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.

  • http://gravatar.com/test anne

    Wrong picture.

  • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com African Mami

    The European cosmetics company have been in Kenya, since beginning of times! It is not a new phenomenon. Great that she is speaking out. Wish her all the best. But to be honest, if you are going to try and push these idjots out of our countries, we need to acknowledge that black is beautiful in all shades and hues.This starts, at the familial level. Otherwise, she is fighting a losing battle with a people who have been programmed to believe themselves as being inferior AND European advancement to be the way the truth and the life.Funny that we are talking about this, my Jamaican homegirl the other day remarked how she finds it funny that hair oils in the motherland are not readily available as here in the U.S., whilst we are the ones that produce some of the best if not baddest, shea burra on earth-Ghana! I told her, it is because we do not take pride in our own shit. We exist in a colonized mentality!

  • http://www.clutchmagonline.com Britni Danielle

    gracias. fixed. :)

  • http://twitter.com/afrikanmami12 African Mami (@afrikanmami12)

    The European cosmetics company have been in Kenya, since beginning of times! It is not a new phenomenon. Great that she is speaking out. Wish her all the best. But to be honest, if you are going to try and push these idjots out of our countries, we need to acknowledge that black is beautiful in all shades and hues.This starts, at the familial level. Otherwise, she is fighting a losing battle with a people who have been programmed to believe themselves as being inferior AND European advancement to be the way the truth and the life.Funny that we are talking about this, my Jamaican homegirl the other day remarked how she finds it funny that hair oils in the motherland are not readily available as here in the U.S., whilst we are the ones that produce some of the best if not baddest, shea burra on earth-Ghana! I told her, it is because we do not take pride in our own shit.We have a colonized mentality-you don’t think so?! Look to the influx of the Chinese

  • jamesfrmphilly

    as long as we must exist within a white paradigm we will all be fighting eurocentrism.
    she has to in her world, i have to in mine. there are few black photographers making it.

    these white devils are so morally corrupt they cannot recognize good when they see it.
    ultimately it is their loss.

  • Please

    To my way of thinking it is quite easy to fight this but Black people are all talk, all over the world it seems like and very little do………..turn off the tv and their movies. Blacks really can shut them out and their messages if they really wanted to. You dont HAVE to consume it.

  • omfg

    you must have only read a bit of the story.

    even though white companies are selling lighteners to blacks in kenya, she gets more love from whites in europe and the u.s., according to her.

    and the blacks in kenyan consider her color to be less than ideal.

  • DLS77

    I am glad that she is saying something and embracing her beauty!

  • http://itsoftenbeensaid.wordpress.com Sasha

    Agreed.

  • jamesfrmphilly

    “the blacks in kenyan consider her color to be less than ideal”

    i wonder where they learned that?

  • Dalili

    Hey Sissy!

    Agreed especially the part about affirming all our hues on a familial level. I read an article in the Daily Nation a few weeks ago that noted (some) women in addition to the creams are now taking skin lightening pills …without prescriptions…despite all the health risks. It’s both sad and maddening! Quoting Maya Angelou: “When we know better we do better.”

  • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com African Mami

    Originally, it was the white man. Now, I blame it on sheer STUPIDITY!

  • http://tontonmichel.tumblr.com/ Tonton Michel

    Bravo for her, more celebs need to take a stand against this.

  • Sue

    We also have to depict beauty in all it’s diversity in the media as well. Even the local magazines, ads etc uphold a eurocentric standard generally favoring those of lighter complexion, and among women straight of weaved up hair. These should not be the only images we see, include darker hued people, kinky hair, full-figured etc. Inferiority complexes start in childhood when young girls and boys rarely see adults going to great lengths to alter their complexion, hair etc.

  • Sue

    Ugghhh…so many mistakes! Corrected version below:
    We also have to depict beauty in all it’s diversity in the media. Even the local magazines, ad-agencies & TV stations uphold a eurocentric standard generally favoring those of lighter complexion, and among women straightened or weaved up hair. These should not be the only images we see, include darker hued people, kinky hair, full-figured. Inferiority complexes start in childhood when young girls and boys see adults going to extreme lengths to alter their complexion, hair etc or making disparaging remarks about others based on their looks.

  • gwan gyal

    Glad she is speaking out…best of luck to her…and yes I am a bit envious of her full lips!

    this reminds me of the ‘you look african’ post. Whenever someone asks me if I’m African..I say yes..my ancestors came from there…dont know which country but somewhere along that western coast.

    Unlike some, I don’t run from the sun in the summer so I tend to get darker…and I love it! I am so appreciative that I have the self love that I do…b/c skin lightening and all that stuff is too much work. Can you even still have fun if you have to avoid the sun and such? Can you still use face wash and get facials??? Even with hair straighteners..it is hard to have fun..scared of sweat, scared of rain, scared to workout. As long as these skin/hair issues dont stop me from getting paid and loving life, I’m good.

  • http://beautyinbaltimore.blogspot.com BeautyinBaltimore

    I love Ajuma, one of my favorite models ever. She was a Marc Jacobs and Vivian Westwood campaign models. Ajuma took some time off and got married but now she is back.

  • http://www.50shadesofblack.com Carlton Mackey

    Thank you very much for this post. I find it very relevant to the newest project I conceived and am developing titled “50 SHADES OF BLACK -from black coffee to high yellow…African American sex symbols and the complexity of skin tone.” http://www.50shadesofblack.com I would love to feature a link back from my site to this post if that is OK with you. I really think that it sheds light on the conversation. I’d also welcome any additional reflections from you personally. I just stumbled onto this site today. Very glad I did.

  • Tami

    That model is beautiful. Everyone should read Kola Boof’s novel, The Sexy Part of The Bible, where she talks about people in Africa taking the Michael Jackson pills to lighten their skin. The one dark-skin person who is comfortable with their dark complexion is looked on as an oddity…I am 50 yrs old. It took me years & years to accept my dark complexion although people always told me I was pretty. But pretty to me meant what I saw on TV & in the magazines. The media plays a big part in how women view themselves.

  • Pingback: Kenyan Model Fights Skin Lightening and European Standards of Beauty | Chocolate News Treats

  • S.

    Clutch

    Please fix the comment section. The “Post Comment” section disappears whenever I write a long paragraph

  • Dude

    Like that Fair and Lovely crap. Nkt!

  • http://cupofjo-jo.blogspot.com bk chick

    yes! That book is the truth!

  • kyalo

    speaking as a kenyan i love the different shades of kenya i encounter everyday.

  • Victoria

    I’d love to know more about how to support her cause. She is stunning, and i’m so tired of seeing this shit in the media.

  • Sarah

    Oh, PLEASE. You act like it’s easy for black folks to resist white supremacy, like they don’t lighten their skins to survive in a WHITE SUPREMACIST WORLD.

  • http://www.facebook.com/damaris.muga Damaris Muga

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

  • http://flhfhs.org Chastity

    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!

  • Pingback: Ajuma Nasenyana Fights Skin Lightening and European Standards Of Beauty | Best African Models

  • Pingback: pgp303: Kenyan Model Ajuma says its not OK to tell us to lighten our skin- Pangeas Garden

  • 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!

  • 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!

Latest Stories

Columbus Short’s Wife Files for Divorce After Alleged Murder-Suicide Threat

by

33 Telltale Signs You’re Turning Into Your Mother

by

Reports: Rapper Christ Bearer Severs Penis, Attempts Suicide, But Survives

by

Girl, Bye! Are Some Terms of Endearment Off Limits to White Women?

by
Read previous post:
She Brings Home the Bacon, Fries It Up in the Pan, and is Still the Only One in the House with Dishpan Hands
Movie-Themed Weddings: Which Would You Pick?
Close