My amazing friend Kelsey works for a non-profit organization called the Kwagala Project, based in Gulu, Uganda. This organization continuously seeks for new ways to combat sexual violence, human trafficking, and the forced labor of women and girls. Taking action to help victims of sex trafficking is so necessary in countries like Uganda, because the issue is such an on-going one as a consequence of constant war and insufficient, unstable government. Kelsey has always had such a heart for global justice in communities less fortunate around the world, and her time is truly consumed by doing things that actually matter. What cracks me up though, is that whenever I publish new posts for this blog late at night, I can always check my stats just a bit later and see that there’s been one recent view in Uganda … and I always know that’s Kelsey, probably eating lunch and reading my latest post. She may be taking care of some the most important business on this Earth for her job, but it makes me happy that she always has a moment to read my stuff, as ridiculously unimportant as it is in comparison to what she’s thinking about on a regular basis.
What made me even more happy was when Kels emailed me about doing a possible post on this blog, not about her, but about one of the girls she’s met from Uganda through the Kwagala Project! Yes that’s right- this blog has gone global, folks. I’ve always loved learning about beauty routines that are completely unlike mine, and I had to figure Uganda might be pretty close to “unlike mine” considering it’s halfway around the world. I’ve loved reading about African beauty routines in the magazines I’ve kept up with. Native African women seriously have some of the most striking faces I’ve ever seen. Case and point- South Sudanese model Alek Wek , who has dominated the catwalk for the likes of Chanel, Donna Karan, and Calvin Klein. I’d see some of the photos on the Kwagala Project’s site and just think, Ummm, these girls should be modeling. So, let me introduce you all to the model for The Bright Blush: Uganda edition … This is Stella! So beautiful!
Stella is your regular ole’ girly girl- she loves long dresses, getting all done up, and being in front of the camera. In this photo, Stella’s just finished washing her face. She looks like one of those ads you see for face washes, looking all squeaky clean and ahhhhh! Stella and her girls use only water to cleanse their faces. I have to say, keeping up with this routine is probably so healthy for your skin in the long run. No alcohols, no extra substances, no trying all kinds of gimmicky products until you land on the right one over years and years … just the ultimate universal cleanser. Stella also pats ground, white chalk powder on her face for a lighter, shine-free look. She and her friends prefer to appear lighter than their natural skintone. This is one of the ultimate ironies in global beauty, and something I find so fascinating- white women work so hard to be tan, because they seem to associate it with wealth, tropical vacations, having the time to lay out and pamper their bodies, and glamour. But many African, Asian, and Middle Eastern women work hard for the opposite effect- they prefer to appear lighter. I actually just read an article in Marie Claire about a Pakistani woman who modeled in ads for skin whitening creams, and her inner conflict that she experienced as a result of it. It was so interesting to me, because I’ve literally never seen a skin-whitening cream in a store, Sephora, anywhere. Ever. All we’ve got here are tanning lotions and bronzers!
It is common for women of eastern cultures to want to achieve a fair-skinned look because light skin is, in fact, associated with wealth in these cultures. Historically, this preference came from the idea that if you had dark skin in these cultures, it most likely meant that you were a poor laborer and worked long hours outside under the sun, farming and working. However, if you had light skin, this meant that your time was likely spent indoors, in your beautiful home, privileged and wealthy, away from toil under the hot sun. It’s so funny to me how physical beauty, while in many ways universally identifiable, can be so relative from culture to culture.
For any kind of zit, Stella and her friends use the old-wives’ trick of applying a bit of toothpaste to the zit. I’ve known a couple folks who do this too. Toothpaste is supposed to be great at drying out zits, but I admit that I’ve never tried it myself. Stella uses a toothbrush to groom her eyebrows, and she uses a razorblade to shape them. She uses eyeliner to fill in her eyebrows and to draw in sideburns. I love it! When Ugandan girls (or at least the girls in Gulu, where Stella lives) get dolled up, sideburns apparently are always included.
I love that just by knowing this little routine of Stella’s, I feel as if I’ve gotten to spend time with her and all the girls in Gulu. The small details of a beauty routine are some of the most exciting and most fascinating to me, and I’m grateful to even be able to enjoy them myself. I love that organizations like the Kwagala Project work to help girls be able to enjoy the small, joyful details of beauty and life, too, when these girls’ lives have been so fraught with pain and heavy burdens. The freedom to savor the small things and really enjoy being a girl is a beautiful thing, for me and for Stella.
Be sure to check out the Kwagala Project’s site at http://www.KwagalaProject.org and see how you can get involved or help out. There’s always a way to help, no matter what time zone you’re in. Just read a little bit about what’s been going on with the Project on the blog, and check out some of the stories of the girls impacted by it. Beauty is blossoming in Gulu, and that’s something to celebrate! xo, MR