The Major Confidence Lesson I Learned From My 6-Foot-Tall Black Mother

by Jill Robi
PHOTO:

Imaxtree

For as long as society itself has existed, there have been standards of beauty. We see these standards reflected in magazines, on television shows, on the red carpets, and on the silver screen. In American culture, if you’re a 6-foot-tall woman, you don’t get to be cute. If you’re black, you don’t get to be lovely. And if you’re dark, you don’t get to be beautiful. With my particular DNA, I hit the trifecta.

Growing up as a ’90s kid, the media and my classmates were never slow in alerting me what the standards of beauty were, and how I was nowhere near that standard. Yet even though my self-esteem isn’t perfect (and has taken more than its fair share of blows), I still have managed to come out on the other side basically unscathed.

Why?

My mother. Tall ebony goddess that she is, by the time I was a teenager, my mother had already traversed many of the same stigmas I was soon to endure. She had grown to her full height—6 feet—by age 14. She was so tall, in fact, that her parents, fearing she had some sort of glandular issue or disease, put her in the hospital for testing. She was poked, prodded, and made to feel like a freak.

It’s more common these days for women to be so tall and to get that height all at once. I was 13 when I stopped growing at 5’11”. But back then, in the late ’60s, my mother was made to feel as if something was wrong with her. That experience made her teach me, however, that I was just right.

What was the underlying message she was telling her little black girl? That I, like her, was royalty; that we weren’t the norm—we exceeded the norm. That others were jealous because they didn’t get to be like us.

Jillian Robinson

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