Lark Voorhies as Lisa Turtle dominated the television stream in the 90s alongside her counterparts in the hit TV Series “Saved By The Bell.” As one of two characters that helped expand the show with diversity, she was known as Screech’s crush and almost every young man’s dream with glowing brown skin and vibrant eyes. One of the first African-Americans to take such a position on day television as a heart-throb/sweetheart. But yesterday, she made an uncanny appearance on my Twitter timeline, consistently, with the attached picture below.
Well, my initial reaction was make-up. I’ve seen many of African-American women on television as victim of horrible make-up; choosing the incorrect tone to match your own will make the difference between a clown and a Naomi Campbell. And to keep it frank: it’s due to the lack of properly tinted products and educated artists for melanated skin. So it was my optimistic approach to the situation that Voorhies was such a victim. That is, until I saw the video.
Of course everyone’s jumping to conclusions, and she may very well have an explanation for this atrocity… Possibly she has a skin disease; maybe she has a sort of nutrient deficiency; or for kicks, let’s say she decided to put foundation on her entire body. Maybe it’s just skin lightening.
The world has a long history with skin bleach and skin lightening. It’s biggest consumers today are in Japan, India and the Pacific, imported from countries around Europe and sold worldwide. The first controversial skin bleaching much of us are familiar with is that of Michael Jackson. But it later came to pass that he actually suffered a skin condition– Vitiligo. Choosing to be completely off-white instead of patchy was his true decision, rather than what most initially thought it was: a lack of self-love.
Skin bleaching is similar in theory to plastic surgery, and many of times the two come hand-in-hand. For every Beyonce photo lightened for the covers of your favorite White-friendly magazine, is another young Black woman wondering why the darkness of her skin holds her back from such an accomplishment. And every rap song epitomizing the “red bone” and “light skin bad b***” as the ultimate image of a beautiful woman in our world, even among African-Americans, there’s another young Black man learning to cherish this image as the same.
As a brown-skin woman myself, I never grew up with such insecurities– thank the progressive mother and father. But I had noticed it in others. Particularly around the time Lil Kim‘s transformation began to be more apparent, I became more of a Foxy Brown kind of girl (but still a fan of both). And to look at old photos of Lil Kim that actually image myself –opposed to her latest photos– are disheartening. While much of the media’s superiority to white and light skin has obviously taken a toll, there is a responsibility that all humans must take for their own actions. I’ve never once heard Lil Kim address these changes to her body.
But if you take a stroll over to South Africa, you may see why. Mshoza, a South African Kwaito singer, recently made headlining news after addressing her obvious transformation throug time. Having been a popular singer throughout the 90s, she became known as the Princess of her genre, Kwaito, and has since continued to develop in the public eye. The most shocking of these changes recently landed her in the hot seat again; with little traces of brown left on her now pale body, to a newly contructed pointy nose, breast augmentation, booty bump, and more– all of which she claims to have done out of the “passion to be white.” Citing with the interviewer that she “want to be Black, but White.”
The difference with Mshoza and other skin bleachers is her strong conviction that she is not judgmental of others who do prize and enjoy their skin color, but that she is simply making these changes for herself. So, she can remain married to an African man and not find any faults in his being Black. But she can’t remain the same color because she wants to be happy. Fundamentally, you can’t really knock someone for wanting to do with their own body what they believe will make them happy, even if only for the time being [re: long-lasting effects of skin bleaching].
The saddest part of this all, though, is that her happiness is being dictated by her White features. If your happiness is relative to the amount of melanin in your skin, what do you believe this newly lightened skin will bring to your life that brown skin could not? It’s not marriage, as an already married woman. It’s not fame, as an already famous woman. So is it piece of mind? The thought that you could live your life more freely and less objectively as a White woman than as a Black African woman?
If Lark Voorhies really did bleach her skin, I don’t wish her much of bashing or headlining news, but instead to find clarity and self-love within herself. To hate yourself so much to the point that you’ve decided your outward appearance is the ultimate reason for this frustration is a sickening reality that much of our world’s prejudice, stereotypical and racist rhetoric is to blame. Here’s to hoping it’s just horrible lighting and a newly fired make-up artist “/