Let me get this out first:
WE CAN’T HAVE SHIT.
*woosahs and le sighs*
Patricia Garcia, Vogue writer, hipped me to something new in her essay, “We’re Officially in the Era of the Big Booty.” First, let’s start with the title. We’re “officially” embracing big butts, huh? Says who? Fashion designers? Pop culture experts? Mark Cuban? This is something new, I suppose.
Also, the term "era" is defined as a "period of time associated with an event, person or a series of years, which signals an end." It’s safe to say that like any other trend, it’ll be trashed, and they’ll be on to the next (“Oh, big butts were so last Fall!”).
The biggest secret Garcia shared is that Jennifer Lopez is the Queen of the Big Booties. She single-handedly brought round derrieres to the forefront, and now everyone wants one. Then, here comes Britney Spears, a song by Destiny’s Child (so popular that “bootylicious” was added to Webster’s Dictionary), followed by Kimmy K. West, who stole the scene with her “suspicious” behind. Iggy Izalea’s asset is a winner, too. Apparently, these women are Trailblazers of Boo-tay.
Oh. Now, they’ve decided that big butts are cool.
Since we’re talking about it, let’s take a look at the many, many identities, cultural gems, trends that have been high-jacked by mainstream America. There’s braids and cornrows (remember Marie Claire’s infamous tweet about Kylie Jenner’s “bold braids”?), colored and dyed hair, step shows (as seen in Rick Owens’ Paris Fashion Week runway show) and plump lips. The list goes on and on.
ALL of these things were once looked at as ghetto, raunchy, weird and too BLACK.
But it all comes back to Jenny from the Block, and I, in no way am I hating on her or her ass. She looks damn good, and yes, she is a woman of color who happens to take care of body and keep things rounded out. But let’s be real, way before she ever got “On the 6” or rolled around on the floors of the In Living Color set as a Fly Girl, we knew women — Black women — whose booties would put hers to shame. They were in our families, friends, girls from the neighborhood. They were us.
In our community, booty is king. What makes JLO, Iggy or anyone else more desirable or acceptable than us? How did it become so acceptable when for so long, it wasn’t?
Hey people, while you’re twerking and discovering your weak leg endurance dancing to “Anaconda,” take time to listen to the sample Nicki used. “Baby Got Back” by Sir-Mix-a-Lot hit #1 on the Billboard charts in 1992, and is perhaps, the answer to what Garcia writes
“For years it was exactly the opposite; a large butt was not something one aspired to, rather something one tried to tame in countless exercise classes. Even in fashion, that daring creative space where nothing is ever off limits, the booty has traditionally been shunned.”
But no more, and it only took 20 years for it to happen. Now, squats are THE thing, followed by surgery that can unfortunately result in deformities or death. And let’s be clear, all women, especially if we’re lacking in that area, are putting in work for results, but still, a large behind isn’t a phenomenon in our culture.
Mix-a-lot talked from Black men’s perspective, celebrating Black women’s curves and in turn, shunning White culture's desire for White women with smaller frames. In the video, women in leotards and barely there shorts flexed their buns on a giant (and hideous) life-size butt, gyrating and yes, twerking (the early 90s version atleast). It was a bit raunchy for that time, but no one really cared. It was hit, especially among Black folk.
But really, this isn’t about who had big butts first, although this is a prime case of “columbusing.” Some would argue that because America is such a melting pot, no one can claim ownership to any one thing anymore. Lies they tell.
What’s so maddening about appropriation is whenever mainstream decides something is favorable or trendy, it’s snatched up immediately with no warning. The very thing that was an eye sore or embarrassment is now a high commodity. Our bodies, our hairstyles, fashion, our mannerisms and conversation styles ARE NOT must-have accessories. You can’t pull them off of the rack and put them on to be the “cool girl or guy.”
They are a part of us and our culture, what we do without thought about whether it’ll turn heads on runways. What we were raised on or in. What we danced to our bedrooms as children and teenagers, what we begged our mamas to buy for our first day of school.
It’s what we wake up in every damn day. Stop trying to make the dear pieces of us “a thing.” I got this from my momma, so it'll never be "last season" to me.
Alisha Tillery is a freelance writer living and working in Memphis, Tennessee. She loves music, magazines, old Martin episodes and black people. Her work has been published in ESSENCE, Ebony.com, Clutch Magazine and Mediabistro.com. She writes about any and everything that hits a nerve at www.alishatillery.com.