To my darker and lighter-toned sisters: we are all brown, and each of us is enough.
As a family, we consist of a variety of brown shades. Skin complexion ranges from the extra light to the darker-toned. My skin tone –you could say- is in the middle of this broad range.
You could consider me as a light or dark-skinned girl, depending on your benchmark. I consider myself a brown girl.
From the early years of childhood, the lighter ones in the family often received compliments about their skin color. They were the “Yellow yellows” of the family. In primary school, my brother and sister- one of the lightest people in the family- had a song that some of our schoolmates would sing for them.
Whenever they came across one of them or both, the students would break down into song and dance, “X m-yellow, Y m-yellow.” As a young girl, it became ingrained in my mind that I needed to be a little lighter for people to notice and appreciate my presence.
In turn, I would adopt every skincare routine that my lighter-skinned sister would use. All this was in the hope that it would make me as light as her, if not a little lighter. During our adolescent years, my sister started to develop acne and had to use harsher creams to combat it.
She then became my litmus test of whether the products would be “effective” or not in my pursuit for a lighter shade — that which I deemed the complexion of Perfection.
Gradually, I would become a little lighter, which would make me feel a bit better about myself. A confident strut and smile would follow. In defense of my actions, I would convince myself that all I wanted was a little lightening and not bleaching. That the two were very different.
However, with discontinued use, my skin would always revert to its original color. So, I was continually on the search for a more “permanent solution.”
“What’s your perception of a pretty woman (tell me)
Is it straight nose with her hair well long? (Tell me)
Black girls lose self-confident
Cause they attach the word “ugly” to our complexion” Black Hypocrisy by Spice
The Rise of the Lighter Skin Craze
The trends in society determine the “beauty” standards in any culture.
To delve into this insecurity, I have to consider what I fed on during my childhood years.
Those were the days of “Young and the Restless,” “La Revancha,” “The Bold and The Beautiful,” Secreto De Amor,” among many other western films.
In all those everyday films, it was the fair-skinned women who were considered beautiful. Cartoons back in the day also represented mostly fair-skinned people as the main characters, if not the “good” ones. As a little girl whose opinion was shaped by the society around her, I always wanted to look just like them.
That with an appearance similar to the ones I saw on screen, I would then be considered beautiful.
Are we over “Colorism” yet?
Being a brown girl, I didn’t face too much negativity towards the color of my skin. After all, I was just an inbetweener, not too “good” or “bad.” Compliments about my skin-complexion would still come from those who perceived me as “light-skinned.”
However, right up to college, I was still searching for a “beauty-product” that would make me fairer.
The outdoors was always appealing, but I wouldn’t stay in the sun for too long. Along with it was the fear of becoming darker and falling short of the light skin category. Well, I still shy away from the sun when I can.
Comments like, “Na umekuwa mweusi!” would get on my nerves- It’s never in a complimentary tone-. Even though I would become a few shades darker from being out in the sun for extended periods. When melanin does its thing to protect you from the UV rays, you know.
A few days ago, a group of friends and I were discussing dating preferences. We got to the point of naming countries that were considered to have the most beautiful ladies. At some point, some guy blurted out, “I don’t care; I have my light-skinned girl.”
The conversation shifted into a debate about the preferences around light and dark-skinned women. Even at the extent of showing him a good-looking darker-toned lady, the guy couldn’t bring himself to admit that “Yes, she is a breathtaking queen.”
“Color” at the end of the Tunnel
As people of African descent, we’ve got to accept that colorism still exists in society. The media has and yet, “unintentionally” conditions us that “lighter=beautiful” and acceptable. From the faces on advertisements, films, music videos, TV hosts to acclaimed actors and actresses. That is, any media that we consume.
Still, we’ve got to acknowledge the strides we are making in the right direction. In embracing who we are and how we look, we demonstrate to the world that we are more than the stereotypical opinion of African people and re-defining our narrative.
It’s only in recent years that we’ve started seeing much buzz on the beauty of darker-toned women. The likes of Adut Aketch, Genevieve Nnaji, Lupita Nyong’ o, and more. Each beautiful in their unique way and making great strides in their profession.
Also, the production of Black Panther has helped change some of the ignorance around Africans. At the local level, thankfully, we have more productions that represent people we can relate to. People that actually look like you and me and face more so the same challenges that we do.
For children especially, I wish we could show them that the color of their skin doesn’t determine whether or not they can be princes or princesses. To help them find beauty in the color of their skin and confidence in themselves.
If I could have one wish
“I wish I knew back then, what I know now.
Wish I could somehow, go back in time and maybe listen to my own advice…
Tell her, she’s beautiful, wonderful, everything she doesn’t see…..Little me.” by Little Mix
We’ve got to break free and realize that beauty isn’t skin deep; it’s who you are as a person. That whatever shade of brown you are: it’s beautiful and perfect in the eye of the creator.