Today starts another month-long series titled “Black Diamonds and Pearls” which examines Black girls in the Lolita fashion, a street fashion from Japan. A good quick overview would be to click the “Lolita Fashion” link in my “Links of Interest”, which describes the fashion essentially.

I chose Lolita fashion to look into because it is the fashion style that I am involved with and looking at the racial dynamics are very interesting here. As any Alt-Culture Black person knows, there is a lot more to participating in any Alt-Culture that meets the eyes or is at all acknowledged. It is commonly disregarded that there is any bigotry or tokenization or any sense of minority reminders by those within Alt-Culture and in a way they are right. Alt-culture is more accepting than mainstream culture by some respects but not all. Just because someone likes their hair electric blue and with a deathhawk doesn’t mean they won’t say something incredibly stupid and very culturally wayward. There’s a reason why sites like Afro-Punk exist, after all. No matter how weird we all like to be or look, this is not a post racial society and won’t be for a few more decades if not centuries. Then there’s the acceptance by other Blacks, which make it exceedingly easy to develop self-hatred for the race.

Ah, I drifted some. Why I prefer to look at Lolita fashion besides the obvious listed above, it is because the face of the ideal Lolita is very doll-like, porcelain and overall, exceedingly White. Since the fashion stems from the Victorian Era particularly and other European fashion/cultural eras, it makes sense that the face of the perfect Lolita would be White – although some would disagree and say that the perfect Lolita is usually Asian because that’s where the fashion stems from but it is debatable since Japan does have a Western fixation that does shine through in its looks and even beauty ideals. Every magazine that is geared towards the Lolita styles such as Gosu Rori and the Gothic and Lolita Bible show countless makeup tutorials and hair tutorials suitable for the fashion but has nary a tutorial for Black hair. Granted, because the crowd pitched to in Japan are Asian hence it makes sense not to have a rainbow of girls, when the GLB finally made an Anglophone version of the exact same name, there were 0 Black hair tutorials and minorities were practically invisible throughout the whole series, with exception to the last edition. When the last English GLB came out, they actually had makeup and hair tutorials for White girls, Latinas, and Black Girls. The White girl’s tutorial was well done, the Latina was very well done and the Black girl’s was a disaster. Poorly written, the model clearly shabbily put together, no one knew how to work her tone, hair or complexion. It was a big disservice and quite the insult for any Black Lolita who wonders if their hair or skin has a place in the style. Instead of the people of GLB to find someone from a Black hair care magazine to ghostwrite or someone who actually knew Black hair and skincare, they trumped through it themselves, leaving the model to look like a wreck. It isn’t as if some Lolitas didn’t think Black girls should keep their “ghetto” ways out of the fashion anyways, the flub was just more fuel to the fire.

Constantly Black Lolitas new to the fashion ask should they wear wigs, how should they cover up their natural hair, is it okay to be a Lolita and have dreads, are they light enough and what clothes fit them. It is very disheartening that these girls think you have to be very close to the edge of buying bleaching cream and blond tracks just to participate in a fashion they like. There are very little clothes that can fit a Black girl’s body and there are just about no hair and makeup tips readily available for Black girls as just about every Western Lolita publication, even when they don’t mean to, practically assumes their readership is White, judging from the low representation of the Black voice in the fashion or how quickly it is mocked. Black newcomers to the fashion don’t know what to do and often take pretty racist comments disguised as constructive criticism. They internalize that what they already have isn’t beautiful enough, or maybe they’re fawned over like a doll because everyone romanticizes their background or race to the point it’s ridiculous.

Whenever a Western idol takes part in any part of Lolita fashion, the Lolita community is quick to bash that person or accept them – unless Black. For example, Lady Gaga wore shiro loli style, provided by Angelic Pretty. Even though Gaga turned out to be donning eye and face makeup that is so familiar with the Ganguro/Mamba style such as the super tanned skin and panda styled eyes, there was still some love for what she was doing. Yes, not everyone liked it but overall, reception is decent. When Katy Perry also donned a dark colored sweet Lolita dress also provided by Angelic Pretty  and wore the neckties wrong (they were across her chest, not her collarbone), some lolitas gave her grief but still overall reception was decent. Both Gaga and Perry were simply considered non-lolitas but didn’t mess it up completely and it was more a work of their creativity (or lack thereof, according to some) than anything. Then came Lil’ Mama and Nicki Minaj.  Lil’ Mama wore an apron skirt provided by Angelic Pretty (or Baby the Stars Shine Bright) to the BET awards with a red sports bra and low cut chucks. This was met with vicious reception and very little support. Lil’ Mama was called “Ghetto” and there were plenty subversive and not-so-hidden racial remarks about her wear, including someone saying that Lil’ Mama should have been lynched. Yep. Gaga walks in looking as if she fell into a cake, she’s unique. Lil’ Mama forgoes the traditional blouse and tea party shoes, she should become strange fruit. Lovely. Really. Nicki Minaj has also worn Lolita and donned it on the cover of Word Up magazine. The petticoat was incorrect, the gloves didn’t match and she was without a blouse for such a low cut jumperskirt that was provided by I believe Innocent World. Again, she’s called “ghetto” and racial remarks abound. Lady Gaga has never been called ghetto. No one has ever piped up and said we need to string Katy Perry from a tree. Lady Gaga has been in outfits just as outrageous as Nicki Minaj if not more (Minaj has never worn a dress made of meat) and Katy Perry has also her fair share of unusual wear, just like Lil’ Mama. The difference is race. Already a lot of the girls on the international forum EGL does not know truly know Black culture beyond what they have learned from media, which holds such a massively warped view of Black culture that is deeply racist and very backwards.  As I have said before, Lady Gaga is seen as unique, Nicki Minaj is seen as a freak yet the former has done more outrageous things than the later. Lady Gaga can be seen as very favorable in the Lolita community, it would take Nicki Minaj a very long time (and a few tubs of bleaching cream later) to get to Lady Gaga’s status of fashion respect. If ever.

In comparison to other forms of alternative fashion or even Western takes of Eastern street fashion, Lolita is pretty accepting of people and their differences as there are girls who are the minority but refuse to be shut up by those with very supremacist ideals. However, it is not always enough for Black girls who are still afraid to be Black. That’s why there are groups for Black Lolitas such as LaLolitas on Livejournal and Afro-Punk Lolitas on Afro-Punk, to provide as a safe place for Lolitas to talk about their hair issues, skin issues and racial identity issues which constantly impact the lives in these girls to the point that they don’t want to be Black or assume that the BET-styled Black monolith is all Black culture has to offer them. It is already enough to have to worry of acceptance from others within a group these Black Lolitas want to be in but to be a minority within a minority is wrenching since people call them “White” or other wack names implying that Black is not cultured, diverse and definitely not accepting.

This month will provide guest blogs from various Black Lolitas in the fashion sharing their perspectives of being Black and being a Lolita and what it all means to them. At the end of the month there will be a The Arts that shows where one can get clothes from the Lolita fashion, Black Lolita blogs and more. If you would like to ask any questions about the Lolita fashion or of the girls (and guys) within it, use the normal “Ask Black Witch” form or email.