Business, Legal Drama

‘Heritage’ Photoshoot: Are Nigerians Tired of Eku Edewor’s “Light Skin Privilege”?

Eku Edewor Light Skin 3Eku Edewor is a bi-racial media personality of Nigerian heritage. I recall when she burst on the media and entertainment scene some years back. All of a sudden, she was seen on every fashion publication, in numerous commercials, hosting a variety of shows and even had a few roles in some “new” Nollywood movies. Also, when it came to interviews with international celebrities visiting Nigeria, including Kim Kardashian, she was the go to host of choice.

I also recall the extensive controversy over whether she was specifically afforded the opportunities she had because she was truly qualified or her “light skin privilege”, as some put it, opened doors for her. Overtime, the controversy died and in fact, last year, in an interview with (Blanck) Digital Magazine, Eku took on the issue of  her struggle as a mixed race person in Nigeria:

“I suffer from acts of racism all the time, intentional and unintentional. I mean some of the racism I have experienced is simply a cultural reaction to me that is not meant to be an insult but invariably it is.

I’ve learnt that people will always find something wrong with you and working in an environment that is predominantly darker skinned I feel that people tend to refer me to my colour a lot and not always in a positive way. Some of the comments I get are; ‘She’s only successful because she’s light skinned, or she’s only considered attractive because she’s light skinned’.

I have lost jobs I’ve got because there will always be an opinion that states, she’s too fair people will not relate to her, let’s go with a more African look. This is particularly hurtful because at that point I am unable to prove my talent. It always surprises me when I deal with these issues because it’s clear that I am an African, I have been accepted as one, my show is still successful despite being the only host and most importantly, the face of Africa is not one shade.

I therefore am very grateful to those that have chosen my talent first. What is interesting, is that I can’t count on both hands other mixed race personalities in my environment so I wonder who people refer to when they state I am only successful because I am fair.” – Blanck Digital Magazine.

In recent times, the controversy over her light skin privilege has taken a new turn with the recent outcry by many that her recent shoot for ThisDay Style Magazine in a shoot titled ‘Heritage’ convey the oppression and slavery of Africans/blacks.

In the past 24hours, Eku has found herself having to defend this photoshoot that was allegedly aimed to showcase African/Nigerian culture but looks more like the reaffirmation that white is better and more superior than black.

What’s the real deal here?

In my view, light skin privilege exists. It exists here in America and also exists in Nigeria. I am from a region (Akwa-Ibom) in Nigeria where there are naturally very many light skin people. So, I am keenly aware of the fact that in that region and the rest of Nigerian society, it is openly said that light skin is more desirable. A light skinned woman will get a job, in most instances, before her darker skinned counterpart in Nigeria and even here in America.

Indeed, there are so many other privileges that attach. To say it doesn’t exist or pretend doesn’t change that fact. It is almost like a white person denying white privilege exists. I think often when people say things, we internalize it to mean that they are saying we are bad. Just because a lighter skin person enjoys more access or opportunities doesn’t mean that person is a bad person or that such person is not supremely qualified for a position.

Also, if we were to support my assertion above that light skin privilege exist, with actual evidence, the fact that studies show that over 77% of Nigerian women bleach/use skin bleaching agents ought to shut down the argument of, “there is no such thing as ‘light skin’ privilege.” I think the bigger questions are the ones that I pose below:

1. Are there some shoots or depictions that whites or mixed heritage persons should avoid because it sends the wrong message and appears highly insensitive?

2. While it might hurt, should light skinned people like Eku put aside their hurt feelings and think of the greater good of society and avoid photoshoots like the one at issue?

3. Or should darker skin people just get over it already and not think “everything” has to do with race?

-Uduak

Light v. Black Skin

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2 Comments

  1. Gbemi007 says:

    I'm so disappointed in everyone involved in this debacle.

    I'm disappointed in Eku, for not realizing or being able to see what so many are trying to explain to her about why these images are harmful.

    I'm disappointed in Lynxxx, for not refusing to participate in this photo-shoot, and for not being more vocal about the controversy in its aftermath.

    I'm disappointed in ThisDay Style for starting this mess in the first place, and for not being quick to apologize and promise to do better.

    Everything about that photo-shoot was deliberate and planned, from the time of day during which it took place, to the color, shape, and size of every piece of clothing displayed in the photos. So they can't now claim that they didn't deliberately all dark-skinned models to pose in those same photos.

    If you look at past ThisDay Style covers, this same separatist and elitist mentality is also evident. Even when dark-skinned models adorns their covers, they light or alter her images in ways that sometimes leave them unrecognizable. When their magazine covers feature multiple women, the lighter-skinned women are more likely to be positioned closer to the front of the group.

    The bottom line is that there was a wrong committed here, and all those involved should acknowledge it, apologize for it, and never do it again.

  2. Viola says:

    What strikes me most is the contrast between what she is wearing and what the other individuals in the photo are wearing. I've attended a few contemporary African weddings and none of them featured outfits like this…but then this bugs me too because I get bothered by weddings (and wedding photos) in general…all the artifice of it all. The umbrella and luggage pieces speak volumes. I think that the photo can be analyzed in so many dimensions and many of them would probably point to all kinds of status (racial, class, modern vs traditional, forward vs backward, first world vs third world, etc) and ideas of African-ness (colonial and contemporary). Traditional wedding processions looked very different, am sure, than what this photo claims to portray…the photo strikes me more as a colonial representation of a settler arriving in Africa, not of a woman walking a short distance to her new marital home…the model's comments at the bottom of the page highlight the fact that she herself is not very aware of what the photo might represent.

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