Beauty & Colour

Beauty & Colour

By Joyeeta Nag Chowdhury

I am a mother of colour. Of Asian descent. I have a seven-year-old daughter. She is often a mermaid, sometimes a princess, and yet again, a mother to her teddy bear.

I love watching her grow up, it fills my heart with pride. I am no different than other mamas, watching her dress-up, run around like a whirlwind, read her favourite books and sometimes scream at the top of her lungs.

Yet, when she was little, just about to join her pre-school class, she came home one day in rather low spirits. Presumably, from a discussion with her friends at class, she acquired the impression that she was different from the others and that being brown is not beautiful. I was heartbroken. But I did not let it get rest. Even at that tender age, I persevered to explain to her that beauty is not skin deep. And all the typical phrases that go along with. I do not know if she understood, nevertheless, she nodded with a confused look in her dark eyes.

I have always been fiercely proud of my brown skin, my heritage, and my birth. I hope she would be, too. Just a few days ago, on her birthday, she was gifted a book, with stories about her favourite princess... the well-known ones we all grew up with. Ariel, the red-haired mermaid, and Cinderella in her light blue dress. Imagine my relief when I saw the lesser-known ones among the pages as well... staring up proudly from the colourful pages of the book. Moana, Tiana, and Mulan. A huge smile plastered on my face. I felt like giving a shout-out to the publishers as well as the mother who had gifted my child this book.

We had a story-time before bed that night as is our usual bed-time ritual. My daughter chose to read the one on Moana, as she bravely explored the jungles in the story, collecting sugarcane for her village. As we lost ourselves in the endearing, adventurous exploits of Moana, I could see the wonder in my daughter’s eyes, her finger tracing Moana’s long, black curls and her rich, chocolate-brown skin. And I thanked Moana and her creators sincerely for showing a little girl that beauty comes in all shades. And sizes.

“I love her skirt,” I remarked after we read the story, as I watched my daughter marvel at her knee length skirt, as if she could hear it swish.
“Me too, mama!” She quipped, her eyes lighting up.

It was a simple moment but profound, one that I will always remember.

Thank you, Moana.

As a little girl myself, I loved the little mermaid princess ‘Ariel’ and still do. Yet, I wish I was exposed to a wider variety of beauty standards when I was my daughter’s age.

Before I wrap up, I want to talk about a particular Ted Talk episode I watched the other day. Model Cameron Russell, and I salute her spirit, boldly makes her statement that looks are not everything. With her wit, and her mildly caustic speech, this young lady shines as she honestly states that even to this day, being white skinned earns her a privilege, not just in her profession but also otherwise. She shares appalling statistics where, among the world-famous models of today, only a very meagre percentage is represented by non-whites.

As a mother, I feel proud and grateful for such a brave , young woman who is well-acquainted with the glitz and glamour of showbiz, yet has her heart in the right place. Such an inspiration!

It is her heart, her empathic intelligence and her courage that make her so appealing. Not the other way round.

Joyeeta Nag Chowdhury

As a mother of a little girl, I was stirred into writing this article about body positivity and accepting our looks, our skin-tones and celebrating our differences from one another. I believe this article carries a social message.

Short bio: A mother and a creative-writing teacher, I feel that the world would be a better place if only we could be more accepting. A passionate writer, I love to write about anything under the sun and I am from the sunny city of Singapore.


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