Skin Bleaching Models Were Banned From Dakar Fashion Week 2013

by Abigail Oluwakemi
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Backstage at Dakar Fashion Week, a group of young women squeeze into impossibly high heels while others sit still as make-up artists paint their eyelids a shining emerald colour.

All legs and cheekbones, the models are subject to the same pressures as their counterparts in London, Paris and New York. And perhaps more.

Like some women from the streets of Senegal, some fashion models in West Africa have bleached their skin, seeking to achieve a “cafe au lait” colour regarded by some as the aesthetic ideal.


This year, however, Senegal’s marquee fashion event made a stand against the damaging practice.

“I am against it,” said Adama Ndiaye, better known as Adama Paris, who started the annual fashion fête in 2002.

Campaign Shot for Dakar Fashion Week 2013: Model: Aminata Faye:

Campaign Shot for Dakar Fashion Week 2013: Model: Aminata Faye:

Ndiaye announced at this season’s launch that she had banned any models using “depigmentation” cream from the six-day event.

“It’s not even pretty,” she said. “For me, it’s just a turn off.”

These ladies bare the telltale signs of long-term bleaching: blotches of discoloured skin on their arms and faces.

“I’m trying to teach them to like themselves,” said Ndiaye of the natural-toned models selected for this year’s show.

Self-esteem is not the only issue at stake, according to dermatologist Fatoumata Ly.

Women often use prescription-strength corticosteroid creams to lighten their skin. “When absorbed into the bloodstream, corticosteroids pose serious risks, particularly for the heart,” she said. Skin cancer is also a potential side effect.

This year’s fashion week collections emphasised sleek minimalist designs, in forceful primary colours and jet blacks, with designs targeting international women. Models strutted in towering Louboutin platform pumps down a runway inside a luxurious nightclub.

The African designers showcasing their talents hailed Ndiaye’s public stance at the event, which ended last Sunday.

Sophie Nzinga Sy, a couturier educated at the Parsons School of Design in New York, was infuriated when she saw billboards promoting skin lightening products around Dakar. “It was ridiculous,” she said. “Our skin is something that we should value.”

Sidling nervously between hair and make-up stations, models also expressed their support for Ndiaye’s initiative.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said model Dorinex Mboumba. “It will discourage others from the practice. We don’t need to change the colour of our skin to be beautiful.”


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Vanessa Hailey July 24, 2013 - 12:00 am

I wish they would just make these products illegal. I was in Jamaica.last year and you will be surprised.

mc enigma July 24, 2013 - 6:56 am

what did you see? I lived in Panama for a year and saw excessive makeup. I don’t think bleaching is big down there, but I’m sure its not far. Seeing Sammy Sosa transform in my lifetime is ill. What’s Jamaica like?

shan shan July 25, 2013 - 11:24 pm

I am a Jamaican living in Jamaica. Bleaching products are illegal here, however they still bleach their skins. A lot of products can be used as well as they know how to mix common househood items as well as certain plants to create bleaching products. Bleaching is not a wide scale practice here, it is mostly done by the lowerclass/ghetto/poor people. We don’t have a significant amount of people here doing it in comparison to the united states or anywhere else in the world. So don’t be coming on here talkig about jamaica as if u know us, you are a tourist ok! Stop painting my home in a negative light….n fyi a lot of people are mixed rade and not necessarily bleaching, it is probably their natural complexion. Don’t go to the ghettos and then come back reporting that everybody is ghetto,they are a minority

Leo July 24, 2013 - 12:34 am

There is nothing wrong with our beautiful skin or our hair and we need to stop comparing our beauty against Western standards. Every African country on the continent should start banning the importation of bleaching agents from all foreign countries to include America ,GB and China. We should not suffer from internalized racism and enrich their pockets because some women suffer from insecurity. If you’re not naturally born with certain aesthetics, you come off looking fake and ridiculous. The African woman is wearing everyone else’s hair but her own and that’s tragic.

Michelle Nichole July 24, 2013 - 2:58 pm

Some of these girl just dont know better, they are just emulating what they see on tv, and the admirable images on the containers of the bleach products. we need to educate them and promote acceptance of dark skin just as much as it is done with lite skin on tv and music videos.

ALH July 27, 2013 - 3:05 am

Hair relaxer should be the next thing banned!

Attira February 6, 2014 - 1:49 pm

It is very sad that black people want bleach their skin in order to become someone else. It is horribly wrong misconception and should be banned. People shuld be happy in their own skin.


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