I went natural in 1996, because I’m a copycat, and my mom started growing dreads maybe two years before that. I wasn’t ready to get dreads, but I didn’t want to relax my hair anymore. I didn’t do a big chop. I just stopped relaxing it. There were no terms for the transition at that time. There were no suggested styles. No hair products. No natural hair magazines. Occasionally, there’d be a page or two about natural hair in a mag, but for the most part natural hair was ignored. So, everything I learned about my hair came from trial and error. I would twist it, wear it like that for a few days, then untwist and wear it out for a few days, then pick it out. Sometimes I’d braid it. Sometimes, I’d put a thick headband on and rock an afro puff. I did what looked good to me.
I was defining my beauty.
Men didn’t like my hair. Especially, not when I moved down south. People would ask me (black people. I don’t think most whites know from natural) “Why are you doing that to your hair?” “Why don’t you straighten it?” “Why are you walking around like that?” “You could be prettier if you relaxed it.” They looked at my hair with no understanding. As though without a relaxer their hair wouldn’t look the same. But they wouldn’t ever go without relaxing their hair in the first place. They couldn’t understand my choice, so they rejected it.
I had grown strong enough in my perception of myself that I didn’t care about their rejection. It was mine and I loved it.
Before going natural, my dark skin was already an issue. I grew up in the Bronx and (as in the rest of black and brown America) I was too dark to be considered cute. I had to stop relying on the outside world to recognize my attractiveness, because the world was grading on a curve that didn’t include me. I felt attractive. I liked the features on my face. I genuinely enjoy how I look. But when I went outside of myself, for the world’s opinion, it was “you’re too dark to be pretty.” Or it was “you’re cute to be dark skinned.” Which is the same as saying, “You know, normally, I think all dark skinned women are ugly, but as far as ugliness goes, you’re cute to be ugly.” So, for my own sanity, and for my esteem, instead of pining for the approval of others, I said, “fuck it, I love my dark skin. I love how I look.”
That was when I first stopped letting the world define me, and why it was easy for me to wear my hair sans relaxer without bending or breaking under the pressure of my peers. I was comfortable with and proud of the features that made me, me.
Loving my dark skin was a journey against some pretty strong odds. One of which was the fact that it made people lighter than me feel better about themselves by belittling my skin. It was a power trip for them. Just as some poor whites make themselves feel superior by saying, “I may be poor, but at least I’m not black,” some lighter skinned blacks (and Asians and Hispanics), get their ego boost from feeling, “At least I’m not dark skinned.”
I’m not letting anyone use me for their insecure ego trip.
In general, there are human traits that are more aesthetically pleasing than others. But they have nothing to do with color. They have to do with facial symmetry. The more symmetrical the face, the more aesthetically attractive humans are to each other. Color has nothing to do with that. But socially, we’ve put a premium on color so that, say a set of sisters who look exactly alike, but one is dark and one is light, the light one is considered the prettier just because of her color.
There are some very unattractive people in this world. Physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially… there are all types of ugly. Just as there are all types of attractive, pretty and beautiful. Don’t look outside of yourself for validation. That’s easier said than done, but know that you are enough. When you realize it, you will you glow.
There is no standard of beauty, because beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. You have to behold your own beauty. Don’t look to Hollywood or the media. They eventually follow our lead anyway.
Yes, there are men who are not attracted to dark skinned women. SFW? There are also men who like flat asses. There are men who like skinny women. There are men who like fat women. There are men who like slanted eyes. There are men who like froggy eyes. Just as you are not attracted to every man, every man is not going to be attracted to you. Which is why your opinion of yourself matters more than anything else. You can’t try to be everything to everyone, so be everything to yourself.
The one thing everyone is attracted to is confidence. There are some pretty on the outside people who look in the mirror and see ugly. They lack confidence, and self-esteem, so they don’t see their worth. When you don’t see your worth, the world treats you that way. It’s within you. Accept your inner light, and let it shine. Be proud of your dark skin! Praise it, love it, cherish it. It’s fucking beautiful!
Thanks for reading! Peace!
P.S. I added all of the women above because I think they are all beautiful dark skinned women. Two of them are Asian, one is Hispanic. Colorism exists pretty much everywhere that Europe has colonized.