My skin colour is darker than that of my mom and sister – something that was commented on ever since I was a child. Not everyone in our country accepts darker complexion and I constantly heard comments such as, “You know you would look great if you were a little fairer. Everyone would like you more.”
As a child, you tend to believe whatever people tell you. I internalised the message and believed that if I were fairer I would have a better chance at success. For the longest time, till at least Class X, I tried using fairness creams. I was absolutely convinced that getting ahead in the world would only be possible if I were fair.
This was compounded by an incident that happened in school. There was a photo shoot for the school magazine. The people in charge of the shoot came to our classroom and told us that they would be selecting children for it. Now, my friend, who was fairer than me, was selected but I wasn’t. I didn’t think much of it at the time. Later, however, my friend turned around to me and said, “They didn’t select you because you’re black.”
It made an impact at the time because I hadn’t even considered why I wasn’t selected. For someone I trusted, someone who was very close, to say something like that to me was stunning. It made me even more determined to be fair.
It took me time to realize that my skin colour doesn’t determine who I am. It’s a part of me, not all of me. My skills, personality and character matter much more. I’ve finally come to accept and like myself for who I am and not what my complexion is.
I believe that the whole fairness mindset is a vicious circle. Society wants people to look fair so cosmetic companies market fairness creams. In turn, because they see ads for fairness creams, people want to become fairer. Fairness has become a market instead of a shade of complexion. I personally feel that these fairness companies are completely fake.
It’s not going to be easy to change this mindset and this is where I feel celebrities can help. If popular stars call people out on this attitude then I think their followers will be forced to think and change their perspective towards this issue.