Last evening, I went to a photo studio to get photos for some paperwork. With the pressure that a passport photo always is, 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!
I picked up the photos when they were ready and excitedly pulled them out. I was stunned and, sadly, it wasn’t because I looked extraordinarily beautiful. My face was airbrushed. I had been made multiple shades fairer and 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 my head jumps quickly from one thought to another distantly related thought. Staring at my passport photo, I then wondered why they felt the need to lighten my skin tone without me asking for it. Next, I admitted that since most people do ask for it they probably just assumed I expected it. And that made me wonder why people ask for it. That was easiest to answer.
I arrived at the story of the ugly duckling. The delightful story of how a cygnet wrongly hatched with a flock of ducklings and was ostracized for being ‘ugly’ as they grew together. We know how the story ends; he matures into a majestic swan, leaving them stunned by his beauty. However, all that he was is ‘different’.
I could claim this story was written about me. I love my complexion. But, like most of our early years of growing up, the world taught me that my dark skin wasn’t a great thing. Here’s what I’ve heard one too many times- although you should 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).” The list is endless. No, I don’t take those as compliments.
Being different isn’t easy for any of us, regardless of whether it is 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. As is every other colour of skin. As is every shape we come in, and 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!
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:14).
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!