Colorism – placing lighter skin tones at the pinnacle of the beauty scale – is a process as detrimental to society as racism and sexism. In a society entirely too critical of the way women look, colorism tends to affect women more than it does men. A recently debuted Thai ad is demonstrative of this, attempting to sell a skin lightening cream, “whiteness makes you win”.
Fair and Lovely, the skin lightening cream in question, advertises that their product gave women around the world- but particularly women in Asia – a sense of confidence and beauty. This product, actively sold since 1975, and its male companion Fair and Handsome (2005) have helped India accrue over $400 million in sales.
Cue the Unfair and Lovely campaign, which gives well-deserved praise to the beauty and grace of darker skinned women. 21-year-old Texan photographer Pax Jones teamed up with sisters Mirusha and Yanusha Yogarajah to create a gorgeous, powerful, and iconic photo series that demonstrates the undeniable possibility of winning while dark skinned.
“The series was purely a creative project that I developed to combat underrepresentation of dark skinned people of color in media. Mirusha’s experiences of being dark and South Asian helped me conceptualize the critical intersection that colorism rests at between various communities worldwide. I realized that our experiences of colorism overlapped so much,” Jones, a black woman, said in an email to SELF.
Skin lightening products are only one of many sales tactics and advertising campaigns teaching women all across the world they are simply not good enough. Fortunately, Unfair and Lovely is working to actively quash this notion: teaming up with Reclaim the Bindi – a separate campaign fighting cultural appropriation – the campaigns have helped dark skinned women to embrace their identities and feel comfortable vocalizing their struggles to feel beautiful. Jones notes that “The response [to the campaign] has been beautiful. I’ve read many accounts about how the hashtag has helped with self-esteem and self-affirmation of individuals from Australia, West Africa, and South Asia to the U.S. and Caribbean.”
This breathtaking and uplifting effort is a comforting reminder that dark skinned women are not just beautiful: they are powerful, unstoppable, and perpetually rising to greater heights – no skin lightening cream necessary.