Monday, April 11, 2011

Stilettos & Side Eyes: The UPLIFT Challenge

 If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen me discussing this topic a few nights ago. I started a conversation with the hashtag #UPLIFT in hopes of generating some commentary about the well-known plight of young and fierce females who can't seem to wrap their heads around the idea that kind words and sincere smiles go much farther than side eyes and snubs.

The other night I had the pleasure of attending an event in lower Manhattan that a few friends and colleagues were hosting. Though I was sick, I got dolled up in my dress and heels and headed downtown to show my support.  Like most other industry events I attend in NY, the women in attendance were beautiful and well-dressed in killer outfits and the latest designer duds to boot. But sadly, like many other events I attend in NY, there were a few women in attendance that (for some strange reason) couldn't keep themselves from doing one or more of the following:

A) Rolling their eyes when other fierce divas walked by.
B) Completely avoiding eye contact when a sincere smile or a "Hey your outfit is cute" was mouthed from across the room.
C) Whispering to a friend and then laughing (while subtly pointing in another female's direction).
D) Doing the "once over" up and down look to another female and then proceeding to do A or C.

After seeing this type of behavior repeatedly over the years, even before working in the media industry, it suddenly dawned on me that women (especially in groups) have a serious problem! So that night, I sat down with a group of friends over drinks and asked the following...

Why do fab females choose to break each other down and not build each other up?

 After asking my friends in person, I proceeded to ask my Twitter peeps. What an eye-opening conversation that was! Revelations and commonalities were uncovered that I never knew existed. Here were some notable quotables from the Twitter convo:

And one of my fave comments of the night came from my friend Ama:

The crazy thing about this "invisible competition" is that it doesn't just exist between strangers. Friends do it too! Coco + Creme posted an article last week entitled Fashion and Friendship: When Dressing Becomes a Competitive Sport and it touched on the idea that we, as fashionable women, often unconsciously create this competition within our social circles that can actually cause hatred and ill feelings. Does this "fashion faceoff" require an internal referee? Or are we the only people "losing" in this competition because we're choosing to participate in it? I pose another question to you all.

Is it truly that hard to uplift other women? Is it that hard, when you receive a compliment, to find some way to return it to the sender?

I recently picked up the May 2011 issue of ESSENCE Magazine. The theme of the May issue is "Girlfriends" and it celebrates the importance of friendship and uplifting the people you care about.

While I love this idea and I'm completely in love with celebrating the sisterhoods and bonds that we've taken precious time to build, this week I want to challenge us all to uplift a few divas who we might not necessarily call our "friends".

So I've crafted the #UPLIFT Challenge. Over the course of this week, I encourage each of you to do the following:

1. Find at lease ONE female that you don't know personally (whether on the train, at your job, inside the toll booth on the highway, wherever) and tell them something that makes them beautiful. It might be a hairstyle, a fly pair of shoes or a pretty smile. Whatever it is, find a way to uplift a stranger this week.

2. When you've done it, come back here and leave a comment about how it went down, and how you feel.  Feel free to include her reaction. Did she accept with open arms, or did she look at you sideways?

Can't wait to see your responses! If you're on Twitter, tweet me @LoveBrownSugar with the hashtag #UPLIFT so we can keep the convo going. Good luck!
Pin It!


  1. i always thought that this phenomenon was super silly, what does giving the side eye to that chick do for your life? no one thinks that you are prettier, cooler, sexier because you rolled your eyes at a lovely lady or shunned her. Grown women masquerading as teenagers is what it is, need to grow up and stop being mental midgets.

    I compliment random women all of the time, any time that I like something that they have on or beauty wise. Them looking fly doesn't take away from ME. If i like their shoes, they'll know about it and can tell me where they got them, something that won't happen with me snickering at her off in the corner.


  2. FUNNY you should bring this up!! I was just struggling with this the other day. Yes, this is not just limited to strangers but it happens with friends as well. I know people personally, who sees anyone with the same complexion and build as her as competition. I can't even say she does it intentionally, it's like...innate. People really don't think there is enough pie to go around and their sense of validation is how much of the pie they have aquired. We can't all be pretty, we can't all have nice clothes, powerful presence etc. It's sad. I compliment and receive compliments from strangers all the time, but it's sad when a friend tries to put you down (even as the stranger is giving you the compliment!).

  3. I'm finding this to be a problem, especially if you live in a bustling city like NYC. I remember friends visiting and commenting on how the streets of NYC often feels like a catwalk, and she felt pressure to compete with other ladies strutting their stuff. I never really knew it was that serious, but after receiving deadened eyes after initiating a smile with another female...I understood that 'competition' might in fact be the right word for what's going on out there, and for this I'm a bit sad.Spreading the message of #uplift is something I'm 100% on board with...and if I still get those eye rolls in response...I'll just keep truckin. For some folks it takes a bit more time to shed the armor


  4. You know I will say this. I went to a Meet and greet for a singer last week. Basically it was 4 Bloggers who got to interview her and I was there to help a friend. One other blogger completely ignored everybody's comments on her hair, outfit, composure. Everybody was kinda mingling but not without the side eye. I can say there was one person who was nice! She came over said she heard of my blog. One other blogger who i told I loved her blog and commented regularly didn't even know who i was. I'm the only person that comments on the girls blog THE ONLY!! I just think that when people are blogging for fun the cockiness is not needed. The one who was dressed up to the nines looked down on everybody, the person helping her who is a popular DJ even made me get up out my chair, didn't say thank you, anything. I don't know why blogger can't just network and be friendly. I saw plenty of side eye worthy behavior and I just don't get it.

  5. I love this campaign! I live my life uplifting because i grew up watching my mom do it. my mom has a gift for moving the limbs(speaking kind words) of the "shade tree" so some light can shine through. lol When I was a little girl I had the most powerful lesson. A woman was clearly exhibiting shady behavior towards my mom. My mom walked right to her and she NEVER made mention of the behavior. She smiled, greeted, gave a compliment, and wished her well. Afterwards my mom said something to me that i still hold close: "If you KNOW the person you see in the mirror, don't let people with broken glass make you think you look different. Their image is distorted"

    Women who operate in this behavior don't care what we think. All of their words and actions are about how THEY feel. Approach one and watch their reaction. They either go stone wall or they look shocked as if they were invisible/hiding and you found them. I've seen this behavior manifest to levels of betrayal & harm. It's really said. I operate in love because i'm a firm believer that "flawed fruit can still be sweet"

    LOL I can go on and on about this topic.

  6. I'm all about uplifting women girls (I've unfortunately found that not enough girls are told their beautiful), so I'm always trying to compliment or a smile. Hence, I was very happy to see your tweets about. #UPLIFTing last week!

    Saturday, I was at Target where I saw a lady with a gorgeous Afro (my hairstyle of choice if I ever cut my locs). I was walking past her and said, "I love your hair!" This lady gave me the straight side eye! I have to admit, I was a bit offended at first, but at the end of the day uplifting others is not only for that person's benefit but my own. I feel uplifted and joyous when I can uplift others!


  7. I support your movement and although its inherent in a woman's nature to hate on another girl from time to time (dunno whether its envy or the woman should find it flattering that other women would waste so much energy on meticulously picking apart and dissecting them) but its such a beautiful thing to get complimented.
    I struggled for a LONG time with accepting compliments cos I'd grown up with my sister breaking down my self-esteem as well as bullies playing their part that to see what others saw was beyond me. But now, i can take the time out to appreciate beauty both in myself and others and i congratulate u for urging others to do the same.

    BLEURGH & Xisses

  8. Amazing campaign! I love what your friend Ama said. Why can't we *inspire* each other rather than view other women as competition? You are inspiring me to write a post of my own on a similar topic!

  9. @herCatwalk If you write one, please come back and share the link with us!! So we can share the #UPLIFT :)

  10. Can this be attributed to men too??????????

    I feel like this happens to guys a lot, just they're more vocal.

  11. I try to compliment and uplift my fellow woman often. Especially when I know how much effort we ladies put into our personal style. Sometimes we nonchalantly jest that style is effortless but that "effortless-ness" often includes hours in a hairdresser's chair or in a dressing room trying to get that perfect style or that elusive well-fitting pair of jeans or at the gym. No one is perfect. As a person that suffered from low self esteem for a lot of my teenage years I realized as an adult that I was cheating myself from the fabulous-ness I innately possessed. Every woman is beautiful but society often place hierarchies on certain traits. And I have a lovely family that genuinely complimented and helped to encourage me to appreciate myself for who I am. And just that battle for my self-esteem took time and effort. So I compliment women to strengthen and encourage. Cause if you look great a lot of work probably went into it. And who doesn't love being complimented for good work.

  12. Before I even know about this challenge I did this on Friday. I was paying compliments to every girl I saw. It made me feel awesome to see another female smile. Just saying their hair cut was cute or I like their outfit. Great day. It hurts that women beat each other down instead of sticking together. I rather uplift each other then rip someone apart, its a reflection of how you feel about yourself.

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. Perfect post! I always say "positivity is my only method"! Gotta kill/expose them/to with kindness! HA!

    love you site BTW!


  15. it's funny that you talk about this, because i will admit that i'm guilty of the side eye. but on the other hand, i'm ALWAYS complimenting complete strangers. i love the way their face genuinely lights up when someone who doesn't know them says that they look great.

    i'm wondering if anyone else does this. i'm quick to compliment a stranger, but my closest friends are lucky if they hear an uplifting word. i'm glad you made me think on that one..

  16. Love this post!
    Congrats on making the IFB weekly roundup too

  17. You raised some very good points! I do give other women the surreptitious once-over, but more often it's out of admiration and not snarkiness.

  18. I feel sooooo lucky to have so many supportive and loving women in my life. My path didn't start off so well when I was younger but now I can't imagine living any other way. There's room enough for every single one of us to shine. What a great topic!
    :) f
    The House in the Clouds

  19. you are so totally right! I never understood this unspoken "competition" among women! I couldn't compliment strangers, I'm to shy :S but whenever I see a colleague that wears something I like I always compliment her!

  20. awesome post! it's unfortunate but it happens. i'm always being sized up lol. but i don't always take it as s negative thing since i feel people are sort of intrigued by what's different. however, i compliment women all the time & usually get a decent response. like since I started blogging and doing street style I find the people I approach to take their pic are usually very gracious & flattered when I tell them I think they look awesome. I think the competition exists more at events when we put our "game faces" on. it's like since everyone dressed up let's see who did it best lol. I love your challenge & thoughts on the matter. now here's my one lady story for the challenge:

    on weds I walked up to this young lady named earlicia and asked to take her pic. she turned around and got her neck all twisted and said in a sort of attitudy tone "why?" then I said "cuz I think you look awesome & really like your style....) as soon as I released the word awesome (I said more stuff after that) I saw the tension release from her neck & shoulders. she smiled & said "okay thanks."

    this is one reason I really like street style. not only do I get to share what I like with my readers but also get the pleasure of telling folks they look good & seeing them smile.

  21. I love this post and Im so glad it was in the links a la mode this week (as well as mine yeahh)
    I think its sad but true that women are more inclined to judge each other than be nice. I often compliment girls on their style when I see them, what shocks me is the genuine surprised thanks I get when I do it. I have often gotten rude "um ya thanks" responses to which I can only say whatever, I tried.

  22. I love this and I do it all the time !!!
    It's funny how surprised other women are when you give them a compliment!
    They seem to light up, come alive and like to tell me where they got their outfit and how much they paid for them as well!
    Thanks for passing on the love!

  23. Wait----grown women got dressed up, traveled to an event, walked into the event to shade other women? People don't realize how tacky they look when they do that *smh*.

    I feel so blessed to know so many amazing female bloggers in the NYC area and those I've met who live outside this area. I remember meeting you at the Carol's Daughter event last year and YOU WERE SO SWEET. I don't understand why other people put so much energy into being "mean girls". I spend so time talking to strangers people must think I'm crazy. It's nothing to give someone a smile or say hello. And you feel good when you do it, too.

    I'm ALL IN!

  24. If you think it is difficult in America, try Europe.
    When in New York I was complimented in the streets and cafes.
    In North and South Carolina my American friends thought I was dressed for church ( nothing further than me).
    I have never, ever have been complimented in Europe. European, especially Spaniards, who are not family or close friends, sooner die than say a nice word about your outfit to your face. At least in my experience.
    Superb post!!!

  25. This is why I nurture and treasure the relationship I have with my true girlfriends. The challenge is one that I've always attempted to participate in. There are times I've slipped but if one is confident in who they are not what they have or are wearing there is NO need to throw anything negative in the direction of another female P.E.R.I.O.D. One thing blogging has taught me is that you can be who you are and someone else can be the real them and be supported. In the real world when females pretend I don't exist or do with A - C or all of them, I go out of my way to be extra friendly. Helps them to see I'm no threat just living on the same earth and enjoying the journey.

  26. I always give compliments to women - a compliment can literally make someone's day. GREAT challenge!

  27. A provocative post, but so very sincere and open.
    I find that American women are terrible at this sort of thing. This does not mean that it does not happen in Europe, but perhaps it's done with more "Grace" in Europe. I get complemented quite a bit in France, England and Germany. And I'm especially kind to women - I have been brought up that way. XX

  28. This is a great initiative that needs to be done a lot, a lot, a lot, and then repeated!!! We really diss each other A LOT of the time, or so much more than compliment. I like to compliment other people, if I see something I like I want to know more about it, where it came from, and I will make sure the person wearing the garment knows. But then, I'm half Spanish, and we tend to talk a lot to people we don't know, joke, compliment, etc. I don't know if that it's a cultural thing, but the b*tching and competing is absolutely UNIVERSAL and simply needs to stop, it's simply pathetic.

  29. Wow, what a great post. I love giving complements, but sometimes it can be a pain. Sometimes people make you feel like your not good enough, or your compliment doesn't count based on how you look. They size you up. I wish I could compliment freely, I really enjoy spreading a little bit of light on someones day. You never know what they've been going through, or how much a simple compliment from a complete STRANGER who has nothing to gain from telling you what they think can turn your day around. Everyone just seems so closed. Even to eye contact! I don't have lasers there! Like the idea of another person saying or doing anything positive to/for them must spawn from a place of negativity. Whatever. I don't mind being that random stranger to someone who will just take my thoughts as encouragement and pass it to someone else and lighten up their day.

  30. i said i liked a black girl's shoes. she said thank you. and then...get this...she told me where she got them!! i think she lied though bc i couldn't find them on the website. I love you Cece!!! - jooomz