6 Malaysian Women Who Prove That We All Need Some Colour

Writer: Nadhirah Badardin

Growing up, I’ve always been the darkest girl in the family. While some of the fairer girls in my family got away with being “fair and lovely”, I was always the one being handed that infamous pink and white tube of fairness cream and being told to focus on my studies by relatives because “your looks could never save you”.

To this very day, I’ve never once blamed my mother for making me apply copious amounts of sunscreen and brightening creams from the tender age of 9. I’d often see her face fall as relatives at family gatherings would sneer at how “dark” I’ve become and though I hated applying the creams, I hated it more when my mother would get disheartened over how the people around us perceived my skin-tone. Things were different then. Representation of girls who look like me in the media (especially in South East Asia) back in the 90s was practically non-existent and the notion of “fairer is better” lived on.

It’s almost 2019 now. And though Malaysia still struggles with a couple of bad eggs selling the idea that fairer girls are the prettiest, I’m grateful for these queens who are making things like self-confidence a little easier to obtain for the young darker-skinned girls growing up in Malaysia today:

Che’ Puan Datin Paduka Khaleeda Bustamam

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Growing up, I’ve been told that I am ‘hitam’, I have big ears, I am too skinny, I have big nose and that I am just average in the standards of beauty. My advice to all ladies out there, everyone is different in their own ways. Learn to LOVE, CARE and APPRECIATE yourselves. YES I am hitam, YES I have big ears, YES I have big nose, I can’t say the same about the skinny part😄I say this to say that I LOVE THE WAY GOD HAS CREATED ME and I am blessed to have learnt to love myself at this age. I am GRATEFUL I can see, hear, touch, smell, and live life to the fullest. I don’t ever want to take it for granted. Never let society define what beauty really is because beauty comes in all forms, shapes and sizes. With SINCERE heart and GENUINE act, beauty will radiate abundantly and like I’ve said before ‘whatever you give out to the universe, it will come right back to you’. #SELFLOVE #haveyourowndefinitionofbeauty

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Yang Mulia Che’ Puan Khaleeda is married to the Crown Prince of Johor, Tunku Ismail and is definitely one of my favourite Malaysian royals. Not only is she smart, beautiful and kind, she is also proud of her tan skin. In this Instagram post, Che’ Puan Khaleeda recounted her experience growing up as a tanned girl and it’s definitely something a lot of us can relate to. “Growing up, I’ve been told that I am ‘hitam’ and that I am just average in the standards of beauty. Never let society define what beauty really is because beauty comes in all forms.”

Iman Mohamed Osman Yagoub

Half-Sudanese and half-Malay model Iman Mohamed Osman has got to be one of the most gorgeous girls within the local fashion and beauty scene. However, things haven’t always been smooth sailing for Iman. Just over a month ago, following Orgga Malaysia’s #beautybeyondcolour campaign Iman that fronted, had her deep complexion targeted for being “not so beautiful” by netizens. But that’s never going to stop Iman from moving forward. Just look at her decked in Wanderlust + Co’s 2019 resort collection, serving us some Naomi Campbell realness.

Nabila Huda

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If you can’t find actress Nabila Huda on a film set, chances are she’s on her way to explore a faraway place. Despite her many trips under the sun, Abil fails to see the need for whitening creams in her routine – and I absolutely love her for that. “I love going to the islands. People tell me I’m unique and special, because of my different skin tone. I know many people strive to get lighter skin, but I’m not wasting my money on whitening products.”

Shangkharee Nadarajan

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07.12.2018 So I made another trip around the sun 🌞 🎂 A year older, a year wiser. 2018 has been such a bad year for me. I will always remember it as the year I cried. I cried so much that I stopped finding reasons to cry anymore. No one knew that I cried though. I couldn’t do it in front of other people. I knew that I’d hit a whole new level of low, when I found myself on a park bench, calling my mum to tell her about something horrible and then cancelling it because I couldn’t talk as I was choking on tears. It was so bad. Then why post a picture of me smiling? Well, I just want to tell you that I made it through the tears, heartaches and letdowns. I’m starting another trip around the sun, hoping I’ll have a very different story to tell you next year. Keeping my head high and my dreams higher. ❤️ #justshabulous #thatboldbrownbabe #december #sagittarius #sagittariusseason #smile #keepgoing

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Presenter and producer Shangkharee Nadarajan is definitely that bold babe you’d want to follow if you’re looking for some uplifting words backed by some shots of her gorgeous brown self in a myriad of sarees. It’s not always about the good times and staying positive, though. I love how Shangkharee gets real about her experiences in the media as a brown girl, her thoughts and how she feels about the year that’s coming to an end.

Haneesya Hanee


There’s no denying that Dewi Remaja 2018 finalist Haneesya Hanee is bold and beautiful. However, Haneesya’s skin tone recently became the subject of one too many unkind comments on the internet. Instead of brushing it off (as some have publicly suggested to her) Haneesya took it upon herself to speak out against the shadeism that was projected towards her and I am here for ALL of it. “Clearly, you don’t care about this problem but there are millions of people out there who are depressed because of this. This is not just about skin colour. This is about bullying, cyberbullying, racism,self respect and more.” said Haneesya in an Instagram post. “I’m fine with people saying bad things about me. But what about others who aren’t able to speak up?” Even if you may disagree with her methods, you have to admit that she’s right. The eradication of shadeism in our society won’t just happen overnight, not if we’re not brave enough to face some painful truths in order to move forward.

Thanuja Ananthan

Former Miss World Malaysia and TV host Thanuja Ananthan is known for being proud of her darker skin tone. “I’ve never used whitening products as I am proud of my skin colour,” said Thanuja in an interview. “That being said, I’m glad I’ve been accepted by the industry and have been given so many opportunities. I would, however, find it offensive if my skin has been digitally altered.”

Disclaimer: This article has been written to highlight the importance of diversity when it comes to representing Asian beauty. This article was in no way written to place anyone in specific boxes. We are all beautiful. 

  • 雷神


    This must be said: To any woman in Asia, or elsewhere, who believe that whiteness is the beauty standard. Think again. There are plenty, I repeat, plenty of men who would simply be entranced by any rich caramel mocha tan skinned goddess that walks this earth. Always remember that YOU were chosen to live here, you don’t have to change the color of your skin to fit in; all that matters is the essence of your soul and don’t ever forget it. Beauty comes in all colors.

    28 January 2020