A Space for Writers of the World
The term “colorism” refers to a prejudice based on ones skin color and their socio-economic standing. In all countries invaded by Europeans, lighter skin is directly associated with being more successful. According to the Cosmetic Dermatology for Color Skin Journal of 2009, Latino patients are the largest ethnic group to receive cosmetic procedures. This encompasses all cosmetic procedures, which includes skin bleaching. In an ever-growing, diverse world, the strive to be whitened is accompanied by harmful chemicals and bone altering procedures, creating an ugly cycle of self doubt and a lack of self-acceptance only to be repeated in the following generations.
Cosmetic procedures are on the rise throughout non-Caucasian societies, and with it issues like depression, identity crisis, and complete assimilation are also becoming more obvious. In the confusion of cultural clashes throughout the colonized world and also in the Western world, the ideal of success goes hand in hand with the ideal of beauty, instilling that someones success comes solely from their outward appearance—furthermore, their skin color and ethnic features. Italia Vigniero tells the New York Times of February 18, 2011, “We Latinas define ourselves with our bodies.” Vigniero’s belief is most likely a complex result of her motherland’s culture, and that of the country she lives in now, the United States. This skewed ideal beauty is passed down not only by external means through the media, but also internally amongst family members, where a parents main hope is for the success of their children. With big name brands like Unilever, Palmolive, and L’Oreal campaigning for their skin-lightening products, the message couldn’t be more clear for all age groups and sexes. And although this physically, mentally, and emotionally damaging belief of the ideal beauty is rampant, governments lack the will to try to stop its cycle, only stepping in because of recent scientific studies proving that the main ingredient in skin-whiteners, Hydroquinone, is proven to cause cancer. With its ban in many countries across the globe, people are still turning to any means possible to achieve their ideal beauty, and thereafter, their hope for success.
In this series, I photographed Latinas that have shown their pride to be who they are. They are all shown as diptychs, with a “before” and “after” image in reference to the too familiar images that bombard us on the daily in an attempt to advertise the company’s cosmetic products. Facial features were digitally lightened and bone structures were slightly altered to the point of being unrecognizable unless paired with the original. For these women, myself, and Latinas in the United States and abroad our appearance and non-whiteness is always a topic of conversation. Unfortunately, there exists the constant bombardment of an ideal beauty and colorism within our own culture. If we are not careful, we, too, could so easily be colored white. If this perpetuates, we may all strive to look the same way, forgetting how beautiful our colorful differences makes us all. “Color Me White” is a series exploring the epidemic of white-washing plaguing the world, the absurdity of it, and the eerie implications of such a rampant obsession.
Growing up in a Mexican American home impacts Jasmin Garcia’s work through her own experiences and the art of those that came before her. Much of her inspiration comes from Latina artists Frida Kahlo and Judithe Hernandez, as well as artists Lorna Simpson and Laurie Simmons. Other art forms and artists also show their fluidity throughout her work, such as spoken word poets Elizabeth Acevedo, Sarah Kay, and Mayda Del Valle. Garcia’s work exudes vibrancy in colors and a surrealist-like nature. Reoccurring themes include the social undertones (or at times, overtones) of her culture and those of being a woman, and the constant question of home. She works with traditional mediums, including 4×5 film and cyanotype, and sometimes combines the processes with more modern ones. In her commercial work, she has made a personal promise to work with healthy models of all backgrounds, in an effort to challenge conventional ideals of beauty, femininity and masculinity. In May 2013, Garcia graduated from Bradley University with a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art Photography and Studio Art Graphic Design, and a minor in Art History. Originally from Orange County, CA, she is now based out of Peoria, IL, and works as the Marketing Director to a local craft beer and import wine distributor. She still makes time for her art, as it remains her first love.