Dakar fashion week takes stand against skin bleaching

Mon Jun 24, 2013 1:28pm EDT
 
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By Elise Knutsen

DAKAR (Reuters) - Backstage at Dakar Fashion Week a group of young women squeeze into impossibly high heels while others sit still as make-up artists paint their eyelids a shining emerald color.

All legs and cheekbones, the models are subject to the same pressures as their counterparts walking runways in London, Paris, and New York. And perhaps more.

Like many women from the streets of Senegal, some fashion models in West Africa have bleached their skin, seeking to achieve a "café au lait" color regarded by some as the aesthetic ideal.

This year, however, Senegal's marquee fashion event is making a stand against the damaging practice.

"I am against it," said Adama Ndiaye, better known as Adama Paris, who started the annual fashion fete in 2002.

Ndiaye announced at the opening of Dakar Fashion Week that she had banned any models using skin depigmentation cream from participating in the six-day event.

A local newspaper, Sud Quotidian, claimed more than 60 percent of Senegalese women use skin bleaching products for non-medical reasons.

Women of all classes and education levels use these often unregulated skin creams. Well-heeled and unshod women across Senegal bare the tell-tale signs of long-term bleaching - blotches of discolored skin on their arms and faces.   Continued...