Le 30 novembre 2014, 08:10 dans Lifestyle • 0
The world knows her as a great beauty, but as a mixed-race teenager who searched in vain for make-up for her skin Thandie Newton felt like 'the mistake that can't be provided for'. How far we've come, she says...
I'm mixed race - my mother is from Zimbabwe - and growing up in Penzance, Cornwall, in the 1970s wasn't easy. I had access to a lot of good magazines, books and art in our house, which was great, and I had an idea of how to express myself and how to play with make-up, but there was nothing available for me.
From the age of nine I would save up my pocket money to go to Boots and buy make-up and things for my hair. The own-brand cucumber moisturiser and lip-balm were my favourites, and the smell still reminds me of my pre-teen years. But when, as I grew older, I was looking for decent foundation, cover-up and powder for my darker skin, I couldn't find it. The whole idea of anything exotic just didn't exist - there was no diversity.
Now my nine-year-old daughter goes off to Boots at weekends, pupils dilated with the thrill of what she may find. She's headed for the make-up aisle and, unlike me when I was her age, may come back with a few coveted items. What I started to think at that young age was, "I'm the mistake that can't be provided for." Now I know who I am. I've travelled around the world and I'm more able to say, "The problem is with them, the industry." My skin isn't "specialist" skin. But it has taken a long journey to get to this point.
What starts off a girl's journey in beauty is her imagination, which is linked to the images around her. You try to project the images you see around you on to yourself, and there were some people around me who didn't accept my skin colour or my hair. It was my mum who really struggled, because she had to bear the brunt of it. I remember getting ready for class photos when I was six or seven. My mum braided my hair - for her it was the neatest, prettiest style, the equivalent of having your hair freshly cut and styled.
I went to the best school in town, which was run by nuns, and they wouldn't let me have my photo taken because of my hair. I think they thought it was a bit "ghetto", though we didn't really know what that meant. It was absolutely not "ghetto". The next day my mum went into the school. I don't know what was said, but I had my photo taken.
I was being pushed further towards the boundaries of what is "normal", and I was made to feel different. My goodness, does that have an effect, hearing what's "normal". My mother would have loved to leave my hair in its big, gorgeous mane, but she tried to make it as "normal" as possible because she didn't want her daughter to be picked on. I think now, as a parent, you have a duty to show your children the different ways they can look and make them aware that they have a choice.
There were layers and layers of low self-esteem attached to these early experiences, and I continued to have very low self-esteem for years. So as soon as I could I had my curly hair professionally "relaxed" with chemicals to make it "normal", and it stayed straight until only a few years ago. It was how Hollywood wanted my hair, too.
My turning-point with make-up was when I started going to London. It has such an appeal for me because there are so many nationalities represented. The diversity is extraordinary. Suddenly I could buy foundations and concealers for my skin tone.
London is a young, vibrant city, an amazingly multicultural melting-pot of people, and that's why people flock to it. It's a city I'm so proud of. But I was lucky to have access to such a multicultural place, something not everyone has. The colour of your skin is tied to so many things: in some countries having lighter skin can give women the chance to have a life that is not just about servitude.
Many women across Asia and Africa feel they need to use skin-lightening creams, but it's too easy to say that's a bad thing. I'm not saying it's right, but for some women changing the colour of your skin means you are able to get married to someone, you get things provided for you, you get to go to school. This is a sad fact that I hope will change with education and empowerment, but location is an important factor in women having the chance to make the choices for themselves, so no one can be na?ve and think it's a choice based on simply wanting to have lighter skin.http://www.promdresshouse.com/bridesmaid-dresses | http://www.promdresshouse.com/flower-girl-dresses
I would like the beauty industry to broaden so that it is no longer intolerant of different ideas of beauty. And things are finally changing. It's to do with people and the demand being there. There are plenty of women with darker skin who want to dress up with make-up, and brands know that if they manufacture the products, women will buy them. As for the brands that don't, they need to catch up because they're missing the market. In a way I think we're doing them a favour by saying, "Hello, we're around!" This is my world and my children's world, and I want my children to be able to go into a shop and be represented.
What I think is so key about beauty is that it has the capacity to be about independence and empowerment. There are choices we make, whether we hide ourselves in make-up or use it to push boundaries and express ourselves. I think it's important that we satisfy the demands of all the women in the world. I hope that as time goes by we can reach the girls like me, in the corners of Cornwall and other areas far from the beauty cut-and-thrust of the big cities. The right make-up for everyone is out there, but we need to push stores everywhere to stock beauty products for all women.
As for my hair, now I wear it however I want - I can wear it big and curly or blow-dry it straight, if I like. It's about having a choice and not feeling like I need to wear my hair in a particular way for anyone. I'm working on a project at the moment and they're gasping for me to have it curly, because they love me, and what beauty boils down to is people. Take Beyoncé or Kerry Washington: for them it's stopped being about the colour of their skin; they have a big influence on other women. It's an exciting time for the beauty industry, and for women of all ethnicities who want to look their best and have fun with make-up.
I never thought, as a girl in the 1970s, that the beauty industry would become as diverse as it is now. But it can still go further. There will be a time when different skin tones won't even be a discussion point: it will just be beauty, that's it.