Moving to Los Angeles from St. Louis was easily one of the best decisions of my life. Better weather, more job opportunities, and a fusion of big city life and beach town vibes led me here. I experienced the initial culture shock, as liberal California is completely different from conservative Missouri. I spotted trends before they penetrated the rest of the U.S., beached excessively, and gradually, all of the songs and movies from my childhood began to make sense. L.A. is a true melting pot, and though no major metropolis is without gentrification, mingling with those from other cultures feels normal, and even encouraged here. Just one year and 7 months in the City of Angels, I’ve finally found my tempo. As a little black girl from the Midwest, this L.A. life has been challenging, and sometimes downright discouraging. Here’s what I’ve learned.
1. Just expect cultural appropriation.
I’ve been all over the U.S., and I have never seen so many non-black women with cornrows, enhanced body parts, and black men. Cultural appropriation is everywhere in L.A. I have come to accept it. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I can’t let it dull my black Queendom.
2. You will still experience overt racism.
If you’re black in America, someone is bound to try you. This is nothing new. Just because the cultures coexist and mingle doesn’t necessarily mean fair play. Racism is simply less blatant and more overt in California. I’ve heard the Hollywood stories about race not being written into scripts, yet great black actresses still being denied for roles for being “too ethnic.” My personal experience with overt racism has come in the many job interviews I had with white women who wanted to talk more about my hair and style than my two degrees and job qualifications, only to hire a white candidate with less experience than me.
3. Interracial dating is real.
If you’re a black woman who is not open to dating outside your race, you may find your options severely limited. Black guys often won’t hit on you. It has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with L.A. dating culture. Interracial couples are common here.
4. It’s all about the vanity metrics.
Vanity metrics include: your hair, nails, and car, but surprisingly NOT your apartment. Weird, right? Everyone aims to look fashionable and successful on the surface. It’s the L.A. way. My neighbors in my modest, early 1960s apartment building drive a Mercedes Benz. In reality, most people are scraping the bottom of the barrel. You can either keep up or go broke trying.
5. Embrace your inner-hippie.
Your lifestyle will change by default. You learn to be an urban hippie: liberal, resourceful, and thrifty. I gave vanity metrics a try until I eventually just accepted the fact that the glitzy, polished life wasn’t for me, or my pockets. Nowadays, coconut oil has replaced my lotion, and I wear my hair in its natural state 75 percent of the time. Eating healthy is life (all organic everything). I condemn those who don’t recycle, and I have bonded with nature in all of its dopeness.
6. Being a ‘bougie black girl’ is expensive.
Unless you’re making 90 racks per year, let your bougie dreams die at the state line. I am nothing like the girl I was (or at least pretended to be) in St. Louis. Back home, I shopped at Trader Joe’s because it was cool. In California, it’s one of the few grocery stores I can afford. I only go to Whole Foods to stock up on my essential oils. Getting a manicure, pedicure, or Brazilian wax is reserved for special occasions, like a trip.
7. You may be better off styling your own hair.
Finding a stylist in L.A. may pose a challenge. Stylists are expensive, like everything else in this city, and often times, you may struggle to find your match through trial and error. I find all of my stylists through word-of-mouth. I would recommend asking around, of course, until you figure out that styling methods are different from back home and that you would rather have a car than to get your hair done every month.