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Aoki Lee Simmons Reveals How She Found Her Own Light in Her Family's Shadow
Aoki Lee Simmons/Instagram

Aoki Lee Simmons Reveals How She Found Her Own Light in Her Family's Shadow

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I have developed a serious social anxiety as it relates to social media. In the past, I was quite the social butterfly, but deep down, there was an insecurity that no one knew existed. A personality flaw was embedded deep in my psyche, a sort of inferiority complex that led me to compare myself to every woman in the room and conclude that I would never really be enough.


Social media is ideal for family reunions or connecting with old friends, but it isn't exactly a self-esteem booster, in my case at least. People are able to make rash, unsubstantiated judgements with the click of a button, leaving a lot of women feeling left in the shadows by their no-filtered, ultra snatched peers. The media perpetuates that there is only one kind of beautiful, but this theory is false. The idea that beauty can be defined by one standard is so last year, and Aoki Lee Simmons is among the women taking the power back from this outdated ideology.

She recently opened up on Instagram about her own insecurities when it comes to posting pictures on social media. She admitted that for a long time, she had refrained from posting on Instagram due to the overwhelming criticism that she received in comparison to her older sibling, who was labeled by social media commentators as "the pretty sister". She said:

"Ok guys so! I'm [sic] you've noticed I've been posting a lot more this summer! I used to be very picky about pictures and not really show my face, and would often not post pictures of cool events or important moments because I didn't like my smile or I was standing next to my beautiful sister."

The Simmons tribe has spent practically their whole lives in the eye of the media. With a mother who has made her mark in the industry as a world-renowned superstar and a sister who's following closely in her footsteps, it's understandable that Aoki would feel overshadowed by the spotlight that her loved ones have created for themselves.

Not to mention Aoki's been mercilessly attacked by a world of internets trolls who have nothing better to do than project their own insecurities on others. She said:

"It's easy to get insecure when your older sister and mom are models and I've dealt with a lot of negativity on Instagram, comments saying I'm not as pretty as my big sister (who is the best by the way)."

Despite the negative energy she received, she realized that she could not live a life based on other people's thoughts of her, especially ones hiding behind private pages and fake names. Aoki confirmed that she'll be serving slay all damn summer, despite her critics.

"We all want to look nice in our photos but I've tried to let all of that go and just post pictures were [sic] I look happy or was actually having a good time. I try not to worry who I'm standing next to and just share good moments with you guys."

Like Aoki, I get overwhelmed trying to gauge other people's perception of my physical appearance, leading me to "hide" in a sense from social media. There have been sentimental moments I was tempted to share, but didn't because I was obsessed with the idea that someone would notice if I gained weight, or think that I let myself go. Compared to my model-type peers, I feel left in the shadows.

It's up to me to take a lesson from 15-year-old Aoki and remember that everything I think isn't always real. I only feel lost in the shadows, because I refrained from finding my own spotlight. I have been consciously dimming my own light, and disappointed that the world could not see me shine.

After Aoki shared her story, she received an outpour of support from her followers, proving that for every one hater, there are 100 more people that love you just the way you are. She wrote:

"These comments and DMs about to have me crying in Greece. A million thank yous to everyone. You guys are so kind! This is one of the most positive experiences I've ever had on Insta."

Shine on, baby girl.

Featured image via Aoki Simmons/Instagram

Black Women, We Deserve More

When the NYT posted an article this week about the recent marriage of a Black woman VP of a multi-billion-dollar company and a Black man who took her on a first date at the parking lot of a Popeyes, the reaction on social media was swift and polarizing. The two met on Hinge and had their parking lot rendezvous after he’d canceled their first two dates. When the groom posted a photo from their wedding on social media, he bragged about how he never had “pressure” to take her on “any fancy dates or expensive restaurants.”

It’s worth reading on your own to get the full breadth of all the foolery that transpired. But the Twitter discourse it inspired on what could lead a successful Black woman to accept lower than bare minimum in pursuit of a relationship and marriage, made me think of the years of messaging that Black women receive about how our standards are too high and what we have to “bring to the table” in order to be "worthy" of what society has deemed is the ultimate showing of our worth: a marriage to a man.

That's right, the first pandemic I lived through was not Covid, but the pandemic of the Black male relationship expert. I was young – thirteen to be exact – when Steve Harvey published his best-selling book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man. Though he was still just a stand-up comedian, oversized suit hoarder, and man on his third marriage at the time, his relationship advice was taken as the gospel truth.

The 2000s were a particularly bleak time to be a single Black woman. Much of the messaging –created by men – that surrounded Black women at the time blamed their desire for a successful career and for a partner that matched their drive and ambition for the lack of romance in their life. Statistics about Black women’s marriageability were always wielded against Black women as evidence of our lack of desirability.

It’s no wonder then that a man that donned a box cut well into the 2000s was able to convince women across the nation to not have sex for the first three months of a relationship. Or that a slew of other Black men had their go at telling Black women that they’re not good enough and why their book, seminar, or show will be the thing that makes them worthy of a Good Man™.

This is how we end up marrying men who cancel twice before taking us on a “date” in the Popeyes parking lot, or husbands writing social media posts about how their Black wife is not “the most beautiful” or “the most intelligent” or the latest season of trauma dumping known as Black Love on OWN.

Now that I’ve reached my late twenties, many things about how Black women approach dating and relationships have changed and many things have remained the same. For many Black women, the idea of chronic singleness is not the threat that it used to be. Wanting romance doesn’t exist in a way that threatens to undermine the other relationships we have with our friends, family, and ourselves as it once did, or at least once was presented to us. There is a version of life many of us are embracing where a man not wanting us, is not the end of what could still be fruitful and vibrant life.

There are still Black women out there however who have yet to unlearn the toxic ideals that have been projected onto us about our worthiness in relation to our intimate lives. I see it all the time online. The absolute humiliation and disrespect some Black women are willing to stomach in the name of being partnered. The hoops that some Black women are willing to jump through just to receive whatever lies beneath the bare minimum.

It's worth remembering that there are different forces at play that gather to make Black women feast off the scraps we are given. A world saturated by colorism, fatphobia, anti-Blackness, ableism, and classism will always punish Black women who demand more for themselves. Dismantling these systems also means divesting from any and everything that makes us question our worth.

Because truth be told, Black women are more than worthy of having a love that is built on mutual respect and admiration. A love that is honey sweet and radiates a light that rivals the sun. A love that is a steadying calming force that doesn’t bring confusion or anxiety. Black women deserve a love that is worthy of the prize that we are.

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Featured image: Getty Images

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