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A Morena’s journey in finding comfort in her own skin

A Morena’s journey in finding comfort in her own skin

Skin color runs deep in the Philippines. It’s a status symbol and a beauty scale. The whiter, the better. So why all the obsession with fair skin? A Morena proudly shares how she found comfort in her own skin. 

Magandang Morena

Jairah Innocence Sampang spent her childhood being teased about the natural brownness of her skin. She remembered how people equate her dark skin to dirty when she auditioned as a commercial model for a popular hand soap.

Photo | Jairah Innocence Sampang

“I wasn’t casted because I was too dark for it,” she shared. In shooting a scene on proper handwashing, the cast directors said to Jairah that her dark skin negates the goal of having a clean hand.

Like many Filipinas, Jairah opted for skin whitening products in hopes of achieving a fairer complexion. It was her family and friends who pushed her to try it. However, instead of “whiter and radiant skin,” it left Jairah with irritated skin.

“I stopped doing it when I was in 10th grade because nothing seems to be working. I decided to embrace the skin that I have as I maintain it to be healthy,” she admits.

Whitening products

Colorism is the prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group, says Oxford Languages.

The demand for skin bleaching products created a massive market for it, from dermatologists’ services to cheap whitening products.

“It’s almost a status symbol, like having a Hermes bag,” Dr. Vicki Belo, a celebrity dermatologist, shared in her interview with Refinery29.

“People actually risk their lives just to get whiter,” she added. 

Professor Joanne Rondilla of San Jose State University explained that Filipinos are not aspiring to be white as their Western counterparts. Instead, they are just aspiring to have lighter skin “because historically that’s what they perceived as not only beautiful and powerful.”

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Celebrating Morena skin

Things changed for Jairah when she flew to Texas, USA as a Filipina exchange student. Contrary to her bad experiences as a Morena in the Philippines, people loved and wished to have her perfect and beautiful tan. For her, this is a brand-new experience of adoration for her skin.

“It felt out of this world, to be honest. Because these people always point out to me how beautiful my tan is, of how they’re jealous that I easily tan and not burn, and of how they wish I had my skin color,” she shared warmly.

Out of curiosity, she ventured to a hypermarket to check out USA’s bleaching products. When she asked where all the whitening products were, the saleslady there looked at her as if she was crazy.

“Lo and behold, not one of their cosmetic aisles have any whitening products at all,” Jairah expressed her disbelief since the Philippine supermarkets dedicate an entire aisle for these products. Jairah was dumbfounded when she learned that hypermarkets in the area don’t sell skin-lightening products.

Today, Jairah wholeheartedly celebrates and acknowledges the beauty of her brown skin.

“Beauty is skin deep, just as my skin has produced more melanin, which helps protect me from the harmful rays of the sun. My morena beauty is the preservation of my pre-colonial Filipina heritage, and this is the culture I will always present,” she said.

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