Though dark skin women are getting some love on social media, one has to wonder if this love is translating to offline. Is there a “real world” equivalent to #melaninpoppingseverely and other hashtags showing appreciation for darker sisters? Is there an offline counterpart to Twitter threads uplifting dark skin women? While all of this adoration is refreshing to see online, does it mean that there is a crossover into reality?
In some ways, the beauty of dark skin has become more visible offline. Lupita Nyong’o’s increased exposure as a beauty icon is one example. After winning the Oscar, the dark-skinned actress landed two Vogue magazine covers in 2014 and 2015. She was also chosen to be the ambassadress of Lancôme, a European-based (French, to be exact) international cosmetics company. Other dark-skinned actresses — including Viola Davis, Teyonah Parris, and Danai Gurira — have also graced covers on national beauty magazines and ads. Nevertheless, these examples are still media, so does that count?
Lancôme on choosing Lupita:
“Both talented and committed, true to her African beauty, and showing a great curiosity and open-mindedness in her career choices, Lupita is by essence the Lancôme woman. A strikingly beautiful and intelligent woman.” — Françoise Lehmann, General Manager of Lancôme International.
“Lupita’s authentic inner and outer beauty, her exquisite grace, and true confidence represent today’s modern woman. Having Lupita as a Lancôme ambassadress will help support our mission in the U.S. market which is to speak to all women.” — Xavier Vey, President of Lancôme USA
What cannot be denied, however, is that there are spaces in which dark skin has remained “unattractive” offline. In the hip hop culture, for instance, song lyrics and music videos that diminish the beauty of sisters with darker complexion are plentiful. When it comes to movies, dark skin women are typically relegated to non-love interest roles. Also, one does not have to look far to find a disparaging comment about us on Instagram, Twitter, or blogs, which leads us to the following question: Is there really that much love for dark skin on social media?
From what I have observed, much of the dark skin adoration on social media appears to come from black women — from us. We tend to populate the appreciation hashtags with our own pictures or photographs of dark skin women whom we feel are stunning. (Black model Broderick Hunter is one of very few men who are seen elevating dark-skinned women on social media AND practicing that life offline.)
But there is power in black women going hard for other black women. There is a power in black women uplifting a segment of the group that has been considered “ugly” or “less than” since slavery. It is a cultural phenomenon akin to the digital natural movement of the late 90s and early 2000s.
The start of the online natural hair movement was similarly written off as ‘strictly online’ by many critics and skeptics. Still, black women gathered on forums like Nappturality and CurlTalk and photo-sharing sites like Fotki to celebrate their coils, kinks and curls.
As the styles coming out of the natural hair community became cooler and more and more droolworthy, and the buying power and demand for coil-friendly products increased, culture took notice. Now there are Instagram accounts dedicated to women with natural hair and the men (most of them black) who love them, and the natural hair product industry is making inroads into mainstream beauty and creating a new generation of Madam CJ Walkers. Perhaps most importantly, as the natural hair movement has aged, many who started in it as young girls are now mothers, raising daughters and sons who see kinky and curly hair acceptance as normal. Walk down the street in any black neighborhood in New York, Chicago, Atlanta or Houston and you will see an increasing number of black women going about their business, rocking gorgeous fros, cornrows, updos or twists.
There are indications that the growing dark-skinned movement has similar potential to impact society as more Black women ask, “If the majority of us in this country have black and brown skin, as opposed to fair or light skin, why are we not being represented? And why are we considered the ugly ones?”
What do you think? Is the appreciation for dark skin being translated into real life?