On Being a Brown Beauty in the UK

“Hey chocolate!” Now that is not a hailing that I have become accustomed to in the UK. However, it’s a completely different story across the Atlantic where brown beauties in the US have to put up with similar patronizing catcalls. I had a conversation about this with Melanie where I told her that “chocolate hailing” wasn’t common in the UK. However, that view changed when I stumbled across a video with UK You Tubers Beauty by JJ and Breeny Lee, where they were talking about the way dark skinned brown beauties are treated. It was clear from their conversation that there is a hell of a lot of colourism going on. Historically women of a darker skin tone have been deemed as less beautiful than lighter skinned ladies, but honestly, I thought we were over that. Clearly not.

In the video titled, Dark Skinned Girls are Unattractive, Breeny Lee and Beauty by JJ talk about their experiences as dark skinned beauties and Breeny tells us how she was once called Darth Vadar by a guy who was her complexion. More shockingly, there is a phrase called “Blick”, which refers to people of a darker hue. Breeny Lee jokingly refers to this behaviour as “Black On Black” crime. I couldn’t agree more. Often we can be our own worst enemies.

I set up Brown Beauty Talk as a Twitter chat in order to create a platform for women of colour where we could come together and empower each other. I wanted to tackle issues like the lack of diversity in the beauty industry, colourism and body image. It started in June 2013 and took place every Sunday at 8pm. In addition to touching on hard-hitting issues, we gabbed about the lack of foundation for darker skin, how to look after natural hair, understanding organic beauty products and even the hype about BB, CC, ZZ creams. We basically would talk about any beauty topic under the sun.

In April 2014, I decided to create BrownBeautyTalk.com, which is an online magazine that covers beauty product reviews, interviews with beauty entrepreneurs and topical features. Even though there was nothing like BrownBeautyTalk.com in the UK, I was really nervous about launching. I was worried about the way it would be received. I needn’t have though, as the website went up brilliantly with lots of comments and emails congratulating me on the launch.

Just like it seems in the US, coverage of beauty for women of colour in mainstream publications in the UK has been very thin on the ground – and apart from the odd article now and again, brown beauties are not very well catered for. Add that to the non-existent coverage of brown beauty brand owners and it’s pretty much the same level of exclusion we face here that women of colour in the US experience.

We hope to use our platforms-Twitter and Instagram- to promote positive images of brown beauties, and hope to contribute to changing the way we are viewed, one step at a time.

-Ronke Adeyemi, Follow and read Brown Beauty Talk here!