What It Means to Call Me ‘Exotic Looking,’ and What I Do About It

Let me be clear:

I’m Not Exotic

This might be a compliment for you, but it’s anything but to me.

I realise how unusual my appearance is when I’m surrounded by girls who share my features, including blondes, blue-eyed, tall, and fair-skinned. I have espresso-colored eyes instead of blue ones. In the summer, the sun’s rays tan my skin and make it darker.

Standing at 5’7″ and sporting a trim athletic build, my dark curly hair frames my face.

A Good Storyteller ?

Men look at me as I walk by, and sometimes I wonder why they’re staring. Is it because they think I’m a good storyteller? Because I don’t look like any of the other girls they see on their way to work.

I’m becoming more aware of my skin tone as I walk around a campus dominated by fair-skinned students. When it comes to being comfortable in my own skin, I find myself constantly struggling.

An Alien ?

I’ve received a lot of compliments about how unique I am. To be honest, it makes me feel more like an alien fruit than a compliment.

“Originating in or characterised by a distant foreign country” is what comes up when you search for “exotic.” Exotic birds, locations, and food items are among the examples given. Words like “thing” and “human” aren’t interchangeable.

Generally speaking, describing a woman of colour as exotic implies that she is somehow less normal and human than other women.

You’re so Exotic

Has been used by a number of men in an attempt to woo me. And I cringe every time I hear those words. As if I were merely an item on their “bucket list.”

As if I’m some sort of fetish or something. Their friends will want to know about it. Hey, dude, look what happened. I slapped that exotic chick.

Those words serve as a constant reminder that I fall short of the Western, white beauty standards that are expected of me. That once the West gets a taste of me, they’ll be able to throw me away.

And those words have a devastating effect on the self-esteem and confidence of women of colour worldwide. For us, they make us wonder if people are attracted to us because of who we are, or simply because they are looking for a taste of “the exotic.”

I may look different, but I was born and raised here. I’m not an outsider just because my ancestors came from a different country. When you exoticize me, you’re implying that you regard yourself as superior to me.

When people refer to me as exotic, the homogenous beauty standards prevalent in Western culture become even more established as normal, leaving me with the impression that I am anything but normal.

Exotic Is Beautiful

Decidedly different from “exotic” is “beautiful.” It is because of this that I feel devalued, almost invalidated when you refer to me as exotic.

My brown skin, dark hair and Sri Lankan features make me exotic to you, and that’s why you call me so. There are big brown eyes, but you don’t see anyone else. It’s just you.

And I’m torn between wondering if you have a fetish for women of colour or if I’m just something you want to cross off your list of potential partners..

It makes me feel like I’m not good enough because I can’t think of any other brown girl. Because all I think you see is my features, and not what’s on the inside of me

Think twice before referring to someone as “exotic.” Simply because attempting to let go and accepting the implication that one is less than takes a lot of willpower. I know deep down that I’m enough, and I’m worn out by the constant comparisons I’ve been subjected to.

When it comes to comparing myself to others, I don’t want to do it. I want to be able to be who I truly am without having to worry about what others think of me. The things you can’t see in my skin or face are the things that I want you to appreciate and love about me.

You should be applauded for your positive attitude and your desire to help others. I want you to look past the exotic otherness of this place and see the beauty that lies beneath its surface.

To make an effort to recognise that there are no standards for beauty and that the true essence of beauty lies in individuality. To stand out from the crowd isn’t about being like everyone else.

Allow ethnicity to have no bearing on what constitutes attractiveness. Tell me I’m beautiful if you want to give me a compliment. This isn’t something out of the ordinary.

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