For as long as I can remember, my peer group has always consisted of mostly Filipinos. Growing up, and even sometimes now, the one thing that everyone seemed to always point out was our contrasting skin colors. A lot of my friends had lighter skin, and I always heard remarks such as “You’re so dark!” or “How do you get so dark?” as if it was something to be ashamed of. At first, this never really bothered me because it was something that was always said to me (which is the reason we should stop normalizing toxic Flip culture and standards of beauty!!!!!). But eventually, these remarks began affecting my self-esteem and how I saw myself as a person. My skin colour became something I was hyper-aware of. I always felt a bit awkward in the summer months whenever I would be wearing shorts and tanks every day while my friends would be wearing pants, jackets or close toed shoes because they didn’t want to get dark.
The sad thing is, I’m sure my friends don’t mean anything by their comments. And I definitely don’t hold it against them! The thing is, this is something that’s almost like common sense in Filipino culture. Whiter = better. This belief isn’t a problem exclusive to Filipinos, as I know many southeast Asian cultures promote the same thing. It’s just crazy to, me that in this day and age, someone’s worth and someone’s beauty can all be boiled down to the colour of their skin… It’s not okay!!!!
Besides the women in my family, I never had a role model that looked like me. Even when I turn to Filipina or Asian celebrities that I look up to, I can’t think of one person who had darker skin. It’s unfortunate. But I think things are looking up for the upcoming generation. I’m seeing so much more movements on social media and print that are helping empower the underrepresented women (see #MagandangMorenx, or @from.label on Instagram – a label started by one of my favourite Instagrammers, Jeanne Grey!). I think exposure to these types of movements is so crucial, because as Jeanne Grey says herself, no one is really talking about these things. Unfair expectations of beauty may be something we think about, but not many people take action to make a change because these expectations have been engrained in us for generations.
As I get older, I am understanding how important representation is. For this reason, I hope to always stick up for those affected by these standards of beauty, and become an advocate for all my sunkissed sistahs and bruthas out there. No matter what, people will be stuck in their ways and still believe that darker skin is less beautiful. And that’s okay. I’m not here to change that (although I would like to!). I love talking about makeup and beauty products, but I’ve come to realize that this issue really means something to me and it’s a topic I need to speak up and out about. I will continue to use my platform to help my fellow morenas see the beauty in our complexion. Brown is beautiful, and not something to be ashamed of. I haven’t always loved my skin colour, but I do now. I love the way gold jewellery looks on me, and I think bright colours look stunning on me. And I always get a kick out of the fact that white people are envious of my “year round tan”.
So just know that you are not alone. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but it also just take one person to start change! Let’s bask in the beauty that is our brown skin, and not be ashamed of it. Let’s use our voices to help build confidence in those who haven’t found it yet. Also, let’s all be more aware of the words we use when talking to other people. Don’t make remarks about someone’s appearance if what you are commenting on can’t be changed in ten seconds. Words have weight, so use them to uplift others rather than dragging them down. If you have any stories or experiences with me, I would love to hear them!