The Ugly Truth Behind Why I Hate Light Skinned Women

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What three words would you use to describe yourself?’

The lighting is always perfect in hotel bathrooms. It’s hard to resist the temptation to take a selfie though you know that the tiled wall in the background will give your location away.

She arches a perfectly shaped eyebrow and bites her lip, ‘I’m quirky, individual and-‘

‘Beautiful,’ I think, but I don’t say it out loud.

I’m only half listening now because my mind is preoccupied with thoughts of how perfect she looks standing in front of that mirror, nervously smoothing down her perfect dress, resisting the urge to chew on her perfect fingernails.

If she looks at me she will see me staring at her. And on my face will be a mixture of awe, admiration and… something else.

‘Something else’ which is triggered by situations like a night at the pub when that guy’s girlfriend wouldn’t stop gushing about how pretty she looked. ‘Something else’ that rears its ugly head when men risk whiplash to get a second and third look at her. ‘Something else’is envy.

I dare not say it out loud.

People say that being light skinned is a social currency.  In the economy that is black beauty, the light skinned ones are the goddesses – men flock to their temples to worship. Regular women either sit at their feet playing the role of the dark BFF, or stand in the courtyard hurling insults while the choir sings ‘Don’t hate me cause I’m beautiful.’

So there I was standing in this well-lit bathroom, staring at this goddess in front of me and realising that this envy thing was very much alive on the inside of me.

Because she was beautiful. And in her space I didn’t feel like I could be beautiful. The mirror, the bathroom, the world didn’t have room for my kind of beauty when she was around.

If you’re honest, you’ve felt the same way. You’ve hated going out with your friend to watch her hog everyone’s attention. You’ve struggled with loving her to bits but hating her at the same time. You’ve tried to make up for what you lack in looks by having a larger than life personality.

I’m not about to start another conversation about skin lightening cream or light skin privilege vs mnyamane discrimination. Countless blogs, newspapers and magazines have already done so.

I think it’s time we moved away from discussing this in ridiculous terms like ‘yellow bone’ and ‘red bone’ and got down to the real issue: Most women worship the idol of beauty that demands adherence to a false standard of beauty (and worth).

On the surface this results in women bleaching their skin and getting silicone implants. The deeper consequence is an inability to love yourself and to love others.

I hate light skinned women because I perceive them as having attained a status, reached a level, met a standard of beauty that I could never meet. They don’t have to try, they woke up like this. This makes me envious.

Pretty Girls and The Rest of Us.

There are two kinds of women reading this post: pretty women and regular women. The pretty women are like my light skinned friend in the bathroom. You’re pretty all day every day, even without makeup, even after an all-nighter where you didn’t get a wink of sleep.

The regular women on the other hand, have nothing that makes you exceptionally beautiful, and after an all-nighter you look like you’ve been run over by an express train three times, followed by a convoy of gusheshes, after getting caught up in taxi war crossfire.

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The difference between pretty women and regular women may separate us on Instagram, but in reality it does not. Because we are all worshipping the idol of beauty. It doesn’t matter whether you or other people think you’re closer to it (pretty) or far away from it (regular) because it’s an illusion.

The standard of beauty that the world adheres to is a false god.

One day when we’re old and we can barely make out each other’s faces beneath the creases on our skin we’ll know what truly matters. We’ll laugh at the foolishness of our youth and regret the time and money that we wasted on feeling insecure and envious:

‘What three words would you use to describe yourself?’

She’ll arch a still perfectly shaped eyebrow and bite her lip,

‘I’m quirky, individual and-‘

This time it’ll be different. Because although my vision has faded, the eyes of my heart have been opened and I finally see her clearly.

‘Beautiful. You are so beautiful.’

Zola wants to help you escape the overwhelm and live every day intentionally. Subscribe to get her writing emailed to you.

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24 thoughts on “The Ugly Truth Behind Why I Hate Light Skinned Women

  1. I hate being ugly. Sure enough he liked me and my personality just not my looks which is normal for my ugly self. It’s so terrible. Sometimes I want to jump off of a bridge because of it

    He confirmed years worth of bullying and not being chosen. I am a nice person but that doesn’t change the fact that I am hideous

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I am brown skinned and look like most black women of west African descent. I tried to get this guy to talk to me for months as my real self. Because I am ugly I wanted to see if that was why. Made a page and added him on there while resenting my real request. I had honestly thought my account was broke and he didn’t see it but within hours he accepted the pretty light skinned ambiguous girls photo (my fake page) and even messaged me calling me (her) very pretty and to have a nice day

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Amazing article! I suffer this as well. One of my closest friends is light-skinned, with “good hair”, she’s short and is such a sweetheart. She is truly a beautiful woman on the inside and out, I love her for that! But I can’t shake the green-eyed monster that comes from me sometimes because she literally has people (males and females) swooning over her 24/7. Of course, she claims not to see it but I think she just says that to make me feel better or make my words invalid. I was never consider dark-skinned until I got to college because I was always seen just as brown-skinned or “in between” but now that I am here, I can clearly see that skin complexion makes a HUGE difference in how people interact with one another. I have always been the background piece when around guys or females when my light-skinned or prettier friends were around. People hardly ever notice for anything but my intelligence and my body . I really enjoyed this article but I really want someone to write one addressing this issue in such a way that offers advice on how to combat it. Because one of my biggest fears is becoming jealous to the point where I lose an awesome friendship. Because I have never been a jealous person but once I reached college and saw the difference in how people get treated, I have picked up a jealous streak and I hate it!
    Any advice yall?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That was actually a really beautiful read Zola, thank you. I have a 10 year old niece, she is dark and beautiful. She used to come home from school crying about how boys do not like her and think that she is ugly or as they would say “myama nje ngestrati” (black like the road). No matter how many times I tried to tel her that she is beautiful, it somehow did not sink in. I think this is also a problem because whenever we talk about BEAUTY, we focus too much on the physical. I went on to tell my niece that she has beautiful eyes, beautiful teeth and etc., One day I stopped and I started complimenting her on the things she would do for other people, or her achievements at school. If she says something beautiful I would compliment her. I began to realise that this boosted her ego. It also reminded me of my time in school. I was always laughed at, at school for being the tallest girl, even taller than most of the boys in my grade. People at times thought I failed some grades, but I didn’t. I began to focus my attention on bettering myself, my personality and my education, and this made me happy, transcending to the outside and I became more than the tall girl in class. I became the tall girl with A’s, the tall girl who helped the defenceless, the tall, kindhearted girl… And I love that. And I believe that is what women should be loved for, never how they look.

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  5. The only way to fight it is by shifting our focus to things of substance, things that build our psych, things that make us appreciate our surroundings and life itself. Why dwell on things that won’t add value to our lives?

    You’re a great writer, love the piece. I believe the only way to change something negative is by replacing it. Let’s stop writing and talking about things that make us feel insecure or negative, let’s rather write about women doing great acts of kindness or people who are working towards changing societal norms. At the end of the day, women feel this need to change themselves because the topic is raised by media, we’re constantly exposed to it. My 9 year old niece is now watching her diet because kids are exposed to the conversation. Imagine if more magazines wrote about meaningful things instead of what Kim Kardashian wore to the MTV Awards, or “How to make your eyes look bigger with the use of white eye pencil”.

    I’m not saying let’s ignore the topic, just replace it with things that are worth our time.

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  6. I’m . a light brown /caramel color. I’ve be en chubby most of my life. Consequently I’ve been teased about it harshly. I see way more guys speaking to slim, dark skin girls than me. Only recently when I lost 20 lbs have I noticed male attention. :/ It’s really not that enjoyable having male attention, especially when your shy and feel anxiety because of past bullying.

    People will say “Well you can lose weight skin is more or less permeate” that is what makes it more frustrating is when so called perfection is so close

    Anyway, I’m jealous because white guys go after the mocha/chocolate girls

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  7. As a dark skinned girl i got teased alot for being so dark lol it made me feel bad. But whenever i looked in The mirror i saw my beauty. At one point in time i wanted to be anything but black lol. I was attractive though and didnt realize it until I was much older entering my teenage years. Iearned that kids are just mean and that I am attractive. Yes i have experienced the club alienating over the lighter and whiter looking girls but they just want sex and I realized I’m here to drink dance and enjoy myself! I hate the “you’re pretty for a darkie “(said a black man smh) like just because I’m darker skinned I’m not allowed to be attractive lol?! I have long hair (not a weave) its full course and thick. So let me tell you, dont let men or women find out its real and natural lol their heads explode! (Like we cant grow long hair AND be attractive lol) I ignore shallow men and women. I have always been attractive just the wrong color (i say with sarcasm lol) to some and that’s ok. I still carry myself like an attractive woman and I seriously believe it! You must believe it! But like you said it’s not what we look like that matters because beauty fades with time (except for mine lol) and it’s the inside and personalities that matter. I’ve been with attractive men and they quickly became ugly due to their attitude and shallowness.

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  8. Something that we can really all relate to. I’m from Canada, light skinned, blonde hair and blue eyes but have always felt incredibly envious of my friends looks. My close group of friends have features similar to myself (blonde, blue/green eyed, light skinned) but matured much faster than I did (I’m 26 and STILL haven’t really matured!). The way you described men risking whiplash brought back some vivid memories to mind and some definite feelings of inadequacy, Thank you for such a relatable article, as women it’s time for us to stop worrying so much about what people are thinking of us and instead start seeing the TRUE beauty inside of ourselves. We miss out on SO many great opportunities when we’re stuck worrying that we’re not good enough, pretty enough or interesting enough. It’s time to embrace who we are and just have fun with life. After all, we only get one life and the skin deep stuff only lasts for so long.

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  9. This article has hit the nail on the head!! Being light-skinned has become a commodity and it is the fastest selling one on the market. I am dark-skinned and i have no choice but to love myself. That is the only consolation i can get. But thats me, how about the rest of mankind will they follow that same concept? Rhetorically, no. In as much as we would like to self-motivate or try and be our own cheerleaders, thats not how it works, society will not go through some radical change because of a few documentaries and protests from dark skinned persons. And my light skinned best friend wi always get attention at the club. However if these are your feelings towards her, then u probably shouldn’t go to the club in any case. Men will be men, on average they think with their eyes first rather than their brain so dont hold it against them. Women are becoming the same, follow the same protocol. Beauty is not an inherent vice, its an expression of character, so no one should feel not good enough because sime one else says otherwise, those who deserve to be in your company will be there regardless of your skin tone!

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  10. I came across your site when I was looking up Oprah’s documentary entitled “light girls”…I just watched it on TV as well. It seems dark and light complected kids and women go through the exact same thing. I had no idea people felt this way b/c as a dark skinned girl, I never did. Almost all of my BFFs in middle school and high school, and lastly my college BFF were biracial or very light complected. I never felt an ounce of jealous. I couldn’t be best friends with someone I was jealous of. I loved them and their well being, and vice versa.

    One of my best friends from HS was Asian and black with long curly hair, and I literally had to convince her to go into modeling b/c she was so pretty. I had her come to my house so we could do hair and makeup and send pics off to Seventeen magazine. I felt proud of her for being a kind, sweet, smart and also beautiful on the inside and out.

    It seems like men is what is causing all the problems between women b/c that’s the main theme of why you would hate your bff. It sounds ludicrous to me. I would rather have a great best friend in my corner than some materialistic guy. There is someone for everyone, no matter what you look like and it’s up to you to have the patience to find and wait for that person. Also you don’t want a guy that only cares about looks. What about personality, wit, maturity, smarts? I would find the one or many things that would make you happy and confidant about yourself that you’d like to accomplish. And it shouldn’t involve looks.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Eish. Yah nhe! I think your vulnerability is such a strength and freedom bringer. This is raw and real, looove it. I used to hate walking in the sun because I hated the idea of being any darker. Recently, I’ve had to ask myself why I hated dark complexion, and I’ve had to face the fact that I had conformed to society’s version of beauty, which is quite non existing. I am still in the process of accepting all of me, and must say the influences of the likes of Lupita, are really great. We are not dark or light skinned, short or tall, thin or big boned, to compete, we just need to come to acknowledge that beauty can be something totally different from the norm, and it is okay that we are different, because those differences hold us together in one wah or another
    Thank you Zola

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  12. Hi! I happened across this blog and I found it very insightful. As a light-skinned Black woman I don’t know exactly what it’s like for dark-skinned Black women. I’ve never thought about how my darker-skinned friends might have felt when we go out together, but that’s because I have the privilege of not having think about it because it’s not something I experience. I would hope if my friend’s felt shunned or invisible around me that they would talk about it but it’s probably not that simple.

    Also, I know people might assume that light-skinned Black women probably never deal with low self-esteem issues, but I definitely have. For the young dark-skinned girl out the reading this who doesn’t like her skin color, being light-skinned won’t make you automatically love yourself. Loving yourself is something that has to be worked on from within. Being light-skinned is nothing special really.

    As for the men that go straight for the light-skinned women, you don’t want them anyway. 9 times out of 10 they have self-hate issues. These are the men that hit on me. Men that want “light babies”. Men that make a comment about my skin color first before even asking my name. I don’t want a man that only wants me for my skin color, but a man that wants me for me.

    Colorism within the Black community, all over the world, is something that needs to be addressed and talked about. I don’t like how it’s constantly swept under the rug. It’s hurting people and it causes a divide. Thanks for sharing your story.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Dear Zola,

    My name is Tim and I read your post with a deep sadness in my heart; Sadness that dark skinned girls could even possibly be jealous of light skinned white girls. White girls are full of vanity, pride, and haughtiness. Dark girls are pure, purely and innocently beautiful. I personally think white girls are so so incredibly ugly. I would never want a white girl for a wife, or daughter. I am cursed with being white, and I feel so sad because I hate the colour of my skin. White people have done so much harm to black people with colonisation, I deeply apologise from the bottom of my heart for all the abuses white people have given black people. You have no idea the horror and embarrassment I feel when I think of white and black relations. I wish I could be friends with many black people; I do have some close friends from Africa, praise be to God, but I feel ashamed of my race. Please forgive me Zola. Black girls, don’t feel ashamed of your skin colour, you are beautiful, more beautiful than white girls. Chocolate is beautiful. God bless you Zola, God bless dark girls, God bless Africa. Peace, Tim

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  14. Zola I just came across your site by accident, looking for something else, and I am so glad I did! I am assuming you are a younger woman and I am glad to hear you and your generation discussing this annoying “problem” so bravely.(I don’t know if bravely is the right word but it’s the only one I can think of now, and I only mean it in the nicest way) I am 60+ years old, and the situations that you speak of, I have had to endure for years, no matter what I did. I used to wish the guys would want to get to know me because I knew if they did, they would find that I was (and still am) a nice person….but they usually looked at my lighter skinned friends before they even glanced at me…and even then I would get the “you know you are kind of cute for a dark skinned girl or my mom told me not to bring any dark skinned girls home….” I could go on an on, but I’m sure you get the point, and I guess things really haven’t changed that much generationally, but the difference is you all are not afraid to TALK about it and I think that is great. But on the positive side (for me at least) ‘time’ is the great equalizer on this subject. I didn’t really start to appreciate my ‘darkness’ (chocolate) until my late 30s and I haven’t looked back since, because with that appreciation comes a confidence that was basically already there, I guess it just took time for me to embrace it. I am sorry I know this is long I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed reading your blog (and the responses) please keep up you good work!

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    1. Hi! Thank you for sharing! I’m so encouraged by the fact that you learned to appreciate your beauty, I’m still on that journey and love hearing from people like you!

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  15. Whatever, I had a light skinned best friend. She was my best friend for 7 years, and I just cut her off. I couldn’t take it anymore, being ignored at the club, feeling rejected and inferior in her presence. I’m alot happier now, and I honestly don’t think I’ll ever be friends with a light skinned woman again…

    Liked by 1 person

  16. wow!! well done Zola, you’ve shared what I’ve often thought but would never dare to express. I feel like you’ve looked at the feelings and thoughts in my heart and put them to words in a way that I wouldn’t know how. I have struggled with the love my besty and hate her at the same time issue and at some point considered bleaching my skin. I have been told I was beautiful but didn’t believe or hear it because the standard of beauty has been set and it’s what I listened to. Thank you for reminding me to think of what’s truly important. I love this post <3

    Carol's comment also touched me :)

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  17. Wow, Zola, I’m speechless. I must admit when I read this, my first thought was how can I fix this? i.e. how can I affirm your beauty and the beauty of all other dark skinned women, without resorting to some tired cliche. The honest truth is I don’t know how. Thank you for sharing your heart.

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    1. Hi Zuko! I so appreciate your comment and the heart behind it. One of the issues is that we need to redefine beauty and teach women that physical attractiveness in the eyes of men (+women) isn’t the goal. Beauty is about inner person of the heart and that’s what we should constantly affirm. Thanks for your comment!

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  18. Hi Zola, I don’t usually cry over blog posts, but this brought tears to my eyes. I have some very dark complected friends who are so incredibly beautiful, and it pains me to think they would ever have feelings like this. I am blonde, light skin, green eyes, and there have been times when I look longingly at my friends and wish I could have their gorgeous dark coloring. Sometimes, in bright sunlight or the light from a fireplace or candle, if you look closely you see little glimmers of rainbows shimmering. We are what we are, and we need to accept and love ourselves. I think how we feel about how we look shows, and people react to our confidence or lack of it. Confident people are magnetic, no matter what their size, shape, or color. I have seen glimpses of your heart through your posts and emails, and have no idea how dark or light your skin may be, but I think you must be attractive with all of your goodness shining through. Peace, Carol

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Carol! :) Thank you for your comment, I always enjoy hearing from you! As you’ve pointed out, it’s the inner person of the heart that’s important ultimately, not the way we look.

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