Beauty: a lifetime ambition

Came across this recent interview of South African Kwaito singer Mshoza via  a friend on Facebook  on a South African TV show called Motswako. In the interview below she explains why she is undergoing a voluntary process to bleach or lighten her skin. She claims it will make her feel more beautiful and her ultimate goal is to be as white as Christina Aguilera. She also recently appeared in the news for attempting to commit suicide this past week so was the skin lightening a sign of deeper issues?

Before and After

(The second video is out of sync so just watch it without sound, the subtitles are sufficient)

Although some may be shocked that she’s publicly proclaiming her desire to be lighter, skin lightening in African societies is nothing new. I have seen women who’ve lightened their skin using creams before; it sometimes looks unnatural up close and can result in an uneven skin tone. Although it has been practiced both secretly or like in Mshoza’s case publicly for years within the black community (refer to this link for the history of skin lightening in Africa) the dermatologist interviewed in the clip states that it is not actually a medically certified procedure meaning if there are long term risks, they have not been medically documented and the full range of side effects are not yet well known. In addition to her skin lightening endeavors she has undergone plastic surgery to remove cellulite from her thighs and enhance the size of her breasts.

The second part of the interview is where it gets really interesting. Mshoza groups her skin lightening procedure as a beautifying technique much like fake nails, make-up or weaving/getting hair extensions. To her she’s just enhancing her beauty. Why should we judge her when women use beauty enhancing techniques everyday?

So when does what we do become “fake” as opposed to simple enhancement? Or because it is a surgical procedure then it means she’s crazy and the rest who don’t employ permanent techniques are sane? Is it wrong to want to look a bit prettier? Does it mean I think less of myself if I get fake nails or does it just mean I cannot grow my natural nails that long so therefore getting fake tips is my most viable option? Or maybe I want to express myself with artistic designs and patterns that I otherwise would not be able to do on real nails? Where do we draw the line? For example most would probably be shocked at what she’s doing because skin lightening methods are yet to be confirmed as safe procedures. However if it was scientifically healthy and she could lighten her skin with a simple lotion, would we still judge her or would more women rush to the store and buy it?

What do some of these procedures really say about how we feel about ourselves? I know women like to pretend they are the exception and not the rule so whatever beautifying methods they employ have no reflection on what they think of themselves but being a woman and knowing better I beg to differ. It always say something about your self image-whether it is a sign of “deeper issues” is another question altogether but it definitely says something. We cannot claim to be passively doing some of these things. We cannot claim to have not put some thought into our actions.

Personally, I think when you begin to alter your natural state you are saying something. So I will not think much of fake nails because they do not change your real nails but if you do something to your body that alters your body permanently maybe you are beginning to cross the line into “deep issues” territory…. Because the message being portrayed to others whether it applies to you or not is “I do not like what I am naturally”. In Mshoza’s case I get the impression she doesn’t like her dark skin, doesn’t find it beautiful and thinks lighter skin is prettier. Whether that’s true or not, that is the impression she’s giving.

However at the end of the day it is her body and with it, she can do as she pleases. What is your opinion? Has she lost her mind or do you see the logic in her explanation? Where do you draw the line? Women especially, what do you think? How far would you go to beautify yourself? Men, when does it cease to be a simple enhancement and become unattractive?

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