I grew up in a single-parent household.
My mother made sure I didn't want for anything, including gifts and birthday parties, but also love and affection. She also wanted to make sure I was a well-rounded person, so she put me in every class imaginable.
I did ballet, jazz and tap for grace.
I did swim class, so I wouldn't be a stereotypical black person who can't swim.
I did cookery class so I would know how to feed myself properly.
I did karate class for self-defense.
I did modeling class so that I would feel beautiful.
That last one was a bit trickier than expected.
Growing up as a dark-skinned black girl was complicated enough. The only woman in the entertainment industry to represent dark-skinned black women, as leads and lovers, was Whoopi Goldberg. The black Barbies I had looked just like the white ones, only with dark skin.
Still, I held on to these images. I had so few in a world hellbent on telling me that I was ugly and undesirable.
What my mom taught me
My mother is the strongest woman that I know.
Confidence radiates from her. She wields it as a power. She told me I could do anything I put my mind to, fiercely, and I believed her because she did that very thing.
My mom also showed me what it means to be beautiful.
Her style, flair and glamour defied the norm and ideas of standard beauty. Seeing her revel in her own beauty taught me to revel in mine.
That may come across as vain or egotistical, but when you have the world screaming at you that you’re less than, your self should be your own place of truth.
I wasn’t raised to be ashamed of my heritage or my skin. My mother made sure I knew my history and that I loved who I am.
Because of that, I know that I am beautiful.
I'm lucky — a little black girl who grew into a relatively confident black woman. And that was all because of the love and care of one woman.
Thanks for that, Mom.