Like most black women around the world, growing up in a world that prided itself on white privilege and intense colourism definitely had an impact on my self-esteem and self-worth as a teenager. In secondary school, I and some of the other darker skinned girls would spectate at all the boys fawning over the lighter skinned/mixed race girls, with their Eurocentric features, loose curls, and baby hairs styled meticulously into beautiful swirls and loops. I would come home and switch on MTV Base and watch the latest RnB and rap videos featuring mixed race and seemingly ‘exotic’ looking video models being pursued by darker skinned singers and rappers. Even to darker skinned men, darker girls never won.
The message was drummed into me at an early age: your worth as a woman means nothing while you have a darker pigment. I would pray to God to lighten my skin every single day for years.
I remember going into black hair and beauty shops owned by Asian families and asking them to direct me to the skin bleaching aisle. I would then purchase body creams, skin toners and special soaps containing dangerous bleaching agents in a bid to lighten my skin. I would receive unsolicited recommendations by the fair skinned Asian shopkeeper as to the best products to use to gain maximum effect. I bleached my skin for about 18 months on and off, and while my skin lightened very gradually, I noticed that the chemicals were having a negative effect on the quality of my skin, so stopped immediately and within a few weeks, the natural, darker pigment returned.
Today, I look in the mirror and I cannot stop fawning over how beautiful my skin tone is. Deep mahogany. Dark chocolate. I love how my skin glistens when it’s sunny. I love how amazing golden highlighter looks against it. I love the way my skin accentuates my beige stretch marks, making it almost look like Fine Art. I love how my skin accentuates my strong West African features and I love that my colour represents a strong, proud and beautiful history.
Another thing I also love is that we can wear absolutely ANY colour and it will look amazing on us. Bright colours + dark skin is such a winning formula, and lately, I’ve been trying to incorporate brighter colours into my wardrobe. This Harry Bardot Frill Sun Dress* is by Joanie Clothing and I first saw it on the absolutely stunning Sade who looks incredible in it. It’s a lovely vintage feminine cut and makes me feel *extra girly, but most of all, I love how vibrant the colour is and how it vibrates against my skin tone.
I encourage all my darker skin ladies to experiment with bold colour choices. Yellows, oranges, and fuschias, in particular, look incredible against our skin tone and I’m always partial to a bit of colour blocking. Yellow + fuschia is a popular colour block choice, along with bright green and yellow.
Most importantly, remember to celebrate the skin you’re in and recognise your value. Our skin is gorgeous. Our Melanin helps protect us (but still wear sunscreen pls!) and despite what society and the media try to tell you, never let your skin colour make you feel inferior to anyone else. Black is beautiful!