I Don't Need Anyone To Recolonize My Decolonized Body

I hear a lot of talk about "pretty privilege" as a perceived "pretty girl." But nobody is really talking about the fact that some of us brown girls have only begun to fall into that category, purely by exotification of our entire raza.

I grew up around Latinxs. I exclusively dated Latinos because when you grow up in a city composed of 71% Latinxs, that is just normal and expected. And I remember when dating light-skinned Latinos, how much heat I got from their friends because this light-skinned Latino was dating me! ME, a darker, indigenous-looking aka "ugly" Latina. The assumption was that he could have so many other options. That he could do better.

I once had a group of about four light-skinned Latinas laugh at my face when my hazel-eyed Colombian novio introduced me to his friends. It was like I was insulting them by existing. I was a slap in their face for being ugly and having someone fooled into thinking that I was worth dating.

I grew up being told I was ugly. I grew up being told on almost a daily basis that being funny and outgoing was my way in; that my personality would be the thing that would attract men. I grew up knowing that I had to be smart, witty and funny because I was lacking in the looks department.

In my mid twenties, I finally began to realize how shitty all of that was and began the process of loving my brown skin, as well as my overall hairy body. BUT I was also was living in Nashville, where I was the first Latina a lot of my peers had ever even met.

I was decolonizing my body and what it meant to be pretty in my cultura, and I began to experience the white gaze that saw me as irresistible, purely because they had never seen someone like me before.

I began to experience what I now know as "pretty privilege." But I resented it because this liberative moment in my life when I finally was loving my ugly body and features came exactly at a time when everyone around me found me to be the prettiest person in a room.

I was aggressively trying to decolonize my "ugly" dark body by claiming it as a beautiful brown one, while receiving an intensely colonizing perspective of beautiful that made my body exotic.

To this day, now that I walk like my shit don't stink, I am constantly reminding myself that my shit don't stink because I was made whole and perfect from day 1, and NOT because the amount of white gaze affirmation that has become a norm for me.

I don't know when being brown became sexy, exotic and beautiful, but do not come for me because I suffered intense bullying and outright colorism for being this way my entire life. So when you compliment the features that I've worked 30 years to love, I see right through you. I see you being hip and trendy, but you do not understand that this body has gone through hell and back, and trends were never on its side till now. So keep walking. I do not need you to recolonize this decolonized body for your checklist.

There is something so daunting to me about being considered pretty the minute that I become the ONLY person like me that you have ever laid your eyes on. There is something insulting about your gawking gaze that makes me feel more like a zoo animal than a person. There is something violent about you perceiving me as pretty because I represent all those things that you want to be friends with, like that African baby you want to adopt and that Nicaraguan friend you party with.

So keep your pretty; all it has ever been is a disservice to me.