In the stressful world of customer service, we corporate slaves look forward to any sort of breather to release our pent-up pains and laugh it out with the nearest cheerful souls. I've been told how effortlessly funny I am, but I admit I also had dull moments. When this happens, I'd rather play a mute role (which usually requires Olympian skill) or the hyena role. And everybody loves to hear my laugh.
The next real-life goddess would have to be one of those free spirited females who always succeed to give me a serious ab workout amidst the second-hand smoke. Come to think of it, our good times together were limited to yosi breaks and brief visits to each other's workstations. She's one jet setter I never got to frolic with yet; she's one party animal I am yet to spend a long night with. This probably explains why I'm so drawn to her. She makes me want to find her all the time!
With her towering figure, consistently head-turning attires that expose her dark skin, habitual use of gay lingo and bottomless desire for good vibes, my friend Shervette Chua (or Beth Banasijan, as what she calls herself nowadays on Facebook) is hard to miss. She may have an easygoing aura, but her own journey to skin acceptance was far from easy.
Lornadahl: We Pinays are bombarded with reminders that "white is right". Have you always been convinced that brown is beautiful?
Shervette: When I was younger, not at all. I guess it's because in those times you look up to what your "idols" look like and I didn't know any better.
Lornadahl: If you grew up being brainwashed that only the mestizas are beautiful, how did you make a major mental turnaround and embrace the skin you're in?
Shervette: Honestly, it's when I got really tired of doing the tiresome bleaching and the works. I realized that if I couldn't embrace my true color, who else would? So, I stopped doing those things and started enhancing my real color and it felt good inside.
Lornadahl: Any rants and raves to share about your whitening products trial??
Shervette: It was time consuming and can really hurt your budget.
Lornadahl: I used to think that being morena is limited to black outfits. I hated how I looked in white, pink, yellow and orange. How about you? Any colors you find unflattering for our skin type?
Shervette: Now, NO. I wear the brightest colors I can lay my hands on. It's liberating to finally learn and accept my color. It makes me feel good knowing that despite what others may think, I know I look great showing my morena tone.
Lornadahl: Can you tell us what is your fashion style?
Shervette: Depends on where I will be and my mood really but more often than not I go for sexy chic style or a trendy sporty look.
Lornadahl: When you say sexy chic, that's your usual tiis ganda sa nipis na tank tops and fit jeans kahit malamig ang aircon sa office, right?
Shervette: Yes! Hahaha!
Lornadahl: Which celebrities serve as your fashion icons? Why?
Shervette: Eversince I saw Angel Aquino and her amazing skin. I thought to myself: yeah, maybe standing out with a fuschia pink blouse on my skin tone isn't bad after all.
Lornadahl: Do you think Pinoy men prefer mestizas over morenas?
Shervette: I sure think they do. I believe it is still because of the colonial mentality that "white" is better than the brown ones. They just don't know what they are missing!
Lornadahl: Have you tried asking the foreigners you've dated why they appreciate our dark skin? What did they tell you?
Shervette: Yes, but normally they volunteer the information. They said dark tones can make you look healthy - could mean you like the great outdoors - and, for them, sexier.
Lornadahl: How would you feel if a foreigner calls you "exotic pet"?
Shervette: Uhmm, I don't take any offense unless the tone insinuates sarcasm.
Lornadahl: How would you feel if fellow Pinoys call you "mukhang katulong" or "mukhang pokpok" because of your skin color?
Shervette: Ahh, that's where it can get really annoying. But the trick is to acknowledge and show them that this is the skin tone that you want, not any lighter. And make sure you mean it when you say it. Who would tease someone who doesn't see the object of ridicule as something embarrassing?
Lornadahl: Do you consider dark men sexy? Why or why not?
Shervette: Yes! Especially if they are tall too. Even with foreign guys, tan ones are the most delectable! Haha!
Lornadahl: Do you think you are/were treated differently because you're morena?
Shervette: Yes. That's why I think morenas should be more mindful of how they carry themselves. For some reason, if you have a dark skin tone it means you came from the farthest corner of the Philippines and you can be looked down just like that. Frustrating.
Lornadahl: When you say "farthest corner of the country" you mean the provinces, right? Are you encouraging morena women to be more kikay in presenting themselves otherwise they'd be looked down?
Shervette: Yeah, the provinces. I guess that's what I am trying to say. A dash of kakikayan and bonggang bonggang confidence.
Lornadahl: Do you think being morena is better when you're slim? Would it also work for plus-size women?
Shervette: I think it would look good both ways. It's just a matter of taking care of your color and knowing how to enhance it. I'm referring to smoothness and vibrancy of your color.
Lornadahl: I know you're a beach bum, too. Do you still go for sunbathing to become darker? Are you satisfied with your color already?
Shervette: I do go for sunbathing but I limit it to an hour or two and with sunblock still. Gives my skin a reddish gold tone.
Lornadahl: Do you confront people when they call you names (ex. baluga, kirara, etc)?
Shervette: I believe I am a self deprecating person, so I sometimes joke about it with my friends. But if it were people I don't know, it can still get under my skin. I just don't show them it bothers me, because after 5 minutes it really doesn't anymore.
Lornadahl: How do dark people want to be called?
Shervette: Morena is nice. Dusky skin tone sounds exotic.
Lornadahl: What's your secret for that even skin tone? I'm envious!!!
Shervette: I do body scrub 3 times a week, just homemade salt scrubs after soaping will do. And make sure to accurately time your sunbathing so you would have equal amount of sun exposure on your front and back. Shorts are a no-no on the beach! Bikinis are the way to go to get an even tan.
Lornadahl: What about lighter butt and lighter boobs against the darker body parts? Hahaha! I hate it when it happens. Di ko naman kaya mag-nude sunbathing no!
Shervette: That's something we have to bear with, my friend. Hahaha! Unless you don't have any inhibitions to bare it all, then by all means, go!
Lornadahl: Do you also have a preferred skin tone for your romantic partners?
Shervette: Honestly, I go for foreigners so it switches from light to dark tones depending on their availability to go to the beach or sunbathe.
Lornadahl: Why do you prefer foreigners over our own men? Weren't you married to a Pinoy?
Shervette: Yeah, I was married to a Pinoy. You know I am taller than the average Filipina so it was kinda hard to find a taller guy. But that's a shallow reason. Haha. Well, foreigners are open-minded about my being a single mom and all. They don't see it as a "defect".
Lornadahl: How do you convince your son that brown is beautiful?
Shervette: He is moreno too. I always express my appreciation of his color and I buy him colorful shirts. In that way I build up his confidence in a young age.
Lornadahl: What if your son asks you to try whitening products? What would you tell him?
Shervette: He does ask me to try it. He wonders why they want to be white and all those tricky questions all 8-year-olds ask. I just tell him it's a matter of choice like how his cousins would prefer to drink vanilla flavored milk over chocolate flavored one. This is how I try to instill the value of respecting other people's choices.
Lornadahl: Do you still get insecure about your complexion? get intimidated when surrounded by mestizas?
Shervette: A lot when I was younger (early 20's) because advertising dictates white is the "in" thing. But that's all in the past. I am proud of my color just as how mestizas are proud of theirs.
Lornadahl: How do you deal with I'm-so-fugly/dark days?
Shervette: I feel that it's a phase that I had to go through or else I won't have the confidence I have now.
Lornadahl: There are so many morenas out there who still battle with skin acceptance. What would you tell them?
Shervette: Loving and accepting your color is the first step in making the people around you respect and appreciate the skin tone that you have. Showing them that you are proud of it would reflect you are not just a morena but a proud owner of a dusky tone.
***End of the Interview***