The Dark Side of Fair Skin

Friday, April 11, 2014

Transcript

A few days before she won an academy award for 12 Years A Slave, actress Lupita Nyong'o read a letter from a fan at the Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon. The letter detailed a personal concern about the lightness of her skin tone and reignited a conversation that has gone on for centuries. Arun Venugopal, host of the WNYC series Micropolis, takes a closer look at the multibillion dollar, global industry of skin whitening. 

Produced by:

Emily Botein and Arun Venugopal

Comments [8]

Anon

Ramesh.. both fair and dark use the cream to get fairer or even fair skin..

Apr. 18 2014 03:54 AM
Emilie Regnier from Ivory Coast

Hello,

I did read your article and was wondering where did you get the information about a 20 billions $ market
in 2018? I am a journalist myself, based in west africa and will like to know the source of this informations.
Many thanks

Apr. 16 2014 10:10 AM
Chantal

Thank you for this exploration of the whitening cream market, but I would like to see more criticism directed toward white supremacy next time this topic comes up. It's framed like American Black people living in Reconstruction ~*somehow*~ decided for themselves that being lighter was better. Where is the historical context of racist colorism in hygiene product advertising at the time (in addition to the face-to-face discrimination and danger dark skin people face)? You have Carrie Mae Weems saying "This is our problem," which, yes colorism in communities of color is very real and needs to be talked about, but where are white people in this conversation? Especially when so much of your audience is white. This feature leaves them off the hook. Who is that man who stands up on the subway to move away from the dark-skinned woman?

I know it's a short feature... Maybe we just need more! I would love to hear a conversation or story on WNYC that addresses the ways that racism and colorism affects dark-skinned women in particular without making women who lighten their skin feel bad or look silly. For a short little read, Jia Tolentino captured colorism in the media in 2014 kind of perfectly right here: "The subtext is clear as anything: look how nice we look, as a people, when white gets to be more interesting and minorities get to look white. Look at this freckled, green-eyed future. Look at how beautiful it is to see everything diluted that we used to hate." http://thehairpin.com/2014/04/cancel-what-americans-will-look-like-in-2050

Apr. 13 2014 09:39 PM
Desi from So. California

Ramesh from Long Island - while I agree with your point on American journalists looking at Indian stories from the American filter (and the same goes for Indian journalists looking at American stories), there is no denying that there is a "fair skin bias" in Indian society. You may put as many finer points as you like on the Fair & Lovely product, the bias is pervasive in Indian society.

Apr. 13 2014 09:38 PM
Ramesh from Long Island

[My apologies, I had posted following comment under different story, so posting here again].

Your program passed judgement on "Fair & Lovely"'s whole product line, without having a spokes person from that company. Reporter tried to convey that the word "fair" makes the product skin whitner(same as the one sold in Africa). That was gross simplification. Two things that poke whole in that assumptions are.

1) People with fair skin also use 'Fair & Lovely'. If your reporter's logic is correct then Indians with fair skin should not be using 'Fair & Lovely' at all. Do you see the contradiction?

2) 'Fair & Lovely' line has several facial creams, and they are targeted at different needs. People use these creams as cosmetic that goes over skin. Not every one is hoping to get bleached.

Following is a general point. US media looks at events in India or any other country with American filter. Most of the stories in US media falls in to this trap. To understand the real "intention" behind actions of these foreign characters, please talk to a reporter who is "currently" living in India. 'Indian Americans' are as Indian as Neil Armstrong is to Moon :-)

Apr. 12 2014 11:52 PM
Ramesh from Long Island

[My apologies, I had posted following comment under different story, so posting here again].

Your program passed judgement on "Fair & Lovely"'s whole product line, without having a spokes person from that company. Reporter tried to convey that the word "fair" makes the product skin whitner(same as the one sold in Africa). That was gross simplification. Two things that poke whole in that assumptions are.

1) People with fair skin also use 'Fair & Lovely'. If your reporter's logic is correct then Indians with fair skin should not be using 'Fair & Lovely' at all. Do you see the contradiction?

2) 'Fair & Lovely' line has several facial creams, and they are targeted at different needs. People use these creams as cosmetic that goes over skin. Not every one is hoping to get bleached.

Following is a general point. US media looks at events in India or any other country with American filter. Most of the stories in US media falls in to this trap. To understand the real "intention" behind actions of these foreign characters, please talk to a reporter who is "currently" living in India. 'Indian Americans' are as Indian as Neil Armstrong is to Moon :-)

Apr. 12 2014 11:51 PM
Cecile from Brooklyn

Since you did not supply ANY information about these whitening products for women who are not familiar with them, I found this program very unsatisfactory, heavy on personal stories and low on actual reporting. I would have liked to learn: where are these products sold and in what form, when and how are they applied, what do they cost, how are they used--for how long over days and weeks, what is the success rate (in fact, what kinds of success do women have and what do they expect and/or hope for???), and what are the dangers and side effects, if any?? We need some solid background before we get to the social implications of a practice!! I wonder whether white women use these on their knees and elbows, which get dark over time.
If you are doing journalism, you need to write a complete story, not just an account of a subgroup with particular issues. In future, expand your coverage of the facts and reduce your coverage of the personal experiences. A little more seriousness will not necessarily turn listeners off.

Apr. 12 2014 10:25 AM
Nancy from New York

Arun,a

I just listened to your contribution to the On the Media story on skin lighteners. I certainly don't mean to take anything away from that story, which has important implications about self-image, but it struck me that the story was, in fact, related to the issue of women (usually, but sometimes men as well) coloring their hair in order to appear more youthful. As a 65-year-old who has been coloring her hair for the last few years, I feel conflicted about doing this. Should I continue to color my hair? Or should I just let it all hang out and allow the color of my hair to reflect my age. (No one is fooled by the color of my hair: I still get offered seats on the subway, and I still am mistaken for a professor when, in fact, I'm a student.) Anyway, thanks for your reporting. It's a sad commentary on the societies of many countries.

Nancy

Apr. 11 2014 09:11 PM

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