Unfair and Lovely® is a Pax Jones original photo project aimed at combatting colorism on a global scale by highlighting its intersectionality. #unfairandlovely is the social movement initiated after the publication of the photo project. The social movement behind #unfairandlovely has a 2-point approach: 1) Affirmation and celebration of dark skin people of color and 2) Examining and resisting the underrepresentation of dark skin people of color in media, with a special focus on queer, low income, fat, and disabled dark skin people of color
What was the inspiration behind #unfairandlovely? When and how did the hashtag begin?
My own lived experiences as a Black woman inspired this photo series that Mirusha, who modeled alongside her sister Yanusha, later helped name as Unfair & Lovely. The series was a creative project that I developed to combat underrepresentation of dark skinned people of color in media. Mirusha's experiences of being dark and South Asian that she has shared with me helped me conceptualize the critical intersection that colorism rests at between various communities worldwide. The photo series shows a fusion of western and traditional South Asian garb to stretch the very restricted degrees of freedom of cultural expression that dark skinned people of color face. After the photos became a hit, our friend named X'ene suggested we turn the name of the series into a hashtag.
What do you think are some of common struggles that dark skinned WOC face? Do you think there are differences across ethnicities/races?
I would like to acknowledge my privilege of being somewhere in the middle of the perceived color spectrum for Black folks. My experiences do not represent the more severe experiences that much darker Black women face. I also cannot speak to what colorism means in other ethnic groups. I do believe that in some places, colorism predates European colonialism, so that should be analyzed. I think common struggles that dark skinned women of color face include underrepresentation and hypersexualization that eventually translate into reduced opportunities in almost every facet of life. Being Black and American, it means that being considered beautiful is more difficult. To be a "pretty" dark skin Black girl, our hair must be finely textured, our facial features must be distinctly European, and/ or we must be exceptionally intelligent. The standards of beauty are so restrictive, and these unrealistic standards are over imposed upon us. In addition, our experiences are invalidated from people inside and outside the Black community. Speaking about colorism causes people to immediately refer to dark Black women as "jealous", "bitter" or "divisive." The common comment is "Light skinned, dark skinned; we're all Black." While this is true, it sadly perpetuates the silencing and erasure of the experiences of dark skinned Black women in a similar way that #AllLivesMatter attempts to silence #BlackLivesMatter, for example.
most of the coverage around #unfairandlovely is focusing on the South Asian community, but as you pointed out on Twitter, the hashtag is also inclusive of other people who are affected by Eurocentric beauty standards. Can you talk a little bit about who you believe #unfairandlovely includes?
#UnfairAndLovely is for dark skinned people of color. Often this movement is also referenced as being for women of color, because cishet men are not subjected to the same, extreme level of colorism when it comes to standards of beauty and opportunity. However, #UnfairAndLovely is meant to be an inclusive space. It is for the dark skin people who are queer, low income, fat, and/ or disabled.