I believe that the most essential skill in being an artist, an actor in particular, is knowing who are and knowing your truth so deeply, that you will never be confused as to who you are bringing to the stage.
This is me. 112 pounds in the morning 114 at night. A smidge over 30, with a belly that has expanded and stretched and deflated twice. With breasts that grew and grew, and effing grew and fed 2 babies for nearly 2.5 years combined. With hair that is never as naturally big as I’d like, so I add what I want to make my halo beam brighter. This is me with hips that never spread to signify my acceptance into womanhood, and an ass that is collard green fed, but refuses to plump up with significant jiggle.
This is me.
And I think I’m pretty dope. I haven’t always been or thought of myself as so. But, time’s a changing.
While checking in to my hotel last night, two adorable little Japanese sisters, maybe 6&3, showed me their Disney brochures and asked if I was going back to the castle. “No, I actually didn’t go to the castle today, did you?” I asked them.
They turned towards each other, had a private conversation and the eldest came back and asked “Aren’t you the princess that lives in the big castle?”
First of all the fact that two little Japanese girls could see a Black woman with big kinky hair, and heeled combat boots and think that she’s a princess. :shakes head: Amazing.
When I got to my room, the first thing that I did, after throwing my bags down, taking off said combat boots and bra, was look in the mirror. What did those little girls see?
I stood in the mirror eating a piece of Pollo Tropical chicken for about 5 minutes. It was so sexy too. I was holding that chicken breast and gnawing on it like it was the last piece of meat on the planet. But, as I stood there, lips greasy, melanin still popping (because I mean…what else does it do?!) I got a little sad. And as I do with most of my sadness, I stuffed it down with the chicken, moved away from the mirror, and continued on with my night.
In the morning (cue every church’s sermon about night vs morning), as I got dressed standing in the mirror, I felt that sadness tickling at my insides, threatening one of those “I don’t know where the hell this is coming from” cries. “What is this?!” So, I just stood there, like a really vain teenager, staring at myself in the mirror. And then I felt it well up. It came fast and strong, and with a familiarity that only it brings: shame.
I talk a lot about shame with my close friends, husband, and past therapists. It is crippling and so destructive. Where does it come from? Why does it ebb and flow within our lives and relationships and seasons?
The shame that I felt in particular, was so different from the usual shame that I feel in regards to my body. Usually I think “It’s too this, or not that enough”, but today I looked at myself, brown and slim and beautiful (to me) and I thought….Wow. I think I’m beautiful. And then “BAM!” Cue shame.
I grew up in the church, and I made an intentional decision once I left home to remain in the church and to grow my faith as an adult.
I did not know how much of myself I would lose before I’d even realized how much of myself was already present.
As a woman, the church has done me a huge disservice. Perhaps what I really mean is the White evangelical church, but I haven’t dug all the way into that, and it seems like everyone is already ripping them a new one, and ya know, I’ve never been one to jump on a bandwagon so…
I have so many pictures of myself with my pregnant belly. Growing and growing and growing. Pictures of me with my babies. Pictures of me with my babies at my breasts; but what I don’t have, are pictures of me in my teens and my twenties, just admiring my body. The youth of it all, the abs that were never really worked for, the boobs that didn’t actually need a bra, the unstretched skin. And I’m not saying that my body isn’t beautiful now. It is. It is different and still as wonderful. But the “church” instilled some crazy patriarchal shame based shit that makes/made it really hard to think that its ok to be proud of my body as beautiful thing outside of it’s function.
I made a facebook post some time ago about how difficult it is for me to accept compliments, and perhaps it’s because I was always trying to walk this fine line of gratitude (because, I should always be so thankful for every crumb that I get) and humility (because, obviously I don’t deserve shit because of the natural disposition of the human heart) that there was never any space left for pride.
Pride is not bad. Repeat after me, pride is not bad.
I am growing, and changing, and experiencing so many new things in the seemingly ordinary happenings of my life.I’m proud of the slim build that I’ll never break free of, because it binds me to my mother, whom I think is a beautiful woman. I’m proud of the stretch marks that trace my butt, hips and stomach, because they remind me of my journey from adolescence to womanhood. I’m so proud of the newfound sensuality that I have because of my newfound awareness of my body. “Look at you, just doing your thing, being fine and shit! Go, body!”
There is an undeniable power that comes in acknowledging your beauty; whether it is conventional or not, we all have it. I was talking with a cast mate during the run of my last show about the wisdom that young girls seem to have nowadays. It’s easy to see the vanity, promiscuity and selfishness that is exhibited on social media, but these girls are powerful beyond measure. They know what they want relationally, professionally and sexually and they aren’t afraid to say it. Sure they may not have the best sense of tact or actually know if the things that they want are actually good for them, but hey! It’s about truth and conviction, amiright?!
I am walking into a very new chapter of my life. I have no idea what that literally means, but I’m looking forward to freedom from shame and permission from self to love myself and others without abandon. Not the weird love that the (maybe not evangelical White) church teaches of loving the sinner and hating the sin, but like seriously, just loving the fuck out of people and myself, no matter what. No matter where I am, or where you are.
If take it upon myself to love myself, I will always know that I’m loved.
If I take it upon myself to be proud of me, I will always know that I, and my dreams are worthwhile.
If I celebrate myself, my existence, I will never allow myself or my voice to die.
This is gonna be a banging journey. Perhaps with some hiccups along the way. Maybe a setback or two.
But in the end, I will be good.
And there will definitely be many unapologetic selfies along the way.