• Oyelola Oyetunji

An Anthem for the Melanin-Rich Skinned Woman

Have you ever heard a song for the first time and it immediately became your anthem?

Maybe it’s Destiny’s Child’s ‘Survivor’, after overcoming a serious illness. Maybe it’s Alicia Keys’ ‘Underdog’, as you hustle to make your dream a reality from less than favourable circumstances.

For me, right now, that song is ‘Brown Skin Girl’ by Beyonce.

Before this song found its way into my playlists, I thought I knew what it meant to love every part of who I am. I didn’t. Until now.

I won’t give her all the credit, but Beyoncé’s art has paved a way for me to embrace the skin I’m in.

We were first introduced to ‘Brown Skin Girl’ in 2019. Some describe it as a “love letter to black women”. And it is. This black woman felt the love!

The song made a second debut this year as part of the ‘Black is King’ visual masterpiece and I fell in love all over again. Watching the video, which featured Naomi Campbell, Lupita Nyong’o, Kelly Rowland and other melanin-rich goddesses, I fought back tears of joy.

It’s a celebration of dark-skinned women, and I’m joining the celebration!

No doubt you’ll catch me swaying my hips to the African inspired beat, but it’s the lyrics of the song that are everything. These are the lyrics I needed my younger self to hear. The lyrics I needed to turn to when self-consciously surrounded by a sea of white. The lyrics I needed to sing over myself when searching for ways to lighten my skin to meet society’s standard of beauty.

Beauty’s journey through history

Shaped by a history in which the white person was elevated above other races, society had told me that the lighter your skin is, the more beautiful you are. A warped perception of beauty, this mindset not only permeated through the Western world but also echoed through other nations and cultures.

This “lighter is better” concept can also be seen as we look back on Australia’s history. Based on the belief of white superiority and black inferiority, the Stolen Generation was forced to assimilate to non-Indigenous society. They lost their roots, their culture and their language. Worse yet, they lost their identity.

That loss of identity can happen all too easily when we allow the wrong voices to define who we are rather than stepping into our own. Though the Stolen Generation couldn’t control what happened to them, we can control the voices we listen to and preserve our identity. As a young girl, I listened to the wrong voices above the ones that told me I was beautiful as I was. Why? Because they were louder and I didn’t know better.

I can’t tell you how many times, as an African child growing up in Australia, I received funny looks or comments from other children. I’ll never forget the time another child asked me why my skin was “dirty”! It may have been an innocent comment spoken out of ignorance but it hurt. More than they realised.

A re-calibration of beauty

I didn’t have ‘Brown Skin Girl’ then, but I have it now. And so do millions of young dark-skinned girls, scattered across the earth. My future daughter included.

There’s power and intention dripping from every word. Each line shifts our perspectives of what it means to have dark skin from negative to positive, from shame to pride.

“Melanin too dark to throw her shade”

Beyonce challenges the idea that melanin leads to more insecurities, in the face of how beauty has been defined for years. Even better, she flips it the other way – more melanin equals more confidence!

“From your nappy curls to every single curve, your body natural”

A call to embrace our natural features as black women rather than chase the unrealistic Barbie-like image of smooth locks and a lean physique for acceptance.

“Your skin is not only dark, it shines and it tells your story”

Having dark skin is no reason to hide for fear of being different. You were born to stand out, own it. Your skin is a glimpse of your experience, it shows the world who you’re created to be.

So, celebrate the skin you’re in.

For so many years, we’ve been told by the faces of our favourite skincare and makeup brands to love the skin we’re in. But it doesn’t quite have the same impact when we don’t identify with the white woman with long, silk-like hair speaking to us. Does it? Show me a woman with deep dark skin and kinky hair voicing the same message, that’ll get my attention!

Thankfully, in recent years, we’ve witnessed the glorious rise of beautiful black women on the covers of magazines, as brand ambassadors and featured on the big screen. When we win, we win together.

Let’s raise a glass to Queen Bey, thanking her for the gift that is ‘Brown Skin Girl’. Each time you listen to this song, I hope it reminds you to see the beauty in your blackness.


Author bio

Oyelola is a freelance writer based in Sydney, Australia. She works closely with entrepreneurs and businesses in financial services, consulting and education, writing quality-rich content to engage their readers and motivate action. When not writing for clients, Oyelola provides insights on writing, wealth and work on her Phrased with Purpose blog and shares her faith journey on her personal blog, He Speaks, I Write.

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