Social Issues

Colorism, Capitalism and Celebrities: Perpetuating Inequality

My experiences as a dark-skinned woman in Singapore have been punctuated by painful doses of Colorism throughout my life. I am not alone, not by a long shot. It is an issue I have in common with Singaporeans of all races and many people around the world. My decision to shed a light on this oft-overlooked issue has led to amazing conversations with some very intelligent women.

“One person can’t possibly have all the solutions,” Dr. Donna Oriowo stressed to me recently, “It has to be a concerted, collective effort!” The spirited international speaker, clinically-licensed social worker, sex & relationships educator, and founder of AnnodRight ( is a staunch opponent of Colorism. 

Speaking to Dr. Oriowo opened up a whole new world for me. Even though I had done my research and familiarized myself with the history and impact of Colorism, I had overlooked its roots in capitalism and power. She helped me see how segments of society benefit from Colorism and don’t want to give up its privileges.

A ‘Checkered’ History

In ancient times, light skin was directly associated with wealth. The nobility lived largely indoors, out of the sun at its peak; commoners toiled outside, bearing the fruits of their labor in their complexions. Over time, this led to a widespread idea that those with lighter skin were inherently superior. As nations and people evolved, that idea was ingrained into our collective consciousness.

Dr. Oriowo says that the anchors of Colorism are those with the darkest skin. That assertion implies that Black people with dark skin suffer most from Colorism while Asians, Latinos and Indians suffer less. She contends that no one benefits directly from Colorism except Caucasians.

Today, Eurocentric features based on Western beauty ideals come with implicit advantages. Those with light skin, straight hair, thin and long noses, small mouths and sharp jawlines are elevated by the community simply by virtue of possessing those physical features.

It works almost like a set of scales, with advantages on one side and disadvantages on the other. One less advantageous feature means that the scale tilts just that little bit further against you. Meanwhile, each ‘desirable’ physical trait evens the balance against your ‘shortcomings’.

So, straight hair and a small nose on a person with dark skin elevates them above someone with kinky hair, sharp features and skin that is a shade lighter. Two out of three ain’t bad, right? The more boxes you tick, the better.

Our brains are perpetually performing this instinctive mental checklist all the time. In fact, skin tone is the first thing we notice in each other. People of all races, even those with the darkest skin themselves, associate fair skin with intelligence, goodness and pureness.

Skin tone, hair texture and facial features affect a person’s likelihood of being stopped by the police, the job opportunities they get and even their salary. Of those factors, skin color is the most obvious and also the hardest to change.

Anti-Racism vs. Anti-Colorism

So where do we draw the line between Colorism and racism? Dr. Oriowo says that her in-depth research shows that the lines are increasingly blurred.

“Colorism and racism are inextricably linked. It started with white supremacy and was compounded by colonialism. Yet, people are taught not to look at Colorism and instead focus mainly on racism. Consequently, Colorism takes a backseat while the fight against racism steals the limelight.

“It is considered more of a personal problem than a global issue. Dark-skinned people who talk about their plight are portrayed as oversensitive and divisive when their motivations are exactly the opposite. Raising awareness of Colorism can only help in the fight for equality.”

A significant component of Dr. Oriowo’s research focuses on the role of the media in perpetuating Colorism. The world’s biggest film factories of Hollywood, Bollywood (India) and Nollywood (Nigeria/Africa) are still spreading colonialist themes through their productions.

Black isn’t truly black in the movies. During the first Black is Beautiful movement, dark-skinned Black women trickled into Hollywood via stereotypical roles.

Today, the biggest stars billed as black are increasingly of mixed parentage and have lighter skin, lighter eyes and straighter hair. What nature hasn’t bestowed can be achieved through hair dye, skin bleach, lighting, filters and Photoshop.

This is especially true of female stars. However, they all adopt the ‘black’ tag because it boosts their profile. Halle Berry, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Alicia Keys, Rihanna and Beyoncé are the best-known examples. In Bollywood and Nollywood, it is personified by stars like Kajol, Deepika Padukone, Rukky Sanda and Dencia.

The world’s largest market for skin bleach is Nigeria. Think about that for a second. Think about how many little girls out there are crying right now as they look into a mirror.

What ‘black’ celebrities are propagating damages the psyche of kids as well as that of adults. They are perfect examples of how Colorism can be more damaging than racism; it is both interracial and intra-racial.

A Dearth of Allies

While it is easy to find consensus on racism, the attack against Colorism is much more blunted. Most of the world’s staunchest proponents of racial equality are Caucasian. When it comes to Colorism, though, lines are drawn in the sand. Those who are not White but still rank in the upper echelons of the ‘hierarchy’ are content with the advantages granted to them by the status quo.

But Colorism is not a black-skinned or brown-skinned person’s problem. It is a DARK-skinned person’s problem.

As Dr. Oriowo put so aptly, “We’ve suffered enough and we can make as much noise as we need to combat this massive problem. It’s ok if we ourselves don’t have the answers to the problem. Everyone has a part to play in fighting the good fight. It’s everyone’s duty to come up with solutions.

“And one last tip for anyone not happy with those who speak up against it: If you don’t like the squeaky wheel, oil it!”




When is a joke not a joke?

On a recent shoot, an actor friend shared an experience from a previous set. A veteran actress, someone he was acquainted with and admired, commented on how dark another actor had become. She joked that he should stay out of the sun, prompting everyone but my friend to burst out in laughter.

Even though the comment was not aimed at him, he could not help but cringe. Here was an older lady, an industry veteran, mocking the skin tone of a colleague of the same race.

Perhaps someone of a different ethnicity would have thought twice about making the joke for its racist connotations. However, this actress felt secure enough in her privilege to spew that prejudiced line, blithely ignorant of the faux pas.

That lack of awareness is precisely what perpetuates Colourism.

Most people shy away from drawing attention to what they see as flaws in others, for example, weight, sexual preference, mental acuity or physical features. Somehow, that tact doesn’t seem to apply to Colourism. It overwhelms me to realise that it’s 2020 and we still have to educate friends, colleagues and, yes, even family that it is not okay.

I acknowledge that we are each a product of our environment and less restrained with our humour when with close friends and loved ones. I do not know the actress personally. She seems like a pleasant and reasonable person but obviously lives in a world where such jokes are normal and considered funny.

The difference here is that she was in her place of work and yet, professionalism did not stop her from cracking that joke. The crew laughed along, probably inured to offence from past experience. The shoot concluded, my friend left and the world continued to turn.

How do we tackle the issue? How do we effectively convey how appalling it is to make fun of the colour of someone’s skin?

One person and one place at a time. Speak up.

Colourism in Media – Where Does the Onus Lie?

Recently, I had a conversation with a friend who related his experiences with Colourism in media and advertising. He is not a ‘victim’ of the practice but someone who has been part of the status quo in his role as a producer/director.

My friend organises and facilitates casting and is familiar with the way things work behind the scenes. One of the things he noted was that clients specifically ask for talent with lighter skin. This is not done out of racism because they also specifically ask for a diversity of minority representation.
The difference is their preference for lighter-skinned talent from minority races.

Why the partiality? We are using the word ‘talent’ to describe the artistes so should talent not also be the prime criterion? Why does skin colour leapfrog all other considerations?

The conversation made me question where the change should start. In the United States, the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences has just implemented new minority representation criteria for eligibility to contest the Best Picture category.

While their rules overtly require the representation of more races, colour is not a factor. So, mixed race individuals like coffee-skinned Halle Berry and light-skinned Alicia Keys who ‘identify’ as a minority are counted. Apparently, someone like Elizabeth Warren with her blonde hair and blue eyes who claims a Native American identity would also qualify.

Where in our psyche does this aversion to dark skin originate? In the casting scenarios my friend described, is there a shortcoming with the client and the casting director? Or is it with us, the audience?
Food for thought.

Why we need to take Colourism seriously

Colourism is not racism because it also exists within racial groups. Colourism is simply the preference for lighter skin tones or the prejudice against darker skin tones. It is important for us to understand the impact of Colourism is because it creates an unnecessary divide and promotes unsubstantial beauty standards; its effects can permeate every aspect of our lives. There is no science behind Colourism. The notion that the lighter skin tone the better is one we have been conditioned to believe and continue to perpetuate without any real understanding of the ‘Why’. Colourism basically means that Meryl Streep is by default more attractive than Beyonce because she has lighter skin.

‘Dark BUT pretty’ is often used when we describe darker-skinned women yet ‘Fair BUT pretty’ is unheard of. Why is this the case?

How Colourism works is not what’s important. The harmful effects it has on an individual is. Being a dark-skinned female, I was on the receiving end of Colourism since I was a little girl. It affected my self-esteem and how I interacted with others, especially girls with lighter skin. They seemed immediately superior to me and I shrunk in their presence. This was one of the many ways Colourism prevented me from being my best self. I never saw myself as good enough for that guy or that opportunity. It took me many years to overcome some of these mental obstacles. Colourism limited me and fighting it has been an uphill battle from the moment I was made to feel uncomfortable in my own skin.

While I am less affected by Colourism these days, I will admit that the scars never completely heal and that insecure dark-skinned little girl creeps up on me every now and then. This is why it is so important to keep shedding light on this awful prejudice until it no longer poses a threat to its victims.

#Colourism #NotFair #FoundFilms #Beautycomesinallshades

Tatler Design Awards 2020


They say the most authentic way to appreciate something is to see it through the eyes of an outsider. Recently I was an accidental plus one at the Tatler Design Awards 2020 and I couldn’t be more grateful (thanks Divya). It was quite the eye opener to be amongst the people who design our world, pun intended. If you think about about it carefully, we LIVE and breathe design every single day, whether we’re aware of it or not. From the homes we buy, to the colour of our bedsheets and that cute red mug we love to drink our coffee from. Let’s not forget the cafes we choose to chill at and our favourite malls. None of these choices are coincidental, it’s all the power of design.
So about the Tatler Design Awards, it’s an event to celebrate the resurgence of styles of the past in the world of interior design. This year it was held at Spanish restaurant Una at The Alkaff Mansion, where industry insiders and homeowners gathered to fete the winners of the night.

Among the notable attendees was Ed Ng, co-founder of AB Concept and a member of the Tatler Design Awards jury, who shared insights into the selection of winners and the significance of that “Instagram moment”—how social media influences the way we experience spaces. To commemorate the occasion, the winners received trophies custom-made by stone specialist MM Galleri and designed by Celine Ng of local studio Fraction.

I got all the above from the website but let me go back to my favourite moments – the food. My steak was juicy and flavourful and dessert was rich and delightful. Enough said. It was not the Tatler Food Awards 2020, but these were winners nonetheless!








So, I’ve always thought of design as colours and shapes but I learned from this prestigious event that design is so much more than that. There’s Architectural Concept, Bespoke Concept, Luxury Concept, Use of Art, Use of Colour (my favourite!) and more. To understand better, click here.

Best Use of Colour: Design Intervention

So there you have it, my introduction to a world of design I never realised existed. Next year, I’m inviting myself, but before that I need to make some drastic changes around the house. The old living room sofa needs to be taught some new tricks and I’ve got plenty more in the bag, thanks to the Tatler Design Awards 2020!



Remember the first time rode a bicycle? The freedom you felt as you pedalled away? Wouldn’t you love to relive that moment once more? Here’s your chance, thanks to Let’s Go Tour Singapore. Not only will you enjoy the ride, you’ll also be given a history lesson. The bicycle tour is curated along the line of a crafted story of Tan Ah Huat; his entrepreneur life, his friends, his passion, and his love. As we cycle through the Trail of Tan Ah Huat, visitors will get to understand the contrasts of the modern Singapore versus the scenes back in 1920s with the aid of multimedia slideshows and crafted story telling narrated by our guides. Visitors will get to learn about the cultures and glimpse of history behind characters like Muhamad Zulfri(Malay Fisherman), Mr Singh(Doorman), Lim Mei Hua as the story unfolds.

I did the ‘mini’ Kampong Glam tour and I saw chickens! When was the last time you rode a bike in Singapore and saw chickens? I can’t express enough how enjoyable the experience was for me but you need to go try it for yourself. It’s hassle-free and safe. Tour Price Includes:

  • Use of bicycle and helmet
  • Licensed guide (and storyteller)
  • Bottled water
  • Poncho
  • Local drinks and snacks at the designated rest stop

Tour Price Excludes:

  • Hotel pickup/dropoff.
  • Gratuity for Guide

More information about Let’s Go Tour:




SINGAPOPERA, a celebration of the musicals of Dick Lee spanning 30 years of theatrical productions, is a ferociously enjoyable show. Truth be told, I was never one to take interest in the local theatre/musical scene and after all the talent I witnessed last night, I must admit regret not having done so sooner. Every performance was stupendously good. From dynamic vocals to showmanship, these musical geniuses made us laugh, cry, sing along and most of all, they made us PROUD. 

I feel obliged to refer to Dick Lee as Sir Dick Lee from now on. When he jokingly referred to himself as Asia’s Andrew Lloyd Webber during the show, I couldn’t help but agree with him. After all, the man is arguably one of the most successful composers in this part of world. We all know the words to Fried Rice Paradise and Home. Most of us have sung along to Bunga Sayang at some point on our lives. Let’s just say, his songs have left an impact on us over the last 30 years and hearing them live in a span of 2 hours is nothing short of phenomenal; not forgetting the theatrics thrown into each performance. To single out one would be too difficult. But some of my favourites include Now China has a son performed (Benjamin Chow), Look a little closer (Dwayne Lau), When all the tears have dried (Alemay Fernandez) and Bunga Sayang by the entire cast.

I could go on about SINGAPOPERA for days but I think I’ve said enough. There’s much to be missed if you don’t grab your tickets now!

Photos by

For more information click here

SINGAPOPERA – a celebration of the musicals of Dick Lee

SINGAPOPERA is a celebration of the musicals of Dick Lee, spanning 30 years of theatrical productions and an extensive repertoire of songs from most popular musical productions.

Songs from shows like Fried Rice Paradise, Beauty World, Sing To The Dawn, Nagraland, Forbidden City, amongst others, will be performed by a stellar cast of Singapore’s musicals stars like Sebastian Tan, Alemay Fernandez, Denise Tan, Dwayne Lau, Frances Lee, Benjamin Chow, Cheryl Chitty Tan and Dick Lee. Singapopera’s cast will be  accompanied by a 9piece band, led by Musical Director Indra Ismail.

The concert also celebrates the 30th anniversary of Beauty World, as well as the 20th anniversary of the most successful Chinese musical, Snow.Wolf.Lake.

Dick Lee
Alemay Fernandez
Sebastian Tan
Denise Tan
Dwayne Lau
Frances Lee
Benjamin Chow
Cheryl Chitty Tan

Through All SISTIC Channels
20% (Cat 1) / 15% (Cat 2) Discount for Priority DBS/POSB Card Holder
[Valid till 20 Jul 2018]

20% (Cat 1) / 15% (Cat 2) Discount for Early Bird
[Valid from 21 Jun till 20 Jul 2018]

20% (Cat 1) / 15% (Cat 2) / 10% (Cat 3) Discount for Early Bird Senior Citizen
[Verification: Present valid ID upon purchase]
[Valid from 21 Jun 2018 onwards]
[Please note that random checks on concession tickets will be conducted at the point of entry]
[Patrons unable to present proof of eligibility are required to upgrade their concession tickets to full price tickets]

15% (Cat 1) / 10% (Cat 2) Discount for DBS/POSB Card Holder
[Valid from 21 Jul 2018 onwards]

10% Discount for PAssion Card Members
[Verification: Present PAssion Card at the ticketing counter or quota the first 4 digits of your PAssion Card Number as the promotion code for purchases through website or hotline to enjoy the privilege.]
[Valid from 21 Jul 2018 onwards]
[Valid for Cat 1 & Cat 2 only]

For more information click here:

YOUTHNIVERSE – The Global Youth Singapore Street Festival 2018

The Singapore Street Festival Official launch held at Bugis + level 2 atrium yesterday, was nothing short of fantastically fun and throughly inspiring.

There were various amazing performances and activities which included The Lion City Bboys who won last year’s BOTY SG and represented Singapore to compete in the South Asia Finals in Thailand, as well as other impressive performances such as Street Football, Academy of Rock (AOR) Performers, Belly Dance featuring children dancers, Kendama J-feature, Yoyo, Hip Hop and Erick Guansing.

Erick Guansing

About Singapore Street Festival (SSF)

Singapore Street Festival is a yearly event offering the opportunity for youth to showcase their diverse talents, skills and capabilities in the performing arts, visual arts, popular lifestyle trends, fashion, urban sports, entrepreneurship, technology, health, environment and design. 

SSf is also featured in SHINE Festival, supported by SHINE Festival and Academy of Rock.

Founded in 2002 by one of Singapore’s most prolific independent producers Ms. Annie Pek, the Singapore Street Festival is a yearly non-profit social and community event offering youths the opportunity to showcase their diverse skills and capabilities in the performing arts, visual arts, popular lifestyle trends fashion, urban sports, entrepreneurship, technology, health, environment and design. Not limited to Singapore only but also across the region and the international arena too, SSF has become familiar in youth’s hearts and minds as the genre and medium of their dreams and their passion.

For more information on Singapore Street Festival 2017 check out the following:

Performances from the launch:



Tatinis Art Show presents Evanna Fashion House by Vandana Talwar

The Tatinis Art Show returned this June at the F1 Pit Building. Showcasing both local and international artists. The 3 day event offered a diverse selection of contemporary artworks across a variety of styles and mediums including paintings, sculpture, and photography. Several special sessions also enticed and entertained the masses including a “Fashion Meets Art” segment.

My favourite pick of the night was the runway show featuring gorgeous dresses and jewelry by none other than Evanna Fashion House.

Take a look:

Vandana Talwar is the founder and fashion designer of Evanna Fashion House. Vandana is also one
of the most sought after designers in the International fashion industry. She’s known
for piloting multiple successful brands such as “Agragrami”,” “Bohemian Jewellery”, ”Rent amenity” and their eco fashion brand – “Mikhadi”.

Her versatile designs cater to both men and women. She creates clothes for strong women and men who are not afraid to be successful, and who are not afraid to fail. After all, success is a journey, not a destination.
She create clothes for women and men who see their goals and understand the obstacles but
can create a positive picture in their minds.. Her apparels are not only flattering to the female’s
curves and silhouettes but each design is a classic form-fitting numbers that will by no
means go out of trend.

After launching her company in 2011, She participated in a few exhibitions and organised
many fashion shows in Singapore,and joined few International fashion week, such as – “Miami
fashion week” and “Mercedes fashion week Australia”. Agragrami was noticed. Since then,
and the label became renowned.

Agragrami clothes are very feminine, and they flatter the female silhouette.
Since Evanna fashion house is an exclusive Fashion company, all their clothes can be fitted,
and they keep this as one of their key services.
With Mikhadi, we elaborated on the requirements of the Indian climate and created a fashion
label that employs the most wearable fabrics, which remain cool in summer and warm during

The khadi fabric is appreciated for the firmness of their material. The range of clothes that
can be made with it is wide and stretches from blazers, jackets and Tunics to handbags for
women and men.

At heart, EVANNA FASHION HOUSE is all about slow fashion. They do not mass-produce their
designs; instead, look into every element of our customers’ needs and desires. We make
dreams come true.

Evanna fashion House designs are brave and creative to blend different fashion elements to
design, which leads the way for international fashion and culture.Evanna vanguard design
concept and diversified jewellery has been treated as a wind vane in fashion. Evanna holds its
young and energetic orientation, and also it is popular with young people at home and abroad
all the time.

Start shopping ladies!

Calls/SMS/ WhatsApp +65-90048406

*Awards and accolades Asia pacific Golden Brand award, Dec 2017 International Universal Beauty 2017 International Mrs India Singapore 2017 ASEAN Lady of Excellence, Nov 2016 Chief Executive Officer at Worldwide Branding Associate Partner at world Bazaar Directory