I recently saw a commercial for the new ‘Dark Girls’ documentary and I knew this would be interesting to watch.
So when LaLa also mentioned this from the Dolce Vanity Facebook page, I knew that it would raise a great deal of thought provoking questions, in relation to the long-standing issues within society and the beauty industry as a whole.
As the title suggests, the Dark Girls documentary explores deeper phychological issues and experiences from dark skinned women, who have grown up with self esteem issues and huge question marks surrounding their identity. Now, the issue of skin tone isn’t at all new. If we had £1 for the amount of times we hear this topic mentioned in relation to beauty, I’m pretty sure we would all be billionaires by now!
A common thread which kept surfacing in the documentary, was the notion of ‘light skin’ verses ‘dark skin’ and the hierarchal differences that were placed on the different shades of ‘colour’ ever since slavery.
While I don’t profess to be of mixed race heritage, I do have a dark skinned mother and a lighter skinned father. Both of my parents are extremely open-minded and hugely positive about their own skin tones, as well as each others. I feel extremely thankful that I was never made to feel conscious about my skin tone growing up. In my household, we were all of varying shades of brown, but it was never of relevance to us. My parents always encouraged us to feel strong within our own skin. We all united as one and that’s such a beautiful thing!
That said, outside our family circle I have experienced what it feels like to be made to feel insignificant because of my colour. Just before I left primary school, I moved from multicultural London to a place in Hampshire where there was not many people from ethnic backgrounds. My brothers and I were teased and bullied at school for the colour of our skin which was quite painful at the time, but we always strove to be the positive example that these closed-minded people didn’t want to see. In the end, they got used to us over the years.
But there’s a different kind of racial prejudice that people don’t want to talk about…
I know that racism and prejudice is a sad thing which happens all over the world, however I’m talking about the type where people are prejudice towards their own people! The documentary explores several examples of this. For instance the the ‘paper bag test’ is an eye opener into where these behaviors would have steamed from! It explains that if you were lighter than the brown paper bag, you would be considered beautiful and if you were darker you would be considered unattractive. Since the colonisation of slaves over hundreds of years ago, the idea of segregation amongst lighter and darker skin tones, has been a destructive force which still exists today.
I feel that it’s unfair to pit light skin and dark skin against each other. This type of mentality makes people fight against each other and denotes the ideal that there can only be one person from one minority who can be successful. I remember watching an interview with Tyra Banks, explaining about the longstanding feud and awkwardness with fellow fashion model Naomi Campbell. I can’t remember the exact words (so I won’t attempt to quite her exactly), but one of the poignant points that I remember Tyra mentioning, was how the fashion industry created an atmosphere for two talented black women to fight against each other and complete for just one place! The most important thing that I took from this comment was the fact that there doesn’t have to be one spot only! Everybody should have the opportunity to be hailed as successful. In my opinion, the same applies to the meaning of beauty. So it’s time we all wake up and realise that we all reign supreme!
There’s a bigger picture going on here. It’s not just about being dark or light skinned, people even hate on you if you come across as ‘different’ to everyone else.
We need to stop putting people into boxes and just start embracing who we really are. People need to start enriching their children with positive messages and stop filling their head with echos from slavery mentality. I can appreciate that it was a devastating and traumatic period in history, but we cannot change the past, we can only live for the future. For those people who are hiding behind slavery and using this as an excuse not to move forward, let’s start taking responsibility for what part we can play in the world today!