It was only last summer I sat across from my esthetician, pondering a most important question - Natasha: Have you decided on a nail polish colour for your mani? Me: Uhmmmmm . . . . . I'm not sure . . . . . perhaps a creamy nude can you make any suggestions? Natasha: (shakes head from side to side in utter disgust) Her dismay at my selection had everything to do with not picking a vibrant hue to her liking. In retrospect, I too should have been horrified with this selection but for an entirely different reason. My seemingly innocent use of the adjective "nude" I now realize, was not that innocent at all. Unwittingly I was supporting the notion of "nude" representing a singular image, one interestingly enough not even reflecting my own likeness.
Less than one year ago, Merriam-Webster's definition of "nude" included the following: "Having the colour of a white person's skin." This abhorrent definition was only officially changed in August 2015, after Luis Torres spearheaded the online campaign #NudeAwakening, challenging the racist definition. Online searches of the word still render the results "of a pinkish beige colour" under different sources. What message does this convey to the scores and scores of people of colour who do not fit this description? Delving deeper into dictionary semantics, one will also find the adjectives of sinister, evil, dirty and soiled to define "black" while conversely innocent, upright, favourable and fortunate are adjectives used to describe the word "white". Prime examples of systemic micro aggression at its best. "Popular" culture is awash with exclusionary images and language against people of colour. It runs the gamut from lipsticks to pumps, foundations to nylons, Band-Aids to emojis and actors in films to models on fashion runways. Challenging these notions and playing an active role in creating diverse images, is paramount in reconstructing an archaic status quo.