How I Learned to Love My Big Nose and Lips
I used to be mystified by my big nose. It’s not button-cute like my little sister’s. It’s bulbous. It’s big. No low bridge over here. When I was younger, I didn’t understand why I had it. I’m not going to make up some inspirational story about people making fun of my nose, but I wasn’t fond of it, so no one needed to poke fun. It’s a nose, not a hidden feature. You see me, you see my nose.
My lips are sizable as well. They turn into the recipient of unwanted sexual commentary, the type of commentary that makes me feel uncomfortable. I remember a time in high school when I didn’t like my lips as they were. I was detached from my body.
Big facial features haven’t always been celebrated. For centuries, black people have been the butt of jokes due to our noses and lips. We’ve been mocked for so long, to the point that some people are no longer able to enjoy their natural features. My former classmate was made fun of for “looking like a horse” because of her lips and nose. One of my family members shames her own nose because she’s been conditioned to believe it. While big lips on white women have been turned into a trend, the same is not true for black women.
During one of my grand, early 20s realizations, I came to the conclusion that I would have to accept myself. If I didn’t, I would chip away at my self esteem until it was a nub. Or, I’d project my insecurities onto other people. I did not want to be the type of person that did either of those things, so I allowed myself to become cozier in my skin.
Frankly, I’m not the type of person who can always inspire herself. Sometimes, I get strength from observing people who are like me. It helps me get out of my own head. When I was meditating on my features, I turned outward.
One of the people who helped me become more at ease with myself was Teyana Taylor. Fashion prowess aside, Teyana inspired me to be more confident in myself because that’s exactly how she was. She didn’t fold. She owned who she was and how she looked from day one. In middle school, I thought she was so rad because she had big curly hair, full lips and a black nose. Everything about Teyana always screamed “big.” Seeing her shine from the beginning gave me a chance to observe someone who was like me. People embraced her simply because she embraced herself.
There was also the phenomenal soul singer, Nina Simone. The first memory I have of seeing Nina was in a popular magazine right after she passed away in 2003. As time went on and I became more familiar with her values, I realized how outstanding it was to have a woman who looked like her be as celebrated as she is. In a 2012 interview with the New York Times, Nina’s daughter, Lisa Simone, stated, “My mother was raised at a time when she was told her nose was too wide, her skin was too dark.” I, personally, found beauty in her features. It’s why I couldn’t stand behind the 2016 film Nina. It erased her instantly recognizable features, visually toying with her legacy. I’m able to ignore that misstep because I know how proud Nina was of being black. She once again showed me that I don’t have to even think about changing.
These days, I don’t feel obligated to contour a damn thing. My eyes are wide, the type of wide that white people would imitate during minstrel shows. I’m okay with how they look. My nose is a thick tear drop of a thing, and it’s even grown a little bit over the years. I love it. These lips are as juicy as the day is long. I love them, too.
I am grateful that these black women showed me how to appreciate myself. These types of role models are critical for young black girls, for they provide a shining example of what it means to be free in our own features. Embracing ourselves in every way is a joy that we deserve, to know that we are worthy they are of love — from ourselves and from the world.