News Americas, LOS ANGELES, CA, Fri. Mar. 7, 2014: Kenyan-Mexican born actress Lupita Nyong’o has done more than made history and won her first Oscar.
She has actually shed light on a dangerous issue that remains largely hush-hush in many poorer Caribbean and Latin Communities but happens daily.
It’s the issue of skin bleaching where many black girls, women and even men are using creams with heavy chemical substances in an attempt to lighten their skin tone or provide an even skin complexion by lessening the concentration of melanin.
Nyong’o, as a guest speaker at the Essence Women in Hollywood Luncheon, recently opened up about the importance of loving your skin complexion.
During her speech, she shared her own journey toward accepting her dark skin and revealed that a fan wrote her a letter thanking her for influencing her decision not to purchase Whitenicious, a skin-bleaching cream by Cameroonian-Nigerian pop star Dencia.
In Jamaica some woman strive hard to bleach their skins to become what is called locally – ‘brownins’ or simply lighter
In fact, many reggae songs have been sung about it, including by jailed singer Buju Banton, who dedicated an entire song to the issue titled ‘Dem A Bleach.’
Skin bleaching is also common in Haiti and even in the DR despite impassioned warnings by health ministries and various doctors regarding the serious health risks, including skin cancer.
Many of these skin-whitening products use active ingredients such as mercurous chloride and hydroqui-none, which can be harmful. In fact, hydroquinone is banned in Europe; and skin lightening creams available in Nigeria has caused mutations in bacteria.
The dangers associated with the use of some of these creams include blood cancers such as leukaemia and cancers of the liver and kidneys, as well as a severe skin condition called ochronosis, a form of hyper-pigmentation which causes the skin to turn a dark purple shade, according to senior researcher at the University of Cape Town, Dr Lester Davids.
And a Facebook page has sprung up calling for an end to bleaching and declaring: “Black is beautiful.”
Yet the global market for skin lighteners is projected to reach US $19.8 billion by 2018 based on sales growth. In Jamaica products that bleach include Movate, Reggae Lemon Gel, Top Gel Plus, Omic Gel Plus, Lemonvate Cream, Tropesone Gel, Tropesone Gel Plus, Neoprosone and Pro-Beta-Zone. Some of these products cost as much as US$9.
In Haiti, there is skin whitening soap called IDOLE.
Singers like Lisa Hype, a member of the controversial Portmore Empire or Gaza clan, led by well-known Jamaica DJ Vybez Kartel, promotes bleaching, signing recently that she is: ‘Proud A Mi Bleaching.’
Kartel himself has likened skin bleaching to tanning, saying: “I feel comfortable with black people lightening their skin. They want a different look. It’s tantamount to white people getting a sun tan.”
He even proudly claims that girls call him “Mr. Bleach Chin.”
Even Sammy Sosa, Ex-Baseball Star who belonged to the Chicago Cubs for the bulk of his career and had an extensive career that included a team-record of 545 home runs and three seasons of 60-plus homers admitted to the longtime use of a cosmetic “skin cream” which helped to make him appear whiter than he is.
So what’s the obsession with being lighter?
Dr. Yaba Blay, a professor and scholar, believes that the value bestowed on light skin in its presumed connection to Whiteness reflects a larger framework.
“It reflects the extent to which the entire society continues to privilege Whiteness. So if there is such a thing as a ‘colonial mentality,’ our society undoubtedly engenders it,” she wrote recently.
Media advertising worldwide greatly enhance the stereotypes that light skinned people are advantaged.
Nyong’o’s has dispelled that myth. Now she hopes that her success will help black girls and women truly embrace their black beauty.