Women are no strangers to being scrutinized for the way we dress, speak, and act. But for women of color—especially Black women—this scrutiny is often intensified. We’re used to being censored or doubted in the workplace, or having our hair policed. But ethereal singer Tanerélle, who was bullied last year for her “saggy breasts,” is refusing to be anything but her full self.
As Playboy‘s newest Playmate, she’s opening the door for pertinent conversations about our culture’s beauty standards. The milestone is important—not just for Tanerélle but for all Black women. In 70 years and hundreds of women, Tanerélle is Playboy‘s 40th Black Playmate. That number should be higher, but seeing the artist—a dark-skinned Black woman with breasts that are, frankly, realistic—in a magazine that’s known for its promotion of unattainable American beauty standards is immense.
“Being able to express myself within spaces like these is always an honor because it’s not really about me, but all of us,” she tells Glamour. “Someone does it first, second, third, fortieth, and it’s all to continue to open doors for others.”
Tanerélle’s story is familiar to many Black women: Last year she found herself the subject of online vitriol for a dress she wore, braless, to the BET Awards. Armchair critics picked apart Tanerélle’s outfit and her “saggy breasts,” with some on Twitter asking whether she forgot to put on a bra or quipping she should have used boob tape for a lift. “I learned a lot about my commitment to self-love that night,” the singer says. “And my commitment to the fight for women and our bodies in general.”
What particularly hurt was that so many critiques came from women. “It pointed out how much we need more voices and leaders to speak up and out for us,” Tanerélle says. For her, the experience revealed how many people, including women, uphold unrealistic and harmful beauty standards. So Tanerélle clapped back at the trolls, writing, “I’m a woman and my natural tits hang and I fucking love it and I have no intention of changing it to suit your gaze.”
In doing so, she became a welcome and needed symbol of self-appreciation for other women who saw themselves in her. As a Black woman dealing with my own body-image issues, I know I did.