Lepa Shandi or Orobo?

by Michael Oluwagbemi II

In America it is usually a thing of great inconvenience to discuss weight and diet more so when it concerns women. The best way to get on the bad side of any woman in America is definitely to talk about their weight on the scale. You see, like their age it is a top secret. Have you ever accompanied your better half or sister to the driver’s license office to renew or obtain a drivers license? If you haven’t, may be you have been with her at the Clinic or some other locations that require her to fill in her weight. Do you see the way she covers up or whisper that magic number? Now try that for size (no pun intended of course). Have you been asked that super ambush question: “baby, do I look fat in this?” I know bro, been there – done it. Even if you just left church where the pastor preached the virtues of speaking the truth you might as well just feign immediate stomach pain to distract attention or simply say NO! Say no my friend, she looks just alright in that hundred and fifty dollars evening gown that you are so looking forward to take off, at least if you plan to do it yourself.

You see, the image of beauty of the West is associated with thinner, toned and of course black women- sorry, I meant tanned. But be it as it may, since the West is the dominating civilization of our age everywhere you go, you are regularly tormented with visions of thin women which are presented as the face of beauty. But of late, there seem to be a backlash. Fat women are on the move, they are seeking revenge for years of abuse by their less endowed counterparts. I even hear it is even politically incorrect to call people fat these days, you simply say that they are “gastronomically endowed”. I bet you can’t match that. Anyway, when the movie Phat Girlz was released I tried to see it at the movie theater. Let us just say I tried. In that, I abandoned the movie adventure midway due to reasons you shall know later.

Of course the angle of the entire movie (which I have now watched on my bootlegged adaptable DVD player) was the proverbial love of the Nigerian man for women who are “gastronomically endowed”. If you think this was a fable please think twice. The fact is I have heard on authority that so called “big men” in Nigeria only keep girlfriends that are twice the size of their wives and whom their hands cannot go around – just imagine trying to hug incredible hulk. This stereotype of the Nigerian man was well perpetuated in this movie and indeed in many Nigerian movies. Certainly, I have wondered aloud if any of our plus size actresses in Nigeria will ever find a compelling movie role if they were in Hollywood. I have. Abeg, thank God for Nollywood. It may not be best or second best, but it is at least third best and that, the plus size princesses would never mind. But lest I forget the theme of my article, it is important to point out that the reason why I abandoned the Phat Girlz movie was not because I had any problem with the plot or the story line, it was because I had these two huge two hundred and fifty pounds or more ladies who sat besides me breathing heavily like the sound of tank fire on the battlefield that staying much longer in the filled-to-capacity theater was simply an exercise in futility.

Indeed, when Madam Jumi discussed one of our trailblazing models –Oluchi the other day, I expected that at the end of the comment some haters will definitely come into the house. Even if Jesus Christ and Michael Oluwagbemi were hated, who wouldn’t be? (That was a joke- cool down my friend!) No sooner the comments began on a positive note, that some “haters” indeed showed up as promised bandying the same trite stereotype of “all Nigerian men” being lovers of plus size models, or let us say gastronomically endowed women. Don’t get me wrong, all I have for all these haters is love. Because of course no where in the article did Jumoke Giwa castigate or castrate women of large appetite or larger than life torso’s but the haters had their little support group to help them with their respective hating. As expected, the most proficient hate group, the fat women themselves soon joined their spouses in trying to rectify the mentality of uninformed villagers. Oluchi to them was the white man’s imagination, as if all the women of less endowed gastronomy had been unmarried in Africa since the Stone Age – I beg leave matter.

The title of this discourse is a question for the brothers in the house? Are you a lepa or an orobo seeker? That simply means do you do thin or fat? As if thick was missing – let us ignore that because in this George Bush world of black and white, there are no in-betweens. May I at this point say that my preference is all over the map- I have dated thin, thick, fat, ugly, slim, fine, and of course the arrangement or juxtaposition of those attributes do not necessarily connote my impression of women that have such qualities. It is a known fact that men have preferences and so do women. I have seen women whistle as I rode past them before and I have heard women who expressed disgust at my basket ball player stature (dream sweet dreams) which any case I shall leave to your imagination. But preference is preference.

It is my believe that there is nothing like what African men like or what they do not like; the truth is we are all different. One man’s poison is another man’s meat, but to crucify Oluchi or Agbani Darego – ladies who are simply trying to make a living- for looking the way they do or the way their creator created them because it doesn’t fit your bill is simply ludicrous. The fact is it is not all of us that like our women carrying the extra baggage- some of us like it mixed as well. We like to have half of our women in the match stick proposition and the other half with “heavy bones” (being PC), and that is if you keep a harem. Some of us prefer to spend our monies on good things of life instead of buying new car tires every year or spending them on a new sofa or mattress. It is also true that others strive for longer life free of sleep apnea, diabetes, and hypertension: if those are for you, then go for it. Don’t blame others especially the white man for not extending your latitude of choice, because unfortunately we are not all the same. Indeed, enough of the white man bashing as well – thin African women have existed right from the ages and may be it is the societal perception that a woman must look some way that we must overcome instead of having this trite argument over lepa and orobo. Enough said

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smokeysmokey48238@yahoo.com September 8, 2006 - 6:07 pm

When I was in secondary school, I was skinny … almost scrawny. Classmates called me all kinds of names including "okpelenge". I was so hurt that I tried all kinds of things to gain weight. When I moved to the U. S., things changed! Everyone was so envious of my slender frame, asking how I was always able to eat anything and still remain thin. I was thinking I was born in the wrong country…I am enjoying my slimness here…both Akata and Nigerian men I have dated don't seem to mind. I say beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

zizi September 5, 2006 - 7:51 pm

I want to say thank you very much to the writer for a very relevant and interesting article. I did not even go to see the movie phat girls, but have seen others that were made based on the same idea. I am also tired of the way nigerian men or african men are stereotyped and put in a box with only one narrow view of beauty. Being a SLIM and i repeat slim not skinny nigerian woman, i get offended when people have this perception of the ideal african beauty as being born with extra meat on her bones, junk in her trunk or other slangs we as black people like to use. I have gotten my fair share of admireres; nigerian, african and non-african. Men who appreciate beauty in any form. To all my slim, skinny, waif-like african queens, i salute you all. Let us love ourselves, and be glad we each have a unique characteristic which God made us with and let us be called beautiful. Peace!!!!


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