When I was growing up in rural Wedza our sisters took pride in their beauty, they delighted in their identities as young, black, rural girls. They would just put on their pretty dresses, smartly ironed, and the boys would hang on their every word.
The only lotion they would use back then was “Vaseline” packed in a big tin with a huge logo ‘SHELL’ written on it.
As they strutted along the dusty gravel roads going to school or to the local shops they were proud of their beautiful black complexions.
Then came the 21st century, bringing with it major changes, even to rural areas: television and fashion magazines flooded the market and conveyed a new sense of fashion and beauty. Beauty became associated with having a light skin, it became every girl’s dream to be light in complexion and skin-lightening lotions became an instant hit. This marked the beginning of the systematic extinction of the beautiful black women of Zimbabwe.
All too often I hear women talking about others, and a major insult would be to say, “she is very dark”.
Without understanding the side effects of the skin lightening creams, the obsession with beauty has affected most women here and they ignore the fact that some of the creams pose a serious health threat. They say the chemicals used in these lotions damage the skin by slowly breaking down collagen fibres, mutating skin cells over time and creating extreme photosensitivity. Women in Zimbabwe. Ironically, these creams have been banned from the very countries that give our women their role models.
My Zimbabwean sisters need to wake up and see that some of sexiest and most beautiful women ever to act in the movies and on our television screens are natural black women.
It’s so sad, that is what happens when you let others define what beauty is for you.