We’re currently living in an era of change, and no, I’m not referring to the global pandemic going on. I mean that we, the new generation, are trying to break free from society’s preconceived labels and systemic oppression. We’re experiencing it on a bigger and more important scale than ever for our lifetime with the #BlackLivesMatter movement. That was the first step for me. At that moment I decided that if my social media platforms were going to have a use it would be that one.
Allow me to give you more context on my conflicted relationship with social media before continuing any further: I hate social media as much as I love it (as I’m sure most people do). If I had to put a number on it I’d say that we’re working with 60% hate, 40% love. I worked hard on my self-esteem, I try to love and validate myself, and care as little as possible about what people think about me which is very hard; but then I check how many likes I get every time I post something, and feel a strange and unhealthy sense of accomplishment when I get a lot. I’m also an actress, so I kind of need to care about other people’s opinion to make a living, but up to a certain point.
With that said, let’s resume.
Before the rise of #BLM on social media, I was trying to be vocally woke on Instagram but was very shy about it. Who was I, after all, Alicia Senou, little nobody from the Parisian suburbs, to post pictures of my body hair and try to single-handedly come for the over shallow world that we live in today? Who was I?! That’s the kind of things only celebrities with big platforms can do! Us peasants are not allowed. All we can do is like and repost, and hope that someday we’ll be important enough for our voices to matter too. And in a way I get it, I understand why one would think that, but I refuse to accept it.
I think that in order to do something, you need to actually do it. If you want to be an activist, be an activist; if you want to be a painter, be a painter; if you want to be an actor, be an actor. Work at it, learn about your craft, try, fail, succeed, but do it. Don’t wait for anybody to grant you permission to be who you want to be, but most importantly, who you are meant to be. You don’t need anybody’s approval. Of course outside opinions matter, you might be wrong or do something the wrong way so it’s important to keep an open mind and listen but if you’re trying to change things and know that you’re doing it right then don’t stop doing it.
Please bear in mind that the comments I will refer to in the rest of this article were made FOR me, because of the world we live in and the industry I want to be a part of, and not AGAINST me. Yes, they’re hard to hear and hard to say, but we live in a shallow world and I want to work in the entertainment industry. Try shallower than that. So those comments were not meant to harm me in any way, only warn me about a truth that I will have to face eventually.
The first time that I was told to be careful about being woke on Instagram was when I posted a picture of my armpit hair back on the 31st of August 2019.
I was scared to post it, so scared, but still posted it because I knew that I was doing the right thing. You have no idea how many times I archived that picture because I was ashamed of it. Why? Because I knew that it made me unattractive, and that armpit hair is still seen as “disgusting”.
No matter how dumb it sounds and how wrong we know it is, it’s still true. See, I like men. And unfortunately, most men aren’t as woke as we all wish they were (sorry but it’s true), so having an “unattractive” picture on my profile automatically makes me unattractive. I had a few comments (nothing too dramatic, probably because I don’t have a lot of followers) telling me to shave, but I didn’t care. A few years ago my heart would have beaten out of my chest at those comments, but that’s no longer the case.
Anyway, I was told that, indeed, it wasn’t the best idea to have this picture on my profile because, well, people would judge me because of it. I might lose a potential follower because of it. I’m going to be honest with you, it’s a constant battle to keep it on my profile, but as explained in the caption posting it affected people around me in positive ways, which proves that posting it was the right thing to do. And for every follower that I lose because of it, I might gain one that actually matters, so I win.
The second time that it happened was when I wanted to turn my instagram page into something that I had called “breaking the aesthetic”. Needless to say that that didn’t last. Here’s the now archived post and the two photos that used to go with it. I invite you to read the post:
Posting these pictures here feels as frightening as posting them felt on Instagram, but f*ck it. I’m doing it regardless. If this is what is costs to be who I want to be then so be it. I am ready to pay the price. I deleted this post because once again, it was too hard to have those “ugly” pictures stain my perfect aesthetic. The exact opposite of what I was trying to do when I posted them. I’m disappointed in myself for that but very proud for posting them here. Baby steps! There’s no point forcing myself to do something if I’m not ready yet. At least I tried.
The third time that it happened was recently when I decided to add ‘she/her’ to my bio.
That experience is also what got me to write this piece. I was told that I shouldn’t add those on Instagram (having them on Twitter is fine though, I guess it’s not as shallow a social media) because then people might think that I’m transgender. Please allow me to state that I do not have anything against transgender men and women. But as a black woman, my femininity is always questioned in the first place and having my preferred genders in my bio does not “help my case”.
The reason I added my pronouns in my bio is because I want any non-binary or trans person or anyone who uses different pronouns than their birth-assigned ones to know that it’s OK. It’s FINE. I chose to add my pronouns to my Instagram bio because I want to create a space where it’s comfortable for everyone to have preferred pronouns, where everyone feels safe to share their own and where everyone tries to respect other’s pronouns. It doesn’t cost me anything and I have never, and probably won’t ever, get mis-gendered so I don’t even care about it personally.
But apparently it does cost me something, it costs me my “attractive” badge. Once again, a price I’m willing to pay.
To conclude I want to say that you and I both know that Instagram is just the same as any other dating app. You want to look desirable to attract and meet people because you don’t want to die alone. I don’t want to die alone, but does that imply that I have to refrain myself from being as vocal and woke as I want to be? Should I not be myself in order to stay cool and attractive on social media? Maybe, but that wouldn’t be me. Sometimes I wish it was, but even if I tried to be that way, I’ll just end up disappointed with myself because I gave in to the pressure.
I want to be an ally in any way I can and if that means sacrificing some of my attractiveness then that’s ok. It’s worth it. I love me. So the photo stays, the “she/ her stays” and that’s on PERIODT. I’m proud of myself for it. Credits to you, Alicia. You rock.
But how am I supposed to meet people, you’ll ask me? As it is true that I’m not doing everything I could to find my possible significant other on Instagram, I downloaded Bumble. Gotta put myself out there someway! Let’s swipe right people.
These women @rianne.meijer, @danaemercer, and @florencegiven are also vocal about their beliefs on Instagram and make me feel like I’ve been doing right, so shoutout to them for that. Thank you for making me feel better about myself
Alicia Senou is an actress, originally from France but now living in London, who moved out to pursue her acting dreams. Travel, music and anime lover, she loves educating herself and tries to be the best possible version of herself.