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"What is behind this stereotype of lighter being more beautiful?"
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"What is behind this stereotype of lighter being more beautiful?"

A disturbing trend among some women in the Caribbean to bleach their skin a lighter shade has Jo-Annah Richards, 26, from the island of Montserrat, wondering about the roots of the problem.

Turning slowly I faced the individual that uttered my name. I searched my mind trying to put a name to the face while not unmasking my lost of recognition.

As her voice resonated through my latent memories, a name left my mouth. I braced myself in suspense but stood in shock as she smiled and replied.

The ownership of the name by the lady before me, who had translucent and painfully pale skin, made no sense. Slowly, my eyes trailed and meandered down to her mahogany brown hands. And it all became clear.

As we spoke I tried not to judge nor show my look of confusion and disappointment. Her face had been scarred, scraped and scoured, erasing and eroding away her melanin.

The results were like a huge contradiction, as in her yearning for a look pleasing to society, she had destroyed all her beauty. Her face was now a mine field of holes, sporadic hairs, poignant fragility and harsh discolouration.

Thoughts flooded my mind as I tried to focus on the conversation, with a girl I once recognised easily. Why did she feel the need to go through the process of rubbing away her once beautiful skin tone?

The need to be lighter! The idea of darker skin being unattractive! Is this all due to a lack of education or pure ignorance? An entwinement of both or the omission of one while having clear understanding the other.

The main effect of skin bleaching is the apparent lightening of the skin, which in the end changes the texture and tone of the skin. The fact of the situation though is that the actual result of lighter skin is not an actual effect but a side effect. A side effect, of the steroids that are embedded and entrenched in the bleaching creams.

So why are so many keen to experiment on their skin by poisoning themselves? Is the aspiration of a lighter tone more important than our health, our life? Are we willing to take the chance of cancer, liver failure or facial disfigurement to attain a pre-conceived idea of beauty?

Do we need to be more educated or have the remnants of slavery and global colonisation forever carved and enshrined our stereotype of lighter being more beautiful?

Will we 50 years from now still be doing the brown paper bag test? Little girls squeezing the eyes shut, praying to be lighter than that bag. Little light skinned girls feeling an air of superiority over the darker more beautiful girl, who will fight with her feeling of inferiority. Throughout life this beautiful mahogany toned girl sometimes wishing, praying and hoping she was fair skinned. Or will we start embracing and loving ourselves, as we can never truly be happy until we love ourselves.

Life is a gift and we are all created uniquely. Love conquers all and we are created uniquely. Hopefully one day we’ll realise, coloured light, coloured dark, we are all coloured beautiful.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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