An education in beauty by Esther Kuku

Why is it that fuller lips, a curvier bottom and tanned skin are sought after, paid for and seen to be attractive on women who are not Black? But for those of us who were born with all these physical characteristics, the perception in much of the media is something different. I’ve been gobsmacked by the plethora of discussion-based articles in recent months, analysing whether Black women find it difficult to find love: are ‘unlikely to get married’ and – it gets worse – are ‘less desirable’.

TV shows, like ‘Love Island’ and ‘Take Me Out’ have been flagged as clear demonstrations of media either consciously or unconsciously selecting women from thousands of applicants who generally look the same. While many White women are also excluded from this lack of diversity, as show producers abandon fair representation in favour of ratings, Black women are constantly excluded from the media’s ideal of beauty.

Dee-Ann Kentish-Rogers is a dark-skinned Black woman with natural hair. She was recently crowned Miss Universe Great Britain. Let’s park the discussion around whether these sort of pageant competitions should even exist – they shouldn’t – and a beautiful, dark-skinned Black woman, who my daughters can relate to, winning doesn’t change the fact that these competitions are long past their sell-by date. However, Kentish-Rogers won. Her success was hailed as historic in much of the press. Why? Because it’s taken close to half a century to see a dark-skinned Black woman win.

Much of the media we consume is fixated upon pumping out European standards of beauty. This is centred upon skin colours and hair types that exclude many Black women. Especially those of us with darker skin.

Everyone was jumping up and down with excitement when Harry announced he was marrying Meghan – except one guest on a mainstream news programme, who piped up: “She’s not exactly Lupita” – referring to the Kenyan actress, Lupita Nyong’o.

Every Black woman knows that lighter skin is still the preferred tone of Black in the media. Things are changing, but we still have a long way to go.

So, what can we do? All of us – Black, White, Brown – have a responsibility to educate our children on what real beauty is. Don’t let your child think they are better than anyone. Let them focus on being the best version of themselves. Buy toys that are representative of the world and society they are going to have to navigate when they get older.

I purposely went on a mission to ensure my children had dolls that are Black, Brown, White, etc. The concern is that, when you go to the shops, the shelves are filled with White dolls. You generally have to go online or research where to buy a Black doll. And then it’s usually twice the price…This is the same for reading books. We may need to start writing the books ourselves and challenge the status quo.

Grown women struggle with looking in the mirror and seeing themselves as beautiful. Many prefer wigs that use European hair rather than embrace their natural afro. What hope is there for our children?

Physical beauty fades over time. True beauty comes from within. The Bible tells us that we are created in the image of God. God doesn’t do ugly. When He decided to make some of us dark-skinned, some light-skinned, some of us super thin, blonde, and some of us curvy with frizzy hair, He wasn’t tired. He wanted to put on display His amazing ability to show off the diversity of His creativity. Proverbs 31:30 says: ‘Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised’. 1 Peter 3:3-4 says: ‘Your beauty should not come from outward adornment … but rather from the inner unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth to God. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of the Lord will stand forever.’

Every Christian needs to raise up the standard of God’s Word in their homes. When it comes to practical day-to-day stuff, read Scriptures to your children, but also tell them every day they are beautiful and wonderfully and fearfully made.

Finally, when you see something on the TV that isn’t right, don’t just sit there and accept it. Write to OFCOM. Join the Parent Teachers Association at school, and make your voice heard. Apply for board or trustee positions in major companies, so you can influence.

It’s not all about being important in church. Our children’s mental health and future depend on us speaking truth to power in a variety of settings.

Let’s do this!

Esther Kuku
love God, love life, love people.

Twitter: @mew36


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