Remember how exciting it was when you got that brand-new variety pack of Crayola crayons or pencil crayons, with their perfectly unused points all lined up in a dazzling rainbow of colors? You could instantly see the dozens of beautiful creations you were going to make, dancing through your head. There was one problem with this rainbow of colors, however, that you may not have even noticed as a child: there was only one “skin colored crayon”. But now, there are multiple skin tone crayons!
Each pack of Crayola crayons contained one light beige crayon that was named “skin color”. To a caucasian child, this would’ve made sense- after all, their own skin color matched the crayon. But for a child of a different ethnicity or background, it didn’t. A black child, an Asian child, an Indian child, all have varying shades of skin, none of which are available to them in that Crayola Variety pack.
To solve this issue, the crayon company is rolling out a new variety pack that will represent the skin colors of children all over the world.
Skin tone crayons for the world
The new “Colors of the World” multipack of crayons features 24 colors that are separated into three main shades: almond, golden, and rose. All of the darker and lighter colors fall in between these three shades . It’s available in a 32 pack as well, which offers eight more colors for eyes and hair, four for each.
The crayons were created through a partnership with Victor Casale, who is the former chief chemist and managing director of research and development for MAC Cosmetics, the co-founder and chief administration officer of Cover FX, and the CEO of MOB Beauty .
“Together, Casale and Crayola systematically created crayon colors that step down from light to deep shades across rose, almond and golden undertones, resulting in a 24 global shade palette that authentically reflects the full spectrum of human complexions.” 
The side panels of the box feature a color reference guide and the name of each crayon is written in English, Spanish, and French. Crayola CEO Rich Wuerthele is hoping that these new crayons will foster a greater sense of belonging and acceptance in an increasingly diverse world.
“We want the new Colors of the World crayons to advance inclusion within creativity and impact how kids express themselves,” he said .
With colors such as “light golden”, “deep almond”, and “medium deep rose”, all children will be able to find a color that represents who they are.
The Importance of Representation
While this may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things, this step taken by Crayola is monumental in creating a more inclusive future for our children.
Representation in media and other areas is crucial in helping children achieve their potential as adults. The early experiences a child has shapes what they imagine to be possible for their future. Put simply, kids determine what they can be based on examples around them.
“Our children’s early experiences — including the hours spent consuming media — shape what they imagine to be possible for people who look like them, live where they live, or come from where they came from,” says Laura Thomas, Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal and the Antioch Critical Skills Program; Elementary Library Media Specialist .
If children never see someone who looks like them as superheroes, CEOs, doctors or occupying any other celebrated role, they subconsciously begin to think that those roles aren’t available to them. Likewise, if the only “skin color” crayon they can find in the box is light beige, that is a subtle message to them that there is something abnormal about them. Like they have the incorrect color.
Recently, we have begun seeing successful films like Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians, in which the main characters are cultural minorities. The overwhelming response to these movies from minority groups was how refreshing it was to see a version of themselves on screen, and this has pointed out the importance of representation in the media.
Progress, But there’s Still Work to be Done
PBS interviewed high school students to get their opinions on representation. They found that while most of them see the recent inclusion of cultural minorities, in roles previously reserved for Caucasian males, as a good thing, there is still work to be done.
Kimore Willis, a junior at Etiwanda High School in California, explained that when you never see people that look like you occupying leading roles on the big screen, you start to ask yourself why that is, and it can be damaging to your self-esteem.
“We need to see people that look like ourselves and can say, ‘Oh, that looks like me!’ or ‘I identify with that,’” said Sonali Chhotalal, a junior at Cape May Technical High School in New Jersey .
There is still some disagreement as to whether or not the media and film industry is doing enough to represent people of all races, religions, and gender identities, most of the students agreed that seeing themselves represented was empowering.
“If you see people who look like you and act like you and speak like you and come from the same place you come from … it serves as an inspiration,” said South Mountain High School student Dazhane Brown .
One Small Step Forward
Crayola’s new color palette is one more step toward a more inclusive world, and if a young child can now represent themselves accurately in their own creations, who knows where that confidence will lead them in the future.
- “CRAYOLA RELEASED CRAYONS WITH 24 SKIN TONE SHADES SO EVERY CHILD CAN COLOR THEMSELVES ACCURATELY.” Kid Activities Blog. Brittanie. May 5, 2021.
- “All children can color themselves with new Crayola Colors of the World crayons in 24 shades of skin tone.” Pennlive. Deb Kiner. May 21, 2020.
- “Crayola unveils new packs of crayons to reflect world’s skin tones.” CNN. Ganesh Setty. May 22, 2020.
- “Why Representation Matters.” Edutopia. Laura Thomas August 22, 2016.
- “Why on-screen representation matters, according to these teens.” PBS. November 14, 2019.