Black women in the public eye

By Hannah Duffey

We have all heard the famous Deion Sanders quote, “If you look good, you feel good, and if you feel good, you play good.” 

For black women, that quote resonates with us and we always have it in the back of our minds as we go about our day-to-day lives. 

Fashion is not just a form of self-expression for black women, it is a direct reflection of who we are and what makes us feel most confident. 

You look at black pioneers like Michelle Obama, who is the standard for black women worldwide.

Rather than focusing on her husband becoming the first African-American president of the United States, media attention was rapidly switched to her fashion choices. 

When I say fashion choices, I mean everything from her hairstyle to her physical outfit. 

For decades we have been ridiculed for our style choices, so this is nothing new, especially to women who lack the status of Michelle Obama. 

You look at ladies like Sydney Carter, an assistant coach for Texas A&M University’s women’s basketball team, and realize that she faces the same challenges. 

In February of 2022, Carter went viral on social media for an outfit that she wore and posted to her Instagram page, which consisted of pink pants, tan heels and a white turtle neck. 

The caption of the photo read, “They want that heat I’m the only provider.”-Nicki Minaj Pink? for Game 22.”

It was an outfit that was not out of the ordinary for Coach Carter. Every game day her outfits are top-notch. 

Although she was receiving hate for the outfit, it was deeper than that. 

When people see women, especially women of color in a flourishing position and confident in what they do, intimidation immediately sets in. 

For young black girls especially, I believe that her outfits represent a bigger picture and have a deeper meaning: it shows every black girl and woman what they are capable of. 

Often times as black women we are constantly degraded in every aspect of our lives. In the classrooms, in the workforce, in political positions and now on the other side as a basketball coach.

Every day feels like a battle of having to prove ourselves so that we earn respect from our counterparts.

Many are counting on us to fall short, so the pressure is on daily.

So, for us to see someone like coach Carter put these outfits on and look like a boss woman, provides us not only a sense of hope but of encouragement. 

In an interview that Glamour conducted coach carter said, “I’m not gonna…turn my light off because somebody else is offended or intimidated by the fact that I embrace myself,” she said. “I wasn’t trying to kick down any barriers. At the end of the day, I wasn’t trying to set a trend. I just wanted to be myself.”

Coach Kim Mulkey, the head coach for LSU women’s basketball is also a fashion icon in the eyes of many. 

However, the most notable difference is that she does not receive backlash for her outfit choices. 

And to be completely honest, coach Mulkey’s outfits are far more ‘out there’ than Carter’s. 

As mentioned before, this hostility is nothing out of the ordinary for the black community, especially black athletes on the other side of fashion and hairstyles. 

I remember growing up and watching the Olympics and seeing black female runners like Sanya Richards-Ross. 

One thing I always noticed, even as a young girl was how she was authentically herself and wore a sew-in, had long nails and a face of makeup. 

Yeah, she received so much hate but she was an example to so many of us to continue to be ourselves regardless of the outside noise. 

She made it feel normal for us to want to wear nails, hair and makeup while competing in sports, especially for women of color. 

Protective styles are especially a part of our identity. They are practical hairstyles to fit our active lifestyles. 

It is also another fashion identity piece that makes us feel like ourselves. 

Having people like Michelle Obama, Sydney Carter and Sanys-Richards Ross as trailblazers, gives me a sense of hope and encouragement. 

When I put on a pants suit, I suddenly feel like I am making my mark on this world like Michelle Obama and coach Carter. When I am competing in sports and have my nails, hair and makeup done I suddenly feel unstoppable like Sanya-Richards Ross. 

It is women like these that make this scary world feel less intimidating. 

Michelle Obama once said, “There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.”

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