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To shine a spotlight on local literary magazines, Kill Your Darlings is showcasing the work of exciting publishers across the country. In this instalment, meet More than Melanin, an independent publication based in Melbourne. We chat to founder Kanika Chopra, who shares a piece of creative non-fiction from the magazine’s latest print edition, End of the World.

Why did you start More Than Melanin?

I wanted Bla(c)k people and people of colour to have a place where they can write and not have to tokenise their experiences of being marginalised to have their work published. I especially wanted to make room for LGBTQIA+ people and for women in these communities.

This was also a challenge to see if I could produce and publish a print magazine almost single-handedly. I wanted to use this publication as a way for me to explore different forms and topics of writing I’m interested in learning more about, immersing myself in it through curating and editing the different issues.

Could you describe the magazine in five words?

Unique, vibrant, fun, experimental and diverse.

What kind of writing do you publish?

Each issue has had a different theme. The first issue Environments felt like a trial so just generally good (poetic, thoughtful, emotional) writing that fit within this theme.

The second one, Intimacy in Solitude, was the poetry edition, since I was really interested in exploring that specific form in the depths of the lockdowns. The poems selected were based on rhythm, how it looked on the page, how it sounded out loud and/or how it made you feel. With the second issue, I also tried to make poetry seem more accessible to the public, as it can feel quite intimidating to a person who doesn’t really immerse themselves in the literary arts.

For issue three, End of the World, the writing I was looking for was silly, fun, sarcastic and absurd but also reflective and ruminative. As each issue is so different, the kind of writing I look for varies. However, if I had to find a common thread through all the writing that I publish is that I hope it makes you feel something and stays with you long after you’ve finished reading.

Any exciting projects that writers should know about?

We recently launched Issue 3, and it is available to purchase at our online shop.

Images: Nisha Hunter. Source: Instagram.

Where can writers and readers find you?

You can find the magazine online at www.morethanmelanin.com.au. I’m most active on Instagram, so the handle @morethnmelanin is the place to go for up-to-date news.

Can you tell us a bit about the piece you’re sharing today?

Darla pitched this piece to me, and I was immediately intrigued by the idea of ‘Smoothness’ and the infantilisation of femme bodies that is marketed to all of us and tells us we will never be enough.

As I read Darla’s pitch, I saw the piece coming together as a satirical piece on the beauty industry (complete with a fake ad inspired by MAD magazine). The writing is interspersed with beautiful and personal literary prose, adding such a warm contrast to what the rest of the work is doing. I had a wonderful time as an editor, challenging my ability to see where we could punch up the humour and absurdity of the writing. From coming up with a fake product to Darla’s idea of using the strike-through feature as a mode of communicating the way we are lied to by the beauty industry, it was such a pleasure to work on this piece with Darla!

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‘Smothered’ by Darla Tejada

‘It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.’

—Oscar Wilde

Smooth is what a woman should be, should strive for. And it’s a mystery, this obsession-infatuation-demand for smoothness.

Why is texturelessness so alluring? Wouldn’t a body with a varied landscape engage and excite the pads of fingers, the palms of hands, more? A finger snagged in a tangle while combing through hair eliciting a small burst of pain-pleasure along the scalp. Tracing the tributaries of stretch marks flowing down stomachs and thighs. Is a blank canvas as captivating as a portrait? Depth created by dark and light along the living surface of skin.

The ideal woman must be beautiful and to be beautiful is to be feminine and to be feminine is to be smooth. So let the smoothering begin until her body is razed to womanhood.

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Are you a woman who hates the way she looks? Just gaze at your reflection in the looking glass! Are you overwhelmed by all the shampoos, conditioners, oils, gels, mousses, aerosol-propelled sprays, dyes, depilatory and/or shaving creams, moisturisers, lotions, serums, balms, tints, toners, masks and other fluids of varying viscosities and (alleged) purposes? Most definitely! The billion-dollar profit of the hair negligencecare and anti-hagageing industries are swindled from your wallets, especially if you’re a woman (though we are doing our best to make men feel insecure about their hair or lack thereof and overall appearance). Are you tired of the 666-step smoothering self-care routine? Well, your prayers have been answered!

From the Not’Réal group (one of the seven beauty monopolies that own every brand that preys on your inculcated insecurity) comes The Beauty Standard (BS) company’s new 3-in-1 concoction, SmootheredTM, that will address all your hair, face and body needs! For just $14000*, you can buy yourself a 500ml bottle of this miracle poison potion!


*Price takes into consideration the profit maintenance of the Not’Réal group, which will increase yearly according to inflation and the escalating costs of photographers, photo editors, propaganda commercials and advertisements that peddle promote the efficacy of SmootheredTM by using professionally hairstyled models and green screens. The BS company is a strictly for-profit, non-charitable organisation.

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You’ve never had the chances you’ve given me. I am overwhelmed now that I’m near the age you had me. How much uncertainty and turbulence I’ve caused you and how you dealt with it. How I would be incapable of charting through those rough waters. I fear I am the cause of your life’s unsmoothness.

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Do you want smooth, attractive hair that communicates youth and reproductive viability (after all, marriage and motherhood are the pinnacle of womanhood)? Through the daily use of SmootheredTM, the unmanageable, frizzy, curly-textured, brittle, bone-dry, limp and damaged monstrosity you dare call hair will transform* into the straight, voluminous and lustrous locks you’ve always wanted! For a longer-lasting effect, buy SmootheredTM: Devil’s Breath Blow Dryer for just $666 and dry immediately after washing. When the abhorrent un-smoothness of the hair inevitably returns, use SmootheredTM: Satan’s Heat Hair Straightener, for another $666, to manage hair in between washes or simply rinse and repeat!

What’s more, SmootheredTM chemical compounds that have been banned in over sixty-nine countries and aren’t worth mentioning because the general public is too uninformed to pronounce much less know about them strengthen the pigment cells in the hair follicles, preventing the proliferation of unsightly white/silver/grey hairs and ensuring uniformity of the hair’s natural colour.

*Transformation lasts up to three hours and is dependent on humidity, genetics, extent of initial hair damage and the Product Batch Number of SmootheredTM: Devil’s Breath Blow Dryer(010319–011122 spontaneously combusts due to faulty wiring).

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‘Darl, pwedeng paki bunot ng puting buhok?’ You would ask while reclined, the few times you allowed yourself to rest. Neck in a slight curve, cradling the soft edge of the sofa cushion, hair already swept across the pillow’s top and falling against the sofa’s back. Your eyes closed. I wouldn’t answer, only take my place behind you. Part your hair from the crown. Push aside the drape of brown to reveal the silver beneath. When we were both younger you would ask, ‘Marami na ba?’ I could hear the timbre of worry, even then. Now you ask, ‘Mukha na ba kong matanda?’

What do you mean when you ask me this? Am I still beautiful? Am I still of value? How much have I given up? How long do I have left?

I know the silver in your hair makes you look regal. An accolade that you’ve earned. I know that you haven’t told me all that you’ve sacrificed, and I know that even if you did I wouldn’t be able to understand. Not completely. I know that I am as fearful of the spread of silver even as I admire it on you.

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Are you pressured and shamed into removing the hair that naturally grows on your body by family, friends, intimate partners or complete strangers? With SmootheredTM, recapture a smooth and hairless prepubescent physique that is the idealised depiction of women’s bodies in the media! For an additional fee of $69.69 with every purchase of SmootheredTM, get our free SmootheredTM: Steel-Soft Scrubber*. Say goodbye to the pain caused by forcibly extracting body hair down to the white bulb of its root, damaging/destroying hair follicles using the concentrated heat of a laser or scraping a blade against skin to cut down the hairs from the base and say hello to the pain caused by chemical burns and rough exfoliation.

Eight per cent of women reported an increase in desire and desirability due to the tingle caused by the reconfiguration of natural, organic and biodegradable elements of SmootheredTM devised by scientists who do not take into consideration the diversity of hair and how they interact with the ingredients of SmootheredTM.

*Due to the aforementioned chemical compound that strengthens pigment cells, purchasing SmootheredTM: Steel-Soft Scrubber is necessary to achieve SmootheredTM hair removal properties. Be particularly forceful when scrubbing in areas with coarse hairs to ensure efficacy. If pain, irritation or bleeding occurs consume SmootheredTM: Soothing Sedateave ($130 per box of ten sachets) to calm your hysterics skin.

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When I was a little girl and Ma held me in an embrace, I liked to play with the coarse hairs on her forearm. It grew thick and dense, dark hair against light skin. Fingers splayed, I would brush it against the growth and pretend the standing hairs were water waves. Then I would pat it down or trace my finger perpendicular and reconfigure the flow. Weave new patterns, make new art out of hair.

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Are your face and body showing signs of ageing because of the inevitable march of time? SmootheredTM may will give you the effect of botox, dermal filler and a face/body lift using barely legal ingredients, along with placebo and delusion. Due to the borderline biohazardous formulation of SmootheredTM, the fluid will disintegrate the layer of dead skin cells to reveal the younger, smoother and brighter complexion underneath. SmootheredTM will also seep through the pores and ooze into the epidermis, simultaneously exacerbating* the production of collagen and tightening the skin, getting rid of the fine lines and wrinkles accumulated from years of showing emotions, as well as stretch marks and cellulite from being a living, growing human being or even incubating a human life inside of you!

The BS company also boasts exercise equipment from our Rundown Treadmill ($300675) to our Watch-your-Weight Dumbbell Set ($111199) made from the finest Italian iron to help you bulldoze the rolls, bulges, hip dips and other unsightly natural features of a human body. SmootheredTM: Soothing Sedateave also facilitates keeping you trim via frequent defecation (drink with SmootheredTM: herlastStraw to prevent the mouth wrinkles acquired from regular straws).

*SmootheredTM Soothing Sedateave may cause heart, lung and kidney problems, as well as tingling and numbness that will prevent you from facial emoting and/or muscle movement.

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I think of Ma’s hands, how they’re the place that shows her age. The nicks of the knife’s edge and small circles of discolouration from oil splashes. The web of lines that are no longer contained on the palms. I admire her asbestos hands. The dexterity they exhibit in every task Ma puts her mind to. Their stamina during days when there’s too much to juggle, when two hands aren’t enough. I admire their strength even when I have borne the brunt. I think of the marks I left on Ma’s body. How those stretchmarks like stalactites down her stomach are portrayed as monstrous instead of majestic. The stretching of muscle and skin to house a child within their own bodies. I abhor how the word mother confines and limits when it’s expansive and limitless. How motherhood requires the wounding of a body, the drawing of blood. Yet instead of celebrating their survival, we ask them to rend their scars and remove the evidence of their strength for the sake of smoothness.


Find more at More than Melanin.