Whitewashing Beauty Epidemic

Manhattan, New York
United States

For centuries women of color and other ethnicities have been subtly told that their beauty was inferior due to their complexion. People physically say out loud that all skin types are beautiful, but do they really mean it? Equality is not the impression young girls everywhere are receiving when they read a magazine, turn on the tv, or put on their makeup. This is mostly  because everywhere they turn people are being photoshopped or filtered with lightened skin in an attempt to “enhance their beauty.” For example, even Queen Bee herself was brightened to try and appeal to more fans for the sake of sales. This is evidence that beauty standards may claim to be inclusive when in reality they are everything but fair. This also includes other countries around the world besides the United States.

REAL Skin Tone, Commercial Skin Tone, Album Skin Tone

This horrible mentality all comes down to class and slavery in every culture. The idea was that the lighter your skin tone was the wealthier and more superior you were as a person. This dates back to when slaves and other hard-working people were outside in the sun all day which can lead to their skin tone appearing darker. Their tans branded them as lowborn making them “ugly” which is absolutely not true because dark skin is truly beautiful. A great example of this is Asia, where women do everything they can to keep their porcelain skin as fair as possible through creams, sunblocks, umbrellas, and sometimes they even use strong chemicals. To Asians, white skin is a symbol of refinement and it came with many privileges such as first choices for marriages and careers because their skin made them more desirable. That is why the Japanese came up with the term “bihaku” meaning “beautiful white.” They believed that “white skin covers the seven flaws” (meaning even if a woman had not very appealing features they were still considered beautiful due to their skin.) And the thing is it’s not just Japan that shares this beauty standard, other Asian countries such as South Korea, China, and etc. do as well. Koreans would whitewash artists and in China, the light-skinned citizens would become more successful. My Chinese friend confirmed this fact one day when I complimented her on her tan from Ecuador. As soon as I mentioned she looked darker she freaked out and said that couldn’t be possible since she wore double amounts of sunblock. She wanted to stay light because she thought it was more beautiful due to the success rate of the lighter Chinese women around her. After that, she never went outside without an umbrella and made sure to put on whitening masks every night. This is not right and should definitely not be a thing, especially if you’re like me loving your natural sun-kissed skin and still fall victim to whitewashing.

My REAL Skin Tone (left), I.D Skin Tone (right)

I remember the day when I realized what had happened so vividly. It had been my senior year of high school and I was waiting to receive my new student i.d from my teacher. We hired a new photographer and was excited to see how our pictures came out. It wasn’t until I received mine when my smile dropped. This I.D was my face but definitely didn’t look like me. I had anticipated in my skin looking horrible with my rushed makeup job, but what I didn't expect was for them to convert me into another race. I literally looked FIVE shades lighter than my usual honey glow. To say I was flabbergasted would have been an understatement. When I showed my friends my card and they all said it was beautiful and that I’d never looked better. NEVER LOOKED BETTER! Are they kidding me, this picture wasn’t me at all and only made me feel as if my real complexion wasn’t good enough.  My skin was not accepted by the photographers however the school who acknowledged it as me. I had been whitewashed and was told I looked even more beautiful than before and that is something I’ll never forgive. Whitewashing will always be hurtful whether or not it was unintentional and people need to see that. The world needs to start accepting women of all complexions as beautiful because that “color-privileged” crap just won't cut it anymore.