Scrap the Nicki Minaj and Make Your Daughter Listen to This Song Instead (VIDEO)

Elle VarnerA few weeks ago, I surprised my bestie with a belated birthday gift and took her to see a homegirl-in-our-heads, Chrisette Michele. Elle Varner was one of the opening acts. She was cute as pink punch and loaded with personality, which made me like every song she did. When she got to “So Fly,” though, I felt like this girl had reached into my crippled little psyche and turned my private me-thoughts into a public song.

I love being a woman. Love, love, love. But my least favorite thing about it, which has nothing to do with us and everything to do with social convention, is that we're sectioned off into parts and pieces like a herd of ill-fated cows. It starts when we’re still kids, young and unknowing, and doesn’t let up until we’re wheeled into somebody’s retirement complex.


For the rest of the time in between, we’re steady being picked apart for how thin we are or aren’t, how much hair we do or don’t have, how big our breasts are or ain’t. In the process of trying to measure what we aren't according to this impossible standard set by men, the media, and years of hand-me-down mental conditioning, we don't get to appreciate what we actually are. Not for long, anyway. And that’s what Elle sings about, bless her heart.

I have never felt beautiful. Between mean-spirited kids in school and a couple of really bad relationships, I never had a chance to. So it’s hard to accept or embrace compliments because too many years of being told what was wrong and not enough reinforcement about what might possibly be right created the combustible point of no return for my self-esteem. I’ve accepted that that’s my personal lot in life which, compared to the extreme opposite of being mind-numbingly shallow or self-absorbed, didn’t seem all that bad. But I’ve noticed Teen Girl, who is just as adorable as she can be — and not just because she’s my child, though don’t all mamas say that? — is falling into that same cycle. 

For her dance recital last weekend, I spent 15 minutes pulling, tugging, pushing, shoving, tucking, yanking, and smoothing her head full of shoulder-length dreadlocks into a bun. When I finally achieved the perfect hair structure and allowed her the special treat of wearing makeup for the first time, she looked gorgeous. She’s got these pretty almond-shaped eyes and a full, pouty mouth and a non-Hollywood smile with what I call “personality spaces.”

But when she looked in her mirror to survey herself, she came back with all these things she saw as wrong. Wrong that her tummy looked fat in her leotard. Wrong that she had a little breakout on her cheeks and her skin was terrible. Wrong that her bun sat too high (though I let her know that after all that hard work, high or not, that doggone bun was staying right where it was). Even though I’ve consciously worked hard to gird her up with the physical confidence I never had the opportunity to develop, the pettiness of middle school has started to take its not-good-enough toll on her self-esteem, too.
At the concert, Elle Varner shared that she'd recently lost 30 pounds and now her ex-boyfriend was hot on her heels to try to get her back. When she was heavier, dude played her. Now she’s svelte and center stage and he’s burning up her phone line. (Surprise, surprise.) She had us laughing during the whole set with her little quips and stories. But when she launched into “So Fly,” I thought about all the girls — me, cover-girl pretty Elle Varner, my daughter, and probably a million other young women — who’ve hauled around someone else’s baggage about how we should look.

Just like she says in the song, I too have cruised plastic surgeon websites just for kicks. I’ve scolded God for not doing this right or being too stingy with something else. And I’ve wondered what life would be like if these perceived flaws were fleshed out — literally — like this girl or that girl’s. I think, at some point, most of us have. Truth be told, they’re probably thinking the same thing about somebody else. Some of us are fine in the skin we’re in. But for chicks like me and Elle Varner, analyzing how we could be “so fly,” I hope we eventually find a place of peace to know that in actuality, we already are.

In the meantime, at least Elle understands. And sometimes that’s all a young girl needs.

Can a mother who struggles with low self-esteem give her daughter more confidence than she has?

Image via Jordan Cameron/Flickr

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