pale is the no tan

(Left to Right) Supermodels Coco Rocha, Jessica Stam, Shalom Harlow, and Karen Elson

What do Coco Rocha, Jessica Stam, Shalom Harlow, and Karen Elson have in common? Beautiful and successful, most certainly, but it's their creamy fair skin that sets them apart from the bronzed ladies walking the Victoria's Secret runways. The desire to be tan has long since been the most coveted trait for girls and women, especially the ones my age…and especially in Omaha. You'd be hard-pressed to find a strip mall that doesn't have a tanning salon of some sort, and the number of self-tanning products sold in grocery stores is at an all-time high. With so many models and actresses embracing their pale, why is it that tanning is still the most sought-after physical attribute? 

Everyone has their thing; I know many people who cannot imagine not hitting the tanning beds at least once a week. I know people who won't dare step into the sunlight without being slathered in SPF 100 (myself included…and, yes, they make such a thing). It used to be that being tanned was seen as "lower-class" because it showed that you were working outside all day. Nobility had the very fair skin because they were able to lounge around indoors. Certain societies would actually try to whiten their skin.  How did it all turn around? I blame Coco Chanel.  She inadvertently bronzed her skin while vacationing in Cannes on a yacht. When she returned to Paris, everyone wanted her golden glow. And so the trend began. Thanks a lot, Coco. Flash forward to 2010: the uber-classy ladies of 'Jersey Shore' have such a deep tan, it's practically orange. Marc Jacobs has his models in the Louis Vuitton Fall 2010 show donning a vintage look, completely with fair skin and curves. Who do you want to emulate? 

Snooki from MTV's Jersey Shore and Jessica Stam at the Louis Vuitton Fall 2010 show

Having been extremely pale my whole life, I've experienced my  "fair" share of alienation and teasing in grade school. Even today, I can't go in public without people staring at my ghostly white legs. Yet, strangely enough, I've never felt the urge to join a tanning salon or lay out in my backyard. I think people should embrace what they have (naturally) and look to role-models who do the same. I love reading French Vogue and Nylon and seeing the cover girls rocking their porcelain complexions, some of them. Most models featured in any fashion magazines today are imperfect or, dare I say, even strange looking. Pale skin, crooked teeth, gap-toothed; It's what makes them so interesting and beautiful.

(Left to Right) Fair actresses Anne Hathaway, Julianne Moore, Rachel Weisz


So for those of you who share my plight, remember that you're beautiful the way you are, tan or not. Pale skin is glamorous and healthy; it's okay to be different. And being true to yourself? It's fabulous and always in vogue. 



  1. I'll admit that I immediately feel conflicted about this post as pale leaves out women of color.

  2. I loved your post! I love all the images of celebrities with beautiful pale complexions & the funny contrast of snooki & the Vuiton runways. I hate tanning and also am very fond of cremes and lotions with lots of spf in it. It's SO damaging to your skin, it's seems so ignorant for people to claim it gives them a 'healthy' glow when its far from that!

  3. paleness, just like any trait acquired at birth, can be beautiful for those who naturally have it, and devastating when attempted by those who initially don't. it's equally absurd for a pale girl to tan obsessively as it is for women in west africa to slather bleaching cream on their bodies - a process that can lead to epidermal cysts, increased sun sensitivity, and liver problems.

    political/class-motivated readings of skin alteration aside, i get what you're saying. it's exciting to see people succeeding who have what was once considered a flaw (i mean, every time i see Lara Stone or Abbey Lee's gap teeth, i'm pleased - but beyond this minor similarity, neither of these girls look anything like me, of course) especially in the fashion industry, which manufactures desire (usually pretty irrational desire, like the tanning hubbub or the chanel yeti outfits) for certain ideas when they are given more exposure.