Driving in gridlocked traffic earlier in the week, a BBC Worldservice piece on pigmentocracy in Martinique resonated with me. People prefer lighter skin not only in the Caribbean but in all the former colonies. This form of reverse racism is appalling.
A more traditional form of bigotry reared it’s head with the awarding of Miss America to Nina Davuluri, an American woman of Indian descent, with many feeling that she was not American enough.
As a woman with darker skinned female Indian relatives, I corroborate the pressure to be as fair as possible.
Bleach based face creams can be found on shelves all over Asia and the Middle East. Ironically a dominant Indian brand is called “Fair and Lovely“.
While we looked at photos last night of the gorgeous Nina, a friend of Caribbean background commented “she’s a dark Indian.” And she is darker than the Aishwarya types who have represented India at Miss Universe or Miss World.
If you haven’t seen an episode of UGLY BETTY, the American spin off of BETTY LA FEA, then you’re missing one of the most counter culture T.V. shows on American television. Not only is Betty Suarez Mexican, chubby, metal mouthed, and an eyeglass wearer, she doesn’t change her helter skelter sense of fashion merely because she works for a fashion magazine (aka as is the plot line of more traditional dramas like Anne Hathaway’s character in THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA.)
No, Betty continues wearing her red rimmed glasses, messy bangs, and embellished sweaters, all the while saving her boss’ job and the magazine several times in one episode.
The show features a Latino family, where Betty’s sister is a working unmarried mother, her nephew a very non traditional adolescent boy interested in fashion and musicals, and her boss’ transgender brother comes back to life as a woman.
It’s fresh, funny, smart, and the first show set in New York (besides the COSBY SHOW) that features the real New York. There are black, white, and brown people who are all regular characters (not just special guest star temporary girlfriends). Betty and her family live in Queens, and her boss’ first glimpse of Manhantan from across the river is at the Suarez household. Queens and the City go toe to toe: there are scenes from the subway and swanky resturants against porch shots and glances of the colorful storefronts in Queens. People get stranded and kicked out of cabs; no one has inexplicably lavish apartments unless they are playboys or media moguls.
Because Betty is making it at MODE magazine despite the odds. She has no face cream, or hair straightener; she doesn’t turn down carbs or try to change her thousand watt blue braces enhanced smile. She is herself. She wins some. She loses a few others. But she is true to herself and learns a lot about life (and teaches us) along the way.
This is a show I can get excited about.