Some people might call Sir Mix-A-Lot’s anthem to thicker women, Baby Got Back, one of the first public steps towards body positivity for larger women and black women. Sir Mix-A-Lot proclaimed his love for women with curvy shapes and a little more weight in one of the biggest music hits of the 1990s while putting quite a few phrases into the pop culture lexicon. Expressions like, “Oh, my, God. Becky, look at her butt,” “I like big butts and I can not lie,” and “LA face with an Oakland booty,” have become part of American culture. So, it should come as no surprise that stars, especially women who have become even more empowered in the last decade, are using these phrases as they see fit in social media .
But, when Blake Lively posted a front and back picture of herself in Cannes with a caption reading ‘LA face with an Oakland booty’, people, especially Black women were infuriated.
Khloe Kardashian posted a picture on Instagram that accentuated her butt with the same caption without any backlash from the American public. Katy Perry tweeted the phrase on her personal Twitter account and was not accosted by ethnic women. But, Blake Lively has been under fire since her picture hit social media. Blake Lively obviously had no idea of the full consequence of her words.
This incident touches on unspoken social and cultural problems in the Black community. Black women have all the physical features that are being celebrated daily in the media and by the general public. They have naturally tan skin, full lips, wide hips, and large breasts and butts. The braids and cornrows that women wear and then post on social media with the hashtag, #whitegirlsdoitbetter are from Black culture. But, Black women are not the standard of beauty. So, when a woman who has decidedly White features and who is traditionally beautiful by all standards of aesthetics quotes a song to describe herself with a song that was made years ago to celebrate what has been considered unconventionally attractive until recently, then the people who the song champions will rightfully be upset.
Blake Lively made an innocuous comment without fully understanding the power and implications of her statement. And, though Khloe Kardashian and Katy Perry used the same quote and probably had the same level of understanding of that quote as Blake, they also have unique positions that exclude them from the full ire of minorities. Because Khloe looks ethnic and has dark skin, the comment went unnoticed from her. And, the Kardashians almost exclusively date Black men giving them at least some credit in the Black community. Katy Perry has blue eyes and pale skin, but she also has dark hair and is socially accepted by ethnic communities because of her music. Music unites people across color lines, so Perry comes across less offensive and more supportive. But, Blake Lively has decidedly Aryan features - blonde hair and blue eyes - and she has no connection to poor communities like Oakland or minorities, so the same phrase takes an elitist tone at best, and a racist tone at worst.
‘LA face’ takes on a different meaning when Lively says the phrase. That LA face belongs to a movie star who has made a career by being pretty, and her statement diminishes the natural beauty of minority women by making Lively’s face a public symbol of attractiveness. Though she probably meant no harm, that phrase is damaging in her hands. It is damaging to the Black women who fight standards of European beauty everyday, it is hurtful to the community of Oakland who have now been publicly told that their ethnic faces are not beautiful enough to be compared to a LA face, and it is irresponsible to ignore the young women that face enough societal pressures to fit in with their peers without an added need to comply with Lively’s movie star looks.