I tried to ignore this woman for as long as possible. I really did. The first time I heard the term “butt selfie” and later, “Queen of the Butt Selfie,” I knew nothing but frustration and eyerolls would come from me learning more about either of those things. So I drew my mind far, far away from this human and her butt selfies for as long as I’ve been able.
There is, of course, always a last straw. When I heard that Instagram celebrity Jen Selter was featured in an issue of Vanity Fair and being lauded as the first Instagram celebrity to score such a gig, I knew that the camel’s back had not only been broken, but completely demolished. Now, I honestly can’t say I’m too surprised by all this. It is, after all, Vanity Fair. Their main concern and focus is stated right there in the title. But the fact that this Jen Selter character is getting some sort of stamp of approval as Queen of the Asses is unacceptable and I’m here to set things straight.
Is my issue with all this obvious yet? Let’s start with a hint. In “Vanity Fair’s Big Butt Story Rejects People Of Color,” Carimah Townes writes:
The article’s incorporation of hashtags — including “belfies” (butt selfies) — perpetuates the idea that curves are new, trendy, covetable accessories, thereby dismissing women of color whose curves existed long before it was fashionable to have them, and whose bodies have been critiqued throughout history.So to begin, body parts are not trends. Period. To act as if this woman has kicked off a “butt trend” is not only inane, but also beyond incorrect.
Inane because it’s not really a trend if its always been around, and incorrect because Jen Selter is not the first woman to be famous for having a great butt. That high honor lies with one, Jennifer Lopez. (Who really, if we’re being honest, benefited greatly from being able to cop some of Selena’s steez.) Now, this is not at all to suggest that ample bottoms were not appreciated before JLo burst on to the scene–but The Ass being admired on a major, popular scale? Much of that was her. It was kicked off, ironically, with a photo in Vanity Fair, who seems to have completely forgotten anything they published before the year 2000.
Let’s spell this out:
JENNIFER LOPEZ KICKED OFF THE POPULARIZATION AND ACCEPTANCE OF BIG ASSES IN THE MAINSTREAM–A TRAIT THAT HAS BEEN PRESENT AND CELEBRATED IN BLACK AND LATINO COMMUNITIES IN AMERICA SINCE BASICALLY FOREVER.
Erica Kennedy explained this beautifully in a 2010 article titled: “How J. Lo’s Ass Changed the World.” She wrote:
Black and Latino people always appreciated a healthy badonk but before J. Lo, white folks weren’t trying to get ass implants. Before J. Lo, mainstream media was not giving props to the junk in anyone’s trunk. Before J. Lo, there were not Eye Candy chicks making a living off their (faux) asses. Before J. Lo companies were not selling butt pads in one-stop booty shops.This, my friends, is what truth looks like. This is the literary embodiment of YAAASSS.
We can get even deeper with this if you’d like. Because all you have to do is look at songs like Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back,” Destiny Child’s “Bootylicious” (which was actually a term originally coined by Snoop Dogg) and literally half the rap songs from the 90s and 2000s (I could go back even further than that but I don’t want to hurt anybody) to prove that praise and appreciation of a sizable derrière has been around for quite awhile. Damn, just take a casual flip through literally every single issue of King Magazine. We’ve BEEN about the booty, ok?
And because I’m sure the simple among you are already thinking this: NO, I’M NOT SAYING THAT ALL BLACK WOMEN HAVE BIG BUTTS OR THAT WHITE WOMEN DON’T.
What I’m saying is, that this trait has been recognized and celebrated in black and Latino communities for YEARS so please don’t act like white people have always been down with the badonk. Remember in Legally Blonde when Ali Larter went to prison because she didn’t want women to find out that she liposuctioned fat out of her ass? Y’all JUST got on board so don’t even try to play me.
The real issue here is that as soon as a beauty trend or trait becomes popular in the mainstream, women of color are instantly eliminated from the equation–be it as the originators or idols. Jesse Williams (boo 4everz) perfectly articulated this on his Tumblr:
“The bodies of women of color are in a precarious situation: they are either at odds with the standard of beauty or become that standard without being credited.”
Additionally, Jen Selter proves that white women are able to monetize their assets in ways that the other women cannot. Could you argue that plenty of black and brown women have been able to profit off their figures? Of course. But those women ain’t ending up in major fashion magazines or with their own TV shows (ahem, Kim) because of it.
I have to say, I don’t really care about Jen Selter. She is a blip. What I’m sick of is black beauty only being acceptable when white people start liking it–the mainstream only becoming comfortable with beauty in color when it’s on a white body. We see this over and over with certain traits and aesthetics:
–Full lips: Remember when women started breaking down the doors of dermatology offices across America to get lip injections so they could emulate Angelina Jolie–ya know, the first beautiful woman on earth with thick lips?
–Nail art: Which used to be considered “hood” or “ghetto” and now we have Lauren Conrad giving nail art tutorials on her pastel, country club explosion of a lifestyle blog.
–Hair extensions: Newsflash: At this point, 97% of white women on the red carpet are wearing them too, boo.
–Cornrows: Which we now know to be a brand new trend created by Kylie/Karlie/whatever Jenner.
And these are just things that I’M aware as a black woman. I don’t doubt that the list is much longer.
All this is is some Christoper Columbus shit: White people thinking that simply because they just discovered something, it must be new. Which in and of itself wouldn’t be all the way terrible if they didn’t insist on completely erasing women of color from depictions of beauty. So as long as they continue to try to lighten up history, I will continue to remind you of the truth. Don’t you forget it.