This startling and compelling film by my friend, photographer and director, Cathy Hassan, makes you think about the lengths people will go to in order to attain that elusively subjective thing of desire we call beauty. Skin bleaching, eyelid surgery, breast augmentation…some people even think that bleaching their butt-holes is where it’s at.
Every now and again, and it usually happens on the tube, someone will grab my attention. It’s usually a black woman whose skin colour on her face looks unnaturally light and crucially, uneven in tone. The skin colour on her hands will tell a very different story because it will be several shades darker than that of her face. I’ll study this woman surreptitiously, wondering about the disconnect between what she thinks is an improvement to her looks and the reality of patchwork, badly made waxwork she has come to resemble. I’ll try to imagine her story, wonder about the chopped logic that led her to this place. The socio-cultural pressures that demand she should damage herself in this way with creams that contain poisonous mercury that strips a layer of the skin in order to make it fair.
Cathy’s short film tackles the subject in a surreal, high concept way. At first I thought it was some kind of high fashion statement but repeated viewings make links clear: beauty is a commodity. It’s equity, status and inclusivity. And the search for it can kill you.