Stylewise MorenasNever in my life have I ever used a whitening cream. I’m a natural morena, and despite our society’s predisposition to alabaster complexions, I’ve always been proud of my brown skin.

In fact, I make a conscious effort to keep it toasted. On precious days when I get to hit the beach, you can always tell if I had a good time by gauging the degree of my skin tone. The deeper the tan, the better the trip. And by hook or by crook, I will get that tan!

This, paired with my curly hair and dark features, can get confusing for folks both here and abroad. Once, in Paris, a flirty Frenchman called to me across the street, “Belle africaine!” A week later, in Rome, a chatty waiter shot me a smile and a knowing look and guessed, “Arabian?”

Even in Manila, my own hometown, the brown skin/big hair combo can send mixed signals. There is this one shy saleslady whose shop I visit on a regular basis and who asked me, complete with quizzical brow, “Ma’am, ano ba po yung lahi niyo?”

Just so you know, I’m Filipina through and through. I was born brown—and I’ve never had a problem with that.

But I know I’m in the minority here. Last week, I read an article which basically summed up what it was like for a lot of us morenas growing up. The author is a morena herself and mother to an olive-skinned daughter. She bemoans the fact that in media and large chunks of society, mestizas are hailed the definitive beauties, while their darker peers are seen as lacking. Imagine how that comes across to a young, impressionable girl whose complexion is more caramel than cream.

As I read this piece, my immediate and resounding reaction was “Amen!” When I was a kid, I had to hear all sorts of prejudiced nonsense veiled as compliments or advice. You know, “Oh, you’ll be so much prettier when you grow out of that tan,” or “Don’t wear that color! It makes you look so dark.”

Luckily, my mother is the type of woman who would never let anyone mess with her daughter, and from a very early age she ingrained in me that there was nothing wrong with brown skin. In fact, it was pretty great.

For the record, there is nothing wrong with fair skin, either. Pale complexions are beautiful, with their translucent, porcelain finish. But so are olive complexions, and golden brown ones, and deep, rich, coffee tones—all in equal measure. It is the misleading notion that one is not as desirable as the other that messes up many a girl’s self-esteem.

I once wrote an article for FN about why it’s fun to be a morena. Today, I’ll take it a step further and show you how to flaunt that God-given tan through strategic style choices.

So they tell you that you’re “too dark,” and to stay out of the spotlight? Respond with complete and utter disregard. To borrow that great Ray-Ban tagline: never hide!

(Photo by Tracy Ayson)

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