A photo from a project highlighting the beauty of black skin is rubbing some people the wrong way on social media. The image in question from One, a series by Isaac West featuring stunning models in colorful underwear set behind brightly colored backdrops, places the most light-skinned woman front and center.
“Why did the light girl go in front???” one commenter asked. Another questioned, “Why is the lightest-skin girl in the front like that?” And someone else chimed in: “They are all beautiful black and black-mix women. Didn’t have to centralize the lightest skin one … how typical.”
In response, West, a student and fashion designer in Minnesota, says to Yahoo Beauty that “as black people, we have something very unique about us — our skin tone. It comes in all different shades, and some people sometimes use that against us. It doesn’t matter if she’s dark, she’s brown, she’s light brown, or she has fair skin. We all are black and we all are one.”
West, who was born in Liberia, raised in Ghana, and made his way to the United States in 2005 along with his parents, says that he “didn’t put her in the middle because her skin tone was better. I put her in the middle because I wanted her to stand out, and the reason I wanted her to stand out is because her color was so different.”
An important detail that critics of the one photo missed was that it belonged to a group of images in which the lighter-skinned model was placed in various different positions. West did not intend for people to think there was any favoritism placed on the model with lighter skin, but he wanted to show her in a way that highlighted how radically distinct her skin tone was yet still represented a variation of how diverse black skin is. West adds, “It is just so amazing that her skin is so fair yet she’s black.”
West’s work also received plenty of praise. One comment read: “Why are people getting upset with this post because a light-skinned girl is in front? The whole point is their black mixed women, none of them are ‘white,’ but people are still upset? I think this is honestly a really cool post imo.”
This isn’t West’s first time using powerful images and social media to celebrate the beauty and diversity of black women. A few months before releasing One, he directed another project titled Different Melanin, which received so much appreciation, it inspired him to continue creating similar projects.
“I just want women of color to start embracing themselves more and be happy,” says West. “Be happy with what you have. Love your skin tone. If you have natural hair, love your natural hair. I just want women to love themselves … I’m tired of seeing light skin versus dark skin and dark skin versus light skin. We may come in different shades, but we are still family.”
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