First, here is Seyilogo Braithwaite's 'European Standards of Beauty', which she read out at the TY English Evening:
As a child, I grew up thinking that my nose, lips and my tummy were too big, my hair too frizzy and ultimately, my skin too dark. I was exposed to television and media at a very young age and so were all the other children I knew.
All the television shows, cartoons, movies and even dollies depicted the same beauty standards: a slim woman or girl with long, straight hair, coloured eyes, a pointy nose and thin lips. As a young dark skinned girl, I obviously lacked all of those features and soon, I began to desire to resemble those beautiful women I saw on TV.
There was a point in my life when I aspired to be Caucasian. I was around the age of six. What I did first was convince my mother to let me relax the incredibly frizzy and curly mane of hair sitting atop my head. I remember thinking to myself that "no one on TV has curly hair so why should I?" I wasn't the only one who thought that. All my friends where perming their hair as well in our struggles to look more "beautiful". By the time I was eight, I knew just two people with unrelaxed hair. It was almost like a trend amongst us.
Can you imagine six year olds hating themselves and their skin purely because of what the television shows them? It's awful. Women of colour are so underrepresented by the media and it is so unfair. Whitewashing was so common that even the dollies that we were supposed to have fun with imposed European standards of beauty on us forcing us to feel inferior. All the Barbies I owned were white with blonde hair and blue eyes and I too wanted to look like them. I remember the first black doll I had. I thought it was incredibly ugly and wanted to throw it away. When my mother asked me why, I told her I thought it was ugly. The only reason I didn't want the doll was because of its colour. If the doll was white, I would have taken it with open arms because the only reason it disgusted me was because it was black. A doll the same colour as me disgusted me.
Thinking back, I am horrified by those actions and how much I wished to wake up white and beautiful. It wasn't my fault though. It's what the media depicts as beauty. It is unfair to subject black children to just those standards of beauty. The lack of black actresses, models and dolls in my childhood taught me to hate my skin. Not everyone is like me. I was able to get back up from that there is nothing wrong with me but some girls aren't so lucky. I have friends that bleach their dark, beautiful skin in an attempt to be lightskinned. People don't really understand the psychological damage these beauty standards can do to young, black children. They grow up hating the skin they're in because they aren't taught to love themselves. The media etches images into our heads of what we should aspire to look like instead of teaching us how to love ourselves.
It took me years to accept myself and I am finally at that point where I love myself. My skin is dark, my hair is curly, my lips are big, my eyes are a dark brown, and I love it. I am sick of subjecting myself to the European standards of beauty because I am not European. I am black and I am beautiful.