Beauty & the Beast: Thoughts on Fitness & Beauty Image
Being a bodybuilder will almost always get you mixed reviews in the beauty department. I got discouragement and push back from even some people who are close to me. A lot of people questioned why I would want to do such a thing. You get comments like “Ewww”, “you look scary”, or “you look like a man”, “I liked your body better before”, or ‘you’re too small’. First off, these comments were often unsolicited. But second, a part of me couldn’t understand why I had to be judged in the realm of beauty, instead of just being respected for my athleticism. I’m glad I didn’t let those comments stop me completely, but sometimes it did halt me sharing or enjoying my progress. Even today, I still think twice about what I should share on social media, because the haters are so real. Even though at the end of the day I was a winner, I couldn’t fully enjoy it because I am a woman.
As a Nigerian woman, I even got more push back. Some of my family members were concerned about my new look, thinking that something had to be wrong. I remember telling one of my Nigerian colleagues at work that I was slimming down because of the competition, and she shook her head, laughed, and hissed in disgust. I remember I kept thinking-“ why does my body matter to you?” Truth be told, body building made me feel sexy. It defined all of my curves in a neat and precise way. I felt more in touch with my shape as a black woman. I think more people of African descent, especially those who are 1st or 2nd generation should be open to defying grounds in fitness and support women stepping out of there comfort zone to achieve.
We look at women like Seun Adigun and all the other women on the 1st Nigerian bobsled team and we are proud- but probably don’t even know the half of what they had to endure to get others to understand and not judge them based on how things looked. Serena Williams is disrespected time and time again; chastised about how she looks even though she is an undisputed champion in her sport. Women should have the power to do anything they want without always being compared to an arbitrary feminine standard of beauty, which is often dominated by the views of men.
In addition to men’s standards of beauty, I also had to deal with white standards as well. Stepping on stage, people noticed I wore a nice long straight wig. My regular hair do is my short natural kinky hair, however I was pushed to wear straight long hair by my coaches so that there would be nothing holding me back from placing. It was an unfortunate truth I had to conform to and sacrifice I had to deal with. But again in the fitness world people will try to define beauty for you. Body building is like a fitness beauty pageant, and it isn’t without its flaws. I wait for the day when a woman with a full blown afro can step on the stage and win because her body was undeniable, and the texture of hair simply a trivial detail.
On the flipside, exaggerated versions of normal black women are becoming the new standard in certain realms. Fitness and social media has exploded, in a way that has become overwhelming and overstimulating. Some people like to call it the Kim K Phenomenon. I see oversized booties and breast, which I didn’t sustain during my fitness prime. I also see thick thighs, and 6 packs of abs- which is not a realistic goal for most women. I think to myself, do I have to show my body in such a provocative way to be recognized? I have struggled with this concept as I continue to grow my platform. I am learning every day to simply accept the sincere nature of who I am.
Regardless of where you’re at in your fitness journey, I want you to know that you are beautiful. And most importantly, don’t be afraid to stand out. Someone out there just like you is watching and deserves your uninhibited and untainted inspiration! Let your beauty shine.
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