Why Girls Love “Beyonce”: Redefining The Rules Of Modern Femininity

Image

“Perfection is so… eh.”

Like every flip wrist wearing, Lisa Frank binder toting girl growing up in the ’90s, I had the Janet album as an 8 year old on repeat. In my eyes, Janet Jackson was one of the most beautiful women I’d ever seen, so self assured and sexy as she’d slink across MTV in her music videos, grabbing men by the neck, having her way with them. Those days have come and gone, but between that time the messages were dulled with even more messages.

Meet the overachievers. Once young girls are selected to be the “smart ones,” they are bred to be high performing, high achieving scholarship winners, with pristine GPAs and even more pristine reputations. Anything that would deter her from that one track Ivy League and corner office plan was a distraction, and was therefore dangerous to the blueprint set before them.

When Beyonce dropped her latest album last week, out of nowhere, Twitter went into a frenzy, and it seemed like for women, Christmas came early. And like Janet, the album and all of its visuals have definitely ignited a spark like a moth to a flame for the women listening. You can see it in all of the status updates and every Instagram selfie with the #Beyonce hashtag.

On her terms, the perfect pop star with the perfect life and the perfect body showed us one thing: she’s not perfect. From the way it was dropped, Beyonce has shunned her pop Queen crown but retaining it, shaking it off and redefining it so that the new image fits the woman she’s become. The cool lesson in it all? She’s still the Queen B. Like only Michael Jackson has done in the past, Beyonce was able to command the attention of the world and drop the mic. Just because she could.

Beyonce’s latest is already my favorite of her catalog. Maybe it’s because she’s a peer, and I’ve felt that need to buck the stereotypes about female identity at this stage in my life. Maybe it’s because at this point in my career, I’m able to assert myself and make “power moves” in a way I couldn’t before. I’m blessed (and worked hard for) the opportunity to be innovative and lead, negotiate and nurture talent. And maybe because I’ve become in tune with my power through running that’s made me love and notice my body more than I ever have in the past. It may have to do with the confidence I feel as a girl from New York City to not feel the need to cover up when I’m walking through the streets because of unwanted attention of men who think they know everything they need to about me when I pass by in skinny jeans. And maybe it’s because I’ve been reading a lot of “50 Shades of Grey” these days.

I applaud Beyonce for the vulnerability that she’s allowed herself at this stage in her career. In a year when images of women objectifying themselves for a quick 15 minutes of fame on a reality show or on a “Wrecking Ball” seemed like the only way for relevancy, Bey owned both her art and her sexuality.

The reason I love the new “Beyonce” record, is that she let herself be vulnerable. And in that way, she carves a niche for the listener to vulnerable as well.

When she presses play, she can let go of the pressure to be perfect, close her eyes and picture the dreams, fantasies  and memories of her own story. She can do her own little bounce in the mirror as she gets ready for her day, wink at herself and say, “I woke up like dis.” She can chop off her hair, rock it in a sleek bob, or let it flow free on her shoulders. It’s all beautiful and feminine simply because the woman herself is the constant. She can be reminded that women can be powerful sexual beings who do not need to aspire to marriage when she needs a wake up call. She can envision herself making love to her man in every possible way, and take control when the mood and the need hits her.

It’s hard not to romanticize the album so soon, but I’m just a woman writing what I feel. Vulnerable isn’t scary anymore.

Thanks, B.

We teach girls to shrink themselves
To make themselves smaller
We say to girls
“You can have ambition
But not too much
You should aim to be successful
But not too successful
Otherwise you will threaten the man”
Because I am female
I am expected to aspire to marriage
I am expected to make my life choices
Always keeping in mind that
Marriage is the most important
Now marriage can be a source of
Joy and love and mutual support
But why do we teach to aspire to marriage
And we don’t teach boys the same?
We raise girls to each other as competitors
Not for jobs or for accomplishments
Which I think can be a good thing
But for the attention of men
We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings
In the way that boys are
Feminist: the person who believes in the social
Political, and economic equality of the sexes

-Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “We Should All Be Feminists”

Why We’ll Keep Running

2005_marathon

I have this dream when I run. As I close in on the final miles, and my body gets tired, a small child seems to pop in my mind.  As I race by, I see a beaming little face yelling, “Go Mommy!” and smiling happily, perched on their dad’s shoulders. It’s a visual I picked up at the Disney Princess Half marathon this year, as I watched little ones hold up signs to cheer on their moms.  Running is more mental than physical, and as runners we all call on images to get us to the end, anything from a medal to a post-race beer. I do pray that my vision will one day be my future.

When you cross the finish line, you’re so inside your mind. You can’t believe that your body could do something so incredible, and that your mind willed you to do it. The pride, the accomplishment, and those sea of loved ones all come together in a moment that you never forget, whether it’s your first run or you’re a veteran.

Over the years, I’ve come to love running with the same passion that I love music and writing. And although I’ve used music and my words to express myself my entire life, running has taught me more about myself, as a woman, than I ever knew. As someone who has been sidelined by worry more times than a little, it has offered me clarity. For a half hour, or for 13 miles, it quiets my mind and gives me peace. I look forward to the easy miles, power through the harder ones, and feel incredibly powerful and even sexy when I come to a stop.

I can only imagine the horror experienced today in Boston. And I’m angry that a sport that’s built on camaraderie, the outlet where we can see the best in ourselves, has lost its innocence to something so heinous. I don’t want to worry every time I cross the finish line that an explosion will follow the cheers. I don’t want to think the athletes could lose the very limbs that helped them do something so extraordinary.

I don’t want to fear for that smiling child’s safety.

As reports fill the news, my initial reaction is to put running in the “unsafe” bin. But that would be the opposite of what running has taught me, and I won’t let that happen. All of my love, all of my prayers, and all of my miles are for those affected by the bombing at the Boston Marathon. It feels like there’s been a senseless attack on our special community.

I’ve learned that all the heart and guts we’ve gotten with every run beats louder and stronger than fear.

My Uncles. In Memory of Tio Jr.

Image

I grew up with some amazing uncles. We watched wrestling, baseball games, and ate junk food when the women of the family said no more. I grew up in a space where race never mattered.  It was all about friendship, and shared interests. I’m so proud to have grown up with these bonds, and I’m happy when I see them take fruition in my own life.  We lost my oldest uncle, Carmelo, best known as Tio Jr. this morning. My Uncle Jeff wrote a beautiful piece today in his memory.

Love you all, and will always love you, Tio.

When I moved from Virginia to New York as a pre-teen, I was the first black and a Baptist in the neighborhood several months later a family moved across the street from me. There were 4 boys in that family. The were of Puerto Rican decent and they were Catholic. They were the first Puerto Rican family in the neighborhood. As a southern country boy I had never heard of that race . But that didn’t matter to me, I had some new friends to hang out with.

Their names were Carmelo (Jr), John, Joey,and Jorge. All four of them including their mother and farther treated me as if I was a member of the family.
I may have been born an only child, but I consider myself very lucky to find 4 brothers who considered me their brother in every way. I can proudly and honestly say growing up with those guys help broaden, and shape some of my views and taste in many aspects of the choices I have made in my life.
Well this past Sunday my oldest brother Jr. passed away. I was saddened to hear this news. I had not seen Jr. for many years. But as in any family you don’t have to see them everyday because the loved for that family member will always be strong.
My thoughts and prayers go out for his immediately family, Wife Evelyn,Daughter Debbie, and son David. And to the entire Gomez family.Jr. you will always be in my heart. RIP my Brother !!!From left to right Joey,Jorge,John and Carmelo aka: Jr., June, Jay !!

Dirty Dancing Turns 25: The VHS That Shaped My Life

Dedicated to the Baby’s and the Ana Steele’s of the world…

I love a good story. I love them so much that I had to pull myself away from the 50 Shades Of Grey trilogy long enough to write this. 25 years ago today, Dirty Dancing was released. I was just a kid when it was a hit in theaters, but once I got my hands on the VHS, I fell hard. The dancing and music drew me in, and when I became a teen, the story was totally my so called life. Pun intended. What’s up, Claire Danes.

Baby was the good girl’s shero. We didn’t have many of those, but she wore cardigans and long dresses. She had big dreams and wanted to change the world. This time around, the bookworm meets bad boy, and for once bad boy loves bookworm.

I remember that one exciting moment in high school that could have turned disastrous when my all-girls senior class attempted to recreate the final dance scene. We even felt brave enough to have a girl jump off the stage for the dramatic lift. Thankfully the Dean stopped us, but it’s a night we’ll always remember.

25 years since my first introduction, Dirty Dancing is still my favorite movie of all time. I still have “I carried a watermelon” moments, when I can’t say in words how I feel, but I can find the perfect ones in a song. In one of those moments, I collaborated with my buddy December on my first official mixtape, LOVE. We used Dirty Dancing as our arc, to tell the story of a girl in love. Turns out it plays like a modern day romance, and once I curated the tracks, it became clear that it’s a reflection of how I love. It’s one of my favorite pieces I’ve ever done. Listening to it almost two years later, I can feel the purity, hope, fearlessness, and joy, and it makes me smile knowing that it’s a direct reflection of my heart.

Love like the movies.

Chester French Debuts Songs About “Black Girls”

“This ain’t no fetish, I’m objectifying no one… The whole world’s turning brown… I’ve got a thing for black girls.” As the lyrics from Chester French’s new song indicates, the face of America is indeed changing.

Here’s finally one for the black girls. The rock pop duo delivers an ode to brown beauties with the new guitar blaring anthem, “Black Girls.” Some may find it patronizing, but in an age where black women seem to always finish last, and numerous studies try to dissect skin color, hair textures, and dating woes, the song is refreshing. Hopefully it will cause a domino effect in rap lyrics as well, where positive images of women are as scant as the attire of a video vixen.

Like Chester French notes in song, British bands have been hip to black girls for decades. No ode puts it better than the Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar.” A resurgence would be a welcome change, so all women can feel the love.

Positive lyrics aside, the video for “Black Girls” is all raunch. Try to peel your eyes from the girl on girl interracial loving in this NSFW clip.

Cinderella Leaps Of Faith

I feel like I can do anything now…

In September, I turned to my blog to express my overwhelming excitement and panic about taking one of my biggest career leaps. Now, almost five months to the day, everything has changed.

When I got the news that I would become the newest editor at Styleblazer.com, I did three things. First, I said yes. Then, I called my parents. Then, I remembered that the Knicks were playing, and that final thought inspires me to glide my fingers across my keyboard tonight…

Jeremy Lin’s promo song on MSG is Eminem’s “Cinderella Man.” The song sums up his journey to becoming a Knicks  phenomenon like no other. A Harvard grad with an Economics degree,  almost on his way out of the NBA forever, was  given one more chance. And within two weeks, he went from sleeping on his brother’s couch (shout outs to NYU), to becoming the biggest player the Knicks have seen in ages, playing among his idols and giving them a run for their money on the basketball court. And that’s exactly the kind of journey that we can all relate to, but it’s one that hits me to my core.

For me, all signs pointed to medical school. As a full scholarship NYU grad, giving up the stability and prestige of practicing medicine for an uncertain journalism career seemed insane. Especially for someone who doesn’t do well in uncertainty. But for every pang of anxiety I felt after making that decision, there was another pang of excitement, that “knowingness,” or God-given intuition, that tells us we’re meant for something else. And that’s something I’ve never been able to ignore.

When I graduated from NYU, I was almost immediately thrust into layoffs. A stop and go journalism path left me exhausted, discouraged, doubtful of my talents, and barely making ends meet. But I just kept trying. Once I found that stability, in a media job where I barely wrote, I felt that excitement vs. anxiety fight in my core again, and I knew I had to make a change. But this time, God shook those tectonic plates, and I was forced to fight or fly. And I fought and flew.

Five months after leaving stability, I have helped to shape TanningofAmerica.com, a site with a message that’s so important to me. I helped a Love & Hip Hop star find the beauty in herself, talked about fourth grade crushes with R&B singers, and gushed to Johnny Gill. And now, I’m starting the chapter I’ve been anticipating since I asked my mom for a Talkboy, and started recording my own talk show at nine years old. Or when I asked my Nana to teach me words in the dictionary so I could write stories when I was three. The path was there all along, and I am so thankful that I have the opportunity to keep dreaming those big dreams. Finally, I can show them what I can do.

To everyone who has e-mailed me, and told me about their dreams, please, pursue them. Let me be the proof that it can be done. Chart your own journey, and live out loud. You aren’t too old, or too young, or not enough of anything. You are enough right now. It’s hard, you will get knocked around, but you can win. Take your Cinderella leap of faith.

Lots of love to everyone who has been there for me throughout this process. I love each and every one of you. There’s no me without you.

xo,j

The J List: J By Design

She dreamed of paradise, every time she closed her eyes…

I’ve constantly got my ear tuned to music. Here’s a collection of the songs that have my ear right now.



The J List: J By Design

http://open.spotify.com/user/121546021/playlist/4WyalxQi4xJlM7C7zepe73

apolloKIDZ Mixtape: How Merlot Can You Go, Vol. 2
http://apollokidz.com/featured/mixtape-%E2%80%93-how-merlot-can-you-go-vol-2/