Like many other parts of the world, Africa is no stranger to European standards of beauty. The practice of skin lightening is becoming rampant in many African countries as some folks go to drastic lengths to shed their dark complexions for lighter, “more acceptable” ones. And from advertising and magazines, to TV and film, the black aesthetics are being pushed out, while European standards of beauty — blonde hair, blue eyes — are becoming more mainstream.

“It seems that the world is conspiring in preaching that there is something wrong with Kenyan ladies’ kinky hair and dark skin,” Kenyan model Ajuma Nasenyana told the Daily Nation.

Nasenyana wonders why European skincare companies that push lightening creams are entering Kenya marketing the European standard of beauty.

“Their leaflets are all about skin lightening, and they seem to be doing good business in Kenya. It just shocks me. It’s not OK for a Caucasian to tell us to lighten our skin,” she said.

Despite her beauty and that of women like her, Nasenyana is dismayed that while she is heralded abroad for her dark skin, at home she is seen as less than ideal.

“I have never attempted to change my skin. I am natural. People in Europe and America love my dark skin. But here in Kenya, in my home country, some consider it not attractive,” she lamented.

Instead of simply being disgusted with the growing contempt some have for their own skin, Nasenyana takes every opportunity she has to speak out against skin lightening and discrimination in the modeling world. She is also very critical of the Western media’s influence over Kenyans and concedes they are constantly being bombarded by magazines and advertisements that praise lighter skin.

“When you flip through fashion magazines like Vogue and only see white models, then you get the feeling on what is happening to black models. It is not fair,” she explained.

But Nasenyana, who has modeled for everyone from Victoria Secret to  Carlos Mienes, isn’t just speaking out. The reining South African Fashion Week Model of the Year is also thinking of launching a line of cosmetics and natural skincare products for black women. Her hopes? That her products can inspire her peers to love their skin instead of bleach it.

Let’s hope it works.

32 Comments

  1. The girls in the Adverts on the right bar of this page all looked bleached to me:-) the ones on the bemineproducts.

  2. I agree! She is very strong to open up about this inequality whom, she and many of woman of color feel within this industry.

    I mean, when I read this story… I realized the world has this… unrealistic image of beauty. Of a woman. I am a Puerto Rican and Black young woman… and I am VERY PROUD OF THAT! But anyway, I feel that in our American society, and (now reading this… not only in the American Society, but in the world alone.) It is that I rarely notice black women being called beautiful, in regards to being natural. I know FOR SURE, many black women, like myself, often feel misrepresented in this distorted projected image of a woman, and of her true beauty.

    I mean, I pick up a magazine and see white, white, white!
    And it is not that I am a racist, I have no hatred against any race, or kind. In addition, I do believe white women are beautiful as well, BUT… they are not the ONLY kind of women in this world…

    It is time to let our beautiful dark or lighter brown skin be known, and be seen… because it is beautiful. Us, black women… We are black, we are proud, and most of all, we are BEAUTIFUL! I feel we must expand this concept of beauty to women of every race, every skin color, and every age. There shouldn’t be a certain image of a women, because everyone is different.

    And sorry for this whole spiel, I kinda felt outraged with this… hehe! But I want to conclude, that if I was this beautiful model, gee and with that rich, dark skin…I would have beaten someone up if my skin color was a problem to them!

    Enough said!

  3. Mary Ann

    Ajuma Nasenyana I am so sorry that people who lack knowlege about the benefits of dark skin have approached you and others with nonsense, i.e., bleaches to remove the natural melanin that protects dark skin from all types of damage which includes melanoma skin cancer. That’s what melanin does, and that is the reason that we have dark skin. It is good! : ) Unfortunately most people are not informed properly, but I commend your courage to reject nonsense. Look at it this way, In theUnited States Whites who are light skinned are told to tan their skin although it will increase their chance of melanoma skin cancer. Therefore, to advise to tan skin is also nonsense.

    I am actually considered a caramel or lighter skinned Black woman who resides in the United States, and I analyzed your skin based on your comments in this article, and I do not dislike your skin color. Your color appears as dark chocolate, and that is good! When anything is bleached it looses it’s natural benefits such as white bread or sugar. Anyone with knowlege about food understands that bleached food is not healthy for the body.

    Take care and keep up the courage!

  4. Mary Ann

    Ajuma Nasenyana I am so sorry that people who lack knowledge about the benefits of dark skin have approached you and others with nonsense, i.e., bleaches to remove the natural melanin that protects dark skin from all types of damage which includes melanoma skin cancer. That’s what melanin does, and that is the reason that we have dark skin. It is good! : ) Unfortunately, most people are not informed properly, but I commend your courage to reject nonsense. Look at it this way, In the United States Whites who are light skinned are told to tan their skin although it will increase their chance of melanoma skin cancer. Therefore, to advise to tan skin is also nonsense.

    I am actually considered a caramel or lighter skinned Black woman who resides in the United States, and I analyzed your skin based on your comments in this article, and I do not dislike your skin color. Your color appears as dark chocolate, and that is good! When anything is bleached it looses it’s natural benefits such as white bread or sugar. Anyone with knowledge about food understands that bleached food is not healthy for the body.

    Take care and keep up the courage!

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