The truth is that life is hard on dark skinned women and not everyone can deal with the discrimination that comes from being
several tones away from what’s widely acceptable.
The Nigerian obsession with light skin has been well documented and it is common now to see women with different tinges of black, pink and green marking their skin, all telltale signs of lightening attempts.
Everyone claims not to understand the trend; “Love your skin”, “Be proud of your colour” are the messages people scream aloud but a subtle yet much clearer voice is heard saying “Lighter is better”.
When Dencia’s product “Whitenicious” was released, I was sufficiently outraged, like many other people were. I joined conversations about how she wasn’t proud of her skin and was intent on taking advantage of those who were like her.
But then my mind, unforgetful sponge that it is, cast me back to a time when I was not so different from Dencia and her “kind”. As a teenager, I hated myself, plain and simple. The only thing I thought God had gotten right about me was my brain.
For everything else I faulted him; my eyes were too small, my nose shaped like shorts, my hips too big and my skin? Gosh how I hated it. I would daydream for hours about the kind of life I would’ve had if I had been mixed race.
I’d concoct an entire family line where my father was American and my mother Costa Rican or she could be Indian and he a mixed race Yoruba man. I even got myself a name to fit the part; Natasha. I loved the sound of it. For some reason I felt that lighter skinned girls had the best of everything and it certainly seemed so a lot of the time.
Maybe if I was like them, then the boys would look at me in adoration. Maybe if my skin looked like warm chocolate milk, my boyfriend wouldn’t have cheated on me with Nadia, the half-German girl. Maybe, the guy I liked wouldn’t have chosen Mary the Asian instead of me. Maybe, just maybe.
The world constantly chooses light coloured women over dark ones. It’s there in the modelling industry, it’s there in music videos, it’s there in Hollywood. There are those dark skinned women who stand their ground and pull through, but they are the exception rather than the rule.
I managed to conquer my self-esteem issues before they did any real damage, but the main reason why I never bleached my skin, and never will, is because I’ve seen the after effects, and they’re not pretty.
I resisted bleaching not because I didn’t want lighter skin, but because I didn’t want to ruin the skin I already had and because I didn’t want to face the health risks that could arise from having bleached skin. This means that the only thing that differentiates me from the “bleachers”, is a little more foresight.
The truth is that life is hard on dark skinned women and not everyone can deal with the discrimination that comes from being several tones away from what’s widely acceptable. The reason why Nigerian, and indeed African, women will never stop bleaching, is that there’s too much pressure to do it and there’s too much to gain from being lighter skinned.
Everyone wants to be appreciated and valued and so that dark girl will lighten her skin just to attract that “fine boy” or to get that ushering job, or to secure herself at the top of a career that focuses solely on beauty. Insecurity is rampant and it is very expensive to maintain.
There are those women who love their skin and would never bleach and there are those who will continue to put money in Dencia’s pockets. The skin bleaching industry will continue to grow and people will continue to find better and better ways to do it until the results are almost seamless.
The world can stop this, of course, by taking its focus off beauty and physical appearances and starting to look at what a woman possesses on the inside. However, we all know that this will never happen. So, let the bleaching continue.