We smooth it with scrubs. We soften it with creams. We dab it with highlighter. But our skin is so much more than a reflection in the mirror. Our skin is the metaphor that defines how we’re seen — and how we see ourselves. For our April 2017 cover story, Allure asked 41 women of color to tell us the story of their lives through their skin — and skin tone. Because our skin can be both a vulnerability and a defense. But most importantly, it can be a source of celebration.
“I don’t think people realize just how much Latinas vary in skin tone. I have Colombian and Dominican friends who are superdark and others who have blonde hair and blue eyes. We are kind of stepping away from thinking this is what someone Latin should look like, with a light skin tone and big butts. It’s celebrated more now than in the past, just how different Latin women are. My role model growing up was Selena. I love her music, what she represented, her sexiness. And just being herself. She wasn’t trying to conform to something else.”
Aamito Lagum, model
“Growing up in Uganda, I did not fit into the ideal. I was too dark. I was too tall. But I didn’t really notice I was black until I came to the U.S. Here I’m black, whereas I was just a person in Uganda. [Last year, there was a close-up of Lagum’s lips on the M.A.C. Instagram feed that triggered racist remarks in the comments section.] It wasn’t that big a deal to me — haters gonna hate — and I was able to brush it off. I posted back, ‘My lips are giving you sleepless nights.’ I grew up loved by my family. That love enabled me to love what I saw in the mirror. I learned to love my skin too much to fit someone else’s script. It is the same love that keeps me safe from comments that would otherwise offend me.”
Imaan Hammam, model
“I’m half Moroccan, half Egyptian, and I was born in Amsterdam. I’m Muslim, and I’m superproud of my heritage and of my roots. I want to be a role model for young girls who are struggling with racism or struggling with their looks or with their skin color. I had Naomi Campbell, who I looked up to as a black powerful woman. But there aren’t many Arabic models, and being an African-Arabic model, I’m trying to open doors for more Arabic girls.”