Most Shared

8 photos that flip the script when it comes to stereotypes about black women.

Black women are beautiful, complex, and worthy of love. It sounds so simple, and yet here we are.

While representations of black women have increased on television and movies, it's still an exercise in extremes. It's easy to scan from well-worn negative tropes and stereotypes like the "angry black woman," or "the baby mama," or the "hypersexual black Barbie" to the powerful leading ladies of "Hidden Figures," "Being Mary Jane," or "Black-ish," but there are few stops in between.

What have you done to support Viola Davis today? Double it! Photo by  Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures.

In fact, according to a 2013 report in Essence, negative depictions of black women appear twice as often as positive ones. These representations are demoralizing, and, speaking from personal experience, exhausting and embarrassing. Thankfully, we can look beyond television and film for positive representations in pop culture.

Mickalene Thomas brings bold, powerful representations of black women to fine art.

Based in New York, Thomas is known for her large-scale paintings of domestic interiors and multi-textured, rhinestone-covered portraits of women. Her work is colorful, vibrant, and affirming. Her paintings of women appear as collages, with small pieces accenting and challenging each other. Each woman is more than the sum of her colorful, mystifying parts. Time passes quickly as you attempt to "figure her out," but you can't. Therein lies the beauty.

Mickalene Thomas, "Racquel Leaned Back," 2013. © Mickalene Thomas. Courtesy the artist; Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong; and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Thomas' photography series, "Muse," seeks to challenge norms of black beauty.

In the series and book, "Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs," she portrayed black women in highly stylized, fantastical portraits.

Mickalene Thomas, "A Moment's Pleasure #2," 2007, from "Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs" (Aperture, 2015). © Mickalene Thomas. Courtesy the artist, Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago, and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

With each photograph, Thomas redefines black beauty for herself, pushing back on tired stereotypes and outdated norms. Each one is a stunning act of resistance.

Mickalene Thomas, "Calder Series #2," 2013, from "Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs" (Aperture, 2015). © Mickalene Thomas. Courtesy the artist and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Thomas drew inspiration from portrait photographers like James Van Der Zee (who beautifully documented the people of the Harlem Renaissance with his pioneering tableau portraits) as well as pro-black modeling campaigns from the 1970s featuring stars like Beverly Johnson.

Mickalene Thomas, "Remember Me," 2006, from "Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs" (Aperture, 2015). Courtesy the artist; Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong; and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Instead of using professional models for her series, Thomas' muses include her mother, sisters, lovers, and friends. These visually stunning portraits are a truly shared effort between Thomas and the women who've had an impact on her.

Mickalene Thomas, "I've Been Good to Me," 2011, from "Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs" (Aperture, 2015). © Mickalene Thomas. Courtesy the artist, Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

In addition to "Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs," released in 2015, Thomas has exhibited her work in galleries around the country.

Through March 12, 2017, "Muse" is on display in the Meyerhoff Gallery at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. Thomas also curated  a companion exhibit of photography, called "tête-à-tête," which is also on display at MICA.

Mickalene Thomas, "La Leçon D’amour," 2008. © Mickalene Thomas. Courtesy the artist; Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong; and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Representations and depictions of black women are vital.

It's still too easy for little black girls to grow up seeing few positive depictions of black women outside of their families. It's easy to grow up feeling less than or unworthy when women with curly or kinky hair, women with full lips, and women with rich, dark skin don't make it to your picture books — or your history books, for that matter.

Mickalene Thomas, Din, "Une Très Belle Négresse #1," 2012, from "Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs" (Aperture, 2015). © Mickalene Thomas. Courtesy the artist, Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

That's why we need to shout out and celebrate black women as the superheroes they are.

Black women write laws, start businesses, make art, explore the natural world, build towers, save lives, and teach at local schools. Yes, we are strong, but we are also tender, loving, and vulnerable. Black women are the embodiment of balance and resilience, holding down families, communities, and nine-to-fives, while pushing back against racism, sexism, and privilege. It's hard work. It breaks you down. But black women, for better or worse, keep grinding.

There is beauty in our strength, but you don't get to see that. Not nearly enough. And that's why black representation matters, why black art matters — it's a love letter to our persistence.

Mickalene Thomas, "Negress With Green Nails," 2005. © Mickalene Thomas. Courtesy the artist; Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong; and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

All illustrations are provided by Soosh and used with permission.

I have plenty of space.

This article originally appeared on 04.09.16

It's hard to truly describe the amazing bond between dads and their daughters.

Being a dad is an amazing job no matter the gender of the tiny humans we're raising. But there's something unique about the bond between fathers and daughters.

Most dads know what it's like to struggle with braiding hair, but we also know that bonding time provides immense value to our daughters. In fact, studies have shown that women with actively involved fathers are more confident and more successful in school and business.

Keep ReadingShow less

This blind chef wore a body cam to show how she prepares dazzling dishes.

How do blind people cook? This "Masterchef" winner leans into her senses.

Image pulled from YouTube video.

Christine Ha competes on "Masterchef."

This article originally appeared on 05.26.17

There is one question chef Christine Ha fields more than any other.

But it's got nothing to do with being a "Masterchef" champion, New York Times bestselling author, and acclaimed TV host and cooking instructor.

The question: "How do you cook while blind?"

Keep ReadingShow less

Two couples move in together with their kids to create one big, loving 'polyfamory'

They are using their unique family arrangement to help people better understand polyamory.

The Hartless and Rodgers families post together

Polyamory, a lifestyle where people have multiple romantic or sexual partners, is more prevalent in America than most people think. According to a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, one in nine Americans have been in a polyamorous relationship, and one in six say they would like to try one.

However popular the idea is, polyamory is misunderstood by a large swath of the public and is often seen as deviant. However, those who practice it view polyamory as a healthy lifestyle with several benefits.

Taya Hartless, 28, and Alysia Rogers, 34, along with their husbands Sean, 46, and Tyler, 35, are in a polyamorous relationship and have no problem sharing their lifestyle with the public on social media. Even though they risk stigmatization for being open about their non-traditional relationships, they are sharing it with the world to make it a safer place for “poly” folks like themselves.

Keep ReadingShow less

Gordon Ramsay at play... work.

This article originally appeared on 04.22.15

Gordon Ramsay is not exactly known for being nice.

Or patient.

Or nurturing.

On his competition show "Hell's Kitchen," he belittles cooks who can't keep up. If people come to him with their problems, he berates them. If someone is struggling to get something right in the kitchen, he curses them out.

Keep ReadingShow less

This article originally appeared on 01.27.20

From 1940 to 1945, an estimated 1.3 million people were deported to Auschwitz, the largest complex of Nazi concentration camps. More than four out of five of those people—at least 1.1 million people—were murdered there.

On January 27, 1945, Soviet forces liberated the final prisoners from these camps—7,000 people, most of whom were sick or dying. Those of us with a decent public education are familiar with at least a few names of Nazi extermination facilities—Auschwitz, Dachau, Bergen-Belsen—but these are merely a few of the thousands (yes, thousands) of concentration camps, sub camps, and ghettos spread across Europe where Jews and other targets of Hitler's regime were persecuted, tortured, and killed by the millions.

Keep ReadingShow less

What I realized about feminism after my male friend was disgusted by tampons at a party.

"After all these years, my friend has probably forgotten, but I never have."

Photo by Josefin on Unsplash

It’s okay men. You don’t have to be afraid.

This article originally appeared on 08.12.16

Years ago, a friend went to a party, and something bothered him enough to rant to me about it later.

And it bothered me that he was so incensed about it, but I couldn't put my finger on why. It seemed so petty for him to be upset, and even more so for me to be annoyed with him.

Recently, something reminded me of that scenario, and it made more sense. I'll explain.

Keep ReadingShow less