Brown Skin Is Beautiful Skin

Published in: Product Reviews

Two weeks ago I watched an Oprah episode titled “Children Ashamed of the Way They Look,” which also launched a new campaign to promote self-esteem for younger girls, O Girl, O Beautiful.

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Oprah’s guests — celebs and a few regular people – talked about their experiences with beauty and self-esteem within their various cultures.

The story of two of the guests, Tangela and her son Najee, resonated with me, and here’s a copy from the Oprah Website:

As a child, Tangela says she was teased and tormented by other African-Americans because of her dark complexion. Then, when she was 19 years old, Tangela found out she was pregnant with her first child. While most expectant mothers just hope for a healthy child, Tangela prayed for something more.

“I would just say to God, ‘Please don’t make my son dark. Please don’t make my child dark,’” she says. “I didn’t want him to experience what I experienced … being called names, being talked about.”

When Tangela’s son, Najee, was born with dark skin, she says her heart ached for his future. “I saw people looking at him as if something was wrong with him,” she says. “That’s the pain that I really felt, more so than my own darkness.”

When Najee was 5 years old, children started teasing him about his complexion. In kindergarten, he says a female classmate, who was also African-American, made a hurtful remark that he remembers to this day. “The negative comment was, ‘Oh, you’re so black,” he says.

As Najee grew older, the insults continued. “I’ve been called names like darkie, dark chocolate, blackie,” he says. “Most of my negative comments do come from other blacks, and it’s extremely painful.”

Najee says he tries to hide his deep-seated insecurities from his friends and family by pretending to be happy. But deep down, a lifetime of low self-esteem is starting to take a toll on him. “Sometimes I have felt that I didn’t even want to be on this earth,” he says. “Sometimes I wish that God didn’t make me this way.”

His mother says her biggest regret is not understanding how much pain Najee has been feeling over the years. Tangela says she tried asking Najee if anyone teased him, but he never wanted to discuss it.

“I tried to give him books and encouragement and let him know he was beautiful. He had beautiful teeth,” she says. “It almost didn’t matter how much I told him because I didn’t know what was going on.”

Tangela and Najee’s story made me think of how skin color is treated within my culture. I’m Filipino, and my experience with dark skin color sounds a little like theirs. Most Filipinos consider lighter brown skin more attractive. If you’re a young Filipino girl running around outside you usually have an aunt, grandmother or an older family friend yelling at you to get inside “before you get too dark.” And if you do tan somebody is going to make a comment about it; note: it’s never positive.

My regular skin color is on the darker side, but since I love the sun and being outdoors, I’m apt to get even darker with a tan. Several of my close Filipino friends and family constantly comment on the state of my browness: “Karen’s too dark,” “Karen, your skin is sooooooo dark,” and “It’s too bad you’re dark like me.” I can’t lie — it bothered me for a really long time. I would usually just shrug and try to say something to play it off like, “Oh, well, what can ya do?”

Last year a close Filipino friend of 20 years made a comment a few days before my wedding. I don’t know if it my was pre-wedding insanity, but I just snapped. I told her very matter of factly that, yes, I was pretty damn brown, but that’s just how I was and that I LOVED MY SKIN COLOR and that BEING DARK WAS THE SHIZZ.

I’ve decided to celebrate my tan fabulousness but still get a touch angry when a friend or loved one makes one of those comments. Instead of shrugging it off I’ve decided to try to engage them (the ones who deserve the time) in discussion: Why do you think it’s okay to make that comment? Have you noticed that I never frown and say “You’re so pale”? Did you ever think that repeatedly saying something like “You’re too brown” to another Filipino might be hurtful?

I know that talking about it with my friends and family won’t revolutionize negative cultural stereotypes anytime soon, but it feels like the right thing to do.

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,

Karen

38 Comments

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  1. kia says:

    karen thanks for sharing! i didn’t get to see that episode of oprah, but it still hurts to hear. it’s also insightful to hear that this happens in other cultures too since a lot of times african americans/blacks are always viewed as the worst of the worst…..

  2. Toya says:

    Good for you, Karen! I definitely understand how you feel. I think most of people of color have had a similar experience.

  3. Karen says:

    Hi Kia and Toya. Thank for your comments. I’ve always admired Oprah and her fearlessness in bringing up sensitive topics of culture/color on her show. I was almost afraid to post this entry because it was so personal (even more personal than me going on and on about my endless war against body hair and zits). But I really hope it gets a few readers to reflect and think about the words they say and what their culture deems as beautiful.

  4. Valerie says:

    Right on Karen! You were brave to stand up to your family. I am African American and have gone through the same thing my whole life. It can be so painful when the people who claim to love you show such distain. Talking about it helps, questioning it helps and doing something different helps.

    Over the years I’ve had such trouble finding makeup that was the right color I decided not to use any. Then I found ‘ok’ colors but the chemicals made me break out. So, I questioned it, talked about it but I also started Valana Minerals, my own all natural cosmetics company for women of color (many shades of tan and brown).

    I’ve had customers tell me that using my products was the first time they have ever found a color that fit. I’m blessed to be able to offer my beautiful sisters another option.

    Keep getting the word out Karen, people will listen.

  5. Karen says:

    Hi Valerie, Thanks for stopping by and for your comments. Good luck with your business! We need more women of color who own their own companies (cosmetics and otherwise).

  6. Janice says:

    i’m from the philippines too, and i can totally relate to you!

  7. aareille says:

    You go girl.Karen i have to say i understand you!I have brown-skin&i’m very proud of it!!!!!!!!!!

  8. Karen says:

    Hi Janice,

    Thanks for leaving a comment. :) Glad to hear that I’m not the only one out there…

  9. Karen says:

    Hi Aareielle,

    Thanks for the words of encouragement. You’re brown and bee-yoo-tiful, girl! :)

  10. sammie says:

    Hey girl!
    Yeah, I can totally sympathise with you- I am mixed asian and am quite brown with my NC 35 skin. People were always like “Why are you so brown?” or whatever, and let me tell you, it REALLY got me. I mean, what sort of question is that anyway? (I could have asked “why are you so stupid?!”, but politeness dictates otherwise.)
    It doesn’t matter to me so much now because I’m older now (aw, man!) but as a kid…boy it is NOT what you want to hear
    Thanks for sharing this, nice to know its not just me!
    =)

  11. Trina says:

    Dark brown skin here, and always has been considered sorta inferior by our fellow Pinoys and Pinays for my color, especially when contrasted with our prized mestizas. Well, when I took a plane and studied abroad, the very first Spanish woman (from Madrid, not from Cebu) I ever met at university wanted to know where I got my “tan” so she could go there, too. Ironic, isn’t it.

  12. Gerry says:

    Karen thanks for your post. I am of mixed blood, anglo indian and maltese italian (i know ethnically ambiguous right!) But I live in Australia. Growing up I was teased. I once had a girl tell me that a hispanic boy in my class had beautiful skin, like chocolate but that I was a “blackie”. I was 7 years old! And the boy had the same colour skin as I did, maybe even darker. I couldnt understand her cruelness. Especially because she was teased by other children for being overweight, but i was always nice to her. Until that day anyway. When I was 13 I was teased by mean boys in my year, they called me a terrorist. (it was 2001), the ignorance was infuriating and made me selfconcious of my appearance.
    But now I am 20, and I believe things are changing. Now I take pride in my brown skin. My fair friends are always commenting how they wish they could get a tan like my year long one lol. I think its important to realise that you can be beautiful no matter what colour you are. Fair is beautiful, Black is beautiful, Asian skin is beautiful, Brown is beautiful. Beauty is defined by a person, who they are and what they do aswell how they look. Its when people discriminate that they are not beautiful.

    Oh and Valerie, i have struggled to find a right match for my skin colour since I started wearing make up! Congratulations on your company. Link me up hun :o)

  13. Diva Style says:

    Oh Karen, you’re a woman after my own heart! When people make disparaging comments concerning skin color or hair texture or anything of a racist or predjudice nature, I am the first to open my mouth and speak out! People need to understand that it’s NOT okay to degrade someone else because their beauty is underappreciated by society and not the “status quo” so to speak. Right now, I am actually finishing up a book entitled, “Don’t Play in the Sun” about the struggles of the Black race when it comes to colorism, which is quintessentially when some people in the same race downgrade each other due to certain physical attributes and/or think they are superior based on their skin tone, features, etc. Sad but true. We have to put a stop to this! It is killing the self-esteem of some children and adults.

    Diva Style´s last blog post..Makeup Mondays~

  14. sunmom says:

    hi karen! i’m a Filipina with brown skin too! i’m surprised it took an entry like this for me to leave a comment as i’ve been reading your blog for several days now. i’m also a beauty enthusiast but never really got that part of me into play because i had a very limiting environment. it is only now that i have my own job and family that i was able to start practicing make-up and stuff. i initially thought it would be an innate thing until my eyeshadow experiments didn’t turn out the way i wanted them to. it’s from you i got the idea of putting eyeshadow on almond/asian eyes eyes. that’s why i keep backtracking ’til i get to your very first entry just to check out your fotd’s even though they might be out of season. well, i’m off topic, but this is just to let you know how inspiring you are for someone like me. anyway, i’m a tech support rep here in the Philippines for a US company and i get a lot of discrimination when my customers find out i’m from here. it’s just too sad that people can really look at unimportant stuff to measure another person. but as long as we know we’re beautiful, unique and talented, it radiates and that’s all that matters…More power to your site!

    sunmom´s last blog post..The No-Cry Nap Solution: Guaranteed Gentle Ways to Solve All Your Naptime Problems

  15. Kathi says:

    Hi Karen, I totally can understand how you felt/feel about your skin colour – but in a different way. I’m pale. I’m really pale (but I look healthy), have freckles and never really get tanned (partly because I always use sun screen).

    My boyfriend’s Spanish and I’m German. So when we visit his family in Spain they always make remarks about how white I am and that totally annoys me. At a wedding last year everybody wanted to take photos with me “because of the great contrast” between my white skin and their tanned skins. It was kinda funny but didn’t make me feel very comfortable. But what can I do? I’m a polite person and don’t want to give rude answers etc.

    Right now I feel pretty ok with my skin colour. I think everybody should be comfortable with his/her skin colour. And discriminating somebody because she’s/he’s too tanned or too pale is pure stupidity! We don’t live in a conform world where everybody must have the same skin colour.

  16. Mara Guerrero says:

    Hello! I admit I still feel a bit hurt and self-conscious when my colleagues would describe a brown-skinned girl “maitim” (dark). I always say “she’s not dark, she’s a morena” or “kayumanggi” in filipino. Sometimes I scold myself for being self-conscious and for not fully accepting that my color is beautiful and that I am unique and that God created me perfectly. My husband also reminds me that I am beautiful in my skin color and that he fell in love with me and loved me because I am “morena.” I hope that there will be more articles like this to help more women like me who still feel a little unhappy when they hear negative comments about their skin color. By the way, I love makeup and I feel very proud when I put on lipstick or blush that complements my skin tone. :) But I don’t always wear makeup. Many thanks to my dear spouse who calls me pretty sans the makeup. God bless!

  17. adz says:

    people judge beauty in terms of color, majority will say fairer skin are beautiful than any color. I am a brown skinned person too, before i will spend a lot just to make my self fairer but what I got is a pale and more sensitive skin.
    i also had a difficulty in choosing colors of my dress, i hate red orange, pink, green and any color that will make me darker. I had only white, brown and white colors of dress which I think complements my color…But now I love my skin, it is what God (and my parents too :] ) gave to me, Like Mara, my boyfriend loves my color, which he describe as a beautiful color.he is the one who is encouraging me to wear and try different color, I realized that its not the color but the way how you carry and handle your self as a woman.

    I admire Halle Berry, Tyra Banks and of our very own Ma. Venus Raj who stands out because of their skin color

  18. Teresa says:

    Hi Karen!

    Let just say, I think you’re beautiful. I’ve never understood this obsession with skin color. I’m white, and I guess sometimes I do feel better when I’m a little more tanned. I’m white with really pale skin. I get alot of comments about how pale I am from time to time, but honestly I don’t care anymore. With all the lighter skinned girls come out (i.e. Dita VonTeese, and Kristen Bell, etc) I think it’s pretty hip. LOL. But I really don’t get this obsession. Have you ever noticed how in America all of the white girls want to be darker, and in the Philippines the girls want to be lighter. I just don’t get it. I do wish that this there would be more diverse options when it comes to makeup. My sister is Filipina, who is there prettiest person in the world to me, is always telling me how hard it is to find the right shade of foundation and concealer. It’s so easy for a white or black female to find makeup, but when you are anything but it becomes so much harder.
    But to all the brown skinned ladies, you are beautiful. I really wish you could truly see it. I wish there were more Asian, Indian, etc actors in American films, music and modeling. There is not enough focus on other cultures, and so all there is to focus on is white… because that’s all you see in the media. I’m not hating on my own skin color, I just feel that there should be more Tia Carreres and Aishwariya Rai’s out there. :)
    Ignore the haters that are out there. They are jealous, and they’re only trying to bring you down. Keep doing what you’re doing and continue to be beautiful :)
    Teresa recently posted … Make-Up &amp Hair Time

  19. Rosa Oldham says:

    I loved reading this. Im a Filipina with dark skin and grew up hearing my mom and my sister saying Youre SOOOO Dark what we gonna do with you and your dark skin??? I heard this from their friends and most other relatives, which led me to not talk to other people of my culture, because if my family represented “being” Filipino, then I did not want any part of it. I stayed away from other Filipinos all around me from grade school until now, soon turning 40, to this day walk away from even polite chit chat with other Filipinos.

    My mother is very very fair skinned with green eyes and my father very dark, and all of my brothers and sister are light but me. I truly felt like the black sheep and ‘dirty’ member of my family.

    Reading this brought back so many memories of childhood, distinctly hearing “parang negra” and “sobra ma-itim”, so therefore I admit, Ive stayed away from all Filipino activities social functions and friendship. I married a Japanese man who considers my dark skin beautiful. God bless him, Im grateful he thinks Im beautiful. We have a son together and am making sure he makes friends who are good people, not light or dark people.

  20. Yvonne says:

    Thanks for sharing Karen! I felt the very same way growing up and occasionally still do. I am Filipino American and I was born and raised in Hawaii. Although Hawaii is such a melting pot of cultures, I still experienced the negativity of having brown skin. My mother is fair skinned Filipino and my father is dark skinned Filipino. My skin darkened as I went to the beach often as a child and played sports. It is sad to watch the TFC channel and see so many pale skinned filipinos! Why are we so divided in our own culture! The color of the skin should not matter. It’s all about who are as people and how we treat each other. Finally, from high school I realized that I am beautiful no matter what shade I am! I was beautiful in the inside! I am thankful for what God made me.

  21. Sahara says:

    Hi Karen, all i wanna say is that you are gorgeous :D Am brown-or dark (as heard by almost everyone I know), but let me tell you that I am PROUD of it.. I got so sick of hearing am dark, brown, so tanned, black that now, i ignore all comments that any of my white friends tell me, that they’ve started thinking they’re flawed and am the best hehe :D I take it so positive n ow, I have a bit of asian big eyes and am brown and easily find makeup, when i get on theed train, i find all white girls staring at me or rude to me until one day, a cute white guy complimented me and said, white girls are rude to you because they see me as a potential threat!!! :D SO, proud yourself on what you have girl-We are beautiful as any other human being. @ Gerry-i really wanna get to know you-am in Australia too….pls reply to me..waiting (blushing) xx

  22. fitness girl says:

    Lots of filipina ladies here are posting and im one of that..all i can say is being brown or dark skin is not an issue..why there are so many people overeacting of what we are..

    Black is beautiful go fili[pina girls!!!!

  23. Lily says:

    Hi Karen,
    Thank you for sharing the topic. I myself have similar experience with you. But now I’ve grown up and realized that being dark coloured person is not bad after all and it’s not even a curse. I believe God created us for a reason and every creations are BEAUTIFUL and no one is UGLY.

    And for Sammie I really like your comment – “People were always like “Why are you so brown?” or whatever, and let me tell you, it REALLY got me. I mean, what sort of question is that anyway?”

    Black is Mysterious…

  24. voodoogirl says:

    i just saw this post while searching randomly on google.

    i’m filipino too… have you been here, to the philippines, lately? there are whitening products everywhere, it’s nuts. it’s like everyone is obsessed with it.

    i’m glad you’re proud of our color :)
    voodoogirl recently posted … Chanel Rouge Allure Emotive Glossimer Myriade

  25. Anna says:

    Just found this post now, and I’m so glad you’re proud of your Filipino color! I’m also a Filipino, but my mom is of Spanish decent so she’s fair skinned as opposed to myself. So I felt that I had to do all the whitening they were endorsing on TV and the magazines to be considered pretty. Coz in my mind, no guy would like a dark girl like me AND that the basis of beauty was fairer skin tone. Blame it on the relatives who called me “maitim” when I was little because my dad has dark skin. But then my grandmother who is a retired nurse in Florida said that tan was all the rage these days, plus my color was just fine the way it was, that there was absolutely nothing wrong with me. So now, I’m living brown and proud! :D

  26. stella says:

    I am so sorry to hear this story, makes me wonder why Anglos run around trying to roast their skinand get skin cancer to be dark GO FIGURE lol I am a dark latina and I am proud of it and have never run into these social issues THANK GOODNESS. Darker the better! the saying “black dont crack applies”

  27. Swati says:

    Hello karen.
    Im a indian 21st yr old..dear,me too experiancd many such situations as u explaind..wen i was child,it was continuously bumbarded on ma mind dat i was a dark n most ugly child f ma family..i ws shattered.it took 20 yr of ma life feeling so,bt rite now im complitely,out f this feeling,by making ma mind myself..dear keep in mind, brown is beautiful,and we hv 2 prove it,n we wil.! Ok..belive me,.we brown beauties r d most beautiful women of d world..belive in yo self n say.,im d most beutiful person f world,im d best,im d best f best,im versatil lady.ok,god bles u..

  28. Camilla says:

    wow!. I’m so glad because you are proud of your skin color i wish all filipina and filipino does and i hope they will stop discriminating black people like they do to our negrito/ita tribes.. I am filipina myself and my skin is so damn white i think it’s because of my spanish descent. My relatives, and friends are always stunnin’ about my fair white skin because most of them are brown, tan and lite they always ask what lotion or beauty products am i using even though i don’t use anything. i am white in the sight of everyone but for me i am forever BROWN and PROUD!.

  29. Irma says:

    Hello everyone, Karen especially,

    I stumbled on this blog while searching for makeup ideas for some special occasion and I happened to have dark complexion. I’m an Indonesian, and here too, the similar story happened.
    I once read a book(or an article, i forgot which one) saying that, the Indonesians’ obsession on white/fair/bright(whatever term the so called beauty ads now bombarding us every single second every day) stemmed from longtime colonialisation by the Dutch, thus come the idea that fairer skin is better living, etc, etc….

    I think the writer had a point, but also the ideals on media is (almost) always epitomized beauty in fair skin had the part in creating what i called ‘white frenzy’. Here, we have so many products that claimed can whitened, brightened, whatever …. skin in 7,14, 21, 30 days ( i wonder why never 8,16,24,32 days, or any other combination)

    so, I’m grateful for what you write which could be found as different voice in this seemingly global “effort” to diminished people’s value into just skin deep

  30. glitterglee says:

    Hello Miss Karen!
    I really, really know how it feels to be commented by people who see black or morena as negative. To make things worse, they would convince you to use whitening soaps, creams, lotions, pills, and everything else that would make my skin tone lighter. I hate it. What is so wrong with my complexion? It’s not like being dark is a disease. Anyway, thank you for sharing this. I am determined to prove people that being morena is beautiful. And people who are born with this complexion shouldn’t be ashamed.

  31. lyrna says:

    hi karen..thanks 4 sharing an encouraging article which boast every dark and tan womans beauty into a higher level. i am a filipina and had a dark/brown color,its true that some teased and laughed at brown while some praise and admire that black is beauty. it’s painful when other people mock at my color but i always ignore them coz this is what i am i was born to be brown though i tried using some reccomended whitening i never transform the original..and i am so grateful that i am not alone suffering from this kind of mockery,..black is beauty so stand for it and be proud that we are born with this color..if we are white who then will set an example and a model of the brown?mabuhay brown and black..

  32. Gen says:

    I can relate to this post. My father was of Native American background. As a child, he and my Mom would caution me about being in the sun too long. Before they were married, my Mom’s friends had told her he was ‘too dark”. Daddy had mahagony skin. My brother and I inherited the same skin tone, my sister and other brother are fair and blue eyed. When I am in the sun even for a short time, I brown up immediately. It has taken me a long time to get comfortable looking at myself in the mirror and seeing the brown skinned girl look back. Not because I have a problem with it (I thought Daddy the most handsome man in the world) but because it brings back memories of a lady brushing my cousin’s blonde hair and saying how pretty she was and then looking over at me and saying, “You’re pretty too, but you’re so dark.” I always wanted the blonde Barbie dolls after that. It’s taken a long time to accept myself and see me as my husband says he see me: exotic and beautiful. My stepson saw me not long ago for the first time this summer and he was startled and he said, “Are you Indian?” “You’re so dark”..to which I was able to stop the cringe and said, proudly… “Yes,… I am.” Dark is beautiful too. : )

  33. Jacquline says:

    Wow Karen, it was really nice to read about your experiences and thoughts on being ‘really brown.’ I have had the same issues and problems every since I was young. Now I’m almost 30 and it still is something I struggle with. I can honestly say that I have more self esteem and more pride in my brown skin, more than ever. Being in school, it was a little tough. I’m Hispanic, and honestly, the Hispanic peers I had were more of a jab at my side about this. Like when you said about your Filipino family telling you to come inside before you get too dark, hahaha, I can totally relate to that!
    Now I have 3 children – but my 3 year old girl, looks just like me, same skin tone and everything, and I see her and think she is the most beautiful child ever! How could I feel like that about myself at that time!?? I’m just praying and praying it doesn’t become a issue for her someday!!

    Thanks again :)
    Jacquline recently posted … A Baby’s Blog :)

  34. Evie says:

    I remember my grandmother screaming and running after me when I would play outside. She would run out with an umbrella.

    Yes in the Philippines, for so many years, our beauty queens were always mestizas.

  35. Nazora says:

    Thankyou for this article.
    I’m a teenager from Bangladesh. When I was younger I used to cry every day because of the colour of my skin. I used to pray that it would get lighter.My parents always told me it didn’t matter, but hey I was a kid. And at that age, mean remarks hurt even more. It starts from the roots and I think parents should teach their kids to refrain from being mean to others, just because they are different.
    What’s surprising is that even today, the same people have grown up, but haven’t developed common sense. Some of these people are my friends and they don’t even realize that they’re hurting me.
    I’ve decided to follow your idea and point out how it’s rude to ask such questions. Since they are so stupid that they can’t understand their comments are bothering me, I should definitely point it out.

  36. Yamumay says:

    I used to get that a lot too when I was young! I have darker skin like (Morena) golden yellow and when I play outside in the hot sun of Philippines I would get dark….like reaaaally dark. Many of the kids I played with called the ones with really dark skin Ita or aeta or other derogatory terms. My grandmother used to scold me then when I was out for long. Now in the US winter months i get pale and sallow, and I look yellow green in pictures! I really like my dark skin and would prefer it over me looking sick (during winter).

  37. Zee says:

    Hi, I have the same experience. Ever since I was a little girl, people have the same comment– “Maitim!” (translation: too dark). Like it’s crime to be dark. I went to a party and I overheard one uncle saying to his nephew, “she’s pretty but she’s dark”. One girl even told me, “Oh, if only you are fair, boys will come after you”. Another comment I will never forget is, “Filipinos with dark skin looks disgusting. It looks like they have mud on their skin. They look dirty.” This person said this on my face. And he says, “Oops, I’m sorry”. I had never ever felt beautiful when I was in the Philippines because I was never at par with the petite, fair or lighter skinned Filipinas. I always thought I’m ugly. When I came to the United States, for the 1st time, I felt pretty. I am pretty not in the eyes of our own countrymen, but in the eyes of whites, blacks, Latinos and other races. How I wish my own countrymen would appreciate dark-skinned Filipinas like me.

  38. Blaise says:

    This post has been around for quite some time but I can still very much relate. I am also a Filipino, brown-skinned, and I started getting conscious when my mother (who is fair-skinned) started telling me as a child (probably, with good intentions) that I still look good EVEN IF I have brown/dark skin. That made me conscious and aware! And then later on my relatives would tell me that they wish it’s my face which is fair and not my legs (yes, I do have fair-colored legs). What the heck?!? Now, I embrace my color.

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