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Is the ‘Esther was Black and Broke’ TikTok challenge colourism or fun play on words?

Is the ‘Esther was Black and Broke’ TikTok challenge promoting colourism or mere banter?

Esther was Black and Broke Challenge [Youtube]

In this era of social media trends, challenges come and go. One such is the “Esther was Black and Broke” challenge, which started as a video from a TikToker who was making a subtle play on words: It goes, “Esther was black and broke, but when ‘Esther bleached..." Esther Bleach, in this context, is a pun for establish. Get it?

Many internet users borrowed the sound to show videos of themselves glowing up, while some had a marked complexion change, going from a darker complexion to a lighter skin tone. For others, their videos showed a progression of better camera quality and trendier outfits over the years—a glow-up, as it is colloquially called.

Celebrities like Mercy Eke, Toyin Abraham, Real Warri Pikin,Saga Deolu, Tacha Akide, and others jumped on the trend.

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However, the trend has received some backlash, with claims of promoting colourism levied against it. In a video shared on her social media account, TV host Olive Emodi said that the challenge might be passing a subtle message that being dark-skinned is ugly.

I fear that being black is associated with being broke... But as a dark-skinned black woman who has had to deal with colourism even here in Nigeria, I fear that we are passing a subtle message that dark skin is ugly. It’s all fun and games until your dark-skinned child doesn’t like their skin colour because they heard that Esther was black and broke."

Despite mild dissent, many celebrities and influencers agreed with her in the comment section. Music producer Don Jazzy said it “makes sense 100%” to show support. Lifestyle influencer Powede Awujo commented on the post, saying, “You’re right, sis! I know it’s meant to be funny, but oftentimes, a lot of issues start with humour.”

Colourism, especially in the entertainment industry, has been a huge bone of contention. Actress Beverly Naya has spoken publicly about the colourism she faced and how it has led to young women using bleaching creams and other skin-lightening products.

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According to the World Health Organisation, Nigeria has the highest rate of people who bleach their skin with harmful chemicals. The rate at which bleaching creams are sold also points to the fact that it may not be all jokes and games.

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