Apr 8, 2019

Looks like we’re still at it.

On Apr. 3, a local skin-whitening brand launched a campaign that purportedly tried to send out the message that both dark and light colored skin is beautiful. The keyword here is tried, because aside from this coming from a literal skin-whitening brand called SkinWhite, the poster launching the campaign only featured two light-skinned models. One of them was in brownface, an offshoot of blackface, meaning that she was heavily covered in dark makeup to make her look morena.

A day later, the brand released their campaign video also featuring light-skinned models in brownface, set to a cover of Christina Aguilera’s “You Are Beautiful.” Because of course, they would use the most obvious song to back the video.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, this isn’t the first instance of people supposedly trying to promote tan skin by only showing light-skinned people. There have been several TV shows and episodes as of late that have tried to portray the hardships that dark-skinned people face… by casting light-skinned actors and putting them in brownface. Because pale mestizos can portray colorism best? And moreno actors don’t exist?

I shouldn’t have to spell this out, but this isn’t okay. Morenas and morenos have been shamed and ridiculed for their skin color for so long. Our indigenous peoples especially bear the brunt of this: Their skin color is used to justify the discrimination and abuse they face. (Read: This is the problem with the portrayal of IPs in TV shows) We’re finally getting to a point where society has woken up and realized that this colorist beauty standard is ridiculous (and even then only kind of). If you’re trying to promote the message that morenas are beautiful without casting an actual morena, then you’re just exploiting this narrative to further your capitalist agenda. Exploitation and performative wokeness, me no bueno.

And if you’re wondering why ads and shows like this are happening, I’ve got a quick answer for you: Empowerment sells! And people eat it up because taking the stories of the disempowered and setting it to mildly uplifting music fixes society, as long as you don’t think about it long enough. 

However, corporations and big media productions aren’t the only ones guilty of exploiting society’s newfound acceptance of morenas. Let’s take a look at our own version of blackfishing. If you don’t know what that means, it’s when someone who isn’t a POC pretends to be black online using makeup and fillers. It’s the modern version of blackface, where now white influencers can be praised and gain recognition for physical features that black women naturally have. Teen Vogue wrote a good explanation for this, but basically, it’s what happens when the mainstream decides that black culture is cool and starts stealing from it willy-nilly.

Brownfishing is our local take on this. Since there’s now a wave of love online for morenas (Nadine Lustre and Chai Fonacier immediately come to mind), a lot of influencers are trying to cash in on this “trend” by trying to look like morenas when they’re really not. FYI, brown skin is not a trend. I’m not going to point fingers at anybody, but it’s a serious enough problem.

I’m not a morena. I’m a pale ass mestiza: I get asked a lot if I’m biracial (that’s no one’s business but mine), I get sunburnt easily, and my face turns a brilliant shade of red under the heat or when I’m embarrassed. So to all the brownfishing people out there, here’s a message, from pale skin to pale skin: stay in your lane. The morena narrative is not ours to take, and you have no right to use it.


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Read more:

It’s 2018—why are morenas still endorsing whitening products?

This commercial just revealed internalized discrimination against indigenous peoples

“Comics is for men” and other lies female comic book creators debunked

Read more by Zofiya Acosta:

Three local children’s stories that talk about our society’s biggest issues

You can get authentic homemade French bread at the French School of Manila

The physical labor of beauty

TAGS: blackface blackfishing brownface brownfishing morena nolisoli.ph