Earlier this summer, the media chastised R&B singer Chloe Bailey for her rendition of Nina Simone's song "Feeling Good." Some thought her Juneteenth performance was too sexualized and took away from the meaning of Juneteenth. Many felt Chloe's performance represents the stigma of hypersexualized Black women. And I think Chloe might have thought a Juneteenth performance would be a safe space to show the world how she has evolved as a young Black woman.
A young Black woman that isn't scared to be her true self. Strong, sexy, bold, talented, successful, and everything nice. She also performed a less sensual version of the classic song on Good Morning America.
Chloe performs 'Feeling Good' on 'GMA' | GMA www.youtube.com
Both performances differ in how she chooses to present herself to the world. But…the question isn't whether if how Chloe chooses to present herself is a good or bad thing.
The question is why are we criticizing a young girl for embracing her transition into a young woman?
As a society, we have always criticized women in general for being too much or too little of something. There is this notion of what a young woman should be, and how she should act. There is also this notion that we as women have to fit into a certain image or persona to acquire social status. If we don't fit into this overarching status of what a woman is supposed to be, it becomes a problem.
And it then becomes a bigger problem for Black women too.
Black women and other women of color already struggle with being their authentic selves from a cultural standpoint. As much as we have evolved as a society, allowing ourselves the freedom to be feminine and sexual beings is still seen as offensive when it shouldn't be. Women are now learning how to embrace all of their feminine energy.
And Chloe Bailey is too.
Chloe Bailey On Owning Her Womanhood
Chloe let us know she is ready to step all the way into her divine feminine. Whether it was through the Silhouette Challenge, Buss It Challenge, or dancing in a t-shirt and panties on the 'gram, she caught the attention of us all. She confidently embraces her curvaceous body through her choices in clothing, movement, and song. She is charismatic, playful, innocent, and soft. But it was the social media uproar Chloe didn't see coming. These social media trolls swayed her enough into giving an emotional justification for her behavior on an Instagram Live earlier this year:
"It's really hard for me to think of myself as a sexual being or an attractive being quite frankly. So, when I see all the uproar about my posts and stuff, I'm a bit confused. Like, I really don't understand because I've never seen myself in that way or in that light. ... I don't post what I post to get attention. I don't need that."
"For every woman out there, don't change who you are to make society feel comfortable. And, I'm telling myself that's not what I'm going to do."
"Even when I posted the video yesterday [pictured above], I posted it because I was saging and doing Palo Santo and I was like, 'Let's spread positive vibes. I didn't even really notice you guys were talking about my ass because I was like, 'OK, I'm just walking in from one seconds, two seconds. And I feel like I've shown my ass more than I have with that like if you look at our performance videos, the last performance we had in December."
"With my songwriting and producing, I feel so badass and I get the same feeling when I dance in my room, when I just own who I am and my body. And for so long, I used to think I was, like, fat, and like, I used to hate my stretch marks and my cellulite. But it's like now, I really love who I am."
If you ask me, Chloe's explanation is unwarranted. I don't think Chloe had anything to apologize for. She didn't owe her fanbase or followers an explanation for growing up or being her authentic selfauthentic self.
The issue is we knew Chloe and her sister, Halle Bailey, to be the sweet singing duo who emerged on the scene from the Disney television film Let It Shine, and YouTube song covers. They were kids. But as they have grown into young women, we are now learning who they are. We forget these adolescent entertainers eventually become young adults. We forget that their image will constantly change. While they may be in the public eye more often than most, we forget they are still human. Humans, with the same emotions, feelings, insecurities, and struggles we all encounter.
We don't criticize Cardi B, Beyonce, or Megan Thee Stallion for owning their sexuality when they take the stage or on social media. We expect it. So, why should we make Chloe feel bad for owning her sexuality? But this has been the trend for Black women and all women who grow up in the music industry.
What Critics Have Said
unpopular opinion: chloe bailey is forcing her sex appeal🥴— courtney🌻 (@causeimcourt) July 13, 2021
Several media outlets have said Chloe is doing too much. A tweet on Twitter read, "unpopular opinion: chloe bailey is forcing her sex appeal." Another Twitter user came to Chloe's defense and tweeted:
"How's she doing too much? She's grown, super talented, and successful. She's not getting naked. Not stripping. Not doing porn. What's the issue? A grown black woman can't even own her own sexuality without other black women tearing her down. I don't get it."
And it's true. Chloe, let alone other Black women, cannot express their sexuality without commentary.
In a news article by MTV Australia, they stated:
"It's that sense of exploration, and exploration of female desire, which is discomforting for a predominantly patriarchal society to sit comfortably with, especially if it's not in charge of it."
It is also stated that because there are few Black women in major pop music spaces when a young Black woman wants to show their true personality, sexuality, and body, they are shamed for it. Author Sarah Raughley analyzed Chloe's emotional admission within the context of the industry forTeen Vogue where it was argued:
"If you're a Black girl trying to make music, it doesn't matter who you really are inside, Hyper-sexuality is what audiences demand you to be."
In a Refinery29 op-ed, writer Ineye Komonibo wrote:
"From a young age, everything about Black girls is placed under an intense sociocultural microscope. The way we dance, the clothes we wear — even the way that we style our hair can be seen as 'grown' or 'fast.'"
But for Chloe, her sexual expression is about her personal journey, self-love, and acceptance. In the January 31st Instagram Live, she revealed:
"When I perform, and make music, and dance, that's when I get to tap into the sexier side of myself. That's where I find my confidence. So, it really means a lot to me when I can finally get to a place where I share who I really am because I've been really insecure for a long time."
Black Women, Femininity, & Sexuality
I think Black women compared to any other women of color are judged the most for how they choose to express themselves. We are often labeled as oversexualized, loud, relentless, and angry. But there is so much passion in everything we say and do. And most perceive this innate passion for negativity. All because it doesn't fit into the narrative of how women of color should present themselves to society. We are told to use our voice, invoke thought, and encourage change. Yet when it comes to self-expression and owning our femininity, we are subject to limitations. How does that work?
Why should we apologize or restrict parts of who we are to make others comfortable? Pleasure, joy, and movement are key traits of femininity. Women are moved by emotions and feelings. Especially in art. And a true artist doesn't inhibit the flow of their creativity, they allow it to be seen, heard, and felt.
Unfortunately, this is what Chloe Bailey had to go through. Chloe chooses to show up as her authentic feminine self. A Black woman, a sexual woman, and an artist. She gives herself permission to "just be", allowing herself joy and happiness not just through music and movement but also as everything a feminine woman is. She gives herself permission to embrace her sexuality when most women don't dare to do this.
Whether that's through her social media presence or her performances. And was then ridiculed for expressing her emotions and feelings through her artistry.
Do you see what's wrong with this? I do. Regardless of the stereotypes and stigmas, I wish more Black women gave themselves permission to embrace all of their authentic selves. As a multi-ethnic woman of color, I didn't allow myself to be any of those things that Chloe is being criticized for in my twenties. Like Chloe, I didn't see myself as sexual or desirable either. But all women are intrinsically these things. It's not just inherited from our social environments, it's in our genetic code too.
The problem is we are taught to repress that side of us. I didn't want to become more of my feminine self until my thirties. And now that I am in my mid-thirties, I'm confidently wearing all the things and flexin' all over the 'gram too.
Despite the social media uproar, Chloe Bailey still continues to thrive. And more importantly, she continues to teach us how to be unapologetically feminine Black women.
If you ask me, we just need to sit back, watch, and take notes.
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