When it comes to self-acceptance, it appears Tan France didn’t always practice what he now preaches.
France — who serves as the fashion expert on the beloved Netflix reality show “Queer Eye” — is known for spreading self-love, much like his fellow cast members on the hit series.
But in his new memoir “Naturally Tan,” the 36-year-old U.K. native revealed he used to bleach his skin, a practice he says began at just 10 years old after stealing the necessary products to do so from his cousin.
“I haven’t had the balls to tell her I took it, because, since then, I’ve been ashamed of the fact that I succumbed to the pressure,” France, whose parents are from Pakistan, wrote in the memoir, per Refinery29. “I kept the dirty little secret to myself. I’d only use it at night, before bed, when no one else was going to catch me. Let me tell you, that s–t hurt.”
Skin bleaching is a relatively popular practice in England, where France grew up, according to the publication. Some who choose to use skin lightening products — such as creams, for instance — may do so to feel more accepted by society or, as Fran wrote in his memoir, to feel more attractive.
“The importance of being pale is very bizarre. When I was five, I remember thinking, ‘God, I’d give anything to be white. I just want to be white, I want to be white, I want to be white.’ I had been so conditioned to think that if you were white, you were automatically more attractive,” he wrote.
But skin-lightening creams can pose dangerous side effects, especially if they contain high steroid levels, The New York Times reports. Common symptoms include skin irritation, inflammation and burning. Kidney, liver or nerve damage are also possibilities, according to the U.K.’s National Health Service, especially when the creams contain hydroquinone, corticosteroids or mercury.
Skin thinning, too, can also be a result. In fact, one woman originally from the West Indies told The New York Times in 2010 using lightening creams thinned her skin so much “a touch would bruise her face.”
“I first had that dream [to be white] when I was very, very young because I worried constantly that if I went outside the house, bad things would happen to me,” France continued, in part.
But now, the TV personality is proud of the way he looks, revealing his skin is now his favorite part of his look.
“If you ask me what my favorite thing about my appearance is, I’ll say my skin,” France wrote. “I think my skin color is beautiful. As a 10-year-old, I could never have imagined that you could find my skin color beautiful, and I’m willing to bet most non-white people have thought the same thing.”