Token Black Girl: A Memoir

Danielle Prescod. Little A, $24.95 (286p) ISBN 978-1-5420-3516-3

Former BET style director Prescod lays bare the toxic scaffolding of the fashion and beauty industries in her piercing debut. Growing up in 1990s Westchester, N.Y., in a Black, upper-middle-class family, Prescod was ostracized by her mostly white peers at school, many of whom subjected her to taunts about her hair, skin color, and body. These micro- and macro-aggressions followed her beyond high school, into college at Tufts and the competitive office spaces of fashion magazines, including Teen Vogue, where she was pigeonholed as what one fashion director deemed “a girl with a ‘cool downtown urban vibe’.” In candid, often devastating scenes, Prescod details how the emotional toll this took on her led to an eating disorder, binge drinking, and directing toward other women the same behavior directed at her, critiquing them for their styles and their weights. By the time she became an editor at Elle.com at age 25, Prescod realized that the racist culture of her youth was codified into media institutions, visible in one manager’s refusal to hire models of color, and colleagues’ ignorant questions about her hair (“OMG, so cute, but is it going to look like this all the time?”). As she reckons with these small- and large-scale oppressions, Prescod maintains a striking self-awareness and even hope that these problems have solutions. The result is sure to galvanize those who are looking to make change from within fraught spaces. (Oct.)
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