“You’re pretty for a dark skinned girl.” I’ve been hearing this all of my life. It’s not a compliment. In fact it’s quite insulting, and I’m about tired of it. I didn’t always find this statement to be insulting though. That’s because I didn’t love myself. Let me explain.
Light Skin Was In
I’m going to take you guys back to the 90’s for a minute, to my teen years. Light skin was very much in. If you were light skinned with long, “good” hair, you were automatically considered pretty. It didn’t matter if you had bad skin. Crooked teeth. A boyish figure. If you were light skinned, you were God’s gift to the earth. At least with the boys in my neighborhood. The lighter girls were always their first choice.
Seeing this caused me to be insecure and I had to find ways to compensate for my dark skin. I’ve been doing hair since the age of twelve, so I always made sure that my hair looked nice. My parents kept me fly as long as I kept my grades up, so I was always rocking the latest gear. But whenever I got into arguments or roasts with the light skinned girls, the first thing they would do is call me “blacky”. Or “you’re so black that (insert insult here).” This always hurt my feelings almost to the point of tears. Why? Because I didn’t like my skin. I’ve come to the realization that no matter how nice my hair looked, or how fly my clothes were, inside I felt that I would never be considered as pretty as the light skinned girls.
As I got older and the boys started noticing me, that’s when I started to get the “You’re pretty for a dark skinned girl”. Back then I considered it to be a compliment as I didn’t know any better. The boys were calling me pretty and paying me attention, and that’s all that mattered. It wasn’t until after I had my son that I really started to think about the statement.
Learning to Love Me
I remember this one day when my son was a few weeks old and I wasn’t wearing any makeup since I didn’t have the time to apply it. I had a deep tan, and my skin was a rich mahogany brown just like it gets every Summer. My Nana stared at me for a long time and said “I don’t know why you wear all that foundation on your face girl. You don’t realize how beautiful your skin is? You don’t need it.” I took a long hard look in the mirror and realized that she was right.
All through high school and my early college years I wore caked on foundation that wasn’t quite my color, always a little lighter. I thought even a tad bit lighter would make me prettier. Those simple words from my Nana made me take a step back and take a good look at myself, and helped me to love myself completely, dark skin and all. I’m not pretty for a dark skinned girl, I’m simply pretty.
Black is Beautiful
I realized how beautiful my dark skin is. I started wearing less foundation in shades that actually matched my skin. And even went without makeup more often. I no longer felt inferior to light skinned girls. Being called blacky didn’t hurt my feelings anymore. I no longer gave thanks to the guys that thought it was okay to tell me I’m pretty for a dark skinned girl, I instead challenged them. I’d ask what exactly is that supposed to mean? Am I not supposed to be pretty because my skin is dark? I’ve never really gotten an answer though, just a surprised look that I called them out on it.
To this day men still tell me that I’m pretty for a dark skinned girl and it’s annoying af. I live in a neighborhood with a heavy West Indian population, and the men tend to refer to me as “darky”, as if it’s a compliment. “Aye darky, you’re a beauty gal.” It reminds of the days when I was called blacky to put me down, but these days it doesn’t hurt me at all because I now love the skin that I’m in.
I can’t believe that in 2016 black women are still being divided by our complexion. Enough is enough. Even when it comes down to something as simple as ads for natural hair brands. Lighter skinned women with looser curl patterns are always included front and center, while a dark skinned women with type 4 hair may get thrown in for good measure. Society tends to have strong opinions that dark skinned women can’t wear certain things because of the color of our skin. Take wearing makeup for instance. That lipstick is too bright for your skin, it doesn’t look nice.
I love bright lip colors and wear whatever I like, no matter others opinions. I love to showcase bright lip colors on this blog. To show darker skinned women that these colors look great on us and help them to be more confident in their skin. I love my richly hued melanin, golden brown in the winter, and rich mahogany in the Summer. I love the skin that I’m in and I want my sisters of all complexions to feel the same.
Don’t let anyone make you feel inferior. Love yourself Queen, you’re beautiful!
I loved this blog because growing up I too felt the same way about my skin tone compared to everyone else around me, now that I am almost 30 I am finding something new about myself and am loving it and embracing it I also teach me 7 yr old that she too is beautiful, she would come home from school asking why she doesn’t have long hair like the other girls in which her hair is long it’s just curly so it doesn’t show so I cut my hair again so she wouldn’t have to worry about looking like anyone else. We would have short hair together.
I appreciate this blog and will share with others! Black is Beautiful!!!
I am so glad that you are teaching your daughter early on to embrace her skin and natural hair. The world can be so cruel and you have to have a tough skin, but as long as you truly love yourself inside and out, hate can’t penetrate that. Stay beautiful! xo
My mother was color struck. She didn’t like me to play outside on sunny days. My dad and uncles told me when i was very young how pretty I was so that counteracted my mothers foolishness. I realized that light skin wasn’t a reward since the light person didn’t do anything to deserve it just as I didn’t do anything bad to be dark. It’s a silly thing to be proud or ashamed of.
I’m not saying it’s anything to be proud or ashamed of. This was a learning experience for me and I’m just sharing my story in hopes that it may help someone who may be experiencing the the same thing.
Colorism is still very real in the present day, even though some people act like it doesn’t exist or don’t like to talk about. We need to teach our young girls to love themselves, and help our women who may be struggling with low self esteem to love themselves. Not everyone has someone telling them how pretty they are, and even if they do, low self esteem and insecurities can keep you from believing it.
Awesome article! I love the way you explain how your point of view evolved and became self love. Just last week a girl jokingly mentioned “light skin privilege” and “being a house slave.” I tried to control my actions and words, but in my head i was thinking “We are grown af! We are aware and educated. Why are these words still finding their way into jokes? ” Even when we know better, some people continue to use language that they’ve been taught out of laziness.
Thank you so much, Kia. I don’t understand why people find those type of jokes amusing. A house slave was still a slave and those who continue to carry on with that mentality will continue to be slaves, mentally. Our own people are our worst enemy.
Parents can only break this mindset. Parents need to sit down and have a long & sometimes painful discussion with their children. This all starts at home.. Love your blog!
Thank you so much. I agree that parents really should have a discussion with their children. It’s not something that I remember ever talking to my parents about.
Thank you for this.
Thanks Erica for this article! Being a dark skinned girl I can completely relate to your journey. I used to be insecure about my colour but now I embrace it. Dark AND beautiful, not Dark but beautiful!
You are very welcome, and Amen to that. The blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice! 😉
THANK YOU!!! Just saw your post on dark skinned women. This notion of light-skinned is better than dark has persisted in our community for years. Skin color has been used to create division btw our people since slavery. We unfortunately continue to perpetuate this handed down negativity today within our own families and communities. Like so many others, I too, have dealt with the self esteem issues and been passed up for my lighter skinned friends. Even as a 50+ adult I still notice men favoring lighter skinned women. So Sad!
You are very welcome. It is very sad that in 2016 we are still dealing with this. Even more sad that people don’t take colorism seriously and act like it doesn’t exist smh.
This was an excellent post. I agree light skin is seen as an automatic beauty booster by many in our community. Even if the girl was shapeless, bad features, etc. They were always more valuable than girls who looked like me growing up. I’m in my mid 30s now and I’m still trying to get over the mental scars., partly by seeking out girls who look like us online as a way to constantly remind myself that we are gorgeous! And btw you are gorgeous sis! This is a great post!
Thank you so much sis. Sending light your light your way. You are beautiful, as is, and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise! xo
I was fortunate to be raised by a beautiful Black woman, proud of her heritage, elegant and talented in fashion design and modeling. She competed in all those miss Black this and that events. Remember those? Even there in an all Black setting, light skin had the advantage but a Black girl at least had a shot. Those things, my Mom’s outspoken ness and determination made a huge difference in my life. Parents really have to defend the integrity and if I may say so, Black aesthetic or alter more inclusive values for their children. That colorism mess is on its way out, but the stench of it lingers!
Being black is beautiful. I grew up with some of the same issues. I remembered trying to bleached my skin but as I got older I realized how foolish it was. I then began to embrace my color until I felt I wasn’t dark enough. Still foolish thinking. Now I am older and in a place in my life that I have accepted the skin I am in. Beautiful Strong Black Woman I am. Loving the beauty of my color. Praise God.
As a white girl with slightly wavy hair I have always admired African hairstyles: afros, dreadlocks, braids, etc. I find curly hair really stunning, impressive looking and, yes, beautiful. I even got my hair permed to achieve afro look! Don’t let anyone convince you straight hair means “good hair” or you can’t look good in bright colors. In fact, you rock them!