OWN
01/15/2015 10:02 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Light-Skinned Black Women Share The Hurtful Comments They Heard Growing Up (VIDEO)

"You think you're white." "You're stuck up." "You think you're better than everybody else."

African-American women with lighter complexions say they often heard backhanded comments like these from members of their own communities while growing up. The documentary "Light Girls," director Bill Duke's sequel to "Dark Girls," showcases some of their stories as it studies the pain, privileges and prejudices that come with being a light-skinned black woman.

When children are confronted with these kinds of hurtful words, spiritual teacher Iyanla Vanzant says it can affect them long into adulthood. "I think the impact that colorism has on young girls -- light girls and dark girls -- leave scars on the soul that live well into womanhood," she says.

In the above clip from the documentary, actresses and media personalities open up about the shame they have felt because of their lighter skin. "I was made to feel that something about what I had or looked like was somehow both special and yet disliked, hated," says actress Cynthia McWilliams. "[It was] something to be embraced and/or fear."

Singer Chanté Moore says people threw rocks at her and threatened to cut her hair off as a child. "They wanted to cut one of my ponytails off. I'm going, 'Why? Why do you even care, what is the big deal? I think that we're not taught to value one another enough," she says.

"The colorism that exists in our community was sometimes as damaging as racism because it hurts more when it's coming from your own," says Valeisha Butterfield-Jones , co-founder of WEEN and author of Girlprint.

Actress Essence Atkins says she felt a lot of shame about being light and having long hair when she was a girl. "I'm sure that it feels like, 'Oh poor little you, light girl. Everyone was kind of paying attention to you,'" she says. "But the lightness of my skin didn't insulate me from questioning my worthiness of being black."

Media personality Connie Deveaux becomes emotional as she recalls how it felt to be told she was "too white" and that she thought she was "better than everybody else." "I never thought I was any of those things," she says. "And it made me not like myself."

"Light Girls" airs January 19 at 9 p.m. ET on OWN.

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