14 Beautiful Black Women With Darker Complexions Who Encourage Others To Love The Skin They’re In
It’s nice to see a more diverse group of women get shine in the media these days, and by diverse, I do mean women of color, but more specifically, the shades of black women we get to see on TV and in magazines. And not only are these women beautiful, but they are confident, and provide young girls with words of encouragement to embrace the skin they’re in. Here are 14 women who have done just that in a culture that spends too much time celebrating one homogeneous look.
R&B superstar and expectant mother-to-be Kelly Rowland hasn’t always been comfortable in her skin. But, she learned to embrace her beauty and encouraged other women to do the same. During the 2013 Essence Black Women in Hollywood event, Rowland admitted to CNikky that she once avoided the sun and was insecure about having darker skin. She admits, “I went through a period where I didn’t embrace my ‘chocolatiness.’ I don’t know if that’s a word, but I didn’t embrace my chocolate lifestyle. Just being a chocolate, lovely brown skin girl and being proud of that.” She says that with the help of Tina Knowles and her own mother, “a light went off” and she stopped hiding indoors and started loving her looks.
The outspoken and striking beauty has been captivating the fashion industry for decades, but she’s never backed off when it comes to demanding more diversity on the runway. Last fall, Naomi joined forces with supermodel Iman and former model Bethann Hardison to face the fashion industry head on. The women all take part in the Diversity Coalition (Hardison heads it), which monitored different fashion houses to determine if models of color (and a broader range of colors at that) were invited to participate in shows and events. In a no-nonsense open letter to industry big shots, the coalition made it clear they were not going anywhere until diversity is a top priority. “Eyes are on an industry that season after season watches design houses consistently use one or no models of color. No matter the intention, the result is racism.”
In a September 2013 interview with Essence magazine, Davis described a painful childhood in which she faced insecurity with her kinky hair and darker complexion. “My image of myself [as a youth] was in the mouths of young White kids calling me…ugly…and then going home to a mother who did not fully embrace her own beauty.” Viola shared that now that she is a mother, she has felt a sense of empowerment by raising her daughter to see that black is beautiful.
The 31-year-old actress was introduced to audiences in 2009 through the Academy Award nominated film Precious. Along with the critical acclaim for her work, Gabourey also found herself on the receiving end of negativity about everything from her weight to her skin color. Social media bullies made vicious memes and jokes about her, despite all of her achievements. This past spring, Gabourey gave an awe-inspiring speech at the Gloria Awards hosted by the Ms. Foundation for Women and shed light on how she remained so confident throughout many painful situations. “It’s my good time, and my good life, despite what you think of me. I live my life, because I dare. I dare to show up when everyone else might hide their faces and hide their bodies in shame.”
“I never thought I was ugly.” Those are the empowering and unapologetic words of supermodel and trailblazer Alek Wek. Her stunning and smooth skin made many heads turn as she hit the runway and covered fashion magazines over the years, breaking barriers for women of color. In a society that glorifies long blond hair and fair skin, many could see from miles away that Alek’s beauty was a force to be reckoned with. When asked by The Guardian if she always felt she was beautiful her response was simple but salient: “Oh, yes, of course!”
This feisty Brooklyn native, known for her in-your-face lyrics and infectious beats, was one of the most popular female hip-hop artists during the late 90s. Although she was widely considered a sex symbol by many men, she admitted in 2013 during a Combat Jack interview that she had never felt beautiful growing up and felt that her light-skinned mother could not relate to her self-esteem issues. She is now more comfortable in her skin and her place in Hip-Hop history but it came with moments of unyielding insecurity along the way that women like Lauryn Hill helped her get through. “No disrespect to light skin women. But when you see a bad, dark skin chocolate chick, it’s like Wow. I absolutely was not always comfortable in my skin. Lauryn and I used to talk about that all the time. I had the worst insecurity.”
With songs like “Brown Skin,” “Video” and “I Am Not My Hair,” which praised black beauty and natural hair, Arie has always been an artist looking to send and empowering message. But controversy erupted on the Internet last summer when fans saw the cover of her 2013 single “Cocoa Butter” and it appeared to many that Arie’s skin was lightened. She was quick to take to social media to dispel the skin bleaching rumors: “i’m so in love with myself I have no DESIRE to BLEACH myself. Lol…Oh! And yes! I love my #brownskin more than EVER!”
Without a doubt, Ledisi has one of the most instantly recognizable and beloved voices in R&B music. And although she has attained a lot of love and success, she spent several years being rejected by music industry insiders who felt she would not be marketable. In a recent interview for Oprah.com, Ledisi opened up about the sense of frustration she felt when hearing feedback. “Things were rocky. The (record) labels liked my voice, but not my look.” But, nearly a decade after releasing her first independent album, she was signed by Verve Records. After several successful releases, Ledisi knows that she is on the right path and knows that she’s gorgeous. “I tell myself ‘I’m beautiful’ everyday because the world says something different. I didn’t know I was considered ‘ugly’ to someone until they said it, because all of my life I’d been told I was beautiful, especially by my mother in particular, so when I got out there in the world, I heard differently.”
As a star on Bravo’s “Blood, Sweat and Heels,” Geneva Thomas was being seen by millions of viewers week in and week out. In February, she spoke openly on Essence‘s website about not feeling insecure about her beauty until she heard cast member Mica tell the world that she resembled Wesley Snipes. After she got over the initial shock, Geneva called her parents to thank them for raising her to be proud of the skin she is in and hopes to spread that messages to other women and girls. “Let’s make it our business to teach little black girls that whatever shade they may be in, they are to be celebrated.”
Sevyn Streeter shared her reactions to ignorant comments people have made to her over the years about being “pretty for a dark-skinned girl.” Speaking with The Grio, she spoke candidly about how she lets the comments roll off her back but sees the situation as part of a bigger picture: “[People] do get offended by those comments, but I think it comes down to how you feel about yourself. And obviously I’ve heard it before, but when people tell me, ‘Oh, you’re pretty for a dark skinned girl,’ I always ask,’Well, what does that mean?’ or ‘Why do you feel that way?’ I like to get into their mind frames and engage and have a conversation about it.”
In a 2004 interview with The Guardian, the then-rising star shared that she was aware of certain realities about herself and embraces them: “I’m short, I’m dark-skinned, I’ve got short hair and I don’t have sex with people in the industry” she said. In an MSN-Entertainment interview published in March 2012, Estelle made it clear that she is comfortable in her skin and wants to giver her all to her fans, not the critics. “I don’t do this for the critics. I do it for the fans and the people that come to my show because that’s where I have fun. I write from my life experience; it’s about proving to myself that I’m a good human being at every step of the way.”
In a 2012 interview with Ebony magazine, Gabrielle said this to young girls about embracing themselves both inside and out. “Your deep Mahogany skin may not resemble that of the others in your family, but it’s just as gorgeous and you’re just as worthy. One day you’ll appreciate how much your brown skin shines in the moonlight, glistens in the sun, and ages ever so slowly. Don’t let that pesky low self-esteem creep in and fool you into believing that you don’t have value…don’t allow it to crush your will or dampen your spirit…”
During Essence‘s Black Women in Hollywood event this year, Lupita admitted that she was having a hard time loving herself growing up, but now she sees herself as beautiful. “I remember a time when I too felt unbeautiful. I put on the TV and only saw pale skin, I got teased and taunted about my night-shaded skin. And my one prayer to God, the miracle worker, was that I would wake up lighter-skinned…my mother again would say to me you can’t eat beauty, it doesn’t feed you and these words plagued and bothered me; I didn’t really understand them until finally I realized that beauty was not a thing that I could acquire or consume.” Not only has Lupita embraced her beauty, but she was recently picked as People Magazine’s Most Beautiful Woman, and landed an exclusive contract with Lancome.
Tika Sumpter, 33, believes that her color is beautiful and has not been a burden for her in her personal or professional life. The stunning actress recently starred in the comedy Ride Along alongside Ice Cube and Kevin Hart. Although Kevin Hart has come under scrutiny in the past for disrespectful jokes about dark-skinned black women, an actress like Tika doesn’t let such comments affect her. She shared with The Grio that, “I don’t know who’s portraying that dark-skinned girls are supposed to have this like, dim look on life, but I’m just like, what is that? I’ve never had that. And I’m not going to start having it.”