P&G’s My Black Is Beautiful Screens Documentary About Colorism And Self-Esteem, “Imagine A Future”

April 23, 2013  |  

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By now most African-American women are aware of the My Black Is Beautiful initiative by Procter & Gamble. Seven years running, the campaign presented a screening of Imagine a Future in conjunction with the Tribeca Film Festival, which is taking place now. The film aims to empower African-American women and addresses such complex issues as beauty, self-esteem, and skin tone.

“I didn’t look like what I saw in a magazine,” says Dover, Del., teenager Janet Goldsboro, who is in the documentary. “I look different from all my cousins. I had dark features, dark hair, dark eyes, big nose and big lips, and I used to get made fun of because of how I looked.”

She adds: “Boys say, ‘I like the light-skinned girls,’ or, ‘I like white girls because I want my baby to come out pretty.’  And that hurts you because it makes you feel like you’re ugly looking.”

The documentary was co-directed by Shola Lynch, whose documentary Free Angela and All Political Prisoners about Angela Davis is in theaters now and getting rave reviews. Record company executive Lisa Cortes co-directed and produced the documentary. Cortez was an executive producer for the Oscar-winning movie Precious.

The 30-minute documentary will screen on BET on July 5.

According to The New York Times, the filmmakers discovered Goldsboro through Black Girls Rock!, the Brooklyn nonprofit with programs including a summer leadership camp that Goldsboro attended last year, which has the annual star-studded televised event you’ve no doubt watched. Procter & Gamble supports Black Girls Rock! financially through My Black Is Beautiful.

The film also follows Goldsboro’s visit to South Africa and includes interviews with such dynamic women as writer/cultural critic Michaela Angela Davis, Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas, and Melissa Harris-Perry, the MSNBC host.

While in South Africa, the issue of skin color is also raised. “In the documentary, Ms. Goldsboro visits a market in Johannesburg with Lebogang Mashile, a poet, actress and activist, and says, ‘I heard that in South Africa that skin bleaching is a big problem here?’” reports the newspaper. To which  Mashile replies: “It’s been a problem for a long time. It’s self-hate, it’s not having enough mirrors that affirm you.”

The Times notes that the film fails to mention that Olay, a Procter & Gamble brand, markets skin-lightening products worldwide. Their White Radiance is sold in such countries as Malaysia and Singapore; another, Natural White, is sold in India, United Arab Emirates and elsewhere.

And in South Africa, Olay just recently introduced a skin-lightening line called Even & Smooth. “A new commercial features Gail Nkoane, a singer and actress, who applies the product and is instantly bathed in light, giving the effect of her skin becoming several shades lighter,” writes the Times. Do you think this makes a difference? Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments.

More than just a film, Imagine A Future, is its own campaign that includes donations made to the United Negro College Fund ($100,000 worth), sponsorship of the Black Girls Rock! Queens Camp, workshops, and more. You can learn more about the campaign on its Facebook page.

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