Commentary: Why Glamour’s Women of the Year Issue Matters

Laverne Cox, Robin Roberts, Lupita Nyong'o

Commentary: Why Glamour’s Women of the Year Issue Matters

Lupita Nyong'o, Laverne Cox and Robin Roberts represent the diversity of Black women.

Published November 6, 2014

Despite some obstacles, 2014 has been a pretty good year for Black women.

From Beyoncé making us feel flawless to Shonda shutting down Thursday night TV to Serena proving she may be the best athlete of all time to Mo’Ne Davis becoming a household name overnight, it is clear that we are all utterly amazing.

And the accomplishments keep coming.

Earlier this month, Glamour Magazine released its annual Women of the Year Issue — and it’s pretty epic. Out of the nine chosen women, four of those women are of color, with three being Black: Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong'o, actress and transgender activist Laverne Cox and news anchor Robin Roberts.

Now granted, Glamour's list won’t strike down the isms of the world that block our socioeconomic and political freedom. But just because it doesn’t, doesn’t mean it lacks value.

We all know that inclusion and visibility is incredibly important, especially when it’s about celebrating women’s successes. And unfortunately, Black women have been left out of that conversation for way too long.  

Thankfully, we do have our own publications that validate us by telling our stories, marking our milestones and shining light on our victories. But in no way does that let mainstream publications off the hook for shutting us out.

We are entitled to our seat at the table.

Which brings me back to Glamour. By celebrating Lupita, Laverne and Robin, it also reminds the magazine’s million monthly readers and beyond that we are way more than the “angry Black woman” and the "scary b***h." Black women are leaders and visionaries and have incredible influence over the world.

But the power of this issue also lies in the immense diversity of these beautiful Black women.

Just look at Lupita, who is more than just a fashion icon that slayed everyone this past awards season. She is a producer, a director and a Yale graduate, who happens to be from Kenya, representing the Diaspora.

She also has broadened the definition of beauty.

In a society so color struck, Lupita turns colorism on its head and doesn’t shy away from speaking openly about the discrimination she’s faced for being a dark skinned woman. And while many have tried to argue (unsuccessfully, I might add) that Lupita is being eroticized rather than celebrated for her beauty, the reality is that for many Black women and girls around the world, Lupita is an affirming reminder that our beauty isn’t just relegated to looking like Bey.  

Then there is Laverne, the Emmy nominee who historically graced the covers of Time and Essence and brought us to tears (of both laughter and sadness) with her character Sophia Burset on the hit show Orange Is the New Black. But it’s her fierce trans activism and how she gives back that makes her stand out. Yes, she may be famous, but she hasn’t gone all Hollywood on us.

And while trans folks have been ignored by mainstream LGBT organizations over the years, it’s inspiring to see that the current reinvigoration of the LGBT movement is mostly due to the work of trans folks (especially those of color). Thank you, Laverne, for your role in that.

Not to mention, by being added to a list about women’s accomplishments, she is broadening what it means to be a Black woman, reminding us that Black trans women are our sisters, too. A message that isn’t heard enough.

And finally, there is Robin Roberts, the Good Morning America host and award-winning journalist whose public battle with both breast cancer and myelodysplastic syndrome touched our hearts. She embodies what real strength and perseverance is and is an inspiration to us all. But it’s her recent coming out as a lesbian that’s been really important in providing another much-needed example that not all lesbians are white and not all Black people are straight.

In the end, I am fully aware that we don’t need mainstream media to tell us what we already know: Black women are pretty damn awesome. But Glamour’s newest issue that honors Lupita, Laverne and Robin is important in that it sends the much-needed message that not all the powerful and influential women in the world are white and not all Black women are monolithic and one-dimensional.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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(Photos from left: Rommel Demano/Getty Images, Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images,  Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)

Written by Kellee Terrell

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