I’m Jealous of Lupita, But Not for the Reason You Think

Blame this stream of consciousness article on the fact that I’ve been sending emails nonstop for the past 3 hours, but there’s something I’ve got to get off my chest.

Lupita is slowly bringing me back to a place of low self-esteem that I thought I’d graduated from when I got my Harvard degree.

It’s not the meteoric rise to stardom or the accolades; I’ve never wanted the kind of fame where you have to look, act, and be perfect all the time because people are always watching you. Where you have to carefully craft – or brilliantly produce – speeches like this one and this one that slay people and give them life. At the same time.

It’s not her figure; Lupita’s incredibly toned body is enviable, but I’ve gotten to a place in my fitness and health journey (which is what I was really supposed to be updating you guys on but alas…) where I am content with the body figure I’ve been blessed with — and I’ve decided I just need to continue eating right, exercising… and then have a baby and it’ll all come together perfectly aka I’ll get wider hips!

It’s not her hair; while I do regret every once in a while not big chopping sooner and rocking a fade, that’s a change I can embark on at any given time whenever I feel like it. Which may happen sooner rather than later. #you’vebeenwarned

It’s not her super cool and handsome lil bro; I’ve got one of those too (who has been begging to be featured on the site… such a typical pretty boy/last-born who would pull something like photo bomb important people’s selfies. Also if you’re 18-20, are doing something with your life, and you love God, send me an email so I can set y’all up. Not kidding. He’s tall and athletic. And has me for a sister. What else do you need in a man/child?). I’ve even got a pretty awesome older brother too (but he’s married so #noinquiriesplease)!

It’s not her rumored boo-thang Jared Leto; I’ve never been able to take a guy seriously whose hair was longer than mine. Maybe I have hair security issues. Oh well.

It’s not even her middle-class that is really upper-upper-middle class African upbringing that positioned her to access great American educational institutions and the networks that come with them; I got all of that too – though I’d say my family started off way closer to middle than upper, but my amazingly hard-working parents who #startedfromthebottom made enormous strides so that I can start from closer to the top.

Nope, none of those.

I could wear all these colors too if I had darker skin… but alas I’ll stick to my blues, blacks, and browns.

I’m jealous because Lupita has the most beautiful, rich skin tone that I DESPERATELY have been pining over the past 5 years.

#teamIwishIwasdarker

It’s probably a strange thing, to hear someone say they want to be darker, but alas, I’m no ordinary girl. Going to a predominantly white high school, I thought I was dark skinned, and was completely cool with it. I don’t recall skin tone ever coming up in middle or high school; the most intriguing aspect of my blackness for my classmates was whether I could teach them the newest moves – Harlem Shake, Heel Toe, C Walk, etc.

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The good old days… Thank you soccer & track for keeping me bronzed.

When I reached college, my Dark and Lovely bubble was burst with the quickness by a male friend situation. We actually got into an argument because I referred to someone as light-skinned and he said that we were the same skin tone. The horror! How could I be light, when I was dark in high school? Other homies verified that I was not at all dark skinned, and then came the dreadful paper bag test. Failed.

Now I had a whole lot of self-esteem problems in college (like errybody else in the world), but skin tone really was often front and center of my woes. Didn’t really bother too much about weight concerns, obviously cut my hair; but I wanted, NEEDED, to be dark.

For one, dark skin was undeniably African. One of the many things that threw me off in college was the weird dynamics (more like non dynamics) between international student Africans and black Americans – I identified as both but couldn’t get either side to really see we were one and the same. If my skin was darker, the African students would’ve forgiven the American accent that gave me away as “not really African”.

Secondly, dark skin meant pimple free skin. I had pretty bad skin in college. Between the french fries, szechuan fried rice (man I miss Yenching), stress, and not washing my face twice a day, my face was a recipe for disaster. And being an impatient goon, I always picked at pimples, leaving noticeable spots that have only finally (almost) disappeared (which reminds me, gotta update you guys on my skin care regimen too!). But dark skinned people did not get pimples, and if they did, they did not leave acne scars. Their skin was smooth and silky and unfair.

Lastly, dark skin was regal and elegant. There was something so pure and unadulterated (interestingly enough, most [white] people see the fairest of skin tones as pure; for me, it’s the darkest… #perspective) and PERFECT about dark skin. I imagine the kings and queens of various ancient and forgotten African kingdoms being richly black, draped with all kinds of lush fabrics and opulent jewels. Le sigh. But I was not dark.

Things only got worse when I started dating my boyfriend in my final year of college. Homie is tall, dark, and handsomeeee. 😀 I’ve never seen the man rub lotion on his face… it’s perfect! I think he’s had all of one pimple in 2.5 years, and probably 10 in his lifetime. And, I’m convinced it’s because he’s dark-skinned! My daddy too. #skinflawless. I have a homegirl, whom I won’t name lest she thinks that I’m the biggest creeper on the face of the Earth, who is dark skinned and also pimple free since youth and sometimes I just look at her face like dang, your skin is so darn perfect.

Now my skin tone woes are not for lack of effort. I have tried. The second I became (b)old enough to go on vacations with my friends, I would just lay out on the beach while people frolicked and looked for trouble to get into. Me? I just wanted to get dark.

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Using the mister as a metric, I’ve come close to the goal, but never close enough!

Luckily I’ve been surrounded with loving family and friends who tell me I look fine/great/threaten to slap me if I don’t shut up about not being dark, so I haven’t gotten to the point of trying to find some Darkenicious cream to reverse Sammy Sosa my skin. My “natural” skin darkening efforts aka excessive tanning without sunblock have created another problem: splotchy, uneven skin that I pray daily will not materialize into something other than discoloration because my ignorant self really convinced myself “Black people can’t get skin cancer”. This is how desperate I was a few years ago. Such a shame. But, I’m going to PR in two weeks and will tan responsibly. With sunscreen!

Essentially, I was more or less cool until Lupita rolled up in the scene and just reminded me of how I could never be as great as I might could be because I’m not dark. My future bridesmaid/baby’s fairy godmother is jacking up all the efforts I’d done made to get over the fact that I’m peanut butter colored and not Nutella. Though I love me some peanut butter (it should be a food group), Nutella is infinitely better. And kind of always will be.

Have you been unhappy with your skin tone – either wished you were lighter or darker? What did you do to get past it?

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Comments

  1. Its so interesting (and wierd) of you wanting to be darker in this day and age when skin-bleaching is so rampant among us blacks. At some point growing up I wished I was lighter, in my eyes light-skinned girls looked more beautiful. That has since changed though, I now appreciate my dark skin more than ever

  2. I’m late but a sista can relate. To this day my eyes water at Lupita’s glorious tone. Like damn, if only they bottled that.

    I’m in absolute owe at dark skin, it’s absolutely gorgeous, it’s stunning, it’s majestic. While I’m up here as pale as anything. Okay, I’m definitely not that light, I think we’re around the same tone. To make matters worse the sun wants to be my frenemy, it actually by some juju magic bleaches me. Have you ever heard of such foolishness in your life?

    It’s all my mother’s fault with her congolese golden tone, that she just had to give me a fraction of. Which is why I need me a deliciously dark chocolate King. Like the one you have.

    Love.

    1. Oh wow I’ve never heard of the sun making anyone lighter, sorry! And haha yes get you a dark chocolate brother to stare at and make everything better

  3. In boarding school when I was labout 12, I saw this Lego Clickit ad in this American or UK teen magazine and one of the child models was this stunning dark girl like Lupita dark.
    I know I’m dark, but I’d never wanted a different skin colour before then.
    So I was done with exams, I had too much free time. I sat outside under the hot hot Nigerian sun for hours, for like 3 days, until I couldn’t take it anymore, I had a headache!
    LOL very silly of me, but I can totally relate to your Lupita envy.

  4. This is one skin struggle I can thankfully say I’ve never had. While I’ve always admired darker-skinned women’s skin – like you, I envy their rich skin tone and unblemished skin – I personally have always been happy with my skin color and haven’t wished to be darker or lighter. I’m a medium-brown, color of peanut butter or coffee with a little milk. I do deal with the issues of discoloration and acne scars and uneven tone, though, but when I discovered makeup in my mid-20s (and especially CC cream!) that doesn’t even bother me so much.

    I also think that just like the media handpicks the prettiest white girls and light-skinned women, they hand pick the prettiest dark-skinned women too. In fact, I think that while the threshold for being a pretty white woman in Hollywood is pretty low (just look decent enough and either act well or be connected to someone), the threshold for being a beautiful featured dark-skinned woman is far higher (you have to be absolutely freaking gorgeous, like Lupita. Casually pretty/attractive dark-skinned women need not apply, because lord forbid there be too many of us). So it makes sense that all of the dark-skinned women we admire on high have perfect skin and are ethereally beautiful.

  5. I, too, wanted, and sometimes still want to have, darker, even skin. I am what ppl call high yellow (Le sigh). I used to despise ppl calling me white (I still don’t really like it but I deal). “Redbone” was never a compliment to me and I’ve never relished in being light skinned. I think it may have to do with my upbringing. My mother is darker skinned (more like a milk chocolate), my dad is light skinned but still darker than I am, and my sister is a perfect blend of them both. And me? I came out super high yellow. Most of the people that I used to hang out with were darker than me. Even now, they’re still considered light skinned but they’re still darker than me smh lol. Maybe that’s why I love chocolate men lol. But either way it does come down to appreciating the skin you’re in. Although I appreciate my skin a whole lot more in the summer or when I travel to warmer climates. Now if I could just tackle these varicose veins in my legs that darker skin folks don’t have to worry about! Grrrr lol.

  6. Hmmm…birds of a feather? In my case I can’t say I ever had issues with my skin (I’m the color of hot chocolate, with some milk mixed in). My sis would say that’s a euphemism for the color of mud lol!!! Still, from the moment I was old enough, I’ve always fancied really dark guys; as in burnt coffee (dark roast) 😀 I tease my hubby constantly that he’s a tad lighter than I would have liked (and I’ve heard a colleague joke that she couldn’t tell the difference between his skin and the color of her black leather shoes). I hear what you say though. I look at the hubs all the time and think YUMMM…but then everyone who knows me knows that dark chocolate has always been my favorite 😉 The darker the better lol!!!!

  7. I also wished I was darker. To have flawless, shiny, rich skin and also to be recognized as a Nigerian woman. People are often surprised that I am indeed African, mostly because they assume all Africans look like the Amistad movie…. -_- I enjoy my complexion now, somewhat. I can’t change it, so I embrace it ♡●♡●

  8. My love you are beautiful just the way you are! But I too can attest to the fact that I appreciate darker skin tones, especially those that seem to be flawless like Lupita’s. But being someone who can be lighter brown in the winter and darker brown in the summer I honestly am thankful for my color because there is a range. I have never looked at myself as just one tone of brown. If I was a person who enjoyed the sun then I am sure that I could achieve a darker tone, my parents are Nigerian but I was born in America. I think the lesson is that there is nothing wrong with appreciating darker skinned tones or even lighter ones but to appreciate what you have. The grass is never greener on the other side, we have a tendency to want what we don’t have without having an appreciation for what we do have. Lupita, you and and every other women of color, and otherwise, have insecurities that we have to overcome to appreciate who we are. But I think what we need to recognize is that true beauty originates from inside and what you see on the outside is only a glimpse. Whether you have a light, medium, or dark skin tone, blemished or unblemished skin, you are beautiful from the inside out and not the other way around.

  9. I totally agree! My skin color is probably what your future child will be, or, in other words, the result of mixing your color with your beau. By the way, you two are so adorable! I was always the “chocolate”, or “dark skinned” girl in the group. But as I got older, I too wanted my skin to be darker. I do have to occasional pimple that I love to pick, but I suffer from eczema, which really sucks! I’ve always wanted an even skin tone, and I feel the easiest way for me to achieve that is to be darker. I also, looove the tone’s versatility when it comes to make up and fashion! Unfortunately, I have to admit that, as a young girl, I wanted lighter skin. That disappeared in my high school/young adult years, though. Besides, my fiancé is light enough for the both of us, lol!

  10. Great and honest post. You and the boo are too cute. When I was five, I prayed to God and asked him to make me white and short. Lol, I will never forget that prayer. Other than that I like my skin tone but I do wish it was even. Dark spots have always disrupted that flow.I love summer because my skin is very even after the hot summer sun kisses it. I love that! My skin looks the best in summer but I always use sunscreen in order to protect it from sunburns and premature aging.

  11. So I thought I was dark skinned then my mother told me I was barely brown, and if I hadn’t spent so much time running in the sun I would still be high yellow. Then she showed me pictures from my childhood… needless to say was devastated. I can’t buy skin colored makeup online because I will ALWAYS buy the wrong shade. I need someone else in my face telling me the right shade or I’d have a case of accidental blackface. No Ije, you are not alone.

  12. I definitely had an issue with my skin tone when I was younger. Mainly due to the fact that all the boys liked the white and light skinned girls lol. I never tried any skin bleaching creams or anything but in the back of my mind I wanted lighter skin. I love my skin yone now though.

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