Sports Illustrated is obviously our favorite magazine that encourages body diversity, from their weird descriptions of Ashley Graham on the cover to having to see Ashley explain why she prefers not to be called plus-size on The Ellen Show. But as a fashion media lover and obsessive magazine reader, I realized it was not a normal day when I saw model Precious Lee gloriously being unapologetically black and beautiful only a couple pages inside the new issue.
Let’s not get all excited because for one thing, it’s not an editorial, it’s a paid advertisement from Lane Bryant. In a perfect world it would be a six-page spread. Everyone’s ideals of beauty and what’s desirable are already pretty messed up, especially in the media–but specifically in black culture, it’s no secret that there is still the false notion that fair-skinned black women are more beautiful. Usually when we see them, they have longer hair, and in general, they’re more desired. We’ve seen it in music videos where the darker skinned girl is dancing in the back of the club but the light-skinned girl is always the one who gets to go home with the guy, or in movies when the darker skinned girl is always the best friend but the protagonist is, more often than not, light-skinned and gets all the glory. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had conversations with friends over the years, wondering if someone would be into them because they were darker than anyone that person had ever dated before. Colorism has caused a lot of pain and division for decades and is still does to this day.
So to see Precious, uncovered and flaunting her banging body, with short hair and chocolate skin that they didn’t retouch to make her lighter makes me extremely happy. And she isn’t covered up in frumpy bikini, but a form-fitting one that shows off her figure. It’s also important that it’s a white set bikini instead of black or nude one, which tends to be the color curvy models are dressed in to make them subtly appear slimmer.
In her recent interview with Parade she said, “To be three pages in a size 14 bikini, I think, is very inspirational to people who always thought that to be able to do things, you had to be a certain size. It is definitely something I feel that people can relate to. It just shows that beauty standards can change and we are redefining beauty slowly but surely.”