Not black and beautiful. Not beautiful for a black person. Beautiful, end of sentence…
Except in our society, that’s not the case. That’s what people say, if confronted, but it’s not what we’re shown day in, day out.
And actions speak louder than words.
My prom photos
When I was 16 and was going to Prom, my cousins and I got professional make-up, hair, and photos done. I looked amazing; they did a great job. My prom photo still hangs in the living room, where I look stunning.
But, when seeing the amateur photos from the night inside the hall, I could see the truth. My face was significantly lighter than the rest of my body… My white-looking face stood out as if I were a ghost in the photos. I was so embarrassed and asked why no one told me…
I have never once considered myself to be as beautiful (or more than) my white, blonde-haired, blue-eyed friends from school. Not once.
You may say that isn’t white people’s or society’s fault; it’s my own low self-esteem. But my story isn’t special; every woman of colour has thought the same thing at some point, especially, (though I can’t speak for everyone) when we were young.
Our culture makes us see ourselves as less than; this is internalised racism.
And I’ve always felt less pretty compared to my Mixed sister and Mixed cousins who, coincidentally, are all lighter-skinned than I am. My brother (also lighter) got the hazel eyes in the family, we didn’t, so he’s “gorgeous” compared to us, of course.
One time, my mom’s white friend literally looked right past me, reached for my sister behind me, and professed how beautiful she was.
I’ve only just learned the term ‘white-passing’ which I think could apply to my sister. She is light-skin Mixed Race, small nose, small lips, her hair not as tightly curled or fizzy as mine; her only “black” feature is her big bottom. She could pass for white.
It’s only black people who have ever made me feel truly beautiful, (without being coerced or guilted into saying so). I always thought that only black men would want me…
European beauty standards
- Not finding products to truly suit your skin tone.
- “Nude” colour is not your nude.
- Black ballet dancers need to spray paint their ballet shoes to suit their skin tone.
- Skin bleaching products.
- Eye surgery is done by masses and masses of Asian women (Korean is the source that I heard of, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were more).
- BIPoC not being given as many roles for the beautiful character roles in TV.
- People of Colour photoshopped to look lighter skinned in magazines and photos (or sometimes darker to make a point)
Representation in media
Not seeing a representation of the beautiful non-white person enough. Where the black or Asian girl gets the hot guy. Thankfully, we’re seeing it a little more, but not enough. We aren’t the default. We aren’t the first, second, or third hot person you think of.
I have a few boards on my Pinterest of “hot people” and celebrities I find attractive or cool. Sadly, there are not enough BIPoC people there. Not because I’m not attracted to those people, but because they’re not on the screens enough for us to even see them.
A love letter to dark-skin people
I do not know what it is like to be dark-skinned in this world. I don’t think I even like the term “dark-skin” because it sounds almost bad. I have the privilege to worry less and I’m more likely to be seen as beautiful by this Western world than you are.
And that’s disgusting.
My partner is “dark-skinned” and so is the beautiful mother who raised me. My grandfather, my uncles and aunts, my in-laws, my best friend and her siblings, my cousins, and more.
You are all beautiful, and don’t let any other voice into your head that says to the contrary.
This world may still be healing from wounds of its past; a past that coloured all non-light skinned people are less-than, other, a threat, and ugly. But that does not excuse that behaviour in this decade.
I will keep doing what I can to ensure you are seen, valued, and appreciated. So that my little girl or boy, however their skin comes out, will know they are beautiful and never, NOT EVER, have to question that.
Wear your hair like a crown because you are Kings and Queens. Your skin is exactly as it is supposed to be. It is warm and the sun kisses it every damn day without worry because your skin is melanin popping!
Please, don’t hide your skin. Don’t lighten it. Don’t straighten your hair and harm it because you think there’s no way your natural hair can be seen as beautiful (I did this for most of my life).
Natural is beautiful, I promise.
What to do?
- Make sure your BIPoC friends know every day how goddamn gorgeous they are
- Check your prejudices about beauty and race
- Remember and use the names of GORGEOUS celebrities of colour, not just the long list of obvious white ones (You don’t get to cop-out with Beyonce and Rihanna!)
- Watch more TV shows and films with people of colour
- If you work in the beauty industry, question why it’s harder for all races to feel beautiful in the Western world
- If you’re a writer or creator, check where you POC characters and actors are at! (And not as tokenism or stereotypes or other)