Fortunate Nchu has the darkest skin among her ten siblings. Growing up, she was bullied because of it, and neighbours called her ugly and suggested skin bleaching.
“I was told that I wasn’t beautiful and that if I was lighter, I would be beautiful,” she said
At age five, Nchu heard words that would break a child’s heart and demean her self-worth. Her peers made it worse by making fun of her skin colour in church, school and the community of Obudu, Rivers State, where she grew up.
Sadly, Nchu believed the hurtful words.
“I believed them. I believed that my siblings, who were fairer, were more attractive than me. I thought I was just black and there— like if I was fair, I would be prettier,” Nchu recounted
At 10, when she started her secondary school education, she met a teacher who always complimented her dark skin. It became a ray of hope and confidence for little Nchu.
Nchu didn’t bleach her skin until she gained admission into Madonna University, Okija, Rivers state, where she studied law. A fair-skinned relative had suggested a cream, and she bought it.
Then, Nchu joined the 77% of women in Nigeria who use skin-lightening products according to a 2018 World Health Organization or WHO report, the highest prevalence in the world and is significantly higher than the global average of 27.7%.
Several factors underlie the widespread practice of skin bleaching in Nigeria, with colonialism playing a significant role. During the colonial era, European colonizers frequently propagated the notion that lighter skin held greater beauty and desirability, which subsequently permeated the beliefs of many Nigerians.
Soon after, Nchu discovered that the cream was having an adverse effect on her skin.
“My skin color became two. Some parts were fair and other parts were dark. It was horrible and I hated what I saw,” She said, shaking her head.
Nchu needed no one to tell her that she was damaging her rich melanin. She settled to believe what she told herself.
Her breaking forth was in her 200l when she looked into the mirror one day, and told herself that she was beautiful.
“I took time one day to (really) stare at my reflection in the mirror. For the first time, I saw that I was pretty.
From then on, I started speaking positive words to myself. I would say that I am beautiful, stunning and created in God’s image. It became my reality,” She said with a big smile.
As though the universe was waiting for her affirmations, she began to get compliments from random persons wherever she went. One of the many times was when a co-passenger appreciated her for retaining her skin tone.
In her words, the man said, “Nne, you have a very fine skin. Don’t do anything to tamper with it”
Now 23, Nchu is a source of inspiration to girls who look for reasons not to bleach their skin.
“Whenever I look at her, I get inspired not to do anything about my brown skin- not to bleach it. She is darker than I am and wears her skin with so much confidence!” Goodness, Anthony, a girl motivated by Nchu, said
Nchu also devotes her time to writing about self-love and inspirational quotes on Facebook and Instagram.
She is changing the stereotype in her own small ways.