Danielle Belton of The Black Snob writes about intraracial skin politics.
As you can see from my profile picture, I'm a dark-skinned girl. From my childhood through the time I was 19, I hated my skin color, and thought that I was so ugly that the only way that anyone would love me (platonically or romantically) was if I did everything I could to make them happy... at my own expense. The pros of this were that I worked more on developing my intelligence and personality, things that some girls who've been told that they're pretty their whole lives sometimes lack. The con, of course, is that to this day I tend to be a doormat, although I'm working to change this.
I think that the reason why I had so many issues with my appearance was because, besides not having any trusted adults or friends who wanted to lift my self-esteem, I was raised in front of the TV, and there wasn't then and aren't now many women on TV or in the movies who are Black, let alone with skin as dark as mine. In fact, I can name less than 5: Alfre Woodard, Viola Davis, Rutina Wesley from True Blood, Gabourey Sidibe from the upcoming movie Precious, and...that's all that I can think of right now.
People like to ignore the effects that the media can have on young minds, but TV, movies, and music are a reflection of the society that you live in, and it never depicts anyone who looks like you as attractive enough for romantic interest, why would you think that any other members of society find you attractive?
I think that my lift in self-esteem occurred because in college I found myself surrounded by Black people of all shapes, sizes, and colors who I thought were beautiful (the wonders of living in Ujamaa, may it never be taken away). Also around this time people started telling me that I was attractive (in a non-creepy way). And I took this picture:
First picture I ever took that I didn't cringe at. And so over the past five years my self-esteem has slowly grown, and this year it seems to be leaping exponentially, I guess because I'm spending more time with people who don't make me feel insecure and I don't feel like a weirdo outsider (although, that can be fun in it's own way). Part of the reason why I want to be an actress is because there aren't many out there who look like me, and I want all of the little dark-skinned Black girls out there see that they're beautiful, too.