Colourism – A term we are not all familiar with but an issue that effects many..
Definition; prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group.
The colour of your skin is not something you can hide. The moment you walk into a room, everyone knows what colour you are. And immediately, consciously or subconsciously, people will judge you based on just that.
Light skin meant educated, mild-mannered and beautiful. Where dark skin was uneducated, rude and unpretty. This bias would limit opportunity and success.
I remember taking a colour class, and one of the first things the instructor said to us was “light is always right.” As a young colourist I was so puzzled, especially since there are so many different levels of hair colour. How could light be the only answer? Well, this is the norm in so many areas of beauty.
First, let me state, there is a difference between colourism and racism.
Racism is a belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.
So, we are not speaking on racism here. We are speaking on how society’s depiction of beauty has made many feel superior or inferior within their own race, based on the lightness or darkness of their skin. How is that you may ask? For decades, blonde hair and blue eyes have dominated billboards, commercials and ads spaces. Light was right! Or so they made us all believe… So, we bleached our skin, wore contact lenses, and of course, changed the colour of our hair, just to fit the “beauty” standard. 2020 really brought to light the imbalance of representation within the beauty industry. Be it in the board room or in the magazines, this topic was the center of attention for beauty. For years our industry has spoken only to one demographic. And this year we are changing narrative.
How you may ask? Many companies are making the conscious effort to be more inclusive. And within that inclusivity all colours/races/genders should be seen, recognized and celebrated. Everyone within the beauty industry should be able to see themselves within beauty. But what is happening often is, we sometimes fall short and fall back to what society says “beauty” is. We forget to showcase hair types that happen to be more frequently associated with darker skin. We stop somewhere in the middle where skin is pale enough and hair is better understood. When we do go darker, we then compromise the integrity of hair to create a blonde on this dark skin, that gives sense of lighter skin. It seems the darker the skin, the less you are seen, how is that? You are the last model picked, if picked at all. We pick the lightest of another race, using the lightest foundation, giving them the lightest hair, creating 50 shades of white. Is that really inclusion?
We must work to remove colourism within the beauty industry. Changing the narrative will allow us to really see the beauty in differences. That every shade is the perfect shade. And that we as beauty professionals have the hands that create it.