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The “Shadow” of Ignorance – FHM, Bela Padilla, and why dark skinned women aren’t happy

Litworld Ambassador and social media maven Ruby Veridiano shared with me her incredible and impassioned letter to FHM following the publication of their controversial cover featuring  the artista Bela Padilla (which, by the way, has since been scrapped). In an effort to convey her “coming out” from teenybopper roles into more adult markets, they photographed her surrounded by 3 black models and slapped on the title “Coming out of the Shadows.” Does anyone else see where this is going?


OK, so first of all – I get it. Miss Bela Padilla, long may her career and bountiful bosoms bloom, is not in charge of the cover caption, nor did she request for black models to come and sit around her, setting off her pearly (I wonder how much of it is glutathione-induced) white skin. In  an interview with BBC World News, she gives her side of the story: it was a coming of age piece; the shadows were supposed to be representative of her past. Did it occur to anyone to hire a lighting guy and just create the shadows? How about some black gauze? How about shadows of fluffy animals to show that she is now a grownup? WHY in the hell did it have to be dark women? Bela goes on to say – “really some of those models were Filipinas who were painted black, not to represent Africans, but to be shadows… We weren’t thinking about harming anyone.”

Wait, what? …. “Africans?”

You’re right Bela, you weren’t thinking about harming anyone with a cover that depicts your light skinned, bikini-d self surrounded by Filipina models in blackface. You weren’t thinking. This is the point. Saying “sorry to anyone who was offended” while simultaneously admitting that you don’t understand why they were offended (“honestly when I see a black person, I don’t associate them with any race, because we have black Filipinos here in the Philippines”)  is not a sorry at all. It’s just a testament to your ignorance. So instead of celebrating your coming out as an artist, you are now coming out as a moron who doesn’t seem to understand why the subject of color is a big deal in this big world.

And oh, FHM. You said you wanted an “edgy cover.” Welcome to the backlash that comes with that adjective. I know there aren’t many black people in the Philippines.  But there are dark skinned people, as our charming cover girl has already stated. And you know that Filipinos have always valued light skin over dark. We blame this on our Spanish colonial heritage. We reinforce this with countless whitening skin commercials and light skinned supermodels and yes, magazine covers like this. So when you say “edgy,” did you mean “willing to offend?” And if you were willing to offend, why did you scrap the cover so quickly and contritely? Either be edgy and have some balls or stick to photographing half naked starlets in suggestive positions. Whatever it is, FIGURE IT OUT. And know that in this digital age, with the rest of the (very vocal) world just a mouse click away, you stand or fall by your editorial choices. So quit making them with your collective head stuck in your behind.

I’m happy that so many women reacted so quickly to this cover. It bodes well for Filipinas worldwide being in touch and in charge of their voices. Maybe at some point we’ll all realize that “sexy” and “adult” have nothing to do with the color of your skin or what kind of magazine you come out in. Maybe at some point, there won’t be an FHM magazine telling men that little girls are grown now, and ready to show you their ta-tas. I’d love to see that day, really.