Black Panther blew away the competition and inspired generations of black people of all ages.
Sure, seeing regal black people onscreen living their best lives in their homeland is one of the major things that makes the film great, however what it does for black beauty, in terms of showing and telling, is perhaps its greatest accomplishment.
Living in a society where you learn pretty quickly that all "beauty" isn't created equal, it means something so profound to see the skin hues and hair textures that have always been looked upon as less than, truly celebrated in a blockbuster Hollywood film. You could grow up in a family where your skin, hair, and features were praised everyday of your life, but all it takes is that one instance outside of the comfort of loved ones for someone to make you feel like your beauty as a black woman is just not enough and never will be.
In a world where black women are constantly being told to be better at everything—appearance, weight, attitude, parenting, education—sometimes it's hard to find both the inner and outer beauty to maintain the queenly crown you were blessed with.
Since we are seen as "other," different races long for and covet our features, but we seldom get the accolades. It's a beauty twist on the old adage that everybody wants to be black, but no one wants to be black.
So, in an increasingly racially tense environment, how do you love your enviable black beauty when a large portion of the world attempts to make you feel ashamed of it? Well, the first thing is to know that you are not alone. There are countless women who share the same beauty experiences and though it's a small victory, having the comfort of sameness is a good start.
In a recent interview with Popsugar, hair and beauty influencer Jade Kendle of LipsticknCurls discussed her biracial heritage and the importance of black women truly loving themselves despite what outside influences may dictate.
Black women should be able to love themselves unconditionally. We shouldn't "conditionally" love ourselves based on what we wear or how we look. I want us to all love ourselves abundantly, and I want that love to be contagious.
How to Get Away with Murder actress Aja Naomi King shared her experiences growing up with the painful reminders of just how different her dark skin made her and how it took her years to finally be able to celebrate the beauty she saw in front of her. She revealed:
I was afraid of the darkness of my skin. I believed I had to be celebrated for my intelligence and my sense of humor. Those could be the beautiful things about me since my skin couldn't. It has been a process of self-love to embrace the beauty of every single drop that makes up the richness that is my beautiful brown skin. If you learn anything in life, learn to love yourself. There is no amount of makeup or skin-care products that will make you love yourself.
Actress and activist Tessa Thompson shed light on how the political aspect of black beauty is often unintentional, but necessary to push forward the conversation and challenge the old-school beauty norms. She explained:
When you're a black person in this country, some things you don't mean to be political statements become political statements. You're just saying, I won't allow how anyone else talks about standards for beauty to disrupt the way I want to live my life.
Academy Award-winning actress and Black Panther star Lupita Nyong'o has long since vocalized her perspectives on black beauty and the importance of representation. In a moving speech at the 2014 Black Women in Hollywood, Lupita said:
I remember a time when I too felt unbeautiful. I put on the TV and only saw pale skin. I got teased and taunted about my night-shaded skin. And my one prayer to God, the miracle worker, was that I would wake up lighter-skinned. The morning would come and I would be so excited about seeing my new skin that I would refuse to look down at myself until I was in front of a mirror because I wanted to see my fair face first. And every day I experienced the same disappointment of being just as dark as I had been the day before. I tried to negotiate with God: I told him I would stop stealing sugar cubes at night if he gave me what I wanted; I would listen to my mother's every word and never lose my school sweater again if he just made me a little lighter. But I guess God was unimpressed with my bargaining chips because He never listened.
And when I was a teenager my self-hate grew worse, as you can imagine happens with adolescence. My mother reminded me often that she thought that I was beautiful but that was no consolation: She's my mother, of course she's supposed to think I am beautiful. And then Alek Wek came on the international scene. A celebrated model, she was dark as night, she was on all of the runways and in every magazine and everyone was talking about how beautiful she was. Even Oprah called her beautiful and that made it a fact. I couldn't believe that people were embracing a woman who looked so much like me as beautiful. My complexion had always been an obstacle to overcome and all of a sudden, Oprah was telling me it wasn't. It was perplexing and I wanted to reject it because I had begun to enjoy the seduction of inadequacy. But a flower couldn't help but bloom inside of me. When I saw Alek I inadvertently saw a reflection of myself that I could not deny.
...And so I hope that my presence on your screens and in the magazines may lead you, young girl, on a similar journey. That you will feel the validation of your external beauty but also get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside. There is no shade in that beauty.
These women, along with many black women you may run across in your life, all have their varying encounters/issues with how the world views black women's beauty. However, if there is one thing to take away about loving the beauty of your blackness, it's that just because something isn't more widely cherished doesn't mean that it isn't still heavily admired.
Black women may not be celebrated as a coveted standard of the beauty norm—but everything about us is imitated, right down to our cultural individuality of starting trends that other readily take credit for.