This post is the first of many to come in a series of letters to our younger selves, sending them hope, courage, and the love it takes to grow older and wiser. My hope is that this series will encourage others, young and old, to be a better version of themselves starting right now, today!

Black Social Issues: Light skin vs dark skin
Credit for main girl in photo: Sinuous on Tumblr

One of the challenges I faced growing up was being a dark skinned chick in a world where dark skin wasn’t in. I remember sitting on my bed and staring at my body for long periods of time, wishing it was lighter.

You know how people say kids can be cruel? Well, I know first hand. I heard it all:

  • “Your momma left you in the oven too long” (I actually laughed at this one because I really was in the “oven” longer. I was a 10 month baby. Moms says I didn’t wanna come out! LOL).
  • “You’re so dark, you’re purple.”
  • My nickname from other kids was Darkie.
  • “You’re so black, at night school the teacher counted you absent.”
  • “If you wear all black, you’ll disappear.”
  • “You’re cute to be dark skinned” (supposed to be a compliment).
  • and on and on…

And although my friends and adult family members would tell me how beautiful I was, it wasn’t enough. That external ridicule spoke louder to me than what my family said. As a kid, it’s all about what your peers think about you, at least that’s what I thought then.

To help lighten the load (literally 🙂 ), I remember not wearing black tops, dresses, jewelry, or socks in fear that it would incite more jokes. I didn’t want anymore attention than I was already getting.

I focused my attention on my school work, was more of a homebody, a bookworm, and journaler (I had to have somewhere to spill my thoughts!).

It wasn’t until high school when I saw a girl with the same skin color as me walk elegantly down the school’s hall with a black dress on and I thought, “Wow, she looks good!”

She was only at our school for a short time, so quick that I don’t remember much else about her. To this day, I have always thought this girl to be some sort of “angel” or messenger dressed in black to send me a positive message to start looking at my skin color with love instead of hate.

After that, I started adding black to my wardrobe little by little. I became a little more confident in myself. My self-image started slowly but surely becoming better where I didn’t hate my skin color so much.

Around 12th grade and on into college, I started to get a lot of light skinned brothers trying to holla at me. Say whaaaaaa? I was told that “dark skin was in.” Really? Skin color – something you are born with – can be in or out? 

How confusing we humans can be! So I was being approached, courted, and desired and heard “the darker the berry, the sweeter the juice” phrase more during those years than I ever had in my whole life! Yes, it felt good but too bad being dark wasn’t always “in” for maybe I wouldn’t have had such a love/hate relationship with myself as a child…

Note: I won’t go into black history, slavery, or the discussion of biases and attitudes about skin color within the black community (as that’s a whole ‘notha loooong topic), but just wanted to tell you a bit about my story to help you understand my letter to my younger self.

So with that said, here’s my letter to my 12 year old self letting her know that her dark skin and her quirky ways are to be cherished, loved, and appreciated.

hand drawn purple line

Lakesha-Brown-Queen-of-Dunbar-circa-1989
Me…circa 1989

Dear 12 year old me,

Look at that picture above.

Isn’t that girl a beaut?

She’s you in a few months

when you get selected to be Queen of Dunbar.

Go ahead and cheer. I’ll wait.

Who am I, you ask?

You don’t know me but I’m you…

from the future.

Somehow I managed to curve the time-space continuum (because, heck we’re smart like that!)

so that I can visit you at this very impressionable time in OUR lives

to share with you some words of wisdom that 

I want you to know, understand, memorize, and internalize.

First and foremost, you ARE beautiful in every way, really

From your sandy brown hair

to the whites of your teeth (and oh so white do they shine)

to the shapely and sexy legs you’ve inherited from Granny.

Secondly, you look at your skin color and see evil, hatred, and ugliness.

You will soon learn that though it may seem like that now,

people, especially kids, are clueless about what beauty is.

So they can’t be trusted and will soon be outed in their lies and agenda.

I wish you knew that you don’t have to pay attention to what they say about you

because those girls and boys are dealing with their own insecurities.

Remember those times you’ve looked in the mirror and thought yourself cute?

That’s because you ARE!

You know all those bright colors you would love to wear but don’t?

Do it and wear it bright and proud! 

Wear ANY color you want girl, you rock them ALL, especially with eye shadows!

Bright colors really pop with your black shades.

And yes your body is supposed to be different shades of black.;-)

Love the skin you’re in Boo because, guess what?

The partner and best friend you’ll meet in a few years absolutely ADORES your skin color,

loves you for you and he lets you know it all the time!

You already know you’re smart and intelligent so

I’ll just say…

Don’t change anything in this area

as it will pay off VERY handsomely!

And keep playing school with your crazy brother who keeps getting sent to the ‘principal’s office’;

however, unfortunately, that is a foreshadow into how he will behave in school later

but you can’t change that. 

Give him a hug for me, will ya? 

He really needs it…

You also worry about being different.

Don’t!

It’s okay to not be like everyone else and

it’s okay to be weird.

Trust me, doing what everybody else is doing won’t get you far in life!

Hey listen, I love you…

You are strong, compassionate, and more courageous than you think.

Hold your head up (high) and

keep laughing (loudly) and 

show those pearly whites and smile (often) and

most importantly, love (unconditionally)…

P.S. You are simply amazing!

Over to you…

If you would like to write a letter to your younger self to be featured in this series, contact me. The more the merrier! 🙂

Wassuper, it’s yo girl, Kesha and I believe we should Be the Fruit Loop in a world full of Cheerios because life is more interesting when you dare to be different and challenge what’s “normal!” I am wildly passionate about helping highly driven women pursue fantabulous relationships, juicytastic careers/bizzes, and authentically inspired lives.

Dear Younger Self: Light Skin Wishes, Dark Skin Fetishes

Must Reads:

  • Kisha

    Absolutely love this!!! It was one grade i was teased about my complexion. I remember that year and didn’t understand why i was being called those names. Luckily for me it only lasted that one year but it did scare my self esteem a little.

    • Thanks boo! I remember my mom telling me that they used to laugh at fat kids because it wasn’t many of them in school way back then…now girl everybody’s huge! So I guess they laugh at the skinny kids…Dark, light, fat, skinny, smart, dumb…It’s always something right?

      As an aside, one reason I like to look at smiling babies is because they know nothing. They don’t judge; their smiles can light up a room regardless of who’s in it…everything they do as they age are learned behaviors from us adults who act like we don’t know any better…

      Okay, I’m done now. LOL

  • Love, love, love this!
    My daughter is a darker color than me and people will say some ignorant things out of their mouths.
    FWIW, you are one fly chick (yeah I went there with fly) and I am so happy to know you.

    • Hugs and kisses to ya Rachee and thank ya so much boo. I’ll take that! I’m gonna go ahead and add Fly to my middle name 😉

      I’m sure you have convos with your daughter about the idiocy and I can just add to keep having them. Her self-esteem and self-image is at stake along with everything else she has to deal with as a kid!

      As a matter of fact, ask her what she thinks about this subject. I’d be happy to hear her thoughts!

      I didn’t have blogs to read or people (other than my close peeps) who could talk to me about self-esteem which is one good thing about this day and age since there is so much available but then again, with it comes even more problems. LOL

  • I enjoyed this post. I love the way you have boldly embraced the beauty that was always there. I think it’s phenomenal the way The Creator made us so many colors, shapes, and sizes.Although true beauty begins inward, acknowledging our outward beauty is empowering! Thank you for this!

    • You are sho’ right Ivy…sometimes we have to make sure to acknowledge our outward beauty as well. I mean it IS the more visible part. 😉

  • First, let me just say, how much genuine love and respect I have for you, Kesha! I appreciate your honesty and candor with this particular entry, but more importantly the courage it took you to write it. I look forward to reading the other entries.

    With me being a dark skinned brother myself, I am far too familiar of today’s topic here. 🙂 Those were lessons I certainly could have gone without having to learn. I’m sure you would agree with me, that those who chanted their “taunts of ignorance” are slightly to thank for the inner strength and confidence we possess today. I wrote a similar post back in 2010 I titled, “My Blackness.” I will tweet it just in case you happened to have missed it.

    Isn’t it funny though, how somethings in life meant to cause us the greatest harm, can turn out working more in our favor, than it may have been intended. Ignorance does that to people. It blinds them to the positive impact their malicious actions will serve the unknowing soul Ignorance has always blinded people from being able to see inner and outer beauty. I pity those who aren’t blessed with the gift of seeing beyond the color of skin. It is such an unfortunate perception to go through life focusing on such a minor detail. However, we can be grateful that we are among them who see beyond the minor details of a person, and into the character the individual possesses instead.

    Thank you so much for this phenomenally real post. Loved it, and love you, Chica. 😉

    • Awwww D, I love hearing from you and thank you! Yes, we can thank those who participated in the name calling because I eventually learned there was nothing wrong with me and hopefully, through this series, others can learn they are perfectly fine the way they are.

      Yes, please shoot me the link the similar article you wrote! I’d love to read it!

      Love and hugs back atcha D!

  • Val

    I love, love, love this post. Thank you so much for sharing. BTW, folks say ignorant things to light skinned folks too. So yes, it is always something. Until you feel good about yourself, you’ll always try to find something as a “one up” on the next person. I’m glad you recognize what we already know, that you’re beautiful inside and out.

    • Hey Val, thanks for stopping through boo and sharing your feedback! I never knew light skinned people were taunted as well until I heard someone call one of my friends “light bright” and other words that were more hurtful. I didn’t hear it often but it was there. Can’t win for losing eh? LOL

      Love and hugs to ya chica! 🙂

      • Val

        Back at you. *Muah*

  • Kesha (I will call you that on here)…I am impressed as always by your raw energy and ability to be so honest while uplifting. Thank you for sharing. While I didn’t get the light/dark thing…I was the ‘fat kid’ so I can definitely relate to the extreme self-esteem issues and battles we all have along the way to adulthood (some like me are still learning). I’m glad I had/have the honor of knowing you throughout your journey. You have always been so beautiful to me and every where we ‘party’ I see others see it also. Thanks again.

    Love ya, Diva!!

    Nik Nik

    • Ha! You know I’m known by many names – shhhh, no comment from you about that! 🙂 LOL

      Awww, you know we go way back and I’m honored to call you my “muffin.” And while we are on this journey together still learning and still growing, we both know that we are beautiful, inside and out, regardless of color, weight, hair choices or anything else external influences may try to impose on us.

      P.S. Thank you for being my accountability partner as of late too! *high 5s*

  • I’m sorry that you could have doubted your beauty when you were younger- just because of skin color…. and I am very glad that you are more “comfortable in your skin” now. I am caucasian and I have never really thought about someone being too dark or not light enough. I think that some of THE MOST BEAUTIFUL women are a DARK, DARK color. I notice color of course, like I notice that you are wearing a red blouse, but just as I don’t really “acknowledge” the color of the blouse as it “just is”, color is not something that “changes anything” for me. I don’t want to say “I don’t care”, but I don’t care what color a person’s skin is. There are jerks and wonderful people that are all colors, nationalities and sizes– that’s where I’m at. I am proud of you for accepting yourself. In that, I think we all struggle at times, but to have to add skin color worry to the “my nose is too big”, “my boobs are too small” or “I have pimples” kind of stuff that we have all struggled through–I’m sorry you had to feel that. Hey, I feel that if someone doesn’t love you for who you are– who cares! There are sooo many people in the world that there is plenty of love–if you make room by moving past the “jerks” 🙂

    • I know right! It’s always something in the list of things we find ourselves ashamed of…SMH…

      Thank you for your feedback Laurie and my challenge to you is to help others think and feel the same way you do. It starts with us to encourage others to UNLEARN so that we rear better children-turned-accepting-loving-adults. 🙂

      • I think it was fourth grade when my eldest child kind of figured out that there were differences in people. It kind of cracked me up, my daughter came home and was telling me a school story and she said something like “and Brianna, you know, the brown one, not the white one, I think you met her once…” to distinguish between the two girls. That was the first time anything had been said, which I think is cool–just a description– the rest is just stupid. 🙂

  • Love this post Kesh. So many young women need to read stories like this. Kids can be cruel and often times learning to love yourself that’s YEARS AND YEARS AND YEARS!

    • Right and so my hope is to cut down some of those (painful) years others are experiencing.

      Hugs!

  • Meika Denise

    Ok so u got me all sensitive this morning I would have never known you felt that way about yourself when you were younger. I remember you being confident and knowing what you want. To me you were my big cousin who was going somewhere and leaving these projects behind. I remember thinking to myself my cousin is so smart, not realizing it was cruelty fueling your fire. I remember trying to copy your hairsyle oneday (it was molded to your scalp in some gorgeous early 90s style) but I used soap instead of gel. Lol, give me a break I didn’t know any better. But bottom line is I’ve always looked up to you & still do! I’m glad that those inner feelings of self hatred manifested into greatness because without you even knowing you were setting an example to your younger cousin. Keep on inspiring me to do better no matter what obstacles get in my way. I love you Cookie, or should I say Rochelle. Now I dont know what to call you anymore!

    • Girl, you know I’m a woman of many names. 😉

      Now you know I am gonna say something about you using soap right! LOL

      I remember that style too girl and I thought I was the bomb – it was called the freeze, a head full of gel!

      I’m glad I can be an example to you because you know of all people we need some in our family. ha!

      Love you oodles boo boo!

  • Great letter, Ms. B!
    And, regardless of one’s background, it seems that every nascent adolescent (more female, but plenty of males) has doubts about their appearance- so it works for everyone!
    From when the “Ugly Duckling” story gets its universality…

    • Heeeey Roy, you know I like to read your comments. You are always so insightful. Thanks for stopping through! 🙂

  • Andrea

    <3! I have always thought it sucks to be a kid. However, I know that all our experience both good and bad make us who we are today. I admire you, your confidence and most of all your laugh. Your Laugh and Smile brighten any room you are in. It instantly makes everything ok for me… So, I am appreciative. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Awwwww, love, hugs, and smooches to you boo!!! So you know to call me anytime you need to feel better. LOL 🙂

  • THAT child? is beautiful.

  • This is absolutely beautiful. My best friend in elementary school was dark skinned, I thought she was pretty. For me shades, all kinds are in my family, so I never struggled with it personally. School was a different story because I was puerto rican. anywho, she later shared those same insecurities about her skin and it wasn’t until later on in life that she loved it. That makes me sad, that kids are cruel or that society as a whole paints a picture that we should block out but can’t. It is hard though when we are young and impressionable. We just want to be happy right, but what does that really mean. If we could go back in time and she read that letter she’d still be the amazing you that you are today and I am happy to have gotten to know you. PS You do rock that eyeshadow, yes girl!

    • Awwww, girl, you know I am ever so grateful for you! Thank you for your feedback and you’re absolutely right. Growing up, we just wanna be loved, liked, and have fun. But with so much negativity in the world, we end up with kids with low self-esteem which then turn into crazy acting adults because of it. Or worse yet, I am so sad to hear about the rising rate of teen suicides – a lot of it because of bullying.

      I sometimes wish we [humanity] could start over to try to get it right…maybe next lifetime. 🙂

  • People are ignorant Kesha and what a shame. I was kidded a lot when I was young too but for a whole other reason. I had big breasts. Yep, sometime over the summer between 8th and 9th grade I don’t know what the hell happened but OMG!

    I’m sure you know the kind of taunting kids can do because I was BIG. No one on my Mom’s side had big breasts but my sister and I ended up with them so it was pure hell for me for a good number of years.

    I later in life took matters into my own hands so I can say it’s now been 18 years since I had a reduction and I’m one darn happy woman. The hell some people have to go through is just so unnecessary.

    Thanks for being so open about this and I’m so sorry you had to deal with this as a child. So glad it made you a stronger person though and I know you are one proud woman now girl.

    ~Adrienne

    • Wow, Adrienne, I totally understand that one too! A girlfriend of mine had developed boobs earlier than us and though you wouldn’t think that would be a “bad” thing, she got talked about horribly. I was completely surprised. I was thinking, really? I guess I shouldn’t have been shocked. Our society finds a way to mock everything – too short, too tall, too dark, too light, big nose, little nose, big boobs, little boobs…it never ends!

      Of course I am happy that you’re happy. At this point, that’s what matters most but then again I know you a bit by now and ain’t no way you’re gonna be unhappy, at least not letting others cause your unhappiness. 😉

  • OH! I imagine 1989 Kesha is feeling all of that love right now! What a stunning letter and message to her! I feel you on the being weird and hanging out at home reading, writing and generally dorking out! In one way, it of course hurts my heart that you felt your skin color was wrong or bad, but on the other, it has made you this sparkling, BEAUTIFUL, amazing, compassionate and articulate Kesha we see today. People told me I was so tall they couldn’t see my head because it was in the clouds, so we definitely would have been homies as kids! YAY! Here’s to 2013 Kesha and all her magic!!! MUA!

    • Yes, yes, and more yes! She’s feeling it AND I’m feeling it. I’ve never really told this story before – we’ve talked about it but I really kept it to myself until recently. I felt like someone else may need to read this for their own healing and I didn’t want to keep it from them. 🙂

      I felt it when we first met that we would have been homies girl – which is why we are now! *sings and hand claps with you* “You and Me, Us Never Part, Makidada…” (having a Color Purple moment) LOL

  • I LOVE this letter. Looking forward to following the series. My daughter is darker than me, and I am very sensitive that she doesn’t have any insecurity about it rather embrace the skin she’s in. I get irritated/offended when people call it out–not in the she has gorgeous skin way which some do say, but in the, she must look like her father. Is he dark skinned? like it’s a bad thing way. So upset that society started this lightskin vs. darkskin separation/war. But happy that there are movements to end it and educate people that black is beautiful.

    • Wow, people do say the darnedest things…and I bet if we asked them about it, they wouldn’t think they’ve done anything damaging at all! It’s all a learned behavior and I’m hoping we all can start changing WHAT we’re learning for the greater good of humanity. *sometimes I think I’m wishfully thinking* 😉

  • I enjoyed hearing your story. I grew up a light skinned girl who developed a sense of black not being skin color or hair early on after hearing comments about how black I was or wasn’t. I was fortunate in my living color and hope I have put in my children, who are 4 different kinds of black, the confidence and appreciation that black is not a color, or hair texture or occupation, black is simply black and it is beautiful.

    • And I appreciate you for instilling that in your kids Janeane! Hopefully, they then share that same message for generations to come! *hugs* 🙂

  • It wasn’t until I moved to the South that I discovered something was “wrong” with my complexion. A military town too, where many races were mixed. I was born and raised in a metropolis, so on any given block you could find different cultures, many shades. Honestly, I thought the behavior of teasing me was odd and immature. It never bothered me, because my relatives ranged from very light in complexion to hues of purple. Admittedly, one day in school the teasing did get to me, not because I felt some kind of way about my skin color, but because I was tired of the teasing. A boy who was darker than me teased me, and then I replied with, “you dark hole”. At that moment, even before it came out of my mouth, I knew it was wrong. I left that nonsense right there, that day. I have always been in love with my complexion (I feel regal with it), so it never mattered what anyone thought. The color differences within our families are a thing of beauty to me. My mother is lighter than me; my daughter has my mother’s complexion, although both of her parents are darker in complexion; my other daughter has more red undertones. A thing of beauty! Thank you for sharing your story and letter. BTW, tell your 12yo self that red lipstick will be stunning on her too. xo

    • Hey chica! I’m not surprised that the South was where you started to see that. And you know what’s funny, an older lady told me when I was in high school to never wear red lipstick because I was dark. And I didn’t for a long time. I thought I’d look like a clown based on what she said. Woooow! The things we’ve learned as a people and have passed down to others. If I hadn’t tried it for myself, I might still be under the impression that I shouldn’t wear red lipstick!

      Thank you for sharing your feedback!!!

  • What a lovely letter to yourself. I am sorry you had to experience all of those negative comments and hurtful taunts. On the other hand I am glad that those experiences lead you to journaling, or maybe I would not be reading this her blog. 🙂

    Recently I read a blog (cant remember the name but I’ll be back if I do) about this same skin tone issue within a white family. I always thought this was something unique to us black people but not so. It was a very interesting read.

    • Thanks chica and yes girl that IS interesting! I have never really known that to be the case. Shoot me the link if/when you find it!

  • I found it. How about I was lookin all over for it and I had linked to it from my very own blog. SMH. The post is actually about Shadeism as we no it with in the black and asian communities. But she mentions it touching her own family. Talking about her grandmother she states, \”paternal grandmother preferring her blond fair-skinned grandchildren over her brown-haired olive skinned grandkids. At the time, I thought it was because the fairer children looked more like her side of the family, but now I believe her preference was due to skin color. She preferred those who looked German over those who looked French. I also remember her telling me to stay out of the sun; don\’t tan your beautiful white skin.\” Sad that this has indeed touched all of us.

  • Sydney Hawley

    Im Sydney Hawley,I am 15 years old and I am a Beautiful DarkSkin.. I was on google and I somehow came across your BEAUTIFUL Story!! I just want to say your story spoke to me and related to exactly how i felt as a little girl.. I Remember thinking some of the exact same things, wishing i was lighter, being teased and talked about. Now i see even more beauty in myself, and now I hope Ican encourge other Dark Skin Beauties to Love their selves…. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story.

    • Hey Beautiful Sydney! I’m grateful that you found my site and that my story is relatable. I’m sooooo glad that you see beauty in yourself because I can tell you without even knowing you that you ARE beautiful for realz!!! Yes, please continue to encourage our other dark skin beauties because they need us now more than ever before. As soon as I think things have changed, something snaps me back into reality and really nothing’s changed at all. Our community still has issues with color and many young girls are getting caught in the crossfire that ultimately leads them to low self-esteem and self-worth. I appreciate you and am ever so thankful for your visit. I look forward to hearing more from you. 🙂 *fist bump*

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