I don’t watch a lot of cable television. Netflix? Absolutely. But cable TV? No. Therefore, I have never watched Love & Hip Hop, so I am unfamiliar with most of the cast(s) and have no idea which season they’re on or how long the show has run. Shows like that don’t typically draw me in, so even if I had cable, I probably wouldn’t watch, but in the last four days I’ve been fascinated by a particular exchange that occurred recently on Love & Hip Hop Miami.
Behold, Amara la Negra (make sure you roll the R).
I know nothing about her other than that she identifies herself as Afro-Latina, she is a singer, and she seems to openly embrace how she looks from the soft, voluminous afro on top of her head, down to the dark skin that covers every inch of her body from crown to heel. In the few, short clips I have seen of her on this most recent season of L&HH, it’s very clear to viewers that she is proud of who she is and is unwilling to alter herself to fit the music industry – an industry that tends to favor fair skin and straight hair over more ethnic looks of which Amara has in droves.
It is here that I want to point out that I am not naïve. I recognize that a show like L&HHM is scripted, calculated, and formulated. The people we see on screen are chosen to play a part. Their footage is edited so as to create a narrative. It is for this reason that I do not watch shows like L&HHM. But scripted or not, I appreciate any narrative where a dark-skinned woman gets to stand her ground and love who she is, and that is exactly what we got with Amara’s first encounter with a producer who has dubbed himself “Young Hollywood.”
A simple search of YouTube or Instagram will show you the scene I am referring to, but the SparkNotes version is: Amara walks in to meet with the producer, he comments that she is Afro-Latina and asks her to elaborate. Amara explains that she is Latina but also has African ancestry (a feat that is not difficult to accomplish, courtesy of the slave trade) and she then expresses her desire to influence the world from this unique perspective. The producer claims he needs her to look a certain way. Amara then asks him to elaborate on what this means, and in a very poignant, telling line, Young Hollywood responds, “I need you to look a little more Beyoncé, and a little less Macy Gray.” At one point, he even told her that she needed to look more elegant. Amara’s response is shock, and from the footage I have seen, she states, “You must make goooood music,” seemingly brushing off the ignorant approach he has taken with her.
I know what you might be thinking. You think I am going to now dive deeper into the implications of colorism as displayed by this young, fair-skinned producer who identifies himself as Dominican. I do not blame you for that assumption; it is what most people have chosen to focus on. And that focus is not unwarranted; if you identify as black, Afro-Latina, or you just have dark skin, the exchange would rub you the wrong way. The smugness of Young Hollywood’s Black Power fist gesture is troubling. He has issued no apologies that I have seen and did not seem to feel any remorse in the moment as he insulted Amara (…on a scripted reality show). All of that sucks, but I wish it was not the main nugget the masses were carrying away.
Instead, turn your focus back to Amara. Undoubtedly, this was not the first encounter of its kind for her, and it will not be the last. Our world is far from done inflicting and healing from the wounds of racism and colorism. However, if you are a dark-skinned person who has had to face such treatment, the message that I want to point out to you is that just because adversity bangs on your door or taps on your windows, it does NOT mean you have to let it in to ransack your home. If the metaphor is not clear, please allow me to spell it out this way: People will always have opinions, misconceptions, and derogatory things to say, but those do not have to take you from where you stand. Amara was beautiful before this encounter, and she remains beautiful after it. You are who you are regardless of what any heckler, naysayer, or bigot does or says to you. In fact, if you do not let the harsh words or ignorant actions dull your shine, that is better than any tell-off or ass-kicking you can dish up. Words are very powerful, but do recognize the trajectory of the power of such words. Young Hollywood’s words reflect more on what his mind is filled with than on any of us, and I think we should let that be that. Let him walk around as an ignorant, poorly-spoken man. Meanwhile, you stay grounded in not being that way. When you bow to adversity, your adversaries win. Keep your head held high, always, not because you hate or want to spite “them,” – do it because YOU love YOU. My only hope is that Amara and others like her will do the same.