Throwback with a Twist – Amber Rose: the Exploitation of Exoticism

I wrote this two years ago for another blog and I thought I’d share it here with a few twists.  It raises some questions that are still relevant.

Adapted from a November 1, 2009 post by “Doctor” Lane

This evening I was looking for videos and pictures concerning Black women’s sexuality, and was initially assaulted by a series of images and commentary where Black women were being discussed, but where we weren’t in the conversation.  In fact, our voices were no where to be found except where they were doing the police work of keeping Black women “in line.”  Very few voices other than those concerned with propriety seemed to exist, and I have problem with that.

I was on this search because I’m preparing a short lecture on the topic of Black women and our racist and sexist depiction.  After typing the first few names of pop cultural figures that came to mind, I came across photos of Amber Rose.  For the purposes of this post, I decided against reproducing  one of the many images of her in the nude or nearly nude in mostly men’s magazines, opting instead for the above photo where she dons more masculine attire.

For the October 2009 issue of Elle magazine Kanye West produced a photo with: Amber Rose.  I wasn’t impressed.  There are a couple back-shots reminiscent of King Magazine; territory I didn’t know Elle dabbled in, but which take on a particular (racist) character in the context of a predominately white, female readership of Elle. So what are the implications behind Elle producing these dramatically sexualized images of a Black woman?  The implications seem quite clear in the reader comments made on article that Elle writes about her.

Umm excuse does anybody know exactly what Ms. Rose if famous for other than her body and ability to wear anything that will draw stares or gasps from the world???? Pls tell me that she’s actually doing something worth talking about other than herself and advancing off of Kanye’s back. No one knew her or put her on a run-way or magazine to this extreme before she got with Kanye.. Can you say user!!! He is so lost, blind and must I dare say dumb to not see it for himself, lord get that man therapy for his mom has to be shaking her head.. I wish him all the best, but Ms. Rose your style is lets say differnent but no different from a high priced street walker with over exposure. America’s standards have lowered and ELLE I would’ve expected better!!” Posted by: t.p. 10/2/2009

although I did not care to notice at first, Amber has a really nice physique. Nice round, shapely butt cheeks, sensational handful (mouth full) of breast, and a style all her own. She is one lovely brownin’.” Posted by: Avtomat Kalas 10/21/2009

Even without knowing the race/ethnicity of the authors of the post, they reproduce the underlying racist/sexist assumptions concerning Black women’s sexuality, particularly its uncontrollable nature and its inappropriate uses.  The co-option of Black women’s bodies is systemic.

She’s a beautiful woman.  She’s mixed.  She dated Kanye West.  Why is there any doubt that she would be famous?   And would Kanye’s standards be higher if Rose hadn’t been out about previously dating women?  There’s something contradictory and problematic about the way that women can be used by men to elevate their status (Kanye) and then be damned for getting paid for their services.  Don’t blame the “street walkers”… instead think about the individuals and structures which make their services un/acceptable, possible, and necessary for their survival (Elle, Kanye West, racism, sexism, etc.).

INK: Always in Search for Blacktresses

February 21, 2011

Since starting the new INK (In the Name of Kwanza) Series, I’ve been fascinated with where Blacktresses and Blacktors land.  Well, in watching my Hulu videos this week, I found Halle Berry.


Halle was on The Simpsons this week. Check it out here as the Simpson family take a trip to L.A. for the Oscars… which I’m sure I’ll have plenty to say about as I think of it as the prime example of how we, the popular masses, have little to do with the selection of films deemed the most legitimate by “the Academy.”  But, I digress, Halle shows up around the end which I’ve clipped for you below.

A Very Brief Album Review: Rumor’s Out… Adele’s Album is Hot

Don’t take my word for it… I can’t tell you if you’ll like it, just that me and everyone else thinks its hot.

Grade: A

Thoughts after first listen:

“This girl can sang!”


Adele has a set of antique vocal cords. The kind that you find by luck in a thrift store. The kind that’s passed down in your family for generations. It’s clear that Adele keeps master musicians and producers around her, nothing less could bring out the rich texture of her voice.

Three Songs on Repeat

  • Rolling in the deep — “There’s a fire, burning in my heart.” An impressive way for a 21 year old to open an album titled “21,” with an old and seasoned bluesy song like this. I love it.
  • Rumor has it — Great song with a fun and catchy hook.  Definitely on the top of my iTunes most played this month.
  • Set Fire to the Rain — The first thing that caught me about this song was the way that Adele’s vocals shine on this track.  I believe it’s the most demonstrable of her talent.

Why the A?

There’s something about good music that touches you on the inside. You need not press skip, because you already know you’re going to be in the mood for the next song.

The Verdict

I kept it brief. There’s not much to say other than you’ll like this if you’re an R&B/Good music connoisseur. This is a wonderful addition to anyone’s music collection. Timeless. One you’ll listen to 20 years from now and still enjoy. Go get that… yesterday.

INK: Momma, Rent is Due & He Left Me: Or Black Urban Theatre… Briefly

This is part two of the INK (In the Name of Kwanza) series.  So let’s get into it…

“Chitlin’ Circuit” by Everett Spruill

Black actors (Blacktors) and Black actresses (Blacktresses) have consistently been an under represented group in Hollywood and on the Silver Screen (television). Yet, while their plight may be similar to other people of color in Hollywood (Latinos playing thugs, Asians playing karate masters, “Middle Eastern” people playing terrorists…), what Blacktors and Blacktress’ end up doing for work outside of Hollywood is very fascinating and telling of ethnic-niche entertainment markets.

Since gaining mass popularity in the late 19th century, the ‘Theatre’ in America has been heavily segregated, particularly because of its inception in an already racialized cultural terrain and because of the perpetuation of racial segregation by those who owned theaters who would not let Black performers in their theaters, directors of plays who would not cast black members of casts, and writers who wrote racially insensitive material. This is not unlike Hollywood. But by the 1920s some of the only work a Black actor could get were minstrel shows performed primarily for white audiences. Others who did not or would not perform in minstrel shows sought self-definition, better yet, they carved out their own lanes. That lane was known as the “Chitlin’ Circuit” where Black written, produced, and directed stage plays could be seen and the venues were often Black owned, like the Howard Theater in Washington, D.C. which was one of the stops along this string of venues stretching from Jacksonville, FL to New York City’s Apollo Theater.

Black Urban Theatre: The Bougie way of Saying “Chitlin’ Circuit”

In 2004, Ebony featured an article about Tyler Perry asking: how did Tyler Perry go from homelessness to a $5 million dollar mansion?  In the article, Perry says speaks to the criticism his work has received from “Blacks in traditional theater” and those Black people who feel his work “set back Blacks 500 years through minstrelsy.”  Apparently, playwright August Wilson told him to “keep on doing what you’re doing… I don’t think it’s bad at all.”  The article is of note because it gave some credibility to the use of the term “Black Urban Theater.”  Tyler Perry is the most successful of a handful of big players in the Black Urban Theatre circuit.   Emmbre Perry and Dan Garcia made one of their “hit” stage plays into a movie — God Send Me a Man (2009) and it starred Robin Givens.  Well not really.  They put her on the cover of the movie box, but her role is rather tangential.

The current environment for Black actors is simply this: if you’re looking for them, they’re likely in a Tyler Perry movie (or soon will be) or an “inspirational” stage play on the Black Urban Theatre circuit, or they’re avoiding both of those like the plague and taking the hard road by fighting for a few spots on the mostly white prime time line up.

If Tyler Perry brought people to Black Urban Theatre that were never there, then Je’Caryous Johnson’s work takes up where Tyler Perry left off and which stars every Blacktor and Blacktress you’ve not been able to find in years.  For example Je’Caryous Johnson’s Love Overboard stars Khalil Kain, Carl Payne from Martin, and even Miguel Nunez who was Juwanna Mann.

So what’s the issue?

The work of Tyler Perry, Emmbrey Perry, and Je’Caryous Johnson all deal in the same tropes. There are undercurrents of sexism, heterosexism, homophobia, and a general lack a consciousness about issues of class, all of which are divisive and unhelpful to the African Americans individually and collectively.  These plays and their authors are sometimes guilty of depoliticizing and individualizing issues which are systemic.  So preoccupied with getting women married to the “right” man, they elide issues between men and women’s relationships with one another other than sex.  Blaming the victim seems to run as an dominating theme in these plays, especially in God Send Me a Man.  What’s interesteing about all of this, is that there are brilliant Black actors/resses, playwrights and authors out there who deserve to have their work appreciated by the same audiences giving there money to these plays that ain’t doing nothing for them.  So… if you want to know which playwrights to really be on the lookout for, here are just a handful:

Tarell Alvin McCraney Lynn Nottage
Suzan-Lori Parks Katori Hall
Marcus Gardley Danai Gurira
Tracey Scott Wilson August Wilson

Imani (Faith)

Ultimately, I have faith that racism can end and that internalized racism can be uprooted.  We live with the consequences of the racialization of bodies in America, so rather than acting like race doesn’t exist, it is my hope we can begin to correct the mistakes of those who set up the hierarchical system that devalues both the physical existence of non-white bodies, but if we can channel creative force, our Kuumba — if put to use in resistance to systems which further bind us and separate us from one another along lines of color, race, faith, sexuality — then maybe, just maybe… we can do mo’ betta.

What do Lady Gaga and Valentine’s Day Have in Common?

I’ve been away from the bloggisphere partially because I’ve felt like little besides what was going on in Egypt was important in the world at large.  The people of Egypt are my heroes right now.  They’ve changed the game.  They’ve demonstrated that in a world of mass communication, mass mediated public spectacle, and Twitter… that you can change the conditions of your world and that has given me hope.  Hope + Action = Change.  So with that equation in hand…

When I consider what Lady Gaga’s Grammy stunt shares with this day, Valentine’s Day, there are a few things that come to mind.

Like Valentine’s Day, the origin story of Lady Gaga is mostly myth.  I’m also not really sure what Valentine’s Day is about besides buying stuff, because if you love someone then you should be in the business of telling them all the time.  For as much as Lady Gaga tries (e.g. meat costume), she’s only relevant in that she provides content for our blogs about entertainment.  Just like you can’t read too much into getting a Valentine’s Day card from a co-worker for fun, I don’t think anyone should do much reading into Lady Gaga’s incubation.

Ultimately, neither Valentine’s Day nor Lady Gage mean much of anything, but they are fun.  And sometimes, I need a good (or bad) pop song or cheesy Singing Valentine to make me smile, to make me dance, or to give me something to blog about.