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…



  • Vanessa

    It’s not just color but height as well. I’m 5ft tall Hispanic girl who knows exactly what lil Kim is going through. Sad the article never mentions her height because it has a looooot to do confidence & the way the world looks at you. Heightism is a real thing. Lil Kim has always been one of my heroes because of he confidence & her height.

    • thenameischoco

      But that’s not the point of the article and Lil Kik has not expressed insecurity about her height, nor is she getting surgeries to increase her height. Please do not try to distract from the very prevalent and destructive force of white supremacy detailed here.

    • Vanessa

      POC are averagely shorter than white European so yes it does have to do with white supremacy. She doesn’t have to express insecurities about her height because she is already trying to compensate in the areas she can change. & why shouldn’t I feel included? The fact that you’re trying to dismiss my feeling is the core of supremacy. If I’m telling you I can relate to what she’s going through its not because I’m talking out of my ass here. But thanks for trying!

    • Vanessa

      Also how many of those women in that photo are shorter than 5’2? Lil Kim is 4’11.

    • J Lennon

      “Heightism?” No. Off subject much? This article is about colorism. Please just stop. Previous commenter is correct that you are simply distracting from the point of the article with your own personal insecurities. Enough with the “what about meeeeeee?” whining. Please just stop.

    • Vanessa

      Again you dismissing the correlation tween heightism & colorism is the very core of supremacy. Thanks for proving my point.

    • rhythmchyc

      Why do you relate to Kim’s height more than her color?

    • Vanessa

      I don’t relate to one more than other. I related to her firstly because she was a woman of color from New York as am I. The fact that she’s also a personality to be reckoned with but also a small person was a plus. It was refreshing to finally see someone my height with such amazing raw talent & relatable up bringing. But the most relatable part of this article is being cheated on/dumped for TALLER, more European features women. I agree with this article, I just wish they would’ve mentioned her height as well.

    • rhythmchyc

      I see.

      I just don’t agree. I think weight, race, color, age, gender, ability are truly challenging for those people to overcome. How does society oppress you based on your height? Unless you’re a little person, like Peter Dinklage, how are you being discriminated against in your work, education, in front of police or in the media?

    • Vanessa

      “In our culture, there is a bias against short stature, and a glorification of those taller in stature. The result of this prejudice is discrimination against short people in a variety of areas, including politics, business, dating and sports.

      In our society, we favor the tall over the short and the thin over the fat. With these biases, it’s no wonder that people tend to round up their height – 5’3” becomes 5’4”- and round down their weight – 122 pounds becomes 120 pounds.

      So many of us are striving to more closely approximate the tall, thin ideal paraded on television, in movies and across fashion runways. The average fashion model is 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighs 117 pounds, while the average American woman is 5 feet 4 inches tall and weights 140 pounds. As a result, many women are walking around feeling “too short” and “too fat.”
      The article is about the challenges Lil Kim is facing now as a woman of color in the industry, but she is also 4’11, two inches from being considered a little person. Short people are also likely to make less money in their lifetime than their taller counterpart. Short people are also less likely to get the job against a taller person in an interview. I don’t blame humans for not taking heightism seriously, at the end of the day we are an animal & it is embedded in our DNA to assume something smaller is inferior. hence why people don’t think heightism is real. POC are averagely shorter so yes there is a correlation.

    • rhythmchyc

      Where have you read POC are shorter than white folks? That short people are less likely to be hired?

      And honestly lying about height is not a barometer of discrimination, people wear contact lenses and color heir hair and have breast implants. That doesn’t mean people who wear glasses, wear their natural hair color, and have natural breasts are discriminated against. In contrast, those who are obese have to purchase two airline tickets because those seats don’t accommodate hem. How are short people discriminated against in the realm outside of fashion (which has ideals that exclude a lot of people.

    • Vanessa

      & you should’ve seen the way cops were handling this small Asian woman the other day in Queens! psshh please small people to cops are like chewing toys for dogs.

  • Sameerah Green

    I wholeheartedly agree with this message. Ppl get so caught up in the imaginary, we fail to realize the importance of reality.
    This steams from insecurities in ourselves and our upbringing. Love starts inwardly, and reflects outwardly. Now we all have our bought with self critique’s and self doubt.
    We focus on the wrong things in my opinion. We glorify the wrong things. We aspire to the wrong things. In my younger days, even most of my adult life. I had the wrong thought process. We must raise our children to be better thinkers and better ppl.

  • Aisha

    Besides the colorism, I also notice that all of these ugly ass men have really attractive women. That’s sad too.

    • Bija

      What makes a man attractive is his status. All these men have money, therefore they can pick and choose among the world’s most beautiful women.

    • Aisha

      Lol that’s really sad

    • Bija

      Yet true. However, what I find sad is that on an article about how physical beauty can affect one mentally, your comment is how you deem five black men who look nothing alike, titans of their fields, as “ugly ass men” solely because you have some agenda to push. It’s transparent. And frankly, it’s embarrassing.

    • Aisha

      Ok. You are reaching. There is no agenda. I don’t care how much money they have. If they are unattractive, they are unattractive. If their women want to deal then good. More power to them. Why you so hype defending people that don’t know u exist and not giving u a dime of their paper.

    • Bija

      For the same reason that you’re so intent on shaming people who don’t know you exist in the comment section of an article about the detrimental effects of shaming people for their physical appearance.

    • Aisha

      I stand by my comment and I don’t care if you don’t like it.

  • rhythmchyc

    I’m glad you’ve commented about colorism in the media, but feel you could’ve analyzed these male music artists as well as delved into the historical societal impact this has on not only Lil Kim, but on the men.

    When these men decided to build long lasting, powerful, and positive relationships with these women rather than with women with dark skin, wide noses, and unprocessed tightly-coiled hair, you can speculate several things, which may be incorrect, but why do we get quotes from Lil Kim in past interviews about her view of adjusting her features to look more white yet never read from any of these men as to why they’ve chosen to devote their lives to women who can “pass”? Why have we not read about their struggles with being dark-skinned men, or being a threat, demonized, and thus living their every breath to assimilate with their white counterparts? And that’s saying a lot considering the ever outspoken Diddy and Kanye West have NEVER discussed why they’ve had children only with women with white features! It’s also saying a lot about Swizz Beatz considering he left a dark-skinned woman who is the mother of his children for a woman who was raised by a white Italian woman.

    So I’ll speculate that it means these men will have children who don’t have those features.

    It means they themselves don’t hold their own features (and the features of their mothers) to a high standard of beauty. But beauty isn’t only about aesthetics in this world, it’s about power. And right now, and as it always has been in America, white features on women (who’ve been deemed property and who continue to be deemed so) connote more power than sub-Saharan African features. To be a wealthy black man surrounded by wealthy white men and own a woman who’s white or a WOC with white features who you can parade around at parties and events means you are just as powerful as the white men are. Further, you are not as much of a threat to those wealthy men, as several of these men have been in their pasts (JayZ and Diddy), because you will have children with whiter features than your own, your wife doesn’t look threatening (as Michelle Obama does), and marrying into those white (or at least not-antiracist Black families) means that man’s peers believe he is assimilating to the white American (non)culture.

    It means they are using these women as a means to attain more power, rather than solely for companionship.

    I speculate this based on the fact that that world that these hip-hip artists rap about thrives on power. And if Lil Kim (who was one of the most successful female MCs of all time) has issues with attaining a male MC who’s at her status or higher, even after undergoing multiple radical surgeries, then it’s clearly not just her problem but these men’s problem as well.

    • MecaM

      Diddy’s baby momma (Kim Porter) is brown skin. Mind you, he hasn’t married her but she was on the cover of Essence with him years ago.

    • rhythmchyc

      Kim Porter has naturally straight hair and thus is ethnically fluid. White features isn’t solely about skin color, it’s about facial and physical attributes (straight nose, flat ass, etc.) as well as hair texture (bone straight and/or blond hair).

      Diddy has always gone after women who have white features.

  • Jamir Tuten

    Loved this, very sensitive and some may say dangerous topic but truthful sad that Lil’ Kim someone I’ve adorned since 1995 is a victim of this thinking….

  • brandon saint randy

    Short people are a filthy, thieving lot. Always trying to steal me lucky charms. Go back to Oompa Loompa land!