Colour Code: What Shade Of Black?
Last year I spent some time in a part of south central Asia. I would hesitate to call these people racists but they do have a pretty down trodden view of a dark skin tone. Everyone in the TV adverts is fair-skinned. They even have skin products that block out the darkening effects of the sun and make the skin much fairer. And it’s a thriving business. All the big western cosmetic companies that make millions from selling tanning lotions in the west make just as much money, if not more, selling products that do the exact opposite on this side of the globe.
I was not sure who was more surprised at this; me or these white Europeans I was with. They would not pass up an opportunity to lay in the sun to top up their tan. The locals however found it absurd that people in the west would even pay to go on the sunbeds. And their concern was not because of the health risk related to the constant exposure to UV rays; rather, they found a pale skin colour to be much more desirable than a tan.
Apart from Alek Wek, I am struggling to think of any other very dark skinned female fashion icon. I think our standard of beauty as Africans and black people, has a leaning towards a fair skin tone. It is what we see on TV and in the lads’ magazines that shapes this view. Beyonce, Nikki Minaj and Rihanna look whiter with each new music video. I checked the colour settings on my TV twice this week already, so it cannot be that. And I’ve had my eyes checked too – well that is only because I wanted an excuse to buy myself one of those cool Ray Ban glasses – but it turns out my sight is impeccable.
So Hollywood favours a tan, Bollywood a pale skin but what does Nollywood say? Is it Alek or Bey, licorice or caramel? Personally, I like a bag of M&Ms.
By Maclean Arthur