Judging by these impossible expectations, one can't really win!
In Filipino culture, a light-skinned ideal has been perpetuated by what I like to call, mestiza posturing. Mestiza/mestizo is a term borrowed from Spanish to mean one who has mixed indigenous and European blood, and even if individuals do not have this mixed descent, this look often governs mainstream perceptions of beauty. Just take a look at these major Filipina celebrities:
Taking this idea even further, mestiza posturing can also be seen as a bi-product of the Philippines' colonial/feudalistic legacy in which a system of white authority and brown inferiority was built upon the appropriated archipelago.
In "Emil's Big Chance Makes Me Feel Uneasy," Tricia Capistrano, reveals how much of her life has been dictated by this mestiza complex. She describes this underlying "white is right" consciousness:
I am a brown-skinned woman from the Philippines, where many people I know have a fascination with the lighter skinned--probably because our islands were invaded so many times by whites who tried to convince us that they were better and more beautiful than us. We were under Spain's rule for nearly 400 years, the United States' for almost 50. As a result, skin-whitening products fly off the pharmacy shelves.
With this notion of light-skinned superiority ingrained deeply into her teenage consciousness, Capistrano admits how she used to "hang out with the mestizas, because I wanted to be popular like them." And the quest for whiteness didn't stop there. While her grandmother cringed at the idea of her already dark skin becoming even darker at a friend's pool party, Capistrano's own mother encouraged her to start pinching the bridge of her nose everyday in hopes of "arching" its imperfectly flat surface.
After giving birth to her son, Emil, Capistrano was suddenly able to see the other side of the equation. Emil was a fair-skinned mestizo of Swedish/Dutch and Filipino descent which automatically made him a member of the most exclusive club. This became even more apparent during a family trip to the Philippines when Capistrano was continually bombarded by a slew of Filipina admirers ogling at her mestizo son. He's so cute! So fair-skinned!--they would exclaim.
Fearing the cost of Emil's future college education, Capistrano even considered moving back to the Philippines permanently, confident that her son could easily land a part doing baby commercials. When she was on the verge of booking an agent, Capistrano suddenly reconsidered her plans: "I realized that I was going to be part of the system that can sometimes make us dark-skinned people believe that we are inferior. I do not want Filipino children who look like me to feel bad about themselves....
So even though I've focused the majority of this discussion on the Philippine perspective of beauty, I would like to turn your attention to another demographic--African American women. A friend of mine recently recommended this documentary featurette, A Girl Like Me, directed by a 17 year-old filmmaker, Kiri Davis. In her film, Davis insightfully explores perceptions of beauty through the eyes of African American girls. Like their Filipina counterparts, these young women reveal how they are often taught to perceive lighter-skin as more beautiful, while sometimes feeling pressured to surrender their traditional curls for the tamed relaxed look.
Without further ado, watch A Girl Like Me right here:
Borderlands/ La Frontera: A New Mestiza--Gloria Anzaldua
Liminality and mestiza consciousness in Lynda Barry's One Hundred Demons --Melissa de Jesus
Metaphors of a Mestiza Consciousness --Erika Aigner-Varoz
Tagalog Movies and Identity :Portrayals of the Filipino Self --James F. Kenny