I was six months old when I was told, “Wow, such fair skin.”
According to my mum, this was the most common “compliment” I received as a baby when we were living in India.
I was three years old when I was first asked, “Where are you from?” by a blue-eyed, blonde-haired boy. I replied, "I'm Australian." He told me I was lying. That evening, my nana had to explain to me why he thought I was a liar.
Watch: Awkward questions I get asked as an Aboriginal woman. Post continues below.
I was five years old when I asked a classmate to pass me the “skin-coloured” pencil. She passed me the brown pencil instead and laughed.
I was eight years old when I first snuck into my parents' bathroom to bleach my skin.
Although I have no memory of being outright bullied for the colour of my skin, the concept of white skin equating to beauty was something that I had internalised from a very young age. These are just a few instances that fueled my belief that brown was ugly and white was beautiful.
And I tried my hardest to make myself look beautiful. From covering myself with a towel when I went to the beach with friends, to purposely not wearing sunscreen as I heard a rumour it can make you darker, to wearing makeup that was three shades lighter than my actual skin tone, to hiding my tan lines from friends who would always say, “I didn’t know you could go darker!” or “You’re so lucky you can tan”.
I was 17 years old when I realised I might actually have a choice. On a family holiday in India, my parents and I were in a massive grocery store in Mumbai when the skin products aisle caught my eye. Particularly one product which took up an entire section. It was an internationally known brand; their products are all over Australia in pharmacies, on television commercials, billboards and even recommended by many beauty influencers.
It was a product I had never heard of before - a cream that promised a lighter skin tone by three to four shades. Three to four shades. I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. This product could quite literally change my life. If I'm honest, finding that product was one of the happiest moments of my life.