Continuing the Convo: Ari Lennox and Black Features

Written by Saran Lawson

Keeping the conversation going with Ari Lennox’s Instagram rant from a few weeks ago, I have a question. Why are black features the butt of jokes meant to humiliate people? Ari may have been the first to reignite the discussion but she is far from the first black celebrity to be made fun of for their features. Many People say Jay-Z is unattractive for his nose and lips. He is compared to a camel at length. His wife addressed this in Formation saying, “I like my negro nose with Jackson 5 nostrils”, referring to Michael Jackson’s nose before the surgeries. It even came into play just before Blue Ivy was born. People were concerned that Blue Ivy would look like her father; whose appearance is consistent with African features. They wanted her to look like her half creole mother who has Eurocentric features. Nigerian American singer, Rotimi, has been made fun of countless amounts of times for his wide-set nose. There are so many comments made to his fans that say, if you have his children they’ll have his nose. 

In Terms of History

African American people have a history in this country of being made fun of for features that make us who we are. As Ari Lennox stated in her video, we were taken from a place where everyone looks like us to a place where our features are exotic. There was a time when people were made fun of for having big lips. The right celebrities came along and made it one of the most popular procedures at dermatology offices and clinics around the country. So many people endured torture and emotional distress due to relentless teasing. Now, people are buying lip fillers and plumpers to make their lips “pouty”. Sarah Bartman was put on display for her wide hips, big breasts, and ample bottom. She was treated like a circus freak and groped openly on tours. Her brain, skeleton and sexual organs remained on display in a Paris museum until 1974! Let that sink in. Women are flying to the Dominican Republic, Columbia, Brazil and even going to doctors right here in the U.S. for a curvier figure. I wonder how long before noses that are round or that don’t have a prominent nose bridge become accepted?

In Terms of Science

The comment comparing Ari Lennox and Teyana Taylor to Rottweilers come from their wide nostrils. Many people of African descent have wide nostrils, and science seems to think it has to do with the climate we come from. The nose has other functions besides making our faces more attractive and somewhere to breath. The nose is meant to warm, moisten and filter the air we breathe. Which is where the much-supported climate theory derives. As an article points out, those with wider nostrils developed in warmer wetter climates. Whereas those in colder climates developed narrow nostrils. Narrow nostrils are beneficial in colder climates because they can effectively trap and heat the air before its inhaled. This can be proven by simply clenching your nose a little if you have wider nostrils. Another article points out that the shape of your nose is inheritable. “Unrelated people who had a similar nose shape were found to have comparable genes. The fact that skin pigment had a stronger correlation may say something about other factors, such as what cultures value in terms of aesthetics and attraction.” Black people are in fact apart of the diaspora. African Americans are people who historically were taken from places with a warm climate. Proven by the tint of our skin and the set of our noses and placed in a different climate. The people who placed us here are from countries where the climate is cooler. These people are the ones who historically conditioned us to believe our features were not beautiful. Nonetheless, it is our own people who perpetuate it. We know better, and we are in a position to change the narrative. If we want representation, we have to stop demeaning the people who look like us. We are only shown a specific type of person because there isn’t enough support or demand for diverse beauty. This article is an attempt to get more support for the beauty that isn’t mainstream. Accepting ourselves as we are, begin with accepting who we are and where we come from. Yes, we are Americans but we have descended from elsewhere. We have a history beyond Jim Crow and slavery. In order to see ourselves, we must acknowledge and heal from the post-traumatic slave syndrome. I think then we may release the predisposition that our beauty is only valid if it aligns with Europe and not anywhere else


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