July 24, 2010 10:03:00 PM
Christina Aguilera sings it best: "I am beautiful, no matter what they say." It is a powerful song and an even more powerful video. All the faces that have been told they are less than beautiful, even ugly, mouthing these words sent chills up my spine when I first saw the video and still today.
"Words can''t get me down, ''cause I am beautiful in every single way... " The beaten down spirits represented in this song and video are standing up and taking back their confidence before the final notes and I, too, am moved. But am I moved enough? The world has become complacent. We have all adopted the mindset not to get involved because it''s "their" fight, somebody else''s war. What if "somebody else" turns out to be your child?
When I was a small child, my mama did not understand why her little boy wished to play with paper dolls or smear on a shade of lipstick just for fun, but she allowed me to do it anyway. It was my freedom of expression, my God-given right to be me.
This year we watched the Itawamba High School officials and an entire small Mississippi town effectively stone a teenager because she wanted to wear a tuxedo to the prom and to escort her same-sex partner. The town rallied against her telling her that she was not beautiful -- at least not their definition of beautiful. Constance McMillan was different.
I experienced my own differences when I was a teenager, with all my teen magazine posters glued to my wall, fluorescent shoestrings, a Mohawk in junior high. If being different was a party, then I threw a bona fide hoedown!
In the first grade we invite children to hold up their hands, turn them from side to side examining the freckles or size of the fingers, pointing out the very things that make us unique. Then somewhere down the road we are taught to fold into the system. Blending in becomes paramount, and standing out is deemed awkward.
I remember being in the third grade many moons ago, sitting on the green grass of a playground during recess at Richton Elementary School beside my classmate Kelvin Hinton, thinking how much we were alike. It did not matter that he was black and I was white, or that he was quiet while I kept up my noisy antics. In fact, he and I became very close friends until we drifted apart in seventh grade. He went the way of sports while I signed up for chorus.
It is amazing to me now that the things that make us special, that make us beautiful, are misunderstood by so many in our society. Small towns truly do foster small minds, well, not always, but more often than they should. With all the wonderful folks that comprise the congregations, clubs, school boards and arts organizations in small town America, there are still so many who do not believe others are "beautiful."
I think in the era when Ellen comes out of the closet, along with Mississippi''s own Lance Bass, who is more "in sync" now than ever, it is indeed timely that a court rules a school district wrong for ridiculing a lesbian teen for being herself. And in the days when marriage is almost, not quite, an equal right for all instead of a privilege for one group only, I can sing with pride: "I am beautiful in every single way ... don''t you bring me down today."
And I can be moved to do even more than I have done.
Former Columbus resident David Creel owns Beautiful With David salon in Jackson and has 20 years experience in the beauty industry. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.