Fat Shamers – I’m Not Skinny and I Like My Body, Now What?

I was fooled.  I thought that since body shaming had been brought to the mainstream and awareness was being brought to the negative impact it has on people, especially girls and women, society had “woken up” and the practice was no longer publicly acceptable.  However, when I posted an article about body/fat shaming on a message board, the responses I received were shocking and heartbreaking.  The debates I’ve seen on television justifying why encouraging someone to be repulsed by who they are, repulsed me.

The usual, “fat”, “lazy”, “gross” adjectives are always laced in arguments, all stamped with standard public service announcement of being overweight is just plain “unhealthy.”  Well, so is smoking, excessive drinking, smoking crack, emotionally abusing someone, overworking, binge watching Netflix shows, chronic procrastination, however, I never see these topics debated as passionately as weight.

I’ve never seen a before and after photo of a celebrity who entered rehab with the caption “How They Did It.”  I’ve never read tweets or social media comments in general attacking a star who smokes cigarettes.  Alcoholism is still responsible for more deaths than any of other abusive habit, but I seldom hear public service announcements on the radio urging people to stop drinking so that they can live longer. So, why does body shaming get a pass?

What is shame?  Clinical psychologist Gershen Kaufman wrote “Shame is the most disturbing experience individuals ever have about themselves; no other emotion feels more deeply disturbing because in the moment of shame the self feels wounded from within.”  Of course, there are times that shame is justified.  When a person has acted in a way that has harmed another, shame is an appropriate emotion that lets the person and others know that they are aware and regretful of their behavior.  However, that is shame directed at a behavior, not at the person.

The difference between that and fat shaming is the latter type is directed at who someone is.  It is toxic, paralyzing meant only to do the worst type of harm. And while it can sometimes work to motivate weight loss, it works for the wrong reasons.

For example, much my motivation for wanting to lose weight has come from wanting to not lose out on parts when I go out for auditions.  I am an actress, so weight is a huge issue my industry. One would think that the opportunity to audition for more roles would be motivation enough to help me lose the weight and keep it off.  However, it hasn’t been because I didn’t count for one little caveat – life.

My life is more than acting and film-making.  Currently, I am not doing much of either because I have a job that absorbs most of my time, I have a dog who just had her third surgery and now I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to pay for it.  I am trying to raise money for a slate of digital television series and keep hitting brick walls.  I have family members who have medical conditions who need me. All of these obstacles bring on a lot fatigue and sadness and made it much more inviting to reach for the doughnut instead of the apple.

Although I have successfully lost over 50 pounds and have kept it off for over three years through practicing martial arts and working out, based on the current definition of The Body Shamers, I would still be considered fat.  I am still considered lazy, although I work almost twelve to sixteen hours a day with my job and on my own projects when I leave work. I am still considered gross by some because I’ve got some extra cushion in my mid section.

They don’t see how often I work out or the muscle definition I’ve developed and maintained, they don’t see how quickly I can take someone down in my martial arts class, they don’t even see how passionate I am about my crafts of acting, writing and producing.  All they see is that I don’t look like them.  Let me rephrase that, because many Fat-Shamers are obese and highly imperfect themselves – All they see is that I don’t look like the traditional standards of beauty.  And for that reason, they want to punish me and ultimately want me to hate myself.

This is what inspired me to write “An Open Letter to My Body (The Audacity of Fantasy)”.  It is my story that I believe other people, especially women, will be able to relate to and encourage them to adopt the spirit of Monique, Queen Latifah,  Jill Scott and hashtag queen herself Tess Holliday, in saying, “Eff your beauty standards!”

“An Open Letter to My Body (The Audacity of My Fantasy” premieres Monday, November 23, 2015. Sign up for the “One Chick Army” newsletter to have it emailed to you.

Viola Davis Emmy Win: Why It is So Much Bigger Than Her…

Watching Viola Davis take home the Emmy for best lead actress in a drama series for “How to Get Away with Murder” was divine intervention.  My Sunday did not start off so well. I received news that my grandfather is in critical condition in the hospital and on top of that, I have been stressed out about money, work and money (did I already write money?).  Today, all I kept thinking was, “How did I get here? This was not the plan.”  However, listening to Davis’ gracious and unapologetic speech was a serious adrenaline rush and a reminder of why I was doing all of this.

Since I first stepped on stage at five years old, there were two things I knew I wanted to do more than anything – write and perform. From competing and winning state championships to performing in regional plays, acting is something I’ve always enjoyed.  However, something happened along the way.  As I got older, I noticed that most of the actresses I was inspired by did not look like me.  As a child, of course, this did not matter.  I thought watching Emma Thompson in “Sense and Sensibility”, Barbara Streisand in “The Way We Were”, Meryl Streep in “Kramer vs. Kramer” or Diane Keaton in “The Godfather II” and saying, “I can do that,” meant that it was a done deal.

Read more Viola Davis Emmy Win: Why It is So Much Bigger Than Her…

One Chick Army – Why It Left…Why It’s Coming Back!

Hey there my Free thinking Comrades! I know! I know!  It’s been a while.  And I bet you are wondering what exactly happened with the “One Chick Army” show (at least I hope you are wondering). Honestly, it wasn’t just one thing.  In the last year, my job has become much more demanding and I had to seriously re-evaluate the direction I wanted to go with my life, my career and this show.  In addition, I was not prepared for the popularity or the outpouring support that “One Chick Army” was going to receive.  It has been a fun journey, but I found myself trying to “keep up with the Joneses” instead of doing the show the way I really wanted to do it. So I had to revamp.

I have recently made some major decisions in my life that I will be announcing soon but first I want you to know that “One Chick Army” is back with a slightly different angle.  I really enjoy commentary, however, my passion lies in performance and I wanted to find a way to combine the two.

I am an actress, filmmaker, writer, director, and avid pickle-juice drinker who wanted to combine all of my talents for this show.   Thankfully, I figured out a way to do that.  Some of my hard-core fans remember the short-lived show I produced called, “The People Inside My Head.”  It was a show where I combined performance, spoken word and commentary and it started to catch on.

Unfortunately,  coming up with concepts every week, committing them to memory and then performing them became very grueling and time-consuming.  I needed to find another way.  After my Kickstarter campaign for the web series, “The Confession of a Witch Bitch” failed to meet its goal, I knew I needed to revisit growing my audience in a way that worked with my schedule and was able to show my talents and “One Chick Army” was born.  This show really seemed to connect with people more than anything else I’ve done outside of “Tricks.” but once again, as previously mentioned, life and work got in the way.

So I knew I had to think of strategy that would A) Work with my schedule and B) Allow me to show what I could do while staying connected to my supporters.  So the new “One Chick Army” was born and will be debuting soon.  It is a fusion of “mono-rhymes” (spoken word combined with monologues) and commentary.  The new version will be offered in seasons and if you still want more “One Chick Army”, the blog will offer additional content on pop culture, my life, entrepreneurship, emotional literacy and relationships. So be sure to sign up!

I want to thank everyone for supporting me.  “One Chick Army” is only the beginning.  See you soon!

Over and out!

– DeAara

Cops Throw an Unarmed Teenage Girl to the Ground Like a Rag Doll…Are We Tired Yet?

I was on an epic high tonight.  The scene I had been waiting on finally came to fruition on “Game of Thrones.” As I watched Daenerys/Khaleesi fly away on Drogon, all I could remember thinking (between screams) was this moment, this night could not get any better.  I was even on a writing high.  I quickly pulled out my pen and paper and begin to outline the story for an upcoming podcast.

Why did I decide to go back on Facebook just one last time?  Perhaps it was fate.  Perhaps I was meant to see yet another police officer treating a “black” teenager like they were inferior after responding to a call about a fight at a pool party.

By the looks of it, it was a diverse, middle class neighborhood where the incident took place.  The seven minute plus long video starts off with a cop doing a ground roll as if he is dodging grenades.  His threat – a group of unarmed, soaking wet, confused teenagers.

Did it seem like the cop was extra-aggressive with the “black” teenagers? Yes it did.  And what broke my heart the most was seeing this trigger-ready “white” cop sling a young teenage girl around like she was a rag doll and then rest his knee in the small of her back to restrain her because she mouthed off to him – like angry, afraid teenagers will do. And as result of the cops grossly inappropriate behavior, he receives a suspension.  Had that incident been the other way around, with that girl attacking the cop like that, she would have received death.

So what happens next?  Shares? Press? interviews? Al Sharpton? Protests? Hashtags?  Not implying that these tools don’t work, social media has proven it can help take down empires (i.e. Hosni Mubarack of Egypt), but we on social media also have severe ADD.  We tend to only get and stay hyped about, well, what’s hot right now.  So what happens after the officer is allowed back on the force?  Will we just continue to protest and hashtag?

This is not a cynical question as much as it is a frustrated one.  Where is the protection from corrupt cops?  Or have all of the dystopian shows that have been trending for the last few years serving as a prelude?  Are we in the dawn of days?  I am not talking about some religious mumbo jumbo, but has humanity reached its climax of brutality and indifference?  Is the only way this world (and the many worlds in it) can be saved is if we start over?

And if that is too grim of a thought for some, is the result to continue to do what that which the powers-that-be have already accounted – get angry, protest, get high and then go back to our comfortable lives?  Seeing a young woman slung around like a twig for yelling that she wants her mother is too much for me.  And protesting doesn’t seem to be enough.  Maybe we need a Khaleesi and her dragons so we can “break the wheel” of this toxic ass construct.

 

Being Vulnerable is NOT a Sign of Weakness…

There is this strange belief that if a person expresses a fear or an insecurity, that means that person is weak. I cannot tell you how many times I have been in a situation where ideas ore being exchanged, the atmosphere becomes relaxed, I express a fear of mine and it suddenly turns into a therapy session…one I didn’t sign up for.

I was just recently in a situation where someone did this. And honestly, I couldn’t blame anyone but myself, because this person has shown time and time again that when I express a vulnerability, it is their cue to tell who I am and what I don’t know.

I felt angry and targeted, so I set a boundary and quickly ended the exchange. After I talked to a very close friend of mine about the incident, I really began to wonder where this line of thinking comes from and realized that those who believe this the strongest seem to be the most messed up and tend to offer the most unsolicited advice.

So for those who may have felt shamed and attacked by someone who sees admitting vulnerability as an opportunity to critically judge and analyze you, here are a few benefits of staying vulnerable and open:

Read more Being Vulnerable is NOT a Sign of Weakness…

A History of Riots: It Ain’t Just Black Folks (Baltimore Riots)…

scroll-video-2Okay, so I know I said I was done talking about “race” and I meant it…until I saw the news coverage of the Baltimore, Maryland riots.  Did y’all catch some of the biased reporting that was going on?  The words “criminals” and “thugs” rolled off of some people’s tongue so easy you would have thought it was a song.

I was watching and reading a lot of these comments thinking, “The people of Baltimore are not the first to riot.”   Furthermore, all rioters were not people of color, hell, most of them were not.  So why is it that “black” people seemed to condemned for it the most?  Hit play below to watch the video and share your thoughts.

F*ck Your Childhood! Why I Have No Remorse for Bullies and Perpetrators…

scroll-video-2I don’t know if it just coincidence or intentional, but a string of videos showing teenagers attacking innocent bystanders have been floating around on Facebook lately.  The one that really pulled at heartstrings and even my trigger finger was the one with the three boys jumping one girl over a cellphone and then started bragging about it.

I felt a rage I have not felt in a very long time and it brought up so much: Memories from my own childhood, sadness for the youth who have to go through school with the possibility that normal adolescent experiences may become viral videos, abnormal adolescent experiences like being jumped by three boys.  I felt confused and angry.  I have a huge amount of compassion for misguided youth, but what about those that fall in the other lane…the sociopathic lane.? The lane where they terrorize and victimize others without an ounce of remorse?  The lane where they are put in diversion programs, but still come out and continue the same behavior?  The latter is tougher for me to extend my compassion.

And then there are the adults, who because of some unfortunate circumstances in their own childhoods grew up to be perpetrators/bullies.  At what point is there true accountability when chance after chance after chance has been given?  I realize that this is a sensitive subject to some, but where I am right now is FUCK YOUR CHILDHOOD if you choose to intentionally and consistently harm others with no regard for life.  This is not what I signed up for.  Hit play to watch the video below and share your thoughts.

5 Top Rap Songs No Woman Should Like…But We Do…

scroll-video-2We’ve all been there. You hear a hot song on the radio, blast it, sing it and then one day, you realize the lyrics are completely disrespectful or reckless. You still want to like the song, but you don’t want to be seen as not down for the cause. I can’t tell you what to do get your self-respect back, but I hope you find comfort in knowing that you are NOT alone!

Hope you dug the video. If you haven’t watched it yet, check it out above. And as promised, below is my EXTENDED LIST of rap songs that I probably really shouldn’t like.

6. Tupac “I Get Around” – I reeaaallly like this song! I knew all the lyrics within a day of first hearing it and whenever I hear it on the radio or when I am out somewhere, I still rap it as proudly as I did then. Since I was a kid when it first came out, I didn’t pay the lyrics much attention, but after I grew up and experienced a few heartbreaks, I realized the lyrics are actually a warning about what dudes can and often do. The song is actually really fucking insensitive, but I am spitting the lyrics as I type this post. Oh, the hypocrisy!

7. N.W.A. “She Swallowed It” – It’s the world’s biggest dick, don’t matter just don’t bite it! Alex can I get “Pure Misogyny for $500”? I was in the 6th grade when I first heard this song. One of my classmates snuck a radio in recess and played it for the rest of us. I had never heard music that explicit before (I was a sheltered child) and to hear a woman actually performing fellatio on a song (you can’t tell me it wasn’t real!) really intrigued me. And after hearing “Aunt Esther” talking about the size of dicks, I never watched “Sanford and Son” the same.

8. T.I./Young Thug “If it Ain’t About the Money” – I think I can give T.I. a run for his money on rapping this song. Most of 88 million plays on Youtube probably came from me, that’s how much I dig it. I am not a huge Young Thug fan, but he is a beast on this hook. Since I am still green in trap music, I had to look up the lyrics to see what the hell Young Thug was talking about and was quite shocked at how much of a story he was telling with few words. I wonder how those other cats figured that damn song out.

9. Nicki Minaj “Lookin’ Ass Nigga” – I don’t even think I hate that I like this song. I just like it. I like how it comes on, what she is saying, how she is saying it and even the controversy that it caused. The only thing I really understood some people having a problem with was her choice of putting Malcolm X on the cover of the record. I always thought it would have been more powerful had she imitated the photo of Malcolm X looking out the window with a gun. Nicki, I hope you can consider that or else I am going to take the idea 😉

10. Nicki Minaj, Drake, Lil Wayne “Truffle Butter” – Just look up what truffle butter really is, it would probably be tough to listen to this song without blushing or becoming absolutely grossed out.

11. Lil Wayne “Gonorrhea” – I first heard this song on Pandora while at the gym and got completely lost in it. Does it need any further explanation?  I like how Lil Wayne used the word in this song to remind folks how toxic people are really a lot like STD’s – contagious if you aren’t careful.

12. Jay Z “Big Pimpin” – I mean, he pretty much tells you what his intentions are in the song. He will fuck, then leave. I guess it took a Bad B, like Bey to tame that beast inside.

13. Project Pat “Gorilla Pimp” – Folks who are not from the south may not know this one, but it was a big regional hit back in the day. The bluesy hook makes the song and if you aren’t careful, you will find yourself in the same situation I did, rapping some lyrics talking about getting beat up at the job for talking shit to a “pimp.” So now when that part comes on, I just skip over it…most of the time.

14. Three Six Mafia “Late Night Tip” – Another old-school southern favorite. The Academy Award Winners sampled Lisa Fischer’s soulful, “How Can I Ease the Pain” and you find can yourself quickly drawn to the staccato chant, “I’m not the type to get involved in long relationships; taking trips and buying gifts, I’m sorry I’m not on that tip.” It’s a pretty low down song if you really listen it. However, once again, at least they are upfront about their intentions.

15. Future, Pharrell Williams, Pusha T “Move That Dope” – This track is just fucking bumpin. Pharrell has been at the top of his production game for the past few years, even with the setbacks. And he really shows his versatility of being able to go from universal feel-good “Happy” to hood nod, “Move That Dope.” It’s still a quite disturbing song lyrically, but maybe I can make “dope”  mean something else metaphorically. Hey singers lie about the meaning of their songs all the time.

What rap songs do you hate that you like? Leave a comment in the comment section below!

“White” Feminism and Pizza…What Do They Have in Common?

What do feminism and pizza have in common? Actually, a lot according to Akilah Hughes who runs the Youtube Channel “SmoothieFreak.” With Patricia Arquette’s backstage Oscar comments still fresh in a lot of people’s minds, Akilah published a video that showed the difference in “white” feminism and “black” feminism using pizza. Aside from making me actually wanting a slice, it was very thought-provoking.

It actually reminded me of a debate I had with a “white” feminist. She and I did not see eye-to-eye on an issue at hand, well actually we did, she just didn’t like that I didn’t see things entirely her way. As a result, she took a shot at my color and my intelligence. That was her way of showing me why I was wrong. The way I thought about this particular issue was similar to someone telling me that I was stupid because I was black.

But it wasn’t. The simile didn’t even apply to the debate at hand. It was just a hold card. I had experienced this before when I debated with a “white” feminist. Each time we reached an issue that we did see eye-to-eye, they brought up race because surely if I know what it feels like to be oppressed based on my skin color then I should fight every fight they believed worthy.

After watching Akilah’s video, I actually felt relieved to know that this was not in my imagination. That this elusive hold card that was often held over me when I didn’t allow any one else to pull my strings, was not my burden alone to carry. Akilah explains this beautifully in her video, “On Intersectionality in Feminism and Pizza.” Check it out.

Kendrick Lamar’s Fiance’ is Light-Skinned. SO WHAT?!

scroll-video-2It was the Facebook post seen around the world. Activist Rashida Strober publicly slammed Kendrick Lamar for dating and getting engaged to a light-skinned woman, Whitney Alford, and this set off a firestorm of controversy. Most of the controversy has not been in Ms. Strober’s favor, it got so bad that she has received death threats. The controversy has also opened old wounds for many “light-skinned” women who struggled just as much as their dark-skinned sisters for a place of acceptance. Be sure to also check out part II of this post, “Light Skin vs. Dark Skin? What About Me? (A “Peanut Butter” Chick’s Story).

Hit play below to watch the video.