by Ebony Bradwell
I am who I say I am, not who you say I am. That is the power of music.
It moves us like a life force that controls our movements. It urges us to action whether we own it or not. Music is the constant that shapes our lives.
The standard of beauty constantly changes as a reflection of the creative arts expressed through cinema, TV, music videos, and performances. One of the truest statements I have ever heard is that words make a lasting impression on the mind almost like a blueprint of a building. It makes a lasting permanent impression on your mind and you can remember words, phrases or, in my case, song titles and lyrics willfully or otherwise. Case in point, Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “Ni**as in Paris.” I’m not a diehard fan of rap. But when I watched them live—on the Watch the Throne tour a few years ago at Mohegan Sun—I fell to my knees in awe. I couldn’t help but feel the power they shared and recognize the genuine love that exists between these two boyz from the hood now living their dream as American success stories. Some performers are so powerful, even when they communicate derogatory content. For instance, when Kanye raps a line such as, “You know how many hot bitches I own?” his delivery makes a positive impact or is otherwise dismissed because of his and Jay-Z’s powerful stage presence. They don’t need fancy clothes, dancers, or special— instead, they fully engage the audience with their personas. The crowd goes wild from the special power that these charismatic performers—natural born leaders—deliver to the audience with every breath they take. Bad to the core. This is the power of true talent.
The new millennium has transformed beauty a long way from the Cosmo girls of the ’80s with b-cups and flat buttocks. Richly woven in every clip, lyric, and line are the explicit references to thick hips, full lips and the ever-popular Phat Ass! The ever-popular Phat Ass has dominated the TV screen. You can purchase one near you!
Aesthetic appeal: Does it supersede this little thing we all recognize as the true measure of an artist’s worth—talent? Does Nicki Minaj’s phat ass serve her up as a talented rapper?
Destiny’s Child’s “Bootylicious” dominated the charts throughout 2001. It catapulted the sexy, sultry persona of Beyoncé to the top of the charts and made diehard fans and haters of the black Barbie more determined to imitate art or obliterate the fantasy.
As I write these words, I shamelessly reminisce about having my way with video on demand as I twerked to Beyoncé’s “Upgrade U,” featuring Jay-Z. I could feel my heart beat as if I were on top of the world. I would advance the video to the point at which I could make my ass pop at the same time Beyonce’s ass twerked incredible. Wow. Me. Considering all the milestones and perils I have triumphed over in life— navigating inadequate housing structures, dealing with unemployment, pursing a collegiate degree—OMG: I raised a child. In my mind, at that moment, the sum total of my worth was measured by the way in which I shook my ass! Good enough?
The world demands so much from us. As daughters, sisters, mothers, lovers, wives, and leaders, we show up with bells on. We show up! We should dare to be bold. So bold as to demand that the world around us Show Up for us. Say, no more sexualizing women. No more forcing us into mediocre roles for the sole purpose of demeaning women. And no more perpetuating disparaging and hateful negative imagery to encourage the world to wrap chains around our waists. Say, “no more!” And show up for us.
Food for thought: it’s almost exclusively female nudity that gets showcased on billboards, videos, movies, and in the collective entertainment world. Nudity is not forbidden by society, but rather is acceptable under certain guidelines and restrictions. We appreciate and embrace nudity—in the right context. So why is the viewing and showcasing of nudity exclusive to women’s bodies? Fast forward to the near future—will we have a day when we openly view augmented, artificial, black, white and multi-shaped dicks on billboards, in rap videos and on television shows?
For the entertainment world, if it is art for art’s sake and we all have an appreciation for the beauty of the human body: why is the nude exposure for women greater than that of their male counterpart? For argument’s sake, very simply answered, we can just lend that patriarchal hand to the almighty ones who make the world turn. It is a benefit to the ones who can gain from objectifying and sexualizing women, all for the sole purpose of using women as sexual objects, all to keep devices in place to create adversarial relationships and maintain what man has loved throughout time, since the beginning of time: Power.
For the truly Bad, Bold, and Beautiful: for those who dare defy the odds, stand up to represent decency, joy and the pursuit of happiness. I salute you. You showed up.