Does Promoting Mostly Exceptional Dark Women help Black Women with Colorism?

Here at DDS, we always try to promote a variety of dark skinned women. Broad features, keen features, coarse hair, fine hair, curvy, thin etc. We do this so that every woman or girl looking will have a woman in which they can see a reflection of themselves. However, we sometimes get the complaint that we only promote exceptionally beautiful women and not enough “everyday” or “average” looking women (i.e. overweight women, “unconventionally attractive” women etc.).

I always have mixed emotions about this kind of feedback because I’m well versed in how promotion works on the minds of the masses. The last time I checked, every other group of women promote their BEST and healthiest looking women for the most part. I’m not saying we should aspire to be exactly like other races, but I am saying that parts of their promotion formula works.

I personally believe that a good mix of average and exceptional black beauty is key. Yes, beauty is subjective but if we’re honest, we can admit that in every group, there’s a fairly universal definition of attractiveness. And no, we’re not just talking about keen features and type 3 hair, but instead, well proportioned faces and healthy hair no matter the shade, texture of hair etc.

I know black women are sensitive about this topic but it shouldn’t be taboo to say that. Let’s not get so caught up in the “everybody is beautiful” ideology that we pretend that we ourselves find every black person to be attractive and/or healthy looking. We don’t. Now please don’t twist my words – I don’t believe in going around calling black women fat or unattractive just for the hell of it, we’ve had enough of that. But I also don’t think that we should dance around defining a black beauty standard just because ours has been attacked for so long. Let’s keep it real, we know what looks good and looks healthy so why not promote that? Why not promote the best we can be?

We can’t continue to complain about things like our high obesity rates, heart disease etc. and continue to promote obesity and everything that contributes, its counterproductive. We can’t continue to complain about negative or sub-par media portrayal of black and dark skinned women and simultaneously add to the tropes. Humans respond positively to images of above average and exceptional beauty and it motivates them to be a better version of themselves and gives them more confidence. Dark skinned women are no different.

As exceptional as Lupita is, she still gave dark skinned women around the world something to aspire to and more importantly, confidence in their dark skin. Her influence shouldn’t be minimized just because she doesn’t look like the “average” dark woman or because “beauty is shallow”. Should we only promote keen featured, thin women like her? No, but she was certainly a start in the right direction. Should we only focus on looks and beauty when tackling colorism? Not at all, but it’s a start in the right direction and it is working.

I definitely think there should be some balance between “fantasy” and reality no doubt, we don’t want people harming themselves because they can’t be “perfect” or because they can’t live up to Lupita. There’s a fine line with this and it’s very tricky but it is doable. I think the main lesson to take away from this is that it’s simply impossible to please everyone. Impossible. I don’t even look like every dark woman I promote but it doesn’t make me feel bad because in the end, it’s helping someone out there love and embrace their skin, hair and/or encouraging them to be healthier. Let’s promote our best to influence others to be their best – there’s no crime in that.

I also think it’s important that we support EVERY effort in lessening the negative effects of colorism on black women, not just the ones you don’t think go “deep enough” to fix the problem. As I always say – create the change you want to see. If you think you can do a better job at healing the wounds of colorism, do it! Show us how much you really care about it. That’s much better than complaining about what’s not happening or what isn’t there. There aren’t enough of us who do this and there’s certainly room for everyone. DDS will support you and accept you with open arms. So I say, cheers to fighting against colorism! We are in this together.


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