Being Black in America is hard, but it’s even harder the darker your skin tone. Growing up I always felt like I got the short end of the stick, because my mom is light skinned and my dad is dark skinned and I ended up being the same shade as my dad. Based on my environment and pop culture, I could tell at an early age that everyone preferred a nice sexy “red bone.” Every girl in school who was mixed or caramel skinned would get more attention than us chocolate girls by far. I was so jealous and I wondered why I wasn’t blessed to have come out beautiful and light skinned like my mom and my little sister. I longed for mulatto characteristics for a huge chunk of my life.

Unfortunately, skin color has been used as a tool of separation and favorable treatment within the black community since slave times. The divisive distinction between the "house" versus "field Negro" is still present in 2018. House slaves were usually the people created from a master raping a female slave. As a result, they would typically have lighter skin and get to do the “good” jobs as opposed to being deemed to work in the fields like dark skinned slaves. Decades later there is still a very obvious divide between light skinned and dark skinned people in African-American culture. 

When you observe black people in mainstream media there is a present attitude that lighter and brighter is better. That is why when rare gems like Black Panther come out, the African American community is excited as hell! Finally a movie that is unapologetically black and a Marvel movie at that! The entire main cast consists of dark skinned individuals and many actors/ actresses of African decent and these individuals are beautiful. Not to say that lighter skinned African Americans are not, but us darker skinned individuals tend to get less recognition. It’s unfortunate, but it is the truth.

A couple years ago, I was dating someone who introduced me to one of his friends. She was light skinned and looked like she was mixed, but I am not exactly sure. Anywho, as soon as she saw me she was gawking and then she said something that made my blood boil. This girl that I met less than five minutes ago told me “Wow you are so pretty! I usually am not attracted to dark skinned girls, but you are actually beautiful.” Like FIRST OF ALL, I was so offended. That was a terrible attempt at a compliment and it’s a real issue that someone would say they are “usually not attracted to dark skinned girls.” I get that everyone has a preference, but I don’t see how skin tone correlates to how attractive someone is. At that moment her whole existence was just a joke to me and I knew we would never be friends. Someone black like me who happens to be light skin making a statement like that made me feel segregated and sick to my stomach.


Overall, I am now confident and in love with my skin tone. The repetition of phrases like “Melanin poppin” and “The Blacker the Berry the Sweeter the Juice” have made me realize that my black is beautiful regardless of what anyone thinks. Being teased for having nappy hair and dark skin used to make me so depressed. I started getting extensions at an early age, because I knew my kinky ass hair was nothing compared to the long luxurious locks that my mixed friends had. When I wasn’t getting extensions I was getting perms so my hair could be straight like every other race. I was constantly trying to be someone I wasn’t and it was exhausting. 

Now I am 25 years old and I am three weeks into my natural hair journey. I took out my Brazilian body wave bundles and decided to try being… myself. I have been loving styling my real hair, even though it’s been stressful, because I am not used to it. In 2018, I really just want to embrace who I am and love myself even more. I know a lot of other dark skinned people can relate to this so I just want to remind them that you are beautiful no matter what anyone says.

I became content with my skin tone, because I knew it was something I could not change, but then there’s people that never become content with it. You look at before and after pictures of celebrities like Michael Jackson and Lil’ Kim and it’s just sad how they could never love themselves. They were way more beautiful with their chocolate dark skin tones, but society convinced them that they were not attractive and that’s what happens to a lot of people. According to Lil’ Kim, "I have low self-esteem and I always have," she explained. "Guys always cheated on me with women who were European-looking. You know, the long-hair type. Really beautiful women that left me thinking, 'How I can I compete with that?' Being a regular black girl wasn't good enough." I wish that Lil Kim could have gone to therapy and mentally realized that she was amazing the way she was. 

The sad part is she wasn’t the first person to get her skin bleached and she won’t be the last. If you know anyone trying to alter their body to fit societies standards, please intervene and try to help them. As much as there is light privilege that doesn’t mean we can not overcome it and love the skin we are in. Check out these fierce icons below that are doing just that ;).

Michaela P. Shelton is Managing Editor of

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