Athambile Masola

Is black beautiful?

Athambile Masola

Athambile Masola

By Athambile Masola

I’m not a fan of glossy magazines. I often buy one when I’m mentally exhausted and I’m looking for something frivolous to peruse and perhaps bitch over— “why does their skin look like plastic?” or I’m trying to build up a stock of magazines I will need for a classroom activity. Recently I purchased a copy of True Love Magazine. It seems I’m only ever drawn to buying this magazine when Lira is the front cover girl.

While trying to make a choice of which magazine would be the object of my scorn, I had a Biko[1] moment. This is the moment when the racism alert button goes off in my brain and I have to question myself: are you imagining the problem in this situation? While scanning the magazines on display (lets say more than 10 women’s magazines) only three magazines had black women as their cover girl: O mag, Destiny and True love magazine.

I recognise that the magazine industry is fraught with complexities about the representation of women and in particular, black women. When a black woman is lucky enough to be featured on the cover of a glossy magazine I am often struck by how “yellow” she looks (unless she’s Alek Wek). This conversation in my head relates to what Alice Walker refers to as colorism: the stigma of skin complexion. Amongst black women, there is a desired shade of blackness that allows one to be seen as beautiful. The skin lightening industry is still booming thanks to many black women who have been duped into the idea that beauty is about having lighter skin; to be as white as possible. As a child, I remember watching my own mother obsessing with creams that would alter (and ruin) her skin. My mother is also the person who will comment on my skin colour whenever she hasn’t seen me for a long time (often comparing me to my sisters who are considered yellow). The lighter one’s skin (and the longer one’s weave or braids) the closer they are to reaching the norms about beauty which require (amongst many things) that a women be light-skinned with wavy hair.

The challenge with being a consumer of glossy magazines is that I am constantly confronted with images of beauty which do not represent what I look like. The representation of black women in the media is controlled and requires black women to resemble whiteness as much as possible. Gone are the days of DRUM magazine which portrayed black women who were darker, shorter hair, wider hips and had not undergone the snipping and editing of photoshop. The “Drum decade” allowed Black women on the darker side of the continuum of blackness to be seen as the norm in the black community. Granted, this was also a time when declarations such as “black is beautiful” or “I’m black and I’m proud” meant something.

In our rush to be post-racism, the dominant media’s representation of black women (and perhaps broadly black people) is in a precarious position. For many years black women were invisible in glossy magazines. Hair products and make up tips were targeted at white people because the models were all white. Criticism of glossy magazines often considers how sexism is promoted because of the prototype that is displayed every month in each magazine, but racism needs to be considered too. When BonangMatheba was on the cover of South Afria’s FHM cover, she was applauded for finally being the first sister to “take one for the team”. The truth is, Bonang suits the mould that FHM works within: thin, long hair and yellow skin. To celeberate Bonang’s victory of climbing the white slopes of beauty, her accomplishment was referred to as “the rise of Bonang.” Really?

This led me to consider what Oprah Winfrey has done with her magazine. It’s easy to criticise her for being so vain that she would have her face on every single issue of her magazine, but she’s making a political statement and destabilising the dominant discourse of glossy magazine industry beauty. With a lack of positive representations of black women in the media we will be accosted by Oprah’s face on the cover of O mag as a reminder of the limitations we have about beauty and what kind of representation black women have in popular culture. She is a reminder of what it means to be a successful black woman as well as what it means not to be seen as a black person.

Magazines create illusions about who we are as women and mostly what women should look like. I haven’t discussed the “Beyonce question” and what she’s done for the representation of black women, nor what it means for America to have a First Lady who scores high on colorism’s scale of blackness. In South Africa we have many black women in the public eye and the truth is, many emulate the trends of African-American women: the weave and the yellow skin being the ideal. We forget about Toni Morrison’s book The bluest eye, a story about Pecola and her unfortunate blackness in a sea of other black girls who victimized her for her blackness. This book highlights the complexity of beauty and colorism which is taken for granted in pop culture when forming representation of black women.

I’m still going to buy glossy magazines, but with misgivings. The slogan, “Black is beautiful” is not any easier to say now than it was in the 1950s. The lack of positive representations of black women in popular culture doesn’t mean black women are not beautiful, but we still have a long way to go in convincing the world, and particularly black women too, that black is beautiful.

[1] Inspired by Steve Bantu Biko’s writing about Black Consciousness, I write what I like.


92 thoughts on “Is black beautiful?

  1. Mathe says:

    This piece resonated so much with how I feel; thanks so much for writing it. I think it is rather sad that embracing blackness amounts to an act of defiance. You would think by now we understand the need to be comfortable in our own skins in order to appreciate what it truly means to be human.

    But, by all accounts, it seems when it comes to beauty—black woman’s beauty—many would secretly tick the “white” check-box under the “race” question, if we carried out a survey. I chose the word secretly because the mechanisms in place that affirm white beauty are not necessarily overt.

    The question then becomes: how can we make more black women defy this notion that there is no plurality when it comes to beauty? Get them to see and declare their beauty without using white beauty as a standard.

    This is my own proud declaration: I am black, nick-named ‘Mants’o (darkie) as a young girl … guess what? I am beautiful not through comparison with any other, I am just beautiful for I am, I am,I am!


  2. katarzynapawelczyk says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I had a conversation with my best friend recently about this issue, though not only in the context of black women and black models as I had just returned from a work trip to three countries (Azerbaijan, Thailand and Vietnam) and was overwhelmed how all the models on all the billboards in these countries looked like the same people – they were slightly different skin-tone/nose-shape/hair-color version of that very FHM western/white ideal you mention.


  3. Edmund says:

    I have read this article with pleasure and interest. As a Black African male I am attracted to a wide variety of women of all races. As far as skin colour and complexion are concerned, I have always had a special place in my hear for dark-complexioned Black African women. Indeed I have a strong preference for them. That is not to say I would over look a lighter-complexioned or white lady just because of her skin. No. I always look at the whole package. If the lady has other strong points I would be glad to have her in my life and heart.Here I will not mention what other physical virtues I value in women but will only reiterate my opinion that the dark complexioned ones are the most attractive as far as the skin is concerned.

    As an amateur photographer I have come to also realize that the darker skins are more photogenic and easier to photograph. The lighter the skin the harder it is to hide flaws. With this in mind it is indeed surprising there are no more dark women on the covers of glossy magazines than we currently have. Lastly the lighter skins also age faster, developing wrinkles long before the dark skins.

    I remember as a child in the seventies, I told my dark-complexioned mother that I noticed many of her friends,colleagues and relatives were bleaching their skin and I wondered why she didn’t do the same.Her answer was that she felt that every person looks most beautiful in the skin that was given to him by God. I still agree.


    • shellylewis1 says:

      My name is Shelly and I am Black and beautiful, I have dark brown skin and I am proud of my person. African American and African people are beautiful and they don’t even know it. Our ancestors grew up with the likes of Willie Lynch version as a role model African American people as negatives. Willie Lynch trained plantations owners, slave traders, and over sees to disrespect the African American person through manipulations.

      It is so strange today, 2013, that many African Americans mind has become the same as the man who abused, raped, killed, mudered, stole, and destroyed so many African and African lives. For my people who failed to learn the true history of Africa and African America and the true reason why we are in this country today, shame on you, please Google and read “Willie Lynch Letter” and see where you fit in his letter. Also, read ” Stolen Legacy” and ” Africa, Before the White Man”.

      African American are the only people on this Continent that did not have a say in coming to America. We live here, we work here, and we play here. African American are the only people in these United States, that when, America need to make a points of other groups success of failures, this country always uses African American to measure their success. Cable News Network, I have a problem with television station like CNN, and their program named ” State of African American ” . African American place in America, this was such a stupid program, especially, when we had 300 years of enslaved by Europeans. Groups entered into a country and stole everything they could carry out of Africa. Stealing babies and children form mother Africa for 200 years, transported in ships across the ocean, and then, demand that these children worked for someone who refused to work for oneself, work until the day he or she dies. It is written that 350 millions children,babies, and women were stolen out of Africa.

      Once in this so-called new world, these people, my people were abused to the point that the abuser consider himself to be the correct or positive person and the abused, African people, were the consider the negative person or may I say the murderer.

      Young ladies if you cannot see the beauty in yourself, the beauty of your people, the beauty of your dark skin, the beauty of your body structure, and the beauty of your strength, then too, Willie Lynch, has really won by manipulation your mind and your ancestors mind. Ladies stop living Willie Lynch theory of controlling African people, and stop look at the images that are put in front of you everyday through our twisted America media. It should be a blessing to know that we are the only people on the Planet that look like us, we are the first people on the planet, get to know your history, the true history of Africa and African American. You need to know what our people did before everyone invaded the Continent of Africa. Even today, as groups comes into Africa, and commit Genocide, steal land and call it the Middle East, and, attempt to claim the history of the people they killed. We are the only people both in African and African America where invader has come into our space, have stolen people, and people history and now claim it as their own. What these invader cannot claim is you skin color. African are dark skinned people, and from this we have groups trying to tell the world today that all people came from the African woman, what a JOKE. Because If this was true, then, why would you want to be anything less than Africa.

      Also, I see the media using stupid people like our African American entertainers, African American sport reporters, and African American actors to further carry out Willie Lynch Letter, these Europeans look alike, is how abuse continue to corrupt the young mind today. America’ media distort African American images as mixed people, Willie Lynch Letter has been adopted by America’s media.

      African Americans do not need racially mixed individual, fair skinned black women, or White women to take the place of African American women on television. Sisters, I want you to Google “Willie Lynch Letter” and read it, once you read this parasite letter, this will explained America Media, America Television, and American Enslaved system of perception that was practiced when our ancestors were enslaved by Europeans slave traders, the same system of abused our ancestors endured yesterday are today being used by the same mind like individual, the only different today is, that many African American has adopted and execute Willie Lynch Letter in their lives, African American were forced to endure humiliation, disrespect, and abuse every day of their lives.

      As you can see, we still have the very same system of abuse, only now, the abused people has become the abuser.


  4. Cole Angeline says:

    You are right, our society does continue to portray White as the ideal for beauty. Diversity is limited in the media, even in commercials and television. Thank you for bringing light to the issue of colorism. I know that many people overlook the fact that the media chooses to depict Black women with lighter skin tones, smaller noses, and soft wavy hair over Black women with darker complexions and natural hair textures. It is sad that the media has such a strong influence over our perception about what is beautiful…


  5. alienredqueen says:

    It’s interesting to note the same appears to be the case in Asian communities, as represented in popular Asian high school anime, especially the Japanese, where the “whiteness” of skin is aggressively protected, and for most girls, being “tan” is considered ugly. It’s shame to see self-hatred/racism propagated within one’s own community. I believe it happens to everyone, (just not always about race, necessarily, but other “desirable” traits.)
    I am a 31 year old mother an I am JUST coming to a point in my life where I am trying not to judge myself on my “beauty” (or lack thereof.)


  6. rami ungar the writer says:

    I never noticed that black women on magazines were much lighter than other black women, but now that I think about it, you’re right. It’s weird, because when I think of black women I’ve thought of as really, spectacularly beautiful, they’re usually very dark-skinned. I wonder what that says about me.


  7. carliedash says:

    Wow! This post brings into discussion some really intriguing questions for me. I am a white female, but very pale. I’m not at all the tan “yellow” that is desirable. I had never considered the varying degrees of blackness and how they affect even families. Personally, in love to see strong black women wear their hair in a natural Afro! I wish I saw it more


  8. Justcallmegertie says:

    Excellent post. As a white woman in South Africa, I am often amazed at the time and effort black women (and I work with some really successful and professional black women) put into their looks. I always thought spending 2 hours at the hair dresser getting rid of the grey was long, until I found out how long it takes to do the braids and hair straightening etc etc. But I also often think that some of these black women are natural beauties, honestly. I, for one, would definitely not mind seeing more black women on glossy magazine covers, and not JUST the ones that make the perfect catwalk models (i.e. sky scrapers with no curves).
    And congratulations on being freshly pressed!


  9. bernasvibe says:

    *ROUND of APPLAUSE* I absolutely loved reading this..You couldn’t have hit it more spot ON with your assessment..With the small exception that there are many, many, many Black folks out here who not only know what Black Beauty is; but are going natural with it..Natural is coming back! Didn’t ya’ll know? Never in all of my 49 years; have I seen more American Black women embracing their “natural hair/natural skin/natural essence..than now. Mayhaps it was moreso in the 60s; but I was but a wee baby in the 60s. >>>You said”The slogan, “Black is beautiful” is not any easier to say now than it was in the 1950s. The lack of positive representations of black women in popular culture doesn’t mean black women are not beautiful, but we still have a long way to go in convincing the world, and particularly black women too, that black is beautiful..>>>My response>>>Black IS Beautiful and never stopped being beautiful. What American Blacks did DO was assimilate so , too well!, that they also lost a bit of their own culture..Kind of easy to do when you’re snatched out of your own country & comfort zone though, right? I’m going to wrap up with this comment..Regardless of your Moms having her own identity “issues”; you’re so IN touch with yours! And that, inofitself, is a compliment to your upbringing..2 thumbs UP and I’ll be following your writing


  10. segmation says:

    One of my favorite quotes by Athambile Masola that makes me think is, “As women, are we safe to make the choices we need to make in order to exercise our freedoms?”. I don’t think we are safe yet in this world, right?


  11. Harlequin Tea Set says:

    I can’t agree with you enough. I’m Pakistani and my culture has the same issue with trying to look white, and with equalising fair skin with beauty. We’ve had the skin products and the comments from aunts, and it’s just nonsense in this day and age, that we can do so much and yet still have hang-ups about not being fair enough.
    Great post!


  12. dswidow says:

    What a fantastic article, and how glad I am it was freshly pressed. Your insights are valid and thought provoking. I’m impressed with your whole blog, and look forward to reading more.


  13. sheila says:

    I agree with you, in Ghana where I come from it has become a common sight to see women bleach till they hurt the very skin they are wearing. They look sour with dark patches on the face, all because they want to look as white as possible. the question I always ask is do you hate your color so much that you want to hurt yourself in your bid to get rid of it?


  14. architect of the jungle says:

    Thank you so much for writing this. I wish more people would take time to understand the concept of internalized oppression. We guard ourselves from our enemies by unconsciously emulating aspects of them. It’s human nature. But to be free, we must fight this method for gaining safety.

    It’s a pity that taking back one’s liberties, one’s identity is considered defiant. But it should be considered so with a grain of salt. No oppressor, unless they have been awakened to their oppressive ways, will ever validate a freedom fighter. They don’t offer validation because in their heart they cannot. They have not been on the side of the oppressed and simply cannot offer that perspective. This is why the opinions of one’s oppressor, which the oppressed have come to overvalue (usually unconsciously), should not be the foundation for one’s identity or be used to legitamize one’s actions.


  15. Redterrain says:

    I believe women are all beautiful. As a photographer I am often drawn toward diverse and unique beauty. Beauty magazines I am certain are designed to make us feel like crap. I’ve stopped buying them, I guess in a way I’ve boycotted the whole idea. I wouldn’t worry about a famous person and their skin colour, it has nothing to do with who they are as a person. I evaluate someone by their actions, and their mind.


  16. eunoic says:

    Reblogged this on Eunoic and commented:
    For a while now, I’ve been ruminating about a post about the complicated relationship with black hair but, as a light-skinned woman, it can sometimes be hard for me to remember the colorism that exists as well in the African and African American community.


  17. framestoframe says:

    Interesting. I do wonder why any black woman would want to look more white/light. Or why white women want to look more Latino/tan. Its like we’re all supposed to be mocha.
    Perhaps our perceptions of beauty would not be so easily fed into if we just didn’t support the industry that inspires us to buy products for our ‘imperfections’
    Whichever your skin color, natural is best 🙂


  18. Simplexvita says:

    I very much enjoyed this post. I agree that many women think that there is a “normal” way to look, act or think because of what society expects or the way celebrities look at any given day. Women should be themselves and be proud


  19. gregschina says:

    The media will always have a strong influence over our perceptions of beauty, because it is representative of the tastes of the majority. They sell what they know sells, and in this case, lighter skin colours are more saleable than darker ones.
    I’m not familiar with any glossy magazines, but I can assume that since the ones you speak about have a heavy lean towards “white is beautiful” that their largest target market is white people.
    Surely due to the difference in make up advice, hair advice, colour tones, body shapes etc,there are magazines targeted more towards a black audience that don’t quite have such a white bias?
    On an aside, the skin creams and perceptions of beauty according to skin tones is very similar in Asia. Women carry umbrellas in the middle of summer to maintain the pasty, vampire look that seems to go down so well here!


  20. tidaboo says:

    Black women in today’s society often say “Black is Beautiful” but these are just mere words. Almost motivation to make themselves believe intuitively. Not so much as for outer appearance but more so the motivation to believe that they are wonderfully made from within also. They have so much to offer in this world but so much obstacles to overcome first before showing it. From politics of humanity dealing with women rights to the black woman that chooses to show her beauty externally, by degrading her body on Hip Hop videos, its become a mental issue. So when black women who mentally conquer their conditioned selves and rise above their circumstance it’s half immortal and all amazing to me. Really women period. Nice post


  21. Mel says:

    I read the bluest eyes,it just brings it all home-the extent of our insecurities as black women,how we bleach and use weaves and waaay more make-up than we need, how we’re constantly on this or other diet to further erase that which is characteristic of an African woman…I recall reading a Can Themba book,the name escapes me,but in it he talks about how black women started straightening their hair and using bleaching agents to make their skin lighter in order to win their men back from white women(this was the 1960’s when male activists were known to date white women). It seems the inferiority complex our grand parents experienced then plagues us today,and the media doesn’t help much-All there is is “yellow bone”(as my brother would put it),its become so bad that when dark skinned women are represented,they are met with ridicule and laughter at their ugliness-this from black South African women!The message to young African girls is clear-if you don’t have fake hair and bleached skin you are not beautiful, as if there is only one standard of beauty.I’m always amazed at how my friends and family think it’s odd that I never put on make-up(I hate the stuff),I’ve gotten so used to my natural self,blemishes and all,that I just don’t feel comfortable trying to cover it up in order to fulfill some standard of air brushed perfection.I do it for me,but I see how it influences my niece(who has the most gorgeous black skin and natural hair) who ,for some time,believed she wasn’t pretty because she’s dark-I tell her as often as i can just how beautiful she is because she’s different and natural and that no one is perfect,not even the women in magazines.Black is beautiful,it all begins with us and hopefully the new movement will force the media to move in a direction that allows for all representations of beauty.


  22. goodywinks says:

    I find it really sad that black and asian (Indian-Asian) girls feel the need to do things like lighten their skin, and many white girls (at least in the UK) feel the need to slap orange and brown shit all over themselves to be darker.

    Why change things like this? Sure, on a basis of ‘every now and then let’s do something different’ the same way you might dye your hair a different colour, or wear coloured contact lenses, but it’s more than just ‘a bit of fun and something different for a night’.

    I completely agree, we are all striving for whatever this concept of beauty is, and I tell you what, it’s exhausting! I think, just have fun with your image by all means, but be proud and stay true to your core dammit! 😛

    As Tina Fey says (and it’s both amusing and true):

    ‘Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits. The person closest to actually achieving this look is Kim Kardashian, who, as we know, was made by Russian scientists to sabotage our athletes.”

    Chill out ladies, have fun and enjoy being who you are, and if you want to ‘try something new’ – and try a bit of fake tan, or lighter make up for a little bit, go for it, but don’t think you aren’t beautiful without it!

    And the media, well. The media is dangerous. Take it with a pinch of salt and adapt it to your own sense of self and sense of style. Retail yourself, always.


  23. girllivinglife says:

    Couldn’t agree more. Black women need a realization of how unique they are. Here in Nigeria, the craze for light skin is overboard but the few who embrace the color, I appreciate.
    I have seen African-American women who are absolutely gorgeous but don’t believe it when I tell them. Its abnormal to me.


  24. Lolo says:

    Interesting write-up, i do admire the writer’s style and ease of expression. its common fact that the white skin is being idolised to the detriment of the black skin..we need writers like this to constantly remind us that the media doesnt nessesarily carry the right/best information..blacks/Africa need more information on their history.We do not know ourselves enough to value who/what to the world.


  25. Lolo says:

    Reblogged this on naturalhairess and commented:
    Interesting write-up, i do admire the writer’s style and ease of expression. its common fact that the white skin is being idolised to the detriment of the black skin..we need writers like this to constantly remind us that the media doesnt nessesarily carry the right/best information..blacks/Africa need more information on their history.We do not know ourselves enough to value who/what to the world.


  26. Lolo says:

    Interesting write-up, i do admire the writer’s style and ease of expression. its common fact that the white skin is being idolised to the detriment of the black skin..we need writers like this to constantly remind us that the media doesnt nessesarily carry the right/best information..blacks/Africa need more information on their history.We do not know ourselves enough to value who/what we are to the world.


  27. jessmittens says:

    I can’t even think of a time that I saw a magazine here in Australia with a black woman on the cover, though to be fair I don’t look at them every month so could have missed someone. I thought Beyonce’s name would come up just because of how in her pictures (and other coloured female singers pictures come to think of it) she appears very white indeed.
    There isn’t much variety in magazine cover models – I’ll never see someone who looks like me on the cover either and I’m a causcasian blonde…. but with a big nose, crooked teeth and thin, short hair. Ahh, how I have dreamt of big noses being considered beautiful! haha.

    This was a great post, and different from something you would typically hear in my country where there isn’t a big darker skin community, and not in the spotlight.


  28. ravensmarch says:

    “The challenge with being a consumer of glossy magazines is that I am constantly confronted with images of beauty which do not represent what I look like.”

    This is not entirely a matter of racial imbalance; there’s a very tiny number of people of any race that look like the folks on magazine covers. Those folks are both blessed by genetics to fall within a very narrow (and apparently shrinking) window of “marketable looks” and for the most part have no other job than to work out and otherwise attend to carrying on looking like that. Those of us who cannot devote a 50 to 80 hours a week to our looks cannot look like that, even if we did have help from professional photographers, makeup specialists, and photo processing software.

    One is generally happier if one stops caring what the magazines think.

    On the issue of colour; good heavens, yes, black is certainly beautiful, and it’s a lamentable state of affairs in a world where it’s thought otherwise. It is, I suppose, a hold-over from the pre-industrial days when those who worked outdoors and therefore darker were by definition menial labour and thus to be looked down upon, but with the hundreds of years of factory pallor and at least fifty of Hollywood glamorization of being tanned, one would have thought that it would have been knocked down somewhat.

    Beauty is available to all skin-tones. While being one of the genetically lucky and having the right sort of diet available to keep one’s skin smooth helps, the real source of beauty is self-confidence. My usual example is the old film star William Powell, who if you do a point-by-point survey of his features is no one to write home about, but who is rightly considered a handsome man because of the confident way in which he carried those features through the world. It’s a trick we might all manage, but it does get a little difficult with the impossibly-built people we are constantly presented with on the magazine covers.

    “…we still have a long way to go in convincing the world, and particularly black women too, that black is beautiful.”

    Having said all of the above; my wife and I are in a constant struggle to convince a friend that her blackness is not a burden, but an advantage, an exotic attention-grabber in a part of Canada that is largely populated by pinkish and slightly blotchy people. She declines to be convinced, telling us in these conversations that if it were so, she would surely see more people who look like her on magazine covers. Alas, alas.


  29. gothichydran126 says:

    Great post! I actually do the same thing but with other media such as video games, comic books, regular books, and etc. When Black male (protagonist) characters are created in those medias they’re skin tones vary from the normal medium to dark skinned. But with female (protagonist) characters it’s as you mentioned; black but “yellow skinned” like in the game Resident Evil 5. I love that game but I keep saying to myself “I wish they would have made Shiva more darker”. Whats worst is when they do make a dark skinned black female they portray her as this oversexed “hoochie hoe” who speaks in rapid slang. As a black female/comic book geek/bookworm/videogame nerd, it pisses me off.

    As far as skin whitening goes I find that very sad. Lately I’ve been on an Indian television and movie kick from watching DVD’s and Yupp TV on my blu ray. After seeing ads and informercials about skin whiteners and apparently how “bad it is to have dark skin” I can’t look at many Bollywood or Tollywood films without a lot of critical thinking. I’m sure many of those actresses and actors would still be beautiful and preformed great dances without the skin bleaching creams.


  30. tippernicole92 says:

    What a great post! I can definitely relate to this. I remember how when I was younger, I wanted lighter skin so badly! As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to love my skin AND my coily hair. You’re right that we don’t have enough dark-skinned women in popular culture, however, we shouldn’t rely on pop culture to give us role models, or to acknowledge our beauty. We need to acknowledge our beauty for ourselves. I think that we need to be role models for ourselves, and for our daughters, nieces, friends, etc. Personally, I had to learn self-love. I plan to teach my future daughters to love themselves and their dark skin from day 1.


  31. Samantha says:

    Personally, I think everyone should stop focusing on color itself and start focusing on each person’s individual beauty, no matter what color they are. I know this is the main goal, but I feel that when we focus on “black is beautiful” or “white is beautiful” or everything in between, we get lost in the details and start picking on other people because of how they are perceived.

    I am mixed race, black and white, and I am naturally very fair for being mixed: most people don’t realize I’m mixed unless they notice my curly hair or some other thing that clues them in. I’ve been told by both races that I’m not one of them, basically, but more so from black people. It’s annoying, hurtful, and upsetting that because of my skin color that I can be rejected by both ends. There’s a lot of stereotypes about how mixed people are the most beautiful, etc., blah blah blah. Can we just stop all of that? Every type of person can be beautiful, no matter their skin color, eye color, hair texture. Just everyone stop it.

    I do understand where you’re coming from, and I hope this doesn’t come off as a rant. It’s just that to overcome racism and the preestablished standards of beauty, we should stop focusing on any one thing, and appreciate each person’s beauty for what it is.


  32. Jean says:

    “As Tina Fey says (and it’s both amusing and true):

    ‘Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits. The person closest to actually achieving this look is Kim Kardashian, who, as we know, was made by Russian scientists to sabotage our athletes.”

    This was good one. And funny.

    As for Beyoncé, I wish she didn’t dye her hair blonde. Sheesh. I thought she was stronger than that.

    I can’t help be scornful when I see another Asian women do blonde stuff in her hair. My response is: how pathetic. Love yourself, for goodness sake. If you want to have dye-fun in your beautiful black canvass.. then put some strands of pink, neon blue… colour ribbon fun. Black Asian like black beautiful canvass….just waiting for multiple bright colour fun.

    Otherwise just keep it all black sheen.

    On this whole colour girl beauty vs. Caucasian beauty ideals, just forget about artificial non-natural beautification.

    Go for fitness, healthy eating and exercise. Believe me…it IS the best fashion statement any woman can make for life. All the gorgeous hair colouring, makeup and clothes will be trumped by fitness and good health on any woman.


  33. moodsnmoments says:

    so well stated…am an indian…and even in india, there is this huge fascination for white skin…people who are with a skin of lighter tone, are automatically labelled as good looking…
    i hope we can stay away from the skin colour stigma…
    great article!!!!


  34. emekatalks says:

    great piece! amazing thought shared. I’m black and African and i black is absolutely beautiful. American president is black. color of skin has absolutely nothing to do with an individual.


  35. animamcbrown says:

    Good piece. Food for thought. But I think it is important to give people a chance, not just to absorb alternative ways of thinking about race and racialisation but also to internalise the ideologies that have been dominant over time. Everytime I go back home (which is in a different province) the locals are convinced I’m using lightening creams. Yet I appear lighter only because of the way I’m not exposed to the sun as much, and perhaps the different climate (or atmosphere) conditions on this side of the country (i.e. the Cape). Nothing could be more ridiculous than me trying to alter my skin colour because not only do I not have time for such things but I’ve got no complexes about my dark skin. But people attach many different stereotypes to the way they think things ‘ought to be’. It may be true that sometimes their own insecurities about appearance, beauty and/or racialisation inform the way they choose to see what is around them. So while I’m right up there with the ‘Black is indeed absolutely beautiful’ stance I still think we need to stop attaching blackness to darkness. Black is varied; it is so many rich shades, textures and combinations of brown. What is important for women especially is to feel comfortable in their own shade – not to measure themselves against others in a bid to determine which one should or shouldn’t be the so-called standard.


  36. chef bob says:

    As a Caucasian man in America whom spent the last 21 years married to a beautiful dark skinned natural AA woman, I have to agree with you that colorism is out of control. Why is blonde, long wavy thin hair the standard? All my life I’ve been enchanted by women of color, dark skinned black women to be exact. Natural hair, your eyes, lips, bodies are amazing. The most beautiful women in the world are black. Right now the trend of IRR (interracial relationships) is increasing, The black woman here faces challenges about dating/marrying outside her race. If you would be interested in more information please visit my good friend Christelyns blog Chris is an amazingly talented writer, and is not afraid to discuss, write about or challenge any subject or person. Thanks for a great piece here, and I’ll continue to read your posts as time allows. Chef Bob


  37. chick123ch says:

    Really enjoyed reading this and it reminds me very much of things and conversations I had when I was younger with my group of friends.
    I think in general whatever race people are there are always skin tones that are labelled as more socially pleasing (quite incorrectly I may add!!)- eg very pale white people are often isolated and as you say very dark skinned people too. Everyone seems to have an obsession with this middle honey skin tone – some people lightening theirs to it and others tanning darker to it. It’s an interesting topic.
    I for one thinks every one has beauty in them and I certainly would like to see much more variety of skin tones in magazines, as by showing the same girl all the time its giving our children a very wrong message.
    Thanks for writing this :0) x


  38. rissnicole says:

    Thanks you for sharing your thoughts! This was eye opening to me. As a white girl working in the beauty industry, I have from time to time taken notice of all the extra time, money and effort some black women take to appear as this publicized image of a black woman; while far less embrace their natural beauty. It also bothers me how few makeup lines even make foundations for darker skin. It’s pretty outrageous now that I think of it!
    And as far as magazines go- I’m a long time addict of, why can’t I look like her? syndrome. Media sells women some disturbing ideas of beauty. What I really want to know is, who came up with the idea that breasts should be perky? Okay, I’ll end this rant. A big thanks for getting my mind moving.


  39. jernan says:

    Any way, I see black people as cool people. Especially the guys. Look at Hannibal king. That crazy dude can rip the pull up and parallel bars and walk off like he didn’t break a sweat.


    • blackwhite & snakeskin says:

      I don’t think the question is whether ‘blacks’ as a race are cool or not but rather who/what defines beauty – it’s a question of what society defines as beautiful and the negative ripple effect it has on those that aren’t born with those characteristics that seek it without realizing their own color of beauty.


  40. centristcanuck says:

    God, I love your post. There is colorism in South Asian culture as well. As a young girl, my paternal grandmother constantly compare me to my lighter colored cousins. She was the reason I had such low confidence. Media definitely makes it worse. That’s why we have token models of color in fashion. The few actresses of color in mainstream media are also lighter skinned. I know that Indian film industry hires white models to play Indian characters. Ugh, all this racism is internalized so darker skinned Indians are constantly mocked, derided and considered undesirable. I think posts like yours helps with awareness.


  41. Elly de Klein says:

    Maybe black women are just smart enough not to try pursue being on the magazine but do something more productive 😉 naively joking. All colours are beauty if they carry themselves right right? Silly how white want to be darker and darker want to be lighter in some cultures! Grass is always greener on the other side…Nice writing


  42. busydarling says:

    Well written! I fully agree! Somehow, it’s as if we ALL should conform to this feminine ideal of beauty: tall, but not too tall, thin, white-but-tanned with long, preferably blonde wavy hair. I’m a white South-African living in Holland currently and there was a discussion about that in I think ELLE magazine. Apparently make up artists and stylists don’t know how to dress non-blondes?
    Drykorn, a German brand, used a black and a mid-eastern looking model for their ss13 collection.

    Love to chat more, but work is calling.


  43. aliciakhoo says:

    Great post! I feel that it is about time the people realize that it is the media that defines what is “beautiful” and what is not. I think black people are beautiful and I very much dislike it when people say things about any ethnicity such as “nose not high enough” or “eyes too small” or “lack of a chin.” What standards are we exactly comparing the “ideal” of beauty to?


  44. Anne Chia says:

    Such an excellent piece! One that needed to be written. Such varied standards of beauty for the black woman (and quite honestly for everybody else) that have nothing to do with the way the African woman actually looks. All that foundation that makes black women appear lighter than they actually are? All the so-called fake “Brazilian hair” and the weaves (how expensive those things are) so that she has wavy hair down to her back. Apparently, you are not really beautiful if you are “dark”, flat nosed, wide hipped and kinky-haired. God forbid you have dreadlocks!


  45. husysweet says:

    Well Of course black is beautiful.But Dark skinned black people have to be careful with hurting light skinned black people.In Nigeria we have different shades of black .My elder sister is light brown,my twin is a shade lighter than me and I am dark brown.And we have no mixed blood.All shades of black skin is beautiful.


  46. shanesbookblog says:

    Black most certainly is beautiful….today’s magazine and news editors and journalist typically have such outdated and blatantly incorrect and immoral opinions and views. I Love this Post it’s what i have been wondering for a long time. I honestly find it repulsing that we call the united states the one truly FREE country in the world when it in fact is not free and has not been free for quite some time. If you don’t look a certain way or think a certain way or share the conservative frame of mind….life is not a journey its a full time occupation of hardships and let downs and supply’s anyone who dares to be different with a lifetime subscription of pain and suffering. This topic needs to be aired on fox news…..they could learn a thing or two and so could all the people with backwards and outdated opinions & Views. Thanks for the great content,Subscribed and Liked! You deserve more than that,You are indeed the very definition of an amazingly inspirational Writer in every sense of the term!


  47. fantyse says:

    It’s the same with black hair and the world is really not ready for that. Imagine if all black women stopped using relaxers and went natural. I had a Caucasian friend who was shocked to know that most black women had kinky beautiful hair in its natural state. It sad but most black women to not feel beautiful with their natural. Natural black hair is not seen beautiful in American culture. While wearing my hair natural one day to a doctors appointment, a nurse asked me “what do you have going on with your hair because it looks half done”. Which let me know she was not used to seeing black hair and was trying to figure out what needed to be done because obviously something was wrong with my hair in her eyes. So not only do you not see many dark-skinned black women representing black women in the media but it’s very rare to see black beautiful natural hair on the women who represent black women in the media. We need that for our little black girls growing up so they can learn to love who they and their appearance.


  48. shortnez says:

    This is indeed a wonderful piece.
    I cannott thatnk you enough for “daring to write something so thought provoking”

    I relate to every single point raised here.
    Growing up, I was always the darkest one.
    I was teased at school for being so dark.

    I use to walk around the corner and hear, (from the darkest chick in school) “Mnyamane” or “kiwi”.
    I hated that girl for always making me feel bad about being black when she was always darker than me.

    Eventually, I thought to myself, No more!
    So I cut my hair to be as short and afro-tastic as possible.

    I found this new outlook on life very refreshing…I no longer had to walk around with a brush/comb in my pocket or that small “bottle” of Ponds.

    So thank you once again for reviving that sense of “Pride in my Dark Shade of Black”

    To those still asking “Is black beautiful?”
    YES, IT IS!


  49. mangocherrysteph says:

    This reminds me of when the Numero magazine used a white model painted darker to portray an African Queen instead of one of the many black models out there. Its a shame and like some others have said on here, it isn’t just a white/ black issue. I see symptoms in pretty much all communities of this sort of standardisation and yet we claim in the western world to celebrate diversity.


  50. sophist6 says:

    I was just sitting here looking around the “Freshly Pressed” articles when I came across your blog. I must say as a white girl who always wanted to be darker – it is amazing to hear the other side of the story, the black girls who want to be whiter. I am not a glossy magazine reader and I am not one of the pretty popular girls. It never even crossed my mind to think that black women face the same skin tone insecurities that white girls face (just the other end of the color spectrum). The things is – we are ALL beautiful and we need to start embracing that and forcing those glossy magazines and other media that beauty isn’t a Photoshop or emaciated women selling us tampons and hair care products. There is beauty and magic in every color throughout the spectrum of skin tones. If it is any consolation at all, I have always been envious of the black women – you guys with your beautiful skin (regardless of shade) and what always appeared to me; a confidence that many white women don’t walk around with. Thank you also for opening my eyes to a side of feminism that I hadn’t even considered before.


  51. msharyf says:

    I’m from the Maldives. Currently I am doing a one year internship in a hospital in Bangladesh. In my one week of Dermatology where I had to see hundreds of patients. HALF of them were there due to allergic reactions from using ‘Fair and Lovely’ . It’s an Indian bleaching product. Sad to see in a country of people with beautiful brown skin , most want to be white.

    Btw you should check out the ads for ‘Fair and Lovely’ on Indian TV. They are as racist as they come. The themes being you can’t get love , you can’t get a job, you can’t get married if you are dark.


  52. allianapersaud says:

    RIGHT ON!!!!
    I love this post. I’m a Women’s Advocate myself & I’m aware of all the racial biases towards white & light skinned-women. Why is color so largely associated with status ?? I believe it dates back to the slavery days, however we are long past those times. Something needs to change immediately.


  53. Susan says:

    Amazing article, lots of people expressing the same feelings. I think you should love yourself and be who you are. Regardless of your color, be true to yourself and don’t worry about what others think or see. Great piece. Really got a conversation going 🙂


  54. carolina4444 says:

    I agree with you …. but is not only about color is about high weight , curly hair vs strait … I think it is a lot of pressure for us to think that is only one way to be beautiful … i think we need to understand that is a diversity world where beauty depends of each ones point of view … what is beautiful for you for you may not be for me but that doesn’t mean either of us are holding the ultimate true … it means …it only means that we have different ways of understanding beauty:)


  55. lilybdiary says:

    An excellent read. This issue had been addressed too many times with a recent outburst on twitter. As a light skin girl l do feel that a lot of darker black women tend to want to get lighter. The media tries to make their influence quite whole and as a result orient to the lighter shades. The notion of black is beauty is then lost. Black women then need to focus less on their skin colour and more on making a difference because the need to buy creams and such only push this. Tyra banks as well went on and on about this as well as other powerful black women but still its an issue. I think it’s time that black women in general light or black just accept the way the LORD created them and not try and change their natural beauty.


  56. mflahertyphoto says:

    Wow you got some serious response. I wouldn’t normally read this (more of a science and photography nerd) but it struck something. For the first time in my life, I just might be falling in love with a woman of another race. Unfortunately she is about as far away as she can get on this planet, in Zimbabwe. I grew up around racists, and though my mother and my schooling (which was private religious in early years) definitely taught tolerance and equality, one can’t help but be influenced to some degree. It’s like this little thing that’s buried and never expressed. I think about this little thing now, for the first time in years actually. And I know why. Anyway, she’s beautiful and sweet but so far away (sigh).


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