What’s it like to visit Africa or the capital city of Johannesburg in South African? Looks like it’s pretty modern and hip compared to the United States. And just like the United States, black hair is big business, with billions in revenue up for grabs to whomever is the most organized and with the most resources to nap that business.
From weaves to braids, to real hair or lace front wigs, to extensions to great-looking salons, they’ve got it going on for black hair care and black hair products.
(Mario Vitanelli is a freelance writer and blogger specializing in the analysis of influential people and organizations, global business trends and international affairs. When away from his keyboard, he enjoys photography and appreciates the rest of the Vitanelli family’s endless patience with his football preoccupation.)
It’s probably a comment on the innate discontent accompanying the human condition that a huge number of people the world over seem to be unhappy with the way they look- their skin tone in particular. Fairer skinned women and men in Western nations keep the tanning industry a lucrative trade in an effort to get darker. Very lucrative- although the global price tag for tanning and tanning products is far higher, each year Americans spend more than $5 billion on indoor tanning alone. That tremendous sum, however, is half what our planet’s darker-skinned residents spend annually on skin lightening treatments.
Not that a market for skin lightening treatments don’t exist in Western states like the US and the UK. A high-profile example is Michael Jackson, whose famous denial of any skin lightening regiment was proved untrue by the lightening creams found among his possessions after he died. However, the great majority of lightening products are sold throughout over Asia, Africa, India and the Middle East. In India 60% of women use skin lightening salves every day; in Togo 59%; in Nigeria 92% of the men and women attending a skin health conference admitted to attempting skin lightening. Comparable percentages can be found in an alarming number of nation states peopled by darker-hued citizens. In many African and Asian nations skin-bleaching solutions outsell any other class of beauty product. In India, they’re the most popular by a 2/3 margin.
While trends like this are always informed by complex socio-cultural factors, the popularity of dermal-bleaching is generally considered to be the result of two influences.
The first is the legacy of Western colonial occupation creating a dynamic in which the wealthier citizens were virtually always lighter skinned (or at least it engendered that perception). The second is the increasingly ubiquitous presence of Western advertising, many examples of which feature blonde, fair actresses and models. This creeping encroachment of occidental beauty ideals has been a tremendous source of frustration for feminists and activists working to convince their fellow countrywomen that darker skin is not an undesirable trait.
Controversy recently polarized much of Senegal after adverts for a skin lightener (called Khess Petch, the translation of which is “All White”) displaying a before-and-after image of a black woman lightened several tones. A similar backlash in India was precipitated by TV adverts for a product meant to lighten a woman’s bikini region.
English: Michael Jackson at the Cannes film festival. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In the ad, a fair-skinned Indian woman looks forlorn because her husband is distant and uninterested. After she applies the cream in the shower, however, the couple joyously embraces- his interest reignited. Unfortunately, in places like India, the assumption on the part of women (and many men) that being fairer skinned will result in greater success is often culturally reinforced. Many beautiful dark-skinned models and actresses leave India to seek work in the West as lighter-toned women get the great majority of work at home.
Beyond the troubling implications of the skin-lightening trend in ethnic/cultural terms are the myriad health implications. Because many of these creams are sold in countries without a public health apparatus capable of comprehensive beauty product inspection, many creams include mercury despite the UK’s banning its topical use in 1978. Mercury is an incredibly toxic chemical that builds up in body tissue leading to a host of problems, the worst of which include severe renal and brain damage, and death. Creams without mercury often contain hydroquinone- another dangerous chemical that accumulates in the system (and was similarly outlawed by the British).
Hydroquinone is caustic enough to break up melanin in the skin (it’s used in photo development) and is a proven carcinogen, can permanently cause black and blue splotching and is very possibly a neurotoxin.
Doctors in areas where use of bleaching creams is common routinely treat patients with bad dizziness, fatigue, almost total lack of cortisol in their systems (which can cause psychological problems), swollen hands and abdomens, and diabetes. Even if users are lucky enough to use a cream that lightens the skin without (more) toxic chemicals, lightening skin leads to a greatly increased risk of skin cancer and leathery skin when older.
Superficial but (physically) benign changes can include blotchy patterns and concentrations of melanin (which gives skin pigmentation) in the joints of fingers and toes, ears and buttocks. As such, use of skin bleaching treatments is culturally unhealthy and can lead to unsightly physical changes at best and debilitating illness, both physical and mental, and death at worst. Since these creams are widely available on the internet, the best hope for doing away with skin lightening procedures and products is education and an affirmation of someone’s beauty no matter what their skin tone.
I was reading online, just perusing as they say, to see what there was online under the search term “beautiful black women,” or “fine black women.”
I’m happily married to a beautiful black woman myself, but I was searching for what other, related online publications were doing, ways to boost readership, and so forth. And curious. Other magazines have their hottest “man alive” thing going on and other magazines have their most beautiful woman of the year; but nothing about black women. Ever.
Surely, I was thinking, there would be a huge number of photos immediately popping up of stunning, heart-stoppingly beautiful black sistas that would make an old timer jump out of his wheelchair or make a crippled man walk again.
To my surprise and dismay, as I typed in the search terms, more terms for men came up than women, and as I continued to type the search terms (and you know how Google Images will complete the search term for you?) nothing came up. I kept typing up “Beautiful black women,” and then “Fine black women.” Apparently not too many people, men or women, search Google Images for those terms. Wow!
After a minute or two, the first image to appear was of this woman, super model Joelle Kayembe, from Africa:
What really hit me like a two by four between the eyes was, look at this photo for a minute, one of the first comments in the blog featuring this photo criticized this model for having straightened hair and contact lenses. Give me a freakin’ break!
Women, you know if you can do this, what Ms. Kayembe is doing in this picture, no man is going to complain.
At least not if he is sane and straight. Men, if you saw Ms. Kayembe doing this in front of you, you would not be complaining to her, asking her not to wear that wig or not wear those contacts. Please get real. You’d fall over or lose your mind, one of the other, but you sure as all heck would not critique her hair style or contact eye color.
Now watch these videos:
Tell me, after watching these videos and carefully scrutinizing this photo, if you approve of Ms. Kayembe. Is she okay with you? Men, is she too skinny or too dark? Her hair too straight?
Please. If most men saw her while they were driving around town or at a grocery store, they’d turn their heads so fast they’d get whiplash. And women would look at her and say “yes, she’s pretty.” What’s really going on that this super model is criticized for her hair or eye color?
It just truly struck me how there were no Black Beauties of the Month anywhere online that I could find, anywhere! There used to be magazines like Jet that would have such features in their print publications, but nothing online. No “black beauty of the month,” no “beautiful black woman” of the month, and nothing like it online.
Am I way off the mark here? If I am, where is the website that serves this goal? Do we need that feature here? Where are my beautiful black sistas online and how do they feel?
JOELLE KAYEMBE (Photo credit: Kalumba2009). Men, if you stare at this photo long enough, it will cure ulcers, increase physical stamina, and lower blood pressure. And women, this is quite simply how you should dress. All the time. Honest.
Do the hosts of the program present a logically-argued focal point here or is it fund-chub gibberish? On the one hand we’re told that Africa is a modern city with contemporary tolerance, while on the other hand we are presented with an argument that would seem illogical or counter advancement?
Map of the REC Pillars of the African Economic Community (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Tired of not getting accurate news, of not getting correct history that’s delivered to you from a biased perspective?
Did you know the richest man of all time, of all history, was not Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, not someone on Shark Tank or a Rothschild, it was an obscure African king, who had it all, baby. He was Mansa Musa I of Mali.
The richest person of all time, of all history, an African king. No way!