Melanin: More Than an Insta Trend
#BlackGirlMagic was coined by CaShawn Thompson back in 2013 to celebrate the beauty, power and the achievements of black women. Thompson explained in an interview with Los Angeles Times that she used the word “magic because it’s something that people don’t understand” going on further to explain that the “accomplishments [of black women] might seem to come out of thin air, because a lot of times, the only people supporting us are other black women.” Thanks to the internet the movement spread quickly. The advertising power of Instagram and the sudden interest of large brands making a point to acknowledge black women could make it seem as though we are finally being recognised, but is this really the case?
The #BlackGirlMagic movement isn’t the first cultural movement seeking to change perceptions of black beauty and pride. The Black is Beautiful movement of the 60’s also attempted to highlight black beauty and accomplishment and spread through communities in much the same way.“Black is Beautiful” was first reported to be said and promoted by John Sweat Rock a dentist, physician and lawyer during a speech in 1858 in an effort to uplift African Americans. The movement even spread as far as South Africa with activists such as Steve Biko expressing the term through his writing during the black consciousness movement of the 1960’s and 70’s. Even fashion shows such as the ones hosted by The African Jazz Art Society and Studios helped to provide exposure for the “Black is Beautiful” concept whilst informing the community on black beauty. The slogan for their first show was “Black is Beautiful” and focus on afrocentric versions of beauty then propelled a new outlook and beauty standards in the black community.
So, it begs the question, if the first movement was so good why do we need a new one? It would appear that the celebration of black beauty and accomplishment is something that falls in and out of fashion. I interviewed a few ‘melanin page’ holders on Instagram to talk about the part they play in the movement, and whether this wave of empowerment is more sustainable than the last.
@Melaninafricaa says that this is so much more than just another trend:
“In some aspects the whole melanin page movement is a trend. I’ve seen numerous people who were once disrespectful to African culture and only recognised lighter skinned black women, jump on the melanin beauty wave. It’s surprising but many could argue that its part of a growth process. As we become older, we also grow wiser so all in all I’m glad many people’s mindset’s have changed. Of course, there are many people who are genuinely pro black and have a genuine interest in the progression of us as a community for them (myself included)”
And the movement isn’t just limited to social media. As with the Black is Beautiful movement, the affirmation of #BlackGirlMagic has a ripple effect changing our social attitudes towards our culture.
“I have definitely seen this movement being played out in society. The changes it has made to so many black women and girl’s lives is incredible! It’s beautiful to see us out embracing our various skin tones, wearing bright colours that compliment our melanin and proudly rocking our natural hair. Just like many things, you have a few ignorant people who pretend on social media but display different views in reality, however we are elevating as community in all regards and its truly beautiful to watch and be a part of.” – @Melaninafricaa
However there is no consensus on this. @Melaninqueensonly believes that “This movement has been displayed in society, but I think for the most part it’s just social media based. I think social media does play a big part in how you interact in real life, so I hope the people that do interact on my page online act the same way in real life. Social media has helped change the way people look at things.”
Perhaps the key to the longevity of this movement is finding a way to successfully practice this positivity in our everyday lives. Social media can have a positive effect, but we cannot ignore the fact that there is a hierarchy of content on sites such as Instagram, in which posts suggesting what seems like an unattainable level of achievement or beauty are favoured. Whilst the rise of melanin pages promote black excellence and beauty, they can also create inferiority complexes in those of us who do not look like the most popular influencers or aren’t phenomenally talented. It can feel like these pages forget about the average black woman and this is a problem that @Melaninqueensonly is trying to remedy.
“I think it’s important that pages show off black women because we are all beautiful, it doesn’t matter what shade, hair texture or clothes you are wearing.”
“I created this page because I didn’t see many other pages on Instagram that post would normal black girls. Usually they would post the black girls that were half-dressed or had a ton of followers. I didn’t really see many pages like the one I have now, which is why I took it upon myself to create my page.”
This is something that both pages have in common. They are creating the platforms needed to promote “positive representations of black women when the world fails to do so. Young black girls need to see people like them represented in the media achieving amazing things. It undoubtedly makes a difference to their self-esteem and confidence.” (@Melaninafricaa). While melanin pages themselves may be a trend the movement seeks to inspire young women so that the next generation can carry on the legacy of empowerment.
“I see this movement heading towards somewhere great. I can’t say where, but I can’t wait to find out though. For me I don’t think it will ever die out because I don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon.” – @Melaninqueensonly
“For as long as there are black women on this earth, we need these affirmations! Let’s work together to make sure it stays.” – @Melaninafricaa
Written by Miranda Thomas