I had a great time this weekend. I had been looking forward to seeing and meeting people who had shared the same rare opportunity as me – working for the Johnson Publishing Company as an Ebony Fashion Fair Model (EFF). I had always considered the Ebony Fashion Fair as my sorority – a sisterhood of shared fashion and entertainment memory. Of shared childhood dreams of modeling and becoming part of the history of an iconic American brand (Ebony Magazine) that came to represent everything that was dream worthy to Black America. It has been a joy and a pleasure to have had the EFF as one of the many opportunities God has colored and tailored my life with.
That being said, I want to caution people who praise and over-admire the physical beauty of people.
The first time anyone ever called me “gorgeous” was when I was 25 and they had just learned that I would be modeling for Ebony Fashion Fair. That memory has stayed with me all these years. It has grounded me. I had worked in the same office as that woman for over a year and she had never as much as spoken to me. I didn’t ask at the time, but I certainly thought, “Am I only ‘gorgeous’ because you perceive models to be gorgeous and now that someone will pay me to wear clothes that makes me attractive?”
It was a disturbing idea for me. My time with EFF was discombobulating for that very reason. I never thought anyone ever saw ME. They saw a brand. They saw an image. They did not see, nor did they want to see LA’SHAWNDA.
Many beautiful people buy into the adulation of other people. I don’t consider myself a physically beautiful person. And I’m okay with that. I would prefer for my beauty to always shine from the inside. And with that, people who share parts of my life may describe me as a beautiful person after they have taken the time to get to know ME. After they’ve invested TIME, not blind, worthless admiration, to get to know and appreciate LA’SHAWNDA the person.
I’m sharing this because one question and follow-up question to a few people this weekend caused a cat-storm to rain over my head last night. My question: “How are you doing?”
Each replied in different conversations: “Great!!!”
Each time I asked: “Is that a real great?” It didn’t quite ring true. (Cue cats.)
They each assured me: “I am absolutely great! Everything’s wonderful!”
Last night one of girls, after several drinks, started complaining to a mutual friend of ours, as I stood there, that I was a Debbie-downer. Suddenly everything about my outfit was wrong, I needed a wardrobe make-over, my wig was horrible and needed to be retired. “Why would you ask someone if their ‘great’ was real,” this person snapped at me.
“Why would someone tell me they’re ‘great’ if they’re not,” I replied.
I’ve said this before and I will continue to say it: You can’t have a real conversation with people who are sharing false information.
If my asking someone if their “‘great’ is a real ‘great'” leads to me being attacked, well… the attack sort of answers my question. If my sitting on the floor for a crowded group picture leads to half the women in the photo gasping in horror and a couple of other folks telling me how crazy I am for doing that, then the shallowness of their superficiality is beyond my ability to explain or even understand.
I say this because people who only receive and appreciate validation based on how they look are only ever going to be concerned with the image they portray and how other people view them. There will be nothing more important to them than the illusion they create for their public’s consumption. The illusion of their fabulosity. The falseness of their greatness.
My responses when people I knew asked me how I was: “I’m good. No real complaints.”
“Do you really mean that?” (Attempt to give me some of my own medicine.)
“Yeah. There’s always the fact that I don’t have a man or children, but life has been good to me. My biggest complaint this week is that I couldn’t take another week off work. Is that really a problem?”
“What do you do?”
“I’m an administrative assistant.”
End of conversation. They got more truth than they expected. But I had no issue with speaking my truth. i do what I do. I am who I am. It is what it is. And LIFE IS GOOD!
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