ENTERTAINMENT/POLITICS - Get in line, black women are apparently kewl in the United States of America. And around the world too, as I will demonstrate.
First there is Princess Tiana, the first black princess in a Disney film, which debuts in "The Princess and the Frog" on November 25th and in wider release on December 11th just in time for the Christmas rush.
The film is already getting lots of attention from children and parents, even though Tiana spends most of the film in frog shape (she kisses the Frog Prince and instead of transforming him back into a human, she tranforms into a frog).
Which begs the question, when will we get our first real Princess? Technically Tiana isn't a real princess. But then again neither was Belle, Cinderella, Mulan or Pocahontas. I suppose Pocahontas was at least a chieftain's daughter... And Belle and Cinderella only marry princes, starting off poor. Whatever, its really a moot issue.
Secondly there is Mattel's new "So In Style" line of black Barbie dolls which have various skin colour tints allowing little girls and collectors to choose between a dark chocolate to a light mocha. (The biggest complaint however is that the hair is too easy to come through.)
The hair issue is nothing new. That complaint has been around for decades.
Mattel first made a black Barbie in 1967. They also made black and Hispanic versions in the 1980s, a Kenyan Barbie in 1994, and so on. In 1992 they made a Teen Talk Barbie which would talk and say "Math class is tough." which sparked outrage.
According to designer Stacey McBride-Irby: "As far as the hair, I wanted to create dolls little girls would play with. They couldn't have as much fun playing with an Afro." A wardrobe of hair extensions might have been useful and more authentic.
There is a lot of politics around African hair and accepting the way it is. (You will note nobody is complaining that Princess Tiana's hair is mostly straight and only a wee bit curly.)
Thirdly there's what I'd call the "Michelle Obama" effect... black women, young and old, jockeying for position on how to best help humanity and other women. For example singer Rihanna says she wants to be a role model:
"I’ve always been a role model for young women so it’s only natural that I continue to set the right example and encourage them and give them insight," says Rihanna. "It doesn’t have to be a specific topic, but whatever it is I want to help young women."
Overseas there is also Senegalese-French novelist Marie NDiaye, who recently became the first black female to win the Prix Goncourt for her best-selling work Trois Femmes Puissantes (Three Powerful Women). She has been openly vocal and critical of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, sparking rumours she might run for the French presidency. MPs loyal to Sarkozy have been trying to muzzle her ever since.
And in Oklahoma Senator Connie Johnson and members of the Legislative Black Caucus are taking the Oklahoma Department of Transportation to federal court over discriminatory practices against both women and minorities.
The list goes on and on. It is as if collectively black women around the world suddenly all stood up and said "Yes, We Can." Maybe they were taking action before too, but the mass media just wasn't paying attention. Regardless, black women are now in vogue.
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