WHEN Dominique Maber was bullied so badly at school, her only wish was that she had white skin so it would all stop.
The then teen thought she was being teased and taunted because she was one of a few people growing up in a town where everyone else was light skinned.
So at the age of 12 she began using risky skin lightening treatments in a bid to become lighter and fit in, something she now wishes she never did.
Now aged 20, the model and actor wishes she could go back in time and tell that silly young girl not to be so stupid.
The Brisbane woman, who was born to a Sri Lankan mother and British father, said her parents told her she was beautiful even when people here teased her about her darker skin.
“But when I went back to mother’s village, people would touch my skin and comment how beautiful it was – because it was lighter,” she said.
“There white is considered beautiful and people think if they’re white they’re rich and treated like royalty.”
Ms Maber said that experience and the bullying contributed to her decision to start using the skin treatments considered by some Sri Lankans to be just as harmless as teeth whitening products.
But she stopped after getting a severe reaction and now wishes she never used it.
Ms Maber is just one of the stories on Change My Race on SBS, and while her actions were drastic, the show uncovers many other drastic actions taken by Australians and others overseas who are literally risking their lives to become white.
She also meets one Aussie teen whose parents want her to have surgery to look more western.
But what she discovers is not just a simple case of nip and tuck surgery. She finds people ready and willing to undergo procedures including extreme facial contouring, double eyelid surgery, nose jobs, skin whitening and calf reductions.
Dominique Maber, right, with mum Nona and one of her best friends Laura Hill. Picture: SuppliedSource: Supplied
In the Gangnam district alone, she discovers more than 500 cosmetic surgery clinics located in an area known as the “beauty belt” where people are being transformed from top to toe.
What she discovers is frightening – that the desired idea of beauty is one based on the western look influenced ‘baby face’, with big eyes, a high-bridged nose, a pointed chin and V-lined face.
Ms Maber stopped her treatment before it caused lasting damage but she now wants to warn anyone thinking of doing the same to stop and think.
“I felt this moisturiser I was using was a mask, but looking back I realise how crazy and dangerous this was,” she said.
“I wish I could go back in time and hug that little girl and tell her she will get through this.
“If someone wants to change their appearance, there’s obviously a reason for it and for me it was low self esteem and bullying.”
Her message for anyone wanting to change their race is clear.
“We are always wanting something we can’t have,” she said.
“But be comfortable in the skin you’re in,” she said.