I was in grade four. I went to school in town but I lived in a township, so I had to use public transport to and from school.
My friend and I walked past these high school girls that I thought were really pretty. I commented on how they looked.
Then the topic of beauty was sparked. Seeking his validation, I asked my friend if he thought I was pretty. He said: “I think you’re sort of pretty but you would have been prettier if you were light-skinned.”
That was the beginning of how I perceived myself. I kept feeling like I was inadequate. Whenever anything bad happened to me, I would attribute it to my dark skin.
Fast forward to varsity: I went to the United States. This one time we had an acting class and we were asked to write our own monologues.
We had to share our monologues with the whole class and when I read it out loud I burst into tears.
There was a vulnerability that I had been escaping from for all those years because I had accepted the box I was in.
From that moment I left the box and saw myself with my own eyes. —Television maker Leni Netshiavhela (25) as told to Zaza Hlalethwa