Twirl: In Defense of Kenya Moore
Last night, Bravo aired the finale episode of Ms. Kenya Moore’s inaugural twirl as a real housewife of Atlanta. And it, of course, was histrionically wonderful. Now, Moore has been at the center of several dramatic conflicts this season, serving beef to Kandi, my beloved Phaedra Parks, esq., and fellow rookie castmate, Porsha. Many have expressed their disdain for Ms. Moore’s antics, calling her mad dramatic and extra. I beg to differ, though.
Kenya Moore is not simply good television, she is and should be the latest black woman in the public eye who deserves a community of support. We should speak Kenya’s name both as a mantra and as a reminder of her history-making. If we are to declare ourselves lovers and supporters of black women, we must not only embrace and console Porsha as she frees herself from the talons of a situation wherein she was controlled, but work to understand Kenya’s struggles and triumphs as they were shown each Sunday night. Consider this blog a call to black feminist arms. I make this declaration not simply because Ms. Moore honored iconic black women in film–without making anyone show up as Mo’Nique or Viola Davis–but also for the following compelling reasons:
First, even though her title served as a punchline earlier in the season, Kenya Moore made history. Sure, Vanessa Williams gets all the shine for becoming the first black Miss America, but we gotta give at least a partial shout out to skin privilege there, right? Meanwhile, Kenya Moore copped the Miss USA title and not only made history by becoming the second black woman to win, but basically pulled a Wesley Snipes for women of darker hues. And the eyes? Moore won in 1993, the golden era of color contacts. So although judges might have been mesmerized and found her looks somewhat exotic, they might have also been suspicious. Furthermore, Miss USA has no talent competition, so Moore couldn’t sing or dance her way into the (white) judges’ high scores the way that black people are wont to do. She was chocolate and beautiful, and the judges had to recognize that in order to deem her the winner. And as long as there are still skin lighteners making profits and india.arie controversies, we know that being chocolate and beautiful is a revolutionary act. #raisedfirstforkenya
Second, Walter was a jerk. And Steve Harvey would’ve blamed Kenya entirely for that break-up. And if Steve Harvey is against you, shouldn’t we be for you? Weekly, we watched Kenya Moore experience the heartbreak countless other straight, successful, independent black women endure all of the time. All Kenya wanted was a black male partner to share a life with, and what did that dude do? Not sleep with her because she’s over 40. What kind of shit is that? Bogus shit, that’s what. Kenya Moore is a hero to all the single black women who refuse to just marry any tired dude just because she wants partnership. Kenya Moore is the personification keep on keeping on without settling. And if this African oil tycoon relationship doesn’t work, I fully support here pursuit of white and/or Asian men. #independentwoman
Third, some of the other cast members were straight up mean. Even after certain beef was squashed, both Porsha and Phaedra made sneaky little comments and then acted all kinds of brand new when Kenya reacted. That’s a patented bullying move and it wasn’t cool. They spent the entire season vacillating between hazing Kenya and pretending to talk her off the ledge when she “went there.” Still, Kenya invited all of the cast members to her party and attempted to make nice and apologize when she got a little extra. I suspect that Kenya gets a little extra because the RHOA treated her just like those girls back in the D prolly did: talk about you real bad and then act like you’re crazy when you clap back. Those were deep-seated wounds, and instead of getting upset with her antics, I think it’s our duty, as intelligent viewers, to recognize the self-esteem stuff that winning a beauty pageant couldn’t fix. If there had been folks to step in for young Kenya the way they did for Quvenzhané Wallis a few weeks ago, Walter doesn’t get a free vacation and face time. #thinkaboutit
All of this to say that instead of receiving our vitriol, Kenya Moore deserves our undying feminist love and support. She had a tough season, but she rose above all the drama, just like Kandi. Kenya was fiercely independent, female, and fabulous. She redefined what it means to be a housewife and from Atlanta. Because she was neither, she not only demanded a reconstitution of those terms, but compelled us to think about what, exactly, we, as viewers, understand them to be. Instead of chastising her, I think we should embrace her for who she is and turn our critical lens so that we can the feminist icon she is and will continue to be. Cheers to you, Kenya. Can’t wait to twirl next season.