Why A Former Dermatologist Is Directing A Film About Colourism
If you don't get colourism now, you will after watching this.
From Beyoncé’s dad attributing part of her success to her lighter complexion, to Zendaya admitting she’s privileged in comparison to her “darker sisters and brothers”, the issue of colourism (the prejudice against people with darker skin tones and/or the preferential treatment towards people who have lighter skin within a race) has hit the press a lot in recent years.
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And it’s no wonder, when it’s still so rare to see dark-skinned actresses bagging Hollywood leading lady roles or female musicians top the charts.
One person who feels passionately about the topic is first-time director Clare Anyiam-Osigwe. Formerly an award-winning dermatologist creating revolutionary skin products (she was even honoured by the Queen last year for her work, hello) Clare noticed that dark-skinned women were coming into her clinic in search of skin-whitening treatments. Last summer it was happening weekly. Why? She said usually it was because they wanted to be a more 'acceptable shade' of black "to get or keep a man", or because they thought having lighter skin would get them further at work because they'd be treated better by and fit in more with their white colleagues.
"At first, when it was the odd person saying it, I honestly just gave them advise like, 'If a guy makes you feel less attractive, then he's a fool because you're beautiful' or, 'Ditch that job, find another one where you feel more welcome'. But then I realised that dismissing their thoughts and feelings because I'm happily married to a black man who accepts me for all that I am and because I had my own business so I didn't have to deal with direct racial prejudice or colourism from colleagues, made me a part of the ignorance," Clare explained.
"The crescendo came when a friend told me a story about a mutual guy friend who had basically told her that she was 'f*ckable' but not worthy of being a girlfriend because she was too dark-skinned. I felt sick. I knew that I had to write something about it, not just a little blog or an article."
Hanging up her dermatology lab coat (is that a thing?) for good, Clare has now launched a career in film-making - a long-term passion of hers, having done a degree in acting and directing at university. And her first film is skin-related.
No Shade explores the issue of colourism. Its storyline is centred around a dark-skinned woman trying to navigate her increasingly testing love life. From being told off for looking lighter on her online dating profile and therefore ‘tricking’ her date, to being told she’s just something on the side by a fully married man, her dating experiences leave little to be desired. Like, seriously, if you think you’ve had a bad Tinder date... Not only does she experience rejection and prejudice in the dating scene, but the way she’s treated at work by clients and even by her best friend (who she also has feelings for) is tainted by colourism. Take a look at the trailer here.
Although much of No Shade is sad/downright depressing, it’s starting important conversations. Through making the film, Clare wanted to emphasise that self-love is important and that people should think twice before commenting on someone's appearance. "My philosophy is that comparison is the thief of uniqueness," she said. "The moment we compare people, we negate their human right to be their unapologetic, divine, perfectly imperfect selves. Blackness is not a symptom. No-one decides what shade they will be born with, it is a genetic representation of your heritage and DNA. It is a visual expression of rich African roots. Melanin is a gift.
"It is absolutely fine for everyone to have their desires, preferences and like certain people for any reason they see fit. I think the issue with colourism is that it is saying to dark-skinned people that they have less value, beauty, and chance of succeeding compared to those with lighter skin. This is wrong and damaging on so many levels. We must all make an effort to celebrate our difference and allow people the space to be their beautiful unique selves - free from judgement."
No Shade is produced by BUFF Originals, directed by Clare (who also stars in it), and is set to become available to watch worldwide from August 8th.