Thursday, March 31, 2011

In this post, there was a subsequent debate on differing shades of Africans and African Americans and how some lighter skinned women get more attention than dark skinned women.This is an issue that I told one of our lovely commenters JC I would cover soon. I will just put a disclaimer out there that I believe beauty comes in all shades from Ebony to Caramel.

There is an ingrained belief in Kenya, the African Continent and beyond that light skinned equates to beautiful and the darker you are the less attractive. How many dark skinned women have you seen using bleaching creams? How often have you heard people saying they would marry a white person to get beautiful children? How many adverts do you see with normal looking dark skinned Africans?These are all indicators that Africans have slowly been made to believe that the colour of their skin is not good enough..looking up to western ideals of beauty i.e. light coloured skin and straight hair. In Kenya, just the other day I was looking at an advert on Waiyaki way that was advertising Valon a petroleum jelly that is quintessentially Kenyan. The girl in the picture had perfectly smooth light skinned..possibly biracial. This was very funny to me because for a country where the majority of the country is dark skinned we should be putting model who are representative of the population on billboards. Kenyans are proud of their heritage that I am sure of, however we have always seen light skinned girls to be school, in clubs, at uni. If a dark skinned girl was pretty she was called a black beauty. This is hilarious because it shows that black is not necessarily equated to beauty. We are proud of other African features such as big bottoms (for lack of a better word) and big breasts but not the colour of our skin. How funny?

I understand that African Americans were made to hate their skin and hair by their slave masters. Again I am not an expert on the Slave Trade and slaves in the USA, but I do know the slaves were made to feel inferior to their Caucasian Slave Owners and to the Biracial children that some of the slave owners had with their slaves. These "mulatto" children were given better jobs than working in the fields and in some cases got special privileges. However I do not understand Africans and their looking down of their black skin. A perfect example, if you went to Secondary school in Nairobi you can relate to this, the biracial or "pointi" guys and girls were always put on a pedestal and people always said how hot they were even if they were not. Girls used to fawn over themselves for pointi boys...(No I was not one of them).

My personal belief is that Africans come in all colours and we should again appreciate the shades that fill this continent. We have all shaded of brown and even white, Africa is the only continent with such diverse people.

What are your thoughts on this issue in Africa and Beyond?

Its the WEEKEND (Bart Simpson voice)
Mbabazi said...

i saw this black kis on trya who wasnt even that light hating on drker skinned african americans and it all came from his grandmother who always dissed them in his face . theses are negative attitudes that are encouraged by some people but mostly the world we live in where the closer to white the more attention you get. see thebeyonce add for loreal tht was lightend so much she looked there is a growing trend in "coo" bleaching among america n in africa

Anonymous said...

Nyash, I hear you....and i think it's pretty sad that we still don't see ourselves for the beautiful creatures we are, whatever the colour of our skin. Am dark skinned and I remember being called a black beauty back when I was younger (why not just call me "beautiful"?).In Uni, I once overheard some chics referring to another as "SBC". On enquiring, I was told that this stood for Saved By Colour- meaning, in their eyes, she wasnt pretty but since she was light skinned, she could get away with it! You can imagine my horror. Am not claiming to be perfect and I admit that many a time I have held my own prejudices *bowing head in shame*..For me, embracing my hair in its natural state, has helped me to love ME-my dark skin, my hair, my nose...everything. I hope that by highlighting this, you and other bloggers will help us all embrace the beauty in our diversity-cliche but true! Sorry for the looooong comment but I had to get it out.

Nyachomba said...

@Mbabazi. Its so sad that even celebrities get in that culture of having to be light skinned to make it. I am not sure if its just me but girls like Ciara and Rihanna look like they are slowly getting lighter...I may be paranoid. Its all ingrown and it is perpetuated by some family members in some families.
@Anonymous, I hate that Black Beauty..I remember my younger brother being called that and we used to call him darkie (in a nice way) he is the only really dark one in my family...Its is beautiful no matter what. Hahahah Saved By Colour...dang thats madness. I can also say that I have had my own prejudices despite me always dating darker men but we have all at one time or other being prejudiced towards darker people..but its allowed and with maturity you realise that being dark is indeed beautiful. Thanks for the comment..always love hearing from you ;-)

Nancie Mwai said...

I'm light skinned and I really love the dark colored women like Alek Wek and Ajuma...they have such good skin! I dont know what's the debate is! We're all black no matter what shade we are!

Anonymous said...

I think it's important to highlight that the other races are have similar issues! For example, white girls in England who are 'pastey' skinned with 'mousy' hair pretty much get the same treatment as 'charcoal black' girls with 'nappy' hair - they are generally thought to be not as beautiful. Don't ask me why!
Plus, the fact that we are appreciating 'pointi's' is a step forward i think...the world is a melting pot of races, backgrounds and mutations (if i can safely say that) all giving birth to offspring who, as a result of genetic random sampling, are unpredictable more diverse! I LOVE this diversity. I love that no one can be defined by their skin, hair, birth place or any other factor. Be it naive, I like to think that a 'pointi' is appealing to some not for the shallow reasons of skin colour, ass-size or nose shape. But because of the beauty in their MIX - the product of which is completely and utterly UNPREDICTABLE. My two cents.

Jc said...

I love this post and it is very true! We should be celebrating beauty in all colours and it is sad that we are not.

I loved your picture selection, it is truly illustrative of colour shades.

I have to agree with anon - I am the kenyan version of 'light skinned'. I was always given compliments because of my skin colour and no matter what it was 'not possible' to consider me unnattractive. Strangely enough this Kenyan idolisation of lighter skin is actually not just Kenyan. Here in UK the same holds true for Nigerians and Nigerian Britons. One Nigerian guy did say to me that I can get away with natural hair because I am 'brown'. One time when my two sisters and I were out with some Nigerian friends, again the conversation turned to how come I was so light skinned when my sisters are not.

I am so so glad that my mother and father were of different colour shades AND taught us that the way we were born is the definition of perfection.

By the way the advertising people for brands like Coca Cola and Always used to visit my school and similar British curriculum schools in Kenya to find models because they were ACTIVELY looking for light skinned (read - biracial!) girls. The general pick were biracial and light skinned, girls with British or American accents and medium to slim in build. So that is advertising in Kenya for you!

Finally - I have to say Nancie, your comment really sounded quite dismissive of what really is a massive issue. I think it is fine to have an introspective opinion but more important we have to open our eyes to the world around us.

Turned into an essay - Thanks for talking about it Nyash!

Nyachomba said...

@Nancy..I think you have already put us in a colour saying that "we are all black no matter what shade we are"
@AnonymousII I do understand that other races have their issues and with Caucasians everywhere Redheads are looked down upon and called such things are carrot top and ginger (and who said ginger was red???) Anyway this is a small percentage of the population and while researching for this post, I read somewhere that when Hugh Hefner pushes for such ideals of beauty as blonde with big breasts does that make brunettes feel awful NO! This is because white people have never ever felt that they were ugly or their skin was. Africans especially those with dark skin have had to carry this ideas with them even into the 21st Century.I understand that the world is a melting pot of different shades and its lovely knowing that...The point I am out to make is not to look down on anyone who is light skinned..If I did then some special people in my life would be shunned. Thanks for the comment
@JC..You do know this post was for you hehehehe. As for the Adverts..hahahaha you have just brought back memories of school when there would be talent scouts for advertisements and of course the light skinned girls and boys always got call backs. Hahaha! Ati you can get away with natural hair because your brown that is effing ridiculous. I also come from a family where my dad was very dark and my mum is extremely light..I got a mix of both and even now when I meet some people they look at my hair and ask "Are you sure that you do not have strange i.e. white blood". I sternly say NO! I shall end this Essay by saying that we have to appreciate each other whether caramel, ebony, toffee, chocolate skinned. Its this diversity that makes us so unique.

Shira said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shira said...

I totally agree that preference is given to light-skinned sistas and brothas than to their darker counterparts. And kids, black, white, mixed..equate dark-skinned people to violence, ugly, and all the negative terms you can think of.
But i think here is where the problem lies...we dark-skinned sistas and brothas do not praise the color that we are. Few do. So then if we don't exhault and embrace our color, then how do we expect others to embrace and exhault our color?
Change will have to come from us dark-skinned people just like the way kinky and natural hair today is perceived to be cool, edgy and beautiful because those with kinky and natural hair have made it look cool, edgy and beautiful!

Anonymous said...

Nyachomba, I think then that what you're talking about is an 'inferiority complex' that black people have (not all of course) - because for centuries we have been told that we are thick, subhuman and ugly and undeserving of the air we breathe. So it’s only natural that we begin to believe some of this (isn't it?). And hence want to be NON-BLACK.
P.s. I would argue that brunettes do feel they're not as pretty as blonds. You never hear of a blond going brunette do you? It's almost always the other way around - it starts with harmless 'highlights' and before you know it, you're a blond having to get your routes re-done every few weeks. Generally speaking...
P.s. I really like your blog!

Nyachomba said...

@Shira...Thats very true...We Africans do not really praise the colour that we have...I mean just a few months ago someone tried pushing the Vogue Africa only for it to be shut down. We have to start small and then our beauty will shine on its own. Its very sad when you hear that during NYFW only 8% of the models were dark skinned, when dark skinned people make a huge percentage of the worlds population. We are the Change we want to see...In fact maybe we should start a campaign telling someone we think is beautiful that they are indeed beautiful..hand out those compliments ladies
@Anonymous III It is definitely an inferiority complex, defo!! That we need to annihilate immediately..and as you said it has come from black people being told that they are subhuman.
Yeah and I do get you with the whole brunette issue...highlights slowly become a full head of blonde hair hehehe. Thanks for commenting and glad you like it ;-)

Shira said...

The media and entertainment industry only exarcerbates this issue. Take for example: Gabourey Sidibe-the girl that was in precious. Her face was lightened on the cover of Elle magazine. What does this tell us readers? That they clearly need to make a black-skinned girl lighter for her to appear on a magazine cover, and hence making her seem 'more beautiful'?! RIDICULOUS!
And then Miss Beyonce..we all love her. I mean she personifies strength and independence. But recently, she appeared on the cover of a french magazine that at the time was paying tribute to Fela Kuti.So she blackened her face...for whatever reason. You can call it art, or embracing the African image. Point is, that on the 'regular' when she appears on magazines on other occasions, her face is actually lightened...becoming even lighter than she already is. I don't know what you'd call this, but i'll call it hypocrisy.
Embracing one's true self..whether black, white, espresso, chocolate, whatever color, is the essence of it all.
So girls who bleach their skin. To you, i say STOP IT! Not cool at all! And to girls who darken their skin (cause believe there's those that do). To you, i say STOP IT! Not cool at all. Just be yourself yourself brotha!

Anonymous said...

Gotta chime in here! I see this as a result of slavery and colonialism. In colonial Kenya, other races such as Indians for example were ranked below caucasians but above black africans. Now I know Indians also range in complexion but generally, most are still of a lighter brown than most africans. If certain features cause you to get better treatment then slowly people consider them superior. The same thing happened during the slave trade. Lighter skinned slaves, or those with less kinky hair were desired.

For our generation, these negative ideas are perpetuated because of (1)Media influence: people still look to the U.S. and Europe for the latest trends. They copy what they see without much thought!

(2) What society dictates: Many prejudices originate from comments they hear in their homes, at school etc. Negative comments can cause an inferiority complex. On the flip side, some light skinned or biracial people grow up with a somewhat superior attitude because of how they have come to perceive themselves. It's a cycle from one generation to the next

As a side note, I'd like to add that this self-disdain is also prevalent in some Afro-latino communities and countries. Same script, different cast. Some revere european features and distance themselves from their african ancestry as much as possible. Darker skinned people are even yelled at and insulted in the streets. Read about this in an article on the Dominican Republic. I'll put the link at the bottom.

For me it's not the same as a brunette wanting to be blond etc. The reason is in history no other race of people have had their image bashed and vilified as much as black people. That's why the scars and effects are so deep.

So what can we do about it? Well, first off is to shed all the baggage and love and appreciate ourselves as we are. Next, instill the same values in kids growing up whether it's your own, a younger sibling, cousin or neighbour. On the Vogue Africa issue, that's done. There are other up and coming publications like Arise. We need to create our own and build them up.

And that's my little essay! Have a lovely weekend:)

Link: Black Denial -


SugarPuss said...

Loving the energy up in here :-)

I loathe that comment people make "am going to have a kid with a white dude so my babies can get light coloured eyes, skin and great hair" whenever i hear that i lose all respect for the person, i mean am all for love and all but if that's why your having babies with a man, dude really??

I don't remember when or where i read this but some guy was commenting about black models in the fashion industry in general, saying it's hard to find black/dark-skinned models unless they have some really unique feature about them or they fit this certain perception of skinny, lanky, bald headed, big lipped, big milky eyes...and even then they're like sprinkles here and there. Then once in a while the top magazines will do a shoot with all black girls and call it "annual black feature", tho i enjoy those features(black models are so versatile, so many looks) i feel like they throw us bone of sorts, it's insulting.

@Jc i got the opposite comment about my going natural, was told i should go back to straight hair coz now i look more like an African(am light skinned and have really kinky 4b hair) WTF???

Anonymous said...

Not to say white skin is bad but just to give one positive (and scientific) aspect about African skin that NUMEROUS women don't know and should be proud of.As dark skinned people we generally produce more melanin and oil in our skin so A-we can thoroughly go bask in that sun with minimal risk of skin cancer and B-the natural oils produced make our skins age less faster. I think that's why @nancy mwai was praising the really dark skinned girls on their skin type. They produce most in terms of natural oils hence the smooth appearance with minimal wrinkles. Give a look out to the darker sudanese women/men who are (saying it as it is)considered "unattractive" they have the moooost beautiful skin!!! And they age really well! This is to not to put down the light skinned people at all because everyone has there own form of beauty, its just to highlight the things we ignore because we are brainwashed to think dark is ugly

Lundi/ Shedho/ Chela said...

Hey, thanks for this piece!! Couldn't have come at a better time.. I was just having a conversation about this issue with my gals yesterday.. Am a darkskinned, natural haired woman... See, my mom is darkskinned, my pops is the exact opposite.. Very lightskinned.. My younger brother is the same as my dad... When people see us together, they assume I am his chick.. Lol.. I have grown up all my life hearing comments like "You're pretty for a darkskinned gal" or "Look at Allen (my small bro) he's soo cute... You guys look alike, imagine now if you were brown like him, men would be all over you!"...NKT!!! or "Niaje black beauty"... SMH.. These Westy Kanges.. Mscheew! Nhu, I live in Canada now and I am amazed at the experience here... For one, white people compliment me more than my brothers and sisters.. Its amazing... I have never heard a single brotha tell me I am beautiful as opposed to tens of white people.. (Both men and women... One of my "friends" here is from Rwanda.. You should hear how she belittles another Rwandese tribe coz apparently her tribe are "usually tall, have long noses and are light skinned like Ethiopians"... Upon seeing pics of my boyfriend she comments "But he's lightskinned!!" So I asked her if people should now date according to their complexion.. Can you believe this? Disgusting really... And then it's usually the African gals who tell me that I should straighten my hair, relax it coz I look like a "Rastaman or those activists" Meanwhile my jungu friends are so fascinated by my natural hair, sometimes I allow them to touch it:D...I've just learnt to keep my head up and not listen to such comments... Me thinks Africans (obviously not all..Ahem!) have really low self esteem.. Actually there was a study done and the African continent came up as having the least self-esteem :(.. And I also think there is a link between this and our levels of poverty.. The moment we wake up and start appreciating each other and ourselves for who we are, then we are gonna start developing ourselves...e.g supporting our musicians, designers, writers, buying our own stuff etc.
Warr! Si I have ranted???
Thanks for this gal.. Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Lundi above said it. We should appreciate ourselves more. I have also received compliments from people of other races on days when I had thrown together a hairstyle that I didn't think was special-once it was twists on own hair and another time it was matutas i.e.(large box braids).

I'm not suggesting that compliments from other races are better than people from your own. Just acknowledging that we've learned to despise certain aspects of ourselves.Someone without the same bias sees things with a fresh eye. People who throw barbs at you may be compensating for their own insecurities. Unless it's constructive criticism, ignore it.

Tiffany said...

Nyash, great post. I enjoy your blog (which I stumbled upon some time ago). I read through all of the comments, and didn't see any US representation. I'm African American and it’s some what the same in the states. For a long time the media has controlled and defined beauty. Not only that, our own people (African Americans) have scrutinized their own. Slavery has played a humongous role in this. Even after slavery, there were the Jim Crow laws, which created even more division between white and black people. (I use those terms because bathrooms, fountains, restaurants would have “WHITE ONLY” signs). But, I’m not here to give a history lecture… I’m only commenting because I blame the media.

Now, with the new found discovery of natural hair… many businesses are using natural hair’d women in their advertisements. I’m proud to say that I started my journey in October 2009. I’ve been fully natural since May 2010. However, with many African American women making the leap, there are many men that disagree with it and would much rather have a woman with relaxed hair. I love my nappy roots and wouldn’t have it any other way.

P.S – I love reading your blog, because I’m able to see the similarities of the US and Africa. 

kinky_lockz said...

great piece Nyash! parts of me would like to blame the media but then again i think we have fed into this monster. i find it interesting that the largest consumers of brand names like gucci or ysl are blacks and yet they do not market their products to us. they get all their promotion from black actors/musicians like Kanye West (the mainstream rapper) and Beyonce (the token light skin girl).

i know the whole "shade" debate exists in every race (Indians and Asians, Redheads/ blondes/ brunetes, stereotypical Italian guido's) but as an African i have never seen it more perpetuated than in our own communities. i had a roommate's boyfriend tell me that he turned down a girl because she was pretty but not "redbone". when i asked how "dark" was she, he responded like me. the dude was ignorant but i knew what he was saying came from views held within our society. and thus it dictated the whole dating game in university. ironically, the only girls who "got away" with being of a dark-skinned complexion were the Africans because it made them 'exotic' like Alek Wek. does this even make sense?!

the divisiveness in our community is frustrating. i'm sick of it all. i watch videos on natural hair on youtube and i get angered by ladies who try to distinguish african-american hair from african hair. the reality is that you can find "afro-textured/kinky/coarse/tightly curled/bi-racial" hair among any race. natural hair should not have a colour/race or curl pattern preference. i don't care if my hair grows up instead of falling on my shoulders. it's what grows out of my head that makes it beautiful!

and on another point i made earlier today somewhere else online: i'm sick of people bashing african-owned salons in the west. I know if I go into ANY salon where the stylist is more concerned with the final look than the steps in between and caring for my hair then there's going to be tears. Unfortunately SOME people within our community still view our natural hair as unkept, hard to manage and requiring lots of heat, chemicals or weaves/wigs to cover up. They are doing what they are used to..what they do to their own hair.. what we were letting them do before we knew better.

end point: We need to educate one another and hold our heads high. more confidence and affirmation! i feel like us women, black women specifically, are continuously overlooked because we do not see ourselves as the prize. to think if we stopped to tell a sister she was pretty, and told our children they were excellent and didn't put up with ignorance (like this bullsh*t about single, black and can't get a man) then perhaps we could truly embody our phenomenal-ness!

Nyachomba said...

@ Everyone!! Your comments are really appreciated!! Its so good that we can have a positive debate on the blog and share our opinions and the best thing is that we all think alike. You all have raised very good point..I must note that we all agree that we should appreciate our beauty in all its diversity and encourage each other to love every kink in our hair...every colour that we come in from ebony to pink, every curve on our bodies and especially how far we have come as Africans, African Americans, South Americans, West Indians, Aborigines All us Darkies (hehehehe). We shall endeavour to keep coming up with posts like these to get guys talking but to also encourage each other that we are absolutely stunning!

Anonymous said...

In high school, I always thought lighter skinned chics with longer hair had an "easier" time at social events. I think it might have slightly affected my confidence because I wasn't particularly light and my hair was about .5cm long.

But I think oftentimes it's a self fulfilling prophesy - I expected the boys not to notice me cos I was dark(er) skinned and had short hair, it affected my confidence and how I related to them, they didn't notice me and then I blamed it back on the hair - if that makes sense. But of course, I am not 16 anymore and I think if we work harder at being comfortable in our own skins (darker, lighter, bigger, skinnier, flat-chested, big-chested etc), it does tons for our overall attraction. I remember, still in high school, there was a chic who was much darker than I was (which by those days standards meant she ought to have been a pariah) and she had an extremely vibrant social life. SO as everyone has already said...I really don't think it's about the skin we are in, than the way we perceive it.

Nyachomba said...

@Anonymous Thank you so much..I think all of us have certain things that get us included. I must say that I have had my share of times when I felt awful about myself but now when I feel down..I always tell myself I am confident and if person can be shallow enough to look down on me because of a physical trait then...ha! they are not worth my time LOL. You can definitely tell a woman with confidence and we should all hold our heads high and embrace everything about ourselves with pride and it shall definitely show

Anonymous said...

Gurl, you are spot on!! Every example you’ve given I can attest to and I’m in my early 20’s so you know such misconceptions are still going around! My friends even have a term for the lighter girls who get more attention, the LSB (Light Skinny Bitches). Even if they are not skinny they are still tagged with the label because they are light skinned. I personally currently attribute this to neo-colonialism, but whatever caused it, has been sustaining it. I only hope Africans themselves can see the beauty in their skin and appreciate it. Black is so beautiful!

Anonymous said...

Check out to see what I mean about the LSB label.

THEBYBLE said...

oh nice post, i have made an article about this subject "métisse le nouveau noir" --> "half raced or lighter is the new black"

I think all the medias impose to world a skin model (lighter) or black, africa, is more than a only one skin colour.
They are difference between afro american natives. They are differences between black people in France. They are différence between people in Africa: a somalian don't look like a nigerian, a nigerian don't look like a senegalese etc.

Nyachomba said...

@Thogi..Thanks for the comment and welcome lol...Its very irritating when light skinned people are always treated as prettier than black people...its time we got rid of this. Black is proper beautiful and we need to keep reminding ourselves. Thanks for the link
@Thebyble...Your post is very interesting..I think we are better off celebrating our similarities than our differences...Africa has such diverse people and I think thats our unique selling point.

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