If you haven’t heard, there’s this physically fit Jewish woman who takes lots of pictures of her butt. Jen Selter, 20, who is a fitness coach-turned Vanity Fair model, became famous for her “butt selfies,” and has now been hailed the “The Butt Selfie Queen.” Yes it’s a real thing.
Like many people these days, Selter turned her online “fame” to a full out career option. She has more than 3 million followers on Instagram, and pictures of her very fit body continues to reel in fans. While I rock with Selter’s strategy of pairing flattering visual imagery with inspirational words, I cannot help but to notice the subtle, and possibly subconscious rewards of white privilege at play in her favor. The main issue with white privilege is that those who take advantage of it are blind to its existence most of the time. But for those of us who recognize it, it is our duty to call out instances that allow for it to continue to thrive.
While workout videos and DVDs have been around since before most of us have been alive, it appears that everyone is itching for that protein shake and workout plan that will get them a six pack. So Selter makes for a viable option for several endorsements, agency deals and television show appearances (she recently taught Barbara Walters how to take a butt selfie on The View), all of which she’s been graced with. So that makes sense. I’m not knocking Seltzer’s fame and followers, but this goes far beyond a chick with a hot body taking selfies. This is yet another prime example of white people taking something, in this case an appreciation for a nice round ass, and making it famous.
Take the Kendall Jenner cornrow incident from two weeks ago for example. Fashion publication Marie Claire posted a photo of the model and brand ambassador. The photo featured Jenner sporting cornrows, a traditional African hairstyle that is rooted in both African and African American culture, accompanied with the caption, “Kendall Jenner takes bold braids to a new epic level.” The publication was met with a wave of backlash in response to the tweet, with blacks, whites and other people of color calling out the magazine for it’s misappropriation of credit to a white woman for a style that has been around for years. Do I believe that Marie Claire purposely credited Jenner for a hairstyle that has been well-ingrained in our culture? No. But it happens too often to ignore.
Personally, I believe that Jen Selter is just rolling with the fame. She has a nice body, and face it, a white woman with a big ass is an anomaly. She’s also offering a service that is in demand these days. But so are many people. Who are black, and who also have nice asses.
You may say, “Jillian Michaels is white. Why aren’t you tripping over her?” Well Jillian Michaels acquired her fame for working hard on her fitness, NOT for having a big ass.
Vanity Fair is known to have an issue with featuring people of color in their spreads. In the rare cases that they do, we end up with a much lighter Lupita Nyong’o. The issue that many people of color have with the “Queen of Butt Selfies” has very little to do with the fact that she got famous for having a butt and taking selfies, but the constant invalidation of African American contributions to American society and culture.
I’m not, nor will I ever be down with the objectification of women or men. Reducing someone to a sexual object, body part or anything that does not highlight more substantial contributions, no matter gender or ethnicity is just plain wrong. It would also be ignorant for me to stake claim of the big butt on behalf of all African Americans. But when you examine preference, whites and mainstream media have always presented the image of the lean, abnormally thin woman as the body type to aspire to. Anything over 105 pounds and you’re just about obese. I’m just saying. Maybe that has changed.
What I will say is that Black and Latino men have been praising the rotund woman since the beginning of time.Through songs, music and black publications, there has been a very vocal and very public appreciation for the more curvaceous figure possessed by black women. Not overweight or obese, but curvy. Where is our reward? Where is our Vanity Fair spread and appearance of “Good Morning America”? Are Kim Kardashian and J Lo enough? I got a problem in general with people becoming famous for superficial reasons, but that’s another story. Should we expect proper attribution for our many contributions to society from whites? That’s debatable. But if we’re going to reward someone for something as simple as ass and a motivational quote, then at least take it to the Motherland.