What it's about.
Six Ghanaian schoolgirls compete to enter the international beauty pageant of 1986 in order to become Miss Ghana. However - the struggles of self hatred, envy, inferiority complex and cattiness towards each other reveal deeper issues amongst the girls in this African nation.
“I want to be seen!”
- Miss Ghana of 1966 in the play
School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play took me into the world of six schoolgirls who were getting ready for an international beauty pageant to represent Ghana and impress the Miss Ghana of 1966, who was going to pick one lucky girl. Of those six, one of them was a light skinned new student from the States who became instant competition to the crew’s hostile leader, Paulina.
In this play, there were many things in the black community and African community, concerning females, that were addressed:
Dark skin vs. light skin
the effects of colonialism, bleaching, showing the dark skinned girl as the angry black woman
Competition between black women
crabs in a barrel, HBIC (head bitch in charge), there can only be one mentality
Wanting to be validated and seen
because the world saw us and shamed us as ugly and not Eurocentric enough
Let me explain:
Dark skin vs. Light skin is not just an American curse in the black community. This is something that has been rampant in African nations for centuries and still is today. Where did it come from? Western Colonization. The Miss Ghana of 1966 was a beautiful dark skinned woman who was also bitter and begging to be seen, because after winning (which wasn’t enough), she was ignored by the world for being too dark. Locked in her vanity, and still in 1966, she feels she can get validation from the world if she finds a Miss Ghana this time around that is light skinned, because light is closer to the universal standard of beauty set by white people.
In the play, this self hatred (that is learned) translated to why Paulina (the dark skinned schoolgirl played by the gorgeous Maameyaa Boafo) had so much hatred and envy towards the other black females around her. One quote from her that stuck out to me was that her mother bought her bleaching cream instead of food because she was the darkest child in her family of eight children. That is painful, but not shocking. I know women that bleach… I remember using one at the tender age of 12.
This self hate and insecurity leads to the HBIC mentality, believing that there can only be one to stand out from the crowd. The world has taught females this, but for black women all over the world that has been ingrained in our souls. So the recruiter believes this to be true, and so does Paulina. This HBIC mentality still exists today and is seen in Hip Hop, between females in America, and I see it in the African community too, as a Nigerian-American. Ericka (played by the talented Nabiyah Be) had a hard life of her own, but was shocked to hear Paulina’s story. People who are hurt, hurt more people and there’s no excuse for that. But everyone has a story.
Ending: Secrets were untold, Ericka was picked by Miss Ghana ‘66, but was not even in the top 10. Miss England, Miss Brazil, Miss Sweden, Miss Mexico, etc. The whiter looking girls were in the top 10. Even Miss South Africa was in the top 10 because someone white was representing the country. Do you see the message in this? I hope you do.
All in all if you made it to the end of this lengthy post... let me just add that this play was hilarious. I laughed so much with the audience! And the set was beautiful, the women were beautiful and amazing black actresses. I walked out feeling proud! My people up there telling our story. I would encourage everyone, especially black women, to go and see this show. We are beauty and don’t need the world to validate what is already ours.
Note: The play was written by Ghanaian-American playwright Jocelyn Bioh.
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