become a trend (why, we don’t know). What it is, is a complex reality for many Black women everyday.
Y’all ain’t ready for this jelly.
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Associate Beauty and Style Editor, Digital