On one level, this should have been a good development – especially for black women.
Ever since Sir Mix-A-Lot made a rap song praising women with figures that didn’t resemble an adolescent boy’s, ever since Jennifer Lopez’s butt began to attract more attention than her acting, and especially since Serena Williams and First Lady Michelle Obama’s curves changed the game on healthiness and sexiness, having a shapely backside has become something to be celebrated.
As I said, this should have been a good thing – especially since over the ages, black women’s posteriors have been the stuff of freak shows and racially-tinged ridicule.
In Cuba, figurines of coal black women with protruding, cartoonish backsides are still sold. And who can forget about Saartjie Bartmann, the Hottentot Venus?
I wrote about Bartmann four years ago. A British ship captain brought the South African woman to London in the late 1700s, dressed her in a skin suit, and put her on display where spectators could touch and inspect her protruding backside.
Bartmann ultimately wound up in Paris where, according to information compiled by http://www.SouthAfrica.info.com, she was further exhibited until the Parisians grew tired of her. She turned to prostitution to survive, and it is believed that she either died of alcoholism or syphilis.
Bartmann was only 25. And the humiliation didn’t end with her death. Her remains were preserved and put on display in a Paris museum until the government finally returned them to South Africa for a proper burial in 2002.
All of which brings me to today’s column.
In an era in which black women’s natural curves are being celebrated as part of being natural, it’s disturbing to see how some black women are doing unnatural things that could kill them – all to turn themselves into the freak show that Bartmann was forced to be.
Last year Shatarka Nuby, 31, died as a result of complications from being injected with cement, mineral oil, Super Glue and flat tire sealant to get a larger butt. The fake doctor who injected her, Oneal Ron Morris – a transgendered woman with fake, cartoonish-looking hips and buttocks – has since been charged with manslaughter in her death.
Another black woman also became extremely ill after being worked on by Morris. According to news reports, the woman sought a bigger backside because she wanted to work in a nightclub.
In other words, to be on display.
But the latest, and probably the most pathetic, addition to this list is 39-year-old Natasha Stewart. Also known as Pebbelz da Model, she and another woman, Shannetria Newberry, were arrested recently in Memphis in connection with the death of a Mississippi woman who had concrete injected in her backside.
If nothing else, Stewart is a poster child for the damage that occurs when someone is ignorant of history and devoid of personal pride.
In one interview, Stewart, who also has a freakishly large, likely fake backside, profanely brags about how all the men want to have sex with her because of her large posterior, how anyone who criticizes her is jealous, and how she likes men to slap her buttocks. She also talks about how black men, and not white men, are “hating on her.”
Newsflash Natasha: White men didn’t hate on Bartmann either – because they saw her as an oddity more than they saw her as attractive.
Stewart also makes a point of having the interviewer feel her butt, and she makes a really big deal of sitting in his lap and rubbing it up against him.
When I saw all that, I thought of how Bartmann probably would have given anything to not have her behind inspected – or otherwise be treated like an object.
I thought of how, at a time when black women’s curves are being appreciated as healthy and natural, caricatured women like Stewart cause us to be seen as curiosities.
And I thought of how things have gone horribly wrong when black women who are obviously too poor to afford a real plastic surgeon, women who know nothing of the pain of Saartjie Bartmann, are willing to pay to turn themselves into a freak show.
Even if it kills them.
Tonyaa Weathersbee is an award-winning columnist based in Jacksonville, Fla. Follow her at tonyaajw@twitter. Or visit her webpage and blog, “Tonyaa’s Take,” at www.tonyaajweathersbee.com.