Representative Jasmine Crockett: “I'm Nobody's Punk”

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When it comes to being pretty in politics, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Late in the evening of May 16th, a congressional committee hearing descended into something akin to a streetside rap battle with Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) on one mic and Representative Jasmine Crockett (D-TX) on the other featuring a verse from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). If we’re keeping score according to my social media feed, Crockett took home the golden mic.

You might be curious why Allure is reporting on such antics at all. Well, our ears perk up anytime someone says the words “fake eyelashes.”

In the hearing that was meant to debate holding Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress, Crockett found herself the victim of a barb from Greene: "I think your fake eyelashes are messing up what you're reading." Excuse me, say that again?

As a Black woman watching this nonsense happening in the most elite workplace of all—the United States Congress—I couldn’t help but think about what stereotypes were lurking underneath that off-hand jab. What I heard was: Wearing fake eyelashes is unprofessional. Wearing fake eyelashes means you are unintelligent. Wearing fake eyelashes is trashy.

Crockett also heard the undertones in the words. "I just want to be clear, Black women are not the only people that wear lashes, but [people who support] MAGA do this thing where they talk about my nails, they talk about my hair,” she told me when I interviewed her about the whole exchange. “They've said over and over that I'm ghetto, I'm a DEI hire. It's this white superiority and privilege they decide they're going to engulf themselves in.”

But the wild thing about this whole conversation is that wearing fake eyelashes and hair extensions is something Crockett does in order to avoid distractions like this. Stick with me here; We are about to go through the same twists and turns every Black woman goes through when she dresses for the workplace.

“Your looks are such a big deal when it comes to politics,” Crockett says, noting that this applies especially to women. “I don't agree with any of it, but I also understand how things are set up. I've been at polls where... I've seen people be like, 'I'm voting for her 'cause she fine.’ I would prefer to be in sweatsuits and J's every day at work; it's just not a reality of what is acceptable for people to actually listen to me in that space.”

“As a Black woman, I felt my looks would always be challenged, and it's a matter of always showing up and being perfect.”

Crockett even made sure her congressional office had enough room for a makeup vanity. “As a Black woman, I felt my looks would always be challenged, and it's a matter of always showing up and being perfect,” she explains. “It's not that I don't think that I'm enough. It's not that I don't recognize that my qualifications far exceed my beauty. But to minimize some of the chatter, I'm cognizant of it."

If Crockett shows up to work looking anything less than perfect, she says, “I’m going to be attacked.” Like I said: damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Because on that particular day, Crockett came correct and still faced a sideswipe from the opposition.

Hearing those words come out of Crockett’s mouth made me think about my own journey as editor in chief. It is not uncommon for me to be the only Black woman in the conference room, and even though we work in a fashion-flexible environment where my colleagues often wear jeans and tank tops, you will never see me enter the office dressed down. Why? I need to make sure that my outfit is not distracting from my big, sexy brain. You’re thinking: What does your outfit have to do with your intelligence? Absolutely fuck all. But when I anticipate any potential outfit conversations and end them at the first up-and-down glance, we can get straight to business.

This also plays so keenly in how I was raised as a Black woman. You wear your best when you show up to any place where you’re a rarity. Crockett says it best: “You don't miss when you’re one of less than 60 Black women that have ever been elected to Congress.” She also knows that the way she looks is something every person in her district (that covers most of South Dallas County) sees—and relates to. “My district feels proud.” She recalls that when she was doing a TV interview, a local preacher texted her: “You need to tell your stylist that you need a different color lipstick.” I know he meant well. He just wanted his congresswoman to look her best. (And for the record, Crockett does all her own makeup, pastor.) It’s the same thing my lovely Southern Black mother does when she comments on my manicure or hairstyle. We are representing a whole community when we walk into the room.

Crockett speaks during a press conference on December 13, 2023 in Washington, DC.
Crockett speaks during a press conference on December 13, 2023 in Washington, DC.
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I had to ask Crockett if she felt any remorse for attacking another woman’s body in her retort. After all, “bleach blonde bad built butch body” is an insult that tears another woman down in a worse way than commenting on false lashes. “I don't. The goal was to make a point. If it's okay for her to attack me, [the chairman] is setting a precedent for anybody being able to lodge attacks. ‘Is this attack okay?’ is essentially what the question was.”

(Greene responded to the comments in a Twitter video featuring her lifting very heavy weights. “Yes, my body is built and strong…Soon turning 50 years old, God willing, I will continue to lift, run, swim, play sports, surf, ski, climb, and LIVE this life to the fullest and enjoy every single moment.”)

Crockett does admit that the whole situation isn’t appropriate for committee rooms. However, this is the world that Donald Trump built. “When you look at all the things that the former president has done, mocking people that [have disabilities], constantly talking about women's figures…that is what their game is, and it's sad because it really has no place in politics,” she says. “But the fact is that…this is now the norm of politics; that's a problem.”

“And I honestly would've preferred that she just apologize. I wasn't looking for an opportunity to cut her down to size. But I also need people to know that I'm nobody's punk.”

And let’s just keep it real: This was not shocking behavior for Greene, who has embraced fringe conspiracy theories and tried to interrupt the president’s State of the Union address. Twice. “We're talking about somebody that has been nothing more than a bully,” Crockett says, “and the problem is nobody's ever ‘punched’ her back, so she's continued to do it. And so I decided that I would ‘punch’ her back in the very same way, but do it without breaking any rules.”

There’s no doubt that the conversation around Crockett from the Black women in my circle has been overall positive. Sitting in the hair salon on Friday afternoon, it was all the chatter. I would have preferred that Crockett had chosen different, less offensive words, but for Black women, the temptation to drop it like it’s hot when they “go low” is sometimes hard to resist. We can't all be Michelle Obama, and honestly, the professionalism of the government has devolved into an unrecognizable state since she said that in 2016. Would first lady Obama be able to look Greene in the eye and keep it high-brow? I’m not so sure.

“If somebody can come at me…while I'm sitting as a member of Congress, then what's happening in other spaces?”

Yes, Crockett’s clapback went too far. The body-shaming merch drop and trademark application within 48 hours included. But if one more person tells us to “calm down” (looking at you, Representative Anna Paulina Luna) and one more white man tries to pretend that we have not just been insulted to our face (really, House oversight committee chair James Comer?), Black women are going to lose it. “I absolutely don't think that that's what should be taking place in committee hearing rooms. I absolutely want to get down to business,” Crockett says. “But how can I say that I'm representing a majority-minority district and I'm going to fight for them every single day and I can't fight for myself when somebody comes at me?”

Will this moment in committee become more than meme fodder and remix music for Black Twitter to chuckle over? That remains to be seen. Personally, I think it’s a sign of how petty politics has become. When voters are feeling malaise about the November 2024 election, a chuckle brings some levity to the dire situation we’re in. But this moment will pass and the descent into madness will continue.

Crockett hopes this incident will give other Black women a chance to speak openly about how their looks play into workplace politics. “I do think that it has allowed for a larger conversation about Black women in professional workplaces where there are these microaggressions that take place. If somebody can come at me and act like I'm a two-bit ho while I'm sitting as a member of Congress, then what's happening in other spaces?”

For me, I am trying to understand how we have gotten into this lose-lose situation for women, especially Black women, in the workplace. Wearing too much makeup, hair that’s too long and coiffed, or clothes that are too revealing is considered unprofessional and going bare-faced with hair undone or clothes that aren’t stylish at all is also considered unacceptable. As Crockett would say, “I’m just trying to find clarification.”

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Originally Appeared on Allure