“True self-esteem is realizing that you were valuable because you were born. No matter where you come from, what color your skin is, what people say about your family or what mean things people may have done to you, because you were born you are important and you matter.” – Oprah Winfrey
When I heard Shaun Robinson utter just the first sentence of Oprah’s quote on the Steve Harvey Morning Show in June, I knew I had to get my hands on her book, “Exactly As I Am.” As a grown woman, I see how the issues of self-esteem, self-acceptance, the pressure to have sex, and questions about my identity still play out from time to time. It was no different for me back in the day, growing up in the 80’s and 90’s. Robinson’s book is written for today’s girls and young women, but it would have been just as relevant to me in 1989 as it is now in 2009.
Robinson’s gig as a co-anchor and correspondent on the show Access Hollywood has given her access (pun intended) to many celebrities. Exactly As I Am is peppered with several anecdotes from female celebrities as well as accomplished women whom I have never heard of. Robinson’s experiences, her involvement on the national board of directors for Girls, Inc. (www.girlsinc.org), and the various quotes from girls themselves all help to paint a clear picture of the struggles girls and young women are still facing today.
~ They wish they were skinnier, lighter, straighter hair.
~ They wish they could fit in with the popular crowd.
~ They wish they could deal with their parents and siblings better.
~ They wish they could get a boy’s attention and affection without compromising their bodies and their values.
~ They wish they could look like the stars on TV.
~ They want to emulate the things they see on TV, in movies, and in music videos.
The only thing I might add to this book are thumbnail pictures of some of the quoted celebrities with “then” and “now” photos. Including them would show not only the vast diversity of beauty in women, but also make it easy to see at a glance how far they have come. I can still look at old photos of myself today and say “Wow!,” because I know where I came from and all that I have been through to get where I am today.
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As someone in the process of writing a book with a similar theme as Exactly As I Am, I draw tremendous encouragement from Robinson’s revelations about her coming-of-age experiences, as well as her determination and struggle to finish the book. I unable to interview celebrities and get their viewpoints, but I no longer underestimate my power to reach this young generation and the next with my wisdom, my insights, and my story, and neither should you. We all have a story to tell that can inspire someone else.