‘What Would Momma Do?’ — Letter to My Daughters on Strength and Beauty

(Photo: Veronica Webb)
(Photo: Veronica Webb)

Yahoo Beauty welcomes Veronica Webb as our new celebrity columnist. Known for being one of the first black supermodels to break barriers in the beauty and fashion industries, Veronica uses her experiences as a model, health and fitness enthusiast, lifestyle blogger (Webb on the Fly), mother, and wife to exclusively report on what’s trending in beauty.

To my daughters,

This is a letter to you about strength and beauty. You guys were too little to remember my mom, because she passed away when you girls were just babies and still too small to even stand up and walk.

As a mother, I have a saying when I don’t know what to do, which is: “What would Momma do?” or “WWMD?” for short.

My mother was strong. My mother was a beauty in the ways that count the most. My mother was a natural beauty who needed little to nothing to enhance her looks, but everything she did added up to strength, which is the purest and most enduring form of beauty. She had a quiet power. It was the things she did that taught me the most.

My mother grew up on a farm during the Great Depression, and because of that, she cherished everything she was given and valued everything she had. One of the ways my mother created strength in her daughters was by teaching us to “learn how to learn.”

(Photo: Veronica Webb)
(Photo: Veronica Webb)

“The world is changing fast,” my mother would say, as our family gathered around the TV set and watched as men landed on the moon in 1969. Those astronauts were helped on their way there in large part, I might add, by women. (You may know this now after seeing the film Hidden Figures.) I think my mother knew that too at the time, and she made us feel like we could reach the moon or the stars if we wanted by asking ourselves one simple question: “How do we get started?”

“Learn how to learn,” she told us as we listened to news that came across the transistor radio about a new invention from IBM called a computer. The next thing my sisters and I knew, our mom, who was already in her late 40s at the time, grabbed a textbook and headed back to college to augment her nursing degree with a master’s degree.

Her steady example of studiousness and relentless encouragement propelled all three of her daughters to obtain scholarships — me in the visual arts and my two sisters in medicine, math, and education.

Mom always kept her routine simple — her hair was short and natural. Her philosophy was “Don’t ever let your hair stop you from doing anything you want to do.” We grew up wearing our hair in braids during the week so that hair didn’t become our daily focus instead of physical fitness and studying. It’s a habit that I try to maintain to this day — head and heart first, hair last — though it’s not always so easy when you’re in the modeling business like I am.

(Photo: Veronica Webb)
(Photo: Veronica Webb)

I hear her words in my head and hold her advice in my heart with every decision I make for myself and for you.

The lessons I learned about love from my mom, I pass on to my kids. I don’t break up their fights or handle their problems — unless blood is drawn. It’s important that girls fight it out and stand up for themselves, and what better place than home is there to learn to charge into battle and win with humility or lose with grace and go on to live diplomatically with the results?

Girls who fight hard and fair at home know how to fight for each other when they’re up against the world. I knew that I had made you a band of sisters and that this strategy worked because, when I asked you what you thought I’d done to make you strong girls, you answered, “Mom, you taught us to fight for ourselves and stand together for each other.”

I know I wouldn’t be where I am today and as successful at home, in love, in my career, and in life without the support I had growing up from my mother and my sisters. The relationship I had with my siblings has helped me to identify the beauty and strengths not only in myself but also in every woman I encounter as I go through life.

My greatest wish for you, my daughters, is that as you grow into women who will love who you are in a way that makes not only you but your daughters and friends feel empowered in the same way.

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