Then & Now: A Voyage into the Search for a Dark-Skinned Avi

Hellooooooooooooooo shopgasmers!! For the past week or so I've been struggling with what exactly to kick my new year on Shop*gasm off with.  And while I have ideas (like coming current with backlog for example), the contents of the following post stuck out to me.  Not just because of what it is, but how it came to be.

I've been in the world of Second Life since 10/18/2007 and honestly...my life here, while happy is filled with so many memories, that some days...I get in ruts and wonder if there is ever really a point in staying.  And as with real life...this sometimes causes you to reminisce.  And reminisce I did.  I've looked through so many old photographs of past loves, past friendships and memories that, when my sister mentioned Sophia Harlow's blog challenge, it only made sense to write about my current fit of nostalgia and answer the call.

The City Chic (I think that's what it was called lol -  picture borrowed via creative commons license from Ana Lutetia's flickr page), was my default avatar.  I remember hating the poofballs on the side because well...LOOKIT THEM! UGH!  LOL

So...I removed them and rocked the cropped top like nobody's business my first few days here.  I tried for DAYS to get people to speak to me, let me know what I was supposed to be doing.  No luck.  Hated this place so much that I almost deleted the account when a good RL friend of mine found my wayward post on a forum somewhere and im'd me in Yahoo Instant Messenger (YIM for short) to get properly acclimated.

It was a riot.  She had a friend who made shapes and told me flat out that if I intended to survive in SL...I needed a job.  And the best jobs came as being dancers inworld.  And in 2007...that was actually mostly true for women, but that's another blog post and story altogether.  Anyway, said friend created my shape and gave it to me, free of charge.  Next came skin.  Now...for those of you who haven't actually made my acquaintance in or out of world, I'm a Black woman or African-American for those who feel the need to be politically categoric...I mean politically correct. Naturally, I wanted to represent for the sistas of SL and my friend KNEW this.  So...she asked the friend for caramel complexioned skin so that I could do just that.  Introducing my first custom look in the life of Kilolo Jenkins...

Not what you expected, right?  LOL

Yeah...ME EITHER!!  But I was a noob and didn't know that there were actual darker skins in Second Life.  And I'm pretty sure that at the time...there weren't!!  This is actually the FIRST picture I ever took of myself after I was taken to Goldie locks and introduced to lucky chairs.  The hyacinthe series (cute ain't it?) for the hair and the rest were donated full perm freebies of clothing, shoes and jewels (look at the BLING on that ... bling!?! You could land a 747 with that technology alone!)



I then proceeded to get my first job inworld as a hostess for a nightclub where I met my sister Roselynn Darkstone (co-owner and writer of this here blog), a few of my friends and my very first SL partner. Because my skin was deemed darker than everyone else's more fair skin on staff, I sufficiently believed I had achieved my mission of honing the essence of a Black girl avi inworld. Then, back in April 2008...Rose got a DJ gig for the Miss Black SL Universe competition. I saw every hue of my ancestry from sticky caramel to blue black and it was beautiful. By then I was partnered, and he knew I wouldn't be happy until I found that part of me so...on the search we went!!



I went through about five different stores after asking the contestants via IM where they got their skins explaining that I too was seeking one that more closely fit my identity.  I was commended on my search and sent landmark after landmark only to find that one store, while aesthically pleasing in the face and body, gave the female avi "man/ape" hands: you know incredibly big and wrinkled (and no...it wasn't the shape...it was the shading and wrinkling). Another, while making a good skin tone, held no natural skins (aka ones without make-up), so you had to choose between make-ups that simply didn't compliment the skin itself;  mismatched colored private areas, you name it...it was something.  Add that I still had my original shape my friend had made for me and when added to the skin, none of them were my face (which sounds strange, but when you see YOUR face...you'll understand); none of them screamed Kilolo. Several locations made the same mistake that a lot of current skin makers make: they shaded a skin that wasn't made for ethnic features to be darker for the sake of saying they had an African-American skin tone to sell and when placed on my avi just didn't look right.

Note to skin makers:  Avi skin is not like instant hot chocolate mix. You CANNOT add a packet of color and think that is what makes the skin.  A sprinkle of color doesn't make a light skin and neither does a packet of instant mix. No offense to those that have tried. I applaud your valiant efforts. But unless you're willing to actually put work into adding layers to address the the multitude of hues and shading that comprise darker aka more ethnic skin, you will not successfully create a skin that is to the liking of those who know. That isn't to say your skin making capabilities suck...but nine times out of ten if you're just darkening a default skin for the sake of having a "darker skin", you'll end up with a flat color and a customer that won't return but sooner give their business to someone else when they find a skin that is more sufficient.

Anyway...back to the search.  After going to different places we found Minnu Models (now known inworld as LeLutka) and found ... me!



This was me from May 2008 through the end of September 2009.  I loved this skin.  It was still a bit lighter than I wanted, but had not only a kick-butt natural skin, but about 6-8 makeups that not only complimented the skin tone overall, but all made me look and feel like what I thought I envisioned my digital representation to be.  I still have this skin and maybe one day I'll don it again.  But I kid you not. I fell in love with this thing so much that I actually put on my first wedding dress and shot photos in a skybox just to see what I would have looked like on my wedding day to my then partner...in THAT skin.

But as with all things, your SL experience changes. You break up, you move on and sometimes you repeat this pattern. You take on new experiences and sometimes...that requires a fresh start.  So...just before my DJ battle in October of 2009, my sister Rose and my good friend Alex went skin hunting with me.  I think we went through three skins stores and while they were a vast improvement over my search  less than a year before...again, none of them had the Kilo face.  Then we landed upon my current skin. First Alex, then Rose said, "oh my god...THAT is Kilo!" and tp'd me straight to it.  Sure enough...it was!!



This...is me, Kilolo Jenkins, as of 09/30/2009.  My shape is still the same one I've had since my second week here; the one gifted to me by a lovely woman named Corinne.  My inventory has definitely expanded to fit my evolving style.  This is called a natural skin, because it carries little to no make-up and sold for L$1000.  Comes in 6 other makeups; I only bought one of the six and very rarely wear it. And...it's shaved, but the makers sell a panty layer for those who wish to have pubic hair for L$300 in six different styles (no...not telling you which one I bought :P). Believe it or not...for the first time in my two years in Second Life...I actually feel at home in my skin.  It's definitely who I envisioned when I first began my time here...even if it took two years to find her pixelated manifestation *chuckles*. 

Thank you to the content creators that do make the attempt to address the darker contingent of residents here in Second Life. Even if yours was not the skin for me...I'm sure it is for someone and that...is ultimately all that matters...

Welcome home, Kilo...welcome home.

Skin from [DD] Group

3 comments:

Liliana Barrs January 11, 2010 at 5:37 AM  

Really nice post, enjoyed reading it although I am not a dark one.
But I am fair, and with fair people like me it's almost the same problem like you had.
Yes, there are tons of light skins, but light and not pale/fair. And when you get to know a fair one, mostly it has a yellow lightning, like being beige. But for me I am a rosy one, with rosy cheeks and some freckles.
So lightning up a normal skintone ends at yellowish fair skins that don't suit me as they should. Or they aren't yellow or rosy, but look dead, like with too less saturation.
I found my one, I am happy with it and I only will change it for an updated version of itself (unless I'm changing mind and get a totally different).

Said enough :) Thanks for this post, it's not only for darker people as you can see, you said what I saw too. And I guess a lot of other people do and did.

Lili

Ashe Anthony January 11, 2010 at 5:56 AM  

Thanks for your post, I enjoyed reading it, and I can identify with it, since I am also Black.
Your post really made me think of how I shop for skins.

Kilolo Jenkins January 11, 2010 at 9:27 AM  

Thank you so much for reading and commenting Liliana and Ashe! I hope it helped in some way :)

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Welcome

Shop*gasm is a creation from the twisted warped mind of at least 2 people with shopping a.d.d. and the mind of one person who loves to tag along and will one day have a computer fast enough to keep up.

Contributors:
Kilolo Jenkins
Roselynn Darkstone
Suitelady DeCuir

DISCLAIMER:
This blog is a project that was birthed out of three sisters and friends wanting to do something together that we could all enjoy and share.

The contributors of Shop*gasm are consumers. We like to shop. Correction...we LOVE to shop. For the most part, we blog our purchases. Maybe not every single one, but definitely something we find noteworthy.

On the off chance we're given items for review, we're thankful. But like other blog sites, we can not guarantee that your item will be blogged, nor will we guarantee that our review of items are always going to be favorable. What we will guarantee is an open and honest blog for you to read, with just enough moxie and personality to make you either hate it or love it. LOL

Hopefully you'll find the blog just as fun and awesome as we have in creating it :)