Last evening, I went to a photo studio and got some photos taken for some paperwork. With the pressure that a passport photo is at all times, I carefully lined my eyes with kajal, curled my lashes with a little mascara and put on some lipstick. I was ready to conquer this photo!
When I picked up the photos, I excitedly opened up the envelope and my eyes widened. Sadly, not because I looked strikingly beautiful or anything. My face was airbrushed and I had been made multiple shades fairer. It wasn’t even subtle. The girl in the photo practically wasn’t me.
I’m a jumper-thinker (Yes, I made up that word. It means that in my head one thought jumps quickly to another distantly related thought). Staring at my passport photo I began to wonder why they felt the need to lighten my skin tone without me asking for it. I then acknowledged that most people must, in fact, ask for it. That made me wonder why people ask for it, and that was easiest to answer.
My train of thought arrived at the story of the ugly duckling. The delightful story of how a cygnet wrongly hatched with a flock of ducklings and how they went on to terrorise and ostracise him for being ‘ugly’ as they grew together. We all know how the story ends; he matures into a majestic swan, leaving them stunned by his beauty. However, all that he ultimately was is ‘different’.
I love my complexion. But, like most of us, in the early years of growing up, the world taught me well that my dark skin wasn't a great thing. I could almost claim that the story of the ugly duckling was written about me. Here’s what I’ve heard one too many times -- although you ought to keep in mind this is after I blossomed into a swan (as I’d like to believe). “You’re very pretty . . . for a dark girl.” Or, “You’re a black beauty.” “You know who you remind me of? (insert name of dark skinned celebrity).” No, I don’t take those as compliments. And then there’s always that bunch of fair girls discussing with me, “Main kitni kaali ho gayi hoon.” (Literally translated; I’ve become so black.) Or the age old, “Smile so we can see you.” Those are just obnoxious.
Being different isn’t easy for any of us, regardless of whether it is a matter of the colour of our skin, the shape of our body or the size of our clothes. We are caught in a world fenced by blatant and subtle reinforcements of what is beautiful and what isn’t. Dark skin isn’t beautiful, ‘too’. Dark skin is beautiful. Period. As is every other colour of skin. As is every shape we come in, and as is every size.
Our creation wasn’t experimental, it was intentional. God designed us, before we were even in our mother's womb. He planned our shape, our size, the colour of our eyes, the colour of our skin -- absolutely everything!
The Bible says,
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:14).
And that is what I choose to believe. And that is what gives me life in a world that always declares I’m not good enough.
I am not my big brown eyes. I am not my dark skin. I am not the slender body that everyone wrongly assumes I work hard to maintain. I am the soul that lives within. And so today, my aunts, sisters, nieces, friends and, yet-to-come daughters, I declare on behalf of us all; dipped in chocolate, glazed with elegance, bronzed in beauty -- My dark is beautiful!
Photo Credit : Unsplash