Beverly Naya: Fifty Shades of Black Beauty
Nollywood actress Beverly Naya is passionate about women of all shades being represented in the media. She shares her essay on the topic exclusively with BellaNaija.
What is black beauty?
It is the willingness to love and accept yourself for who you are, it is also the ability to confidently embrace the fact that your black is beautiful, no matter what shade/complexion you may be. And last but not least, it is the zeal you have to inspire and empower yourself as well as your race through the meaningful things you achieve for yourself and for others.
So why then has the representation of black beauty degenerated so much? In 1712, William Lynch wrote a letter to slave owners saying “divide the blacks by skin tone and you’ll control them for 300+ years.” Three hundred and two years later and we have the world we are living in today.
As a black race we live in a world where value is placed upon us according to the complexion of our skin, this is known as ‘colourism’; and in my opinion it is a growing epidemic in our society today. I have often heard people say that lighter skin is a lot more visually appealing than darker skin, I find this notion not only absurd but exceptionally worrying as we are all a part of one race with beauty in every shade whether it be caramel, toffee, chocolate or ebony to name a few. So why then (post slavery) would we allow segregation within our race? Why is it acceptable to have a hierarchy of beauty determined merely by complexion? What happened to self love and the pride and worthiness we feel from within, no matter what we look like?
I remember as a little girl I was never truly aware of the colour of my skin, it was irrelevant. The only thing I was aware of was the fact that I was an only child with no siblings to play with, so my Nintendo and barbies became my best friends. I occasionally wondered why Mario or at least Luigi wasn’t black but still, that was all irrelevant to a seven year old.
It would be another three to four years before I would be slapped in the face with the warped ideologies of complexion.
There was this beautiful light skinned girl with long Indian-looking hair that all the boys in my primary school had a crush on. I remember wishing that I could be like her so I would walk and talk similar to her hoping it would make me just as popular, instead I was told by the little boy I had a crush on that his dad told him to only look at pretty light skinned girls and that I was too dark to be considered beautiful…I believed him, and hence spent the next few years feeling less than.
It wasn’t until about sixteen before I started believing that I was beautiful, it took years of convincing from my mother and now I have blossomed into the woman I am today.
I felt inspired to write this because of the increasing lack of confidence in our society. Little girls do not feel like they are pretty because they aren’t told that they are enough. The dark skinned woman feels unattractive and unworthy predominantly because of how beauty is portrayed in the media. I even have a mixed raced friend who once told me that she was insecure because she got a lot of attention but she wasn’t sure if it was because she was genuinely pretty, or because she was fair in complexion.
It is such a heartbreaking and possibly never ending situation but I hope to empower people, especially young black girls, through my words.
Love yourself, for nobody else in this world can love YOU more than you can. We must also remember that our black is beautiful, no matter your skin tone. Be encouraged by the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou, Iman, Biola Alabi, Mo Abudu, Michelle Obama and Coretta Scott King (the list is endless) who have paved the way for black women of all shades to be successful. The world is divided enough.
As Maya Angelou once said, “It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength. We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of that tapestry are equal in value, no matter their colour.”
We must collectively find a way to maintain the essence of what black beauty truly is.
So again I ask, what is black beauty? Black beauty lies within YOU so be an inspiration. Be the reason why that precious little black girl has chosen to love herself because through you she has discovered the jewel that lies within her, the jewel which has led her to realise that her black is indeed beautiful!