Archive for February, 2012

February 29, 2012


Today I read an article regarding the cover for FHM Philippines magazine. The cover depicts a Filipino actress named Bela Padilla. She is surrounded by three Filipino models who are representing “the shadow” that the actress is emerging from. On the surface this sounds like an artistic, maybe even fashionable (for FHM), photograph. So, what’s the problem?

For starters, the three models accompanying the actress have been painted to appear as if they have much darker skin tones. The tagline for the cover is, “Stepping Out of the Shadows.” In America, this photograph conjures up imagery of “Black Face,” which is a medium that the majority of African Americans would agree is offensive. But, that’s our American slant on things. This publication is out of the Philippines and, to understand the backlash and the offensiveness of the cover, you must consider THEIR history.

Several years ago, I was on the interwebs looking for products to even out my skin tone. While I was researching this, I came across a forum where young, mostly Asian, girls were discussing different ways to lighten their skin. As an American, with little exposure to the outside world at the time, I was shocked at the suggestions that were given and I was shocked that there were girls out there who loathed themselves to that degree. That self-loathing didn’t come from a desire to skin cats or feasts on the bones of children, it was based solely on something that is completely out of their control. Their skin tone. As a black American, I was intrigued by what I discovered there because, until then, I had not heard of people from other, non-white, races suffering from “colorism.”

So, what is colorism? A quick web search will get you the following definition:

Colorism is discrimination in which human beings are accorded differing social treatment based on skin color.

I consider colorism to be the preference of light skinned individuals over dark skinned individuals within one race; or vice versa. People who “practice” colorism believe that if someone is dark skinned, they are generally and inherently inferior. (This mindset is often subconscious. Personally, I cannot tell you how many times I have heard men, in passing, describe their perfect woman as having light skin, for instance.)

Most people who do not understand the concept of colorism have a difficult time understanding the offensiveness of this photograph. If it wasn’t for my own experience with colorism, it’s a good chance that I would not get it either.

As I research colorism within the Filipino culture the picture that is painted is that, although they are the minority, light skinned Filipinos receive the best jobs and generally live a high class life while dark skin Filipinos do not.  If you were to see a Filipino movie, or to pick up an average Filipino magazine, you will likely see mostly light skinned Filipinos. Along with this, Filipinos are inundated with ads for skin whitening creams. I’ve read many comments like the following over the years:

“I’m just wondering if light skin makes a person more beautiful in the Philippines. It seems everywhere I go around the Philippines there are commercials, billboards, ads, ect. that promote skin whitening products.” (Link)

With the prevalence of this mindset, it is no wonder that FHM Philippines felt such a huge backlash from readers who are fed up with being told, directly and indirectly, that they are inferior. That dark skin is a shadow that must be shed in order to emerge, beautiful, pristine and, most importantly, white. In FHM’s apology, they stated that they will strive to be more “sensitive” in the future, but IMO, it goes beyond sensitivity. Until people understand the harm that colorism causes, they will never truly understand what is so wrong with that cover, thus it’s likely that they will struggle to see it in the future. For example, in an attempt to clear things up, Padilla stated that the models weren’t actually dark skin models, but had been made up to look as if they were. So not only are they portraying dark models as “the shadow” they also still refused to hire dark skin models for the shoot.

To sum things up, a user that responded to my post on the Huffington Post stated it perfectly:

…. this happens all over the world, especially in colonised/commonwealth places + among various ethnicities.

people are made complacent through controlled stimuli, while others try to imitate what is considered to be ‘majority’ social concepts – whether it is stifles them or not – to fit in…so sad. when messages such as the one depicted in the picture are so slight that most people miss it and some who see it chalk it up to a misunderstanding or overreaction, this is to be expected from both sides.

history is relevant. truly understanding a culture in order to appreciate nuances of perception is important. what to some might seem completely irrelevant, may not be so to others. it depends on how it impacts lives from both spectrums on a fundamental level. in this instance the message is clear. it helps when you understand the role of advertising. -Nikmc

I concur.

February 22, 2012

If I wanted to talk to myself, I would blog!

It’s been awhile, blogosphere, since I’ve made a post. I’ve been busying myself with various endeavors ranging from attempting to get my jewelry line off of the ground and venturing into creating textile fabric patterns for scarves, dresses, skirts, coverups and blouses. Don’t ask me why I have decided to start a fashion line. Not something that I thought I would do, but sometimes life just directs you in the… uh, direction that you need to go!

I figure now is a good time to start blogging again, with the 2012 presidential season well underway. While I focused mostly on politics in the past, I will now blog about my various other interests as well, which may include everything from my latest artistic endeavor to the latest episodes of “The Voice” and “Revenge.”  I once felt that these things should all be separate, but the fact is that I have a lot of interests and if I tried to have a blog for all of them, I would go crazy.. or crazier.

I’ve spent the last year and a half or so using various online websites to voice my opinions, but really, who can deal with all of the rampant censorship? The Huffington Post is the absolute worst offender, in those regards. Half of the time I don’t know if my post will even make it past the moderator, even if it isn’t ladled with obscenities or general insults. Besides, I like to converse “real-time” and not have to wait an hour for a post to make it onto the page. If I wanted to talk to myself, I would blog! So, here I am… doing just that.

So, here I am blogging again. What do I discuss first? The recent story about those teenage girls in Gainesville, Fl who are terrified for their lives after their racist rant via video blogging? (I can’t imagine why anyone would be offended!) Or, maybe the story about the school district in Georgia that believes that using the history of slavery in America as math problem is an effective teaching tool?

“If Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in 1 week?”

Like… really?

OK, I have plenty to say about both of those stories, but what I really want to talk about in my first blog back is….

Whitney Houston.

I know. This story has been done IN over the last couple of weeks. I don’t want to spend a lot of time on the topic as there is a lot that can be, and has been, said about this. It’s unlikely that I can add anything of value to it. I just wanted to share my memories of the singer for my own personal, selfish reasons.

Growing up, my cousins and I loved to sing and dance and Whitney is one of those singers we looked up to. I was 6 years old when her first album debuted, and I went on to enjoy it and several other albums after that. I remember watching “The Bodyguard” over and over again and just always being so excited to hear her sing, to watch her videos, and to see her on award shows.

It  saddened me to hear about all of her drug abuse and to see her life deteriorate to the point where people started calling her “Old Whitney” and “New Whitney,” most wishing that the Old Whitney would return. Deep down, I knew that her voice would never recover, but I did have hopes that one day she would find her way out of the darkness and recover from her addictions. Unfortunately, that day didn’t come soon enough.

In all of this, my heart is with Bobbi Kristina. As a woman who was only 2 years older than BK when my mother died, I know how devastating it is and how much it changes ones life. I wish I could say that I was strong in dealing with that death, but I wasn’t, and honestly, am still not. It probably has changed the course of my life forever. Fortunately, I could suffer this without being under the microscope of millions of people. I cannot imagine the weight of that.

There are so many negative things being said about this family that I just want to be one of the positive ones saying that I wish Bobbi Kristina the best and that she finds her own way to deal with this tragedy, and that it is HEALTHY. The disease of drug and alcoholism is a tough one to battle and I hope that she finds a way to deal with it that doesn’t end in the same way that it did with her mother.

I recognize the destructive path that Whitney went down, but I will not remember her for that. I will remember her for the memories she helped create growing up with my cousins. I will remember her for her mind blowing rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner.” I will remember her for “The Bodyguard” and “I Will Always Love You.” I will remember Whitney Houston for her influence on countless other young starlets who have taken the positivity that “I” grew up with and turned it into promising and successful careers. Personally, I would be shocked if I ever heard another female vocalist with quite the same quality, strength and beauty of Whitney Houston’s voice. That is bittersweet.

I WILL always love you Whitney. Rest in Peace.