“I’m from a culturally rich and diverse nation, India. We speak many languages and have unimaginable variety in our traditional cuisine. People in the north look completely different from those in the south—sometimes it’s hard to believe we all come from the same country. But there is one disturbing notion prevalent throughout India: that light skin is more attractive than dark. And as someone who has what Indians call a dusky complexion, I used to think there might be truth to that. When you doubt one thing about yourself, you start thinking there’s also something wrong with your hair, your body, your clothes, your accent—everything.A few years ago, my modeling agency asked me to audition for skin-lightening commercials. I knew those products were wrong, so I’d show up with a burden in my heart, thinking, “I can’t believe I’m doing this.” Those commercials sent out a message that if your skin is lighter, you are more acceptable to society. The strangest part was that the people creating these negative images were some of the most attractive dark-skinned people I have seen. They always rejected me for the ads, and I’m glad they did.
Before my first movie, Slumdog Millionaire, I hadn’t traveled outside Southeast Asia. But while promoting the film, I went on a world tour and interacted with people of many different ethnicities. One day I was checking in at my Los Angeles hotel and a woman who was as pale as pale can be said to me, “I’d love to have your skin color. It’s so beautiful!” I thought, “What? Where I come from people want to be your color, lady.” I wish all Indian girls could have heard her say that.
Then something just clicked. I thought, “I’m going to stop thinking my complexion or accent isn’t good enough.” Then and there I decided to be happy with what I have.
In my travels, I’ve seen that self-doubt is not just an Indian problem. All people—African, European, American—worry about being different. But I’ve learned that the traits we’d rush to get rid of are the very ones that others desire. People always covet what they don’t have. That’s why we should look at ourselves every now and then and say, “I’m proud of myself. I like the way I’m made.”
KW: “What inspired the creation of the blog was open dialogue between my older cousin, Amber and I about situations in our lives that made us feel less attractive because of our skin tone. From what someone would say to us directly, to messages in the media, we were bombarded on a daily basis with the idea that darker skin was unattractive. We didn’t want to accept this idea or our feelings of inadequacy anymore, so we created an outlet on Tumblr. We wanted to share our feelings and ideas, while ultimately uplifting and inspiring others to be more accepting of the skin they’re in. Since the initial launch of the blog in June, however, Amber has chosen to pursue other endeavors. I have since taken on running the blog, creating a website and building the For Brown Girls brand. I created the site and a Facebook “like” page to reach out to women and girls outside of the Tumblr world to invite them on this “journey” towards loving the skin they are in.”
CL: Have you ever experienced “Shadeism” or any type of negativity because of your complexion?
KW: “In my first “real” high school relationship we’d been together for a little bit as the time went by he became disinterested and we went our separate ways. As it turned out he’d discovered that he preferred lighter skinned girls with long hair, neither of which I had. That was the first time I realized that my complexion could make me “less desirable”. I also learned that longer straight hair was considered most attractive. I would try to wear my hair straight and down as much as I could to try and please this boy and I was only 15! More recently, I’ve been told by a guy that I wasn’t his “type”, and he even went as far as to say he usually didn’t date dark skinned girls but he’d make an exception! Lucky me!-I declined. Most of the negativity I’ve experienced personally has been involving guys and that’s taught me that although you are allowed to have a preference most times it is unjustified. They aren’t choosing one personality over another or in some cases even the most attractive! It is based simply on skin complexion and that’s just plain ignorant and a perfect example of prejudice within the African American community. Throughout my life I’ve also heard “dark” or “black” used in a derogatory way to put someone down or as a joke. I’ve been made fun of for my darker complexion when I was younger on occasion but I never really internalized it. Looking back at the incidents as I’m older and more aware I understand the implications of the teasing. The idea of being darker skinned is projected as a “burden” or a “flaw” and it really takes a toll on one’s spirit, especially the self-esteem of young women.”
You are already eligible & one step closer to entering to win the very first ‘FBG’ Giveaway, a debossed silicone lilac colored bracelet with the words “Brown Girls, Receive Love” on them! *they should be getting to me in the next week or so*