How Lil Kim Made Me A Better Godfather
As a hip-hop head who thoroughly believes that the early-to-mid 90s was the best era of rap, I vividly remember the first time I ever laid eyes on Lil’ Kim in the video for Junior M.A.F.I.A.’s lead single, “Player’s Anthem.”
She didn’t just stand out because she was the only female emcee on the track and the only woman in the video not relegated to background eye candy, but she stood out because of her ability to embody the essence of a confident, self-assured Black, Bedstuy beauty.
But now, in 2016, that woman we collectively fell in love with top to bottom, from her fur coats to her finger waves, is no more – literally and figuratively.
When Lil’ Kim recently updated her Instagram page with a selfie collage revealing her stunning continued descent into surgical beauty, gone was any lingering ability to recognize the person we fell in love with on the cover of the Hard Core album. And while some folks decided it was the perfect time to get their jokes off, claiming that when she dies Biggie will walk past her in heaven not knowing who she is, I couldn’t muster up any jokes about her this time, because all I felt was extreme sadness.
Let’s keep it real. Over the years many of us, myself included, have participated in cracking jokes on Lil’ Kim’s appearance. But now when I see her, I don’t see Lil’ Kim the celebrity who wants to stay current by using plastic surgery to fight Father Time. I see Kimberly Denise Jones, the brown skin girl from Brooklyn who was never told how beautiful she truly is. And it’s that recognition of her humanity, as a deeply scarred Black woman who was failed at many turns in her life from the Black men and women around her, that made me see all of my five goddaughters in her.
Truthfully, when we talk about the inherited legacy of self-hate propagated by a white supremacist society that has frequently taught us to be disgusted at our very own images, there’s a lot to unpack that goes far beyond a simple blame game labeling Black men or Black women as being responsible for our collective esteem issues. But, as a Black man, I feel it’s important to address and acknowledge the roles we play in affirming the Black girls and Black women in our lives, because this is no damn time to be overly defensive.
I have 5 Black goddaughters between the ages of 2 and 9 years old and, for the first time, I realize that my previously held mentality of believing it’s my job to just help protect these young girls and help provide anything their parents need my assistance with, was way too simplistic in its hyper-masculinity. It’s not just about playing “Mike Lowry” and pushing a glock in “Little Reggie’s” face when he comes to take one of my little girls out on a date. It’s to reaffirm her beauty at every given chance. It’s to help make her feel confident, remind her that she’s worthy and reinforce in her that her natural self isn’t just adequate – it’s exquisite. Basically, everything that the men in Lil’ Kim’s life failed to do.
Lil’ Kim’s father told her she wasn’t cute. The Black men she dated told her she wasn’t cute. Our white European beauty standards told her she wasn’t cute. Our whole damn society told her she wasn’t cute. And this was not a localized assault on one Black woman. This is the daily ongoing reality that all Black women have to face. As a Black man who will undoubtedly have an impact on how these young Black girls see themselves, I choose to accept the responsibility of assisting them in actualizing their carefree, unapologetic, Black girl magic.
But, perhaps, what I’ve learned most from seeing Lil’ Kim put herself through excruciatingly painful surgeries simply to fill a hole that could’ve been repaired, or at least somewhat treated by the presence of loving men and women, is how I’ve been complicit in the ongoing self-hate myself. My desire to get hot jokes in back in the day instead of trying to even recognize the pain she was in – a pain that many Black women share – only added to the problems. Although I’m at this point now, it’s truly not cool to wait until you have Black daughters and goddaughters to start caring about Black women.
This is not about erasing Kim’s choices or engaging in a blame game, it’s about acknowledging that we as Black men, for all our strength and flaws, can do better for the Black women who love us, support us and depend on us.
Lincoln Anthony Blades blogs daily on his site ThisIsYourConscience.com. He’s an author of the book “You’re Not A Victim, You’re A Volunteer.” He can be reached on Twitter @lincolnablades and on Facebook at Lincoln Anthony Blades.