No, I’m Not “Exotic”. I’m a Pretty Black Woman

I bit my tongue on this topic for a while. Mainly because I have never wanted to be known as a Black beauty writer who only shared the not-so-friendly side of living in her dark brown skin, but instead glorified the beauty of brown women as a whole.

But, I’m pretty much over this shit. Excuse my language.

I wasn’t going to write this post, ever. But, one night a week ago, I was waiting for my workout class and happened to scroll across an Instagram post by Karrueche (Chris Brown’s girlfriend…ex…whatever). It was a picture of her and two little girls who were dark brown and gorgeous! I mean, they were adorable. One looked about 7, the other about 5.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 3.09.16 PM

Hundreds of comments poured in. And while many people commented on the fact that her two nieces were just outlandishly pretty, there were also people saying ignorant things about their dark complexions because, you know, that’s what Trolls do.

But then there was one comment made that irked my soul:

“Oh my gosh she is so cute. She looks so exotic.”

This follower happened to be commenting on the oldest girl in the picture standing in the middle.

Now, let me disclaim that I know this person may not have meant this comment with any shady or bad intent. But, it still struck a nerve that made me question the reasoning behind saying that this little girl was so pretty with a nod to the fact that she looked so “exotic” (what does looking “exotic” mean anyway?


Let me share something with you all:

Last fall, a man approached me as I was walking home with awe in his eyes.

“Oh my gosh, you are beautiful”, he said. “Thank you so much”, I responded graciously. I continued to walk, minding my business.

“Where are you from?” he asked.

“Maryland”, I responded as I continued to walk to my Bushwick apartment.

“No, like where is your family from?”, he continued.

I finally stopped and looked at him for a second.

“Uh, Arkansas and DC”, I said as I laughed. This hadn’t been the first time a guy had asked me over and over again where I or my family was from because of my “look”. I was sort of used to it, and sort of used to the implied intent behind asking these series of questions. But then, he followed up with the most blunt, disrespectful response in regard to Black women I’d pretty much ever heard.

“Nah….nah. You CAN’T just be Black American. Like you can’t just be a regular Black girl. You’re too pretty.”

DEAD. FISH. EYES.

For a good two seconds, I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. I composed myself and asked him where he was from.

“Brooklyn, I’m a regular Black n****a”, he said as he laughed, awkwardly waiting for me to understand and join in the humor. I didn’t.

“Um, what? So, you’re a “regular Black American” man from Brooklyn, who just told a “regular Black American” woman she’s too pretty to be a “regular Black woman”? Like, how your mom is a regular Black woman? Really? Sir, please get out of my way. Thanks.”

I attempted to walk away but then he cut me off with a perfect, ignorant follow up:

“Nah sis, it ain’t like that. I’m just saying you look wild exotic.”

I looked at him with the utmost disgust, and then kept it moving. He, to this day, probably still doesn’t get it.

Maybe I was a bit harsh, but I really have grown tired of this.

Here’s the thing: this wasn’t my first or last incident when someone, most likely a Black person, felt the need to tell me that I couldn’t be a regular ass Black girl because I was “too pretty to be so”. And while I appreciate people thinking that I’m a pretty person, that’s not a damn compliment.

What’s weird is that many people will try to tell me where I’m from based on how I either have my hair, or if my shape is showing. If I have a curly weave in my hair, I’m Dominican. If my hair is pulled back, I’m Jamaican. If I’m rocking my natural hair, I’m from one of the Islands.

Side note: I think I’m a beautiful woman inside and out, but I don’t go gawking at myself. So when someone acknowledges me offering a compliment, I am very appreciative, happy and grateful. But to me this, this type of backhanded compliment is degrading and insulting to both Black women and Black people as a whole.

In my opinion, it installs this notion that a) black women aren’t naturally pretty, and b) if a black woman is pretty, she could potentially be from the islands, mixed, or something else other than just a Black American woman.

Sadly, he wasn’t the last person to say this to me. Ironically, my last encounter with someone telling me I looked so exotic and that “I should be so happy that I do”, was a Black woman. We were at a professional event, so I didn’t want to get an attitude in public. But, I did politely correct her, letting her know that while I really appreciated her complimenting me, I didn’t think it was appropriate to assume I’m not a Black American woman because I’m “pretty”. She wasn’t really feeling me for the rest of the evening, and I really didn’t give a damn.

And, just to let you know, I’ll politely curse out the next guy who decides to fawn over me because he thinks he’s getting some out of this world exotic Black girl, realizes I’m a “regular Black American” woman, and then decides to lose interest (yes, that’s happened before).

Black prettiness is not circumstantial. A beautiful Black woman is just that. I’m not exotic. I don’t even know what that shit means. I’m not exceptionally pretty because I’m a “regular” black girl. I’m pretty because I’m pretty. I’m beautiful because I’m beautiful. Beautiful Black women are just that.

So, ladies and gentlemen, the next time you decide to tell a Black girl or a woman of color she’s so pretty and then decide to follow up with your ignorant rationale that she must be “exotic”.

…don’t.

 

  • Tarah

    Chile…you gonna open up some stuff…for some reason, Black Americans (I am Black American) have internalized that WE are not good enough or pretty enough. If people deem a Black person to be pretty, they can not believe they are “just” Black American. We have to be from some “Other.” It’s sad.
    Beauty standards got us all twisted every which way but up! Anything to “fetishize” our beauty, smh!

    • Melanie

      Tarah, yes, I know. But, it really irks me when people say that to me. It’s sad that our community has allowed ourselves to internalize that we aren’t good or pretty enough. It’s something I refuse to believe. Sadly, a lot of young women and men who are AA already feel this way about themselves. Makes me so sad.

  • GIRL! I am so glad I came across your site! I’ve been living in Australia for a few years now, and I thought I was over reacting to the “you look exotic” comments! But you’ve made me feel normal. And I look forward to spending time on your site! xx

    • Melanie

      Hi Ebone!

      I’m so late to this but I can’t believe you found BB in Austrailia! That’s so cool 🙂

      And, yes, I cannot stand the exotic comment. It’s so insulting. I hope you’ve visited the site more! Trying to stay up to date with posts!

      xo,
      Melanie

  • Atiya

    Remember, you live in Brooklyn. So automatically, we (myself included because I too am a “regular” black girl from Brooklyn) are boring, ratchet, have no culture, and the regular black guys don’t want that. They want that Dominican or Puerto Rican girl with the pretty hair, that Jamaican or Trinidadian chick that not only can make you curry chicken and rice and peas, but can freak you in the bed better than anyone, along with that “sexy accent”. Not disparaging them at all, but sometimes I feel like a foreigner in my own city! So it is now much cooler to be from somewhere else.

    • Melanie

      OH. My. God. I can’t believe I’m just seeing this comment. But THANK YOU. That’s exactly how I feel every time a Black man gets uninterested in the fact that I’m a regular Black woman. And it really does happen so much here in BK. When I’m in Philly, Maryland or even Miami, none of that happens. I don’t know what the deal is, but it’s so frustrating and while I know all men aren’t the same, it’s starting to feel like a “trend” to not want regular African American women.

  • Kayla

    It’s really no one’s fault African girls look exotic, and by that I mean different from regular black females. But we’re all pretty either way.

  • eris

    i like how you think about that i see a lot of stuff out their and beauty really starts with understanding certain standards like being cultivating helps to improve beauty

    • Melanie Yvette

      Thank you for commenting Eris!

  • Kieris

    I’m so happy to know that there are other black women who feel the same way about this exotic “compliment”. I’m very proud to be black and don’t get offended when I’m mistaken for another ethnicity, it’s easy to correct someone. What bothers me is when someone tries to insist that I must be something other than black because of my looks. Just yesterday a black man told me that I don’t have “black hair or features” and even asked me if I think I look black. His “compliment” actually made me feel less attractive. I have caramel skin and have always thought dark ebony skin to beautiful. Maybe if I had a darker skin or fuller features, I’d be seen a “just” black.

  • Carolina

    I like the color. Whatever the color is, attitude makes the personality. Please like my new stuff called fake ultrasound design from fake baby. It is a lot of fun and excitement.

  • Carolina

    I like the color. Whatever the color is, attitude makes the personality. Please like my new stuff called fake ultrasound design from fake ababy. It is a lot of fun and excitement.

  • Aaliyah

    So I’m a black child people make fun of me but you know god got me I know it I pray for kids rember all thoughts kids being rude to ruby bridges because she black if we were to take of are skin will look the same so those people god created I’m still gone love them because got is are dad and that are family and if earthquake happened we have to gather together and pray toghther the world and god will make alright for us in the name if Jesus
    Christ Amen

  • Jb

    Rest at ease sistahs…only ignorant people make those statements. Intelligent brothas will tell u that American black women are the prettiest in the world. That’s because we come in every shade and look that represent every other woman of color out there. I’m Paula Patton complexion..Halle Berry hair texture. As far as I know I’m black american. Gf if u think u have it bad…I must have it 5 times as bad. Not even white people think I’m completely black…smh. I live in upstate NY and I’m here to tell u majority of Latinos are not LIGHT. Nor do they all have soft hair…most of their hair is just blow outs. I’m still waiting to see the exotic ones people talk about. Excuse my French…majority of the ones I see are unattractive and out of shape. So ladies don’t despair because there’s plenty of black men out there…that will tell u that ur beautiful just being you.

  • Niqqi

    This just happened to me last night and it finally hit my nerve! I work in a predominately white area and I am constantly asked if I am from “here” I too, get the islands or Dominican often like they are all reading from the same script. I am just glad to know that I am not annoyed alone. I googled “what is an exotic black woman” and it brought me here…

    • Melanie Yvette

      Ugh, I’m sorry that happened to you! It’s so annoying. It’s like “regular” Black girls can’t be pretty?

  • Mariana

    Looking exotic is relative to the person who sees someone as exotic. Exotic defined is originating in or characteristic of a distant foreign country. With that in mind anyone could look exotic to someone if it isn’t what that someone sees in the mirror everyday. I’m self described pasty, blond, and white but my ex husband told me once that he thought I was exotic. He was from Colombia and did not grow up with people as light as myself. I remember thinking me? Exotic? Only because my view of exotic was someone like the girl In the pic. I think it is a compliment when someone uses exotic as a description. That girl in the picture is beautiful… however I’ve met black (hate that description for a person) women from the Bronx and Brooklyn that were every bit as beautiful and exotic looking in my view as any Dominican, PR, Or African woman with and accent. When it comes to women, what is normal anyway. Embrace who you are!! My daughter works with children and she had a child who refused to remove her hood. She explained to my daughter that she felt her hair was ugly and wished it were more like my daughters. It was heartbreaking to hear that a child felt that way about herself when if she could only see that she was descended from a long line of beautiful,strong women who have birthed nations. I guess my point is that why would you want to resign yourself to just a “pretty black woman’ when exotic and beautiful are how people see you. You’re not “just pretty’ you’re gorgeous! Not being weird it’s just how I see you. How many stars do you see injecting themselves and going under the knife just to have what you’re naturally born with.

  • Kim

    I get this comment all the time from people of different races. Because I have high cheekbones and big eyes, there’s no way that I can be American! When they ask where my parents are from, I say, “The same place yours are from… The Garden of Eden.”

    • Melanie Yvette

      Hi Kim, thank you for your comment! Yes, it’s so annoying when people ask me where I’m from and then proclaim I can’t be “American”. It’s frustrating, esp when Black men say it because at times, it’s like they’re saying “regular Black American women” can’t be pretty.

  • Resa

    We are all Beautiful African Goddesses. I am from Brooklyn & get the same comments. I will be 55 this year and proud of my looks but they don’t define who we are on this planet.

    We are the original creators of mankind they all try look and be like African women. Our black is goodness & the best we don’t have to tan.

    We are melanin Queens and some of our men have treated us disrespectfully due to %10 of every race that have no respect and love for our people. The kardashians and others want to look and be like us but they can’t reproduce our beautiful black color of melanin. They try to breed with our men to have children with color.

    In reality white women don’t like there color that’s why they ran to look like us. I’m proud of my melanin and to be of African descent.

    We have to reeducate our beautiful black young ladies to love themselves for who we are and not try bleach and change to look like others who want to look like us but use black in bad context
    Like black mail black list black day?

    All Africans United to be productive and love ourselves to make sure our survival on the planet African are the chosen people of Amin Ra the Sun God. We are the true kings and queens of The universe Egypt is in Africa not the Middle East. Keep your head held high and cherish the beautiful melanin we are blessed with Amin🌞

    Check out diaryofanegress.com Stay Awake and love and buy African to progress & be productive we have to start taking care of our own cause no one else will stop hurting each other & love now.

  • Resa

    Also, when our men are successful they rather marry outside our race to mate with others they couldn’t have but they need to wake up.

    Taking money out of our community and using it to make them wealthier is sad. If Kanye west really wanted to help Chicago won all the black on black hurting each other he wound be buying a $4 million ring for the white to enjoy and brag about. He would be investing in his own community to help them not kiss the ring and praise others. We Hope the African Americans with vast wealth will invest in our own people and community’s to prosper.

    It’s okay to marry and love other races but we have to start investing in us now. All Africans on the planet with melanin are beautiful.

    Black is good and the best we all should be proud

  • Resa

    The kardashians can try to braid there stringy hair, make there lips bigger it’s all falseness to woo our African Men. The fake butts breast and all the money in the universe won’t make you

    Beautiful and black like us.

    Whites are melanin deficient and can’t be this beautiful no matter what makeup blogs they try to have.

    African women are the original chosen by God.
    Blessed with beautiful black skin. We are the ones they copy and want to look like.

    Africans love your beautiful black and brown skin

    Remember They don’t hate us cause we black they hate us cause they are not black but pale and colorless. We all have to change our perception of black that they tried to trick us to hate ourselves. Our black men need to be reeducated this new trump administration should be our wake up call to stay United & love each other for our survival on his planet.

    Love ourselves and our people Africans United

  • Resa

    Tyrese the singer is so insecure to put down the African women that look like his mother to make his white women feel better. money means nothing if not investing in our own people. He needs to understand and love all our people that look like him. He has self hatred that the whites taught him to hate his blackness.

    We all need to be reeducated and have more love for all Africans on the planet rather we were born in Africa, America, Jamaica, Dominican we all come from African descent. United we are stronger and better to survive investing in our own people and communities to prosper.

    So the next time anyone asks if we are Exotic hold your head high and say I’m descendant of Africans and wear it with pride and dignity.

    Africans have all the wealth in our land the diamond mines, gold, old minerals etc. we should be the richest people on the planet not suffering and struggling. When African men make millions in entertainment sports lawyers doctors etc we should all be investing in our African people businesses and produce our own stuff for our survival as the creators of civilization. It’s all true and we can’t prosper without self love.

    Our children learning African history from the beginning in Africa is vital for our well being.
    Let’s start to educate us and not allow others to degrade us and take our values. The bible is all Adrican history changes to benefit others who won’t admit we are all there ancestors.

    we can reproduce an albino win no melanin but they can never reproduce Africams because they lack our beautiful Melanin. Be proud and life our black skin it is the most beautiful of them all🌞
    Never change and pass on the wisdom to us all
    Check out diaryofanegress.com site. it’s powerful knowledge and wisdom so we have a better understanding loving our own first, Amin!

  • Girl, someone just said that to me yesterday! I was like really, I’m black from America. I just ignore them, but it’s sad that our own black people can be so ignorant.

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