Hollywood's New Sodom & Gomorrah personaBy Shaheerah Farrakhan | Last updated: Sep 7, 2011 - 9:46:46 PM
While some may look at Beyonce, Rihanna, and Nicki Minaj, as the epitome of stardom, Lena Horne, Dorothy Dandridge, Billie Holiday and the like of these women represented much more of the epitome of Black style, class and grace.
As much as we would like to believe this is not true, celebrities help perpetuate trends and standards of what beauty is. In today's world mini-skirts, barely there tank tops, and sky high heels are all a part of the stylish trends. Nicki Minaj inspired an entire movement with her stage style, not to mention Rihanna prompting the fire engine red heads among Black women.
Unfortunately, entertainers that choose to speak consciously or dress modestly seem to fall by the wayside to create more space for the enticing and risqué. Jill Scott, India Arie, and Jasmine Sullivan will never attain the supernova stardom that their body baring counterparts do. They may have success and a great following but in today's world their conscious, uplifting, soulful music is overshadowed by club beats, dance anthems and records that just simply “let you escape.”
An overly sexed population has become the norm instead of the exception and people who wish to maintain a certain mystery or morality are deemed prudish or behind the times. But what was so wrong with the vintage era? Men and women were seemingly more knowledgeable and distinguished. There was a stance of responsibility taken by many stars in the limelight and a sense of pride and integrity that seems lost on today's generation.
For example the aforementioned trio of women from that era could be described as “bombshell beauties.” These women had an unquestionable package: beauty, grace, style, intelligence and they were not afraid to show it on and off the stage! They knew the times they lived in, and accepted the roles they were given but still paved the way for the stars of today with a level of class and dignity.
Rarely did you find these women in revealing clothing or suggestive positions … they left that style for the pin ups, though they were considered alluring but just not vixens. They had a delicate demure sensibility and a regal bearing that is very unlike the women we see on the big screen or on a lavish stage now.
We find our beautiful Black women not only accepting typecast roles on the silver screen, videos and music, which is supposed to be an art of self expression, but they pride themselves on the images they portray. Song titles like Rihanna's “S&M,” erotic videos of a similar nature, and subject matter that should be rated mature for all audiences, are the primary strategies to not only boost sales, but to also knowingly appeal to the lower nature of their audience, i.e., sex sells.
The pin-up vixens of the 50s are tame in comparison to the Superstars of today. The costumes worn currently leave nothing to the imagination. There used to be a time where costumes were an extension of the performance given theatricality to live shows, but now these women are scantily clad, and there isn't even a slight sense of embarrassment. Muslim countries have had to ask celebrities to cover up so as not to corrupt the minds or their youth or offend the viewers.
Dancing back then was different as well. There was swing and tap and even moving forward to the 70s and 80s where you saw more jazz influence. There were trained choreographers and there was respect for the art of dancing. It was more than gyration, booty popping, or dropping it low like you are on a stripper pole. But unfortunately this is what sells.
So is there really a place in the entertainment industry for women and men that seek to portray a higher level of thinking and entertainment?
When Dorothy Dandridge and Lena Horne first appeared on screen it was a pivotal moment for all Blacks. Oftentimes Lena didn't actually have a character to play, she just stood there and sang and as for Dorothy Dandridge, she overcame so much to even be able to grace the screen as often as she did with speaking parts and as a woman with a higher sense of class and modesty than that which would come in later years of Black actresses constantly playing the easy tart, crass prostitute, or destitute junkie.
If Black people have fought so hard to escape the heathen/buffoonish “steppin fetchit” stereotype, why are we trying so hard to fit it now? It took a long time for a Black woman to be considered more than a plaything and an even longer time for a woman to be taken seriously, so why in 2011 have we allowed the only means of “motivation” to become our bodies and what we can do with them?
A nation can rise no higher than its woman, and constantly you hear these women complaining of the lack of men in this world. Maybe it's time we look at ourselves and realize that these boys can't possibly be men if the girls refuse to grow into women and hold everyone to a higher standard. The women in the spotlight have the ability to jumpstart that movement. But it will never happen as long as these women exist for affection and attention, instead of living for righteousness and respect.
(Shaheerah Farrakhan is a Final Call intern.)