At long last, sisters are really getting their due. Everybody knows America loves it’s “Jennifers” and I’m cool with that. I don’t begrudge Jennifer Lawrence, Jennifer Anniston, Jennifer Garner or even Jennifer Lopez the wealth and fame that comes along with being in the official class of “America’s Sweethearts.” These lovely ladies all have their value and each of them – through no fault of their own – contributes to the age-old ethnocentric beauty aesthetic that has kept most “sisters” on the outside looking in. Especially when it comes to leveraging one’s beauty for financial gain. This has been the unspoken reality and unwritten rule in America despite the powerful allure that so many sisters have wielded since the 1920’s when Josephine Baker was the highest paid entertainer and most influential pop-culture figure in Europe.
There is no point in denying the obvious reality that being considered beautiful by a broad audience equates to economic gain. And the inside track to those gains have belonged almost exclusively to the “Jennifers” for all of my 4 plus decades. But lately I have been seeing some sisters getting in on the party and I’m really digging it. A lot. And I hope it continues – even if it means that my own “species” of black men gets played to the left a little bit. I can make a serious argument that we kind of had this coming but I’ll save that for another piece. For the moment let’s focus on the sisters and what is going on with them right now and why it’s so good for everybody.
Over the course of the last year I have noticed a serious up-tick in the number of black women in commercials. Particularly hot black women. And even more particularly, hot black women paired up with white men in the “wife” or “girlfriend” role. And this is no small affair for those costly and powerful little 30 second movies that influence our lives so much. Huge ad campaigns for Ford, Infinity, Humira, Blue Apron, Swiffer, Old Navy and even TROJAN have all featured this interracial pairing. And that’s just naming a few.
This means something and we need to pay attention to it. Despite the rancid state of our politics we are witnessing the continuing evolution of our society away from racial stratification. We may have an old-bigot in the White House but old bigots are a dying breed and shrinking in influence. They are just loud and obnoxious while they are dying. In the meantime, black women (who are NOT music superstars) are finally getting out of the shadows and getting their due. It is both predictable and unfortunate that black women are the last of the marginalized to be invited into the party without restrictions. And they have earned it fair and square and in the hardest way possible.
In the end this was all brought on by money and influence. Shonda Rhimes kicked all this off when she got a bazillion people across all demographics transfixed on Scandal and it’s smart and sexy star, Kerry Washington. Olivia Pope’s torrid adulterous love affair with President “Fritz” captured television viewers like no affair ever has and Fritz was far more JFK than Barack Obama. Then Serena Williams, who’s as thoroughly a sister as a sister can be, brought us from the world of fiction into reality when she married the billionaire founder of Reddit Alexis Ohanian, who’s as white as white can be.
Then the next thing you know, Prince Harry – who is literally the living embodiment of white male privilege – reached across the pond, all the way over to California, to find this beautiful sister Meghan Markle to be his wife and join the royal family. I have always hated the very concept of royalty and never follow that bullshit but even I had to cock an eyebrow and confess that this was a big deal. Even the kids got in on the act. When Marvel Studios rebooted Spider-Man into a 15 year old high-school kid, they made the ultimate object of his affection this pretty young sister who also happened to be the daughter of an interracial marriage. Another bazillion people – mostly teenagers – absorbed that imagery without a peep of controversy.
Whatever your politics are you must acknowledge that is a serious flurry of high-level messaging activity for something that used to be strictly taboo. I understand that this isn’t the first time that this has happened but the profile was so much higher this time around. Serena and Meghan are catching this action when they are young and at the top of their public lives. By the time Diana Ross and Janet Jackson married their white billionaires the bloom had all but gone off their roses with most of America concluding – fairly or not – that they were kind of crazy.
We’d had our fill of them and weren’t checking for them anymore. Hip-hop star and up-and-coming actress Eve married a white billionaire years ago and threw us all the “peace” sign and split. But she was never as big as Serena and certainly wasn’t becoming royalty. So all of that flew under the radar. But what we’ve seen in the last year or so isn’t just ON the radar, it IS the radar.
In the end advertisers figured out that it is just good business to put beautiful black women on screen and let white men know that these women are officially “Jennifer” eligible now. If these young billionaire white men with the entire world at their beck-and-call decided that they wanted to share their wealth and build their lives around women that look like this, who in the hell are you, generic-white-guy-new-car-purchaser, NOT to follow suit? Look at what Prince Harry has! Don’t you want to be cool like Prince Harry? Of course you do!
So while the tabloids have continued their inexplicable obsession with Katie Holmes and Jamie Foxx and the status of their relationship, we have witnessed a major shift in the broader culture. And that shift might lead some people to ask what in the hell is so big about Katie Holmes anyway? Nothing against Katie – she’s an attractive woman – but I’ve never understood the fascination. If she was in the same room with Tika Sumpter, I’d ask her to move out of the way if she was blocking my view.
When I first started blogging at the top of 2017, one of my first pieces was a rant about how black women were falling for the okey-doke. I was irritated by the fact that the pervasive images of black women in commercial media were very narrow representations that disadvantaged them in terms of straight-up competition with their white counter-parts. Back then I saw A LOT of very-low-cropped hair and hyper-ethnic imaging that I thought was designed to keep them from directly competing with the “Jennifers.” I was right of course. But that was then and this is now. And now looks FANTASTIC. Keep doing your thing, ladies. I ain’t mad at ya.