Black Beauty

When I gave a talk on ‘Self-Esteem and Confidence’ to teens I showed them this image:

Khoudia Diop

I then gave them 5 seconds to think of one word to describe the lady in the image. I did this for two reasons: to evaluate the way they viewed things and to prove a point. They had to shout out the first word that came to mind. When I counted down to zero they all shouted a mixture of “dark” and “black”. I had expected this. I then let them know the truth – that the first word that I had thought of was “beautiful” but “dark” indeed followed close behind. The reason “beautiful” came up so quickly is because my outward perception is now driven by my new inward viewpoint. If you had asked me the same question a couple of years ago I would have definitely fallen into the former category. However because I now view all aspects of myself in a positive light, even the not so pretty things, I can now project that positivity on others and point out the things that make them unique and special with ease.

This young lady is called Khoudia Diop. Born in Senegal she moved to Italy to study. Obviously she was an outlier in that region and if you didn’t already know, being different makes you a target for hate, so hate her they did. There were those that could not accept the melanin clad beauty that was Khoudia and she was verbally attacked and called all sorts of names (as you would expect). Under such intense scrutiny (in that environment someone that dark will ALWAYS attract attention) it would have been easy for her to bow down under all the pressure and crumble. She was bullied constantly on every social platform and in person – enter Bullying: Make Or Break. Khoudia spoke out. She acknowledged her dark skin (dark it is – there is no denying it) and embraced her natural beauty. Bullies may have directed barbed words in her direction but she made sure they didn’t hook to her coffee coloured skin – instead she let them bounce off like it was a trampoline. She allowed the pressure to turn her coal to diamond, to ‘make her’ and eventually her mature responses as well as her uniqueness opened doors. This is her now:

Melanin Goddess

She’s an Instagram star with half a million followers and thousands of girls looking up to her as a role model. She is also a professional model even though she left for Italy without the prospect ever crossing her mind. Khoudia is now a symbol black girls and any girls that may have felt marginalised because of their appearance or some unique quality they possess look up to. She even hangs out with celebrities as shown by this pic of her with Lupita Nyong’o.

Khoudia x Lupita

All because she didn’t let bullying break her.

Let’s get this right Khoudia is dark! Khoudia was attacked for it!

But Khoudia didn’t let bullies define how she views herself!

Will you?

Compliment

You look absolutely stunning in that dress…

More so without it…

I kid. I’m just playing…

But you really are gorgeous.

You make me appreciate the gift of sight.

Why?

Because you’re a gift.

I’m glad to be here right now.

What? No, it can’t be lust.

Can one lust after art?

Perfection.

Actually – it’s subjective perfection.

I’ve chosen to accept you flaws and all.

So that you seem perfect.

Because you are to me.

“You’re smoothtalking!”

No. I’m complimenting you.

Comments based purely on honesty, not flattery.

With these words I try to show a glimpse of your value to me.

 

End Note

I believe paying loved ones compliments is essential. Not only does it let them know that you appreciate them, it gives them confidence and strengthens your relationship. The only guideline would be to be honest. It’s best to be genuine with compliments lest they be empty words and that can normally show resulting in a detrimental effect. So when it comes to compliments, sincerity is key.

Slave Or Friend

Approach me slowly.

Hush – don’t rush.

Breathe softly.

Your tongue whips out…

Yet you obey me.

Good girl! But…

 

That was never my mission!

I created a slave!

By commission or omission?

You dug your own grave!

It wasn’t my decision…

Then…

 

You finally misbehave!

You break my vase!

So you’re not a slave?

I’m so mad – I rave!

But…

 

I won’t raise my hand.

I won’t raise my voice.

You’re my only friend.

You’re my only choice.

 

You walk with me to the park.

You’re my best friend.

You comfort me with your bark.

Yes… Together! ‘Til the very end!

 

I love you Fluffy.

 

Fire & Ice

“You’re so beautiful.”

That’s how it always started. A thought. Simple, precise, never uttered by word-o’-mouth but conveyed via thought and somehow understood. I remember one dream I had, when I was around 14, quite vividly. I believe at that age I had already reached the height of my creativity. It was perhaps the best time to write down plots to future books because the ideas bouncing around in my head back then were, I believe, phenomenal. Of course writing them down would be considered a wise decision… so of course I never did follow through. Today I’ll recount as much as of the dream in this post as is enjoyable.

Stunning. That’s is how she appeared to me. A being of pure energy. Dazzled as I was somehow I wasn’t too overawed. I was caught between two states, of both wonder and serenity. Seeing her made me realise my concept of beauty previously had a fixed volume in my head, a virtual box that contained all the amazing things in the universe. She shred this box to pieces, expanding outwards to unfathomable depths, gorgeous beyond even the scope of words in a thousand dictionaries. I could not describe to you how she appeared. She never looked the same for longer than a second as her appearance seemed to be in a constant state of flux. Her hair would grow long and hug her temple. It would caress her neck – it would disappear altogether – yet her appeal never diminished. She must have been slight for even though she exuded power and elegance there was a vulnerability that drew me towards her like bees are drawn to symmetry. Something within me yelled, “Protect her!” But I don’t think she ever needed it, or ever would – after all, she wasn’t human.

The moment flowed for an immeasurably. It could have been an instant – maybe I spent hours gazing at her – either way there was not a hint of discomfort between us. She gave off a powerful glow at the start, radiant like the sun at midday. It was bright out yet you the blue light emanating from her skin was blinding. I should not have been able to see her without shielding my eyes but I did, clearly I was pulling the strings to this dream. I immediately knew something was wrong when her radiance began to ebb. She was dying. How I came up with this conclusion only God knows but I knew she was and I instantly picked up the reason why.

Behind her falling towards us like a comet was an orange streak, a violent fireball with malicious intent. I could feel the loathing seething off it’s dark red flames. The closer this comet grew towards her the dimmer she shone. I saw fear in those beautiful pale eyes though if you asked me what colour they were today I’d say “none and every”. It pierced my heart, that. I could not come to appreciate that look of fear, wouldn’t. I knew deep down that if I could shelter her from danger I would even if it cost me my life. Obviously I, being just a man, could not do so. In what rational world would a being of flesh and blood be the protector of one of pure energy? My mind saw the flawed logic and reconciled the impossibility by shedding off my skin and revealing a cool body beneath. There was a sizzling as my true form came into contact with the air for the first time. Ice. Ice colder than anything you can ever imagine; as tough as diamond, as fluid as honey – that is what hid beneath.

The rage from the comet intensified. Arms and legs extended out of the ball of fire that hurtled towards us. I could hear abusive yelling although I couldn’t perceive a mouth on the figure of flames as it tried to take me down. We hit. The collision was spectacular! A blast of steam and sound radiated out as we tumbled across an empty parking lot leaving dark streaks along the tarmac. Once on our feet rapid blows were exchanged. The fight was on.

The being of fire was kinetic. He flew, rapidly, then swooped down like an eagle and swept flames like massive whips towards me. A “broad” range of emotions swirled across his face – namely ranging from rage to fury. He hurled fireballs towards me from all angles. He was fast… but I was cool. I slid across the surface, a coating of ice preceding me, staying on the ground the whole time. In my mind a being of ice cannot fly. Ice is dense, fire is not. Thick shields of ice rose up from the ground beneath me and the fire man pounded them with fireball after fireball until he realised he could not burst through. There was no way he was getting a scratch on her. Not on my watch, so he came for me instead, I – her protector. Like a peregrine falcon in for the kill he dived, gaining speed at an alarming rate. I stood my ground and increased the ice around my feet, encasing them, making myself immovable. No matter the consequence this would be the final action.

We collided once more. There was a resounding, bone-chilling whoosh as a thin film of chipped ice spread in all directions. In my hands was the being of fire, immobilised and slowly dying down, the cold stifling the heat… until he disintegrated with a sigh, one of relief. It seems like the being of fire didn’t like his role in my story, perhaps he was acting outside of his will. Either way it felt good. But that shallow feeling of victory was dwarfed by the sheer elation upon seeing the look of pure joy on her face. She was safe, bright and beautiful and that is all that mattered.

 

The Most Beautiful Woman

Wow… my mind struggled to come up with anything more articulate. Wow… everything I had ever seen paled in comparison. Wow… before me stood the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.

Describing her is a waste of time, a waste of effort. Just think of the most beautiful woman you know. Then think what a person twice as beautiful would look like. Well she was ten times even that. She was so stunning there existed no jealousy in her peers, only awe. Traffic stopped for her to cross the street even when they had the green light. So gorgeous was she that her shadow always hung close, no matter the angle of light; her beauty far too magnetic. Yes, her kind of beauty was supernatural.

What were mere mortal men to do? This being was to be the end of us. We jostled for her attention. So great was her pull war between nations ensued. She was the modern day Helen of Troy. Companies collapsed as bidding wars to show who was the most wealthy took place. Intellects drew up schematics and equations and schemed to win her heart but ultimately failed to woo her. Artists made mind-bending pieces but when you are the most beautiful being what is attractive to you? Alas they failed too. Athletes chased after her heart with all their might but it was far beyond their reach. Even men with power could not unlock the safe that hid her heart. But I was among them, lowly me, using every gift I had at my disposal to win her heart. Her heart. Did it even exist?

Just as I was giving up, looking forward to a life of grumbling, knowing I had seen the most beautiful being but would have to live with less she turned towards me. She reached out to me and claimed me as her own. I could have died of ecstasy.

What I’d done differently only she knows. Men hated me. Plans to assassinate me were foiled when she claimed she would take her life if mine was. She said it with a smile on her lips. Did she truly mean it? It mattered not because it worked. Before then I was devoted but after… I dedicated my life to her.

“Who is the most beautiful being in this world,” she would always ask.

“You are!” I’d declare without hesitation. “There is no finer being in existence!”

She revelled in my praise and I was all too pleased to give it. This continued daily. I would only leave to shop for what she wanted. Things to complement her beauty. Those were costly. My ledger had been in the red for ages. That’s what credit cards are for I told myself. I would go out to buy her whatever she fancied and come back to tell her she looked more beautiful than ever. Everyday. For years.

Then the truck came… There was darkness. I swear I opened my eyes and I could still see it, the darkness. Light could not be found anywhere I looked. I did hear words though so surely I wasn’t dead? But they did say hearing was one of the last senses to go.

“I’m sorry but he shall never see again.”

Apparently that was the doctor. I’d had an accident on my way back from shopping. Even if I bothered with the specifics the reality of my situation would not change. I was blind – forever.

“Who is the most beautiful being in this world,” she asked numbly as a servant took my bags away.

“You are!” I declared without hesitation. “There is no finer being in existence!”

“You are blind you cannot tell. I do not need you anymore.”

She closed the door on me. The door to her house. It used to be mine but I had left everything in her name because she was beautiful. It was only with eyes unseeing that I could finally see. She may have been attractive – downright gorgeous beyond belief – but she was never truly beautiful. Not in the true sense of the word at least.

To a happier ending continue down below

So out into the street I went. I had no money and no voice to sing. I wandered in the dark yet it was midday, going where only God knew. I fell many times, it is hard to walk when you cannot see where you are going. I fell. Heart torn to shreds and the will to live drained from me I chose to stay down, this time for good. I let the darkness consume me. It must have been nighttime because my limbs went completely numb with cold. I tried to rub my toes together. Why were they so thick? Was that frost?

I was going to die that night. I knew it and I accepted it. When the darkness took me surely I wouldn’t be able to tell? Everything was dark anyway so I shouldn’t feel a thing. I was on the precipice of death. I couldn’t see it but I could feel it. And then. Wool. A blanket? No, a body. I was lifted away albeit with apparent diffiiculty. To where I know not. I heard soft grunts of effort. My too numb skin barely felt the small pressure as someone tugged at my shoulder. Weak as I was, I passed out.

Next came the warmth. It flooded through me like a veld fire on oil covered plains. My senses burst alight… except my eyesight of course. Singing. I heard singing. Not the loveliest voice I had ever heard but it brought me the warmest feeling I had felt in a long time. Coughing ensued. Unexpected, I wheezed and sputtered like a broken down lawnmower.

“You’re awake! Thank God you’re awake.”

There was so much life and relief in her voice I could not help but smile in spite of my current state.

“Here. Open your mouth, I’m going to feed you some soup. It’ll be hot so please sip carefully.”

The spoon was held with the utmost care and I was fed more gently than most babies ever have – or ever will.

“I don’t know why you were on the street all alone but I could not leave you to die there,” she continued. “Do you not have somewhere to call home?”

Grief hit me like a whirlwind. How could I respond to that question? Having given my life to someone only to be discarded like used toilet paper I became mute. The pain must have been clear on my face. She went on even more softly:

“It is not good for you to be alone… Maybe you can stay with me and help make this new house of mine a home?”

Tears, unbidden, shed from unseeing eyes, burst forth like jets of water from a shattered dam. Surely after all that had happened to me I’d finally come across one whose beauty could not compare. Yes, with eyes unseeing I had finally seen the most beautiful woman…