This is the day I saw the most beautiful blue-black, blurple, eggplant skin imaginable to the naked eye.

Posters. In my primary school years, my bedroom walls were covered with them. Literally, from top to bottom. R&B stars mostly. I’d lie on my bed listening to music and stare at them for hours. When the 90’s music stars were all the rage. All of them pretty. All of them successful.  All of them light-skinned. Besides my family, these were the women I idolized. I bought their albums. Mimicked their dance moves. And tried my best to duplicate their wardrobes. I wanted to be just like them. But every time I looked in the mirror, I was reminded I wasn’t. My nose was wider. My lips were fuller and vitiligo had set in. And my skin was darker. Much darker.

From that day forward, I began to consciously mask my insecurities with fashion and talent. I began searching hopelessly for other fits that would make me feel whole. An over-achieving student for example was one attribute I held dearly to my heart. I used my uniqueness to amplify my beauty. I became popular for “being myself.” But still, I couldn’t help but wonder why my skin color was viewed by many as inferior to that of my lighter-skinned friends. Why wasn’t there one celebrity in the limelight as dark as me who was considered beautiful? On the outside I appeared as confident as anyone, but inside I had to do some serious soul-searching and reflect on what exactly beauty meant to me. For me, this canvas dramatically changed when I came to know Christ. Cliché to some? Maybe. But for a girl who believed I deserved the worst just to feel some semblance of acceptance and peace, I was in dire need of Him.

I have never interviewed my current “cover girl” Maureen Bandari before. She is an ardent fashion, beauty and lifestyle content creator not to mention a social media influencer with over 8000 followers to boot! I was unsure if she would be willing to take a chance with me, but her fervent spirit and willingness was a genuine inspiration. Our conversations exposed her bravery and will to stand for what she believes in. Conscious of the world’s standards of beauty and one who has chosen to rewrite the conversation.  She is undoubtedly a force that will break powerfully into the lives of so many in the future. Nonetheless, the perceptions of people should not matter as much as the reality of the King who crafted you and holds you in the palm of His hands. Believe it! You can catch Maureen Bandari on her blog : maureenbandari.com, follow up on her buzzing Instagram feed @maureenbandari and Facebook @ Maureen Bandari. Now, you may cozy up and I’ll see you in the next edition.

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In your own words, what does color and beauty mean to you?

Both are extremely important and they give me a sense of the gaps we have in the society which we can keep working on for a better future. We live in an era where the color of your skin plays a role in some people’s eyes which will help them decide if you are beautiful or not. The idea of inner beauty is almost laughable these days as more focus has been put on what can be seen with the naked eye. For a while now the phrase ‘you look beautiful for a dark-skin girl ‘ has been shunned because it creates the illusion that being dark is not beautiful except at that particular point of the girl being told. “I love to think that you are beautiful, PERIOD!”  We rarely say ‘you are beautiful for a light skinned girl’. Therefore beauty to me is personalized and cuts across all colors, but I look forward to a time when beauty and inner beauty will matter more than the color itself. That is when we shall have total freedom.

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Will prejudice on the basis of color ever let up?

I believe this is one of the main reason bleaching is on the rise in Africa. To be honest, dark -skinned women do get discriminated against in numerous situations leading to negative impacts on the victims. When brands are looking for models when doing activations or launching a new product, they will more often than not go for the light skinned model. No matter the number of auditions, in most cases the same applies to music videos unless the song is about melanin.  Most people that bleach always give feedback that after the changes, they end up getting more gigs if they are in the entertainment business, they get noticed more by the opposite sex etc. It’s sad but it is happening.

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Did you ever experience struggle/conflict within yourself concerning your skin type/color

Growing up in a family of five girls I always wondered why I was the darkest of them all. At that age it was more of a curiosity thing than a self- esteem issue. At some point in campus I did have a very close friend who was light skinned and that is the point where I could tell the difference especially in regards to everything I have talked about. I have always been a confident person. However with social media now and advanced technology in form of cameras and even apps where your skin tone can be altered, it has made me at some point wonder what I will look like if I was a little bit light to be honest based on apps and camera lights. However the beauty of loving myself, accepting myself for who I really am grounds me and makes such moments a passing experimental thought but not a need to change myself. I only struggle finding the perfect pink lipstick shades for darker tones, nothing more! 🙂

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Still on the subject of melanin? Does it define beauty in the 21st century?

In a way, Yes and NO. No because the issue of color is huge and it will take years to reverse the world’s current school of thought. I also think yes because initially only really dark skin women talked more on the issue of melanin. Right now though most women of African origin no matter the shade are quick to be associated with melanin especially on social media which I think is a positive outcome. Artists are recreating material bringing the issue to light. Make up brands are investing more into expanding their shades to accommodate melanin girls and this just shows that it may not define beauty in the 21st century but it’s sure getting a seat at the table and I’m here for it!

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