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Lil' Kim, Colorism & Sexual Revolution

Lil' Kim & Other Revolutions: A Meditation On Swizz Beats' #FamilyZone Photo

Lil' Kim & Other Revolutions: Thoughts On The #FamilyZone photo

Lil’  Kim & Other Revolutions: Meditations On Swizz Beats’ #FamilyZone Photo

I missed the sexual revolutions sparked by Betty Davis and Grace Jones…but I was born just in time for Lil’ Kim. With my palms over my eyes, I’d look through the cracks of my fingers and witness this brown woman who appeared to be half wet dream and half machine gun. With her image and lyrics, Lil’ Kim re-imagined sexuality and confidence for women in hip-hop.  Tits out, legs open and flow tough — Lil’ Kim was seemingly the lovechild of Vanity 6 and Enedina Arellano Felix. Lil’ Kim was confidence underneath an ever-changing parade of colored wigs and avant-garde designer outfits. Lil’ Kim was the Queen Bee, evolving from a regular girl from Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn; from around the way.

Years later, music—like everything else—has evolved and Lil’ Kim isn’t the commercial giant I knew in childhood, but still a legend. She still personified confidence… until I opened up a magazine where she talked candidly about her appearance and dating experiences:

“Guys always cheated on me with women who were European-looking.” – Lil’ Kim

In that moment, I remembered Lil’ Kim was not just a sexual revolution put to beats; she was a regular, beautiful black girl before her stardom, living inside of the same dominating systems as you and I. “You know, the long-hair type,” Lil’ Kim continued. “Really beautiful women that left me thinking, ‘How can I compete with that?’ Being a regular Black girl was not good enough.”

Lil’ Kim was a regular, beautiful black girl—who was told the master narrative, and believed it. And she was surrounded by men that were told the master narrative, and believed it. White supremacy wasn’t a burning cross in her history book or a distant concept only made real when a white person chose to dominate her. White supremacy was a candlelight dinner with the man that loved her—but not quite as much as he would if she was lighter, blonder and with a thinner nose. Often it is easy to understand how white supremacy dominates us globally, but it is harder to understand how it might appear intimately. It is the reason why we discover there was misogyny and colorism located inside the pro-black revolutionary organization, The Black Panther Party. Relief from white supremacy and other dominating systems does not always exist where you think it might. It does not always vanish at our churches, schools, bedrooms or in the media content we consume, even when it is marketed as black excellence…


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