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Root Work Journal - Navigating the Ocean - Volume 1, Issue 2

More Than A Color: the Marginalization of African American Beauty

Karen Anderson




Karen J. Anderson is an artist, writer, photographer, publisher and filmmaker. She believes stories can be told in many ways and uses a variety of methods to uplift, inform and educate African American and people of color. She has a Master of Arts in New Art Journalism from the School of the Arts Institute in Chicago. Her artwork has shown in a group exhibition on Domestic Violence at the School of the Art Institute in 2018 and an online gallery for Shanti Arts in the group exhibition, Phenomenal Woman in 2019. Her artwork has been published in a group anthology of artists in the Genre Urban Arts No. 8 Print and WORDPEACE’s Winter Spring Issue. Her work is also included Amuse Bouche in 2020. Her artwork can also be seen on her Instagram page BlackGyrlArt. In 2019 she founded a magazine, Fill In The Gap Magazine to help tell the stories and share information with marginalized individuals

Beyoncé Knowles Carter had editorial power over the cover and content of her own story on a major mainstream magazine. Serena Williams did the same on the cover and 4 content of another one. The names of the magazines are not important because they didn’t even respond to my inquiry. Brown became beautiful in 2018 when major fashion magazines showcased it on their covers. Where were brown skinned people on the beauty spectrum before then? I mean I had heard the statement “Black is Beautiful” but was it really? This sent me on a journey which led to libraries and internet searches, but also contacting industry professionals to talk about their experiences with this. For this project I interviewed four men to talk about the beauty found in African American women along with researching different moments in history that stood out as defining. All four men worked in the fashion and design industry on projects that featured beautiful women by their industry standards. Three, I chatted with on the phone and transcribed the conversations, while with the fourth I exchanged emails. I learned that men are very dominant in this field and the way they see beauty determines how we see beauty.


When I was about 7-years-old and my sister was 5, I remember leading her down our dirt streets to the pave cement of Rosedale Fort Worth, Texas during the mid-1970s,  which seemed to me like a big highway. We would watch for oncoming cars and when  it was clear would run across as fast as we could. Then we went down the hill past old  shack houses, empty rundown buildings and Reverend Ranger’s large church building.  Then we went up another hill pass more rundown houses to Miss Ofelia’s beauty shop,  which was an old smoke-filled shack cluttered with all kinds of things. 

Miss Ofelia, a thin little black woman, had one chair in the room, but you couldn’t see  anything from the smoke of the cigarette hanging from her lip and smoke coming from  the hot comb in her hand. Sometimes there would be other ladies there so we would  play outside until she was ready to do our hair. Sometimes we would have to sit in there  and talk to her which was almost as painful as getting our hair done.  

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