Pretty For A Dark Skinned Girl

ByMahbuba Matovu

While wandering around the aisles in the Macy’s beauty department, a sales associate walks up to me and insists I try on a newly launched line of makeup. Now you know I’m not one to turn down such an offer, so I found me a seat.

Can I just say that my Gay-Dar is usually accurate but I prefer not to come to quick conclusions? That being said, judging from his dyed hair and abs sticking out from his “top”, this fine, artistic looking gentleman could have scored a smooth 70. He laid out his tools and brushes, and while he gathered some products and prepped my face, he stopped to look at me and said, “You’re one of the dark-skinned pretty ones.”

*Hits brakes* I’m sorry, one of…? Okay, yes, I’m guessing it was a compliment, but why dark-skinned? Can’t I just be pretty? Must I always be reminded that I am a symbol of hope for people of my skin shade to not be written off as animal-looking? If I was light-skinned would I still be considered as pretty, or do the standards differ?

Growing up in Uganda, where the majority of the population looked just like you, skin-shade was never really a topic of conversation. But here I was, a newly recruited flag-bearer, blessed with the responsibility of representing the “dark-skinned but pretty ones,” because rarely did humans with this skin tone look striking.

Which brings me to my question: What is the bar for being considered light or dark-skinned? Is there some kind of universal shade, in that everyone lighter is considered light skinned, and anyone darker considered dark-skinned? Also, since most dark-skinned people are assumed to be ugly, and light-skinned people assumed to be pretty, does anyone ever say, “You are pretty ugly for a light-skinned girl?”

As a young girl, the only Indians I ever saw had a certain (tan-ish) skin color. But then came a day, when I met one whose shade gave black people a run for their money. However, just because I had seen something for the first time, I did not run up to the man and say, “Oh hey, wow, you sure are dark for an Indian.” No, I waited to get to my house, where I privately googled, “Why are some Indians dark-skinned?”

Remember in 2013 when rapper, Kendrick Lamar, released his Poetic Justice song, and the blogs glorified him for having the courage to choose a dark-skinned lead-female (Brittany Sky) for his video?

And who dare forget the Lupita N’Yongo take-over. Sometimes I can’t help but wonder, between the Oscar winner’s talent and her skin color, which is more popular. Oh I bet you some people had never seen a girl that shade, that wasn’t a super model, slaying on the international red carpets. See, skin tones like hers normally belong on the fashion runways, or in brochures looking to raise funds for starving African children.

So here I was, having to make the quick decision as to whether I should simply say thank you, and thank God for being one of the dark-skinned pretty ones, or ‘school’ the gentleman and risk going home looking like a clown. “Thank you,” I replied, “You are one of the straight-looking gay ones.”


keletso / 9 April 2016

I get disheartened by the notion that within the african community, colorism plays an important role and sometimes determines ones worth and capability. It’s without a doubt that darker people of all races are mistreated and suffer the most and it’s time campaigns are started to uplift each other, the famous que line ” you are pretty for dark girl” is one I associate as a derogatory comment and must be dealt with. So how do we fix the colorism problem? Music artists must bring in a change by making their leading ladies dark skinned on a regular basis and not treat them as a speciality case or once in a lifetime matter. Human beings were made to look different/diverse and the key to our race is to find and celebrate the beauty in our differences.

Mahbuba / 13 April 2016

Well said Keletso, colorism is an issue that should be worked on not just by music artists but by all types of employers like media broadcasters and the likes. We the people must also learn to not see color among people of color. Thank you for reading my article.

Nawal / 12 April 2016

I can honestly say every since early elementary I have heard those exact words “you are pretty for a dark skin girl”, and as someone who was naïve, I took it as a compliment. Not once did I question why my complexion might determined my acceptance in the world of beautiful people. However, as I got older and more exposed I realized “the dark ones” weren’t Americas favorite and there were a few things I really needed to reconsider. First was that I would no longer allow people to determine what’s beautiful about me, even if in their eyes I had this tragic shade surrounding it. And secondly, I would do my best to uplift girls and young women who were also belittled by their complexion, something they were born with, and inspire them to see beyond the pretty face because their is so much more us.

Mahbuba / 13 April 2016

There truly is so much more. Thank you for reading my article.


Leave A Comment