Former child star and troubled actress, Amanda Bynes, has a penchant for calling people ugly — and many of them happen to be black. Allison Samuels on the lasting impact of Bynes’s Twitter abuse
THE NAME ‘Amanda Bynes’ didn’t mean much to me until a few months ago. I hadn’t seen a television show or movie with her in it. Nor did her name come up during my weekly hairdresser appointments, where celebrities of note are discussed with relish and in detail.
But Bynes became a part of my beauty-shop chatter recently, because of her frequent, mean-spirited tweets, calling other famous people unattractive.
Just this Monday, she took to Twitter to proclaim that US President Barack Obama and the first lady, his wife, Michelle, were “ugly”.
That post caused Twitter, as well as my hair salon, to explode with the obvious question: is Amanda Bynes racist?
Bynes seems to be in the midst of a mental breakdown, in public view, no matter how much she and those around her disagree.
On Tuesday, she was back in court, where she faced charges of tampering with physical evidence, reckless endangerment, and criminal possession of marijuana
Sticking with a trend, the 27-year-old showed up, in front of a judge, wearing a long, aqua-coloured wig, black sweatpants and a tank top. She denies the charges.
Bynes was once a teenage Disney star and had her own show, and we all know how easily fame and fortune at a young age can destroy the most talented.
Still, it’s hard not to be bothered that so many of the people Bynes deems ugly just happen to be black.
While she has gone so far as to call her mother, sister, and father ugly, as well as Miley Cyrus and Zac Efron, her most vicious and vile tweets have been aimed at Rihanna and Drake.
Jay-Z also has appeared on her ugly list.
The actress may have a love/hate relationship with Drake, given that her public musings about the current GQ cover star veer from adoration to downright hateful.
After tweeting that she wanted him to “murder” her private parts, Bynes posted this about the Canadian rapper: “He has the ugliest smile, ugly gums, uneven teeth, ugly eyes.”
The next day, she apologised and said she hoped to be friends with him one day.
But love/hate isn’t an apt description for Bynes’s tweets about Rihanna.
In May, Bynes suggested that Chris Brown beat up Rihanna “because she wasn’t pretty enough”. Bynes was referencing Brown’s 2009 arrest for assault against his then-girlfriend. Bynes also tweeted that she almost named her dog Rihanna.
Then, the actress dropped to a real low by accusing the Bajan singer of trying to be “white”.
The former Disney star quickly deleted the tweets when she came under fire, and said she hadn’t posted them.
I’m not sure many people believed that claim, but I know Bynes’s hurtful words hit a raw nerve among many African-American women.
Imagine Beyoncé, nervous breakdown or not, using a public platform to say the same things about, say, Jennifer Aniston. Well, maybe not Beyoncé, since she is a true A-lister.
What irks me most is how easy it seems to be for non-black people, like Bynes, to attack black women and with so little regard for the damage they cause.
Let’s say Ciara accused Aniston of trying to be something she wasn’t. And, worse, suggested Jennifer wasn’t pretty enough for Brad Pitt, and that’s why he left her for another woman.
Can you imagine the uproar and outrage over a black woman taking such verbal liberties against a beloved white star? Even on their craziest day, I doubt Ciara, or Beyoncé for that matter, would dare go there.
On a deeper level, is Rihanna “trying to be white” in Bynes’s mind because Rihanna’s so-called ugly face appears on the covers of countless mainstream magazines, including Vogue? Or is she “trying to be white” because of the millions of dollars she earns each year through record sales and product endorsement — options usually reserved for women who look just like Bynes?
Part of Bynes’s apparent resentment toward Rihanna may be tied to the actress’s off-again/on-again attraction to Drake, whom Rihanna dated shortly after breaking up with Chris Brown.
Bynes seems to resent the singer’s ability to attract famous men — another option usually reserved for women who look like Bynes.
Who can forget John Mayer’s infamous quote, a few years back, saying he didn’t find black women attractive?
Just two years ago, Psychology Today posted a story by psychologist, Satoshi Kanazawa, that asked, “Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?”
The article was based on an obscure study of Kanazawa’s that supposedly found black women were the most unattractive because of our weight issues and other “masculine features”.
The story was quickly deleted, but little attention was paid to the fact that an established scientific magazine had no problem with posting such an offensive, and hurtful article, written by a man who’d also produced such classics as “Are All Women Essentially Prostitutes?” and “If President Obama Is Christian, Michael Jackson Was White”.
Writer/producer Mara Brock Akil was so upset by the Psychology Today article that she used it in the storyline of her recent television movie, Being Mary Jane.
In the movie, a single, black, female news reporter highlights how most mainstream news organisations dismissed the story and its damaging impact, while refusing to cover it. “No one spoke up to say, ‘This is ridiculous’,” says Akil.
It’s also ridiculous that black women continue to be judged by traditional, or European, standards of beauty.
Despite what Bynes may think or tweet, Rihanna does apparently fit the idea of “pretty”, but her recent Vogue cover resulted in a 30% drop in newsstands sales.
It seems that even when black women do fit the beauty mould, we’re still not quite good enough.
- Allison Samuels is a senior writer at Newsweek.
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