Beauty transcends gender, race, age and ethnicity. A person can be considered beautiful just by their physical appearances and through their actions. However, opinions about beauty differ when it comes to the colour of the skin. In some parts of the world, the idea of beauty goes as such: ‘the fairer you are, the more attractive you’ll be’. I’ve had my fair share of struggles and hardship in my pursuit to be confident in my own skin. Using my gift as a writer to inspire people, this is my story – along with three lovely ladies who have joined in my pursuit to break the stereotype.
Growing up, I’ve always been the ugly duckling in my household… something which translated in my mind as ‘the darkest in the family’. I was so dark in the family to the point where I was nicknamed “kareppi”.
It’s a Tamil word which directly translates to ‘black beauty’. At that time, I hated being called by my nickname and certainly didn’t want to associate myself with being dark or black. I’ve had aunties and uncles come up to me and tease me for my dark complexion features. Well, that didn’t help me at all.
“My confidence level dropped extremely due to how I was always feeding myself with negative thoughts.”
I was born into the world with amazing parents and two other siblings. My dad is Chindian, and my mum is Indian. Growing up, my elder sister was the fairest in the family, as she got the Chindian skin colour. People would normally compare me to my sister and always say, “You sure you both sisters ah? Why the colour different one?”
Some would stare intently at the both of us as though they have the power to scan through our ancestry. What threw my confidence down the drain was when people started taking notice of how pretty my sister was because of her fair complexion. Even one of my sister’s friend came up to me and told me directly, in my face, that my sister was prettier than I am.
I gotta be honest, that s**t hurts! That’s where I knew people’s mentality about beauty has become so vague.
Throughout the years, I was also often ridiculed by my friends about how dark I was, and would always suggest that I try skin whitening products. As a teenager in the midst of finding myself, I took what they said personally and it bothered me for many years. I was not happy with who I was and my beauty. My confidence level dropped to extreme lows due to how I was always feeding myself with negative thoughts.
For example, “I am dark, nobody will think I am beautiful enough”, or “I’m never going to be seen by people anyway because of my skin colour.”
During my college years, I had a massive breakout on my face. The pimples turned into black scars. It was so bad that I resorted to using bleaching cream on my face to whiten my complexion and the scars themselves.
Time flew by and I became fairer, and received a lot of attention from people around me about how pretty I looked. Some of my dark skinned friends even asked me: “how to be fair and pretty like you?”. Honestly, I felt so reluctant to answer them because the new-found fair skin I had was not the real me and I didn’t want to drag my insecure dark-skinned friends to abide by what society thinks is beautiful.
I just couldn’t help but wonder why my skin colour before was viewed, by many, as inferior to that of my lighter-skinned ones.
With the ‘fame’ that came with my fairer skin, my confidence level rose tremendously. I was telling people I feel pretty but deep down I was just lying to myself. However, throughout it all, the emptiness in my heart struck me.
On the left is my original skin colour (2014), in the middle is the after effect (2016), right picture is my present picture after I’ve stopped using a whitening product.
Heck, there was a stark difference between how people treated me during my before and after (my use of bleaching cream). Sometimes, people sitting at the counter of a bank would discriminate me by asking me an extra question that fairer people didn’t receive. It’s as though I have the face of a thief. Pfft.
“I have learnt that when you know who you are on the inside, it radiates on the outside.”
Soon, I stopped using the skin whitening product… which was months ago. I have since then learned to embrace my beautiful skin colour as it is. It taught me the hard way of loving myself but it was worth it. Besides, I feel stronger and more confident to be in my own skin now, as I’ve matured into being comfortable with me!
I have learnt that when you know who you are on the inside, it radiates on the outside. That’s what makes you beautiful as a person, and I certainly don’t need a face bleaching cream to prove that.
Another previous contributor went through something similar. She wrote about it here: How I Went From Bleaching My Skin, To Bleaching My Negativity.
Natasha has submitted a dialogue on racism. Read all about it here.
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All photos here are courtesy of the writer.