Heya! I’m Tiara, Bangladeshi parentage and Malaysian origin, currently based in SF Bay Area in the US. I grew up in a climate of intense racism against Bangladeshis in Malaysia and people would find every excuse to find fault with Bangladeshis. Skin colour was a common thing: I was dark, therefore I was ugly, therefore I could not be trusted. Sometimes I’d be called “hitam manis” (sweet black), but it took on a vibe closer to a slur, and usually people just skipped straight to the more potent slurs - “Bangla” or “keling” (a slur directed towards dark-skinned South Asians, about as bad as n*****).
Shadeism is rife in Malaysia, and overtly so. Every beauty product has skin lightening properties (I don’t know if any of them worked). Dark meant evil, dirty, uncouth, untrustworthy, low class, disgusting. I worked in the media for a while but could never get an onscreen role because again, too dark.
I moved to Australia in 2006 and it was interesting to note that in some ways the skin colour pressure is less overt. If anything my skin colour gets exotified - “oh I wish I could tan like you!” or comparison to various sweets. But it’s still hard to get taken seriously while brown - people ask me constantly “where are you from?” as if I am some space alien and then they dispute my answer! They are surprised I speak English! (I did get an onscreen TV role surprisingly, yay Australia Network). I’ve been doing burlesque for a while and I do get quite a few people sayjng I’m too brown hairy fat ugly to bare myself. Screw them.
The picture is in response to a Brisbane based lingerie company that hosted a photo competition & model search. Amongst their criteria was that the model should be a “classic beauty” and specifically mentioned pale white skin. It took them a while to realize how racist their criteria was, but even now there are no brown models.
Submitted by Creatrix Tiara