I spent the first 16 years of my life kind of under the radar when it came to my body. I didn’t have curves or a fuller chest like some Black women develop at a young age. And then it happened. Almost overnight. My small waist became accentuated, with my backside growing exponentially and what sometimes seemed like daily. In the blink of an eye, I went from an innocent 17-year-old to hypersexualized stereotype, perceived as a video vixen girl from music videos — oiled up, thick thighed, curvy, and small waisted. I’m 29 now, and not much has changed. Regardless of what I’m wearing, my curves always lead the way. I constantly get whistled at or catcalled inappropriately: “Damn shawty, how you fit all that?,” “I U-turned so I could get another glance,” or my favorite, “Well damn, I guess you can’t take a compliment then.” Fortunately, nothing violent has ever occurred from such encounters, but this is too often how it feels when you’re a curvy Black woman.
I didn’t pay for my curves. I didn’t do hundreds of squats a day. And I definitely didn’t eat a specific diet to get such curves. I was simply born with them, and it can be frustrating that my natural curves are often objectified. When I get dressed in the morning, I’m not only dressing for style but for appropriateness. Not work appropriate, but generally appropriate for the places I’ll be that day, to avoid conflicts or comments that devalue and dismiss me as an object. Occasionally, I’ll even avoid certain places where I know this unwanted attention will occur.
When I get dressed in the morning, I’m not only dressing for style, but for appropriateness. Not work appropriate, but generally appropriate for the places I’ll be that day, to avoid conflicts or comments that devalue and dismiss me as an object.
I enjoy wearing crop tops, but while out, I tend to tie a sweater around my waist to hide my rear end. In the winter, I’ll wear loads of layers to minimize the appearance of my curves. I love my body and I’m comfortable in my own skin, but being on the receiving end of these remarks daily is insulting and objectifying and can be harmful to Black women’s self-esteem, often leading to body-image issues. Some Black women wear oversize clothing to cover up. Others find themselves working tirelessly to achieve unrealistic ideals to be accepted. They work out to have six-packs or shell out thousands to reduce or produce curves and bigger bottoms. The pressure placed on Black women to have the shape of a “Black woman” can be exhausting, especially since the media tells us our bodies aren’t desired or celebrated unless our features are on white bodies.
I’m not sure if this intense, unwanted scrutiny will ever go away, but I’d really like to see a world where Black women ignore society’s standard for beauty and all the catcalling and live our natural curvy truths. I want Black women to understand that being a Black woman is great and deserves celebration, and I want society to grant us the lane to do that. To that end, I’ve gathered 11 stories from other Black women who share this push-and-pull feeling with their natural curves. Their experiences are here to inspire you to silence the noise and the stereotypes and embrace the body and curves you were born with.