Colorism Online vs. Offline: Black Influencers, Representation, and Visibility

Curator's Note

If you type ‘makeup tutorial’ into YouTube you will see a lot of white faces; however, you will not only see white or light faces. The times are changing, and the presence of Black makeup gurus on YouTube points toward an evolving understanding of what skin color means, how it connects to identity, and how it is associated with beauty. Although the history of colorism and skin color bias has been overshadowed by “the association of cultural ideals of whiteness with structural access to opportunities,” which in turn has been connected to “why blacks may have internalized racist beauty standards” (Jha 2015: 45), these internalized aspects of skin color in connection to success, opportunity, and beauty have begun to decline. By looking at the visibility and increase of Black influencers we can see that there is no longer just the embracing of Eurocentric beauty ideals, but rather there is a celebration of Black skin—at least online.

One popular example is Nyma Tang, who is a beauty influencer of South-Sudanese origin who lives in the U.S. and has over one million subscribers and over 76 million views on YouTube. In her videos, Nyma focuses on applying makeup and suggesting products; however, she does not shy away from sharing her experiences with colorism or her social commentary on the beauty industry. Notably, she has a YouTube Series entitled “The Darkest Shade,” where she tests the darkest foundation shade available from various make-up companies. Over the last 3 years of this series, she has forced her way into having her beauty and skin tone represented and has brought awareness to gaps in products available for women with darker skin tones, while also providing women with confidence and an opportunity to wear and celebrate makeup (that is available in their shade). Nyma, nevertheless, argues that there is an incongruity in the discussion of colorism online vs. offline, which implies that there is still work to be done to take the steps toward addressing colorism in a day-to-day context. She constantly stresses that representation is incredibly important, but what is more important is “having it (representation) trickle into real life."  

The visibility of Nyma Tang as a public figure shows that YouTube has become a platform where the presence of millions of views in connection to makeup tutorials with Black women is positively a sign that, despite the continued existence of both overt and covert colorism, dark is beautiful. Although there is still room for growth in combatting the presence of colorism offline, by fighting for visibility and recognition of this demographic in the beauty industry through the use of YouTube, there have been clear signs of growing acceptance and inclusivity of women with darker skin tones with regard to beauty standards. It is thus necessary to applaud and support this clear step forward with the hope that this mentality of acceptance will begin to resonate offline. 


Works Cited:

Jha, Meeta. The Global Beauty Industry: Colorism, Racism, and the National Body. Routledge, 2015.

“Nyma Tang.” YouTube,

Tang, Nyma. “Dark Skin & Why They Only Love Us Online?” YouTube, 22 Sept. 2019,

Add new comment

Log in or register to add a comment.