Beauty transcends across gender, race, age and ethnicity. A person can be considered beautiful just by their physical appearances and through their actions. However, opinions about beauty differ when it comes to the colour of the skin. In some parts of the world, beauty is perceived as “the fairer you are, the more attractive you’ll be”. I’ve had my fair share of struggles and hardship in my pursuit to be confident in my own skin. Using my platform, as a writer to inspire people, this is my story followed by three lovely ladies who have joined in my pursuit to break the stereotype.
Growing up, I’ve always been the ugly duckling in my household which translates in my mind as the darkest in my family. I was so dark in the family to the point I had a nickname which was “kareppi”. It’s a Tamil word which directly translates to ‘black beauty’. At that time, I hated being called by my nickname and certainly didn’t want to associate myself with being dark or black. I’ve had aunties and uncles come up to me and tease me for my dark complexion features. Well, that didn’t help me at all.
My confidence level dropped extremely due to how I was always feeding myself with negative thoughts.
I was born into the world with amazing parents with three siblings (including myself) from an ethnicity of a Chindian dad and an Indian mum. Growing up, my elder sister was the fairest in the family as she got the genes of a Chindian skin colour. People would normally compare me to my sister and always say “You sure you both sisters ah? Why the colour different one?”
Some would stare intensely at the both of us as though they have the power to scan through our ancestry. What made my confidence in the drain is when people start taking notice of how pretty my sister was because of her fair complexion. Even one of my sister’s friend came up to me and told directly to my face that my sister was prettier than I am. I gotta be honest, that s**t hurts! That’s where I knew people’s mentality about beauty has become so vague.
Through the years, I was often ridiculed too by my friends about how dark I was and would always suggest me to try whitening skin products. As a teenager finding myself, I took what they said personally and it bothered me for many years. I was not happy with who I was and my beauty. My confidence level dropped extremely due to how I was always feeding myself with negative thoughts. For example, “I am dark, nobody will think I am beautiful enough”, or “I’m never going to be seen by people anyway because of my skin colour.”
During my college years, I have a massive amount of breakout on my face. Soon the pimple would turn into a black scar. It was so bad back that I resorted to using a bleaching cream on my face to whiten my complexion and the scar itself. Time flies by and I became fairer and received a lot of attention from people around me about how pretty I look. Some of my dark skinned friends even ask me “how to be fair and pretty like you?”. Honestly, I felt so reluctant to answer them because the new-found fair skin I’ve got now is not the real me and I didn’t want to drag my insecure dark skinned friends to join what society thinks what is beautiful. I just couldn’t help but wonder why my skin colour before was viewed by many as inferior to that of my lighter-skinned friends.
With the ‘fame’ that comes with my fairer skin, my confidence level rose tremendously. I could be telling people I feel pretty but deep down I was just lying to myself. All in all, the emptiness in my heart struck me.
Heck, even I’m receiving different treatment during my before and after bleaching cream usage. Sometimes, people sitting at the counter of a bank would discriminate me by asking me an extra question than other fairer people didn’t receive. It’s as though I have the face of a thief. Pfft.
I have learnt that when you know who you are on the inside, it radiates on the outside.
Soon, I stopped using the skin whitening product months ago and have learnt to embrace my beautiful skin colour as it is. It taught me the hard way of loving myself but it was worth it. Besides, I feel stronger and more confident now to be in my own skin as I’ve matured into being comfortable with me! I have learnt that when you know who you are on the inside, it radiates on the outside. That’s what makes you beautiful as a person and I certainly don’t need a bleaching face cream to prove that.
Skin colour has always been the epitome of teasing from her friends during Vicky Lai’s high school days. She received backlash from most of her peers because she doesn’t qualify as the typical Chinese “fair” colour on her skin. Here is her story.
I am not like most Chinese girl as my skin is more tan than the usual fair skin colour. My skin was the “darkest” in the class plus with the fact that I wasn’t that good at socializing with other people. That in itself made me a target to be a victim of bullying. Due to that massive amount of bullying I’ve gotten from school, I struggled with making friends in school because of my not-up-to trend skin colour that isn’t fair as what the media portray the celebrities on screen. Plus, back then Taiwanese trend plays a huge role in my primary school too.
As time goes by, I just accepted it eventually. It has come to the realization that learning about myself, I can’t change people’s opinion and perception of me. The fitting into societal norms on what is right and wrong is tough for me and somehow I believe that there will always be haters and negative comments from the rest. I always kept my head held high despite my skin colour and started my confidence streak at the age of 16. It was a long process to discover to accept and love myself and always to turn the other cheek about what others think of me. At the end of the day, it’s how my mind perceives of what is beautiful and I know that’s me. My advice, you were never born to fit in so always unleash that confident side in you no matter what you’re doing.
As a vocal person when it comes addressing the importance of loving yourself in any skin colour you’re in, Thanusha Ravindran championed her way to come to the truth after so many years, which is beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. Let’s find out more about her struggle to search for what is beautiful in her life.
Growing up, even among family members, the colour of my skin was never addressed in a pleasant tone. Like ‘My gosh, you’ve gone darker’. Having acne in the years that followed made it all worse. I was raised amidst a community that frowned upon dark skin tones. Fair skin seemed to be the primary prerequisite to beauty. That made me feel awful, left out – basically nature’s misfit.
Among friends, unintentional – and sometimes intentionally – the colour of my skin was turned into a joke. The most popular incident being turning off the light in a room and wailing ‘Thanusha, please smile, we can’t see where you are’. At first, I acted macho and laughed along with them, but the day came when I burst into tears and spoke up about how such jokes have hurt my esteem.
Receiving different treatment was a definite yes for me due to my not so fair skin colour. Not sure if that’s to do with being Indian or dark exactly, but, I have had experiences where people had to dust their children off because I touched them. Trust me, at 10, I felt like dirt. Even through my teens, there were situations where I had been deliberately ignored or was refused a certain service because I ‘looked’ like I could not afford it. Also, I was often told I shouldn’t wear certain colours, or should not reveal too much meat because I was dark.
Why is it ok for a man to be tall, DARK, and handsome, but not cool for a woman to be dark?
The lightbulb moment struck me when I realised I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t the only one being picked on and put down for this. And that’s when I thought to myself enough was enough. At around the same time, the ‘unfair and lovely’ campaign was also receiving its due hype, and that fuelled me further in my quest to break this obnoxious stereotype against dark-skinned (especially) women. Why is it ok for a man to be tall, DARK, and handsome, but not cool for a woman to be dark?
I started looking in the mirror and seeing myself in a whole new light. I know I am not perfect, and I know that there are many beautiful people out there but I also know that beauty is subjective, beauty is innate, and that every one of us has got something beautiful within us waiting to radiate. I fell in love with this new perspective; I nurtured it; preached it, and lived it. Today, I can proudly claim that I love my sunkissed, caramel skin tone.
My advice to everyone out there: whatever skin tone you’re born with, pale to fair to mid-toned to dark, you are beautiful. This is the 21st century, judging someone’s intellect and beauty based on their skin tones would be the shallowest thing to do. So with that said, don’t let skin tone affect your judgements of others and yourself. It’s really only skin-deep. And remember, everyone, I mean everyone, has something beautiful to offer. Look for that beauty, embrace it, uplift it and make someone feel a lot better about themselves. Including yourself!
For Pricilla Mark, growing up being a dark skin person meant that your whole life revolves around aunties giving you whitening remedies. These are some of the many things she has to struggle to find acceptance for herself. Let’s see how she manage to champion over her own insecurities.
In all honesty, you wouldn’t expect the people that brought you into this world to have an issue with skin tone, but they did initially. That was mainly due to the pressure they received from their extended family. If I was to go out in the sun for a long period of time, they would make sure I would cover up so I don’t get burnt. Plus, the constant whitening remedies and creams, they would make me use, certainly made me felt like I was too dark.
As a dark-skinned girl, who had tons of acne, the only thing that registered in my head was, okay so I’m disgusting.
Then it got worst once I hit my teen years, I would hear negative comments from family, for example, “Shorts. If I and a friend would be heading out, and we’re both wearing shorts, they would tell me things like I shouldn’t wear shorts cause my skin around my thighs are dark hence it looks ugly. To be more real with you, I still receive comments like this today. Hearing things like this took a negative effect on my self-esteem. Receiving comments such as your thighs are ugly because they’re dark, acne is disgusting, and being dark was related to being just being unattractive. As a dark-skinned girl, who had tons of acne, the only thing that registered in my head was, okay so I’m disgusting.
That in itself affected me during high school by isolating myself from others except for one girl that I will talk to and that’s about it. I would not talk to anyone, presentations and group work gave me anxiety. I’ve met a few people from school, and they’ve all told me the same thing, I was this awkward quiet girl.
“Bro you should ask her why she so black’ Those words stung, and I still remember that incident until this very day.
I kept my distance from people in general, I just did not want to bother people with my presence, and I did not want to “disgust” people. If someone were to stare at me, I’d get super anxious, wondering if he/she notices the flaws on my face or in general wonder what are they thinking about. It got to the point, I’d be careful how my mouth moves when I speak, how I look like when I eat or smile or even laugh. I started to control my movements, so I don’t come off as ugly or weird. In all honesty, I still do this until this very day. I get super insecure or uncomfortable with the opposite gender.
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I’ve been called “blacky”, “burnt”, and “ugly”. The one story that resonates with me is, I was about 16. Okay, so I had this friend, and he’s super tall, we were by the cafeteria, I asked playfully “Why are you so tall “, and another guy who happens to be walking behind us overheard us. He responded “Bro you should ask her why she so black’. Those words stung, and I still remember that incident until this very day.
Let’s not get started on the rejection, the number of men who have turned me down because I was “dark”. I often get comments like these so often, I became a little numb to those words. Besides, when it comes plays and drama class, it’s always the fairer ones that would get the roles.
There was never really a lightbulb moment, and until this very day, I still do have my insecurities. What started it all was, I knew I loved fashion, and after all the negative comments I’ve gotten over the years, I knew this was going to be a risk and I was going to have to prepare myself if there were any negative comments. My passion outweighed my insecurities.
It started with simple OOTDs shots on Instagram, which progressed to makeup tutorials. I was surprised by the positive feedback I got. People started telling me really nice things, received loads of compliments, and eventually, I started believing it. Six years later, I’ve learned to accept myself for who I am, and I love every inch of who I am, and that includes my flaws.
“If you have nothing nice to say, then don’t say anything”
Surround yourself with people who lift you up, who encourage you, people who are positive about life. Also, choose people who are honest with you as well, they are brave enough to tell you when something is wrong that needs fixing. Basically constructive critics. I know people say, what you worth, does not depend on others, but sometimes it helps to get you there. With that being said, build each other up by being supportive, sending out compliments, and encouraging someone. This would not cost a dime. I strongly believe in this “If you have nothing nice to say, then don’t say anything”. Your second opinion might be a permanent scar for another. So always be careful what you say and how you say it.
For those who are insecure about their skin colour and feel they are not beautiful, I hope these stories inspire you daily and build each other up instead of breaking people down. Lastly, always love and cherish the “blacky” and “kareppi” side in you because dark is also beautiful.