Flashback to when I was in high school from 2003-2007. When a girl turned 16, a door unlocked. In addition to earning the privilege of driving, or her first job as a cashier at a grocery store, one of the most exciting rights a young woman earned in my community was to legally use a tanning booth. Like many others, I was eager to start tanning. My fair and freckled skin took all summer to earn that bronze glow, and now I could have the control I needed to maintain it year-round. Many of us did. (It happened to take a lot of work for me, however.)
My boyfriend would say things to me like, “You don’t need to tan,” and “tanning is overrated,” but I wouldn’t believe him. You see, we were being given conflicted messages. These messages said, “Don’t use a tanning booth because you’ll get cancer. You’re beautiful the way you are, so put on this fake bronzer to look beautiful...”
I noticed there were gorgeous stars, such as Nicole Kidman or Zooey Deschanel, who had fair skin and flaunted it, but that wasn’t enough for me at the time. I wasn’t mature enough to realize that I didn’t need to be anyone other than myself, which is a popular situation for most adolescents.
I’m not saying that I don’t use a tad of bronzer from time to time. In fact, as a dancer, to me wearing bronzer is important like wearing makeup is important. Stage lights can be really harsh, for one, and it’s true that muscle tone shows less on fair skin! Furthermore, I do think it’s part of human nature to want to look our best, and there’s nothing wrong with that; however, there’s a difference from wanting to look your best and wanting to be in someone else’s shoes--or skin. Wearing bronzer (or makeup) to enhance your natural features is far different from wanting to be someone else entirely.
We need to stop telling young girls that fair skin is beautiful while shoving a bottle bronzer in their faces. Today when I choose to put on bronzer, which is when I’m performing or dressing up, it’s because it helps me feel confident. I love my skin, and my hope is not to cover it but rather enhance my natural features and beauty. When I would put on bronzer as a teenager, or when I stepped in a tanning booth, I wished that I had different skin. I wish I had skin that was beautiful. Little did I know that I had it all along. Let’s empower young women and girls by communicating to them that their skin is beautiful without providing an alternative.