Warning: This post may contain strong language. Feel free to exit if such wording offends.
Sugar and spice and everything nice, that’s what little girls are made of.
This oft-repeated line, part of a larger rhyme, has been passed on through generations. Last night, while watching the 85th Academy Awards, I saw all of the shots taken at young Quvenzhané Wallis, and wondered if the line had changed to “Clooneys and cunts, and receivers of brunts, that’s now what little girls are made of.” On a night where a little girl was having the time of her life, she was subject to jokes and humor she likely does not understand. Who am I to complain, though? Just another day in the life of a Black girl, right?
Miss Wallis has had to deal with media reporters calling her Annie (granted, she is the lead in an upcoming remake of the film), quips on the Red Carpet about which department store her dress came from, and humor about her sexuality which is low even for Seth MacFarlane. A so-called anonymous member of the Academy comments on not voting for “anyone whose name he can’t pronounce.” She takes it all in stride, even flexing her muscles in her signature “Beast it!” move from the movie, only to be called cocky by Chrissy Teigen (who is famous for whatever she does with John Legend) and a whole legion of Gawker readers. Tuck it in- your privilege is showing.
How on EARTH is a nine year old girl being a nine year old girl cocky, insufferable, and sassy? I hear these words and wonder if the Olsen twins ever got called that as they made their first millions purely on catchphrases and ‘tude. Who cares where her dress came from? She likely looked better than your favorite, and rocked it with a purse shaped like a puppy. I bet nobody questions the origin of Suri Cruise’s wardrobe, as she unofficially wins awards for being one of the best dressed kids under 10. The 2010 movie Kick Ass, featuring an 11 year old Chloe Moretz, bore a lot of controversy due to the styling of Moretz as “sexualized” and her use of that awful c-word. We want to shelter the children, right?
How come this doesn’t apply to all of them, then?
How long did reporters and other people that knew they’d have to say her name have to get the pronunciation of Quvenzhané’s name down? It’s not like the nominees were announced on February 23rd. There’s even a video where SHE says it. In my observations, this reduces many people of color I’ve known, both domestic and international, to either shorten their names or “adopt” a “more American” name. Of course, I live in a generation of people that have named their children after galaxies, bacteria strains, and their favorite foods, but a friend from Nigeria has a “tough” name? Just say what you really mean- “other” names make me uncomfortable.
Today, though, I want Quvenzhané, her parents, her family, her friends, and many admirers to rest in the fact that an amazing young woman is being bred. May she never lose her smile, her penchant for puppy purses, and the ability to “beast it” when times get rough. I want her to know that even as a little brown girl, she can still find, and keep, a portion of happy in this life- even as the world tries to stomp out every single bit of it. I want her to enjoy this moment, because it is just the first of many, many to come. I want her to know that all that she is, and all that she’s done, is truly appreciated.
Beast it with me for a Quvenzhané Appreciation Day.
By the way, if you’re still struggling with the pronunciation after all of that, it’s “kwah–VEN-juh-nay.”
Live. Love. Beast.