How the Non-Monogamous Black Girl on the Middle of ‘Ma Belle, My Magnificence’ Empowered Me

At 33, it seems like I’ve identified non-monogamy was proper for me ceaselessly. However as somebody who grew up surrounded by monogamy—in my household, in my friendships, in my tradition, in my media consumption—I do know that, in some unspecified time in the future, I should have discovered this about myself. However I can’t keep in mind my youthful self even contemplating coming into multiple long-term, intimate relationship on the identical time.

Whereas watching director-writer Marion Hill’s characteristic movie Ma Belle, My Magnificence at this 12 months’s digital Sundance Movie Competition, I felt seen in my need for a distinct kind of intimate partnered love. Protagonist Bertie (performed by Idella Johnson) is a proficient Black singer in her late 20s or early 30s residing in France however initially from New Orleans. The story follows Bertie as she navigates the remnants of her previous polyamorous relationship along with her white French now-husband Fred (performed by Lucien Guignard) and her white American former lover Lane (performed by Hannah Pepper). Bertie’s marriage is off, the communication distortion made obvious via scattered recollections of a better time in New Orleans, when Bertie, Fred, and Lane labored, cherished, and lived collectively. The inevitable turmoil erupts when Lane arrives unexpectedly at Bertie and Fred’s house.

Bertie resides overseas as a Black girl in a really white nation, in a fair whiter countryside the place she doesn’t converse the language, avoiding her ardour to deal with a deep, tender trauma and never understanding how she feels about somebody who harm her immensely but additionally reinvigorates her. These are the knotty dynamics coursing from scene to scene, stoking a gradual burn that builds to a superb blaze. And to my shock, polyamory serves as mere backstory, not a sensational prop or shameful scandal. It’s merely a given, simply as monogamy is in most romantic movies—not less than, a majority of those I’ve watched all my life. As a substitute, the connection and a lot of the movie facilities on Bertie, a fancy Black Southern natural-haired girl, a personality usually not prioritized in an indie drama with a multiracial solid helmed by a filmmaker who isn’t Black. In Bertie, I acknowledged elements of a life that mirrored my very own.


As a Black girl who grew up in a post-‘90s United States and attended predominantly white faculties, I’d been taught and satisfied to devour mainstream conventions rooted in anti-Black racism, misogynoir, and Western requirements. Even probably the most romantic ones, probably the most stunning: the rom-coms, the Hollywood heartthrobs, the sweetness requirements, the weddings, the marriages. A contented house and a contented life.

However because the daughter of a fiercely unbiased Black mom who raised me in her picture, I’ve at all times been curious and demanding about accepting society at face worth. Even my environment challenged the notion that issues are the way in which they’re as a result of that’s merely the way in which they are: in driving from the commercial, concrete inner-city hood I grew up in, surrounded by sharp, artistic, and resourceful Black and brown folks, to the extra manicured, cookie-cutter suburbs the place I discovered about principally white tradition from principally white lecturers surrounded by principally white college students whose houses I’d go to in comparable suburbs, I noticed no distinction within the folks. However I noticed distinction within the circumstances, within the sources, within the housing, within the employment alternatives, within the ease (or dis-ease) with which they navigated the world. And so I questioned the whole lot given to me as reality, as nature.

“Self-definition is a worthwhile, steady apply that calls for and develops autonomy.”

As we speak, when monogamous folks ask me why I’m non-monogamous, I merely ask them in the event that they’re monogamous. In that case, why? I achieve this to make them perceive what it’s prefer to be questioned about one thing they imagine to be matter-of-fact, a given. Like so many issues in our society, monogamy is assumed to be the usual. Like white folks, white tradition, heterosexuality, the gender binary. In a world and society constructed on delegitimizing and devaluing my life and each fiber of its being, what has helped me really feel extra alive and in management is fastidiously analyzing all of the conventions, assumptions, and expectations that make it up, and discarding or reworking those that misalign or irritate my blueprint, my desires, my needs, my targets, my liberty. Monogamy occurs to be a type of misfit elements I discarded.

One specific second that sticks with me from Ma Belle, My Magnificence is when Bertie makes clear that neither her romantic companions nor her lovers decide her shallowness. “My happiness isn’t tied to you, it’s not tied to him,” she reminds Lane throughout an extended overdue confrontation. Hill may’ve simply anchored Bertie’s motives to her relationships, however as an alternative, they flesh out a nuanced particular person normalizing each her inner conflicts and the exterior circumstances that triggered them. I received’t reveal the ending, however will say that Bertie should face her personal vulnerability to search out herself once more. In doing so, she rediscovers her ardour and pleasure.

A fierce warrior of affection, self-determination, and Black, queer ladies like herself, Audre Lorde famously wrote, “If I did not outline myself for myself, I’d be crunched into different folks’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.” Brazenly exploring consensual non-monogamy as a Black girl means training a social taboo in a society wherein my very own existence can be taboo, and cultivating my very own fantasies of liberation, pleasure, creativity, and group. Self-definition is a worthwhile, steady apply that calls for and develops autonomy. It entails slicing and mending and ripping and discarding and bonding, generally time and again the identical uncooked areas. However with that comes one of many solely issues that may by no means be taken from you—the liberty to reside your life by yourself phrases.

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