This model was bullied for her dark skin. Her story is all too familiar.

I can't take my eyes off Khoudia Diop's beautiful skin.

Even in pictures, it's easy to get lost in it. Deep and rich, like a thousand night skies. She refers to herself on Instagram as the "melanin goddess," which would normally be boastful and trite, if it weren't so clearly true.

But not everyone sees her beauty, or her worth. Diop was called names and bullied for her skin color as a kid.

“Growing up, I faced it by confronting the bullies," she told The Daily Mail U.K. "As I grew, I learned to love myself more every day, and not pay attention to the negative people.”

Today, the 19-year-old is leaning into her unique, stunning complexion by working as a model. Her 303,000 Instagram followers can't get enough of her striking look.

"If you’re lucky enough to be different, don’t ever change," she said.

Though Diop wrote her own happy ending, bullying around colorism is all too common and rooted in historic and systemic issues.

Colorism is the false and outdated notion that the closer people are in complexion to the white or fair-skinned ideal, the better. Complexions that are closer to white are seen as prettier, smarter, more worthy of time, and more worthy of attention. But too often this leads to bullying and discrimination for people of color with darker complexions, from within and outside the same racial or ethnic group.

This issue is complex and has deep historical roots.

Slaves with lighter skin were often assigned to work in the house, while slaves with darker complexions were sent to the fields. This practice continued for decades, turning into discriminatory exercises like the paper bag test. That's where a brown paper bag was used as a kind of "skin-tone barometer" for privileges, like access to certain churches or black Greek life at colleges and universities. Those lighter than the bag were welcomed in. Darker than the bag? Not so much.

Photo by iStock.

But as stories like Diop's illustrate, colorism is not just a thing of the past, and it affects people of color of all complexions. Those with lighter skin may find others challenging their authenticity and their "black experience." Men and women with darker skin or coarser hair may not see themselves represented in the media, specifically as love interests or idealized depictions of beauty.

And colorism is a difficult thing to combat because this type of prejudice and internalized racism begins when we're young.

In 2010, Margaret Beale Spencer, a leading researcher in the field of child development from the University of Chicago, was recruited by CNN to recreate the famed "baby doll test" from the 1940s.  In the original, black and white children were asked questions about whether they favored a white doll or a white doll painted brown. The results showed both white and black children had a bias toward the white or lighter skin doll.

When Spencer conducted a version of the test more than 60 years later, though, she found that the results had changed, but not by much. White and black children still have white bias, though black kids have far less than their white peers.

Photo by iStock.

"All kids on the one hand are exposed to the stereotypes," Spencer told CNN. "What's really significant here is that white children are learning or maintaining those stereotypes much more strongly than the African-American children. Therefore, the white youngsters are even more stereotypic in their responses concerning attitudes, beliefs and attitudes and preferences than the African-American children."

It's a grim reminder that historical, external, and media-driven forces behind colorism are having an impact on all of us, no matter our race or ethnicity.

That's why people like Khoudia Diop are so important.

Watching Diop, and stars like Viola Davis and Leslie Jones, find success in their respective industries is a strong indictment against the narratives that women with dark skin are undesirable or unworthy of admiration or respect. But it doesn't mean their journeys are easy or smooth. All of these strong women experience bigotry and ignorant comments, not just from the dregs of the internet, but from critics who should know better too.

Jones experienced intense online harassment this summer when trolls lobbed insults and images of gorillas her way. Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images.

Colorism is real. We live it every day. And speaking out and talking about it, like Khoudia Diop, is the first step to putting an end to it.

Whether or not you're a famous face, it's important to speak out against colorism.

Check your friends and family when they make ignorant and prejudiced comments. Support brands, magazines, and movies that showcase people of color with darker complexions. Signal boost voices when those who've been discriminated against are brave enough to tell their stories. Buy dolls and picture books with protagonists of color for the children in your life.

There's a lot we can do to weaken the hold colorism has on our society so more folks like Diop can rise to the top of their fields.  And it starts with all of us.

Photo by iStock.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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via Hennepin County Sheriff

The verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin, a former Minnesota police officer convicted of murdering George Floyd, has many breathing a sigh of relief. Even though the disturbing video evidence of Floyd dying under Chauvin's knee is impossible to refute, it's incredibly hard to convict an officer of murder.

The United States judicial system is so preferential to law enforcement that even though the world saw murder in broad daylight, many were skeptical of whether he'd be convicted.

"Most people, I think, believe that it's a slam dunk," David Harris, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh and an expert in policing, told the Washington Post before the trial. "But he said, "the reality of the law and the legal system is, it's just not."

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.