September 22, 2019 | 69° F

NUNDA: Women of color accredited, prove to be more than a trend

Opinion Column: Capitalist Culture

Society is feeding off of the natural, God-given characteristics some women of color have held since birth and refusing to give credit where it is due. 

Rewind approximately 10 years into the past and we can see the prevailing trend that echoed in our everyday media: Thin was in. Everywhere we looked, magazines, TV commercials and billboard ads were all screaming out to its audience, reminding them that being skinny with a defined nose and pressed-together lips was the best look ... of the time, that is. 

While being the second-born daughter of two supportive Kenyan immigrants was an empowering feeling, having the identity of being the only Black girl in all my classes failed to live up to the same glory. I was not thin and I most definitely did not look like any of the females in the ads I saw. It was hard to build confidence during my earlier years, especially when very few of my role models looked like me.

Fast forward to the fast-paced, trend-chasing world we live in today and we find that a lot has changed. Girls want to be curvy, have big lips and natural hair. What happened to that slender mentality that, to this day, drives the base of companies like Victoria’s Secret and Abercrombie and Fitch? 

The explanation is actually quite simple: The “perfect look” of the early 2000s just became ... outdated. As much as we fail to point it out, creating trends based off of physical appearances has become a constant. 

Welcoming in the late-2000 teens, we saw the reign of body positivity and inclusion take over as more individuals of different backgrounds, shapes and sizes fought for their representation. Companies such as Aerie began its #AerieREAL campaign which promotes inclusivity and frowns upon the retouching of its models. This should be a good thing, right? Of course it is, but not every person has been following in the footsteps of this social change.

Cultural appropriation has become the likes of many on social media pages. The new trend, #Melanin is in ... or at least some of the physical characteristics that may come with it. Females such as Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian are just a few of the culprits promoting fuller lips and wider hips to their plethora of followers. 

Girls want to take from women of color what we, for years, were pushed to feel ashamed about. Parts of our bodies we were incapable of changing. The irony in it all: Nose contouring has still failed to be ruled out. I guess not every attribute has been placed on the wish list.

Being thin has “died out.” What was once considered an undesirable body has now become desired. Hairstyles that used to be criticized are now socially acceptable. Where do we begin to draw the line between trends and respecting the vast ways in which each individual is made? 

We have to learn that women of color are not “exotic” nor are we tamed animals at a zoo you can pet as you please. Our genetics give shape to our bodies and allow us to have fluidity in our hair. We are not costumes that can be taken off and put back on when one sees it as convenient. 

When you take the parts of us that you like and discard the ones you do not, it puts us back in that box we have been told to hide in, making us feel insignificant. When women like Kardashian and Jenner boast these artificial appearances and overlook their origins, they completely disregard the history of backlash women of color have faced with every bit of praise they consume.

Amandla Stenberg’s “Don’t Cash Crop On My Cornrows” is just one example of sophisticated riposte that the “KarJenner” sisters and others like them need to learn from. Being Black is not a trend. Danielle Brooks’ fresh lyrics in "Black Woman" send chills as she asks listeners, “Would you take the pain that came with all the parts you wanna claim for you?” She also admits, “I would never see a leading lady look like me.”

As Regina King takes home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress along with Ruth E. Carter and Hannah Beachler for Best Costume Design and Best Production Design — the first Black artists to be nominated and win in their respective categories — they stand as a reminder to all Black women that yes, we are here and we do not need to be mimicked into false representation. 

Stacey Nunda is a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences sophomore majoring in environmental planning and design. Her column, “Capitalist Culture,” runs on alternate Thursdays.


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Stacey Nunda

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