I can remember being a college athlete – a sprinter to be specific – and staring in the shocked and horrified faces of my (white) teammates when they came to the realization that we could not share jeans. The confusion in their voices when I explained I could not fit into a size 2 was something I wasn’t ever going to be prepared for.
Or the consistent embarrassment I was met with every time I requested a dressing room to try on pants. Every (white) sales associate would insist was I was a size much smaller than the ones I would hand over to them to try on. Instead of arguing I would simply go through the process of trying on the much too small jeans to prove that the ones I had were, in fact, my size.
Oh. And those ‘guess your weight’ features sprinkled throughout amusement parks? Yeah. I was a shoe-in for a prize – usually the big ones, too – every single time.
No one was built like me. I was just “different” from many of those I grew up around.
I was thicker.
I was muscular.
I was never going to be a size 2.
And in the public eye, at least on my tiny radar – no one was built like me either.
Little did I know there was a woman growing up just a few states away and a few years ahead of me that would break the beauty standards the didn’t fit me.
Serena taught me NOTHING is wrong with my body.
Nothing. At. All.
When I first saw her play on tv I remember being completely awestruck with her glistening brown skin and perfectly (in my head they were) smooth muscles. I actually don’t know if I considered anybody beautiful up until that point.
What I thought was beautiful was so deeply hidden in a place I could not (or would not) access.
But. As much as I admired Serena for everything she represented in my life, I never fully applied her as being in my category.
I was still stuck being in a mindset to compare myself to those I grew up around. Body standards that were never mine to begin with, but still ingrained in me nonetheless.
Fast forward many years when I moved out to the DMV. My world had been expanding several years before – fighting for your right to live a full life will do that to a person – and it was the perfect time to merge my passion with my view.
My self-image began to soar in a way I did not know it could. My perception of beauty completely changed and finally fully formed once I had access to representation of beauty that “fit” me. Brown people are so gosh darn gorgeous, y’all. And we don’t fit one shape or dynamic.
There is no “body image”. At least not from where I stand. It’s about self-care. It’s about presence. It’s about confidence. It’s about your soul.
I was finally finding myself in a place to get back to what “healthy” is for me.
I’m proudly back to working out.
I’m proudly back to lifting weights more than I do cardio.
I’ve been wearing crop tops (and slayin’) even tho I’m not what I consider to be “ideal” weight for me.
I still have something to work for and that’s okay.
Because acceptance is what I found that I never really had.
Acceptance was always the first step I had been missing.
I’ve been waiting 34 years to feel this good.
My birthday was last Friday and I was truly reveling in how right I felt in my own skin.
Guess who entered my radar again (and not just for her sheer unicorn talent), but Serena.
She was in the headlines because someone was deliberately disrespectful enough to ask if SHE was intimidated by Maria Sharapova.
For. Her. Looks.
For. Her. Beauty.
The layers of anger are thick and plenty.
That girl in me. The one I just said good-bye to.
Whew. I felt her SCREAM inside of me.
But in true fashion.
Serena handled it like the Black Goddess that she is.
I just wish she didn’t have to.
But since we’re here and it happens….
I thank the STARS for having a woman like Serena on my radar.
I applaud you.
I am proud of you!
I ADORE YOU!