It doesn’t happen overnight. Somehow, through systematic racism, colourism you see in the media you consume, the things your peers say to you, and in general, the everyday you experience contribute to how you feel about yourself. And for me, like a lot of women with dark skin in Singapore — I wasn’t comfortable with how I look. Dare I say — I was close to being ashamed of my skin.

I am a chocolate skin woman, and for as long as I’ve known, I have been too tall, too heavy, too ungraceful to fit into a mold that I wanted to fit in. When I was in primary school, I was told repeatedly that I wasn’t good enough because of the colour of my skin, and the education system somehow put me in a secondary school that had less than five Indian students in the entire school. What a ball of fun that was – not.

As a voracious consumer of pop culture for as long as I can remember, for a long time growing up, I searched for validation through seeking out women with my complexion in magazines, music videos, TV and movies. All that did was overwhelm me with rejection — there was nobody as dark as I am, and beauty counters kept trying to sell me skin lightening creams, or turned me away because they didn’t stock anything in my colour.

And then, somewhere after my tertiary years, Livejournal happened and it opened me up to a world of beautiful, Black women who were celebrating #blackgirlmagic, their curves, their natural hair and they were proud of it. Whilst my Indian homies were still hurling their Fair & Lovely skin bleaching creams at me, the Black girls I became friends with on the internet were teaching me how to celebrate my skin.

It didn’t happen overnight of course — what took years to damage will equally take a long time to fix. It takes surrounding yourself with people who feel the same way and will not back down when they see colourism happening. It takes choosing to buy from businesses whose models represent the people who look like you. It takes putting your foot down for equal representation — because if you’re not going to fight for the people who look like you, who else will?

It takes showing yourself an obnoxious load of love — you’ve spent too much time in your life not loving what God gave you. It’s time you made up for it. 

My Brown is beautiful. It cannot be denied; it cannot be contained. And only I will define it.