Friday Photo: True White

During my first year in China, one of my teammates was from California. When the weather got warm, she bought herself a bamboo chair so she could sit outside in our courtyard and work on her tan. Our students were horrified because they valued lighter skin; they couldn’t understand why she would try to make her skin darker.

“Please, Miss Barbara,” they would plead, “don’t sit in the sun.”

“I can’t not do this,” she replied. “I’m from California.”

That preference for lighter skin has led to a booming industry of skin-whitening lotions and creams, as evidenced by this giant billboard in Shanghai.