Lagos, Nigeria (CNN)To explore colorism in Africa, British-Nigerian actress Beverly Naya has produced a documentary on Netflix titled "Skin."
British-Nigerian actress shines a light on colorism in Netflix documentary
Unlike racism, colorism is the discrimination of people based on skin shades and is prevalent among people of the same ethnic or racial group.
"Skin," an hour-long documentary, compiles the stories of Black women in Nigeria who have been treated differently for having dark skin. They speak openly about the pressures of being defined by their skin color.
In many parts of Africa, light skinned women are considered more beautiful. Contrary to their dark skinned counterparts, they are likely to succeed in fields like entertainment, marketing and the tourism industry.
Naya told CNN she was inspired to produce the documentary because she suffered low self-esteem when she was bullied for her skin color while growing up in the United Kingdom.
"I had crooked teeth and I had really bad eczema," said Naya, whose full name is Beverly Ifunaya Bassey. "And even though I fixed my teeth and my skin cleared over time, the damage had already been done to my mental state and how I saw myself. So as I got older, I realized that I just didn't feel beautiful."
Naya said that in her early 20s she began to work on regaining her self confidence by learning to love herself and launching an anti-bullying campaign.
"I want to inspire young people to love themselves. And I decide to use my documentary, 'Skin,' because I didn't want to restrict my message to a small community. I knew it was important to get the message further," Naya said.
A preference for light skinned societies dates to slavery in the 1600s, according to a 2020 report published in the journal E-International Relations.
Slave masters had a special preference for slaves with lighter skin, who were assigned less difficult indoor tasks as opposed to often horrifying outdoor duties, according to the report.
Naya, 31, says media portrayals of dark skinned people has contributed to colorism.
"In magazines, like a charity ad, for example, you see a poor dark-skinned child begging for donations, but on the front of the same magazine there is a light-skinned beautiful child portrayed as beautiful," she said.
"It subconsciously registers in the mind of a child that Black is poor and light skin is beautiful. The way that information is received can affect the mind," she said.