One can blame white supremacy or colonization for the mental conditioning Blacks have endured, but finally in the African diaspora’s fashion industry, a change has come. Adama Ndiaye, founder of Senegal’s Dakar Fashion Week, has put her foot down on beauty practices used by the models who participated in Dakar Fashion Week this year. Many women in Senegal, as well as other countries have turned to skin bleaching to achieve lighter skin and this year Ndiaye banned any models who decided to participate in what she calls depigmentation. She states:
“It’s not even pretty, for me, it’s just a turn off.”
Ndiaye’s purpose for the ban is to teach the models about their self-esteem; she also noted the health of the models’ who have bleached their skin is at risk. According to Dermatologist Fatoumata Ly:
These ladies bare the telltale signs of long-term bleaching: blotches of discoloured skin on their arms and faces. Women often use prescription-strength corticosteroid creams to lighten their skin. “When absorbed into the bloodstream, corticosteroids pose serious risks, particularly for the heart,” she said. Skin cancer is also a potential side effect.
Although skin bleaching is a dangerous, it is still widely used in Black communities throughout the world. There are many who do not believe (or are told), their skin complexion is attractive. Growing up in a Caribbean family, my great-aunts who were born into a colonized society often offered my cousins and I skin bleaching lotion when we enjoyed too much time in the sun. Although others would find their actions insulting, I believe this provides great insight. My aunts were born in the early 1900s. Not only did they want to speak the Queen’s English but they wanted to have her fair skin (although they have a café-au-lait skin tone). In many ways, the time period they were born in and its complexities gave them a pass to their ignorance. They did not know better; they are only using what they know. So why is this practice still being used in the Millennial generation? Even better, why do (some) Black women participate in #TeamLightSkin or #TeamDarkSkin debates as though they get a cookie for skin color pride. To be comfortable in one’s skin means to not be dependent on something that is conditional. Beauty trends are constantly evolving; what we think is beautiful today, may not be tomorrow.
Thankfully, some people in Senegal are getting that message. When asked what she thought about Ndiaye’s ban on skin-bleaching, one model, Dorinex Mboumba, responded:
“I think it’s a great idea, it will discourage others from the practice. We don’t need to change the color of our skin to be beautiful.”
Do you think skin bleaching will ever fade out?