The Makeup Artist Changing Women's Perception of Dark Skin.

Colorism, the notion that lighter skin tones dictate a higher social value, sadly, lives on today. Ever so prominent within the black community.

For an unremitting period of time, black people have been told; "lighter is better." Having the western world adhere to this belief by enforcing the brown paper bag test; a test that involved a brown paper bag being held against a person's skin, to determine whether he/she was lighter than the bag, in order to obtain admission to certain social events. Or, our very own local Coca-Cola - Fanta phenomenon, that did it's fair share of rubbing in the perception of lighter women - the 'Fanta', being more desirable to men than the 'Coca-cola' type.

Thankfully, these two barbaric acts and perceptions have been wiped out from today's society. However, our people remain mentally enslaved. Today, many women will go to extreme lengths in order to lighten their skin - buying countless ointments or creams, and even taking pills, to achieve this much desired goal.

One young Zambian lady, Emelia Chilambe Swaba, walks a different path. Standing strong in her roots, refusing to be swayed by the masses.

"I have never been inclined to lighten my skin at any point, or felt like bleaching my skin will make me look better, despite people telling me I'm dark, despite them calling me all sorts of names. I can say I survived that."

Who is she? She is a Zambian makeup artist, who is rather exceptional in her works, owning a makeup service company called Fire 'n' Ice. A Chef by profession, changing instilled perception one makeup brush at a time. Emelia Chilambe Swaba, is a young lady wearing her melanin with pride and making a bold statement in the most subtle of ways.



She is a graduate, who pursued a course in General Hospitality with a passion for the artistry of makeup. Emelia originally began to practise the craft as a hobby, without any entrepreneurial intentions. About two years ago, she took up a job at a beauty store, which would later serve as the very stepping stone to becoming a professional makeup artist.  Whilst working at the store, her colleagues began to encourage her to take up makeup professionally, subsequent to seeing her untapped potential. At first thought, Emelia says the idea of putting makeup on someone else was frightening, but she took a leap of faith and the results paid off.

As expected, the journey has not been one that is easy. Emelia has encountered some difficulties, mainly market wise. She says, when she first decided to become a makeup artist, not many people were into makeup, perceiving the craft as easy. This in turn led to people being unwilling to compensate makeup artists accordingly for their work. A problem she says is still present today. As a business person selling makeup products, another difficulty she has had to face is having people abstain from good products and buy fake ones that are much cheaper. Lastly, not until recently, finding suitable products for women of her shade was not the easiest of tasks. However, those days are fast becoming a distant memory, as makeup companies now create products for the woman of color.


In an era that is still pro light skin, people are not always warm and welcoming to a lady who wears her melanin rich skin proudly, one like Emelia. Despite coming from a family filled with people of a lighter complexion, Emelia says she has never experienced segregation internally, but instead negativity always seems to come from external sources. Not long ago, she fell prey to an internet troll who referred to her as 'Chifita'- a derogatory Zambian term for 'dark one'.  Emelia communicated her feelings on this saying;

"I'm at a place in my life were that doesn't get to me, because I've built my self esteem."

She further concluded by expressing her thoughts concerning skin lightening, saying;

"I Know people who bleach and what they go through. I don't think I can actually manage to do that, because at the end of the day I have to source for money to get my creams and I think it's just a lot of work."

For Emelia, dark skin is something every black woman should wear unapologetically, for her personal fulfilment. She says this in relation to the notion that in most cases, women bleach their skins to be more alluring to a man's eye. A statement that can not be disputed because evidently, many women are under the impression that men are easily attracted those who are lighter in complexion. In a short but gripping  statement, Emelia expressed dismay on the matter saying;

"If someone is going to like you, let them like you for who you are and that includes skin color."

When asked about her future plans. Emelia's response emphasized on furthering her education, by studying cosmetology. As much as she enjoys being self-taught, Emelia aspires to be a qualified makeup artist with the core purpose of being eligible to work for global companies. She went on to conclude by saying she would one day love to build her very own makeup school. Something we certainly long to see in our country, Zambia.



The Mainstream

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