Category Archives: Mama’s Gotta Work

A Model/Mom’s Thoughts On The “Modern Black Family” In Media

family

My fake families never really look like mine.

I do a fair bit of commercial/lifestyle modeling, booked either on my own or as the wife and mom of a nuclear family. Though it’s a positive development to be booked as a natural-haired Black woman, it’s always interesting to see how clients and casting agents create the look of my “family.”

You’ll have me – a Black woman with curly hair (kinks and tighter curls don’t get me work, but looser curls do). Then you’ll have my husband – a clean cut, handsome Black man. Our fake kids are always beautifully adorable, but in my mind they never look like they could possibly come from the combination of my “husband” and I. The children I’m cast with are always biracial, with light complexions and big, loose natural curls – and while my science-loving mind knows that genes can do all kinds of interesting things, this feels more like an attempt to create the perfect visual for a “modern family.”

“Modern family” has become synonymous with “Black family” on many of the sets I’ve been on. Agents and photographers smile encouragingly to ensure that I feel excited about portraying something “modern” even though Black people and Black families have been around for eternity. Seeing us is still new in Canadian media, I guess – so it’s par for the course for set staff to feel self-congratulatory over their forward-thinking booking.

At one of my last shoots, everyone cooed incessantly over how adorable my “kids” were, and it was right on the mark – those children were absolutely gorgeous. However, the remarks about their hair and skin tone from the all-White staff started to feel like they were fetishizing the children, and I got a funny feeling in my stomach. That unease was for both those kids and my own daughter who, with her brown skin and kinky hair, existed on an opposing end of the spectrum.

Many consumers comment positively about the fact that we’re seeing more diversity in media. More people of colour, more Black women with natural hair – but having this kind of intimate view of the industry makes me pause on the celebration. Sure, my very presence on some of these sets means we’re making some headway – but when my deep brown eyes and brown skin and tightly curled hair consistently gets erased from my generation to the next – there’s a direct message there. My nuclear family shoots often feel like casting agents want to fast forward to National Geographic’s view of what Americans will look like in 2050, but a piece of me leaves feeling like I have to hold up my own daughter as proof of resistance. Similarly to how my hair is more accepted in the industry when it’s a specific kind of natural texture, Black children seem to be more acceptable when their look is more ambiguous. Where my darker-skinned child has been called for bookings for charities dedicated to poverty in Africa, lighter-skinned children are consistently the ones booked to work with me on mainstream shoots. It seems that the next best thing to being colourblind is believing that the one true path to seeing everyone as beautiful is to blend us all into one big melting pot. If the beauty in all racial, ethnic, and cultural expressions and combinations therein was authentically validated and represented, it wouldn’t feel so much like casting agents were treating Black families like a lab assignment, picking and choosing the “right” looks at random.

It’s not lost on me that the majority of creative staff I work with are White, so these views on what a “modern family” and what a marketable Black lifestyle and aesthetic look like are through those eyes. As I always say, more diversity behind the camera is needed to help increase diversity in front of it. We’re on the way to a more inclusive representation of our society in media, but I don’t feel like we’re there just yet.

After my last shoot, I felt compelled to go home, lift my daughter into my arms, and tell her how beautiful she was. While I’m cognizant of not solely complimenting my daughter on her looks, days like that one reminded me why it felt important for me to do so. There is so much more room for a wider representation of society in today’s media, and while I’m happy to be taking up the space that I am, I’m working to make sure that my daughter feels beautiful and self-assured in her space too.

Bee Quammie

Big hair+mouth. Word lover. Award-winning blogger. Health/wellness professional. Social media fiend. Wife/mama/daughter/sister/friend. Dancehall Queen '83-present.

When Your Best Isn’t Good Enough, And Other Thoughts On Struggling As A Working Mom

The Brown Suga Mama -NYC HOPECan I be honest for a moment?

I’m really sucking at this working mom/side-hustler/work-life balance seeker thing. Really sucking.

Watching this week’s episode of Being Mary Jane and its focus on Kara – a driven TV producer, divorcee, and mother – was like a huge exhale for my soul. The episode shone a spotlight on how work, motherhood, and love all collide in her world, and there were a number of times that Kara said something that left me like


One of those things was when she told her friend and co-worker, Mary Jane, that “I just feel like I’ve been an A-student all my life, and I’m just a freaking C-student in everything in my life right now and I just hate it.” Actress Lisa Vidal’s delivery in that whole scene – the whole episode to be exact – had me on the flo’. I felt it. I feel it. I get it.

I’m trying to be a good mother and be good at my job. I’m trying to grow as a good writer and develop my side hustles and be a good wife. I’m trying to be a good friend/sister/daughter, and I’m trying to find time for myself through it all. I can’t give any of this up. My job pays my bills. My family is my heart. My writing and passion projects are part of me. I can’t give any of this up and I want to do it all well, but I feel like I’m not doing a good job with any of it.

Maybe it’s not that I’m not doing a good job. I’m doing the best I can, but do you know how frustrating it is when your best isn’t good enough for you? Whether it’s getting to work by the skin of my teeth, skipping out on reading a book to Little Magician before bed to save time, neglecting laundry that needed to be done yesterday, or staying up late to finish writing (which will undoubtedly make the next morning hellacious), I more often than not finish my day just hoping that I’ll do better the next.

I want to be an A-student again. I want to feel like I’m doing a good job in all the roles and identities I carry. I know that I can’t have it all, and I know that “balance” is more of a fluid equilibrium than a perfectly weighted scale. The lesson life is giving me right now is to figure out what MY all is, and how to make it work in a way that leaves me feeling happy, capable, and whole.

Constantly feeling guilty, dissatisfied, and inadequate isn’t healthy – so what am I doing to fix this?

I’m in the midst of a self-imposed break, being very careful with my time and saying “No” more than “Yes.”

I’m using my time to map out life and to figure out what I want it to look like.

I’m getting better at asking for help when and where I need it.

I’m celebrating my wins where I get them.

I’m promising to be kinder to myself.

That last point is probably the most important. When your best isn’t good enough for you, it can be all too easy to employ abusive self-talk that you’d never utter to anyone else. Before I can make anything better, I have to promise to be kinder to myself throughout the process.

Here’s to being kind to myself and honest about life. Here’s to getting back to A-student status sooner rather than later. Here’s to hope and faith and the belief that things can and will get better.

Bee Quammie

Big hair+mouth. Word lover. Award-winning blogger. Health/wellness professional. Social media fiend. Wife/mama/daughter/sister/friend. Dancehall Queen '83-present.

The Clumsy Art Of Balancing Baby With Business

LesAteliers-Bee

My friend, fellow new mom and hilarious blogger April wrote a Facebook status recently that really stuck with me:

I don’t think I’ve stopped working since I stopped working.

Whew. YES.

Obviously – my primary gig these days is taking care of the Little one. However, mat leave has opened up a new window of opportunity to do things I wasn’t able to do while working full time. Look at it like this: when days flow in and out of themselves so seamlessly that you can’t really define where one ends and where the other begins, being up at 4:30am to write a blog post or two doesn’t really phase you.

Since being off work, I’ve been able to dive into my passions in a new way. Writing, planning events, doing fun social media projects – it’s been great having outlets that add to my many layers as a multifaceted woman. On one hand, my mind says “Go! Go! Go!” – pushing me to make the most of this time and take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves. On the other, I wonder if I’m doing too much, if I’m trying too hard, if I’m trying to unnecessarily prove something to somebody/myself…and sometimes I think I am.

Integrating the wee one with work has been interesting, and I can honestly say I’m making it all up as I go. I recently had a coffee meeting with an editor, and thought nothing of bringing LM with me. I really had no choice – I had a small window of time to fit this meeting into my day, and had no one to watch her during it. The best I could do was time it out: I fed her at the right time so that breastmilk + soothing car ride = a solid afternoon nap, leaving me to focus on the meeting while she slept. It wasn’t until my mom called to check on us and asked incredulously “You’re bringing the baby…to a meeting?” that I gave myself a side-eye. Luckily, my original plan succeeded and the meeting went really well – but I did wonder what the editor thought of me rolling up to Starbucks, stroller in tow. Was it seen as unprofessional, or as the marker of a forward-thinking multitasker? I got to be part of a really cool project, so either way, it worked out.

Other experiences haven’t been so great. People can be judgy: “You left your baby at home to host an event?!” or “You brought your baby WHERE?!” – making you feel damned if you do, damned if you don’t when it comes to balancing baby and business. The exhilaration of working on a project can shift in an instant – turning you into a sobbing, overwhelmed mess who wonders why you even bother to do anything other than change diapers and feed babies. Then, ever so faintly in the background, the constant ticking of the clock timing your return to the workforce (or whatever you plan to do once mat leave is over) is heard. Bills have to be paid. Babies have to be nurtured. Passions have to be chased. Life has to be lived. I’m determined to do it all, but I’m still figuring out what that looks like.

I have to acknowledge the presence of my HomieLuva – a partner who is fully supportive of my aspirations and amazingly hands-on with our daughter. The days where we’re able to expertly balance everything between the two of us are amazing, but that’s not every day. Since he’s at work, the majority of my time is spent navigating Skype calls and writing deadlines and emails and doing everything else that needs to be done to take care of LM and myself. This is the new normal.

Am I doing too much, going too fast? Should I take a break and ease into my passion work later, or is this just the pace that I’ll be rolling with from now on? I have no clear answer at this juncture. All I know is I’m getting a taste of the entrepreneurial mommy life that I used to eye from afar, and I’m still trying to perfect the recipe.

Wish me luck.

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Bee Quammie

Big hair+mouth. Word lover. Award-winning blogger. Health/wellness professional. Social media fiend. Wife/mama/daughter/sister/friend. Dancehall Queen '83-present.