Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post/Getty Images


White Supremacy Does Not Care If You Are Elegant Or Not

July 26, 2023

“Makeup mistakes elegant ladies never make,” is how a now viral TikTok video by Level Blue begins. With nearly two million views, Level Blue calls out beauty practices like lash extensions, contouring, lip lining, long nails, and more.

While she doesn’t outright refer to Black women, the dog whistling of opening her video with images of Black woken, then criticising beauty practices advanced and popularised in Black culture are enough to note the micro aggression of her statements.

It should come as no surprise that Level Blue is something of a lifestyle coach and that the video concluded with her advertising her “Elite Ladies Workshop”. Over the years, white supremacy has made Black people the ultimate marketing tool for products or services that offer the chance to be better perceived against whiteness. She notes that by changing one’s beauty regimen, they can be perceived in a “Don’t, chic, and classy way”. Level Blue carries on to note that these changes will impact how people treat you.

Elegance coaching & respectability politics

What Level Blue fails to recognise in her supposed elegance training is that while certain superficial changes may positively improve how a person is treated in society, whiteness does not care for colour. Changing your lip liner, scaling down the volume of your eyelash extensions, or maintaining a nude Russian manicure is not going to endear all women to potential suitors; particularly for black women.

The changes being suggested fall in line with the concept of “respectability politics”. By definition, this strategy would have a marginalized person distance themselves from elements of the social-cultural identity to curry favour with the dominant culture in their environment.

De-centering the white gaze

Where this type of elegance coaching is concerned, beauty and comportment are being used as tools for upward social mobility. While it’s effective in some instances, in the grand scheme of life, it’s ineffective.

For example, we’ve heard the stories of our elders commenting about the importance of how a person is dressed. As a woman, we know that in instances of sexual violence, how we’re dressed contributes to whether or not we’re believed and supported. As such, while certain mannerisms and behaviours might be common among the elegant and affluent, when compared against the interests of whiteness and white supremacy, people with antiquated views will hold on to them vigorously regardless of another’s beauty or comportment.

WASHINGTON, D.C. Toni Morrison poses for a portrait at the Four Season’s Hotel in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, December 3, 2008. (Photo by Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

In close, at a time when algorithms can spread micro aggressions at an unprecedented speed, Black internet users need to be conscious of where we’re consuming content and who is speaking to and on our communities. Level Blue won’t be the last lifestyle coach claiming our beauty practices are inelegant. In some instances we see the same commentary from within our community.

Nevertheless, it’s paramount to continuously reiterate that whiteness cannot and has never effectively been the standard – particularly seeing as Blackness and so many other “minority” cultures have been stolen from to support it. And on the days where respectability politics seem to be the only topic of discussion on your social media feeds, remember Toni Morrison who said, “Navigating a white male world was not threatening. It wasn’t even interesting. I was more interesting than they were. I knew more than they did. And I wasn’t afraid to show it.”