I used make-up to appear lighter – until I redefined black beauty for myself
Colorism is more than being known as a cockroach, having guys examine my nether regions to a medium uncommon steak, or seeing my weigh down who prefer lighter-skinned women over me. No, it goes deeper than that. Colorism has programmed me to view myself as everything but lovely, or even a woman.
Masculinity, ugliness, and undesirability are traits that I actually have identified within a view that early life. I turned into a tomboy and being a dark-skinned black girl handiest added some other layer to any discomfort I had regarding my appearance.
As a younger teenager, I became by no means comfy wearing anything too feminine or skin-revealing. Hoodies, jeans, and shoes were the handiest matters in my closet. And yet, my bedroom was the alternative of this mindset: I had posters of the Jonas Brothers and the Twilight forged plastered over my walls, a huge hot red Hello Kitty blanket laid across my mattress and a tremendous series of Barbie and Bratz dolls. It became a stark comparison to the lady who specially hung out with boys to play video games and soccer, and who appreciated riding motorcycles around Philadelphia.
Just like another kid inside the mid-2000s, I watched the Disney Channel religiously. The shows bolstered the perception that the white – or at least mild – character turned into always the primary protagonist, or the girl worthy of affection. Shows with black casts additionally had a colorism problem: the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and My Wife And Kids had changed their dark-skinned female characters with lighter women, questioning no one would be aware. Meet the Browns, Sister, Sister, The Proud Family, That’s So Raven all had younger black woman characters that I cherished however seemed not anything like me. It made me query whether or now not I may be deemed “girly” sufficient to ever be one of those women who deserves a whirlwind romance.
As I was given older, I began to experience greater self-conscious. At 15, I wanted to be pretty and fit in with the alternative ladies, but I didn’t recognize how or wherein to start. I started out to observe YouTube makeup tutorials and wiggled myself more and more into the confines of what is taken into consideration female by wearing an increasing number of makeup and being tedious approximately my hair (and I virtually liked it).
I could wear long, immediately weave, a full face of make-up – foundation, concealer, spotlight, contour, closely filled-in brows, lipstick. I might spotlight most of my face with a lighter coloration of concealer, basically lightening my skin with makeup and masking who I clearly changed into. Soon, my performance started out to sense like a resentful apology for having the form of pores and skin society hated.
I was constantly searching for a balance that in no way even existed: “Maybe if I wear my hair straight I can look extra female and put on much less make-up. Maybe if I put on heels and go Nina Bo’nina Brown with my makeup I can break out with carrying my fro today.” I became viewing my features as something to change in for one another, but it was always my pores and skin tone that changed into the basis of my issues.
Just in time to shop me came the Black Lives Matter movement – in 2015, I determined to shave my hair off and move the greater mile with redefining black beauty for myself. I unlearned dangerous stereotypes about black women and found out how representation impacts us psychologically. It finally dawned on me that the whitewashed media I were ingesting become reinforcing a shape of femininity based on a European idea of womanhood – being fragile, dainty, submissive, tender – which become overseas to me. Having a high voice, lengthy hair and extra feminine apparel wasn’t something that I wanted to embody any greater.
The black women I grew up with had traits that could be taken into consideration masculine, pretty the opposite of that European widespread of femininity: they’d rich voices and skin to suit, an ability to be absolutely unbiased, a presence that forced you to sit up straight and put up to them.
And even still, they would constantly make time to get their hair performed, visit the nail salon, purchase new heels and had active love lifestyles. This changed into the brand of femininity that I had come to realize and pick out with as it has the nice of each world: there has been by no means any need to choose between being a mousy stay-at-domestic wife or being a greased-up blue-collar employee who worked until their fingers bled.
What I had needed all alongside turned into right in front of me: my mom, my aunts, my grandmother, all self-enough and respected women who knew how to protect and take care of themselves, by no means wanting a person for whatever except it changed into to drag out their chair at dinner. This precise form of beauty, this duality, is the very essence of black womanhood.