The Brown paper test…

I admit I have been struggling with this post for months on end but the release of the new Nina Simone Biopic trailer staring Zoe Saldana just jigged my creative juices. Why are we as people so caught up on the color of people’s skin? Why does the tone, texture of people’s complexion wip us in a hysteric frenzy?

For those who don’t know, Zoe Saldana is set to play the role of great Nina Simone; one of the most poignant black voices in the last century, civil rights activist, jazz and soul singer. ‘Feeling good’ and ‘Sinner Man’ are some of my favorite tracks ever (in my Cardi B voice).

Once dubbed the high priestess of neo- soul, many questioned the casting of Saldana to play Simone and those criticisms weren’t based on her acting chops but the fact that she wasn’t of the same skin tone as Simone. Following the whole OscarsSoWhite controversy, race has been brought to the fore front. Not just race, but coloursim seems to be alive and well. I mean what happened to Viola Davis or Uzo Aduba?

Watching the documentaries Dark Girls and Light Girls brought into realization how deep-rooted and uber sensitive the issue of colourism is in our communities as Nigerians, Africans, and Africans Americans. While many would dismiss these issues as superficial or silly, I beg to disagree. When you see a vibrant 5-year-old dark-skinned child withdrawing into herself because she doesn’t feel she is pretty and as such unworthy of love. Or you hear a beautiful 20 something-year-old girl being stabbed by other girls due to jealousy because she is of a lighter complexion; then there is something wrong with our society which we need to address and fix.

Kindly watch the documentaries when you have the time, it will open your eyes. Or the recent case of Nayara Justino the ebony samba carnival queen who was dethroned because many were upset at the color of her skin.

Growing up, I never wanted to be lighter; everyone around me was either slightly darker or lighter. Until today, my Mom is the standard of beauty I aspire to be. She had the darkest, smoothest black skin I had ever seen and it glowed and still glows till this day. The way she wore her clothes, the way she carried and still carries herself with such grace and poise and I’m not saying this because she gave birth to me but my Mom set the bar extremely high. She took the time and the care to take care of herself as a woman. My big sis Dami comes a close second; she’s got the nice mix of Godiva chocolate and Mahogany to her skin which just glows for days. I would say there are times I am filled with some form of envy when I see my cousin Bisoye. I asked once what she uses and she said Palmers cocoa butter oil and I bought that thing in droves but still my skin never ever glowed like hers. The Darker the Berry the Sweeter the Juice.

So it baffles me when I hear silly people especially guys say that they only date or prefer light-skinned girls. Why? I have never understood it and no one has been able to provide me with a sensible enough explanation. Some say it’s aspirational such as having a light-skinned partner is the next best thing to having a Caucasian spouse which shows everybody that you have arrived. That sounds absurd to me. In Uni, guys would fall over in an attempt to date my girl Chineze; and her flawless light bright skin was the initial attraction but I have come to understand it was the arm candy appeal and the whole childlike appeal that guys seem to be suckers for.

Due to these insecurities, I imagine this is the primary reason why ladies everywhere bleach their skins. Lighter is always brighter in some warped reality. Now I am not one to begrudge any woman’s right to look good by any means necessary. Hey, if it makes you feel and look good, do you boo! But before you place an order to Denia skin brightening lotion, question why you are doing so. Is it to get the attention of an eligible bachelor or to land a dream job? Trust me when I say your intended audience can tell if you’re naturally that skin color or you purchased the color from a bottle.

Second and most importantly, please do your research into the products or treatment you intend to use. Some of these products may have ingredients that might have an adverse effect on your general wellbeing. I had a flatmate from the eastern part of Nigeria while I was studying for my master’s degree in Dubai and boy there aren’t enough words to describe just how bad her skin looked. She had gone the cheap route in trying to appear lighter but the results were not good. For one, she had dark scaly blotches on her body, dark knuckles, and plus she didn’t exactly smell like fresh roses either but I tell you this chick had the self-confidence of Naomi Campbell and Michelle Obama with a sprinkle of Miley Cyrus.

There is a saying that anything worth doing is worth doing well; if you want to be light-skinned please for the sake of the general public get it done properly. And if you want to go the bargain basement route, just maybe you shouldn’t be in the hot blazing sun where all the chemicals can cook on your skin leading to lord knows what and even then maybe the Almighty made you dark skinned for a reason.

The point I am making in all this is; we as humans, especially women are so much than our complexions. I look at my mom and I don’t see a dark skinned Nigerian woman with amazing skin but I see an intelligent, strong vibrant woman. The color of your skin or its texture doesn’t define you, it doesn’t make you smarter, brighter or better than or less than anyone else. We are all beautifully and magnificently made and if some oaf says he or she can’t be associated with you because of what’s on the outside, that’s their loss, not yours. As a mother of a vibrant energetic 2-year-old daughter, I want her to grow up understanding that she is beautiful in every shape and form, she is worthy regardless of the color of her skin and she is loved beyond words.

I think the high priestess Nina Simone said it best, ‘I have never changed my hair, I’ve never changed my color, I have always been proud of myself and my fans are proud of me for remaining the way I’ve always been…..’ Amen Sister. Amen.

Photo credit: Galleryhip.com


4 thoughts on “Beneath the color of your skin

  1. Good story… sadly, the film industry has always been mostly racist. But it has to change, surely? Eventually.
    Regards the bleaching, I know a couple of men who bleach, for the same reason as women – to attract the opposite sex, mainly – pure madness if you ask me. And yes, of course, anyone can tell they’re bleaching!
    Keep it up, Toyosi 👊


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