Photo: courtesy of Scarlet Raven.
Welcome to Fashionably Black!, a style and culture guide for Black people highlighting the cultural moments, pioneers, and conversations we’ve always been a part of! Putting a magnifying glass to style & self-expression, Fashionably Black! explores the many ways we are the history, we are the fashion, and will ALWAYS be. We’re not trending, we’re true.
Have you ever been the only Black person in the room? Did you not realize that you were any different until it was blatantly pointed out? And at that moment, did you feel the need to camouflage yourself in the overwhelmingly white space? Fashion editor, 2 Black Girls (2BG) co-founder, and newly-published author Danielle Prescod has been there. In her debut memoir, Token Black Girl, she recounts of growing up in Connecticut and having to navigate through one of the country’s whitest communities.
Prescod doesn’t hold back her honesty as she shares vulnerable instances from her past. Because of where she attended school, the author was frequently exposed to white-washed pop culture via the television shows, films, and magazines that her white classmates would discuss in the hallways. This made her feel as though she needed to shrink the parts of her Black identity that she felt would be misinterpreted or not easily understood. That mentality continued as the years passed, leading Prescod to become obsessed with working toward a position within the fashion and beauty industry.
Throughout Token Black Girl, Prescod maps out exactly how being forced to assimilate from a young age prepared her for the strenuous work environments she would later endure as an adult. Being made into a token Black girl was toxic and emotionally taxing. At the same time, it helped her focus on growing professionally, giving her the tools to climb the proverbial ladder in the media space. Now, as she looks inward and faces the emotions she buried all these years, she’s finally able to confront the deep consequences of white supremacy in her life. Ahead, she shares with Unbothered the emotional motivators behind unpacking this trauma through a memoir, and what she hopes readers are able to take away from her relatable story.
Photo: Amazon Publishing.
Unbothered: Why was it important for you to reflect on your upbringing and share how your foundation inevitably shaped your future?
Danielle Prescod: A few years before I’d written the book, I had been in therapy. I had really started taking it seriously and decided to stop lying to my therapist. One thing that my therapist would constantly talk to me about was self-love. I obviously love myself, so I didn’t understand why she kept bringing it up, but what she was trying to highlight for me was that I didn’t love myself unconditionally. I only loved myself conditionally — if I had the kind of job and title that I wanted, if I looked exactly how I wanted that day, if I was wearing the clothes that I want, and if I was controlling every aspect, then I could love myself. But, if I was just existing, I couldn’t! So I was looking inward and going back to the times my self-esteem had been affected, and figuring out why I needed all these things to fully accept myself as an adult.
Working in fashion and beauty, do you think it’s beneficial for us to attempt to climb the corporate ladder or play the long game even though we often experience microaggressions in these spaces?
DP: I can’t tell everybody, “This is what you should do.” But, for me, if you really think about the trajectory of my childhood and my career, I was groomed to be in the white spaces. I never expected to go into a workplace or to a school and see a majority of people of color; I always expected to see mostly white people because I had been shown that from a very young age. I do think that I was able to use that to my advantage in instances where I faced microaggression. I dealt with mean white girls in school, and that didn’t deter me away from my goals at the time. I don’t even know if I would do anything differently.
What do you want Black women to leave with after reading your memoir?
DP: One reason I wrote this book is that I hope girls who are younger than me read this and understand that they need the vocabulary to put a name to things that they are feeling in these spaces, like micro-aggression. As I was coming up, there were no spaces for me to ask questions, and if I could go back I’d want there to be more resources and spaces talking about this. I want them to understand that the pressure they’re putting on themselves all comes from the same place. It’s all in response to white supremacy. What should we be? What are we supposed to be? Who we are is totally acceptable as Black women. Just because we are Black does not mean we’re a monolith or that we fit into one box.