Guest Blog Post By Charmaine Jennings
Racial stereotypes and “beauty standards” play a huge role in the corporate world, but it’s also prevalent in the small business community. It’s prevalent in the Winnipeg small business community. We often make judgments about people based on appearances, and that way of thinking trickles in when it comes to making decisions about who we want to work with, buy from, or support. We may not recognize it when it’s happening, but I can assure you…it’s happening.
As the founder and owner for Strategic Charm Boutique and the Hustle + Charm Community, my entrepreneurial mission is to help female entrepreneurs tap into and reach their full potential through continuous learning, companionship, and specific business skills like social media marketing. Because my entrepreneurial ventures are both B2B (business to business), I’m fully immersed in the small business world, and see it in both from the perspective of a business owner and a client or customer.
I’m proud of the small business scene here in Winnipeg. We’re a small big city, but over the years the innovative, passionate, and creative ideas that have been conjured up by local business owners have begun to put Winnipeg on the map, and that’s fucking amazing! Our small companies are getting national and international recognition, and I truly believe that when one business reaches this milestone, we all do.
But while I have a deep love and appreciation for small business, I can’t ignore the fact some parts of it don’t sit well with me.
A couple of months ago, a motivational speaker I’ve been following on Instagram sent me a DM and asked me, “What’s one thing you wish white people would start doing in business?” Because we’re both black women in business and we had connected briefly at a conference a few months prior, she figured I’d have some insight to share.
It took me a few minutes, but the first thing that came to mind was that I wish (not only white women – this can really be ALL women whether they’re white or women of colour) white women would stop doing is first gravitating towards and praising white, thin women who fit America’s “standard of beauty” for the work they do, and then looking at black women or women of colour as the underdog. I’m no underdog. Don’t be impressed by my achievements because I’m a black plus size woman making big moves in business. Be impressed that I’m an educated go-getter who’s ambitious as fuck and doesn’t quit!
And speaking of plus size and America’s “standard of beauty,” you know there’s something I need to get off my chest. Actually, there are many somethings, but for now, I’ll focus on one.
Inner beauty is something we should all strive to achieve. Being a kind and compassionate person will help you and the people around you lead happier lives more than focusing on your physical features will. Hooooowever, we continuously find ourselves on a slippery slope when we’re talking about inner and outer beauty. I’d say I’m beautiful both inside and out, BUT when it comes to plus size women, why is there always more focus on the inner beauty side? Doesn’t seem like a bad thing, right? It is when the reason people choose to focus on your inner beauty is because subconsciously or not, they don’t think you fall into their version of what outer beauty looks like, so they choose to take a more positive approach and put extra emphasis on your inner beauty and overall character to compensate.
There’s a lot to dive into beneath the surface of both of these topics, and I can’t wait to open up the discussion at the Ladylike Chat Vol. 2!
Charmaine is on our storyteller panel at the Ladylike Chat Vol. 2 in Winnipeg, August 24th! There are still a few early bird event tickets left reserve yours HERE
Boss lady by day. An advocate of sorts by night. As the founder and owner for Strategic Charm Boutique and the Hustle + Charm Community, my entrepreneurial mission is to help female entrepreneurs tap into and reach their full potential through continuous learning, companionship, and specific business skills like social media marketing.
As passionate as I am about female entrepreneurship, I’m also passionate about encouraging and inspiring others to feel more confident and self-accepting of the bodies and skin they’re in. All my life I’ve struggled with maintaining a healthy weight, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a deep appreciation for my body and all that it’s done for me, and all it will continue to do for me in the future. As I’ve gotten older it’s become easier to not let my size hold me back from adventures and experiences society doesn’t always deem fit (no pun intended) for us overweight folks. My body is not a barrier. My body is not a burden. My body is beautiful. YOUR body is beautiful.
I’ve also been opening up more publicly about what it’s like to be a black woman in business. There are barriers that even sometimes I forget are there, and I want to help open up these conversations so we can all chip away at those barriers and allow more room for connection, respect, and gratitude.
1) What is your beauty standard definition?
Being a genuinely caring person who’s confident in yourself, proud of the body you’re in, and can always find beauty in others.
2) Do you think the current beauty standard is a factor of depression? Why or why not?
That’s a tough question to answer. I think the pressure to uphold North America’s standard of beauty can absolutely lead people into depression, but there are so many other factors to consider. I think everything comes back to what you were taught by those closest to you, and how you feel inside.
3) What is one racial stereotype that plays a role in the corporate and small business communities?
Not so much a stereotype, but I think in corporate and small business communities, people are often surprised to see people of colour reaching success. In all honesty, I don’t believe these thoughts are always intentional or even fully recognized by the people who think them. But the thoughts are there and I’d like to see them dwindle.
4) Body talk can be complicated. Our culture tells us thin equals good, fat equals bad. But this is far from reality. What would your advice be for someone dealing with fat-shaming and 'health policing' by someone close to them?
When people are shaming you for the way you look, it’s NEVER actually about you. They’re dealing with a variety of internal struggles and conflicts, and projecting them onto you. Direct them to the nearest therapist, STAT!
5) What does 'More Than Beautiful' mean to you?
It means that we’re more than our looks. No matter how we define beauty, it’s only a small part of who we are. Let’s start putting more emphasis on intelligence, confidence, kind-heartedness, passion, spirit, drive, our absolute to find joy in even the darkest of moments - let’s focus on that stuff!
6) Give one tip for anyone struggling against the North American beauty standard.
Are you struggling with your perception of you or others’ perception of you? If it’s your own perception, list 10 or more things you love about yourself, and put that list in a space you often find yourself in. Get creative and put each thing on a sticky note and decorate your mirrors with them, turn them into a vision board that hangs about your bed - something fun!
If it’s others’ perception of you you’re struggling with, see the answer to questions 4.
7) Why are the Ladylike Chats important?
Because we need to keep sharing our stories with people who aren’t yet ready to share theirs but are looking to find people who have the same feelings and struggles as they do. The world can be a scary place but knowing there are people out there who understand us and are willing to speak out on our behalf when we can’t find our own voice? That reminds us that we don’t have to go it alone.