Recently hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar made headlines by specifically casting a dark skinned woman to play the lead role in his new video “Poetic Justice.” Lamar explained that the entertainment industry reinforces a preference for lighter skin, and that it was important to him that there be balance.
“We had another girl for the lead, but I had an idea where I just wanted a little bit of a darker tone [girl] in the video,“ Kendrick tells Miss Info. “It’s almost like a color blind industry where there’s only one type of appeal to the camera.“I always kept in the back of my mind like ‘you don’t ever see this tone of a woman in videos. No disrespect, I love all women, period. But at the same time, I still feels like it needs that balance.”
Hopefully, others will follow the lead of Lamar and show more diversity in the entertainment industry, but some aren’t waiting for the entertainment industry to empower young girls to love themselves regardless of skin tone.
In 2012, husband and wife Corey and Sheri Crawley returned to Detroit from Chicago to be near Sheri’s mom who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. They relocated from a diverse downtown Chicago neighborhood to a small suburb of Detroit called Novi, Michigan, where the demographics were only one percent African American. After their oldest daughter, Laila, was enrolled in kindergarten, Sheri observed changes in her behavior.
“She lost her bubbly personality and became more withdrawn and timid during school hours,” said the concerned mother. “She began to make comments when she saw shampoo commercials on television. She said she wanted long blonde hair like that of her classmates as opposed to her own beautifully textured hair.”
Around the same time, Anderson Cooper on CNN 360, aired a four part series on research results of a Doll Test. The test was initially conducted in the 1940’s by Dr. Kenneth and Mamie Clark and greatly influenced the decision of Brown vs. Board of Education. This test showed that when given a choice, children have a bias toward brown skin tones.
Sheri also had a similar experience with planning a birthday for her youngest daughter Aliya, at a very popular doll store located downtown Chicago. Not one of the little girls, including Sheri’s daughters, chose a brown doll. Sheri was shocked and appalled with their decision and very surprised that the only brown doll that was available at the store was a freed slave. More than ever, Sheri recognized the need to address the harmful messages about skin tone and beauty in media. She was very concerned about the effect on girls who rarely see images of their own likeness depicted in a positive manner.
Simultaneously, she began asking God how she could use her gifts and talents to empower others.“My husband always used “Pretty Brown Girl” as a term of endearment towards our daughters.” They decided to share this simple yet powerful message to encourage girls to be happy in their beautiful brown skin, hence the creation of Pretty Brown Girl. Pretty Brown
Girl is for girls ages 4-18 and encourages them to celebrate the beautiful shades of brown all over the world; while inspiring positive self-esteem and confidence.
The couple began by creating “The Pretty Brown Girl Doll” for little girls of all ethnicities to send the message that brown skin is indeed beautiful. The movement now includes the newly announced Pretty Brown Girl Club for girls, “Laila”, the Pretty Brown Girl Signature Doll, PBG T-shirts and accessories for women and girls, the Pretty Brown Girl Pledge and curriculum-based workshops and a children’s book entitled: Pretty Brown Girl: My First Day of School written by Sheri Crawley.
Also, February 23 marked the second annual International Pretty Brown Girl Day. For more information visit www.prettybrowngirl.com.