[Commentary] Dear Blake Lively: You Tried It and I'm Going to Let You Have It

CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 13:  Actress Blake Lively attends the "Slack Bay (Ma Loute)" premiere during the 69th annual Cannes Film Festival at the Palais des Festivals on May 13, 2016 in Cannes, France.  (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)

[Commentary] Dear Blake Lively: You Tried It and I'm Going to Let You Have It

Here's why her 'L.A. face and Oakland booty' was seriously offensive.

Published May 20, 2016

Dear Blake:

You tried it. And you really shouldn’t have. You’re in the news cycle for captioning a photo of yourself with “L.A. face with an Oakland booty,” a problematic line from Sir-Mix-a-Lot’s song "Baby Got Back." Here’s where you went wrong: you dropped a song lyric that is misguided and straight up hurtful on every level for many women. It was wrong for Sir-Mix-a-Lot to say it in 1992. It was wrong for you to say it over twenty years later in 2016.

Blake, it’s pretty sad that this has to be explained to you, even if Sir-Mix-a-Lot defended you. But clearly you need help. Let’s translate that line for you.

"L.A. face with an Oakland booty" means this: the best-looking women have the features of someone in Hollywood. You know, blonde hair and blue eyes, like you. He’s not talking about a dark-skinned woman with kinky hair when he raps about an "L.A. face." When he says she also has an "Oakland booty," he’s grouping women of color, choosing just their large butts when creating the perfect woman.

It’s sad that you don’t see how that line would be piercing for some.

You thought you were being irreverent and witty, but you weren’t. Some folks said: “It’s just a song lyric! She didn’t make it up!” And that’s true. But if a song lyric has the word n***a in it, is it OK to use it yourself? (Ask Gwyneth Paltrow, the answer is no.)

Blake, you are 28. You were only five years old when “Baby Got Back” was released. It’s altogether possible that you aren’t aware that hip-hop doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to how it treats women. Black women in particular have long had to fight like hell to get respect or just look the other way when we could not. We’ve fought for many years to not allow hip-hop’s beauty ideals to ruin our self-esteem. (It doesn’t always work.) A line like "L.A. face with an Oakland booty" is the prototypical hurtful crap we’ve had to digest for a long time.

Imagine if the entertainment genre that you loved didn’t love you back. Imagine if you loved film and television and you never saw yourself on screen. Imagine if you loved hip-hop music and you didn’t have the long hair, light skin, small waist and large backside that every video vixen appeared to have? Imagine if almost all the musicians you loved always shouted out their preference for girls who look nothing like you.

This has been the plight of women of color who love hip-hop. And it’s been a pill we’ve had to swallow since hip-hop’s birth.

You wrote that line to draw attention to your beauty. Blake, just know that when you use that line to describe yourself, you’re showing how tone deaf you are. Kind of like you getting married on a plantation celebrating antebellum culture. Yay, let’s celebrate the slave-holding South!

A sincere and swift apology and we can put the whole thing behind us. (See what we did there?) You didn’t know any better and now you do. We’ll call it a learning experience.

Still think the line was harmless and it’s being blown out of proportion?

Consider this: If you are an L.A face with an Oakland booty, what does someone with an Oakland face and an L.A. booty look like?


People Who Think You Need to Do Some Research Before You Drop Hip-Hop Lyrics

Written by Aliya S. King

(Photo: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)


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