Growing up, I was never really fond of my skin color. The harder pill to swallow was that I wasn’t bullied in school about it but I remember being present in family gatherings where titos and titas teased me for my dark complexion.
As an asthmatic kid, my mom made me take swimming lessons the entire summer. I remember begging her not to make me do it because I was afraid to get sun-burnt. I mean, we’re talking about being under the sun 3+ hours a day, five times a week.
But I ended up taking the lessons. I would come home every day and secretly exfoliate (which was not recommended because I have sensitive skin), in hopes of brightening my sun-kissed skin.
Exclusive Beauty Standards
As I grew older, my insecurity grew bigger.
As a young adult, I became passionate about makeup and skin care. However, I was ashamed to approach beauty counters in malls because the common responses I’d get are, “Ano po hanap nila ma’am, whitening po ba?” or “Try niyo nalang po sa Brand X, baka may shade po sila ‘dun.”
“Yun pala ‘yung unang naiisip nila sa’kin. It wasn’t my acne nor my oily skin, but my skin color,” I thought to myself. These types of encounters would feed my skin color insecurity.
Growing up in a society where whitening products are glorified and being fair-skinned is desirable, it made me feel like I wasn’t beautiful precisely because I don’t fall in that category.
This insecurity went on for a long time; ever since I was a little kid up until I was in my second year of college. But fate intervened.
Scrolling through Youtube, I come across Ayn Bernos’ channel. She is a vlogger, entrepreneur and writer but other more than these, she is also an advocate for skin color positivity. After watching just one video, I became an instant fan.
Her content mainly focuses on beauty, health and women empowerment. As a morena herself, she shares her experiences with having tan skin and for the first time, I felt like I wasn’t alone.
Ayn is really an inspiration and role model to morenas like me. In her channel, she not only tackles topics such as best makeup products for morena skin but she is also vocal on issues regarding problematic skin whitening ads and color-shaming.
With her burning passion for skin color positivity, she was able to turn a passion project into a business. She established the apparel line “Morena The Label” where you can find statement tees which encapsulate her advocacy such as i like my tan, tita, morena girls represent, sun-kissed since 19xx and many more.
She also uses this as a platform to allow morenos and morenas to share their own stories with the hashtag #kwentongmorena. The #kwentongmorena stories are then featured in the label’s instagram account.
Other than loving my sun-kissed skin, Ayn also inspired me to become more confident; both in body and mind. To be very honest, I sometimes hear her voice when I get insecure in public. This might be silly to some of you but I think it became my defense mechanism.
I would remember her words in her 24 Affirmations For 24 Years video, “You can rock a bikini even when you’ve had breakfast and you’re bloated. It’s not that you have the perfect body, it’s that you’re perfectly fine with your own.”
Also, she shared in one of her videos that the first step she did in embracing her individuality is that she focused on her skills rather than her looks.
“People can tell me that I look ugly and people can tell me that I’m not attractive. That’s fine. People can tell me that I look fat, that’s fine. But that’s them, that’s their opinion. However for me, I put more value on my skills and achievements more than my looks”, she says.
“I focused on honing my skills. So now even if people tell me I’m ugly, unattractive… I can look them and say so what? At least I’m articulate, I’m a good writer, I’m a good vlogger, I’m a good speaker, so what if you think I’m ugly? I know that I bring so much more to the world than you do by being hateful”, she adds.
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I'm the brown girl behind @morenathelabel. But long before that, I was the brown girl who hated being brown. I don't know the turning point that led me here, but in the span of roughly a decade, I've gone from being called nognog, panic-shopping for whitening lotion after an outdoor volleyball class, and crying to my parents about my skin color, to making beauty videos for morenas, writing a thesis paper on colorism in Philippine ads, speaking in schools about body positivity and confidence, and FINALLY, launching a clothing line celebrating sun-kissed skin. Enter Morena the Label, May 2018. My #kwentongmorena is far from finished, and all I want to do from now on is help you tell yours as you fully embrace your skin color. We're no better than anyone, sure, but don't you forget that we're just as beautiful. Use the hashtag #KwentongMorena and tag @morenathelabel to be featured on our Instagram page. Morenas and morenos, everyone's welcome!!! First photo by Isabelle Rodriguez
Recently returning from Madrid after almost one year, she is currently in the process of starting her community-based podcast named “Camp Confidence” which will be about success, self-love and adulthood in bite-sizes, as stated in the Facebook page.
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On social media, all we ever see are the highlight reels – the vacations, the launch parties, the shopping hauls, the #OOTDs, the #relationshipgoals. But hardly do we ever get exposed to the journey behind those perfect pictures. So here's a gentle reminder that every person you see on the web is a work-in-progress too, and that you shouldn't feel sorry for your pace. You are a work-in-progress, I am a work-in-progress, they're all works-in-progress. And we should never be sorry about it. 🙌🏽 . . . . . . #selflove #confidence #girlboss #r29regram #inspiration #wordstoliveby #positivity #campconfidence #quoteoftheday
If there is one thing I learned from Ayn, that is to do what makes YOU happy. Wear that daring lipstick and OWN it. Change your hair color and change it again. Be quirky. Be fun. Be adventurous. There are no rules and boundaries in beauty. You do you, siz.
Be proud of your style and your sun-kissed skin.
By: Raphaela Dominguez