‘Hitam pun boleh putih’: Malaysian TV host defends skin colour comments as ‘self-love advice’

Tan Mei Zi

Zulin claims that her message promoting self-love was skewed by those who chose to focus on her comments about dark skin. — Picture via Instagram/zulinaziz

PETALING JAYA, June 3 — Local TV host Zulin Aziz has defended her recent comments on skin colour as a message meant to highlight self-love and confidence.

Zulin took to Twitter on May 30 to share a photo of herself in her 20s that illustrated the physical transformation she had gone through over the years.

In her post, the former Suria FM announcer compared having dark skin to being overweight and having acne while promoting a message about loving one’s body.

“Don’t despair. Dark-skinned (people) can become fair, fat can become thin, and acne can disappear.

“Before that, we need to love ourselves. If we’re comfortable, that’s fine, don’t pay attention to what other people say about you,” Zulin wrote.

She also shared how she was teased in her younger years for having the face of a “mak cik (aunty).”

The 30-year-old went on to tell her 94,500 followers that the only thing stopping them from having a positive self-image was “laziness,” adding that she had worked hard to achieve her current appearance.

Zulin’s tweet has garnered almost 20,000 retweets as of June 3. — Picture via Twitter/iamzulinaziz

While some praised Zulin’s message, many took issue with her referring to dark skin as a trait that could be “improved.”

“Just a reminder that there’s nothing wrong with dark skin. It’s beautiful,” said one user.

“Everything (in this post) is fine except saying dark skin can become fair. As a public figure, do not promote the beauty standard of ‘only fair skin is beautiful,’” wrote another.

Some people also pointed out that Zulin was inadvertently encouraging an unhealthy beauty standard in her message.

Zulin later posted a follow-up tweet in an attempt to clarify her views on being dark-skinned.

“I meant that it’s possible for us to change our skin tone but we must love ourselves first.

“We need to learn to appreciate ourselves so that certain things about our appearance won’t make us insecure.

“See? People only want to find faults with others and focus on misunderstandings instead.”

Zulin said that people were purposefully trying to generate negativity off her tweets. — Picture via Twitter/zulinaziz

Not long after, Zulin expressed her wishes to delete her Twitter account because there was “too much negativity” on the platform.

Asian countries are no strangers to promoting fair skin as a beauty ideal and skin lightening products make up a multi-billion dollar industry in the region.

Datuk Seri Vida, known as one of Malaysia’s most popular self-made entrepreneurs, built her entire empire on a line of cosmetic products called Qu Puteh (I’m Fair-skinned), and CNN reports that the demand for skin whiteners is projected to reach US$31.2 billion (RM133 billion) by 2024, up from US$17.9 billion in 2017.

A 2004 World Health Organisation survey also found that 40 per cent of women in countries including Malaysia, China, the Philippines, and South Korea have whitening products as a staple in their beauty regimes.

There are several theories explaining the origins of fair skin as a beauty ideal in Asia, ranging from European colonisers championing light skin as a marker of higher social status to associating dark skin with heavy-labour jobs like farming.

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