by Moiyattu Banya
There has been a long history of the beauty industry marketing skin lightening products, as well as lightening women of color’s skin in advertisements. Research by Dr. Mamie Clark and Dr. Kenneth Clark during the 1940s, in their famous doll tests, demonstrated that little black girls are severely impacted by such messages, internalizing the notion that whiteness and lighter skin make one more beautiful. Pictures of black women online and in magazines are made lighter than the actual color of their skin, constantly reinforcing this idea that being lighter makes one more beautiful. With the rise of more cosmetic products focusing on brightening women’s complexions, there still hasn’t been a movement to overturn this dominant narrative that lighter means better.
This is why the “Pretty.Period.” campaign, led by renowned scholar and writer Dr. Yaba Blay, is so profound and timely. As creative director of #PrettyPeriod, Dr. Blay has found a way to develop a platform to address how the issue of skin color affects Black women in our communities. She describes the platform as "a transmedia project created as a visual reaction to the oh-so-popular, yet oh-so-offensive “compliment: ‘You’re pretty for a dark-skinned girl.’ Our collective response is, ‘No, we’re pretty. PERIOD.’”
The campaign has over 8,000 followers on Tumblr and 7,000 on Facebook, and thus, has truly blossomed into a movement that has attracted many black women from all walks of life.
However, Dr. Blay didn't just stop with #PrettyPeriod. She decided to move the campaign forward this year, by developing the #Pretty365 project. "#Pretty365 spotlights sistas who are not only ‘pretty,’ but successful, accomplished, and at the top-of-their game. Pretty all the way around.”
With #Pretty365, she features the stories and successes of a multitude of women by focusing on one woman a day for the entire year of 2015. The campaign, which has been gaining visibility, has featured women in both traditional and nontraditional careers—including lawyers, consultants, artists, entrepreneurs, and musicians from all over the world.
It has also allowed for women to not only be celebrated, but for them to build online connections with each other and invoke the spirit of sisterhood and support. We must commend Dr. Blay and her team of #Pretty365 women for the time and dedication they have put into the project, as they work to showcase the diversity, strength, and beauty of Black women.
Both #PrettyPeriod and #Pretty365 are steps in the right direction to lifting up Black women and girls who may be struggling with their sense of self. These campaigns allow us to be inspired and to celebrate who we are.
Check out some of the women featured in the #Pretty365 below:
|Photo: Reginald Eldridge|
|Photo: Phelan Marc|
|Photo: Saddi Khali|
|Photo: Darryl Harrison|
|Photo: Mark Lyndersay|
For more of Dr. Blay’s work and to engage with the campaigns, visit #Pretty365.
Photo: Dr. Yaba Blay
Moiyattu Banya is a Native to Sierra Leone, a Digital Mover and Shaker, Feminist and a Writer. She currently teaches women studies courses at Temple University in the United States and also does international consulting with Social Enterprises in West Africa. She is Founder of Women Change Africa. Moiyattu is part of the African Women’s Development Fund’s (AWDF) Community of African Women Writers. Follow her on Twitter @WCAWorld.