“Pity she’s not fair” were words that my mother was all too familiar with when she was a child. My grandmother was so light-skinned, she could have been mistaken for being Spanish, so neighbours in Sri Lanka would often ask why her daughter was so “dark”.
Thankfully I didn’t have to experience those same hurtful comments when I was growing up. My parents always made a point of telling my sister and I that we were pretty.
But in truth I was an ugly child. Think Oscar from Sesame Street, minus the trash can. While many of my friends somehow managed to side-step the awkwardness that those wonderful teenage years can bring, I was frizzy of hair, thick of eyebrow, fat of face and lush of moustache.
So my immersion in the world of beauty was not just mere vanity, more an absolute necessity. My family’s main objectives for me and my sister were a) get a degree b) get married and c) have lots of chubby babies. While my appearance would not necessarily have impacted on objective a), there were serious concerns that my mono-brow might hinder my chances of completing objectives b) and c). It had to go and as a result, my forehead has become a little bit colder now if I’m being honest.
Next, much make-up was needed. Not as easy as it sounds. Many was the time when, after reading an amazing review for the newest foundation in my favourite glossy, I’d go, purse in hand and my student overdraft pushed to the back of mind, to my nearest make-up counter, only to find that alas, yet again their range didn’t extend to people of my colour. Or indeed any colour.
If indeed there were darker shades available, these were limited to one or two, compared to the seemingly endless array available for women of lighter-skinned complexions. I couldn’t help but look at the American beauty market, where make-up for women of darker skin tones is big business and wonder why hadn’t we caught up yet.
Luckily, things have moved on a bit since my “Groucho” days, and the UK beauty industry has finally noticed that not everyone who inhabits these isles is blonde and pale-skinned, and the result is a wealth of choice. YvesSaintLaurent’s comprehensive range of shades for their iconic Touche Éclat Complexion Highlighter , £25, for example, or Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra 24H Foundation, £27, available in no fewer than 18 shades.
About time, I say.