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Anael Kengne

on 12 March 2015

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Transcript of Cameroon

The Beauty Imbued with Dark Skin
By Anael Kengne

“But, mother, Claire has good hair!” I said in furstration. It was back in elementary school and my mother had come to pick me up one rainy day and my hair was frizzy and shaggy.
My mother then turned around and looked at me with disappointment. I thought she was going to slap me for what I had just said. I watched her as she took a deep breath and walked closer to me. She kneeled down before me and held my head in between her soft fingers. I could feel her gold rings squeezing my skin. Mother looked me straight in the eye. Afraid of what she was about to do because of my comment, I looked back at her wide eyed. In that moment I saw myself through her large brown eyes. Most importantly, I could see my hair. My nappy and curly hair, that couldn’t hold a ponytail.
I had always hated my hair because of its thick tangles and difficult roots, that took me forever to brush. My friends used brushes, but I used a wooden comb; my hair had already broken a few plastic combs because of its strong and thick texture (and yes, this is an actual picture of me as a baby). I never told the story of the broken combs to my friends because I was too ashamed to admit that to myself and to others that my hair was different. I didn’t want to be different. I wanted to be like everybody else. My friends looked like the collections of Barbie dolls I owned. Dolls that often represented the true definition of beauty the media protrayed on television. Just like the Barbie dolls, Claire had shiny and long red hair. All my friends had good hair - feathery and soft hair. Their hair came in shades of brown, yellow, and red .Their hair wasn’t like mine and neither was their skin.
Although, I was aware that my friends' skin and hair texture were different from mine, I was in denial to admit them to myself. In the class next to mine, there was a guy whose family had recently moved from South Sudan. Though, it was undeniable that he and I had the same skin complexion, I convinced myself that his skin was not like mine. He was Hot Chocolate and I was… Well, I described myself as Milky. Yes, I was Milky and he was Hot Chocolate. I refused to be as dark as he was. My friend, Lucie, often believed Africans coming straight from Africa were very dark because it did not snow in Africa to make Africans' skin Milky...like mine of course. Despite the fact that I knew Lucie's comment was far from the truth, I still believed her because I was in denial and therefore I could have believed anything that set my skin color apart from other Africans.
Back to the present and mother was still looking at me when she came to pick me up from school. The disappointment in her eyes had long faded. She smiled at me and said, “honey, you are an African Queen .”

I was confused because I did not understand how being an African Queen had to do with the texture of my hair. As mother walked away, I could feel the scent of her perfume rushing into my nostrils. I did not quite comprehend what she meant then, but as I grew up, I slowly began to understand the meaning of mother’s words.
Her words all made sense to me when I visited Cameroon, my birthplace.
Inspired by the books
Part Asian 100 % Hapa
Portraits by Kip Fulbeck
Foreword by Sean Lennon
Afterword by Paul Spickard

Mixed portraits of Multiracial Kids

By Kip Fulbeck
Foreword by Maya Soetoro-ng
Afterword by Cher

There were many people in Cameroon with the same hair texture and skin color as me. It was there I discovered a different type of beauty than the one the media portrayed on the television back in Europe. I still remember those nights I used to pray to God to give me light skin. To bleach my skin to the lightest complexion it could reach. To me, black was unattractive. The more I prayed to God every night to ask for a fair skin, the darker I would get every morning. I was disappointed waking up to my dark complexion staring at me through the bathroom mirror as I brushed my teeth. I never gave up and kept begging God to answer my only prayer. As a black girl, I wanted to know how it felt to be fair skinned just for a day. I wanted to know what I thought it meant to be beautiful. I felt like the only way to experience beauty was through fair skin. The beauty I had seen on television and on the covers of magazines. While in Cameroon, the women I met embraced their dark complexion, while the men appreciated the curves and beauty in the black woman.

Me today...

My black is "Hot Chocolate

[My] narrow eyes sliding from side to side
[My] ruby lips are tepid and syrupy
and [my] skin is dark and sleek as the sky

[I am] Hot Chocolate
Sensuous smooth and soft
[I am] Hot Chocolate
An ebony brown broth

The soothing aroma of [my] stunning presence
brings out vibrant cafe'au lait emotions
The silky glow of [my] steamy essence
pours enchanting amber love potions

[I am] Hot Chocolate
Rich, dark and warm
[I am] Hot Chocolate
In exotic succulent form

[My] wafting movements are tasted by all eyes
[My] soft voice licked in by yearning yielding ears
Who is this woman that no man can deny
Hot Chocolate, whose love arouses inner fears

[I am] Hot Chocolate
Sweet, lucid and brown
[I am] Hot Chocolate
Warm desire is [my] crown"

(Poem by Vernon J. Davis Jr)


Retrieved December 2nd, 2014 from https://suastilyephotography.wordpress.com/tag/camera-confidence/

Retrieved November 28 from Youtube (2Face - African Queen [Official Video]).

Retrieved November 28 from http://www.tributetoblackwomen.com/poems/chocolate.htm

Retrieved November 28 from http://i.huffpost.com/gen/1537185/thumbs/o-SOUTH-SUDAN-900.jpg?1

Retrieved November 28 from http://girlscutehairstyles.net/hairstyles-for-women/black-women-natural-hairstyles/
Not only did Cameroonians embrace their blackness, but the television also portrayed black skin as beautiful. I thought to myself if black is beautiful, I too am beautiful. It took me a while to comprehend that beauty could come in many forms, shades and textures.

Today, I understand that being black is a part of me. It is a fact I have come to embrace! I no longer rely on how I look to sustain myself. I do not want to bleach my skin anymore or complain about my hair. I have come to love my Afro and my dark complexion. My black is the core ingredient of my external and internal beauty. Something to be proud of.

The little girl holds a black Barbie doll in this video.
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