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Sheryl Lee Ralph

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For Women’s History Month, we tapped the iconic Sheryl Lee Ralph — Tony award-winning star — to discuss four important topics on womanhood. From schooling the youth on Sarah Baartman to breaking down the poisonous behavior on social media, Sheryl has some tough love for our young women.

Read her EXCLUSIVE HelloBeautiful blog, below:

“It’s Pretty Ugly, Beautiful” -By Sheryl Lee Ralph

We’re weeks into Women’s History Month and there are so many events being held across the country celebrating and commemorating the many brave and beautiful things women have accomplished. During this month, we acknowledge women like Sojourner Truth, who delivered her ‘Ain’t I a Woman’ speech in Akron, Ohio and stunned her mostly white audience when she ripped open her blouse, barred her breasts and asked those who had ignored her, “Ain’t I a woman?”

It seems we’ve forgotten these real-life heroines and what they stood for. When I see women stripping on Instagram or hidden under the cloak of the internet where they freely trash talk, demean, bully, “shade” and try to undermine the success of others, it all just seems a sad waste of time.

Imagine my shock after being dragged on Instagram for posting a rearview photo of Amber Rose (I didn’t know who she was at the time) on my Instagram account, asking my followers if they had heard of Sarah Baartman. I was attacked by Internet trolls, who posted some of the most vile and ugly comments under the photo. “What menopause does hating ass old lady,” one said. “Why so nasty Grandma? Worry about your lumps on your old ass thighs,” said another. I had to laugh at that one. There were a few comments from those who understood what I was saying but the trolls overpowered the conversation. And they went on and on and on!

Trolling is described as deliberately making offensive or provocative online posts with the aim of eliciting an angry response. It has been around forever as far back as the fourth century. (Check out Platos parable of the ring of Gyges.) Beautiful, what is done in the dark will come to light.

When Black women arrived on American shores, we were humiliated, shamed, disgraced and put to such backbreaking work it is a wonder how we’ve survived at all. But we have. But we’re at a pivotal place.

I meet so many unhappy young women. Many of them are unhappy and experts in making everybody around them unhappy. They lash out at others, fussing, fighting and “modeling” on Instagram for “likes” — not realizing they are really looking on the outside when what really needs fixing is on the inside. All of these selfies show a lack of self-esteem that has been sadly confused with confidence. Somehow things have gotten twisted.

I know self-worth isn’t going to fill you overnight and Internet trolls are not just going to disappear, but maybe you can rethink the part you play in the social media mess. Take the camera off of your half-naked self and the hood off your computer, smart phone or tablet and THINK! Are you playing yourself with the sexy posts and nasty comments thinking they make you ”somebody?” Ask yourself, “Are you trying to cover up the ugly you feel inside? Are you willing to rise to the challenge of your own life and do it beautifully?

Life wasn’t easy for the women who came before us and faced unimaginable odds, it hasn’t been easy for me and it won’t be easy for you. So rethink the moment you want to cuss somebody out, or use foul language because you have forgotten the beautiful part of yourself. Resist the temptation to act out the ugly on the Internet in meaningless ‘chats’ and ‘comments.’ There is beautiful power when women come together to work and support each other and that kind of power can change your world, Beautiful!

Tune in next week for Sheryl’s next blog.

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