When I was seventeen years old, I was sitting in my family’s living room contemplating two things at once : why I enjoyed CRAZY RICH ASIANS by Kevin Kwan so much and why I haven’t ever read a black romance. I am, of course, a hopeless romantic — I’ve devoured classics like THE NOTEBOOK by Nicholas Sparks, THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and more modern teen fics like THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green and new adult novels like THE HATING GAME by Sally Thorne.
What I realized was this though — there simply isn’t enough black representation in novels in general, but this is even more startling clear in the romance genre. Just look at the covers for most romantic historical novels (which is a subgenre I absolutely adore). That quick glance will give you all the information you need in order to come to the exact same conclusion that I have. Now, in the fantasy genre, especially YA fantasy, there’s been a rise in the diversity of characters, especially with African lore coming into the limelight with novels like Tomi Adeyemi’s CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE owning the bestseller list.
But I just don’t see this same trend in the romance genre at all. My problem with it is this — it’s almost as if the media is inadvertently saying that black people aren’t capable of a loving, healthy relationship, and right there in that moment, on the high of what was a refreshingly diverse, adventurous romance, I told myself that I was going to write the black CRAZY RICH ASIANS.
And so the idea for BEAUTIFUL MONSTERS was born.
You can read the description and see the concept cover I made for it in the below post :
Angel N’Da is an upstart black teen from downtown Toronto with a pocket full of dreams. When she lands a once in a lifetime opportunity to work with renowned photographer Amanda Collins and her troop of supermodels for the Black is Beautiful movement, she never expects to meet Adonis Mendeles, the light skinned king of…
I wanted to tackle one main issue with this book, which is mainly colorism, or the idea that lighter skinned black people are somehow superior to their darker skinned counterparts. This is even worse you happen to be a dark-skinned female, as the beauty standard today forces us to conform to an unattainable ideal of European beauty.
Another sub-issue here is the idea that some black men view darker black women as lesser, and once they reach a certain level of success they are able to “upgrade” and pursue lighter women. Which is why I think it’s important that my male lead for this novel, Adonis Mendeles, is a mixed raced, infamous supermodel, and Angel N’Da is a dark-skinned photography intern who is tasked with taking pictures of him.
The novel takes place all over the world, and features twelve of the world’s most famous black models who are taking part in what I have dubbed the #BlackisBeautiful movement, comprised of photoshoots and runway shows all intending to uplift black beauty and debunk western beauty standards. There is also an interesting competition aspect to the novel, because Angel is not the only photography intern, and she is battling alongside three others for the same position.
The point here is, Adonis and Angel are viewed as an unlikely match, not just because Adonis is jaded and cynical, while Angel is always able to see the good in people, but because of their differing complexions. In a way, it’s almost unheard of for a mixed raced man who posseses Adonis’ level of beauty to “degrade” himself by going for a darker girl, but that’s exactly what he does here, and both Adonis and Angel are treated differently because of it.
Colorism also becomes startlingly clear amidst the twelve models themselves, and the way they are treated by fashion designers and makeup artists who are meant to aid with the #BlackisBeautiful movement.
Overall, I want to write a cute, raw, honest, sometimes funny, sometimes serious, but always real romance that features a largely black cast, and shows that not only are black people beautiful, but we are just as worthy of love as our white counterparts are.