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The Increase of Dark Skinned Representation in the Media & How We Got Here

December 24, 2019

 

It’s no secret, whether it be commercials, movies, magazines, Facebook ads etc. Dark-skinned women have become more visible to the mass media in recent years. Our visibility started to increase in phases, dating back to the 90s and early 00s. This change and shift is largely due to the voices and platforms of black women who saw a need and a disparity and decided to do something about it.

It’s interesting that in the initial phases of black women speaking up for our representation it felt, in my opinion, very disjointed. When black women began cropping up and speaking up, it felt like their opinions and wants for the black woman collective were very isolated. 

Now, in almost 2020 however, a lot of the old beefs and isolated visibility is relatively mitigated and I honestly think that the continuity, collective outcries, and basically “getting on code” of those voices speaking for the betterment of black women are the reason we are seeing so much success in our representation.

The initial media visibility for dark-skinned women weren’t always favorable. I remember watching shows on major networks as a kid and almost always seeing the dark-skinned girl relegated to being a bully, side-kick or best-friend, or the tough, sassy girl. I remember being very jealous of the types of varied representation other groups of women received because I could never really relate to any of the characters who looked like me.

Yes, during that time we began to receive much more visibility and started to actually receive roles in the mass media. And not for nothing since many of the roles, though very stereotypical, launched many careers of dark-skinned women like Lupita N’yongo. 

However impactful these roles were to black actors and actresses, it still only really portrayed dark-skinned women in a very limited light; and since the late 00s and 2010s we began to question these roles and started to realize that visibility within itself, isn’t enough. 

I think that we are currently  in the so called “Final frontier” in terms of our representation where black women are no longer accepting just any representation, nor are we allowing ourselves to supplanted by other groups of women when it comes to that representation. I love that we are demanding more than the slave narrative, or the side-kick, ride or die, or non-romantic character in every media depiction.

Not only are we demanding it but we are making the change ourselves. I am happy that as a collective, we have gotten to the point where we realize that if we want better, more diverse promotion we have to do it ourselves and carve out our own slice of the pie. I really hope that we do not stop here either. I hope that we don’t become complacent and decided that what is going on now is “good enough” because there is still more work to do, we still haven’t fully gotten away from damaging promotion and we still need more positive promotion to outbalance. 

Not only that but I don’t want this movement to fall by the way-side like the counter-cultural movements of the past. We need to solidify positive promotion for the dark-skinned girls and women of the future. We are doing good things as a collective but for the sake of future generations, we cannot stop here.

Liv is a new blogger for DDS Magazine. She graduated University in 2018, with a degree in History & English Lit and in her free time is an avid creative writer, History & Fashion enthusiast, as well as a cat-mom to three kittens. When she is not creating, she works at a children's non-profit and enjoys spending her weekends doing Pilates, hiking, shopping and indulging in Sci-fi novels.  

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