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.
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.”
Edited from: www.scmp.com