Tiny Harris before, and after, the eye-color change
Earl Gibson III/Getty Images/Instagram

Was I the only one who had absolutely no idea that people could permanently change their eye color with surgery? Apparently I was stuck in the ’90s, thinking that colored contacts, which never look real, were the only option. Who knew?

Apparently Tameka “Tiny” Harris—celeb mom, wife of rapper Clifford “T.I.” Harris and reality-TV star—did. During promotional rounds for her latest reality show, Tiny & Shekinah’s Weave Trip, fans noticed that Harris had a new enhancement: a new color she would eventually call “ice gray.” Harris turned to BrightOcular to permanently lighten her dark-brown eyes by having an implant of “thin, flexible, biocompatible, colored, medical-grade silicone” applied to her eyes. The procedure costs around $8,000.

Eyes are sensitive, which everyone knows. Some remembered the horrifying story that made the rounds last year of a Canadian woman who had a similar surgery to obtain green eyes and who claimed that she had become legally blind as a result of her beauty enhancement. (The BrightOcular website says the “patented design of the implant minimizes the risks of prolonged pressure increases in the eye that can lead to glaucoma and blindness.”) Seeing Harris’ new eyes, many wondered, what would compel her to put her vision at risk to become Pecola Breedlove’s fantasy come true?

“I saw that,” wrote a commenter on humor blogger Luvvie Ajayi’s Facebook page, where she lightheartedly tackles all things interesting (and Scandal), including Harris’ new eyes. “There’s no way, because I’d be terrified they’d ruin my vision or something.”

Another person commented: “WTF is wrong with contacts? I’m all for manipulating your looks however you please, but this procedure is hilariously bad.”

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Other commenters jokingly compared Harris to a “white walker” from HBO’s Game of Thrones, Storm from Marvel’s X-Men comic books, or the gray-eyed (and scary) children from the 1960 movie Village of the Damned.

Harris’ new look is … different. Not a choice I would make (full disclosure: My eyes are hazel), but I get it. Harris has had a tough row to hoe when it comes to public reactions to her appearance. Of course there’s the infamous (and uncalled for) Notorious B.I.G. lyrics on “Dreams” in which he rapped, “I’d rather f—k RuPaul than those ugly-ass Xscape bitches.” Ouch. Earlier this year, rapper Azealia Banks took a shot at Harris’ appearance when her husband dropped his single “No Mediocre.”

“U want no mediocre but … Have you seen your wife?” Banks tweeted. Double ouch. Harris has also been compared to a lovable Muppet. Triple ouch. And there’s been no shortage of bloggers and commenters openly speculating why her husband, largely considered to be exceptionally physically attractive, is with her. Quadruple ouch.

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All those body blows lead to my problem with the current round of criticism against Harris. She’s been ripped open for years because of her physical appearance. So why is she—and the many women like her—criticized for undergoing a procedure for something that she feels makes her more attractive? Didn’t the critics want her to fix up, look sharp? Or do they just want to hate?

As a culture, we’ve developed a hypocritical and self-righteous habit of telling women to “love yourself as you are” and then dragging women—and not just celebs—for not fitting naturally into the limited ideas of beauty that we uphold. When those women bow to pressure, we like to pinpoint their actions as indicators of low self-esteem. Well, what did you expect anyone to have after being mercilessly criticized?

Instead of attacking Harris—and other women—for bowing to pressure to be perceived as more beautiful, how about addressing the limited standards of beauty instead? Or at least go after the people who feel so entitled to criticize. Aren’t those the real problems here and not people like Harris, who make alterations that have zero effect on your life?

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Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love as well as A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. Follow her on Twitter.