We see these ladies, specifically Nakia, Okoye and Shuri, as whole. They excel — and lead — in their respective fields with poise, strategy and savvy. They are quick-witted, good humored, self-assured and strong. They fiercely love and protect and are deeply loved and protected back.
They are, without question, alpha women, who in the midst of all their duties, remain unwavering in their convictions, steadfast in their pursuits and uncompromising on their purposes.
Sadly, Wakanda isn’t reality, and some real-life black women feel the heaviness and complexity of having an alpha personality, especially when it comes to finding and maintaining love.
Ibie Hart, 27, knows this firsthand.
“It was my second year of law school when I became clear about my calling,” said Hart, a grassroots and political organizer for Common Cause Illinois. “I decided to pursue my master’s in public policy. I was getting two degrees, launching my own not-for-profit and serving as the deputy campaign manager on a political campaign. I was doing a lot, but I was so clear.”
In the midst of pursuing her purpose, her then-boyfriend ended their six-year relationship, even after talks of engagement.
“The conversation went something like, ‘Do you want to be like Olivia Pope?’” recalled Hart. “I said, ‘Yeah, that’d be great!’ He responded, ‘Well I don’t want to be married to Olivia Pope.’ That was in 2014, and I’ve dated but haven’t been in a committed relationship since.”
Hart lamented about alpha black women “getting boxed in” for being undeterred in their career pursuits and having success.
Professional matchmaker and dating strategist Jasmine Diaz says that some of her female clients feel having a level of success is a drawback when dating.
“I hear from single women with high-ranking jobs and who are highly intelligent, on a daily basis, and many of them fear that men will be intimidated by them,” said Diaz, who’s clientele is 95 percent black and 85 percent black women. “But having more and being successful is a part of who we are as black women in America today. Education is valued, so many of us are going to college, getting advanced degrees and excelling.”
A report from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that black women earned 70 percent of the master’s degrees awarded to black students during the 2013-14 academic year. The report also indicated that black women earned 64 percent of the doctoral degrees awarded to black students in the same academic year.
Diaz feels many available black men are not in the same position.
A December 2017 social mobility memo from the Brookings Institution said just 17.2 percent of black men ages 25 to 35 have completed four-plus years of college education.
But achievements aren’t the only things that can affect how a black woman with an alpha personality is perceived.
Brenda Allen, the current president of Lincoln University, the first degree-granting historically black college or university in the United States, says historical and societal forces play big roles.
“Black women have often had to develop a take-charge attitude because of circumstances,” said Allen, who was a psychology professor for 15 years. “This is so contrary to the ‘feminine model’ that is the middle-class white female. So for black women, the idea of being assertive can have negative connotations because it makes us seem less feminine and compassionate than the traditional sense of a woman.”
Allen says the idea of an alpha woman is based on a stereotype of masculinity.
“An alpha woman is often defined as an assertive, go-getter who is a tough decision-maker that exerts reason over passion. This compares women’s behaviors to men’s, as if sex is supposed to determine your personality, opposed to circumstances and goals. I don’t believe people exist in those kind of dichotomies.”
Another polarity a lot of alpha black women experience is the idea that you can only be strong or weak.
Chicago-based playwright Loy Webb examined an alpha black woman’s journey of overcoming this dichotomy in her stage play “The Light.”
“Genesis, the main character, talks to her new fiance, Rashad, about how she went through a traumatic experience, and after, she only had two options: to be weak or to be strong,” said Webb. “One of her lines in the play was, ‘We are black women; we are not weak.’ Any crack in a black woman’s structure is seen to be weak; Genesis says she’s never been allowed a third option.”
In the play, Rashad asks what a third option would look like. Genesis responds with, “one that says yes, I’m a black woman, and I have vulnerabilities, but that doesn’t make me weak, it makes me human,” recapped Webb.
Kenisha Rhone, a 42-year-old director of digital media and social strategy for Belmont University athletics in Nashville, Tenn., can relate.
“It’s hard to balance being strong and vulnerable,” said Rhone. “You can compartmentalize and find small pockets to be vulnerable, especially when it’s difficult to be your whole self because of a demanding career. You can develop this mindset of ‘this is how I behave in one moment versus the next.’ It’s hard to shut that rote memory off when you’re with your partner.”
Webb encourages the men in black women’s lives to “not just be on the receiving end of a black woman’s strength.”
“The people around black women can enable this idea of being strong all the time, because we’re always caring for other people,” said Webb. “No one really asks, ‘What do you need from me?’ Black women’s partners need to allow her space to be vulnerable, and then be there to catch and hold her up when she has that human moment of weakness.”
Diaz knows this is a delicate balance and adjustment for some black women with alpha personalities.
“Taking charge doesn’t always lend itself well in the dating space,” she said. “You can’t dominate your love life the way you might do professionally, because it’s a partnership.”
Diaz offers tips for alpha black women to master the dating game the same way they conquer everything else.
Be realistic. “Men and women in a certain level of their lives want the power couple,” said Diaz. “But there is a realistic component to what that actually means for you. Find someone who balances your life. Think hard about the qualities you are looking for, what those qualities are based on, and consider that the person for you may not be exactly like you, and allow that to be OK.”
Make space in your life to receive somebody. “Time tends to be a big issue for alpha personalities, who are usually on the go and powering through life. Putting a little TLC and extra time in your love life, just as you do in your professional life, could yield better results.”
Allow yourself to be vulnerable. “When you’re someone accustomed to running the show and taking life by charge, it’s hard to step back and open up to someone. Dating will be a challenge if you aren’t willing to let someone in. Letting your hands free from the wheel is hard to do, but there is a risk aspect in dating that is necessary.”
Hold on to hope. “The hardest thing for alpha black women is that (being one) gets a bad reputation, and that can be disheartening. You don’t need to change who you are completely. Don’t put pressure on yourself to be married by 35 and have two kids. Not reaching those goals for alpha personalities can dampen their spirits. But hold on — it takes time to find the right partner.