Growing up, I've always been one of the Kelly Rowland's of the world as Joelle Brooks (Ashley Blaine Featherson) in Netflix's Dear White People season two, episode five coins it. In high school, I would be overlooked with my mocha skin and tight kinky coils by the Lauren London's.
But, it was all good because I was going to college. In my 18-year-old mind, going to college would be my time to glow up and finally shine because more guys = more options. I was hit with the reality check of going to a PWI where my playing field shrunk even more with the Black student population of my university being 12.5%
How are you still single?
The question reinforced to me that I was second string in the game of dating. It was a backhanded compliment that I would often hear when going through multiple cycles of the daunting "talking stage".
Rashid similarly tells Joelle the cliché , "If a guy can't see how beautiful you are, he is blind" while Sam says, "How you walk around with all this skin and stay single, I've never understood." Joelle and I's problem isn't that we're lacking anything, but rather we're just not most guy's first pick.
The Sam to my Joelle is my closest friend at college, let's call her "Maya". Along with battles of colorism in the Black community comes the beauty hierarchy of hair texture. Maya has what Black people love to call "good hair". Long and silky when flat ironed. Wavy when wet. I went through a Coco phase where I wouldn't dare walk on campus with my Frederick Douglass fro.
I would always rock big curly protective styles because it's what got me the same attention as Maya and the other 3C girls at my school. When I would wear braids, it was crickets. The desire I had to be someone's first choice led to a period of time where I was focused on guy's preferences and became so self-conscious and afraid to show my natural self.
I deeply appreciate Joelle's character because she shares the story that many Black girls like myself experience. Many people may watch the show and call it unrealistic for someone as beautiful and intelligent as her to be overlooked, but it's what many encounter on a daily basis which leads them to not realize how deserving they actually are.
Dear White People in one episode covered what girls like us know all too well such as her short-lived romance with Trevor. The awfully relatable situation of knowing that a guy is too good to be true, but falling for him anyway because the feeling of finally being chosen from the crowd overpowers any sense of doubt.
The final scene when Reggie defends Joelle was so quick yet so important. It was a genuine moment that showed although it may not seem like it with our unfortunate luck, that we are still seen and appreciated. It may take kissing a few more frogs, but hope should be kept alive that there will be someone who sees you first in all your melanated splendor and that us Kelly's can and deserve to be treated with kindness too.