“Topless Black Girls” & other keywords that lead to my blog

I am currently taking part in Rosetta Thurman’s 31 Days to a Brand New Blog Challenge! I’m really excited about it because I have been wanting to take my blog to another level, especially with my new life here in Los Angeles and beyond as I start my grad school applications. I wanted to do more with the blog, and I though the Challenge was a good place to start.

For the Day 1 challenge, we were asked to take a look at our blog stats and analyze the stats. There were a few things in my stats that were surprising–for instance, it’s interesting that my “meet elledub” page is still very popular. Didn’t know that many people wanted to know more about the girl behind the blog!

But what was more intriguing to me were the keyword terms that were most used to find my blog. There were a few repetitive ones with obvious explanations (“black girl” “black girl blog” “essence fashion and beauty editor” “for colored girls”); some terms came up because of things I’ve written about on my blog. “Are there any Black People on Mad Men” wasn’t surprising since I’ve spent a few posts pondering that very question.

Then there were some off-the-wall terms; “topless black girls” come to mind. While I’m sure this had to do with this little post I wrote about a topless bust of Michelle Obama, it’s such an interesting insight into what people look for when they look for info about black women online. In fact, one google search on “black women” gives you a strange mix of the mundane and the obscene. It’s very possible that the keyword terms that people use to find my blog is just a microcosm of what’s already out there when it comes to finding images of black women on the internets, which is exactly what I’m hoping to achieve with this blog.

For those of you who do blog, what are some of the craziest keyword terms that people use to find your blog? If you’re participating in the challenge, I’d love to hear from you too.

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Essence Hires a White Fashion Director

Yes, you read that right.

From Fishbowl NY:

The door continues revolving atEssence: now, the magazine has named Ellianna Placas as its new fashion director and Tasha Turner as its new senior beauty editor.

Placas will make her debut with the magazine’s 40th anniversary September issue and will oversee the conception and packaging of Essence‘s fashion coverage, feature stories and multi-platform packages. She began her career in publishing styling cover shoots for 0: The Oprah Magazine. Placas has also worked forUs WeeklyReal SimpleNew York,More and Life & Style.

Former Fashion Editor Michaela Angela Davis had some choice words to say about Essence’s recent decision on her Facebook Wall:

“It’s with a heavy heart I’ve learned Essence Magazine has engaged a white Fashion Director. I love Essence and I love fashion. I hate this news and this feeling. It hurts, literally. The fashion industry has historically been so hostile to black people–especially women. The 1 seat reserved for black women once held by Susan Taylor, Ionia Dunn-Lee, Harriette Cole(+ me) is now-I can’t. It’s a dark day for me. How do you feel?”

….

There is one precious seat at the fashion shows that says Essence the magazine for black women. When asked, “What is your unique perspective for black women?” How is that answered? Even if they got Anna Wintour herself (which editors inside Essence assure me she is NOT) it still would hurt. From a brand perspective there should be a unique lens through which information is filtered…at Essence it is believed that filter is black, female..connected through shared history and soul…I believe we’ve not come far enough for this move.

There’s already been a lot said about this story, so I’ll try to make my comments on this brief. Aside from the most obvious argument–that having a white fashion director at a black women’s magazine raises a few eyebrows–I have to make the point that not hiring Ms. Placas based solely on her race would have been discrimination. But furthermore, Essence has been white-owned for quite some time now, so how surprised can we really be?

I do worry about how having a white fashion editor at a magazine that is supposed to be devoted to the life and style of Black women will effect the magazine’s brand, as Clutch brings up in their write-up on the news.  What does it mean when a magazine for Black women sees fit to have a white fashion editor when there were so many other (black) candidates to choose from? What about her experiences positioned her to become the editor at a Black women’s magazine? And what will she do differently that a black editor wouldn’t have done?

On the other hand, maybe we can’t judge too harshly until we see what Placas does. I’ve heard this argument several times this week, but it’s hard when as a girl I looked to Essence to see images of black beauty and style and I remember wanting to be as regal and as beautiful as the women in the magazine. Essence fashion spreads made me embrace everything that black beauty was and could be.

What does it mean when a new fashion editor of the most popular black women’s magazine didn’t grow up with that experience?

new day, new city, new hair.

I know, I know. It’s been a while.

In between my last post and now, I’ve moved back home to Los Angeles, changed time zones, changed jobs….and yes, changed my hair.

Before leaving DC, I made the decision to cut off all  my locks. I had locks for ten years and I decided that with me moving back to LA for a little while, it was time to switch it up. It was an adjustment at first but I have to say that I’m loving my new tiny afro more and more every day. I got a great text message from a soror of mine after I sent her a picture of my new haircut. She has had locks before and at one put did the big chop too. She said that every time she cut her locks, she felt like she was reinventing herself. I gotta say that that’s exactly how I feel right now.

So what’s in store for me in LA? Well, I thought that now was a better time than ever go to back to grad school, so I’m applying for a few MPA programs in LA and in DC (with a small selection of MBA programs). Also, I just started working as a part-time new media specialist for Voices Inc., a Black woman-owned communications and marketing firm here in LA. It’s a great place and I’m learning a lot, which is really all that matters.

I had to take a break from blogging to get settled at home and all that jazz, but I’m back. I am planning on moving the blog to its own server and maybe tweaking the design a little bit. And yes, I’m still available for consulting and speaking engagements.

I miss DC terribly but I know I did the right thing by coming back home and hitting the reset button on my life. And DC will always be there, I can always go back. At first, I was frustrated for having to move back home instead of toughing it out in DC. But now I realize I did the brave thing—left it all behind and took a leap of faith. I’ve never felt more at peace and more free than I do right now. I’m starting a new chapter in my life and I’m learning to enjoy every minute.

Are Marriage rates trumping our Unemployment rates?

While the rest of the Black Blogosphere is still reeling from that Nightline Faceoff about why Successful Black Women Can’t Find a Man (I guess unsuccessful Black women fare better, whatever that means), I think we’re all failing to pay attention to a bigger issue: why successful Black women can’t find a job.

A friend of mine shared this NY Times chart that shows  how different groups are effecting certain groups of people. Depending on what group you select (Black Women, White men with a degree, Black men without, etc), it shows you the unemployment rate for that group.

For Black women of all levels of education, the unemployment rate is at 11 percent. What bothers me is the gap between White and Black women’s unemployment–the same chart showed that the unemployment rate is just under 6%.

Does anyone see a problem here?

It really does seem as though perhaps Black women are being passed up for jobs that are otherwise going to white women or men. But more troublesome is that we are so stuck on how single Black women are that we don’t stop and reflect on how unemployed we are, which whether we know it or not DOES effect our dating and relationship life; if you’re not gainfully employed, your focus won’t be on finding a man; most times you’re busy hustling trying to find a job that will afford you the time and the money to actually go out and meet someone. And yes, I do think unemployment is why so many Black men are single as well (but no one wants to discuss those numbers either).

Granted, it’s not a sexy topic at all and it’s not one people are writing books about or putting on panels about how Black women can find job. But to me, this is a much bigger issue than whether or not I’ll find a Black man to marry or whether I’ll marry my current partner. To hear other people tell it, you’d think being single and a Black woman was a crisis, but what bothers me is that being single is being presented as a crisis while our unemployment rates are hardly even whispered about. The Economist of all things had a whole article about why Black women are sooo single and yet no article about the fact that some of us can’t find a job? #iCant.

Even though I’ve recently found a new job,  but I went several months without finding something after being laid off in January. But just because I was able to find a job in three months doesn’t mean that there isn’t a Black woman out there who is still looking and wondering how she’ll pay her rent. Let’s deal with that situation instead of berating her for being single (or just not married).

On Badu and Our Bodies: Are We Comfortable In Our Own Skin?

Reposted from A Black Girl’s Guide to Weightloss, an awesome fitness blog that I frequent and you should too. Erika says everything I’ve been thinking when it comes to Erykah Badu’s video for “Window Seat.”

I had my moment of analyzing Erykah Badu’s latest video, and then – like most things pop culture – I was over it.

Until…

I just so happened to read Naked & Unashamed, and catch this quote at the end:

“People have to be comfortable in their own skin before they can be comfortable with someone else’s.”

Since this is a website about embracing oneself, being aware of one’s shortcomings and loving oneself enough to put in the effort to make ourselves better, I had to take a stab at it.

In all honesty, I’m beyond the video. I do enough analyzing all day… I’m not really moved by a music video, no matter how compelling it may be. I’m way more interested in the reactions to the video than I am the video itself.

Among one of my favorites, we have this:

“Typical…black women stripping nude in a video and debasing themselves. And you wonder why you are the least respected and sought after.”

Obviously, I don’t agree with that, but there’s a larger issue at play, here.

Sports Illustrated can have an entire magazine devoted to white women in swimsuits – suits, mind you, made of much less fabric than what Badu was wearing before the blurring began. SpikeTV can host some of the most misogynistic garbage I’ve ever seen (though, full disclosure, I do my fair share of laughing at it, too… What? They show CSI repeats.) Playboy has women showing their cookies, their cupcakes, their twinkies and their muffins. That’s just what they do. They model... They act – it’s a job… It’s Playboy – what do you expect?

A Black woman appears in a music video – saying nothing about whether or not she’s fully clothed – and she’s “just a video ho.” A Black woman poses in a bikini in a magazine, and it’s “She couldn’t wear more clothing than that?” A Black woman working on her flexibilitymust be doing it for sexual reasons. Don’t let her admit she takes a pole dancing fitness class.

Hell, Badu even tweeted the link to the video that inspired hers – a white male/female duo running Buck. E. Naked through Times Square, NYC. They’re just lovable, playful scamps running ’round an already sinful city, though. No big deal there. Erykah, however, is showcasing why no one loves Black women… by doing what the hell she wants to do in her music video.

There’s “debasing” going on, alright. It’s not self-imposed, though.

“People have to be comfortable in their own skin before they can be comfortable with someone else’s.”

Either we’re apologists for the sexuality of our non-Black counterparts, or we have set standards so high for Black women that exploring ourselves is no longer acceptable. We’re doomed to be one monolithic mass, regardless of our individuality… because someone we don’t know – someone who, essentially, doesn’t really give a damn about us – insists on trying to save us from ourselves. Since, y’know, we’re turning ourselves into whores. We’re always seeking to make a Black woman somebody’s Jezebel, in dire need of our “help.”

Not familiar with Jezebel?

The portrayal of Black women as lascivious by nature is an enduring stereotype. The descriptive words associated with this stereotype are singular in their focus: seductive, alluring, worldly, beguiling, tempting, and lewd.Historically, White women, as a category, were portrayed as models of self-respect, self-control, and modesty – even sexual purity, but Black women were often portrayed as innately promiscuous, even predatory. This depiction of Black women is signified by the name Jezebel.

There’s also this one, that I love:

Next, there is Jezebel, the bad-black-girl, who is depicted as alluring and seductive as she either indiscriminately mesmerizes men and lures them into her bed, or very deliberately lures into her snares those who have something of value to offer her.

I can’t help but wonder if our need to make a Black woman into a Jezebel comes from our failure to understand ourselves: what parts of us are sexual in nature, what is not; what should be seen as sexual, what should not; what should be considered hazardous, and what is harmless exploration – the kind from which lessons are learned.

Am I an advocate for sexual irresponsibility? No. Am I saying it’s ok to “be a slut?” If we share the same definition of “slut” (see: sexual irresponsibility), then I’ma go on and say “no.” Make no mistake, I don’t give passes for behavior that is not my own. However, I am a hippie at heart, and while I have my own standards for how I behave and interact with others in public, I can’t force those standards on others. I’ve never turned down the opportunity to offer up my opinion when asked for it, but making judgments and imposing those judgments on others as guidelines by which they must abide… are two different things entirely.

And while there are many who might not see – nor care about – what I’m saying here (and that’s okay), it’s worth pointing out – when we, as Black women, insist on reducing even the most innocent of our actions to Jezebelism, we perpetuate the notion that that’s all Black women are. That’s all you can expect of them. Being the Jezebel. Being the sirene.

Having said that, all I have from here are questions. Are so many of us so uncomfortable with the concept of sexuality – our own sexuality – that we can’t even identify when something is sexual or not? Has it stifled our intellectual understanding of sexuality? If we have “passes” to dole out, why are we not doling them out for ourselves? Do we often see inherently sexual messages in inherently non-sexual situations? Collectively, are we so repressed and limited in our self-comfort, that we can’t help but to project this repression onto others? Why care so much?

Must we make everything a Black woman does publicly be about her “whoring?” Or, are we really just projecting our own discomfort on other women who look like us? Like I said: from here, all I’ve got is questions. Well, questions… and this:

“People have to be comfortable in their own skin before they can be comfortable with someone else’s.”

Tyler Perry, step away from the camera.

Last week we found out that Tyler Perry revealed the cast for his film adaptation of for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow was enuf by Ntozake Shange.

Read ’em and weep:

Black Voices has learned that writer/director/producer Tyler Perry has selected the cast for next film, ”For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf.

At last night’s premiere for his latest film, ‘‘Why Did I Get Married Too?,’ the black box-office maverick revealed that the cast will include Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey, Whoopi Goldberg, Phylicia Rashad, Jurnee Smollett, Kimberly Elise, Kerry WashingtonLoretta Devine and Macy Gray.

Based on Ntozake Shange‘s award-winning 1975 play, the film is scheduled to shoot in June in New York with a possible winter 2010/ 2011 release date.

I’m not even going to go in on the cast for this film nor about Tyler Perry films themselves because I know there are plenty of conversations going on about that. I know that we are all looking at Janet Jackson getting top billing and wondering why she’s there in the first place. I know we’re wondering when Macy Gray became an actress or why one “aight” performance in Precious makes Mariah Carey a capable of playing, say the Lady in Red. And lastly, I know many of us are questioning of Tyler Perry knows what he’s doing with a Shange play in the first place, or if he knew about for colored girls… before Oprah mentioned it that one time at Sunday Brunch.

for colored girls… has a special place in my heart. When I was 17, I had the amazing honor and privilege of spending a whole day with Ntozake Shange in Taos, New Mexico during the Taos Poetry Circus. While there, I participated in her small group poetry workshop where I shared some of my work. I spoke with her in depth about for colored girls… and her inspiration for it.

So when I heard the news that Tyler Perry was directing for colored girls, I was disappointed.  Nzingha Stewart, a black woman director, was originally slated to direct the film adaptation of the play, but all of a sudden I started to see Tyler Perry’s name all over it.

Hmmm. There’s something totally wrong with this picture, and it has nothing to do with Janet Jackson getting top billing.

I’m certainly not convinced that Tyler Perry is the best black filmmaker out there regardless of what his box office sales are. But my biggest problem is he is seemingly unable to give up the reins of power, step away from the camera and allow for other Black screenwriters and directors to have their shine.  What would have been wrong with Nzingha Stewart directing the film and even selecting her the cast by herself while Tyler Perry funded and promoted the project? Nothing, unless he wants to convey the message that he is uncomfortable sharing   the wealth and  the limelight with other (young and/or female) talent.

Precious was not a perfect movie, but if it didn’t show us anything else, it showed that Tyler Perry has the potential to fund the projects of other Black filmmakers and help make them a success. Part of being a leader in any industry is helping other young people rise to the top as well. The Black experience is not a monolith; some of us like myself never grew up with a character like Madea. Because of this, it’s important that we have a large variety of filmmakers who can speak to the myriad of ways a Black person can experience and live in society. Perhaps a successful, wealthy director like Tyler Perry is in a position to support other directors in their projects, but what bothers me more than his so-so movies are his unwillingness to step from behind the camera and let someone else take a crack at it.

V V Brown is a Bad Broad

This week I had an opportunity to see V V Brown in concert with Little Dragon here at Liv Niteclub in DC. Her music was just a breath of fresh air. I think she did almost every genre of music in her performance, from rockabilly to hip hop. Yes, I said rockabilly.

Anyways, just check out her acoustic cover of Kid Cudi’s Day N Nite: