The Homegirl Project interviewed KATARi, a rising Ugandan music star from London, about about smashing colorism in the music industry.
by Harleen Roop
What is it like to be a dark-skinned woman trying to get her big musical break?
I have seen a rise in supporters of darker women compared to when I was growing up. It's a nice thing to see other girls uplifted by those on the Internet. However, in the music industry, dark skinned women are not portrayed in a good light; we aren’t chosen to be the ‘pretty’ girls in music videos, our roles in films are limited, and we're hardly ever the heroines. Growing up, I never really had any dark-skinned role models to look up to. Even now, in film and TV castings we barely get representation, and when we do, there's an uproar that it shouldn't happen. Everyone deserves a chance, regardless of their skin tone.
As a Londoner, what is your perspective on colorism in international or cosmopolitan settings?
London is definitely not dedicated to one race, there’s a combination of so many cultures and ethnicities here. I’m quite fortunate to live in such multicultural city, but this doesn’t mean it’s always perfect. I have had certain experiences along the way that weren’t the best. Like last week, I was on the tube and I noticed someone taking pictures of me. It’s happened so many times and I know the reason why, it’s because of my skin color.
During your teenage years, you were subjected to colorism. What was your initial reaction to the comments?
I never understood it when I had just begun high school, but I realized that the other children had something to say about me only because of how dark I was. It used to bring me down a lot as a child, I remember going home crying to my mum; I even stopped going to school because of it. It affected me a lot growing up and sometimes even now, but I do my best to block those negative opinions out.
At what age did you learn to love your skin colour?
I think it must have been around my last year of high school, I think I was about 16 at the time. I learned to love myself and ignore what others’ opinions of me were. I’m very proud of my skin now. To other girls out there, I’d say definitely do your best to block it out, just focus on yourself because people always feel jealous of other people’s success and happiness. If you’re focusing on yourself, you’ll gradually learn not to care about people’s opinions and also, I’d say, just love yourself.
What advice would you give to young girls who are struggling to love themselves in terms of their appearance or bullied due to their skin colour?
Don’t try to change the color of your skin for anybody--or anything else about yourself, for that matter. Personally, when I was growing up, I learned to accept that there's a lot of jealousy around. People will hate you just because they aren’t you; you’ve got to try your best to block it out and believe that you are beautiful the way you are. Embrace who you are, love yourself, and turn your imperfections into your strengths. I hope anybody going through stuff like I did stays strong, because you can either let it make you or break you. If you’re feeding into it, you won’t win.