Reflections on Beauty and a tribute to Naomi Sims 7

Have you ever seen people so beautiful it almost hurts your eyes to look at them?  People whose faces take your breath away, that seriously cut off your oxygen supply.

I saw a guy on a visit to NYC on a train who was so tall/beautiful/dark in an aboriginal way – like the actor Djmon Hounsou is dark.  There was not a blemish to be seen on the perfection of his skin.  His teeth were brilliantly white and even.  I wanted to touch him, caress his face and whisper to him – you are so beautiful…the perfect Black.  It wasn’t the kind of attraction like – I want to get with you –  it was…how to put it…it was a fascination that someone could be so stunningly formed.

Another time I saw an interracial couple on the T in Boston.  He was Black she was White.  Both were tall, tan, young and lovely.  Standing next to each other on the train their bodies seemed to curve toward each other as if they had been cut to fit together.  Their love, I could see, was meant to be.  Just look at them, I kept thinking, they are gorgeous.

The models Naomi Campbell, Carmen de Valle and Iman are women whose beauty I find breathtaking.  I met the model,  Sheila Johnson, a few summers ago when we attended the same cookout.  She was so warm in person.  She was fairly quiet and sat back  the whole evening, but attention kept shifting to her because of her visual perfection.  She had a make-you-turn-your head around beauty.

There is beauty that makes you hold your breath and wonder why, how it exists?
There is beauty as majestic as a wonder of nature.

I have friends and acquaintances that walk around in beauty every day: Ekua, Phoebe, Julia, Nora. Trevor, Frieda, Araminta and Dolores. The late Linda and Thomas B.  (There are many others but these pop immediately to mind.)

Sometimes beauty scares me…repulses.  I have seen people, usually of the male persuasion who were so beautiful that you knew they couldn’t be any good!

I wonder, is it difficult  to be so beautiful?  To have people look at you as if they want to devour you?  To have people focus so on your visuals that they cain’t (I know…I know…but it’s the right sounding word for here) get to who you really are inside.

I think it’s, if not better,  more comfortable to be attractive, handsome, pretty, cute, fit, fine…Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder and pretty is as pretty does.

Speaking of beauty, the first Black female supermodel, Naomi Sims, passed last week at the age of 61.  I remember her from my teenage years.  Before her, most Black models that I saw were in the pages of Ebony and Jet magazines and, unofficially, in my family (Mama and Aunt Jewelle) and at my church., which was filled with beautiful Black women across a spectrum of looks.  The aisles of the church on Sunday were their runway!

She graced the cover of many magazines as the first Black model (including Ladies Home Journal, Cosmopolitan and Life).. It is only through reading the obituaries in various papers that I learned that she only modeled for 5 years.  She gave up modeling and launched her wig business, the Naomi Sims Collection that went on to become a multi-million dollar beauty empire. 

Naomi was a woman who was self-determined.  When modeling agencies turned her down when she approached them for work while attending the Fashion Institute of Technology, she approached photographers directly and launched her career.

I remember my friends and I applauding her beauty and scouring magazines for her photos.  She and my best friend in high school, Etta, had a similar look.  Naomi was validating for all Black women but especially for Black women with dark brown skin.  Essence magazine came on the scene during my high school years also.

Until Essence and Ms. Sims came on the scene, I hadn’t realized what I’d been missing.  James Brown’s anthem, Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud was played from every radio and record player in my hometown St. Louis during the summer of 1968 it hit the scene as did To Be Young, Gifted and Black first recorded by Nina Simone  on her album Black Gold, in 1970 and then by Aretha in 1972 on her album, Young, Gifted and Black.  The song was writen by Weldon Irvine, a Black lyricist..

Rest in Peace, Naomi Sims.  Thank you for your pioneering strides and great example of how to live and thrive with poise, class and far beyond your original circumstances in life.

About Candelaria Silva

Candelaria Silva-Collins is a marketing, community outreach and programming consultant; writer; and trainer/facilitator who lives in Boston, Massachusetts. She has designed and facilitated workshops on a wide variety of topics including communication, facilitation, job search skills, team building, and parenting issues. She currently coordinates the Community Membership Program of the Huntington Theatre Company. Her work as Director of ACT Roxbury was profiled in several publications, including The Creative Communities Builders Handbook. Candelaria’s children’s stories, short stories, essays and reviews have been published in local and national publications and she is an active blogger. Her publications include the booklets, Handling Rejection; Pushing through Shyness: Networking Tips when You’re Shy, Slow to Warm Up or Just don’t Feel you Belong; and Real Questions about Sex & Relationships for Teens: A Discussion Guide for Parents. She has served on the boards of Goddard College, Wheelock Family Theatre, Boston Foundation for Architecture, and Discover Roxbury. She is currently Chair, Designators of the Henderson Foundation.

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7 thoughts on “Reflections on Beauty and a tribute to Naomi Sims

  • Jim

    As usual, you touch a nerve. I know exactly what you mean about beauty taking my breath away, but my own take is a variant. There is a woman who will do that to me, more than one actually, but her beauty is almost never universal. That is, she is somehow uniquely beautiful to me…everyone would agree that she is attractive, but few would see the breathtaking quality that sends me off into some reverie filled with absurd thoughts and leaves me gasping for air with nothing to hold onto.

  • moniladeack

    Thanks for the beautiful tribute to Naomi. I went to hight school with her, we shared a swimming and music class. I wasn’t her friend, but I was in awe of her. She was practicing to be a model back then. She was the only girl in the swimming class who could get dressed in the 5 alloted minutes and get to her next class on time. We couldn’t understand how she did it! We were rather plain and simply dressed. Naomi had hairpieces and full makeup and an elaborate clothing. I’ve always admired her for representing Pittsburgh, Pa., so well and I am so sadden to hear that she is gone from us — much to soon.

  • LeeAnn

    You made me laugh with “…so beautiful you knew they couldn’t be any good.” I know a few like that, eh? That sort of delicious beauty that makes you want to devour. I find it a feast to encounter such beauty but I always wonder if it’s really that comfy to be the beautiful one.

    A couple of my children seen to have placed their value in their physical beauty and as you say, it worries me some – pretty is as pretty does.

  • Anali

    I’ve seen several people like that who have been so stunningly stop in your tracks beautiful. It might be difficult for them to have people come up to them and stare like that, but I think the benefits outweigh the costs.

  • Candelaria

    Thanks so much for your comment.  It’s amazing that some people have this light that shines in them from childhood!  She clearly had it together, early.  She made a beautiful mark on the world while she was here!