There has been a really sweet video via Buzzfeed going around the internet these past few days where Pinup Girl Clothing does makeovers on women. It is called Women of Color Were Transformed Into Pinup Models And It Was Breathtaking. Each young lady expresses how she never felt really beautiful and that they grew up not seeing many images of women of color who were glamorous or referred to as pinups.
I am a woman of color and I am here to set the record straight.
First, when people say "women of color" they mean brown, black, yellow, etc. They do not refer to women who are white. The problem with that is a massive population of Spanish speaking people from Spanish speaking countries happen to be white. So are they not Latino? Are they not a person of color? Is white suddenly not a shade of color anymore? I find this ludacris and down right ignorant.
Secondly, the ladies on the video mention that they never saw women of color per-say as pinups and I am assuming many of them were thinking of classic film actresses. Don't judge Old Hollywood based on a few popular films because there were many women of color in film. Were there a lot of roles for Asian women or Latin women or African American women? Unfortunately no. But it doesn't mean they weren't there. Actually many of them were of mixed races and cultures or their skin color just happened to be white like mine is.
Rita Hayworth always made it known that she was of Spanish descent. Technically she was half Spanish but she spoke it fluently and was even a star flamenco dancer. Did she alter her original looks in order to become more versatile and mainstream for Hollywood? Yes, she did but sadly that is still being done today. What she didn't do what deny that she was.
See, you have to look at things with a wider lens. Which leads me to my third truth. There were women dressing glamorously and as pinups in all the decades past. Women of yesteryear no matter their race wore victory rolls in the 1940's. Yes, that means Asian women wore victory rolls just like white women. Thing is there may not be a huge influx of photos to show or in many other cases families couldn't afford cameras so many time photos weren't taken. But they existed, it was real, women of color throughout the ages dressed just like white women did.
I don't know why people have to make everything about the color of their skin. When people ask me what I am or where my family is from and I say Puerto Rico, literally NO ONE believes me. NO ONE. I am not kidding you. My blood line is about as Spanish as you can get, mixed from a few different Spanish speaking places but that is who I am. My husband gets the same thing and his first language is actually Spanish.
Moral to this story-don't judge a book by its cover. Women of color should mean all sorts of colors and shades of those colors. Women of every culture and background adhered to the fashions and styles of the time. Don't back yourself in a corner and assume just because all you think you see are only white girls dressing old fashioned that there aren't women from your culture doing the same.
I am here. I have been told I look French, Moroccan, Egyptian, Italian, Greek, and the top culture is actually Jewish. Thank you but I am from none of those places. I am American born whose parents were Puerto Rican, grandparents were Puerto Rican, and great-grandparents were Peruvian Indian, Spanish, and of course, Puerto Rican. That's me. I am a woman of color and I love vintage and I have done pinup shoots and I am here. And so are many others. Take a look around, ask around, there are a lot of incredible women of all backgrounds embracing the vintage life.
Top: Anna May Wong, Eartha Kitt, and Lupe Velez
Middle: Rita Hayworth, Chelo Alonso, and Lena Horne
Bottom: Josephine Baker, Maria Montez, and Li Xianglan
I think it is also important to note that I loved the video from Buzzfeed and I can relate to those beautiful young ladies. I know that dolling up especially from decades past can make anyone feel instantly feminine and glamorous in a way that modern clothing cannot. I want to say thank you to Pinup Girl Clothing for participating in the makeover and I hope all those girls keep tapping into that inner pinup inside of them all.
A Vintage Nerd Supplementary Reading: