If you’ve been spending more time coloring with your kids lately—or just enjoy the occasional adult coloring book as much as we do—you know the unique joy of picking the perfect colors to execute your vision. And if you’re an adult of a certain age, you no doubt remember the days when the peachy Crayola crayon was labeled “flesh” and you looked down at your own little brown (or simply not peachy) arm in confusion.
Or perhaps the kids in your life still think the “skin-colored” crayon is automatically the peach one.
That’s what Bellen Woodard encountered while coloring with her third-grade class in Loudoun County, Va.
“My friends were asking for the ‘skin-color’ crayon,” said the 9-year-old in late February to the Washington Post, which reported: “She knew that meant the peach-colored crayon. She also knew her skin wasn’t the color of peaches. She is the only black girl in her grade.”
The revelation prompted a conversation between Bellen and her mom, Tosha Woodard, who encouraged her daughter to “hand them the brown one instead.”
“I think I just want to ask them what color they want because it could be any number of beautiful colors,” Bellen countered. Her teacher and classmates followed suit, and the “More Than Peach” project was born.
As reported by the Post:
Bellen came up with the idea of creating kits that could be donated to classrooms and children who might not be able to afford art supplies. Each kit, she decided, should contain a drawing pad, a personal postcard from her, a standard box of crayons (or colored pencils), and a special box of Crayola’s Multicultural crayons (or colored pencils). In that box of skin-tone hues is the color “peach.” But also there: “apricot,” “burnt sienna” and “mahogany.”
“I was thinking at first it was going to be a small project, that only a few people would know about it at my school,” Bellen, also a child model, told the Post. But her initiative rightfully gained attention, soon garnering donations from across the country, proclamations from the mayor of Leesburg mayor and the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, a request from the Virginia Museum of History & Culture to include one of her kits to its collection, and the passage of the “Bellen Bill” by the Virginia General Assembly “as an expression of the General Assembly’s admiration for her visionary leadership and accomplishments on behalf of her fellow students.”
“They were just another pack of crayons to me,” Bellen says of the Multicultural Crayolas she includes in each package. “Now, they are more than just a pack of crayons. Now, they are a kind of change.”
Coincidentally, another kind of change was simultaneously taking place at Crayola. The brand launched its initial Multicultural color offerings in 1992, but Bellen’s experience proves that there was far more work to be done in representing the wide swath of skin tones across the globe—and Crayola had already begun an initiative of its own. On Thursday, the legacy brand announced the launch of its Colors of the World crayons, “a line of 24 newly formulated crayons representing 40 global skin tones,” according to a release sent to The Root, which also revealed that a cosmetic chemist had been enlisted to help develop the new shades.
In order to reflect an accurate and broadly inclusive skin tone palette, Crayola sought counsel from Victor Casale, who has over 30 years of experience in creating some of the most diverse foundation colors as MAC Chief Chemist, Managing Director and Cover FX Cofounder and Chief Innovative Officer.
Victor partnered with various internal Crayola teams to develop the newly formulated crayon colors that encompass three undertones: Rose, Almond and Golden and range in skin tone colors from Extra Light to Deepest.
“I have spent my life trying to create truly global shade palettes because I know what it’s like to be with a person who has finally found their exact match. They feel included and recognized, and I am hoping every child who uses these crayons and finds their shade will have that feeling,” said Casale of the collaboration, which was eight months in the making (h/t AP News). “Growing up, I remember mixing the pink and dark brown crayons to try and make my shade, so I was thrilled when Crayola asked for my help to create the Colors of the World crayons.”
Colors of the World will be available this July in 24 and 32-count crayon packs, which are currently available for preorder. Each pack will feature color-charted side panels, and each crayon will be “wrapped in a gradient skin tone label with the color name in English, Spanish and French, and purposefully has a realistic color name—such as Light Golden, Deep Almond and Medium Deep Rose—all to help kids easily find the shade they identify as their own,” reports AP News.
While we won’t go so far as to compare Crayola’s new assortment to
40 50 shades of Fenty (and will always crave a few more shades in that mid-to-deep range), we can help but be tickled by the synchronicity here. Hopefully, Bellen and her peers will be better able to find a “More Than Peach” match the next time they hold their little arms up to the Crayola box.