SCIENTISTS looking into the attractiveness of woman suggest that men from all races find fairer- skinned woman most alluring.
Yet the mass-marketed myth of female attractiveness as young, thin and fair-skinned, with Anglo features, is slowly but surely dying.
Take a walk at Sandton or Rosebank Mall, you will be surprised at how many white men have African beauties on their arms.
During the recent Africa Fashion Week held at Sandton Convention Centre one could not help but notice the excitement caused by dark models among photographers and guests.
In 2008 Sowetan reported that modeling agency boss Kgomotso Seboko of KS Models, one of South Africa’s top black-owned modelling agencies, complained that South African Models did not have “that Y-factor” and their faces are too ordinary. He complained that they had Eurocentric features.
Was that a sign of where things were going?
According to Felepe Mazibuko, a well-known fashion stylist, more and more modeling casting directors are opting for darker-skinned models.
Meeting the criteria of urban modeling no longer boils down to light and bright.
“More than ever South Africans are realising that black is beautiful. As a nation we have overcome the baasskap mentality that suggests that anything dark is ugly and therefore undesirable.
“Politically we are maturing and we are taking pride in who we are. This is filtering through to the modeling industry and the media,” Mazibuko says.
Mazibuko observes that the curse of the darker skinned woman was broken by African model Alek Wek, a Sudanese refugee who made her US modelling debut a few years ago. She has since become one of the most sought-after models in the business.
In addition to her magazine covers, Wek has modelled for scores of top designers, walked in major fashion shows all over Europe and the US opening shows for huge names such as Ralph Lauren.
Mazibuko adds that the Africanist ideals of people such as Thabo Mbeki and former Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah have influenced the way a lot of Black South Africans think about themselves.
“We are beginning to appreciate our sisters who are as dark as the night, with short natural hair and prominent and fabulously full lips.”
Does this mean we have approached the end of the dark skin curse?
Not any time soon, says psychologist Asiphe Ndlela.
In countries like Ghana and Nigeria, where people learnt about Pan Africanism long before some of us were even born, a fair-skinned person is still considered attractive regardless of whether that person has a symmetrical face or a healthy figure, she says.
“In countries like Nigeria men go crazy over a light-skinned woman. There are men in West Africa who would not give a dark-skinned woman a romantic chance.”
Ndlela says West Africans, who are married to white or coloured women, are viewed as successful. In some quarters light and lighter skin is viewed as a passport to better living and finer things in life.
“I’ve noticed that certain people who would not be considered attractive in South Africa are considered beautiful in these countries because of their light skin.
“The flipside is that some, who are considered unattractive because of darker skin, would be considered attractive outside their country.
Ndlela says psychologically these men are subconsciously attracted to fairer-skinned women because of the skin tone’s association with innocence, purity, modesty, virginity, vulnerability and goodness and Eurocentric tendencies.
Studies have even shown that some employers and bosses favour light-skinned applicants and employees over the dark-skinned.
The same is true of the music and movie industry, where light- skinned Blacks are favoured most of the time over their dark-skin counterparts.
Watch any Ghanaian or Nigerian musicians video, you will see light- skinned video girls.
In Rwanda they elevated the fair- skinned Tutsi minority over the dark-skinned Hutus.
In Angola it was the light- skinned mesticos over the largely dark-skinned population.
In India a pale skin is a sign of caste superiority, while a dark skin relegates a person to the lowest class of humanity.
In the old days a fair skin was a symbol of nobility in Europe and America because suntan was associated with hard labour in the fields, and the upper class wasn’t supposed to work.
That’s why women were hiding under their cute sun umbrellas.