As a young boy growing up in 1980s Nigeria, I knew Black women as lovely women who exuded charm and breeding in their dressing, their demeanor and in their mannerisms. In fact, the epitome of loveliness was Nigeria's then First Lady, Maryam Babangida.
Mariam was dark skinned and proud of it. She did not bleach her skin neither did she contour her face with pancake powder to make her appear lighter. She was a lovely Black woman and proud of it. And when you looked at her, you knew that Black was and still is
I may be wrong, but I was a very observant boy and I cannot once remember Maryam
Babangida wearing any Western style clothes. Not that there is anything wrong with it, but Maryam was able to look lovely and elegant in African fabrics designed by African tailors.
And it was not just Maryam Babangida, although she set the pace. Even our female pop stars of that era were lovely women who were proud of their Blackness.
I remember Onyeka Onwenu. She was elegance personified. She had an Afro and it was cute. Her contemporary was Christy Essien-Igbokwe and like Onyeka, she was a paragon of Black feminine loveliness.
And it was not just First Ladies of politics and pop music. Even our On Air Personalities and TV anchor women were of the same bent. You had Ruth Benamaisia, Tokunbo Ajayi, Bimbo Roberts and many others.
In fact, the very first major star of Nigeria's then burgeoning film and theater industry (the precursor of Nollywood) Patti Boulaye, (née Patricia Ngozi Ebigwei) was a clone of Maryam Babangida. Very dark skinned, high and pronounced cheek bones and most important of all, not ashamed of it. Her starring role in Bisi, Daughter of the River, paved the way for dark skinned lovelies here at home and in England where she became a major star.
I cite these examples to show that being a Black woman used to mean that you were a lovely woman.
But something has changed. Today, I cannot flip through the pages of newspapers and magazines or browse social media without seeing bleached Black women in very revealing outfits being celebrated not for any positive thing that they have achieved but rather because they flaunt their cleavage, their buttocks, thighs and other parts of their bodies.
Where we as a society used to promote the ideal woman as being lovely, today, our women want to be seen as being sexy. And being sexy appears to be code for looking light skinned, flaunting barely clothed bodies with heads covered in imported 'Brazilian' hair.
Why must a woman be sexy? I would have thought that it would have been better to be lovely than it is to be sexy.
I mean there is a reason the great singer, Stevland Hardaway Morris (better known as Stevie Wonder) composed a hit song titled 'Isn't She lovely'.
Loveliness is a better ideal for women to aspire to than sexiness. And you do not have to bleach or contour or hide your Afro under Brazilian hair to be lovely.
Mrs. Aisha Buhari is Black, beautiful and lovely. Ngozi Chimamanda Adichie is Black, beautiful and lovely. Chidinma of the kedike fame is Black, beautiful and lovely. Omotayo Omotosho is Black, beautiful and lovely. Molara Wood is Black, beautiful and lovely. There are many Black, beautiful and lovely women in Nigeria and we should promote that ideal rather than this westernized ideal of the 'sexy' woman.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word 'sexy' means "sexually attractive" while the word 'lovely' means "exquisitely beautiful". As a woman, ask yourself which of these two ideals you really want for yourself?
I am convinced Satan promotes the word sexy so we can see women as sex objects, but God promotes the word lovely so we can see them as beings to be loved.
Let us go back to The Bible were it all began and see what it tells us.
In Esther 2:17 we read that "Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other".
Why did Esther obtain this favour? It is a historical fact that King Xerxes had many SEXY women in his harem. Yet despite the multiplicity of sexiness available to him, it was the LOVELY Esther he chose as his queen. Why?
That is the question we are going to examine in the rest of this piece.
Women should think about the type of men they attract if they aspire to look sexy as opposed to if they aspire is to look lovely.
The truth is that women who look lovely attract men looking for love while women who look sexy attract men looking for sex.
That is just the bitter truth. Some may call me misogynistic but I have a wife and a daughter that will testify to how I treat them like queens. Truth is bitter, lies are butter. One will purge you while the other will make you fat!
Even among animals, a lioness is a lovely animal and that is why she stays in a pride with her lion mate. The lion will protect her and together they will raise a family of cubs that stay with them until they start their own pride or are absorbed into another pride.
You see, a lioness has pride because she is lovely.
I want to encourage our women to see themselves as lovely. They do not need to flaunt their most delicate parts because that is what Western women do.
If they must flaunt anything, let our lovely women flaunt their intelligence, their characters and their Blackness.
Let us retain or return to the ideal of Black womanhood, where the Black woman is unashamedly Black, elegant, pure and a pillar of her home and her community.
By Reno Omokri.