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Thursday, June 02, 2011


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"You don’t find many African-American people being dark online," virtual entrepreneur Eboni Khan once told Hamlet, talking about her experiences as a black woman who enjoys online worlds. "I think it speaks to larger issues with race and skin tone." It also can't help when the options are so unappealing.

I'm going to be really honest in this post, this is the kind of stuff I talk about with other black users, especially after I visit a store with a title that says something like "Junk In The Trunk Bling Bling Ghetto Stylez". There are so many things I notice in SL that makes me cringe at others' portrayal of blacks, and the improper darkening of skins is just the tip of the iceberg.

The number one thing is that black guys are often times, as in irl, portrayed as HUNG DICKS HUNG DICKS HUNG DICKS. If I have a fair-skinned avatar, I'll get approached by a dark, bulky avatar and solicited for sex, especially if I'm wearing blonde hair. It really makes me roll my eyes at the person, I want to ask who they really are and where they're from.

Can a black guy log on, attack a huge prim dick to himself and live out his fantasy of banging every blonde that comes his way? Yeah. But most times online, that isn't what's happening, and the attitude the user takes to creating an avatar for that purpose is questionable, since the avatar is just being used as a sex object.

And the stereotype of black guys always having large penises may be generally flattering to guys irl, but I kind of see it as insulting because it's almost like using them as a substitute for horse porn.

The other thing is the depiction of ghettos in sims that are built by people who have obviously never visited one. Yes, SL has an element of fantasy to it and you can do what you want, but some sims are ridiculous. It's not a joyous thing to live in the ghetto. It's depressing. People die, people kill themselves. When they die sometimes? The coroner picks their body up late and doesn't care about how they handle it or take it out of the building. There's unemployment and homelessness and desperation, and people who are frustrated by their living situations because they don't see a way of ever getting out. No, ghettos are not limited to being a black thing. But since it's often linked with black culture, I think it's worthy of mention.

So, this is just some of the things that does bother me about the depiction of blacks in SL. Can someone like living in the ghetto and dressing in a tacky way just to have fun, claim this as their personal culture and live it up to its fullest? Yeah. It's always about the intent of the user. If it's just a sexual or cheap fantasy though, I'd rather they do something else.

Is (Isabeau Reinard)

Though I'm white in my first life I enjoy wearing darker skins on occasion in SL. I agree that it's difficult to find well-made dark skins, and the search for quality dark skins is frustrating and after a while one becomes a bit discouraged.

I have blogged and plurked about my continued annoyance at poorly-made dark skins. It's not just that a good portion of them are no more than a dark tan and seem to be done merely as an afterthought; what’s worse is that some of them have disturbing undertones that make you look orange, purple (yes, really), corpse grey, or even a sickly green.

It makes me wonder if some skin designers harbor some disdain towards dark skins, or if they just don’t give enough of a damn to put in the effort required to create a decent dark skin. I don’t really want to touch the race issue; I don’t feel I’ve had enough experiences in SL to argue either way.

Perhaps they simply lack the skills required to create the richness of color and appropriate highlights. It makes me wonder why they waste the money on upload fees just to put up a poorly made product. Maybe light skins are just too simple to make, and that’s why the skin market is so oversaturated with everyone and their next-parcel neighbor cranking out white skins.

On a positive note, there are a few brands that get it right, like Adam n Eve (her Sophia skins are a favorite of mine) and Dutch Touch.

I have not tried The Body Co. I’m always on the lookout for well-made dark skins, so I’ll check them out, though I’ll proceed with caution since you mentioned body flaws. (It looks a bit blotchy, but that may be the lighting/shadows.) Thanks for the heads-up!


Honestly I have the same problem with Asian skins.

Most of the ones I have encountered generally look very Japanese and Manga-y, rather than realistic. And forget getting specific like Malay, Filipino, or Korean. The best you can get is someone who looks possibly Chinese.

Angie Mornington

A lot of skin makers will take the white skins they already made and apply a darker tone to them, which misses the whole point. It's not just about the color but the features, most white skins have features that are predominately white, designing darker skins should be done with the features in mind, same thing for Asian skins, the features make the skin authentic to the culture. One of the best chocolate skin designers is saachi vixen of adam n eve, she takes her time with the features and it shows, I wore her skins exclusively when I was Host of 'Fabulous Fashion'. She also does excellent black male skins and Asian skins. I also shop at Dutch Touch for good quality chocolate skins. Of course it is up to the skin designers to create whatever they like, but if you find a really good skin designer you like you should support them and spread the word about their work.

Angie Mornington

Oh and I recommend taking a look at Sydd Sinister's blog, she blogs all the new skins that come out in the darker tones which is really convenient. http://sydd0sinister.wordpress.com/


It's lovely that you talk about a black skin being 'right' and yet you use a mostly Caucasian featured shape to go with it...lol..This article is stupid, and so is its premise.

Iris Ophelia

@anotherdeadavatar I almost always use the same shape no matter what skins I'm wearing, because that's just my Second Life avatar's identity. It's true that my shape is very caucasian, but I did mention that what I want to talk about is specifically what role a skin has, regardless of the features of the shape beneath it. It's also true that a dark skinned person can still have caucasian features, so frankly I don't think the fact that I'm wearing the same shape I always wear really matters at all.

GoSpeed Racer

Having worn an LAQ ebony styled skin for the past 2 plus years I'm looking for something new and fresh. I tried on the demos and was immediately turned off by the incredibly obnoxious DEMO watermark over the left eye. The obscuration of the eye makes it very difficult for me to evaluate how the new skin looks on my face.

Please skin designers do not mess up the eyes in the demos.

Eleri Ethaniel

I have been shopping darker (not black, though) skins for one of my other avvies, and it has been a PITB, for all the reasons listed above, and then some. I did find some very nice ones at Skin Within, although they have this odd powdery quality to them.

My biggest skin rant EVER- do not say your skin is 'natural' when it has uber lip gloss and enough eyeliner to qualify as goth. Especially now, with the tat layers, there's no excuse for not having stand alone, no makeup skins.

Carrie Lexington

I had the same frustrations looking for a medium toned skin for my av. i'm mixed native american and i really found nothing that felt or looked right for the longest time. i did my best with the sliders to make my face look as ethnic as possible, i.e high cheekbones, but you can only go so far with that. The eyes never looked right. I love Curio skins, but the darker skin tones look greyish, or something.

LAQ came out with the Mima skin last year which I have been wearing exclusively in Nougat which I am happy with. I also use the Mima in Mocha for one of my alts that I think looks pretty good, relatively speaking.

I think there are limitations in adjusting the sliders for a more ethnic looking av, but a good quality skin makes a huge difference.


"and yet you use a mostly Caucasian featured shape to go with it"
.. was my first thought too

Hamlet Au

Alice, "anotherdeadavatar", Iris made it very clear her post was not about the shape:

"First of all, let's be clear that this is about the skin and not the features of the avatar body shape. Yes, having the right shape for your look can help, but it doesn't take all the burden off of the skin."

It's a mark of civility to make a good faith effort to understand what the person is trying to say, before forming an opinion about what they're saying, ya know?


"was my first thought too" ... when i opened the post ans saw the pic first. Then i read the post and still had to think: "How can one talk about one aspect that defines an av and ignore the other similar crucial one?"

"Yes, having the right shape for your look can help, but it doesn't take all the burden off of the skin." ... "Yes, having the right skin for your look can help, but it doesn't take all the burden off of the shape." ... the reversed sentence has the same weight ... so just abandon the aspect in one sentence makes the whole argument invalid. Sorry, but that how i see it.

the argument came up that may skin-creators just color their 'white skin'. Worn an a shape with Caucasian features it does look wrong. But wearing a 'colored white skin' on a shape with 'chocolate' features does look very 'real'. So the skin-makers are not primarily to blame.

On another note the chocolata skin on Ophelia's shape indeed just looks like a 'colored white skin'. Which even more proves that it's not about the skin but much more about the shape.


*'chocolata' features (sorry, stupid name for a black skin anyways. I feel reminded on the huge discussion in europe some years ago whether chocolate companies act racist if they use black childeren as logos and advertizement for their products, and most abandoned their 'associative use' of blacks with chocolate.)


The idea that you are whining about the fact that Iris used a "Caucasian" Shape for her black skin is stupid and sad. Makes me think that you are just a sad skin designer offended that someone called out your lack of detail in darker skins.

You forget that black people all over the world don't have one cookie cutter look. Some black girls have very "White" looking faces. Rihanna, Kelly Rowland, Beyonce. Maybe Iris's version of a black avatar is liked with these powerful woman of music.

God for bid that blacks get the choice to marry and have children with other cultures. Maybe we should go back to the 1950s or many later where it was wrong for black people to marry others outside their race.

As for the skin issue, when it comes to the male skin world, we have more options when it comes to black skin (Which is slightly ironic giving that secondlife is a female dominated game when it comes to content). We have black looking skins from stores like Redgrave, DNA, Cheerno, Tellq. It's kinda nice to see that when it comes to more ethnic skins that men finally have women beat for once.


thank you, Gabe, for supporting my argument that this article completely misses the point with the first two paragraphs of your comment :)

Treasure Ballinger

I'm black in RL, and it's something that I brought over to SL with me. it's a comfort zone thing. All my skins are black skins, of varying hues, just as my people are in RL. My skins are from Several skin makers and quite honestly I have no idea of their ethnicity in RL. Don't much care either, if I like the product, I'm going to buy it. Right now, I'm standing at Shiloh Jun, admiring the skins, probably going to grab a new one. I did visit the Body Co also. Maybe it was just me, is Chocolata the only option for black female skins? I do like the options to add various features, that's cute. There is a skin maker named Nora that is no longer in SL, that had a great line of black skins, which I still own and wear. Right now I'm wearing a Redgrave. No skins are perfect. I have no complaints about the black skins I own and will continue to pick up.

Avaler Resident

I have worn exclusively black skin for many years. I am delighted to see some beautiful work finally emerging. I feel another worth a look is WooDoo at Lion Skins. Although this skin is fraught with problems (a hairbase which extends down the back of the neck making it impossible to cover with another hairbase, the usual "out there" Lion makeups, a belly piercing which is part of the skin :( and some odd shading at the very top of the rear of the legs). On the plus side, the face is precious and the skin tone and body details are refreshing.




Pussycat Catnap

OMG HOW did I miss this blog earlier in the year.

I agree with everything posted in the article and by Aemeth.

Especially, as a non-African multi-racial (Native American / Asian) who did grow up in a Bay Area ghetto but got out... the depictions are just insulting to the community I came from, and even when not to my own ethnic roots, to those of the people I grew up with and count as family.

Ignatius Onomatopoeia

I had the somewhat unique experience IRL of being an Arab-American kid in a mostly black neighborhood. Not quite "stereotypical 1970s Ghetto" but close enough to find the SL "ghetto" sims insulting, even though I'm not African-American.

As for SL Arabs? I found a medium-toned Hispanic skin that looks like me IRL. By those using PC monitors in particular, which run darker than my various Mac displays, I'm often asked "hey why did you choose a black avatar?" I wear dreads in SL but that reaction happened even when I was bald in both worlds.

I have not been to the Arab Avatar sim, but there seems to be more nuanced in SL than "jihadi with AK-47" yet it saddens me how this world, were we can be anything we want, can perpetuate old and harmful stereotypes. As both Europe and America become racially blended societies, I hope our online representations will change, too!


Eh, I'm black IRL, and I have several black skins.I choose not to wear them most of the time, but not because I don't like them or think they are poorly made. I don't think it fits my avatar. My avatar reflects my personality,not the color of my skin. but that's just me :>

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