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15. "Pretty for a Black Girl" & The Cost of Beauty (feat. Jennifer Holness)

"A love letter to Black women" is how Ryan Richardson, otherwise known as Miss Black America, once described the documentary...

For this episode, I am honoured to have had the privilege to interview and converse with Canadian director, writer and producer, Jennifer Holness. Among the many documentaries she has produced and directed, we discussed Subjects of Desire (2021). Subjects of Desire (2021) is a documentary centred on North American beauty standards at the intersection of racism and sexism. The documentary explores and uncovers how society's ideas of desirability and beauty are warped in white supremacy. As I say in the episode, this documentary isn't shy nor afraid to discuss colourism, misorynior, desirability politics among a myriad of other important topics in just over an 100 minute running time.

In the podcast episode, Jennifer and I discuss her miseducation of beauty, especially as it pertains to Black women. We discuss the complex nature of self-love and the importance of staying active in her pursuit of self-love for herself and for her daughters. We discuss the ways in which beauty has been used as an indictor of status, capital, worth and - most importantly - power. And lastly, we discuss how, we, (yes we) as Black people are implicated within the systems of white supremacy.

I'm biased because I conducted the interview but I would argue this is one of my best interviews. And, if you couldn't tell from the many "wow" and "umms," this interview was an example of stomping ground. Despite the 5 hour time difference, I still felt I could continue the conversation because there was so much more to talk about. However, if I had to choose my favourite part of the conversation, it would be seeing Jennifer as a mother.

Motherhood and Jennifer's relationship with her daughter is heavily present throughout the documentary. It is not explicitly shown or talked about within the documentary but it is felt. It is felt through the careful and sensitive discussions. It's felt within the careful balance between discussing trauma which surrounds the Black diaspora and also celebrating Black women. For me, it never felt too heavy but it was not too shy either. And as I talked with Jennifer, I felt that same balance as Jennifer implored us to be "active" in self-love and to daily make the decision to "reject white beauty standards."

I learned from Jennifer that to be active in self-love is not just for the sake of oneself but also for the sake of future generations. It is important that as we, as Black women, learn to love ourselves, we actively show younger generations to love themselves. But also, we must actively listen and allow younger generations to voice their opinions, frustrations and experiences. We must make room for dialogue between us and disband the shame that stands in the way of these important conversations.


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Twitter: @bysarahg_

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Follow Our Guest, Jennifer Holness

Support and Follow Subjects of Desire

Music by:

Matthew M. Moore

Instagram: _iammattmmoore


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