It is sad that some, if not many, dark people do not see themselves as beautiful. I remember as a little girl growing up that in school and even in my neighbourhood, there seemed to be an unwritten code that those girls who were lighter-skinned in complexion were more beautiful. You would also find many women bleaching their skin to look lighter or using such similar products. Nearly every music video/TV advert I would see would be filled with those paler or lighter in complexion than me. I also believed that I was less beautiful than those with a lighter complexion than mine for many years and it is only in my mid-twenties, through travelling to many different countries and really making the effort to find a place of self-worth, self-identity and being, that I came to realize that it was not so.
While I do not dispute that it is an individual’s decision whether they want to bleach their skin and so forth, what I do believe is that we are all as beautiful as each other, whether we are white, brown, black, dark, lighter in complexion, something in between and so on.
Even though there are many debatable reasons as to why some darker-skinned people are considered and/or consider themselves, to be less beautiful, I believe that colonialism is arguably one of the major reasons for this. Colonialism has left a lasting imprint on many people in the world on which it was imposed: that they are inferior in some way to their colonisers and this has been a difficult lie to reverse.
While there are many examples to give, I will concentrate on very few. Colonialism left an ‘imprint’ due to policies, for example, in Rwanda, where when the Belgian colonists conducted their censuses, they framed differences between the Hutus and Tutsis. The so-called "Caucasian-like" noses of some Rwandans invoked historical and racial theories to explain how some Africans acquired such noses. According to the colonists, the straight noses possessed by some of the Tutsi people could only be explained by the presence of racial Caucasian ancestry. Hence, the Tutsi were assumed to be a racially superior people. The Hutu, on the other hand, were thought of as merely a Bantu people of ultimate Central African origins.
Also, in Australia, previous assimilation policies where Indigenous children were removed to white families, ‘to breed the black out of them’, arguably contribute to some Indigenous people in Australia, not seeing themselves as ‘beautiful’. Indeed there is a lack of darker people in Australian TVs and magazines that impliedly fuels this belief, even where it may not be intended, and it needs to be corrected. No matter how dark or pale one is, everyone is beautiful in their own individuality.
A WAY TOWARDS REVERSING THE LIE
But how do we reverse this lie? I think this is a difficult question to answer and it will take many more years/maybe decades of undoing. Indeed, I think seeing more and more darker people taking the forefront in issues such as politics (Barrack Obama), modelling (Alek Wek, Naomi Campbell) helps tremendously, but I think it is important to help the younger generation/children growing up today to appreciate all the different colours/cultures of people all around them. However, that is easier said than done.
For my part, I love fashion and modelling but I have a higher aim: to talk about and help to be a part of breaking the image that dark is not beautiful. I am only one person, but I hope to be able to be a voice for others/to others through my modelling in a variety of issues. Modelling in a country where there are not many dark people in mags and TV is often difficult, but I am determined, I won’t give up and I hope to be able to encourage and inspire others/other women that even though there are all types of barriers up all around the world, they can be overcome.