Nollywood actress Beverly Naya recently released ‘Skin’, a documentary that explores the problems of colorism and bleaching in Nigeria. The project marked her debut as a producer and was premiered in Lagos with industry colleagues in attendance. Etim Effiong directed the documentary, which explored through identity the meaning of beauty in all the different shades of black.
“Skin” was set in present-day Lagos. In the documentary, Beverly Naya embarked on a personal journey to learn about contrasting perceptions of beauty.
The documentary featured an impressive cast lineup, including Eku Edewor, actress Diana Yekinni, rapper Phyno, and crossdresser Bobrisky.
According to a study, the skin lightening industry is worth more than $20 billion. Over 77 percent of Nigerian women use skin lightening products. Some African countries, including Nigeria, have passed legislation prohibiting the sale of skin bleaching creams with the harmful chemical hydroquinone. Still, such laws do little to prevent citizens from bleaching their skin using other products because they do not address why people use them.
Of course, the health implications of using these products matter — and banning dangerous chemicals like hydroquinone is essential. But focusing only on the health implications of skin lightening products does not address how users of them have been influenced by colorism, a mindset enforced by Eurocentric standards of beauty.
While all black people experience racial discrimination, the intensity of discrimination, and its frequency, its outcomes differ dramatically based on a black person’s skin tone. This is known as “colorism,” or the ways in which people of color with light complexions are unfairly granted social and political access and privilege, while people of color with darker skin are denied such opportunities.
Social Learning Theory recognizes that much of human behaviors are learned by watching other people. As Georgia State University professor Cynthia Hoffner remarked, “Youths are affected once they are exposed to the media. Such exposure leads to a change in knowledge, attitude, and behavior. By implication, female youths and women tend to imitate their fellow that engages in bleaching and the media which projects light skin ladies as the most appropriately accepted in the society.”
Take Bobrisky for instance; she is a Nigerian transgender media personality and businessperson who spoke openly about having lightened her skin in her social media accounts. She has maintained lightening for years, she says, because she began to get more financial opportunities in the media industry once she did.
Of course, colorism is also frequently unconsciously perpetuated by people due to decades of systematic conditioning and socialization. But companies that blatantly capitalize on colorism and self-hate, like skin bleaching companies, inarguably do so intentionally.
The Beverly Naya’s documentary ‘Skin’ received a lot of praises from different quarters and social media platforms — it made the headlines on local blogs, which highlighted the encouraging nature of her documentary’s stand on skin lightening.
Beverly Naya is very passionate about colorism, and she revealed the purpose behind the documentary “Skin,” “The motivation is that I’m very passionate about the topic, colorism. At my young age, I was very affected by the negativity that I received and all the negative remarks.
“When I started to find my self-esteem, it became important to inspire young people to love themselves and appreciate themselves. If I could be the voice that gives young people the opportunity to see how worth and powerful they are, I could positively impact how they see themselves. “I did some research, and I realized that colorism is a big issue in Nigeria, so I did it.”
There is also evidence that the widespread colorist narrative is slowly beginning to change thanks in large part to social media activism. Many social media influencers are beginning to promote body positivity among dark-skin people to hundreds of thousands of followers. Celebrities such as Tiwa Savage, Khoudia Diop, and Duckie Thot serve as role models to young Africans who rarely see successful dark-skinned models and celebrities.
Other campaigns, like the Unfair And Lovely campaign, also have raised awareness about skin tone-based discrimination by educating people about the often unconscious colonial mindset of “whiter” being beautiful, rather than shaming or bullying people who bleach their skin.
Ultimately, more representations of darker-skinned people of color in the media will be essential to breaking this discriminatory narrative of colorism. But until then, we need to change our perceptions of beauty by giving people of all skin shades equal opportunities.
Cosmetic dermatology is no less intriguing than other issues. While quick judgment may be passed condemning attitudes and misconceptions in this field, we need to analyze factors that contribute to such ideas. Acquiring a lighter skin forms the basis of Skin Care and Cosmetology in dark-skinned people.
Regrettably, this has far-reaching devastating effects on individual finances and health. This, in return, has enriched unscrupulous stakeholders. Help is required from the international medical associations and the cosmetology/pharmaceutical industry to end this evil.