Dark Skinned Women of the World: Define Your Own Beauty

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Phyllis Yvonne Stickney

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.

Dominican beauty Amara Santos aka La Negra
Dominican beauty Amara Santos aka La Negra

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.

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Camille Winbush

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.

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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.

She was just so cute I had to add her.  I hate to think she might not see her beauty because society says her skin is too dark.
She was just so cute I had to add her. I hate to think she might not see her beauty because society says her skin is too dark.

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.

La Negra again. Had to post her twice because she is my girl crush.
La Negra again. Had to post her twice because she is my girl crush.

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.

thYes, 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.

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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!

Yours truly :)
Yours truly 🙂

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.

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6 thoughts on “Dark Skinned Women of the World: Define Your Own Beauty

  1. Gad! What a revoltin’ mess. Girls with afros dissing girls with relaxed hair & vice versa. Dark skins bleaching their skin…really? More chemicals in yer body? Good grief! Dark skinned guys n gals cliques cuz light skins are too “white” looking & in return light skinned blacks are snubbing them because they are not light @ all. I’ve heard the retort, too African! As in the family tree is too monolithic. Wanna hear the flip side? My wife is very pale, with dark, dyed these days, hair, green eyes & very Irish! Another example…. I know guys who distain redheads cuz they are redheads & are very pale. Porcelain skinned you might say. For them pale skinned girls are a no go or a hell no! Go figure! Me? I love reds, always have. Also, think dark skinned girls are the cats meow. If I were to hook up with a black gal in my youth I would hope I would have been secure enuff to connect with one that was dark or extremely dark skinned. Being white, why would I not want the opposite or extreme opposite in complexion? Otherwise I should stick with my own race. P.S. I’ve always found darker skinned girls very alluring & very very sexy. For their part, as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, their take away would be to rub my belly, make sure I have my squeeze bone, make sure my water dish is full, scratch me behind the ear every now & then while patting me on the head mumbling something about being a good boy. Heck, I even do tricks & play fetch! 🙂

  2. So sorry, Phylis Y. Stickney wasn’t allowed to do “A Different World”; I was pissed when it dawned on me that she was replaced by Jasmine Guy.

    1. I had no idea she was supposed to play Whitley. I actually love Jasmine Guy as Whitley. As much as I love Phyllis Yvonne Stickney, and would love to have seen her in more shows and movies (still would), I just can’t picture anyone else but Jasmine Guy in that role. The dynamic between Whitley and Kim in itself touched on colorism. I knew a few Whitleys’ at my HBCU; legacy children who were light skinned and privileged. That’s a narrative I’m glad they touched on, which they couldn’t have done with Ms. Stickney. Still, I would’ve loved to have seen her as a permanent character on ADW.

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