On Dawn Richard, Cosmetic Surgery, and Uphill Battles

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A Black woman's body is hers, and with it she should do whatever she pleases. I am rarely interested in degrading the choices women make with their own bodies.  But the circumstances surrounding those choices and the responses to them can be illuminating.

This week, the Internet reacted viscerally to obvious cosmetic surgery singer Dawn Richard has undergone. It appears as though the work isn't new, but as her group, Danity Kane, gears up for a comeback, interest has been renewed.

Those who've followed Dawn's career first met her while she was auditioning for Diddy's girl group spin-off of Making the Band. Dawn is a New Orleans native and Katrina survivor who quickly displayed that she was among the most talented auditioners.

Ugly is never a word I would have used to describe her, but, clearly, she was dissatisfied with her appearance because in recently pictures she is nearly unrecognizable.

This conversation arises just as I've revisited the idea of plastic surgery. Since I was a child, I've desired a nose job.  Since I've been an adult, the desire faded, but that wound is reopened with a regularity I'm almost ashamed to admit. As a an "average" woman, I have come to accept that my life will not be built on my physical attractiveness, but in some ways that is a privilege.  Like many young girls who've lived a media saturated life, I once desired super stardom. But I learned to redirect my talent and ambitions around age 11 when I came to a full understanding that girls who look like me rarely get a shot at big stages. It was a strategic resignation, and as I sit here creating a life that fulfills me, I am grateful for it.

I'm not mad at Dawn.  Beauty that conforms to the narrowly defined parameters of the ideal, whether European or otherwise, is an asset--particularly in the field of entertainment. And I can only imagine the psychic toll of having one's body picked apart constantly. But I do wish we, the public, would exhibit more care in our assessments of her beauty. Particularly disturbing is the fawning over her new face. While discussing the topic last night on Twitter, more than a couple times did I see some version of  "She looks amazing!" but on the other hand I saw just as many ridicule Dawn for her choice. These types of  comments say less about their intended subject and more about the disdain with which their originators view black features. They reveal the insecurity that so many Black women continue to work through.  And that is no jab. Many, certainly not all but many, have not given ourselves a chance to find our value outside of a communal construction of beauty. Instead we reify it and accept the humiliations that follow.

I'm saddened by the cultural landscape that made the surgeries a necessity for her, but when you're on a quest to win in a game that was designed for your failure, options are few.  The simultaneous praise and scorn she received further highlights that there really is no clear way to win. If we are to survive, we must handle each other, and ourselves, with care.

Photo Credit: Instagram

Kimberly Foster is the founder and editor of For Harriet. Email or

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