Bleaching in Paradise

My final project for my Masters course required me to make a 15-minute radio documentary on any subject of interest. I chose the subject of skin-whitening. 

 

The Ivory Coast has just become the third African country to ban skin-whitening creams, following in the footsteps of Senegal and South Africa.

But despite the ban, some dangerous, and even deadly, skin lightening agents are still openly sold into the UK. In Nigeria, up to 77% of women have admitted to using skin bleach.

This year according to ONS predictions, the island of Mauritius is expected to match Nigeria as one of the biggest exporters and importers of these creams.

Ashna Hurynag, has been to find out more.

For more on the topic of Shadeism, visit:

The Shady Minority‘ & ‘Shadeism. An Update

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“Fairer is better?”

Mr. Abdul Alim, owner of UK Skin Lightening brand Nur76 appeared on BBC 1Xtra back in 2012 for an interview with host Mike Anthony.

The interview set out to discuss and debate the concept of skin-bleaching – and answer questions about why people (particularly women) feel the need to do it, and why it’s a growing ideal in Black and Asian communities to be whiter and lighter.

 

Here are my thoughts:

One comment from Mr Alim stuck in my mind after listening to the discussion:

Most men, prefer fairer skinned Black and Asian women

What’s a listener meant to do with this information? Surely it’s damaging enough for an adult to hear it on the radio, but what about a young person hearing such a self-assured sentence?

It’s frustrating to hear such a ‘fact’ uttered in 21st Century Britain, the mentality behind these words is disturbing and distorted.

Backed up by what Mr. Alim deems as “his own research”. Interviewer, Mike Anthony admits he finds Mr. Alim’s words, “insulting‘.

Mr. Alim admits he is perhaps creating “more hatred”  by making these skin-lightening products, because it’s encouraging “more segregation”.

So if people are so worried and aware about the damages –  even if there’s a “market for it” – why do people feel the need to pump money into harmful practice?

Dangerous side effects from using the creams include: swelling or thinning of the skin, cataracts, osteoporosis, birth defects and neurological and kidney damage due to high level of mercury used in the creams – but it doesn’t stop there.

Mr Alim’s lightening creams and serums work by reducing the level of melanin* in the body.

But with melanin known as the biggest preventer of skin-cancer, why would they want to stop your body producing the polymer that could stop you developing skin cancer? His answer –

But obviously, you don’t need that much melanin to prevent skin cancer

This naive and astonishing utterance proves to me that as long as these mind-boggling ‘fairer is better’ ideals are in existance, we’re still no closer to solving the Shadeism enigma.

Do you agree with Mr. Alim?

Vote anonymously here:

 

*Melanin is the pigment that gives human skin, hair, and eyes their color. Dark-skinned people have more melanin in their skin than light-skinned people have.

Mindy Does Make-up.

Despite my adoration for serums, toners, primers and more – I would never normally publish a make-up related post on this site. Mindy Kaling however posted this glorious shot on her social media and it made me want to jump for joy.

For all my Shadeism talk and issue with skin-shade discrimination, the word’s ‘girls with dark skin’ and ‘make-up’ is so rare that I felt the need to embed it into my blog.

Thanks Kaling, you’ve restored my faith in celebrity.

https://www.facebook.com/OfficialMindyKaling

Snip20141114_1See more on Mindy:

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Fair Skin Obsession

‘Be brown and be proud’

BBC Asian Network’s Nihal has dedicated 6 minutes of his show to a public phone-in regarding the matter of the fair skinned obsession of the Asian community.

I makes for a interesting listen, these ideologies are hundreds and thousands of years old, yet affluence, beauty and education is still associated with the skin tone of one’s skin.

Click here for the ‘Fair skin obsession’ radio package.

For more on the topic of Shadeism, visit:

The Shady Minority‘ & ‘Shadeism. An Update

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Shadeism. An Update.

Earlier this year I posted an article about ‘Shadeism‘ which received a lot of traffic. It was written as a personal post regarding a matter I feel very strongly about.

Since publishing it I have been approached by men and women alike who found they related to the issues surrounding Colorism and Shadeism.

I take comfort in knowing at least one little girl out there finally felt comfortable with her skin shade after reading about my experiences with the stigma. Bleaching and skin enhancements will not win this fight against Shadeism – so take note sordid bleaching brands!

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In my article I specifically referenced The Mindy Project, and the incredible rise of the dark-skinned Indian lead actress, Mindy Kaling.

I quoted a vile tweet which proclaimed that Kaling was too ‘dark‘ for an Indian woman in a sitcom. This tweet has since been deleted from Twitter and after conducting further research, I found some promising and eye-opening tweets from users which have detracted from the shadiest remarks I initially discovered when writing my article:

We still have a long way to go till full acceptance, but these tweets show that there is hope in the ongoing battle against Shadeism. As I said before, Shadeism is a phenomenon that needs to be stopped, but, if you want to change a person, you must first change the awareness of themselves – it starts with consciousness.

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The Shady Minority

Shadeism, closely related to ‘colourism’, is an associated practice that is the manifestation of an internalised, colonial-induced racial self-hatred.

It determines your social rank and status by the shade of your skin tone and is a common practice of discrimination among lighter-skinned and darker-skinned members of the same community.  darkgirlsposter1banner3 From both working in the acting and commercial industries from the age of 15, and having a background of an eclectic mix of ethnicities, I’m no stranger to the term shadeism.

It is perhaps my experience in the industries I have worked in that have made it so important for my identity and race to be defined. So often we are encouraged to classify our identities in tick boxes: ‘Asian Black, ‘Asian Chinese, ‘Asian Other’ – we always seem to be made aware our differences.

In my experience at work, often casting calls will be sent to my agents requesting an ‘Indian girl, petite, fresh and young-looking’. I “fit the brief” they’d say, but I “didn’t exactly look Indian”. It got me thinking: what’s that supposed to mean? 

How could I not look like my ethnicity?

It was then that I began to look closer at the way female ethnic minorities were presented on television and in the media. The variation in the types of Indian women in television and film were dramatically scarce. It appeared to me, that the more ‘Western’ their features were, the higher chance they would be cast for roles.

It struck me that the Indian actresses in soaps, television dramas and films were light-skinned and more often than not, descended from a Gujarati or Punjabi background.

You need not look further than the actress Aishwarya Rai, BBC presenter Jameela Jamil and actress Freida Pinto to notice the common trend of light-skinned Asian women.

There is however a recent exception, Vera Mindy Chokalingham, better known as Mindy Kaling. As an actress, comedian, writer and America’s breathe-of-fresh-air, Mindy fits the brief as a relatable, ‘realistic’, Indian woman.

With a Tamil and Bengali ethnic background, she is the first counter-reaction to shadeism I have ever seen on primetime television in the modern era. And yet, trolls of the Twitter-sphere never fail to spout the most derogatory terms that fall under the shadeism umbrella: ‘That girl on the Mindy Project is too dark.’ 

mindy Tragically, shadeism is a fierce appropriation in countries with strong ethnic communities.

It is both scary and shocking to see the differences in how developing countries, such as India, Grenada or Jamaica, define beauty.

In India, for instance, it has long since been believed that darker-skinned women identify with poor and working-class backgrounds and that the lighter the skin tone, the more beautiful, intellectual and rich they were. To be fair-skinned is a hope for many women of colour, for many it’s a goal.

As a consequence of this abhorrent belief, a trip to visit relatives abroad last Summer, even resulted to me being given skin-lightening products as a gift. I accepted them out of politeness and with a wry smile, but I didn’t appreciate the gesture – not one bit. My friends at home say I should have thrown them back in their faces, but it’s considered normal practice for them.

The concept of bleaching has been ‘normalised’ for generations and they have not been educated to understand otherwise. This growing trend of racial targeting by the cosmetics industry: eye-lid surgeries, chemical hair straightening and skin-bleaching, are just a few of the options advertised to people of colour who wish to change their ‘shade’ and features.

This is an issue of beauty, of old ideas that determine what is still beautiful. Of how the colour of our skin has and continues to affect how we view ourselves. Even down to the cultural idols in some religious texts such as Hinduism: light-skin was good, and dark-skin was evil.

We need to change these dangerous habits by bringing self love back into our own perceptions of beauty.

Educate the unfortunate communities who make commission from these lethal skin-lightening substances and teach people to appreciate the shade that looks back at them in the mirror.

Shadeism is a phenomenon that needs to be stopped, but, if you want to change a person, you must first change the awareness of themselves – it starts with consciousness.

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Published in The Founder newspaper, 2014.

Ashna Hurynag