Michael Jackson-- the man, the king of pop, the legend. Not only is he famous for his dance moves and his famous songs, but he's also infamous for many things. One of which is his skin bleaching. Upon seeing pictures of him with facial discoloration most people wonder why he would do that to himself?
Why would anyone do that to themselves?
When I first heard about it, it seemed normal to me. Growing up in India, it soon became clear to me that having lighter skin color made one more beautiful.
When I was born, my grandmothers’ friends regarded me with disgust. How heart stricken they were that the child of one as fair and lovely as my mother be so wretchedly dark?
In elementary school, I took great care to shy away from the sun, to prevent any sort of tanning. I read novels about Nancy Drew and remember thinking that if only I was as light and beautiful as her, everything would be good in my life and I would finally be beautiful.
In middle school, my Indian friends and I would still lather on sunscreen before going out, trying in vain to prevent tanning. I dreaded my school picture since it was at the end of summer when I was ugliest; when I was darkest.
This whole concept is not only an issue I have found to be true in India, its one that’s very much prevalent in the United States as well. Even Cameron Russell in her TED Talk explains that in the modeling industry today, beauty is defined as being a “pretty white woman”. She explains that despite famous models of color such as Tyra and Naomi, the truth is that in 2007 it was counted that of all 677 models hired for runways, only 27 or less than 4%, were non white.
My struggle with this constant insecurity of my skin color ended when I decided to define myself in new ways. I started to realize that there was more to me that just how my physical appearance was on the outside, and there is more to everyone. In high school I found that girls are so caught up on how they look and how they are judged by both boys and girls, that they forget to focus on what really counts; your mind, your ambitions and your goals.
I found that when I started to define myself by my depth of knowledge or my kindness towards others that I found that I slowly started to appreciate all of myself, including the outside.
I started to love my skin, the golden brown is one of my favorite qualities about my face.
I love the sun, and other than the one piece outlines I get from swim team, I love the way it makes my color even richer and tanner.
For me, learning to love my skin started with learning to love the non-superficial things. It can be as simple as learning to redefine yourself, but it’s definitely not as easy as it sounds. It took me years of insecurity and dissatisfaction with myself before I finally decided to take a step back and stop comparing myself to the models, who represented just one view of beauty.
But everywhere I look, it seems that most of the famous people who are considered “beautiful” have lighter skin.
I think if we want this to change, we as a society need to redefine our outlook of beauty. But that starts with girls of color learning to redefine what they consider beautiful about themselves. Realize that beauty comes in all different shapes and sizes and colors.
I know firsthand how difficult it can be to feel like you aren’t beautiful because of your skin color and how it can take a toll on your self esteem. Teen Link is always here to help if you want to just talk it out or if you need any resources, the extra support can really help.
This is the link to the TED Talk by Cameron Russell
Here are more links on this issue: