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From the view of a 20-something dream chaser.

Nubian Skin Matters

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

(Photo courtesy of Nubian Skin)

As a pageant contestant for more than ten years, I am no stranger to the term "nude." The only issue is: nude has never really known my name. From underwear to shoes to mesh on a gown, there has never really been a nude that appeared nude on me. All I can come up with is designers often create the color with a much more fair skin tone in mind than mine, perhaps because of their largest demographic is white women. That I am not, so when I heard of brand that had designed nude underwear specifically for women of color, I was over the moon.

The brand, called Nubian Skin, was founded by a British woman named Ade Hassan. She launched the company in October 2014 because she, like many brown girls, she had never found her "nude." I met her last week when nothing short of the grace of God convinced her to let me model and be a brand ambassador at the New York Curve Expo. The expo is where lingerie and swimwear brands go to meet vendors interested in purchasing their merchandise to offer in their boutiques or stores. My "job" was to be something like a mannequin: stand at the booth and model the samples to demonstrate how "nude" the undies really were. (As you can tell from the photos, they really do appear nude--it's amazing.) The brand was also selected to participate in a runway show held the first two mornings of the expo. They did my hair (read: teased it to make it even bigger) and makeup and I got to meet actual models, like ones who pay their bills in New York City by being beautiful.

(These models included one unrealistically attractive young man who was selected to escort all the ladies onto the platforms during the show. Said gentleman apparently really enjoyed my conversation because we talked quite a bit in the hair and makeup room both days, only he did not ask for my number at the conclusion of Day 2. And praise God for that because I am not dating, remember, and that was temptation if I've ever experienced it. I don't even know if he loves Jesus, but I do know he was beautiful, primarily models suits and is on an enormous amount of romance novel covers, many of which he wore long, flowing wigs for. You know you've seen them. He showed me some of them and we laughed both at how cheesy they are and how his grandma has a collection of the ones he's on. I sure hope she doesn't read em!)

Ok, Delesia, focus. So that was my official job--to be a human mannequin. But I soon learned that I would be doing much more than that. I found myself engaging with vendors and other guests who stopped by: helping them find their shades, telling them where they could purchase online and in stores, and giving the brand spiel I had heard Ade give over and over. I met people from across the United States and around the world who showed genuine interest in and appreciation for Nubian Skin (pun intended). It was one of those moments--and honestly, I feel like my whole life is one--where, I was just humbled and in awe that little old me, Delesia, was chosen to be a part of in even such a small way. I will never forget the women who came by to congratulate and applaud Ade for her contribution to society--which is what this is. It was nothing short of heartwarming.

The Nubian Skin booth. (Photo by A. Hassan) 
In typical Delesia fashion, my inquisitive nature got the best of me and I unleashed my inner journalist on Ade. Her story is inspiring, to say the bare bottom of the very least. She left her job in finance and spent over a year testing out shades to find the right flesh tones for women of color. She said the process required adding more brown or yellow here, more or less red there to arrive at four main shades: Café au Lait, Caramel, Cinnamon (what I'm pictured in) and Berry. She then had to find manufacturers to produce the fabric in the shades she had created: one for the bras and panties and another for the hosiery. And she did it (mostly) alone! She and her marketing guru, Amy, are the ones carrying what has become an international brand now available in stores like Nordstrom and online at ASOS.

(Photo by A. Hassan)

(Photo by A. Hassan)
What I found most fascinating about all I learned from Ade isn't that no such brand existed before, but that the color fabric didn't. I was surprised but not surprised at the same time. When you consider that there are people with brown skin all across the globe, it would make sense for larger companies to have made strides in this department long ago. But they didn't. It wasn't until Nubian Skin went viral on social media that the world began to notice that "nude" means something different to everyone. From a business perspective, Ade and I reasoned that companies were simply unwilling to invest the time and money necessary to do what she did in creating shades true to various shades of complexion. Like I mentioned, it took her a year's time testing and adjusting to arrive at the four main shades she thought would best match women of color. However, something tells me a much larger company with even more resources may not have taken as long as a one-woman shop. But hey, what do I know?

Unfortunately, those large companies still appear unwilling to do their own research. She said she occasionally receives large online orders from major companies and department stores, but they don't reach out to inquire about a partnership to sell in their stores. I filled in the blank. If I wasn't before, I am now that much more willing to invest in this brand that is creating big waves.

Photo by A. Hassan

So about the modeling part. Was it awkward? Umm, yes. I was standing in my underwear for all the expo to see. A few vendors even wanted to feel the bra straps. I only let the women do that. Although I've competed in swimsuit on stage and am super comfortable with my body (ask my roommates, who have seen me naked more times than I'm sure they've wanted to), I'm still pretty modest. I don't generally venture out into the world in just my undies. At the beach, I actually prefer one-pieces, which my friends find hilarious. So why did I do it? Why did I choose to model for Nubian Skin? Well, because the human body is first a part of nature, and a masterpiece, at that. It is our perversion that leads us to objectify women (and men) and make them into sex symbols. I also did it because I recognize none of this is even about me. Just by existing, this brand is seeking to democratize beauty, which I have always had a heart for. I want women of color to see this and know that their "nude"--their Nubian skin--is just as beautiful as the "nude" they never saw themselves in. It's high time they have a reflection.

Ade was kind enough to donate a set of Nubian Skin bra and panties through my blog and social media. To enter, simply comment below with your best guess at which shade you are: Café au Lait, Caramel, Cinnamon or Berry. One lucky winner will be chosen at random on Friday, March 4 at noon EST. May the odds be ever in your favor!

(Photo by A. Hassan)

6 comments

  1. I dont have the words right now so I'll figure them out later and text you lol but otherwise I'm pretty sure I'm whatever shade you are LOL lemme get that Cinammon!

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  2. Cinnamon would be my shade! This lingerie is beautiful - I've been waiting for this concept for a very long time!

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  3. This was an awesome read. I enjoyed it. It was a pleasure to have met you. :) I'm going to share this if you don't mind <3

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    1. Of course! Share away! So glad to meet you, too.

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  4. "About time!" is an absolute understatement. But I'm so happy to finally see this line. Just like "our" nude...it is beautiful! (Cafe` au Lait for me) They couldn't have picked a better model. I'm super happy for all you are doing and proud to have Peyton look up to you as a role model. Sending lots of RVA love your way!

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  5. Cinnamonnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn! (spice and everything nice)

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