I was not born to be beautiful: the self-esteem of the black woman

Photo by Dietmar Temps
Photo by Dietmar Temps

Note from BW of Brazil: The post below speaks volumes about growing up in a society that believes itself to be free of racism and where the question of race is thought not to be a problem. The truth is the exact opposite and much worse because many people continue to deny it. In a society that concluded toward the end of the 19th century that it wanted to be white and actually set out on a course to do so, the adoration of whiteness and the racist face of miscegenation can and has had devastating psychological effects on those in the population who are clearly not white or not quite white. Only an open, honest conversation about the denigration of blackness and the desire to take actions to eliminate the daily assault on the psyches of those labeled as “other” can eventually lead to a healing process. Until then, we will continue to hear stories such as these. But sisters, please continue to tell your stories because they need to be heard. 

by Thaís Vieira for Blogueiras Negras

When I was 13 years old, I went to the general clinic for a routine checkup. I was wearing a school uniform and braids; all happy because I had learned to do braids that day – I entered the room with my mother (who is also black). The doctor was white and as soon as I went in he measured me from head to toe. He examined me and everything else. And before I left the room, he gave me a message:

“How do you leave the house like this, with this hair, with these badly done braids, you didn’t put on lipstick, you don’t wear earrings? Girls your age are not like this, they dress well, they’re better. How will get a boyfriend like this?”

After hearing all of this I couldn’t say anything else, my mother agreed with everything the doctor was saying (1), which made me sadder. When I got home, I cried. On the day that I was feeling pretty that doctor devastated me with all those words.

Besides him telling what to do about my appearance, he was comparing me with girls of my age, from the school, but these girls didn’t wear braids, didn’t have kinky/curly hair, these girls were not NEGRAS (BLACK). As a child my beauty was always compared to that of a white girl. On the lists of the most beautiful girls in the classroom my name was not even there. When the aunts of the kindergarten combed my hair, I only heard comments like cabelo duro (hard hair), cabelo ruim (bad hair). In the jokes someone always nicknamed me MACACA (MONKEY) or called my father ORANGUTAN.

And it was in this way that I grew up without any self-esteem. How many times did my mother straighten my hair to see if things had gotten better? How many times did I think of myself as the ugliest girl? And how many times did I cry for not to being the standard of the beautiful girl that boys wanted so much, that coincidentally was white with straight hair?

Now I realize at 16 years old that after that racist doctor said all of those things that he knows nothing about self-esteem. Given all the difficulties we black women have to face, accepting ourselves as we are, liking ourselves is an important issue, it is self-esteem. I am proud to be black, to have cabelo duro (hard hair) and keeping on the way that I want.

And black women: do not let racism and sexism shake you up; we are beautiful, we are black. And we should be proud of that.

Thaís Vieira Costa is 16 years old, a student and black militant.

Source: Blogueiras Negras


1. This is also a serious problem when the parents of the oppressed pass on their own ideas that are shaped by the dominant society and thus assure the maintenance of self-oppression of the group. See here for another example.

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.


  1. the real issue here is that black people don’t even support black people. we are our own worst enemy don’t blame white people when we have to convince ourselves that we are beautiful. people can see the shame we have for ourselves and treat us accordingly. a little pride in oneself can actually go a long way

  2. I applaud the wisdom & inner reserve of this young sister. I wish her the best in life.

    That said, it makes me sick to my stomach the the way so many Black women & girls have been made to feel that they are not beautiful (which they ARE!), and it makes me even more sick that not only are they told this garbage by the White community, but the BLACK one as well. This is something that I hold these Black males responsible for, with their sickening putting on a pedastal of WHITE beauty standards for women & their colorism. They do it in Africa, they do it in the West Indies, they do it in Brazil, they do it in the USA, and they do it basically EVERYWHERE you find Black people on this Earth. It is disgusting and it needs to STOP! Black women & girls ARE beautiful, and the BLACK community needs to make telling them this it’s number one priority!

  3. Hi there! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a team of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a
    community in the same niche. Your blog provided us beneficial information to work on.
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  4. Beauty is about self care and graceful composure. The woman in the picture is not aesthetically pretty but she could do a lot more with herself to be more attractive. It’s not about being black, it’s looking symmetrical, classy, and put together. The woman in the picture doesn’t look that way. A lot of time, we blame racism and sexism for things that have little to do with actually being attractive. Attractiveness is complex and there’s a lot that black women could do to be beautiful. But they are too busy playing victim and not being intelligent about working with their natural assets, which are many.

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