Originally from the Philippines, I was taught from a very young age that fair skin was essential to beauty – something that I, with my dark brown skin, couldn’t live up to. As a child, this concept of beauty was inescapable. I was exposed to it daily from the commercials that played on Saturday morning to my grandparents scolding me for being in the sun too long.
Today, I know that this fairness ideal exists in my culture for the same reason that Eurocentric standards are pertinent elsewhere in the world: colonialism. But as a child? I didn’t know that. None of us do. I believed light skin was something I had to aspire to; that the color of my skin was something I had to change.
Shadeism was, and still is, embedded so deeply in our every interaction that it’s impossible not to internalize. I’ve been fortunate enough, through my international experiences, to learn to question these beauty standards and actively reject them. I realized I’ve always loved my dark brown skin, I just didn’t know how to express it.
Now that I am back in the Philippines, I am reminded that those experiences, and my subsequent questioning of society’s concrete ideals, are privileges not everyone has. With national media blatantly promoting whiteness, it’s difficult for youth not assimilate. More than ever, I realize the necessity of initiatives such as this one. What the world needs more of are platforms that celebrate diversity – reminding institutions, corporations, the haters, and most importantly ourselves, that a singular definition of beauty does not exist.
Bianca Taberna is of Philippine descent, born in Manila and raised in Toronto. She studied Political Science and Management at McGill University. Bianca is currently living in Manila and working for Ashoka, a global organization that identifies and supports high-impact social innovation.