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Beyoncé does not represent all black beauty

Growing up as a black child in the neighborhood I lived in and the school I went to left little opportunity for me to see other people who looked like me. As a little, dark black girl, that slimmed the chances even more. At school in class, I was always the only black girl and one of two black people in my grade, who also happened to be a girl, and one of three black people in the entire school. In my neighborhood, I was the only black girl on the street, lived next door to the nicest older Italian couple, while my other neighbors included a white family of 12 who did not believe in television or having Christmas trees; across the street was another black family, but unfortunately, with no girls.

On TV, the only representation I remember seeing of black women that were as dark as me was Gabrielle Union — you know, from the movie “Deliver Us From Eva?” Even within my family, my mother and father have always been much lighter than me. Growing up as a dark black girl was hard for me, for I did not start realizing the greatness of the struggle I went through and am currently still going through until just recently.

Being the only black girl in the neighborhood took its toll on me. Being one of the few black girls at school began to take its toll on me as well.

With the years passing, it did not take me long to realize that most boys do not like black girls. They liked the girls with blonde hair and blue eyes. They did not like girls as dark as me with brown eyes so dark that they look black. You did not have to be a rocket scientist to notice that.

Completing my sophomore year of high school was one of the most difficult times in my life. With the police shootings starting in the summer of 2014 with Mike Brown, my life had become so hard. I could not be quiet on topics discussing civil rights and African Americans even if I tried… and that brought me nothing but trouble. I felt uncomfortable around everyone at school and was worried about their opinion on these cases and if it changed how they felt about me. But I was not passive enough to just be quiet. I tried explaining things to my peers when they would argue with me, but there will always be those few stubborn people who refuse to understand anything and prefer being ignorant. School no longer felt like a safe place.

I kept doing my extracurriculars and being involved with school, even though I felt so out of place and uncared for. I worked my butt off a million times harder to prove to others that I was worth listening to and respecting, but it didn’t work. I look at Janelle Monae as someone to remind me that my skin is beautiful, because Beyoncé has not done anything to put that thought in my mind. White people always bring up Beyoncé as our representation, but it is only because she is famous amongst them, and she does not look too different from them, either.

Today, only white-passing African Americans or biracial people seem to be put on the pedestal. White people love light-skinned African Americans, especially the special ones with green or light colored eyes. Those are not qualities of the average African American. They like the black people with European features: the lighter, the better.

So no, Beyoncé does not represent me because white people love her. Beyoncé does not represent me because I am much, much darker than she is, and taking her as the only black woman that can represent me would cause me to hate myself — I look nothing like her!

Black women come in different shades whether you want to recognize it or not. And contrary to popular belief, we don’t all look up to Beyoncé. I know that Beyoncé’s skin tone makes you comfortable and the other black artists out there who are light make you comfortable as well, but it’s time to recognize all the women darker than the paper bag.

Madelyn Cobb, a Contributing Writer for the Voice, can be reached for comment at

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