Jarnia De Marco’s activism is a known trait that can be heard within her music, and in the same manner, visually disrupts for an intentional message. The Dominican-Brazilian artist’s latest video for her tropical-pop anthem, “Identity Crisis,” pushes on the threshold of comfort for a realistic perception of destroying natural features in attempts for assimilation. Acting as the third single from De Marco’s forthcoming EP, due August 2019, “Identity Crisis” is a bigger reflection of each experience — who have been subdued to colorisim — and outspoken lines are creating these very conversations.
Based on her own upbringing in the Dominican Republic, a common teaching that was expressed was that light skin trumped darker shades. “I saw it everywhere growing up in the Dominican Republic. ‘Mejora la raza’ (better the race), meaning, marry someone lighter than you, are offered up as sound advice,” explains De Marco.
As the video portrays the spectrum where De Marco’s roots are from, it carries on to showcase the lengths of unnatural processes, such as ironing hair, simply to fit into a mindset of what a “better race” entails. The video color palette of the video juxtaposes the one liners that are “passed along” and flowers with paint splattered on them stir the disturbing thread of altering natural features: “Pelo bueno (good hair)/ Pelo malo (Bad hair) / No te cases (Don’t marry) / Con fulano (That person there).”
In addition, a mini-doc called ‘Conversations on Colorsim’ has been released and is meant to be viewed alongside the music video. Directed and edited by Iranian/Brazilian filmmaker Leila Jarman, she says, “As a woman of color with a multicultural background, this mini-doc we created together was really important to me. It’s crucial that we start talking about the toxic and global issue of colorism as it exists in practically every culture.”
Featuring Trans activist Ashlee Marie Preston, Jojo Yang, Gadiel Del Orbe, among others, the subject is discussed based on their personal experiences and the very reflective nature that De Marco aimed to get across. “Hell yeah I had experiences with colorisim,” says Del Orbe. “In Dominican Republic people look at me like I’m a white guy. I’m like ‘word?’ For them black is bad. And when I came to the states, people like ‘Yo, you black son!’ and I’m like…’word?’ What am I?”
With that in mind, the perception of what features make another “beautiful,” in this case the shade, is damaging regardless of each environment, creating a “lack of” within a person (“I am not White enough. I am not Latin enough. I am not enough.”). While the artist has received backlash, as many have commented that “she cannot speak on this topic due to her shade,” the reflection and true intent of the video ironically comes out: “you came out looking like a blanquita.”
“I found myself in a ecosystem of class and race, and as a light skinned Dominican, in a position of privilege. Doors were open to me that other could not walk through. Later on, speaking to other POC’s from across the globe, we found common themes that all trace back to colorism,” continues De Marco.
“Hair, skin shades, greco roman beauty standards are all used to exclude or elevate individuals in mostly post colonial societies. Skin bleaching being one of the most alarming symptoms, found through the Americas, Africa and Asia. ‘Identity Crisis’ intention is to start a dialogue and help usher in a world where we can achieve a higher understanding of self acceptance and ultimately self love.”
While it is obvious that the video and song didn’t aim to disrespect, everyone’s personal experience of the subject crafts their current right to voice what they see. The video’s portrayal of outsiders thrusting mirrors on De Marco puts into place the self-worth we put into how people see us. A greater need of self-love is embedded through “Identity Crisis” and whichever way one may lean on the video, the purpose is there: start the conversation.