Monday, June 6, 2011

The Fairest of Them All

I loved Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales when I was growing up. I still do. There are millions of lessons in there; and they all lived happily ever after.

The thing is when it came to girls I loved the fairest of them all. We may all pretend that fair means beautiful, but it also meant light-skinned. Try calling Naomi Campbell the fairest woman in a room full of white English gentlemen and ladies.

The point is it was not until not long ago that women of other races were allowed “beautiful” at the same level as Caucasian women. I am not exploring racialism here; just the effect of words on the subconscious mind.

So, when I was growing up, all my legendary crushes were light-skinned girls. It took my twenties to realise the big, open truth that very dark girls could be fair beautiful too.

At this point, this post could go in any of many directions, but I’ll end it here and leave it to the comments.


  1. Anonymous06 June, 2011

    lol...too late NY, don't quite see how you can divorce this particular one from society's racial constructs.

    This is an eye-opener for me too actually, it hadn't occured to me consciously either. Isn't it interesting how our minds can be pre-conditioned without our knowledge (forget about permission). How many Ghanaian kids grew up listening to stories like this and watching Disney cartoons that propagate and reinforce the stereotypical thinking? Then we wonder why there's such self-hate in Black communities.

    Reminds me of this CNN report from not too long ago.

    Issues of race are sensitive, like it or not racism exists. Being the unfortunate victims of this prejudice, it cannot help us in anyway to run away from talking about it. For our own good, let's poke, prod and dissect it. Until we know exactly what makes it tick.

    Looking forward to this documentary that's coming out in the near future that meets the issue head-on.

    Pretending it does not exist is not going to make it go away.


  2. You can’t discuss the issue of “fair beauty” without encroaching on the race topic. I think the concept is firmly rooted in race and desirability. You might say we have evolved to view beauty as a more holistic concept, but I would say first we regressed, because if you read descriptive narratives of the traditional (whatever tribe), beautiful-enough-to-be-bride Ghanaian woman, chances were she had blemish free, shea butter saturated glistening dark skin, throw in a few “beauty spots,” lines on her neck… etc, etc.

    As to whether the concept of “fair beauty” is obsolete… I doubt it. Someone’s always discussing whether Beyonce is looking fairer in her new video or photo-shoot, lightening creams still sell, south east Asian women love their SPF+++, and as for Ghana, you only have to see what parades in the movie industry to realize that fair beauty also endows one with superior par excellence acting skills and unparalleled talent!

  3. I think it must be all the historical romances I read in my formative years, because the tall, dark, handsome guy always gets me. I guess I must have read more of those than Fairy tales. Come to think of it, even in fairytales, I always imagined the guys as dark-haired, tanned and muscular with a bit of latino blood whenever I could get away with it. Yup! Tall, dark, dashing and dangerous ;) It wasn't until recently that I too came to terms with the appeal of the 'fair' prince/knight

  4. Is it a wonder then that so many African, dark skinned women go to so much trouble to look fair, endangering their skins and lives in the process?
    But seriously, Beyonce is looking fairer in her current pics. I wonder what she's using or maybe the pics have just been photoshoped.

  5. Kwame Mensa-Bonsu07 June, 2011

    Either you read some very bad books or mixed with some bad people! lol. This is news to me! Black was always beautiful to me and I walk the streets admiring a lot of very black beauties.

  6. Interesting post. very thought-provoking. In the first place why the 'fair' before the 'beautiful'?

  7. We do internalize the standards of beauty and virtue. It drove me crazy when my daughter chose a blonde, Swedish doll...over dolls that were closer to her color. I tried (I know it was manipulative) to divert her attention to another, darker, doll; but no luck. I was sure that I had failed as a mother,if at the age of six she had already internalized the idea that blonde hair/fair skin is somehow prettier than anything else. As a parent one presents the idea that virtue and beauty are not tied into shade or color, but we're up against many influences: movies, books, peers.. As it turns out, my child feels good about who she is, and how she looks...I believe that "fairest of them all" is virulent stereotype, but strong community/family support must provide some sort of antidote. Thank you, for the opportunity to rant once again, Mr. Asiedu!


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