BROWN SKIN GIRL AND THE GOOD IT COULD DO
Brown skin girl is one of the most popular song on the album ‘Lion King: The Gift’ that was just released by Beyonce which featured Wizkid, Saint John and Blu Ivy because it celebrates the coloured skin and has been tagged a song for all brown skin girls to celebrate their skin colour. In as much as racism is not an issue in most parts of Africa, especially Nigeria, colourism is a big issue. When you grow up in Nigeria, as a dark skinned person, you are not violated just for the sole reason of the colour of your skin. However, the fairer the skin colour or complexion, the more beautiful you are perceived by friends, family and society. “This view takes an emotional toll on dark skinned women who are discriminated against in all sorts of ways” wrote Mattew Blackwell in an article. In the 2019 article, Blackwell further explained that “even children absorb from others at an early age the notion that lighter skin is considered prettier than darker skin”. The Nigerian music industry has further propagated this assertion with songs glorifying the light skinned woman which can be traced as far back as 1963 in the days of songs like “Omo Pupa” by Victor Olaiya up till now with adjectives like beautiful describing the light skinned and let’s not even talk about the music videos. Ah… the videos filled with girls one can refer to as mulatto (offensive word). In 2018, a model by name Debbie took to Instagram to voice her anger when she claimed she was discriminated against on the video shoot set of Tekno’s music video because of her skin colour.
The issue of colorism definitely isn’t a millennial issue but media (social media especially) has exacerbated it and bleaching has become the order of the day. The World Health Organization published a report in 2011 estimating that 77% of Nigerian women use skin lightening products regularly. It used to be something shameful that generated gossip from society before the millennium but has now become a $20 billion industry that thrives hugely because of high demand among men and women across Africa, Asia and Middle East. It has been associated with body positivity and improving your looks if you don’t feel good about it. Products are now being sold publicly and our generation is ‘owning bleaching with their chest’ and terms like ‘glow up’ is used to describe it. According to a Stears article, “Africa’s history of colonisation heavily impacted individual and societal perceptions of beauty. The oppression of Africans during the European colonial era, particularly apartheid in South Africa, still has a negative hold on the continent. In many parts of the black community, being light-skinned is a sign of beauty, superiority and socio-economic status.” The internet has further emphasized meeting of popular usually unilateral standards of beauty by women.
With the recent release of the album ‘Lion King: The Gift’, social media is abuzz with both critique and adulation of the album and conversion of people who were not part of her fandom now ‘stanning’ her. The album, which apart from celebrating afro beat and featuring some of Nigeria and Africa’s biggest artists sang about the “Brown Skin” in a collaboration she did with one of Nigeria’s biggest, Wizkid glorifying and singing praises of the brown skin, lyrics like “your skin just like pearls, best thing in the world, never trade you for anything else” talking about the beauty of the brown skin. And even the mention of one of the most popular brown skin women with lyrics of “pose like a trophy when Naomi walks in, pretty like Lupita when the cameras close in” and Lupita herself dancing to the song and affirming that it’s a jam when it dropped, it begs the question, is this the time for “Brown skin” to finally get all praise and accolades that has been missing all these years in our media? Of course it’s not the first time that songs have been made about brown skin but this is just a pure appreciation and glorification of the brown skin sung by a woman without the sexualization of the skin color unlike what Chris Brow did with the song Brown Skin girl in 2009. Even though the song according to a BBC article “with its message of black pride (“your skin is not only dark, it shines and it tells your story”) bears the least thematic relevance to The Lion King, but the compelling vocal and syncopated clicks-and-sticks rhythm make it an undeniable highlight”.
Maybe the fact that the song is on the album of one of the most powerful black women and social media that has promoted colorism would also on the flip side give women confidence to acknowledge their beauty and reduce the trend of the need to become light skinned, promote the brown skin and let Nigerians not only wear the skin with pride but stop associating beauty with just the light skin.