Pretty Women Wonder

“Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.”

Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman” is arguably one of the most popular poems of all time.  I remember reciting it with two of my girlfriends back in Ghana at this weekly poetry event a group of us used to put on.  I’d heard the poem many times before but this time I actually had to memorize it and internalize the words.  “Pretty women wonder where my secret lies. I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size.”  Ms. Angelou says straight up that she’s not cute.  I don’t’ know about you but to me, that’s bold. Not to admit it to others but to admit that to yourself.  But when you read the poem, the tone with which she writes is in no way apologetic or self-pitying.  She’s matter of fact about it, she’s even proud because she knows she has so much else in place of cuteness, the reach of her arms, the curl of her lips, the stride of her step, the span of her hips! What? You can’t tell her nothin!

Ms. Angelou wasn’t always so confident with herself but she grew learned over the years that you will never be perfect by the standards of the magazines, videos, runway shows, but don’t be fooled. The message isn’t you’ll never look like that so just live with what you got. To me the message is: Those standards have got NOTHING on what God already gave you. Nothing. It’s just that those things they market in the media can be sold. It’s business. Women have been suckers for it, for a long, long time.

Tempo Femme, Forward-Thinking Woman, where does your secret lie?


Ruthie Foster sings an oh-so-nice rendition of this poem. Listen

5 thoughts on “Pretty Women Wonder

  1. Serwaa D says:

    .. I had the chance to speak to a group of women on University of Ghana campus during a program dubbed “B4HG” Beauty For His Glory. I related how people have preferences concerning the shape or colour of a flower. Even more in support of this is the fact that, the rose flower has different colours. Sill the same rose flower but different colours, and different people love different colours. The red rose can’t claim to be more beautiful than the white or pink rose, because you know what? beauty trully lies in the eyes of the one who beholds. So my dear African women and women all over the world, know that in whatever form or shape you come in, someone loves you as that. Just be more of who you are so you find that person or those people who are looking for your kind. Sop being counterfeits of others, you can never be better at being someone else. Hold your own up high. God bless you

  2. Tumisang says:

    I had that poem up my wall with my picture in it last year, it encouraged me to truly and deeply enjoy myself, not only accept my build but take note of the little things that are different about me and love them to bits. Poetry can be such a powerful tool, I admire Maya for using it to impact the woman race!

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