Common, Latifah and Thick Snack Shrugs

In Uncategorized on May 6, 2010 at 2:14 am

Swagtastic, but at a price…

I have a mean swagger (fine I couldn’t think of a better descriptor)… A vain statement, possibly, but I’ve earned the right to say it.  I have lived outside the traditional standard of beauty since I was knee high to a grasshopper and have never failed to be reminded of this fact, whether it be from school mates, well meaning family members, or abusive boyfriends.  The first time I recall being called fat was in 5th grade, by one of the popular boys, I suppose if one can be popular in elementary school. Actually, I remember bringing those comments up to that boy once he became a man and decided that he loved women with curves like mine, upon him asking me out on a date.  He apologized by the way, however I still chose not to go out with him.  Actually, I have been called fat, chubby, big boned, thick, chunky, voluptuous, big fine, buxom, and more recently a thick snack ( a term brought to my attention by the lovely Huny Young whom I adore) to name a few terms. I wear all of them like beautiful scarves, or scars, I’m not certain which one exactly, but I wear them nonetheless. I would be remiss in not acknowledging that being assaulted with such adjectives has led to quite a few tears, some depression, and certainly many insecurities.  They have also led to an exceptional pursuit of knowledge (I suppose in response to being “unpretty”), a Cum Laude degree, a burgeoning writing career, and a mean-head held high-arched back walk.  I have had absolutely no choice but to accept myself and love myself, despite what society says I’m supposed to look like.  It was either self acceptance or misery, and “I love myself when I am laughing” (thank you Zora Neale), so I choose the former.

It all started on twitter…

For the reasons mentioned above, and for the mental illnesses that have sat beside them- you know the thoughts of suicide, bulimia, red pepper diets, promiscuity, et. al.- I am extremely sensitive about how unrealistic beauty standards affect women, and how we sometimes unconsciously perpetuate them. So, I admittedly have a few ruffled feathers after reading replies to this twitter post from Harry Allen today.  Harry and his tweeps were discussing Common and Queen Latifah’s new film “Just Wright” , where Latifah’s character and her best friend (played by Paula Patton) pursue the same man, who is played by Common of course.  Harry’s issue with the film appears to be that the pairing and the casting in general was ill chosen because 1) Comm is unconvincing as a professional athlete and 2) Latifah is unconvincing as a woman pursuing a heterosexual relationship.  However, my timeline offered a different reasoning as to why the film is “unbelievable”.  I immediately asked if the twitterverse was implying that Latifah wasn’t plausible as Common’s love interest because she was deemed as not being attractive enough to “win” his heart. After a few responses it appeared that most men, and a few women, agreed that Common (Scott) choosing Latifah (Leslie) over Paula Patton (Morgan) was unrealistic, which puzzled me for a moment because I find both women to be stunning.

Pretty for a big girl…

In chatting with a friend about this twitter conversation,  I was confronted with a statement that made me pause.  She said, “But Latifah is just as beautiful as Paula Patton.  She’s really pretty for a plus-sized girl.” Full. Stop. Heart. Drop. I may have gone a little left on my sister-friend.  See, this is where those insecurities surface along with my common response to them, a flippant mouth.  Commenting that someone is attractive “for” “fill in the blank with dark, big, and otherwise not Beyonce”, is akin to saying that one is not really attractive at all.  That being said, one is either desirable or she is not, adding clauses is reductive and therefore not really complimentary at all.  This, of course, from the woman who has often been described as “pretty for a big girl”. I can speak on it. It is still hurtful, whether one acknowledges it or not.

The bite and the antidote…

Like a Black cop who racially profiles while on patrol and objects to being racially profiled while driving in plain clothes, I am also guilty of a bit of hypocrisy in mildly dissing Latifah.  After reading those tweets I thought, “as if a man isn’t capable of judging a woman on more than looks.”  Wait…what?  Me implying that Scott chose to date Leslie instead of Morgan, still maintains, somehow, that Latifah is less attractive than Paula, which is not the case.  The two women are certainly a different lovely, but lovely nonetheless.  I shared this observance with my girl Genine (@moreandagain on twitter), in response to this tweet from her.  Umph. I’m nobody’s consolation prize.  As a matter of fact,  I can recall telling a lover once, “Listen, if I’m not what you want, I’m what someone goes to bed and wakes up dreaming about. Let me find him. Don’t waste my time.” Extra, possibly, but I get it in exactly like that.  I’m not sure I even believed that statement when I spoke it, but by speaking it then, and many times since, it has become my affirmation, manifesto, and reality.

Get it how you live…

I wondered after those twitter conversations, how many of the men claiming that the pairing was implausible really wish they were strong enough to choose a Latifah over a Paula?  How many of these men are closeted thick snack lovers, dreaming of amply breast, hips, thighs and bottoms to get lost in?  I bet a lot.  As a matter of fact, trust me when I say more than they, or the model types they run around with pretending to desire, would like to admit to.  C’mon fellas, get it how you live.  In New Orleans, one of my favorite cities in the world, the locals use that phrase.  It is a term that translates to mean one should live guilt free, by their own devices, and in the moment.  I was waiting for one of my male followers to reply to me saying, in honesty, that he would have made the same choice as Scott. I haven’t received that reply, but I haven’t checked my direct messages either, as there may be a few replies hiding there *smirk*.  Yes, I used the word hiding because many men hide their true feelings and desires for women who are not the “dime prototype” as they can not fathom living outside the societal standard.  We love the comfort of boxes even if we pretend to abhor them.  It is unfair to expect a person you desire, care for, or love to live in a shadowy space because you lack the courage and strength to express that desire, care, or love openly and freely.  I’ve been hidden, it was so harmful that to this day if I have an inkling of a feeling that someone does not freely and openly desire or love me, I remove myself from the situation, even if it hurts me to do so.

*Thick snack shrug*…

In the end, I believe that the acceptance of the curves that make this sultry size fourteen has made me audacious.  I don’t love my body every day, but I do love it most days.  I also love it enough to spark conversations about body acceptance, and well, acceptance over all.  I don’t take issue with personal preferences on any level, but I have a problem with people being inauthentic.  I don’t agree that it is unbelievable for a man to love a woman who looks like Queen Latifah over a woman who looks like Paula Patton.  I also don’t believe that many people realize making such statements serves as justification for some woman somewhere to vomit up her dinner in an effort to look more like Paula.  As thoughts and words become things, we need to realize that it is rarely ever just harmless talk that we engage in, *thick snack shrug*.  I’ll keep on sashaying, converting the non-believers, and asking questions.  Here are a few as a matter of fact:

What are your thoughts on the idea that a Latifah could never end up with a Common?

What are you insecure about?

Have you been told that you are pretty for a __________?

How can we promote body acceptance, and acceptance over all?

(My friend Neens always asks questions at the end of her wonderful blogposts, which can be found here .  I Thought I’d give it a shot too.  After all, Zora says research is only formalized curiosity.)

  1. true story. the luv of thick women is quite common outside of UofS. a man choosing to be with a “thick snack” (luv that) would not even raise an eyebrow in the Caribbean, Central/South America and even in parts of Europe for that matter. And as quiet as it’s kept (deliberately), it’s slowly coming back right here in urban America.

    the fashion industry has a part to play in this thing. only a few designers are making clothes that showcase the beauty of the thick snack. when this changes, i predict there will be a leveling of the playing field.

  2. I’ve always been the “big girl”.. Thanks for your thoughts because I feel the same way and I married a man that every curve on my body. I did ask a guy that I was friends with in high why didn’t you pursue me in high school because we always knew their was something between but being the jock in high it wasn’t cool but on my return home from living in another state we reconnected and his response to my question was he was. “DUMB and Young” intresting….

  3. I’m sorry but I always felt AA men had a different standard of beauty. Take ‘Buffie the body’, Melyssa Ford, Bria Myles, Deelishous, Maliah Michel or any of the recent “video models” of recent history and the eurocentric standard goes out the window. Go back further, Pam Grier was never wafer thin. Jackie Harry was bigger than any white sex-symbol you can name. Lola Folana wasn’t slim. Many of the blues songs of African-American culture praised that big-legged cutie from up the coast or any such configuration of the phrase. In my opinion, there has always been more acceptance of various body types in the black community. Don’t forget Sir Mix-a-lot’s baby got back, if baby had back, baby most likely had a fuller frame than the usual white girl. But that’s just me talking. I can’t speak from an African-American woman’s point of view.

  4. I appreciate the fact that you wrote this. I appreciate the fact that you have accepted yourself and embraced the skin that you’re in and choose to love yourself everyday even on the bad days. As a member of the team of outside general societal preference I know that is not easy to love oneself when everyone, and everything is telling you that you are not lovable because there is to much of you to love. Its a sin and a shame is what it is.

    As for your questions:
    I really think that because common is who he is he would be attracted to anyone who intrigues him mentally, and stimulates him in all areas as he is rumored to be getting it in with one of the William sisters and they are athletic thick and not everyones cup of tea look wise.

    I am insecure about my weight of course simply how it has an effect on my economic outlook, and social outlook.

    I think if we focused more on health and being active versus looking a certain way the world would be a much better place but when you have a media driven culture that worships artificial looking women defined by European beauty standards then you are walking a up a brick hill covered in motor oil.

    Sorry this was long winded but I really enjoyed this post and again thank you.

  5. I love this! Wish I had checked back on twitter last night! Well written and I’m obviously in total agreement. I think it’s ridiculous that white corporations can recognize Latifah’s beauty and make her a symbol of beauty products, but black men can not accept her lovely. Over the years I have been insecure about everything at different times, most recently wishing I had extra curves! Although I haven’t heard had to endure the statement “you’re pretty for a ______”, I have friends who have and I know it has led to many of their insecurities about weight and skin color. Body acceptance is a process and we are all striving for total self love with regard to how we view ourselves. I’m sure that after having a baby, even Paula Patton has her moments.

  6. great read…



    Black and Red

  7. i’ve been told a LOT of things. lol. strangely enough, most of the things boys made fun of, men came to love {my height, “deep” voice, etc}.

    then there were the things they loved a little *too* much, making me to want to crawl under a rock and bind my breasts.

    the ultimate problem is that men are given the arbitrary “power” to make these statements and set these standards, and shame us.

    we ought to be powerful and empowered enough at their foolishness and wiggling our “pretty for a ___” behinds in their faces. that’s the shift i’d love to see.

  8. oops…should have said – “we ought to be powerful and empowered enough to laugh at their foolishness while wiggling our ‘pretty for a ___’ behinds in their faces. that’s the shift i’d love to see.”

  9. Have you been told that you are pretty for a __________?

    Pretty for a big girl
    Dress nice for a big girl
    Smart for a big girl
    _____ for a big girl (insert whateva)

    What I don’t get, is somehow this is supposed to be perceived as a compliment? I’m pretty, smart and dress my a$$ off for any kind of girl, so why the qualifiers?

    I think movies like Just Wright help, music videos that show women of all sizes (thickums, thick snacks, skinnies, curvy girls, etc) help too. And I love seeing women of varying sizes in mainstream outlets (TV, Movies, etc). But mainly – I think we should keep chin-checking random dudes when they come outta their tweets sideways (can’t believe I missed this tweet from Harry, lol). Thanks for doing that 🙂

  10. Great post! It’s so sad that people can still be so shallow. I haven’t seen the movie but I always find it crazy when people’s ideas of beauty are so twisted and short sighted. An African man that I know told me a number of times (and I didn’t even ask him) that I was way too skinny to be considered really pretty in his country. I’m far from skinny but it always made me think about how people are always hurt by someone else’s idea of beauty. It’s funny what is women went around saying you’re pretty hot for a guy with a little dick. Or you’re really sweet for such a broke ass”

    I’m sure people would think twice before making those types of comments. One of the greatest compliments I’ve ever gotten was from Harry Allen and he said in reference to me, “I love smart women!”

  11. Grrrreat read, very insightful. I caught the tail end of the ‘Common wouldn’t end up with Latifah” jabber on Twitter yesterday and figured it was unbelievable because of one of the following 1) her sexual orientation 2) her size or 3) the light skinned, dark(er) skin debacle.

    The perceived connotation of calling someone “pretty for a big girl” is akin to saying someone is “cute for an alien”, the qualifier “for a such and such” cancels out the compliment and makes it a moot point.

    We can promote body acceptance by “loving the skin we’re in!” There’s nothing wrong with someone wanting to get in shape, lose weight or what have you, but our problem is that we feel we aren’t beautiful (read: accepted by society) unless we look like the magazine models.

    Funny thing is, the magazine models don’t even look like the magazine models, it’s all Photoshopped, lol!

  12. I love this. Excellent read. It’s also very timely because this is a discussion that my friends and I (Beyonces, Paulas, Latifahs and Zoras in all)attempted to have this morning. The conversation was then promptly avoided by me. It became painful, almost acidic because the consensus was complete (regardless of what category we personally fell into) that Paula was the “winner” hands down.

    After seeing Harry Allen’s follow-up about what he perceived as Latifah’s pained portrayal of sexuality being the reasonnwhy he found she and Common’s coupling unrealistic, I realized that perhaps THAT’s what some of the women meant by saying that Latifah would “never” be chosen over Paula. Perhaps it was not based solely on looks, but on the awkwardness, be it real or imagined, that they claim was obvious and impeded the chemistry between Latifah and Common. The ladies went on to mention that Common’s real-life love was Ms. Serena Williams, which seemed like a random interjection when one considers the argument that although Serena is not the stereotypical American standard of beauty, her being a “thick snack” is debatable. I will have to go back and ask my friends exactly what they meant when they offered Paula the crown hands down. The immediate consensus was too painful for me to explore deeper at the time.

  13. Thanks for the article it really opened my eyes.

    “Pretty for a heavy-set girl”

  14. another great was like reading your diary. so honest. i have been there and still go through it. it is shameful that black women should even have to be bothered by such things because this is something that white women stress and obsess over, but you get sucked in when your own give you those back-ass/bitch-slap-in-da-face compliments. or worse, “you’d be real pretty if you just…” “she has a pretty face, but…” and the undercover lovers and boyfriends and i was comfortable with taking the back seat…stay hidden. it is painful and those feelings do NOT disappear overnight. it takes time to truly accept. so i commend you on the work you have done. i’ve been up and down and notice the responses from people (not just men) when i’m heavier and when i’m thinner. very good research indeed.

    but to your questions:
    it’s a movie, she produced it, she had a say in it. that’s one. although i have not seen the movie, based on what i THINK i know about common, why wouldn’t he want someone as down as the queen? it is POSSIBLE. men who think otherwise are the same fools that claim that color doesn’t matter but will step all over my corns to get to that white girl or “checked other” in the club….shallow. they have not evolved. society does play a role in this – like it’s special to do something like excel in golf or tennis because you’re black. so now we have these TV shows and movies about the overlooked “fat chick” who gets the guy, job, etc…it’s maddening. so, in REAL life, this DOES happen. common is a brotha from chi-town: they loves thick sistas. latifah has always exuded confidence in her skin – no matter her size. how could that pairing not magnetize?

    how to promote body acceptance all over? it starts with redefining what we see in the mirror every day. from someone who has been on this rollercoaster emotionally, it takes work. because i know certain societies won’t see thickness acceptable. so why force my definition of attractiveness on them and just live it and enjoy it. i can do something about it. but it does not have to define me. my shape does not define me. and that has to come from me. i have to believe it. it’s more than just “getting over it.” it’s how i define and choose to see myself TODAY. however i want to be treated, i must begin treating myself the same way – that there is nothing wrong with me. i am still woman, black, mother, sister, daughter….extra curves or not. i am same. difficult bein’ black but have to feel out of place because of shape is ENUFF! i call a halt and say i’m pretty for pretty’s sake! PERIOD!

    good blog, sis…as always.

  15. Girl!!! I loved this! Speaking as a fellow ‘thick snack’, I TOTALLY understand (and have been) where you’re coming from. I had a guy dump me because his friends thought I was fat. His loss. (He knows that now…) But that was another lifetime. Over the years, I have learned to love me as I am, though it was hard. But now, I am comfortable in my own skin – which just adds to my attractiveness. I tell people I have a 90-minute hourglass figure! 🙂

  16. I’ve been told (by a Mexican guy) that I’m “pretty for a black girl.” He even went so far as to ask me if I’m mixed because there was “no way” I could be “totally black.”


  17. Great story. I think that a woman like Latifah can end up with someone like Common and they do. Sheed, I know some thick brown sugar brown sistas with men much finer and way more intellectually savvy than Common. /I do know that with regard to star NBA players this kind of match up is rare and so uncommon. As a matter of fact when I interviewed Common, Latifah and the director Sanna Hamri about the movie for my story on they all revealed to Just Wright’s love theme as a Cinderella story so… that speaks volumes right here. Just look at the wives/girlfriends of Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Dwayne Wade, Carmelo Anthony, etc. they do not look like Latifah. It ain’t right, but it is true.

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