Strong Women Get The Insecurity Blues Too
So I thought it was really interesting that two black women that have reputations for being "strong" recently talked about their youthful insecurities on Oprah recently. I would have caught the show, but I was repulsed by the notion of some of the guests, including a 3-year-old that was obsessed by her looks, so I didn't even bother. Had I known that Phylicia Rashad and Vanessa Williams were on I would have tuned in, but I found their comments on Oprah's website.
The question posed was "What Would You Tell Your Younger Self?" Phylicia talks about growing up in a "very beautiful" family with a father that looked like a "matinee idol" and a mother that was "literally so beautiful she would stop traffic." Phylicia said that she would look in the mirror and think that God must have taken a lunch break. She said that it took a long time before she began to feel beautiful, but she did other things to boost her esteem like becoming a majorette and playing the viola. (I loved that part - I played the viola as a kid too.) Phylicia said that she would tell her younger self to "not be so preoccupied with looking for approval from other people" and "the way that we think creates our reality - that's very powerful." Amen!
Like Halle, Vanessa talked about growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood and feeling different because she "had booty, full lips" (girl, join the club!) sometimes even within her own family. She said that she would tell her younger self to be "very slow in terms of dealing with boys. With a new body, with all the added attention, there are a lot of things that can happen very quickly that can change your life. It's always right to say no."
So of course, no one is immune from insecurity and you rarely forget your struggles with it. Granted, some make talk about it more than others, but I don't know of many people that grew up feeling totally okay. Like a zillion black girls in America, I grew up with issues about my hair even though I was around all black people in my early years. People were not politically correct in the 1970s so they would say anything to you - and with the best intentions! I'll never forget some ladies at my mother's friend's wedding looking at my hair and telling me (with excitement!) "You're old enough for a relaxer now, so your mother can finally do something with your hair!" Nevermind that my mother did "do something" to my hair before the wedding for about two hours with a hot comb and some Ultra-Sheen! At school, whether you were light-skinned or nappy or whatever, someone was going to find something wrong with you. There was no way around it. I don't remember being called a lot of names, but I do remember favoritism based on looks, usually related to the twin demons of hair texture and skin tone. I remember everyone going on and on about one of my friend's long, curly hair to the point where she got sick of it. And I remember dreading what my hair would look like after playing outside all day because it would not be looked upon as the result of a child playing and having fun. It would be looked at as a Problem because there was so much work involved in getting it to "look right." And of course, forget about getting it wet. Ha! Swimming can be traumatizing for black children if they are around the wrong people. I remember being teased one day at a friend's pool that my hair looked like a "bird's nest" and that my skin was ashy. Well, duh! That's what happens when you spend hours in the water! When you're seven years old, you're not exactly rushing upstairs to shampoo, condition and moisturize right away. Unless you are traumatized into doing so.
So, I don't know about Halle. I won't be doing any armchair (or shall I say "cyber") psychoanalyzing on her. Who knows what really went on with her? We are all affected in different ways by our childhood experiences. I will say that I think that Halle is stronger than people will give her credit for - especially in Hollywood. While I'm not a fan of all of her movie roles, I am a fan of Halle Berry, the producer. Unlike a lot of people that talk and talk and talk a lot of smack about Hollywood, Halle puts her money where her mouth is and produces. My favorite is Lackawanna Blues, which garnered much deserved awards and praise for S. Epatha Merkeson and let some of our best black actors do some of their best work, especially Jeffrey Wright (there is an Oscar somewhere with his name on it!) and Terrence Howard. She is also producing an HBO project that will combine Mixed and The Broke Diaries by Angela Nissel into one half-hour series. Angela, a writer on the series Scrubs, talks about how she and Halle pitched the project around Hollywood here.
So Halle, forget that mess you heard as a kid. I mean, what are they doing now?