Angélica Dass is a Brazilian artist and photographer. She created the Humanæ Project. Her first exhibition took place in 2012. She has taken THOUSANDS of photos of humans from all over the world. From my understanding, more than 4,000 pictures as of this post. Her tumbler account is mesmerizing! (Click the link to check it out!) She has discovered THOUSANDS of different and distinct shades of human skin tone and labeled them with Pantone numbers.
Did you read that?
There are THOUSANDS of DIFFERENT human skin tones!
White, Black, Brown, Red, Yellow…?
Our limited notions of human skin tones…are utterly false.
I found Angélica Dass while researching how to write characters with different ethnicities and skin colors than my own. I live in a diverse area with many different cultures, religions, and ethnicities. My friendships reflect this and I am soooo incredibly grateful for their love, friendship, and support. That said, I feel like I am limited in what I can intimately write about. I grew up as a dark brown-haired, blue-eyed girl with mostly Western European ancestors. What do I know about living as an African-American? What do I know about living as a Middle Eastern-American? What do I know about writing…male characters, even? Seriously! I’ve never been ANY of these. But…I can try to educate myself. I can TRY to be less ignorant. I can ask questions. I can read, and watch videos, and subscribe to blogs.
And all this research lead me to question skin color and tone, particularly DESCRIPTIONS of skin color. For example, my skin could be described as “pale.” Fine. But I have Middle Eastern-American friends who also have “pale skin,” nearly the same shade as my own! I have friends who identify as African-American or “Black.” But…they also have “pale skin,” just a shade or two darker if we were buying foundation makeup at a department store. I would be “Ivory” and they would be “Beige,” whatever that’s supposed to mean. Not a lot of difference when you look at those little bottles but a HUGE difference when it comes to how we are perceived and treated in society.
I have been trying to wrap my brain around this because it doesn’t make sense. We are born with whatever melanin we are born with. We did not “earn” the pigment in our skin. Why are we punished for it? Why are we treated better because of it?
As a kid, I remember crying because I was relentlessly teased and ridiculed at school for being too “White.” Why do you look like a ghost? Why can’t you tan? You look so unhealthy. You would be prettier if you were tan. Yeah…”White” humans get shamed, too. Apparently, you shouldn’t be too extreme when it comes to skin tone. I suppose that’s why people buy self-tanners and use tanning sprays. Orange skin is “better” than non-melanin pigmented skin??? It makes no sense. That’s one of the reasons why I started dying my dark brown hair red more often than other colors. No one expects a red-haired person to look tan. My own teen gets shamed almost daily at school by the other “White” kids because he’s too pale—like he had any control over the amount melanin in his skin.
Interesting fact: In my 44+ years, I have NEVER been teased about my skin color by non-Caucasians. Only by “White” people. Interesting, right???
I am soooo glad there are people like Angélica Dass in this world, using their art to educate people, to bring us together as HUMANS. Thank you!!!!!!!!!