To tan or not to tan. Pasty white skin or porcelain perfection?

Does a tan look better in a belly dance costume? Should we all be regular fake tan users or visiting solariums?

I hadn’t really thought about it until I did Michelle Joyce’s workshop on promoting and marketing yourself. She is a firm believer in a fake tan, particularly before a photo shoot. I think she said something along the lines of “…and don’t forget to get a fake tan first”. She does have a point, a tan covers imperfections and can look good in photos. Michelle’s photos are world renown and constantly being used by all sorts of people unofficially to sell belly dance related products. Sadly though, it wasn’t until that moment in Michelle’s workshop that I had thought that my skin was inadequate or unattractive in its natural colour.


The stunning Michelle Joyce (of whom I am a big fan of). I have seen this shot used on so many websites, eBay shops, etc and now it is on mine too! Picture: Michael Baxter

As my regular readers know, I am super white. My father has really dark olivey skin. He always looks tanned but somehow I ended up with the skin tones of all the red heads on my mothers side and am lily white. I had just accepted that this was the way things were, but after the workshop I began to worry that in order to be professional I had to cover my entire body in colouring. When you are as white as I am, it can be hard to get a fake tan that looks at least a bit natural. My first attempts resulted in streaks and when I finally got it even it only lasted about 2 days before it just started to look like dirt on my legs. I simply don’t have the time or desire to reapply every 2 days! I have eventually found some products that are ok to use, they are very pale, because dark colours just look stupid on me, (I will do an up coming review on them stay tuned). I have used them to help cover unfortunate tan lines or to help conceal a nasty bruise but I am still dubious of the need for me to spray my entire body another colour in order to be considered more attractive.

I believe we can all be beautiful whatever our shape or size OR COLOUR!

I was inspired to write this after becoming aware of a campaign against advertising by Le Tan.

Georgina Bitcon of Australia started an online petition in response to advertising by Le Tan. This is what she wrote.

“Low self esteem and poor body image are huge problems facing our generation.

The Le Tan ads directly exploit women’s insecurities to attempt to make profit.

The ad contains a man saying that a woman ‘looks hot’ and then shudders away when she takes of her jacket to reveal her ‘PWS’ (AKA Pasty White Skin), a term coined by the cosmetics company to infer that to have pale skin is akin to a disorder or condition.
The campaign directly announces through the male character, and I quote, that ‘Pasty White Skin is NEVER a good look’ and ‘Pasty White Skin is NOT making a comeback’.

I have to wonder if this ad was in response to Le Tan losing profits after this successful franchise hit the big screens!

I have to wonder if this ad was in response to Le Tan losing profits after the twilight franchise hit the big screens!

As I listened to this radio ad, I was driving an 8 year old girl home from school. That 8 year old has gorgeous strawberry blonde hair, the biggest blue eyes you will ever see and the skin of a porcelain doll. I watched her reaction as a fellow ‘pasty girl’ and could see her mortification.

Young girls should not be made to feel needlessly insecure. This ad targets the vulnerable group that is young women and exploits their insecurities.

This campaign is perpetuating the low self-esteem women feel every day in their own skin. Now apparently they also have to feel it because of their own skin.”


Say NO to…. such crappy advertising!

Georgina’s campaign was successful and Le Tan withdrew the offending ad.

Is beauty only in the eye of the advertising agency or can we reclaim it?

Around the same time that petition was circulating I also saw a spoken word video of what looked like a very fair skinned girl. While she shared her poetry her assistant removed the make up to reveal her dark skin. I searched everywhere for the link but just can’t find it – if you know the clip please post the link below in the comments. A search on youtube regarding skin colour will reveal comments along the lines of “pretty for a dark skinned girl”, and a lot of info on how to lighten your skin tone. Is it just me that thinks this attitude is crazy? I don’t think white girls should be made to feel pasty and feel pressured to tint their skin or that dark skinned girls need to feel like less if they don’t bleach theirs. My very first post on this blog was on the topic of being “not too anything” to be a dancer. I didn’t specifically mention skin colour in that post but it fits the theme.

I ask again, when are we just right? When are we going to throw away these notions of being too fat, thin, short, tall, black or white?

You are beautiful, whatever your skin colour. You are worthy, you are attractive.

Self confidence does not come from a bottle of fake tan or bleach. Self confidence will boost your dancing (and your life) in a way no product ever will.

So my love to you all dear dancers and dance lovers – we are not too anything!



Beauty in all colours!

11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Deborah Dixon
    Jul 15, 2013 @ 11:26:57

    Great Blog Jade. Here’s to all us pasty white girls!!!!



  2. Zaina Brown
    Jul 15, 2013 @ 16:16:25

    You are so right, this too dark/ too pale thing is pure stupidity. I’ve heard the “you’re too white” so many times working in the Middle East and I just ignore it. Sometimes I say “God made me white” and that usually shuts them up. Last place I worked in, I was told to go to the beach, and the Lebanese singer was told not to go to the beach because “the customers are asking if our singer is from Sri Lanka” (what an insult). Whatever…



    • jadebellydance
      Jul 17, 2013 @ 19:02:17

      I like ‘god made me like this’, it’s a good comeback. I think ignoring those unhelpful comments is the right attitude. I have received both praise and criticism for the colour of my skin. The truth is, there is no pleasing everyone no matter what you do. Being comfortable in your own skin is a blessing.


  3. Rasha Nour Bellydance
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 00:23:57

    I’m pretty OK with being white and pasty (ex-goth!), but I do quite like gradual self-tanning body moisturiser, which takes me from luminous white to a pale pinky-beige if I use it a couple of times a week, and makes my body and legs match my face and arms a bit better (I actually tan quite easily, but live in England and it’s usually too cold and damp to expose much skin to the elements). It is easier to avoid getting streaks with than normal fake tan, plus I normally moisturise my legs anyway, so it’s not much extra hassle. Probably wouldn’t bother if I wasn’t a dancer though!

    But, I really don’t think anyone should feel pressured to do any of these things, and I loathe adverts like that fake tan one that try to tell us we’re not good enough. I know some dancers who look amazing with really pale skin, too.



    • jadebellydance
      Jul 17, 2013 @ 20:45:52

      The issue for me is the pressure to look a certain way. If you are dark, then you are too dark, if you are fair, you are too fair. Its a no win situation. I am in Switzerland at the moment and am happily getting a bit of summer sun on my legs, not to please others but to get a bit of vitamin D. A bit of a tan or a bit of fake tan here and there is not so much of an issue, its obsessively trying to be something you are not. I have been praised for being fair and criticized for it. It’s not possible to be dark and fair at the same time so we will always please some and not others. Its just like weight issues, its all about making healthy choices for our bodies. What is right for us is a decision that ultimately only we can make for ourselves.
      I imagine that getting a tan in the uk could be tricky, it can be tricky in Australia too if you are very fair because the sun is sooo intense. It’s really hard to get a gradual tan without burning yourself badly.


  4. Anonymous
    Jul 16, 2013 @ 01:26:23

    Yes, I fully agree with you, Whatever colour we are, is right for us.



  5. Thea
    Aug 07, 2013 @ 10:12:53

    I’ve been tempted to get a fake tan but my husband is horrified – he says to me, “why would you want to spoil such gorgeous porcelain skin?” As far as he’s concerned, it’s one of my major assets. So now when I feel self-conscious about my pale belly, I just remember that word “porcelain”.

    Leaving aside perceptions that a belly dancer “should” look Middle Eastern, I think a pale skin can look good provided your costumes are in strong colours. I made the mistake of buying a white bedlah once and I looked so insipid I practically disappeared.



    • jadebellydance
      Aug 19, 2013 @ 19:02:48

      Porcelain does sound rather fine doesn’t it 😉
      Yes, I have made that mistake with colour too. One of my first ever costumes for a group performance I did required a chiffon thobe. Another dancer suggested a pale goldy colour because they thought I suited warm tones but I looked sickly in it, it was a tragedy.


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