Fri | Aug 18, 2017

Black girls Rock - Love the skin you’re in

Published:Monday | July 4, 2016 | 7:00 AMSuzzanne Cousins
Althea Laing and Eva Lewis share the same colour combo.

"You are too black!" is what a young girl at a prominent high school in St Andrew has to hear every day, and her mother is disgusted by it. Her daughter has been forced to deal with this harsh reality in school for quite some time now and it has significantly affected her self-esteem.

"Oreo mouth!" is what the distressed teen is called and she comes home crying because she is teased and bullied for her white teeth and black gums. Her kinky hair is another story. Her mother speaks with disdain as she describes how her little girl is hurting courtesy of the insolence of other students. "They tell her not to wear certain clothes, because she is too dark. Sometimes she says 'Mommy, I wish I was different complexion' and that is upsetting for any parent to hear," she said.

According to Caribbean supermodel, Althea Laing - an image of black female empowerment, there seems to be an underlying feeling of discomfort among students in Jamaica on the basis of ridicule for their varied shades of chocolate.

These sweet, young girls quickly turn bitter after being told that they are not pretty, the supermodel-turned-schoolteacher highlighted. And many of them are feeling inadequate in society from being marginalised in the education system, "The idea that this type of bullying does not exist is crazy. As a teacher, I see this type of verbal maltreatment everyday among students." Sometimes even teachers ignore students because of their complexion and neglect their educational needs.

A younger Laing knows all too well about discrimination because she experienced it first-hand but never allowed the ridicule of others to trample her love for her natural beauty. "I experienced the same thing at Hampton School, but when I went to Excelsior Community College I did not allow it to stop me. I took charge of my life and my society. That was the catalyst for me becoming a model and for me being on the cover of magazines," she explained to Flair.

 

GOOD EXAMPLES NEEDED

 

The famed persons these girls look up to are not setting the best example either Laing declared, "Where are our role models? The media portrays lighter-skinned celebrities as having the ideal look, but many of them are bleaching and toning.

"Majority of high-school girls want to be like the girls in the music videos," Laing said, "and it's time for us to get them back to being ladies, valuing themselves and creating the right image of themselves, for themselves." Laing, who stresses to young girls the importance of being comfortable in the skin they're in, also says young black girls need to understand that the power over their own lives lie within themselves.

Their kinky curls and coffee skin have become a deterrent to excelling socially or even empowering themselves, because they are constantly teased and bullied for what they see in the mirror. Parents have reached out to Laing saying their daughters are excelling academically but are lacking self-confidence because they are dark-skinned and have natural hair.

She advised these parents, "You must empower these girls to appreciate themselves. There is no price too high for us to help our girls to love the skin they are in." Laing revealed that some of these girls develop behavioural problems such as withdrawal syndrome, bipolar disorder, and even suicidal thoughts. Choosing the wrong persons to confide in or the wrong crowd to follow are some of the choices they make in trying to find themselves. "They may make wrong decisions in relationships just to fit in," she said.

She encourages black girls to take control of their lives and their society by seeing themselves as beautiful, "Look in the mirror and love who you are," she said.

For this reason, the esteemed model has made it her duty to empower young girls ages six to 16 with her programme themed 'Black Girls Rock', due to start this summer. The course includes motivational talks, basic poise and posture, social graces and etiquette, the art of communication, speech and diction, wardrobe and accessorising and make-up application for teens.

"Image is everything and people often judge you based on your appearance, so that's the reason why such a workshop is important," she asserted. So, from July 11 to 16 in Ocho Rios and August 8 to 12 in Kingston at the Excelsior Community College, Laing will be hosting her Grooming and Personal Development course, where each girl will be taught by former beauty queens and motivational speakers, the value of their self-worth, how to dream big and set positive goals, and how to project confidence and poise in their everyday life.

If you are interested in participating in this life-changing programme, you can contact Althea Laing at althealainggroup@gmail.com for more information.