Six Shades of Melanin (2024)

Six Shades of Melanin (1)


When I closed down my stalls at Kamukunji, I tried hard to convince myself that I did it for me. I became embattled with the notion that I needed to let go a part of me that weighed me down in a selfish bid to soar to new heights of opportunity. But Hasselhoff was beside me all the while, reminding me that I had failed in my black womanhood. I had given in to the whims and caprices of another mzungu, an unsure promise of richness that Ashawo women held on to dearly as a means of escapism.

I was never an Ashawo. But those blue Scandinavian eyes perked at my Adventist skirts, slit my good girl sundresses, and sewed them up to the bare minis that Ashawos donned on Friday nights.

Hasselhoff worshiped Melanin, for that is what he called me. He worshiped me. He groped at me with the thirst of the kids he fed on most of his philanthropic Safaris. He kissed the darkest parts of my skin—armpits, knees, and elbows—as his eyelids clasped to each other as though he were tasting some heavenly, nutty, smoothie. He called me names that foreign Ashawo-preferenced men called local women.

He gave me childlike fleets that tapped into my conviction of and gnawing for promise and safety. Somehow, I thought that locking down my menial means of earning a livelihood to give him more attention would open me up to the vast ocean in his blue eyes and that from it I would tap what all Ashawos looked for.

‘What now?’ I asked Hasselhoff one early morning, distracting him from whatever reverie he got from tracing the stretchmarks on my skin with his white, impossibly clean fingernails.

‘We travel.’

We. He said we.


Ma learned the wrong way that I was living wild. Her friend’s friend had a friend who was living wild.

One thing with living wild, especially for someone who barely respects the code of living wild, is that you will find the most unexpected of people you know living as wild, or even wilder than you. It is customary to just ignore them. Yes. Pretend that you just didn’t see your praise and worship leader playing with Shisha like she does with the Holy Spirit. Just mind your f*cking business and greet her on Sunday when you are done leading the prayer. Don’t say hi. If she’s leaning in for a kiss, give her a quick peck and look away. She is probably pretending she doesn’t know you either. Keep things straight. Don’t complicate stuff. Whatever happens in Nairobi Socials will always happen in Nairobi Socials and nowhere else; besides, you’ll be too hungover the next morning to even remember to tell people that this church girl gets her praise moves from pole dancing.

So, this muscular, hotwired, a little bit older, friend bumped into my ass at Nairobi Socials. She ground and ground her frontal pelvis on me. At some point, whatever bewilderment I was sending into the locked-up brains inside her coccal chamber nicked her nuts loose. She cupped her buff hands by my shoulders and mulikaad her inebriated, jaundiced eye on me.


I might have been drunk, but I swear the way she said that name triggered generational trauma in the way Ma had spent years drilling that name, Nkirote, into me. This buff and wild lady sounded exactly like Ma. She said my name in the exact same way that Ma said it. Ma used it as a tool for correction and warning. Sometimes, she would quickly say it just before spearing me to near death after I would fumble about and make mistakes like letting milk spill over the counterboard. So that name, my real name, lashed at my conscience, and for once I thought Ma’s omnipresence had caught up with me in the worst of places, scantily dressed.

Half-drunk, half-nabbed, I jabbed my fingers into the chest of this buff lady built like a cute Shrek in a bid to ask, Mom? What are you doing here? I waited a minute. Ma might have been a superwoman, working like a horse on Pa’s farm in Meru, but she wasn’t built like a gelded bull.

‘Do I know you?’ I hiccuped.

The music was too loud for me to see the clear make of her face.


She realized she was making a mistake. ‘Sorry, I mistook you for someone I had seen somewhere.’ She left for a less weird pelvis, all the while shooting questioning glances at me as though confirming that my awfully familiar face wasn’t undergoing some form of transfiguration.

When this ordeal trickled down the gossip chain and reached Meru, Ma called. She never fichaad anything. She laid it bare. I was becoming a disappointment, or, if she ever meant it, the things she was hearing about her good Adventist girl weren’t pleasing to her ears. She spat at me, her words boiling with a characteristically rich Ameru jaunt and a tone that her great-grandma might have used to curse our entire generation.

I should have asked how she had known. Or shouldn’t. Besides, that wouldn’t sell her my outright lie that those stories were curated out of pure hatred and pettiness by people I didn’t even know rivaled me.

At some point within her discord, she simmered down, the Ameru rove undressing her concern. She wanted to come see me. I wanted to say no. But there was a quiet, forlorn moment in between, I will come to see you and can I come see you? She turned. Stirred even. I knew she wanted to say, I know it’s not been easy since your dad walked out on us but that would be cliche and she knew I hated cliche. So she kept quiet and said, ‘You are my girl. My only girl. Please don’t get yourself killed.’

She might have had a point. Girls were being lured from clubs into murderhouses(as I came to call these posh BnBs) by murderous men. Rich men. And she thought my living wild at that moment was one of the formative stages of Another Love Triangle Gone Sour, a TV headline to which she would recuse into her space, and after shedding a few tears, say a prayer to Murungu to keep her girl safe from the clutches of depravity and her eyes away from murderers who masqueraded as rich, appetizing, even tempting men.

Now, however wild you want to live, black girl, the blackness within you has a limit for you. The reality is, except for the music video, a majority of the ladies in Drake’s yacht bouncing their botox injections and smacking their puffed-up lips to the beats of In My Feelings are white. And rich. Well, a little.

I know this, and that’s where I draw the line. The brokenness in me puts a leash on the blackness in me that seeks to exemplify itself as a wild sort of thing. I know this. So Ma assuming that I was as naive as to blindly let anyone stuff me into an insufficient BnB, which I find more spacious compared to my student studio, was not only condescending but also annoying.

I wanted to talk back. I wanted to say that instead of letting friends of hers feed her with stories of what I was doing in the city’s sin industry as though they were hired spies, she should have perhaps considered changing her friends. Perhaps she hearted the best intentions by warning me. Or perhaps the butch lady, a friend to Ma’s friend’s friend, should have known boundaries. Perhaps she, the hierarchy of friends that reached Ma, and Ma herself had epiphanies and they didn’t want me to get lost alongside swimmers with the current.

Whatever the case, it wouldn’t change my disturbing realization that butch girls are the worst snitches!


The guys at the embassy knew me too well. The security guards at the gate no longer had fun frisking me. They might have been cooing behind my back that my visits to that place were unending and that I might be having struggles with life, judging by my polite nonchalance that met their small talk whenever they screened me before I got in.

A normal establishment would have its guards on a rotational basis. Even these security companies don’t always post their select group of guards at a place for too long. I think it’s the rule of the industry. However, so that you may know that the embassy is full of secret agents working as spies to eliminate perpetrators of the sporadic terror attacks, they don’t change their guards. This is something you don’t learn in school.

As soon as I finished school, I got myself into a roller coaster of the American dream. I never mentioned to anyone that I wanted to leave the country. I worked late at night writing and rewriting essays, doing math, and reading those biased, long-ass passages with the hope that I would pass the college entry tests and get into a good Ivy League school. I became dangerously secretive, submitting fraudulent recommendation letters and forged transcripts in dingy cybercafes. I hated the highs and lows that came with the whole process, and the fact that I couldn’t speak to anyone about it. Not even Ma.

When your friend sent you the reel that said, ‘Girl, you need to shut your mouth about your plans,’ she most probably should have sent another saying ‘Girl, it hurts differently when your secret plans don’t work out.’

The ride in the coaster was perfect, up until I got my first invite to the embassy for an interview. I had watched that lady on YouTube giving perks about visa interviews and I had, say mastered, the art of responding to those questions. I might even say that I aced it until I got the denial letter.

It hurts differently when your secret plans don’t work out. You become engulfed in this black… flame that seeps your entire self-trust. It makes you remember God and His punishment to sinners; malipo ya hapa hapa duniani.

Ma raised no quitter so I applied for a different type of visa. Denied. Okay, fake that you were circumcised by village elders and your girlhood is in danger so you’re seeking asylum. Denied. DV lottery. Denied. You’re turning 24. DV lottery again. Denied. F1 student visa? For the last time? Denied. What do you do? Touris… Denied.

‘Hello ma’am! Do you work here? Periodically?’

Guards are this polite?

‘No. Just another visa interview.’

She searched through my bag, thinking.

‘I must admire your consistency. A friend of mine from Kisii did this seven times and he got it the seventh time.’

She was trying to tell me that perhaps eight times was way too unreasonable. She waved her electric wand through my curves, which peeped as though I was carrying a C4 from Dishumoga. The wand always peeps whether or not you’re carrying the bomb, which makes me wonder how the hell it’s supposed to show that I am about to bomb the embassy.

As a parting shot, she let me into a little of her wisdom. ‘You should try dating a man from there.’

In the spirit of always settling for less, I found myself stuck with Hasselhoff, who was not only not American, but also married with three kids back in Sweden.


When Hasselhoff said we travel, I pictured Bali. I saw the Balinese snake dancers prancing through our faces, teasing us with reptiles siring with venom and mischief. I saw the jungles of Samoa and us staying at a cabin built by that guy on Facebook who raises it from scratch in a fast time-lapse. I wanted to ride Mongolian horses and swim at an aquarium with inedible fish in Australia.

Instead of having steamy sandy beach sex in the Caymans, we hiked and hiked through the mounts of forests in Congo, every time replenishing the mosquito repellant on our skin as we got deep and deep into the forest and the mosquitoes bitter and bitter. Once, we got rained on, but the excitement of a white man beset us in a tragic trance, bewildered by the mundanity of Africa.

At least he was happy, or I pretended to be happy that he was. We should have been headed somewhere else. He was rich enough to own a jet ski that mistakenly came with a small boat, but somehow, he had no capitalist ambition to always want more.

Sometimes I doubted if indeed he was a genuine, rich white man. Genuine rich white men didn’t flush their fortune exclusively on exotic African escapades that could get them killed. He knew that white-man-eating, blood-thirsty beasts roamed these jungles at night yet he wanted us holed up in a small tent in the middle of nowhere, listening to his weird-ass music and making love-he called it.

I called it cheating on his wife. He loved it when I jested him. He would cave into me, obviously turned on by the fact that I was villainizing him. He’d smile and bite my shoulder, all the while entering and exiting with heaves of a mzungu hiker. Perhaps he was so much into schadenfreude that the thought of me, perfectly crafted like an erotic Italian sculpture, replacing his plus-size pale wife, exploded his innards with spates of want, desire, lust even.

His ambition in Africa was to live simply, he told me the first day he met me. He wanted to escape his royalty, or whatever you call a lifetime of wealth and wealth management that killed the soul out of a white man.

‘Why would you come to Africa if you want to keep it simple?’

‘Because I pay for convenience. And your convenience is just too affordable.’

Ouch! I liked it when he jested back, his Svedish accent cajoling the sound of a man speaking with food in his mouth.

In our shared experience, we did buy convenience. Living in an apartment at the top of a skyscraper in the Wester parts of town was all the convenience we needed. Again, moving in with him, just to find that he had designed a creative studio and stacked all the supplies I needed for my artwork and tapestry was all the convenience I needed. Getting me bags and bags of Louis Vuitton, and sandals and sandals, heels on heels, dresses and dresses and dresses, with jewels and trinkets was all too convenient.

He showered me with blessings as we sang during the days I attended Bible study, and more showers of surprises, experiences, bungee jumping(I almost died), and once in a while released me to go to Meru and reshower Ma with his second-hand blessings.

My inner black girl didn’t dislike this idea of showers and literal showers in the African jungles. She just waded through the monotony of what Hasselhoff found interesting and pictured another lifestyle. This black girl wanted the Cayman experience so bad that she nudged me one afternoon to speak to…


‘Yess?’ He stretched the ss like a real foreigner.

‘Do you often wonder what the rest of the world looks like?’ I asked, then realized my folly had ignored the fact that he came from the rest of the world. But he was a smart man. He knew what I was talking about.

He paused, but his right forefinger kept circling the tiny black hills surrounding my left nipple.

‘You know, there are six continents. Perhaps we should try the Amazon rainforest or the wild beaches of Barbados? No.’

I co*cked my eyes at him. He evaded real quick.

Gosh! I felt like poor Daenarys begging the great Khal Drogo to take the iron throne for her.

Throne? A king does not need a chair to sit on, only a horse. Drogo had said then.

‘Baby, this is the best place on earth. Where I am with the best woman on earth.’ He motioned, smiling.

I smiled back, concealing the frolics of disappointment that my demure witticism had attracted.

‘Don’t you want to see other cultures?’ I straddled him.

‘And maybe live in them too?’ On top now.

In my living wild days, I had learned that it took little to convince a man, let alone a white man full of lust, to do something for you. And so, if all a king needed was a horse, he was the horse I needed to get to where I wanted.

‘I mean…’ He was starting to tweak, my horse trick was working.



‘Yes, Ma.’

‘What do you mean you’re getting married?’ Ma was sipping her okra water, trying to cool down the pain I was causing deep inside her nose that was just one word away from sending her cursive with screams of bewilderment.

It was a bad idea to let Ma into my plan. I need to shut my mouth about my plans.

‘Ma, I love him.’

I almost didn’t believe myself. Did I love that man?

Nkirote mbona unanilitea mzungu kwa nyumba?’ She demanded, pretending that I hadn’t been in a relationship with this white man for over three years now.

Bitch, please! (No offense Ma) I was not only bringing a white man into the house, I was bringing a rich Scandinavian white man into this poor house, Ma.

I wanted to tell Ma he was married but, ‘He is rich,’ spewed out.

She stared at me, her face exemplitive of a blank page asking to be dressed with emotion.

‘He runs a covert charity project spanning Africa and he is looking to expand to the rest of the world.’

‘What about you Nkirote? You trained to be a lawyer.’

Yes, Ma. And now I can’t get employed because I didn’t get into KSL and firms are looking for professionally trained secretaries and Otieno & Associates wanted sex for a job and I can’t even finish CPA and Ma we’re broke and my bankrupt shop in Kamukunji can’t help us and Ma the economy is so hard right now Ma.

Was I to say exactly this, Ma’s lips would part and out of her, a venom of okra water mixed with gastric juice would erupt covering her nicely done Sunday morning before church sofa sets and spoiling the vibes she had for that Sunday. Ma was everything to me but never a listening ear. She wouldn’t understand. Instead of letting her into the dark alley of what had become my lived nightmare instead of a subtle reality, I lied to her.

‘This is what I want to do, Ma. My sole ambition in this world is to help the needy. There are so many people around Africa and the world suffering and in worse conditions than us, Ma. Now that I didn’t have support for doing that, I think that it has been a blessing that I have found support in the person I love. Hasselhoff is God-sent, Ma’

What a sermon! Ma was impressed, I know, but she couldn't just smile, yet.

‘What did you say his name was? Hassle?’

The Ameru wasn’t having the hang of it.

‘Just call him Hazel.’


‘No. Hazel.’

Ma’s potency dissipated now. Her novelty for young love requitted her respite for her failed one. If she really had a say, she kept it to herself. Had she been good at it, maybe even Pa would have been around. We both didn’t miss that deadbeat drunk, but still, we both knew that he left because of Ma.

This thought boiling in our heads, we jolted the conversation into a new plane altogether, implicitly acknowledging that neither of us was warranted to question the novice nature with which I accorded such a big decision in my life. If there ever was going to be an unforeseen and unmentioned storm in my future married life, I would be better equipped to turn a shade of silence on Ma and on it, for I knew I would be dealing with that storm from a sunny beach.

6 Years Later.

KikTalker’s Reel Talk

Tuesday 7th March

Girl, be as selfish as you want to be. Don’t let anyone, even your husband or mubaba put you in your place. Some of these wababas and husbands don’t even have a sense of direction when you are absent in their lives. Be the center of it. Extract everything to your center. You are the core of their lives, and make it known that you are.

PAUSE! I jump to get my notebook. Kiki is my favorite KikTalker. Running into one of her reels has become a thing that I am always looking forward to every day. She has enlightened my black girl lite feminist front by convincing me that all men are clueless. They have so much that needs to be managed by us, black girls.



Look babe, you aren't a prize, you are the prize. THE. T.H.E. Be that prize, take when you can, crave attention as much as possible.

PAUSE! This girl has taught me so much about money management. She said that while money is stable and is flowing into my account, I needed to reduce the tangible expenditure of it. If I wanted that Gucci bag, I could as well get Hazel to buy me. But getting my cash to buy it is kind of insulting to him. He claimed to be in charge of me. So I should let him be in charge.

The rest of my money (which I got from him anyway), I needed to plow into the index fund, to investments back in Meru, and shove some into the dummy account I created in Ma's name. How do I keep this inward cash flow? By being the center of it all. Craving attention and acting like the ‘baby’ Hazel calls me.

Notes! Notes!


Finally, for all my girlies finding it hard to face their inner fire. Gurl, you better acknowledge that you're just that. Don't fight it. Listen, there's a ruthless Ethiopian Queen in every black girl. The better and quicker you oil and tend to that Queen, the more that Queen becomes real. You're on your path to your greatness. With Love, Kiki, your favorite KikTalker. Bye!

PAUSE! Every turn of my marriage year marks a turn of a shade in me. I have become that virtual butch girl that goes to the club and gets ground on like crazy. I hit the gym like never and Hazel falls in love with this femme-turned-butch, in a new way every day. White people and their kinks!

He remains skinny and attractive though. He refuses to let his dad-bod bend him down. He runs with my five year old athleteson for over six miles every day. He hikes mountains when he travels North to see his other family. I know he keeps us a secret, but who cares?

Girl, as long as you are the center queen, you're the most powerful piece on the board.

Notes! Notes! Notes!


Girl, be as selfish as you want to be… You're on your path to greatness…Bye!


Photo Credit: Awele(Pinterest).

Six Shades of Melanin (2024)


How do we get our skin color biointeractive answers? ›

A person's skin color is determined primarily by the proportion of eumelanin to pheomelanin, the overall amount of melanin produced, and the number and size of melanosomes and how they are distributed.

What shade is melanin? ›

Types of Melanin

Eumelanin makes mostly dark colors in hair, eyes, and skin, and includes two types: brown and black. If you have black or brown hair, it comes from different mixes of black and brown eumelanin. Blonde hair comes from having a small amount of brown eumelanin and no black eumelanin.

What are the main types of melanin? ›

Generally, melanin is classified into five types—eumelanin, pheomelanin, neuromelanin, allomelanin, and pyomelanin—based on the various chemical precursors used in their biosynthesis.

How are there more than 7 shades of skin color? ›

The amount of melanin in the skin, the amount of UV exposure, genetics, the quality of melanosomes, and pigments present in the skin all play a role in racial variation. The different colors present in human skin are caused by 4 chromophores: carotenoids, hemoglobin, melanin, and oxyhemoglobin.

Is there a supplement to increase melanin? ›

However, vitamin C is still considered to be able to increase melanin levels. For a vitamin C boost, you can eat foods rich in vitamin C like citrus, berries, and green leafy vegetables that can optimize melanin production. Taking a vitamin C supplement has a similar effect.

How do you change your skin color in real life? ›

Unfortunately, human skin simply doesn't work like that of a chameleon. The skin color we're born with is what we're stuck with…for the most part. If you have fair skin, a significant amount of time in the Sun can turn it golden brown or beet red. Sunburns and suntans don't last long, though.

How to increase melanin in skin naturally? ›

Studies suggest vitamin A is important to melanin production and is essential to having healthy skin. You get vitamin A from the food you eat, especially vegetables that contain beta carotene, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, and peas.

What color is pure melanin? ›

Microscopic appearance. Melanin is brown, non-refractile, and finely granular with individual granules having a diameter of less than 800 nanometers. This differentiates melanin from common blood breakdown pigments, which are larger, chunky, and refractile, and range in color from green to yellow or red-brown.

How to make your skin darker naturally? ›

Tanning in Natural Sunlight

Being outside is the most natural and healthy way to tan your skin, which is why you'll get the most natural results. Whether you're taking a walk, playing a sport, or having a picnic, you're still under the sun.

What race has the most melanin? ›

The most lightly pigmented (European, Chinese and Mexican) skin types have approximately half as much epidermal melanin as the most darkly pigmented (African and Indian) skin types.

Which foods increase melanin in hair? ›

Vitamin A, C and B12 are the most needed vitamins to increase the melanin production in your hair. Add citrus fruits like oranges, grapes, pineapple, and melon to your diet. Also eat vegetables like potatoes, carrots, beans, etc. Non vegetarians can try adding red meat, chicken liver, fish, and eggs to their diet.

Why is my skin getting darker without sun? ›

Causes of hyperpigmentation include: Skin inflammation (post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation) Use of certain drugs (such as minocycline, certain cancer chemotherapies, and birth control pills) Hormone system diseases such as Addison disease.

What is the rarest skin color? ›

People with a rare condition called methemoglobinemia have actual blue skin. The Blue Fugates of Kentucky are the only known family carrying this trait. Tan skin complexion with blue eyes is rare combination. Rarest Hair and skin color is: Red head, Tan complexion and blue eyes.

What are the 6 types of skin Colour? ›

How do I know what my skin type is?
Skin TypeSkin ColorReaction to Sun Exposure
IIIBeigeBurns moderately – tans gradually to light brown
IVLight brownBurns minimally - tans well to moderately brown
VModerate brownRarely burns - tans profusely to dark brown
VIDark brown or blackNever burns – tans profusely
2 more rows
May 16, 2023

Where did white skin first appear? ›

Many scientists have believed that lighter skin gradually arose in Europeans starting around 40,000 years ago, soon after people left tropical Africa for Europe's higher latitudes.

How do we get our skin color? ›

Melanin is produced within the skin in cells called melanocytes and it is the main determinant of the skin color of darker-skin humans. The skin color of people with light skin is determined mainly by the bluish-white connective tissue under the dermis and by the hemoglobin circulating in the veins of the dermis.

How do we get our natural skin color? ›

Melanocytes make these little things called melanosomes. These are little melanin producing factories that get transferred from the melanocyte to surrounding keratinocytes. There, the melanin provides protection from UV radiation and determines the color of our skin.

How is skin color determined genetically? ›

Differences in skin and hair color are principally genetically determined and are due to variation in the amount, type, and packaging of melanin polymers produced by melanocytes secreted into keratinocytes. Pigmentary phenotype is genetically complex and at a physiological level complicated.

How do you get skin tone color? ›

Mixing Skin tones

Here is one way to mix skin tones using a limited palette: Begin by mixing together equal parts of cadmium red, yellow ochre, and titanium white to create a basic peach tone. Adjust the color by adding more red to create warmer skin tones, or more yellow to create cooler skin tones.

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