Written by Amani for the Black Diamonds and Pearls series. Normal BW posting resumes in Oct.
Hello~ Amani here.
I am a lolita, born and raised in Brooklyn, NYC, and I’ve been into the style and active in the online & local communities since 2006-2007. I’m currently studying Event Planning and Design, working a full-time job, while moderating online groups such as New York Lolitas on Facebook, NYC Lolitas and Lalolitas on Livejournal. Getting into the Lolita style was a choice of mine that really ended up impacting me, helping me develop myself and open new doors throughout the years.
I was born the ‘oddball’ out of my family– besides my romanticist ways, and my tendency to dress up like this overdressed doll, I am the darkest out of my maternal siblings. My white German grandmother and my AA grandfather married 53 years ago, and had this new generation of light-skinned kids, and later on my mom had her own kids and all of them came out just as fair. Except me of course.
By the time I got into lolita, I had long passed that insecurity phase, where “I wish I was light-skinned too!/had a nose like mom/had straighter hair/etc.!” However, as a kid I never really understood why I had to be different. When I was tiny, people thought I was boarding a bus alone until they realized my mother was right there beside me, and in elementary school I felt some people were distant from me because back then I lived with my grandmother. Besides, what the hell was genetics back in 2nd grade?
Looking back at my life so far, I realized that I never really belonged to the groups I tried to mingle with, whether it was throughout school, or when I got my first Facebook and was attempting to be active in black-centered discussion groups. A lot of people, the generic black person especially, could never understand or accept the fact that you were interested in things different from the norm. ‘What, you’re obsessed with the Victorian Era? When black people were zoo exhibits, right?’ ‘Oh you’re into Japanese culture… you must be insecure.’ ‘lol why do you point out that you’re part German? YOU’RE DENYING YOUR BLACKNESS’– and I kid you not, I usually had these responses at the end of a supposedly serious debate. I was never the type of person who would do “BLACK” things for the sake of being ‘black enough’… for me, personally, the color of my skin was never much of a lifestyle inspiration for me (at first, anyways), compared to things I grew up with, things that were more connected to me through my closest cultural identity, which is my German bloodline. I’ve always pushed away the notion of “getting back into my roots” because as far as I know the rest of my family were descendants of black slaves– but then I had these random people sporting natural locks and ‘fros and Mother Africa paraphernalia, trying to rip me down, telling me to learn random African dances and to embrace something that I don’t even know? Get out of here!
Do not get me wrong, no offense towards those who do choose to have an Afrocentric lifestyle. Keep doing you because you do what you love, you love how you look, and it’s a passion for you! For me though, I love the frills, and I love being a black lady in frills. I don’t keep myself in a bubble either, I’m also interested in many ethnic or culture-based styles and food and music, from all the corners of the world.
That being said, if you want your identity as a black person to make an impact, then make it the reason to go sky high– and higher. The color of your skin should not put a cap on your education, on your career, your family, and definitely not your personal style! Your style is a visual interpretation of you, and I ask you hold fast to certain things, you’ll get respect and props for it, no matter how much your mother hates it, or how the random group of kids look at you.
There should not be a social expectation on how you want to live your life, based off of any physical feature you may have, especially your skin color and social background. Dark complexion is only skin deep unless you make it otherwise; it’s only ugly if you think it to be, and it’s a hindrance if you choose for it to be. I am not ignoring the racial struggle in certain settings, but when you conform to a certain mindset or a way of living because it’s expected of you or it’s what everyone around you is doing, well… that’s when you lose the game. I find a lot of young people (myself included, at first) base their own lives around a particular thing, never really try to live and observe and take in your surroundings on different levels. Some always have this tendency of placing themselves around a particular thing and making themselves a part of it, rather than vice versa; making things your own, building your life and setting them in place.
When I started dressing in lolita, my little 16-17 year old self was sporting simple tank tops and jeans, my hair a frizzy fried mess, never caring about my appearance. At that point in time I was also going through the teenage angst, the family drama, and I was lost in myself and it affected my schoolwork and the way I lived my life. The spirit of elegance, of modesty and child-like wonder breathed through the images I looked at in the magazines. Lolita was a dream for me, it felt like the purest, most innocent form of escapism, and I wanted to go there.
I wanted to be in it so badly… I was working my first job when I bought my first dress, and the feeling of being financially able to get what I want on my own was sweet as honey, despite the sweat and tears I had to literally shed that summer. Gazing at that Baby, the Stars Shine Bright logo and feeling the softness of the lace was all it took for reality to melt away. I didn’t have no sense of style whatsoever (matching socks and shoes, what?) but back then I could care less. Simply wearing the clothes was more than enough for me to feel fulfilled. From there I began to meet people, become more active and doing things with myself that I’ve never done before, and down the line I also had to learn the hard way about money management, budgeting and all that, and it opened my eyes to new things, whether it was related to the style, or completely opposite like the “Gyaru” style; it also opened me up to the world of cosmetics, beauty, and the lazy world of weaves and wigs, haha. It developed my sense of style and expanded it.
Did my 16 year old self ever think that I’d be wanting to rock Swarovski-studded nails, and weaves down my back? That every so often I’d have either pearls or candies stuck in my hair? That I’d be rocking pointed high heels? Hell no! But I think she would think the me today is 400% more sophisticated, evolving at a steady pace.
It simply opened up my understanding of things, pushed me to create my own life’s philosophy, push towards solidifying and building my faith and spiritual path, and helped me develop realistic long-term goals. I wouldn’t even have really seen my interest in event planning had it not been for the interactions I’ve had over the years. Sitting and observing and acting led me to realize things about myself that I’ve never tried to learn, and that helped me work on them and build myself up.
I’ve had the opportunity to meet at least more than a hundred girls, from the local tri-state, to chicks from different corners of the states, and even from different countries in the world. For a while I was very enthusiastic about sharing the style and subculture with other people, whether it was through fashion panels at conventions, or through rarer opportunities like the 2008 New York Times article featuring the New York lolitas. (Ignore the disgusting outfit coordination. (I was just a kid? Haha.)) I had the opportunity to meet fashion icons like Misako Aoki, the biggest ‘face’ of the Lolita world; the Isobes, creators of Baby, the Stars Shine Bright; BTSSB designers such as Masumi Kano and Mitsuba, American designers such as Samantha Rei of Blasphemina’s Closet, and so many more.
Slowly but surely I’m slowing myself down and trying to adjust into ‘adulthood’, from constant monthly hangouts with the girls to trying to create more formal occasional events, while I use my time transitioning myself from high-strung, loud black trick to a more composed, professional person in my fast-paced, sleepless metropolis of a hometown. Being more on my own nowadays have helped me gain a thicker skin, as well as a calm approach towards negative going-ons in life, and keeps me motivated to moving forward with myself in different areas of my life.
And inside, I am the princess I dreamt to be.
Amani maintains both Black Lolita community LaLolitas and NYC Lolitas on Livejournal and maintains her own blog A·M·A·N·I.