Let's face it, when it comes to a television show or movie centered around Black women, there will likely be a few hybrids of the "normals" in the friend group. The "saddity" or high-maintenance one that all the guys find their noses wide open over; the free-spirited one that's just kind of floating on this rock called Earth; the super Type-A friend who has a banging wardrobe and a not-so-banging love life; and, if we're lucky, you'll have the plus-size friend. You know her; she's typically the comedic relief who always has advice but who we rarely get to peek at behind the curtain of her (romantic and/or sex) life. Yeah, you know her.
Don't get me wrong, I love seeing the representation of women over the size 14. Still, the love is fleeting when the layers of who plus-size women genuinely are in the real world don't fully translate onto any screen I see them on. (P.S. Technically, "plus size" is sometimes considered a size 10/12. However, I'm specifically talking about the women who have always had to head to the dimly lit back of the store to find one rack of often unfashionable clothes to choose from. Yeah, her.)
First things first: nearly 68% of American women identify as plus-size, making us the average size in the country. More plus-size women are living fly, whole lives than not. So why are we made to feel like supporting characters with dimensions as shallow as kiddie pools?
Think back to any of your favorite "old school" to "new school" shows or movies where plus-size women are included, and you'll see what I mean. From Kelli on Insecure to Kim on Moesha and even Nikki Parker on The Parkers, the vision of the plus-size Black woman is often one-dimensional. Chances are she's loud, hypersexual, always the comedian, the one who chases men, and, oh, did I mention she's often seen as more "Mom jeans" than "MILF”?
We see that trope even in one of the most brilliant series, Insecure by Issa Rae. Early on, I was invested in the character Kelli (played by Natasha Rothwell) because she looked like me; she was armed with sarcasm and comedic timing that made me proud. She was just unapologetically and confidently fly. Kelli was the one everyone in her crew turned to for advice and words of reality and wisdom, and sis always had an excellent sex recommendation to try out, too.
Merie W. Wallace/HBO
Simply put: she was everyone's best friend. Kelli was always there. Always the life of the party. Always real. Still, in all the beauty of her character, during the five seasons of Insecure, Kelli was the friend you loved but felt like you never truly got a chance to get to know.
Compared to all her girls, she was the only character we never saw in a consistent relationship or even being pursued. Did Kelli participate in online dating? Had a man broken her heart? We could have explored so many unknowns and areas to give Kelli as much depth as the other girls. Kelli was flourishing and beautiful, yet, we never saw her being pursued in the ways the other friends were…only her aggressively chasing. Paired with other depictions of plus-size women, it's easy to believe the truth is that all plus-size women have this as a reality. Also, unlike all the other characters on Insecure, we never saw the inside of Kelli's bedroom or even her home, or her dating (being fingered under the table is a good time, but it isn't a date, y'all…).
The searies finale aired late last year and I've watched it no less than ten times. Spoiler alert: It wasn't until the last 30 minutes of the finale that we were finally able to see Kelli fall in love, get pregnant and reveal the layers of herself. I loved watching her exist in her evolved vision. I also felt cheated. I'd had five seasons seeing the other girls grow romantically and had only a sped-up glimpse of seeing someone who looks like me be loved and in love.
I felt like she deserved more…like we deserved more. Not only for the representation of plus-size women but because ALL of us deserve to see the reality of how we're flawed and living, celebrated.
Let's be very clear, the dimensions of plus-size women go beyond the boxes we're often placed in under the guise of being inclusive. That plus-size woman's desirability doesn't diminish because she has rolls, or because she has a FUPA, or because she's thicker in the waist or thighs. Even in reality shows, a plus-size woman is often solely seen as the back-up for the thinner friend. If they are shown in relationships, it's as if the world is amazed at the thought of someone loving a bigger woman. Despite what you've heard, plus-size women aren't out here begging and chasing as an everyday means of finding a partner.
Nikki Parker may have chased Professor Oglevee on The Parkers, but that level of unapologetic desperation for a man (who doesn't want you) is not the norm; I don't want anyone - plus size or not - to think it is. I love to be the bearer of great news: plus-size women are being loved, having sex and incredible orgasms, raising their babies, dressing fly, and keeping it hella sexy while thriving in all the areas of their lives.
A plus-size woman isn't her crew's savior, whether comedic or therapeutic. A plus-size friend is an additive to the crew that gives it a vibe to show that, regardless of how different we are, as Black women, we are all collectively magic.
But first, we have to get out of all the boxes we've placed each other in and then dismantle the boxes we've settled being put into by others. How we see ourselves is more important than how others see us; but, a resounding trend of only showing plus-size Black women as desperate, loud, and only as valuable as the laughs she can provide is more harmful than helpful. I'm hopeful for the day that the vulnerability and diversity of who we are leads to the introductions of how others see us.
Shows like Grand Crew (with Nicole Byers) and Good Girls (starring Retta) normalize the various dimensions and desirabilities of Black plus-size women. I can't wait for others to follow suit. We can make you laugh, but we're not your laugh track. We can give great advice, but we're not your therapist. We can be sassy, but we can also be sensitive. We are desirable, worthy of unveiling our layers, and beautiful enough to stand next to our girls and be seen as an equal and not just a support for their narratives.
Just as we've fought over the years to have a seat at the table, being satisfied with just having a seat is half the battle. Now that we have a seat at the table, it's on us to make sure we're all seen. Regardless of whether we're plus-size, thin, tall, short, dark-skinned, light-skinned, have natural hair, and/or have relaxed hair - we are more than a single dimension.
Just as important as it is for that young teenage girl to see a plus-size woman on the screen, it's equally as crucial for her to proudly stand in the truth of who she is as a whole: beautiful, flawed, funny, desirable, loved and fly as hell.
We deserve to be seen through the whole, flourishing, transparent lens that proudly shows that off.
Featured image by Raymond Liu/HBO
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Many have wondered if one time is ever enough to see Queen Bey. Some argue yes. However, many of us on the opposite end of the spectrum, including myself, would disagree. Beyoncé's "Renaissance World Tour" is a universal yet varying experience for everyone who attends. In the words of Oprah Winfrey, the concert is "transcendent." For millennials, we have over two decades of her catalog that has served as the soundtrack for many of our lives and painted a personal portrait of our most coveted thoughts. Her music provides mental clarity and self-expression by serving as a universal language that has united fans from all walks of life through community, fashion, self-acceptance, and healing.
With a multi-layered approach to her artistry, just as she did on that winter day in December 2013 with the infamous digital drop of her self-titled album, she changed the game again on February 1, 2023, when she announced her world tour in support of Renaissance, her seventh studio album. Her cultural impact set the internet ablaze, with everyone trying to gather their coins, barter for presale codes, and figure out which cities to attend. The group chats were lit, and the Beyhive was stressed trying to get their hands on tickets.
Photo courtesy of Dontaira Terrell
Unfortunately, I was in that number. As the concert dates passed by and the one in my city drawing near all roads led to disappointment. With time ticking on the day of the Miami show and less than two hours to spare, my wallet bit the bullet, and I purchased three last-minute tickets, costing roughly $700.00 a piece (including fees) for me, my 9-year-old and 16-year-old nieces in Section 121 at the Hard Rock Stadium. With 10 minutes before showtime, we eagerly awaited the Queen to take the stage. A sea of metallic fringes, cowboy hats, disco fans, and western boots were in full effect and filled the entire stadium.
As the lights dimmed, a flood of emotions instantly overtook my body. It continued with each note she belted, along with nearly 50,000 roaring fans. The reverberating sound of the music through the stadium transported me from one era of my life to the next. As a teen girl in her bedroom daydreaming about her first love to blossoming into an unapologetic Black woman who is still on a road of self-discovery while learning to lean into the power anthem of "You won't break my soul." For over two hours, and with each set, I felt joy, love, peace, and a commanderie with fellow concertgoers. It was therapeutic as I danced like no one was watching and sang as if I were alone in my bathroom mirror.
There were no bars held, and I realized at that moment, "Nobody can judge me but me." The "Renaissance World Tour" proved to be so vast, and my Black girl joy was re-invigorated. It was magnetic and liberating, and I had to attend again, but this time, I needed to be up close and personal; I needed to be on the floor. In the days that passed, I watched more social media clips in different cities and asked myself if I would really splurge again to attend another Renaissance show.
Photo courtesy of Dontaira Terrell
After all, this would be my thirteenth time (maybe more because I lost count) seeing Beyoncé live, whether she was on tour with Destiny's Child, as a solo artist, or doing a live appearance. I contemplated for a while, but it worked itself out on its own. I was gifted two tickets and the next thing I knew, I was off to LA to attend another Renaissance show with floor seats at SoFi Stadium during Beyonce's 42nd birthday weekend! This time, things were different: no kids were allowed. It was adults only this go round.
Although the energy at the Miami and Los Angeles shows was empowering, infectious, and a celebration of life, happiness, and identity, they each provided their own unique experience. However, both concerts were what I needed for my well-being, leaving me with sore feet from dancing the night away, on vocal rest for the next few days from screaming at the top of my lungs, and on an indefinite high on life.
My introduction and love for Beyoncé began in 1996, while my older sister lived in Houston, TX, right before Bey hit the scene in 1998 with "No, No, No" as a budding R&B member. Her evolution twenty-seven years later as an international superstar and into womanhood has been an incredible journey to witness. As Mrs. Carter reminds each of us in the audience every night before the curtain closes, "I want you to remember this moment, where you're standing, who you came with, and take it with you. I hope you feel inspired."
I truly felt inspired, so thank you, Queen Bey. You awakened my inner child, and I will definitely remember these moments and take them with me.
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Feature image by Kevin Mazur/WireImage for Parkwood