Ly Than Phuong:
Many societies have put a link between the beauty of a woman and her skin color. In my country, Vietnam, people like pale skin and they show more affection and favor toward lighter-skin individuals. Vietnamese people often associate lighter skin with wealth, tidiness and beauty. They consider people with lighter skin more easy-looking and attractive. On the other hand, darker-skin girls are thought to be less pretty and of course they do not receive as much attention, admiration and love as girls with lighter skin.
I am twenty years old and I am a young girl with a darker skin than many of Vietnamese people. My life with a dark skin color is not very easy as I from time to time have to listen to all the different things that people tell me about my skin color.
When I was small, my aunt told me that I was not born by my parents because my skin color was darker than theirs. I got so upset at that time that I even asked my parents and others for the confirmation of my origin. Since that moment, I have noticed that the color of my skin has concerned other people and they do not seem to like my dark skin.
Another incident happened when I got transferred to a new school in class 4. I came to new class and met a lot of new friends. Everything went well except for one problem with some of my classmates because they made fun of me for my skin color. I was called “Black Phuong” every time they saw me and this name followed me for the whole time I was in elementary school. I did not like that name and I would not let them call me using that word. I kept on with my fight, I told their parents and I resorted to my teacher and their parents for help but none of these attempts worked out. I was exhausted. I stopped fighting and I accepted that I was black and ugly.
The most common thing that I heard during my childhood was that if I had had a lighter skin color, I would have looked more beautiful and I might have become a very hot attractive girl. It was because of my skin that I became ugly in the eye of beholders.
Even now, my skin is still the very first thing people notice in me. I have been hearing a huge number of comments from other people about my skin color. They would say something like “Oh Phuong, your skin looks darker than I last see you. Remember to take care of your skin.”
Growing up in the environment that valued pale skin color, I lacked my confidence and pride in my appearance. I stopped believing that I was pretty and I lost my confidence in standing in front of others. I was miserable for the hate speech of other people and drown in these comments.
However, when I came to university, I met a lot of people and I noticed their efforts to find out who they were regardless of the prejudice, stereotype of society. I started to question myself. I keep thinking about why I should care about what other people tell me. Why I should become miserable just because of what people think about me. I am who I am and I do not want others to define or judge me.
I have a chance to challenge my identity and to define my own meaning for beauty. After much thinking, I start to believe in the beauty of myself. I am black. I love it. I am standing out as a young beautiful person in my own way. The skin color cannot make me feel bad and upset anymore.
No one can set any standard on beauty because what is called beauty for one will differ from that of other people. There is no such thing that this person is prettier than the others. Everyone is different and it would be unfair to use the same standard of one group for the whole society. I think everyone is beautiful in their own ways and everyone has the right to be proud of their own beauty regardless of what color their skin is.
If some people around us tell us about what beauty is and that we are not beauty, please do not believe in what they say.
On the way to beautify ourselves in a bright way, one thing to bear in mind is that if we do not allow others to manipulate our feelings about ourselves, no one could do anything to our identities and prides.
Now, I am happy to tell the world that I love my skin. I am proud of it.
Phuong’s story was published as part of Sharing not Shaming campaign by SAFIGI Outreach Foundation Ltd, a not for profit organization based in Zambia with a vision to raise a generation where girls are empowered, equipped and fulfilled in every aspect of their life, for the development of the entire world. To know more about SAFIGI’s goals and activities, visit http://www.safetyfirstforgirls.org