Dancehall star Vybz Kartel has made no secret of his skin-bleaching ways and now the self-proclaimed “cake soap king” is launching  his own range of “skin brightening” products in the Caribbean later this month. The range will also include anti-ageing moisturiser, soaps and male and female fragrances.

The 35 year-old also hopes to open Romping Shop, a store named after his hit record which will sell the controversial beauty line called OH. 

In the past the star has compared bleaching his skin to the act of a white person tanning. He said that if a man or woman wants to bleach their skin it’s not because their not happy with their skin it’s just because they want a different look, but can’t you do that with a change of clothes or hairdo?

Earlier this year  The Huffington Post spoke to a young girl living in Kingston, Jamaica who want to change her dark skin tone to  a cafe-au-lait complexion.

“I hear the people that say bleaching is bad, but I’ll still do it. I won’t stop ’cause I like it and I know how to do it safe,”  she said. The mother of one believed that having lighter skin would give her a better life and make her more attractive.

Dancehall star Vybz Kartel before and after skin bleaching

Is it any wonder why she thinks this? Images of light-skinned people dominate adverts for high-end products and the social pages in newspapers, it’s like they are considered an elite group of people.

The director of health promotion and protection at the Jamaican Ministry of Health, Eva Lewis-Fuller said, “Bleaching has gotten far worse and widespread in recent years. (Bleachers) want to be accepted within their circle of society. They want to be attractive to the opposite sex. They want career opportunities.”

The dominant view is that having lighter-skin is akin to having a higher social status and having better prospects. And it seems that employers are just enforcing this view.  Jamaica’s national training agency – HEART Trust said that employers sometimes “brazenly” request that only light-skinned people be considered for employment at their firms. A source told the news website The Voice  that they usually make these requests when they are seeking trainees to fill “front counter staff positions as those persons are deemed to be the face of the organisation”.

Noted psychologist Dr Leahcim Semaj said that there was a time in Jamaica when you had to be light-skinned to work in a bank. He carried on to say that many people still hold the opinion that being light-skinned is more attractive.

Dark skinned women like Jamaican born model Gaye McDonald are not seen as attractive as light-skinned women

Another girl featured in the Huffington Post article said that she was taught how to bleach by her sister and that after she’s done it she feels special, like “she’s in the spotlight”. She says that it’s fashionable to bleach your skin.

This bleaching craze definitely illustrates a warped perception of beauty. Lyrics from the song “Look Pon Me” by Vybz Kartel say, “Di girl dem love off mi brown cute face, di girl dem love off mi bleach-out face.”It’s thought that he changed his skin to break into mainstream music since the only Dancehall artist who made it into mainstream in recent years was Sean Paul.

To me this is more than just “changing his look” he wanted a life that he believes he could never achieve with his dark-skin. And that’s probably the same for all the millions of people who use dangerous and sometimes illegal chemicals to alter their skin tone. They know the damage but they don’t care because society still tells them that if you’re the fairest of them all, you’re the best of them all. It’s sad to see but it seems like even 177 years after slavery was abolished in the British West Indies colour prejudice is still very much alive.

Watch Vyz Kartel talk about his “new look”

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