I was born and raised in the Bronx, New York to a Trinidadian and Jamaican family. My grandma was born and raised in Trinidad and my grandpa was born and raised in Jamaica. They both left their countries for a better life. New York is considered the melting pot for all cultures especially individuals from the West Indies. Growing up, my culture differed compared to many of my peers. The most obvious was the food and how we portrayed our bodies. Within the West Indian culture, it is normal for women to enjoy having bigger hips which, can lead to an even bigger buttocks.
I was taught to love my “big boned” body. As a child I always had big thighs, my mom used to tell me it was how I was born. She would show me how to embrace them whenever I felt slightly insecure. While In New York, my body image was mostly positive, I loved my body for what it was but, I wanted more. I had the hips but I was not blessed within the buttocks area. I wanted the full package of a small waist, a bigger bust and a larger buttock. Eventually, it was forgotten because I was taught to love my body and embrace whatever I was given.
During middle school, my parents decided that they wanted to leave New York, which meant leaving their culture and their parents behind to create a better and safer lifestyle for their children. We moved to Stafford, Virginia. Moving to Virginia was the biggest culture shock I have ever experienced. For example, before moving to Virginia I never knew what a “stay at home mom” was, I have never heard of such. I did not know that it was possible for a parent to have the option not to work, it was not within my culture. Stafford, Virginia is not a melting pot. In fact, it is predominantly Caucasian families. In 2012, my family was the only African-American family on our cul-de-sac.
My body image changed when I moved to Virginia. I went to middle school with majority of Caucasian girls who loved skinny jeans and Vans. At the age of thirteen, I began to notice that my body differed from their “norm”. I began to want to change my body to adjust to theirs because it was their culture. I noticed how infatuated my Caucasian female classmates were with their weight. I started to noticed thigh gaps and wonder If I would ever have one. Day by day, I felt my thick thigh loving culture slipping away. I was exposed to a culture that I never knew existed, I was not used to this thin loving, collar bone showing culture.
As I grew older, I learned the difference between healthy and unhealthy. While in New York I was never 100% happy with my body, I ironically wanted my body to be thicker in certain places. Moving to Virginia, helped me to love myself fully even without a thicker buttock. Throughout the culture shock, I became aware. I started doing research on how to achieve my ideal body. I was happy with who I was, because I learned my weight did not define me but, I wanted to live a healthier lifestyle. I did not crave a thigh gap or for my collar bone to show because I saw how those obsessions harmed other individuals.
My culture truly molded my body perceptive, I love bodies that are thick and happy. I enjoy my big hips and slightly smaller buttocks. My experiences on body perceptive conformed the research in the Age, social class, ethnicity and sexuality article which, concludes the concept of Caucasian women wanting to make their bodies smaller and Caribbean women being content with having a larger body shape. I experienced both of these cultures and I have seen how both of these cultures affect individuals, which is why it is important to love yourself for who you are, it is deeper than your weight.
Kemi Pollock is a senior at Old Dominion University. She majors in Speech Pathology, and she plans to continue her education with speech into her Masters. She currently holds many leadership positions on campus, as well as being a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Sorority Incorporated. She enjoys shopping, reading, and eating! She also enjoys self-love, which includes anything that will make her healthy and happy, including spending her time having good laughs with genuine people!