A background about What’s Wrong with my Skin?August 24, 2022
My first self-published book, “What’s Wrong with my Skin?” is a children’s book about a girl named Ligaya (Joy in Filipino/Tagalog). She loves playing outside, but none of her friends want to stay out because they do not want to get dark skin. Ligaya struggles as she does not feel that she belongs. She does not fit into the standard of beauty established by social media and mainstream media. Will she remain true to herself or give into peer pressure and influences? Where she’s from, you can get teased and made fun of if you have dark skin.
This must sound silly as everyone wants to get tanned during summertime or have sun-kissed skin in Western countries like Canada. However, this story offers a different perspective on how children of colour and even adults deeply search for belonging and worthiness to be called beautiful. In most Asian countries, whitening skin products ranging from lotion, soap etc., are rampant with slogans saying, “Having white/fair skin can make you a star!” All these advertisements are available on television, billboards, and social media. So, you can imagine how much inferiority those with darker skin complexion feel whenever they see or hear these things. I grew up being told “Oh, you would have been more beautiful if you have lighter skin!”
From a historical and cultural perspective, this way of thinking was highly influenced by Western colonization. The Philippines, in particular, was colonized by the Spaniards for more than 300 years. Dark skin has earned a negative connotation among lower-class citizens compared to the colonizers with fair white skin. Even after more than a century of independence, along comes globalization and Hollywood influences. Thus, making this mentality deeply embedded in our culture. While many claim that it is no longer about embracing Western culture (Henley & Porath, 2021), claiming that it is all about regaining the “radiance of youth” for adults, these beauty products still has skin lightening factors. Nevertheless, it is still the same principle of having lighter skin tone reflects better social status, but just rebranded in a “modern way.” I hope this book creates awareness on updating that mentality into a more progressive and less harmful way of appreciating oneself.
I know this is a children’s book. Still, the message is profound and aims to promote awareness of how we can model being true to ourselves and finding our inner beauty beyond the boundaries of influences and beauty standards. And whether you have white or dark skin complexion, the challenge is staying true to yourself just like Ligaya.
Putting it into a Canadian context, we have a diverse cultural community ranging from indigenous groups, locals, and immigrants from different cultural backgrounds. Not all immigrant stories of origin are the same, but I can at least give my perspective from this book. I hope this book provides representation to my fellow Filipino Canadians and empowers everyone who feels different or outcast to stay true to who they are.
I want every young one and those who may have experienced the same struggles as Ligaya to know that you are worthy of love and belonging, whatever your skin tone and wherever you are from. You are beautiful inside and out.
Henley, D., & Porath, N. (2021). Body Modification in East Asia: An Introduction. Asian Studies Review, 45(2), 189–197.