Letter to a Dark-Skinned Sister

Lupita Nyongo’s speech at Essence’s Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon touched so many hearts last month, as women could not help but look in awe of this beautiful, “night shaded" skinned woman, as she stood up on stage proud, confident and radiant--commanding the attention of an entire room of women—women like Oprah and Angela Bassett and Regina King. Not in aggression, but in the soft eloquence that she possessed, as she let the inspiring words of ”Beauty was not a thing I could acquire or consume” and “It was something that I just had to be,” roll off of her lips.

She opened with those two lines that have now been repeatedly repeated from the letter of a little girl, inspired by Lupita’s emergence. “I think you're really lucky to be this black but yet this successful in Hollywood overnight. I was just about to buy Dencia's whitenicious cream to lighten my skin when you appeared on the world map and saved me.”

As Lupita continued, she told the story of how she used to pray and bargain with God so that He would one day make her skin lighter. In the morning when she woke, she would approach the mirror with her head down in hopes that when she finally looked up, a lighter toned face would be staring back at her. Boy did her words hit close to home. “Everyday I experienced the same disappointment of being just as dark as the night before.” I couldn’t help but tear up as I listened to her speech, not as another dark skinned woman who now loves every inch of her skin, but as the younger, teenage me I felt her speaking to.

So I began..

To my beautiful, dark sisters of color--

Do not hide your beauty. Love your sun kissed skin and wear it proudly because young, dark sisters everywhere are watching. They're waiting for dark women of color, like us, to be who Alek Wek was for Lupita Nyong’o and who Lupita Nyong’o is for us.

Your Black IS beautiful. The etchings of ugly hide not inside of your Black Beauty, but instead the charm of your Black elegance marks them as void.

Your beauty beams with the hope that you’ll be accepted regardless of your shade. And if it is your tone that makes someone look at you differently, may it be in appreciation of the rare Black radiance you exude. But you must be confident now. You must hold your head high and be proud in your beautiful, Black skin. Remember, young, dark sisters everywhere are watching.

And if you think no one else is taking note, remember, on billboards are not the only places where it matters.

I remember a little girl of my same complexion came up to me and said “You’re really beautiful for a dark skinned girl.” And as I saw myself in her, I said “You’re really beautiful, period.”

Young, dark sisters everywhere ARE watching.

Lupita’s inspiring speech ended perfectly.

“I hope that my presence on your screens and in magazines may lead you young girl, on a similar journey. That you will feel the validation of your external beauty, but also get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside. There is no shade in that beauty.

See the full speech at Essence.com

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