Health and Wellness


Local beauty brand Morena the Label tells us why the word “exotic” is not a compliment and why being morena is something to be proud of.

/ 1 September 2020

First of all, what does exotic even mean? The textbook meaning of it is that, exotic: mysteriously different or unusual. In other words, most people use it to describe people that are not of stereotypical white beauty that have pale skin, straight blonde hair, and light colored eyes.

Many issues around beauty like cultural appropriation and appreciation have been debated upon, but the issue steps into racial territory once words like “exotic” are being thrown around as a compliment. We all have known what the nature of “exotic beauty” is, that it’s never usually said as anything but a praise from Western folks. 

However, the thing is, with many unique beauty quirks such as dimples, or freckles, “exotic” features usually indicate assumptions that are more so racial or ethnic. Even when you genuinely compliment someone by pointing out their “exotic” features, it’s one of those things that can’t help but draw attention to the line between “white” and “ethnic” in someone’s appearance or lifestyle. 

This is what local beauty brand Morena the Label is trying to say.  Morena is a Filipino word describing a person who has dark, sun-tanned skin. As far as we know, western people have always raved about the tanned skin. But we have all been used to the Eurocentric standards of beauty so much that despite living in a country surrounded by morenos and morenas, we still choose to let ourselves be looked down upon or be called “exotic” because we’re different from the rest of the world. But think about it, if Western people did not come to our land and severely influenced this thinking, would we still be looking “exotic”? Even in our own eyes? 

Morena the Label is a Philippine-based and clothing line from the Philippines that celebrates the morena, sun-kissed skin. If being morena has been looked down upon in our community, this brand tells you to own it and wear it with pride. Along with that, they help people unlearn the toxic standards we’ve been conditioned in and taught since childhood. 

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Repeat after me. It's a magic spell. ✨

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I find that the word “exotic” is better suited for other living things such as plants or birds of different countries and continents, but never with people. Eurocentric beauty standard is a global disease that caused a stigma, deeply-rooted in people living in many non-white countries like the Philippines. Unlike this coronavirus pandemic, there is no upcoming vaccine or cure for this. Which means it’s about time we go up against it and wear our own skin with pride. 

So… anytime now. You can stop calling us, “exotic.”