Melanin by Joanna Sofowora

“The Melanin Trend” Problematic or Nah?

I first realised there was a problem with the Melanin trend, last year on my way back from college. I got on the bus and sat at the top deck, just a few rows in front of a group of academy footballers. Now, little old me was just casually minding her business when all of a sudden I hear shouts of “Yo! Chocolate! What you sayin?” …Excuse me? Firstly, shouting at a girl to try to chat to her is childish anyways but addressing me as chocolate… yep, there’s deffo something wrong there.

To clear things up, let me just clarify what I mean by ‘the melanin trend’: the recent recognition and appreciation for people of colour, in particular skin tones that are not as widely promoted in mainstream media.

Thanks to Twitter, women of darker skin tones, who the media previously presented as undesirable were now being praised and complimented for their dark skin.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of the melanin movement: all shades are beautiful and it’s about time the worldwide online community also showed love to darker women also! For many girls, seeing the rise of darker women like Lupita Nyongo’o and Duckie Thot in film and fashion showed them their black is just as beautiful. The melanin movement promotes a positive message of all-round acceptance and I love it.

A post shared by Duckie (@duckieofficial) on

But! And it’s a big but (lol), the focus on melanin has its downsides: take the little anecdote at the start of this article… Why is it okay for brown girls to be referred to as objects like chocolate? Since when did I become a walking KitKat bar? By focusing on the pigment of a woman’s skin, you can end up reducing her entire being into just her colour and disregarding the beauty of the woman underneath. And of course I can see how some people would take “chocolate darling” or “cocoa queen” as a compliment, it can be cute sometimes but TBH, shouting chocolate at me because of my skin tone is downright weird and borderline creepy.

And that’s where the issue of fetishes come into play.

Why is it that a lot of the time I see darker skinned girls being photographed they’re either fully naked or covered in oil/mysterious sticky substance. (Even with black men they are almost always shirtless and oily/sweaty). How has the sexualisation of brown skin suddenly become fashionable or trendy? Why must a black woman be naked in order to appreciate her as art?

Of course the recent rise in appreciation of darker skin tones also comes with some breakthroughs.

The #1 thing I love about the Melanin Movement is the emphasis on the inclusion of a wider range of skin tones. Particularly in the beauty and fashion industries! Two words: Fenty Beauty. Rihanna’s debut makeup collection was 5 stars all round, but the standout had to be her massive range of foundation shades (and Trophy Wife highlighter, of course)!

Fenty Beauty was one of the most inclusive and affordable makeup range we’ve seen in a long while. No doubt, Rihanna saw the rising need for wider ranges in foundation shades and she hooked us darker girls up with shades we could actually work with. Issa breakthrough. Even in fashion, emerging stars like Leomie Anderson and Duckie again, have taken darker girls to places we’ve never been before. Another beautiful thing about the movement is the fact it includes people with albinism and vitiligo too, all shades are truly welcome!

Obviously, the flip side to this is that beauty and fashion companies are now indulging in tokenism – including the odd black model or a handful of darker concealer shades just so they can claim diversity. It’s cheeky but we gotta push through…

I guess the main thing is to be wary, as everything fluctuates. The Melanin Movement was not as prominent a few years ago… something like Fenty was unimaginable. Trends become dangerous when you place your worth on them. Just cause darker girls are popping now unfortunately doesn’t mean they will be in a few years time… the world is fickle like that. However, it’s really up to us, as women of colour and otherwise, to create the future we want to see, one that’s more inclusive and accepting of all colours.

Words by Joanna

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