So, I've recently been binge watching Chrissie videos on Youtube. And not simply because she is the owner of this fine publication, but for once, Youtube has gotten its' algorithm together by finally providing me with content I care about. The videos that resonated with me most, however, were the ones about corrective dark skin promotion, and specifically corrective, but we'll delve into that later. And as I began throwing around ideas of what I wanted this article to be about, I realized that in my twenty-one years of living, I can still count the number of times I've seen dark skin black women perfectly promoted.
Now, I may have mentioned this in another article, but I cannot thank my amazing mother for ensuring that I was positively promoted in my own home, before it was done in schools, in magazines, and in movies. Hell, she promoted me with no expectation of them doing so, so whether they did it or not, I was already covered, go mama! From filling my white Barbie cake topper in with a brown crayola, because there were no Black ones available, to only buying the Sasha Bratz dolls with Afros, my mom played no games about making sure I always saw myself in a positive light.
As I got older and more into fashion, I used to fawn over Vogue, Elle, Instyle, and Seventeen magazine more enthusiastically than anyone else I knew. These models, these women, that made up the pages' content, became a source of inspiration. From the way haute couture fell effortlessly on their bodies, to their perfectly coiffed hair, these were the looks I wanted to emulate. The only problem was they never looked like me.
Now mind you, I've never wanted to be any other skin color than I am. Remember all the representation I talked about earlier? My mom really did her job, because I have never had a negative relationship with my skin, unlike the unfortunate realities of many of my dark skinned sisters.
However, at the ripe ages of 15 and 16, when I arrogantly and stupidly, I might add, thought I had it all together about they way the world works, I thought I had it together about how much skin color matters too. "Oh my gosh ma, they're. Just. Clothes. It's literally not that deep, It doesn't matter whose wearing them, I'm not looking at the model's skin, I'm looking at what's on it, my goodness." I remembering sharing these frustrations with her when she would comment about my magazines and such.
But being the understanding mom she is, she knew she would have to leave well enough alone and I would have to find out the harder way. At age seventeen, I really began to get into Pinterest, and I mean heavy. It is still one of my top five apps today, and really helps me with my entire life, without exaggeration. Unfortunately, at this time, ninety percent of the women that I had pinned were white. It wasn't about their skin tone though...right? It was about the clothes, about the fashion.
Well, what else goes hand in hand with fashion? Beauty, of course. So in addition to my many style inspiration boards, I also had a makeup inspiration board; one for prom and another for general makeup looks. But I remember this one distinct day, I looked at one of these girls and said to myself, "As soon as I get this acne cleared, grow my hair, and get my braces off, I'm going to look just like her." And I felt sick to my stomach soon after.
There it was, just like mama said. Even the strongest of us, those who were raised to know that every melanated inch of themselves is beautiful, can fall prey to the lack of promotion for us if not careful. I was so disgusted that I had even thought of something like that. And so sad too. Like I had ruined all of the things that my mom instilled in me. But the truth is, I didn't. I had just fallen prey, trying to act on my young "adult" opinions. I had fallen prey, but I refused to fall prisoner.
I deleted every single Pinterest board I had. Every. Single. One. I told my mom about it too. I went back to her, apologized, and thanked her for always making sure I saw myself. I realized she wasn't trying to nit pick about every little thing I was interested in when it came to fashion or belittle it.
But she was trying to make me understand that in these magazines, these ads, these TY spots, if there are plenty of women that are being promoted as being beautiful, but none look like me I need to question it. I need to question it and challenge it because I am just as, if not more, beautiful, smart, and talented as any of these non-dark skinned women.
With all of the token dark skin promotion in fashion, not only has it to be normalized, but not all of it is corrective. I used to feel guilty as a child sometimes, because even as a child I would be suspicious of the Tyra Banks and Bi-racial models, that the media told me represented me. I should be glad to have something, right? They're all black so it's okay, right? Wrong! As dark skinned women we should demand, not only the baseline physical representation of us, but the correct representation. We are not all bald headed and from Africa (I'll touch on that in another article), and we do not all need weaves and wigs, to be perceived as beautiful. We should be able to be represented, just as fashionable and natural as these non-dark skinned models are.
So, I recycled (I'll be writing an article about that as well) most of my fashion magazines, with the exception of the publications with my favorite articles, clothing (with no models) spreads, and of course, corrective dark skin representation. I un-bookmarked all of the white fashion bloggers, and after scrounging the internet, replaced them with more fashionable and relatable dark skin women. And of course, after sorting through an extremely bias search algorithm, I re-arranged my Pinterest into a homage to blackness and black fashion/beauty excellence.
Now, I'm not saying that anyone has to go to the lengths of what I did. I think it's perfectly fine to pull inspiration from people who don't look like you, other races do it all the time with black people, of course the bulk of this practice is cultural appropriation, but I digress, another article. What I am saying is that, you have to consistently check yourself, and make sure you're being seen, because it is never just about the clothes. However this is what worked for me, and made me a happier, stronger, and more socially aware black woman.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to see ourselves as more than TWAs, hyper-sexualized, and many more stereotypical and monolithic portrayals with dark skin women in fashion. And that's not to disregard that those representations don't reflect reality, but have we not seen enough? It's time for smart, sexy, natural, airbrushed, and feminine portrayals of dark skin women. And in an industry that is supposed to be about innovation and forward movement, the real question is why haven't we seen more of this normalized, not tokenized, yet?
And there is definitely nothing wrong with exclusivity. Why does every other group of women get to preserve who they are, and fight for themselves? But we're expected to fight for everyone else and still be disenfranchised? No, no, and no. Take this magazine for example, it is for dark skin women, and by dark skin women. I would rather read this magazine than the majority of the ones you can find in your local grocery store.
Why? Because it is for us and by us. I see myslef in every article and image. And until these magazines, brands, and runway shows begin to normalize our image with the same energy they normalize the money we spend with them, I will keep directing my attention and coin to corrective promotion in fashion, and beyond, for dark skinned women, by dark skin women.
Princess-Zenita is an aspiring poet, author, playwright, screenwriter, blogger, editor, freelancer, and lover of the art of language. To see some of the beautiful dark skin women she takes inspiration from, you can follow her on Pinterest @theprincessispauping.