“The camera loves you, Millie. Absolutely loves you.”
Millie believed him. His name was Joe. He must have had a last name, but Millie knew him as just Joe. And she believed the words he said as he snapped picture after pose after another and another.
She felt beautiful.
She felt accepted.
She couldn’t wait to see the spread in the magazine.
She’d be the first black woman in that magazine. She was a rule breaker. She broke through their prison bars and glass ceilings.
She would show the whole world that a black woman was so much more than earth and dirt. She was beautiful with her wide set nose and her black eyes and her black hair glowing like a halo around her head.
“Yes, Millie. The camera sure loves you lots.”
She believed Joe.
Until the magazine showed up at the supermarket.
Her skin was bleached a strange shade of not Caucasian and not African American. Her nose was clearly stolen from Scarlet Johansson. Her lips were mercilessly thinned out. And Good Blazing Heavens! They gave her blue eyes. The kind of blue that came from the movie Dune. And her neck looked like it belonged on a newborn giraffe.
She stared at the unholy image, at the flagrant elimination of her as her own blessed self. “What have they done to me?” She cried tears of hurt and shame and betrayal and anger. Anger that should have made that fake Millie run off the magazine cover in fear.
“What have they done to me?” She frowned. And it wasn’t a polite “Oh, dear! Something isn’t right” frown. It was fury. It was the desire to punch someone’s lights out. “What has Joe done?” She pulled out her cell phone and dialed his number.
“Hello? Joe, is that you? Good. What the—Yes. I saw the magazine. I saw that abomination…Artistic license? Artistic license?! That is not me! Obviously it was photoshopped. My question is why? You said the camera loved me. You said it over and over and over. I believed you, Joe. If the camera loved me all that much, why did you do that? Why did you take me out of me?”
“That is not a good enough reason. If you wanted some pretty white girl on your cover, why did you have me pose for you? Why did you waste my time?”
“What? No. I saw that hideous compilation of not me and I couldn’t bear to see anything more than…Okay.” She set her phone down on the closed lane’s belt.
She flipped through pages of articles and perfume ads and models in dramatic poses.
She found Joe’s article on her.
Her mouth dropped open.
He was right.
The camera loved her with a passionate love.
And this time, it was her as perfectly African American her.
She half-laughed and half-cried.
“Millie? Did you see it?”
She picked up her phone. “Oh, Joe. I am beautiful. I am so beautiful as flat-nosed, afro-haired me.”