Frustrations of an Ethnic Avatar in Second Life

My real life identity and ethnicity bleeds into my Second Life; I am a Hispanic/Black male and would like to have my avatar resemble my ethnicity and race. Within Second Life I’ve found that this can be a hard, tiring and frustrating process. The reasons are not technical in nature, it has nothing to do with my inability to wear skins or a graphics card failure; it has everything to do with inaccurate and insufficient content. While there’s an abundance of “dark” or “tan” skins, they do not have the features of the ethnicities and races they represent; clothing, hair, and accessories suffer from a lack of accuracy, identity and quality. This has caused me a great deal of frustration.

I grow more frustrated by the current ethnic content; while many exist, it does not seem correct and lacks details I’m used to in real life. I have yet to find a designer who is completely exempt from my ire. Some designers do better than others but they seem far and few in between. My current avatar has flaws I would like to see fixed by other designers in the very near future. In some sense I feel as if I’m settling for an appearance that does not fit my identity.

Before continuing, I want to be clear about my frustration; it is the inability to represent myself as an Hispanic/Black/Ethnic avatar due to the poor quality and/or limited options available within Second Life. I’m not claiming racism (that I’m denied access due to the color of my skin), if anything I’m saying there’s ignorance (possibly bordering on negligence, although too harsh of a word) among content creators as it pertains to ethnic avatars.

The Examples

I’m shocked by the amount of effort it takes finding a skin with features, details, traits that are common in real life. While there are many “tan” and “dark” skins, many (if not all) are darker representations of their lighter counterparts. They lack certain characteristics to accurately represent ethnic people. An example is scalp hair, which is drawn on the scalp of the skin as a way to represent short hair. In real life, many Hispanics and Blacks have very short hair, but in Second Life, not all ethnic skins have this option. The few that do, the hair tends to be brown and not the more common black. There’s also a lack of hair style, low shaved heads are usually clean cut, some include a ‘widows peak’, others are faded, or military cut (cut low showing the scalp). This example may seem like a very issue, however this is one of the most important aspects that should be available for those wanting an ethnic avatar. I purposely avoid skins that lack this trait regardless of their quality.

Hair style may not seem important, but it is a major representation of ethnic identity. Dreadlocks aren’t grown just because they are cute, there’s a reason, a commitment and a story behind them. There are some very well done and authentic dreadlocks in Second Life, however it’s one of only three black hairstyles that seems to exist; afro’s and cornrows are the other two. While these hairstyles are the most distinctive they are not the only ethnic hair styles. Creators may want to take a look at other styles including the flat-tops, buns, and fro-hawks to add more diversity to their hair designs.

The choice of avatar clothing further exasperates this issue. “Urban” clothing doesn’t seem to represent urban clothing at all, most of these items are city clothing (jeans, faded t-shirts, etc). “Ethnic” clothing tends to be stereotypical Hip-Hop/gangsta’ replicas of actual clothing that are poorly designed. A middle-ground does not exist and the true style of urban clothing is void in Second Life. Clothing and accessory designers have created style-like virtual replicas of boots, loafers, and shoes; yet I cannot find a good Timberland boot style. Design styles of popular urban clothing, such as Fubu, and Ecko, aren’t seen often enough (if at all) in Second Life.

The really frustrating (and borderline offensive) aspect of this topic is nothing has changed for some time. I’ve waited close to a year to write this post because I felt I was over reacting. After talking with others about my frustrations, not only did I learn others felt the same way, but they felt just as frustrated regardless of their ethnicity. In circles it has become a bit of a joke and an unspoken issue. It feels like designers are pigeonholing what ethnic avatars should look like, even though it may not be intentional. The references used to create darker skins, clothing, and hair styles seem to be incorrect, misguided and at times afterthoughts. What exists is a small thin slice of a small representation of people. This slice that we got in Second Life misses the wide ethnic cultures including the Caribbean and West Indian style. Designers and content creators need to do a better job in their research.

Excuses and Resolutions

I am further appalled by the explanation for this problem and that so many people (including myself) have been quiet for so long. The only reasonable excuse I come across is that the resources and time designers have are limited and they are stretched very thin. I will agree there is a lot of hard works and effort in designing items in Second Life, but this excuse flies in the face of logic. Many already have “dark” and “tan” skins, t-shirts, and jeans that need require tweaking to their existing product. This excuse ignores the fact that designers are always creating something new! Why not include this as a part of your next release? Another excuse is a very ignorant and stupid one, that is these sorts of items “won’t sell.” The real question is have designers tried? What indicators do they have that these items will not sell? I’m sure, if one shoe designer created a Timberland style of boots, it would sell quite well. In actuality designers are handicapping themselves! I purposely do not buy certain skins, clothing and items because they do not fit my style. If certain items do not exist on the market, why would I purchase them?

I want to be clear as to what I’m recommending. I’m not asking for a slew of poor or high quality, ghetto-fabulous, stereotypical items geared for ethnic avatars. I’m not asking for a “Black” Mall, a “Black” shopping area, or a “Black” fair; these solutions could be construed as offensive, exclusionary, and perform the opposite effect of what I’m hinting at. I’m suggesting that the idea of a “Black Mall” is not even unavailable in Second Life due to the lack of proper content. In a world where creativity and diversity is highly touted, it seems to be lacking on certain fundamental levels. Ethnic avatars are not the only ones suffering from this; I’ve heard for years that the are very little selection in Asian and Middle Eastern styles (I can only speak for myself which is Hispanic/Black.) There’s plenty of ethnic people and clothing references that designers can choose to make their brands more diverse. If designers need a list of people to watch for ideas here is my beginner list: Kayne West, Chris Brown, Samuel L. Jackson, Lawrence Fishburne, Beyonce, Will Smith, Cuba Gooding Jr., Jada Pickett, Tyra Banks, Carlos Mencia, Andy Garcia, Emilio Estefan, Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, and even Ricky Martin.

I am not singling out any one designer, brand or segment, everyone is just as liable. I have many close friends who are designers who personally hear my frustration. I believe designers need to re-evaluate what they have and work on creating more items and content that is more diverse and of equal quality or don’t do it at all (which for many of you is not an option). If there’s anytime to begin this process, now would be a great time with Martin Luther King Day, Obama’s Inauguration (US), and February (African-American History Month in the states) quickly approaching.

Note on the use of the word “Ethnic”: I am really uncomfortable with the term “Ethnic” to describe Black/African-American or Hispanic/Latino people. However I feel in this case, it best represents the topic at hand. When I use this term I am referring to Black and Hispanic-Caribbean.

Comment Note: I purposely left names of designers, clothing, and skin that I feel does a better job than others. The intention of this post is not to highlight or dismiss certain designers for what they are or not doing right. It’s an attempt to shine the light on a much larger issue at hand. Comments are welcomed and encouraged, however I will be moderating them heavily as to prevent finger pointing, advertising, and needless flaming.

54 thoughts on “Frustrations of an Ethnic Avatar in Second Life

  1. I hear you.

    The “urban” clothing issue I’ve been thinking about for awhile, and wondering if I’m just in the wrong VW or the wrong gender. How to find clothes that exemplify a sophisticated urban sensibility without getting “ghetto” or “gansta”? I haven’t found a designer yet that really addresses this, which I find very strange.

    I can’t imagine there is a pacific-islander skin. I should shop more in Korean and Japanese sims.

  2. As the foundation of the avatar, a skin is so important – I know firsthand that Pandora Wrigglesworth’s Clockwork skins have changed my avatar’s appearance and visual personality considerably.

    Up until that point, unable to design anything of my own with a darn (I do not have the skillset or patience for it), I felt frustrated – probably just a fraction of the frustration you feel.

    The lack of choice in ethnic skins sounds like both an opportunity and a challenge. And as the market saturates with more and more of the same, people will want something new, exciting, and of quality.

    Yeah, I know. It feels wrong that something that you think ought to “be there” is, instead, waiting for the fad-wave to hit.

    Perhaps a fair isn’t such a bad idea at all if it raises awareness of both the absence of options out there in the market and the challenge of filling that need? Not only could it put out skins, hair, products… but also perhaps have the designers explain the difficulties and the process of developing these skins? At the absolute worst, it would be an opportunity to see what designers come up with and work with them on improving their products on a friendly basis.

    One thing that provides incentive to many designers is raising funds or awareness for a cause… RFL always brings out designs (even though quite a lot end up just being life-support-for-the-logo). Perhaps linking such a challenge to a worthy cause?

    Oh well. Here’s hoping that the current population of designers rises to that challenge, or that people with time and talent come in with this new wave of residents who recognize there’s an untapped market.


    (Add Morgan Freeman to that list – his appearance combines both a unique expression of ethnicity and age.)

  3. Pingback: Diversity for All… can we haz? « My SLife on the D List: Luna Jubilee & Ranger Theas

  4. I can’t help but wonder how the situation you described would manifest itself if during the year you have been waiting for others to make what you want you stepped up and learned how to create the items yourself?

    If I’m not mistaken (and I probably am) FUBU is an acronym for For Us, By Us. Maybe that could inspire you?

    But then again I might be the wrong person to talk about this… I’m one of those Self-Sufficiency/Homesteading nuts and make it a point not to have to rely one anyone other than myself. :)

  5. I’ve had to make my own for everything – skin, hair, clothing, shoes, even sunglasses – in order to get what I really wanted. While there are a lot of great designers out there, it’s nearly impossible for them to design items for every possible taste. Custom skins and custom clothing has to be considered if one really wants their avatar to be “just right”.

    With that said, if you need a skin that’s really you I’d be happy to design one for you.

  6. I call bullshit on this up and down.

    Make stuff, and sell it. If there is a market for it, it will be bought. That’s all there is to it.

    Any claims of racism (which you cleverly deny you are making), and then backhanded claims of pigeonholding of stereotyping (which is just your way of saying there *is* racism) is crap.

    Every day, we see the ethnic skins and outfits put up on

    If GoSpeed isn’t “real black” enough for you (she’s not black in RL) or if Khit is not “real black” enough for you (I’m not sure WHAT she is in RL), then…make stuff yourself. Sell it. And see if your work can be paid.

    Rather than whining and looking for entitlements, *make it yourself*. You have the talents, *use them*.

    • @prokofy I placed my definition of racism in the post, that is not having access of having limited access to services within Second Life because of my avatars color. That has not happened to me within Second Life. Ignorance is a different, and have alluded that it’s ignorance I’m pointing the finger at, not racism. Your comment about seeing ethic skins and outfits on the fashion feed is correct, however if you re-read my comments I’m saying that they are far and few in between. Many times these are ethnic avatars posting pictures of clothing they are wearing, NOT clothing that is distinctive of ethnic people. I make this claim quite clear with skins, while there many be ethnic skins things are missing.

      Never have I mentioned anything about a person being “real black”; GoSpeed Racer is one of the people who I asked to review a draft of this post to see if I’m completely off my rocker. She agreed with me. By calling out two people in Second Life as “real black” you don’t disprove my point at all. To prove my point you have to ask them what they think. Ask them if they feel that ethnic avatars are missing things and are they frustrated with attempting to create an ethnic identity in Second Life. I will guarantee that they would agree with me.

      As Decavolt has mentioned, I’m not looking for any entitlements, I’m stating a point and hoping content creators take a better look at what they are creating. I’m really saying “if your going to do it, do it right!”

  7. People make what they know. It’s that simple. It might be a statement about the demographics of SL that you’re not finding what you want, but the best and ultimate solution is a diversity of content creators making what they know.

  8. As a skinmaker, I can only comment on skins, but I have a couple of points to make about recurring meme of lack of ethnicity in skins.

    For one thing, the ethnicity of an avatar is conveyed far more by the underlying shape than by the skin. The shading on a skin can’t override the shape beneath. I have shapes that look distinctly “black” even while wearing the lightest skintones, while if I put Chip Midnight’s beautifully made photosourced black skin on my white girl avatar she still looks like a white girl with really dark skin. Skins can only do so much.

    A bigger reason for the lack of ethnic looks is that the avatar shape sliders are very limited. Especially the nose, which really doesnt allow the kind of shapes to get a good convincing ethnic looks. Indian and middle Eastern looks are particularly hard to make because its almost impossible to make the nose curve the way it should.

    Also, its a common complaint that “dark” skins are just light skins tinted darker. Well, yeah, of course they are. You don’t really suppose that skinmakers create the shading for each skintone separately? That would multiply an already large task by as many skintones as are offered.

    The way I work, and I’m sure many other skinmakers too, is I create the base shading on its own layers and then I have color layers that tint it to different shades. There are some fine tunings for the extreme shades on either end, and then makeup is applied and adjusted for each skintone. But the idea is to get as much variety as possible out of each set of shading. There’s only so much a person can do, and you try to get the biggest bang for the buck in the things that you do wind up doing.

    This is part of the reason why alot of skinmakers shy away from dark tones altogether. Once you pass a certain threshhold of darkness, the layers interact differently than than on lighter tones and need to be treated as their own thing. Makeup, hair, topical features all need to be treated differently. Its almost like doing a second entire skin.

    This is probably what people mean when they say that there’s not a big enough market. When i make a skin line, I consider all skintones as part of the same product. No single skintone alone sells enough to justify working on just that tone by itself, so i try to get more mileage by working on them all as a unit. There are inevitably some compromises that have to be made by working this way, as I could get far more subtlety if I were to paint directly in a single skin tone, but then that’s all I would have is one single skintone, and there’d be even less diversity available.

    And anyway, if worse comes to worse, there’s always Eloh Eliot’s free skin PSDs which anyone can mod however they desire.

  9. There’s one comment I expected, and that is the “make it yourself” comment which would be the most logical thing to do. Eloh Eliot’s and Sezmra has free skin PSDs, and I’m sure with enough time and practice I could get a good skin down. However, I’m not a designer. It may take me 6 months to a year to design new skins. On top of that add the fact that I’m already very busy as a DJ, and with many of my own projects and my skills in Photoshop are not the best. So while I could, technically, create these skins, the learning curve is fairly steep.

    As well, some of the other people mentioned in these comments, I asked how they felt before making this post, and they agreed with my comments posted here.

  10. funny you would hone in that one line and ignore the rest of it. Well, ask most skin designers and you’ll find that most also took months to create their first presentable skin.

    Anyway, my intention wasnt to be snarky, but just to point out that with Eloh’s bases, skinmaking is open to anyone who has the patience for it

    • Wasn’t being snarky, just responding to the more general comment, that I was prepared for. Regardless the point still stands, even if I was the skin maker to do such a thing – what about everyone else who already has “ethnic” skins? I feel saying “well build it yourself” is misguided, it ignores certain other facts that may prohibit me to do such a thing.

  11. I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels excluded when I go shopping. There are more things for me since I’m female, but in relation to the rest of female stuff… it’s really not a lot. Sometimes I feel like saying something, but then I don’t. I know the limitations on building things such as dark skins. But I want to scream from frustration at times! I feel like I don’t get to be pretty because I chose to be dark skinned.

  12. Profoky Neva – did you really read Nexeus post? I mean, all of it?

    “If GoSpeed isn’t “real black” enough for you (she’s not black in RL) or if Khit is not “real black” enough for you…”

    Nex specifically and repeatedly said he was NOT talking about “black” skins at all.

    He said: “I’m not asking for a “Black” Mall, a “Black” shopping area, or a “Black” fair; these solutions could be construed as offensive, exclusionary, and perform the opposite effect of what I’m hinting at.”

    He also went out of his way to assure and explain that his sentiments have nothing whatsoever to do with any sort of racism, either perceived or implied. Having met Nexeus – in the real world – several times and having known him for many years as a close friend, I can tell you without hesitation that he’s not the sort. That’s not his style or his outlook on things. Chill out duder, you’re barking up the wrong tree.

    I’m as white as it gets, and can still totally see where Nexeus is coming from. As I said in my first comment, I had to make my own skin to get it how I really wanted it. I’m thinking this all might be more of an issue of fully custom-ordered skins vs. canned pre-fab skins. It’s just not practical, or even possible for designers to make skins that will fit every niche. We humans are pretty damn diverse. Could they do better? Sure. But when one reaches the threshold where a canned skin isn’t satisfactory, the next logical step is either self creation or custom ordering.

  13. Seems like SL is presenting the same challenges non-white women have faced for years when shopping for makeup. Now the challenge has been extended to a much larger and more diverse audience.

  14. FWIW, I think Crap’s suggestion of a fair is great. It’s possible that there’s more great ethnic stuff out there than anybody realizes. And maybe getting the best of the best together in one place might raise the bar for everybody or at least provide some awareness. Maybe some recognition awards or events could also provide some inspiration for designers.

  15. Hi Nexeus,

    I think a lot of people know that your post was genuine and heartfelt and can relate to what you say. When I first came into SL it took me a long time to find a skin that I felt comfortable with and that I felt defined my avatar the way I wanted it defined. Today there are more options out there but it can still be a challenge, and it’s a double challenge, first finding a darker tone that you like, and then finding a skin with an overall look that you are satisfied with.

    We also have to keep in mind that the designers in SL come from all over the world, and they all have different degrees of exposure to different cultures. I would assume that when most skin designers are creating their lines, they are using their ideal as the foundation for what they create. They have the right to do that, so I try to remember that when I find myself getting frustrated at finding new darker skins.

    I do agree that there should be some sort of event where we as consumers in SL can come together with the designers of SL and exchange ideas and experiences. Maybe a diversity conference in an inclusive environment so that everyone feels comfortable sharing their thoughts. I’m sure there are plenty of designers who are eager to learn and would love to take part.

    And thanks to Annyka for giving us some insight on the skin making process.

  16. I have to say that I found this post to be one of a petulant demand of “but I’m Entitled!”.

    Nexus sounds like he feels he is entitled to have others make the skins and hair that he wants and that it’s just not good enough that it hasn’t happened in the year he has been waiting.

    Well sorry mate, I call Bullshit on this (too). But, when you said you weren’t singling out any particular designer but…”everyone is just as liable.”… you completely lost me.


    Liable for what? And to whom? You? That is an incredibly arrogant statement – to say designers are liable for not making what you want. I sure hope it isn’t what you meant to say.

    What I didn’t see in that very long complaint of unfulfilled entitlement were:

    - any details of how you have tried to fix this yourself. After all, you know exactly what you want so why not have a go at making it yourself?

    - any details of how you have approached other designers with photographs/web links etc requesting them to make skins that look just the way you want.

    Did it ever occur to you that they may not know what a black hispanic should look like, or how many of your friends are also interested in such a skin?

    Designers only make what they know how to (obviously), and, either what they want to make for the fun of it, or what they think will sell. You don’t seem to have done anything to help them here, have you?

    Stop stamping your foot and do something positive.

    • @Melanin It’s interesting that you think I’m making demands or stating that I feel ‘entitled’ by telling skin makers to make items to my ‘liking’. In actually what I’m saying is do your research before you make darker skins.

      To the more general comments of ‘make them yourself’, I’ve stated some facts as to why I don’t in the comments. I’m not a skin maker, again I’m sure with enough patience, practice and learning I could become one, but I’m already knee deep in so many different projects.

      The fact that people are saying ‘can’t find what you want, make it yourself’ means you really don’t get what I’m saying. I’m saying it is beyond not finding what I want. I’m saying the references people are using are incorrect, due to not knowing or not paying attention. More like “if you do it, do it correctly!” It’s like making a car with three wheels. If there was a wide spread of three wheeled cars, I’m quite sure there would be an uproar.

      This isn’t whining or complaining if people agree with the sentiments. If anything I’m bringing an issue to light that designers may want to re-evaluate when they make these things.

  17. I think many of the commenters thus far are discounting the value of a clear and well-worded complaint (or constructive feedback for that matter). Change doesn’t happen until someone complains. We’ve all experienced this in life – at home, at school at work and in various other parts of our lives – and we all “complain” differently. Some verbalize it, some blog it, some YouTube it, hell, some repress it. How can change occur if no one identifies it?

    To discount this opinion and say, “make it yourself” is a very simplistic and close-minded/limited way of looking at things, since, being a resident who has tested the waters in various types of content creation, were Nexeus poised to make skins he would have done so already. Everyone has different abilities and different gifts. Perhaps creating skins is not Nexeus’s calling or his passion in the metaverse.

    Many of the concerns brought up here are no secret, and have been brought up on various blogs by various people for quite some time.

    As someone who has bumped around in SL as both a male and a female avatar with varying cultural aesthetics I identify with many of the points Nexeus brings up in this post. I don’t think it’s a secret that most of the avatar customization products in Second Life are created for Caucasian-identifying avatars and with that particular cultural aesthetic in mind. SL is limited in diversity in many ways. For this reason, I admire content creators who take the time to include product for people who identify their avatar with a specific cultural/ethnic/heritage group. It takes a particular insight and sensitivity, and is a significant gift because there are cultural and aesthetic nuances that can be lost when one is not tuned to pick up on them.

    A great example is the hair basing mentioned here. Afro/Hispanic males who wear short cropped, lined hair – which is very common – will find quality options limited. If skin designers want a broad buy-in in this respect – whether one is looking for pale or dark tones and any shade in between – the hair base has got to be “faded” in hair density at the neck to the base of the skull and lookin’ fresh with a carefully manicured hairline. Flipping through any culture mag that appeals to any particular target market to follow current trends can provide direction/ideas/inspiration.

    Nexeus and I have talked this issue over at some length and he is on point with his opinions on afrocentric male hair options. If you’re not looking for an afro, corn rows or dreadlocks, you’re fresh out of luck. Whereas options for female avatars give a little more leeway, male avatar representations are much more limited.

    In my experience, oftentimes, when concerns such as the ones voiced here are brought constructively to the attention of a content creator they are met with a positive reception – designers want ideas and they want to make products people will enjoy. However, there are some who just want to make what they want. It’s important to keep in mind that real life products have months of research and development behind them and are orchestrated by a work team. In SL, it’s generally one person just making the things they like. At times, SL creators need consumers to provide them with inspiration.

    At the same time, people from diverse backgrounds need to positively support their own representations in virtual worlds. The opinion presented in this post and others like it might serve as an opportunity to strengthen the cultural designer community. Where are all the cultural designers making cultural goods?

    We have seen the fashion industry in SL become “viable”. Perhaps content development consultation can also become a viable in-world career option.

    No man is an island unto himself. Let’s work together.

  18. Cateru said: …”when concerns such as the ones voiced here are brought constructively to the attention of a content creator they are met with a positive reception – designers want ideas and they want to make products people will enjoy”…


    Nexus, I said there were two things you hadn’t done; one was make it yourself (which I accept you can’t), the second was to approach designers (which you don’t appear to have done).

    Designers make what they know about – if I were making skins I would not be making skins for black hispanics for the simple reason that I have never met a black hispanic and thus have no idea what the important features would be. But *you* know, so *you* have to inform them.

    Put together an information package consisting of pictures (or direct links to pictures) of two or three RL people which clearly show the features and skin tones that are important to you. It’s not enough to say “go look at pictures of X & Y” – choose and provide the pictures yourself. Add a note card which lists the important features in bullet point form (for ease of reading and checking) and put the whole lot in a folder.

    Then go and approach the designers personally and sell (figuratively speaking) your request to them. If there is a market for these skins bigger than just you – tell them. if you represent a SL community, or communities, tell them. If they sound willing to give it a go then give them your folder of resources (pictures and note card).

    If you approach designers constructively and give them (all) the knowledge needed and good reasons – like an untapped market – I am sure you will find at least one designer willing to make what you want to your specifications.

    I know it works – I’ve done it myself.

  19. [Comment Edit] I purposely stated I do not want to promote any one business or organization. However your comment is noted and I will point the person to this post – Nexeus

  20. @Catero Thank you!

    @Melanin I said in the post “I have many close friends who are designers who personally hear my frustration.” To be clearer, I have I have address these concerns with my close and personal friends who are designers of all levels. I’ve even send recommendations to other designers via notecard and have addressed my concerns with them.

  21. Part of the reason there is a lack of “ethnic” skins, men’s skins and men’s clothing in general, is that it just doesn’t sell as well as the women’s wear. As a creator, it makes very little business sense to me to spend a lot of time and effort on a product that I know won’t sell. That said, I have plans to do more of it in 2009, anyway. For all I know, it may be a chicken/egg situation.

    A lot of men I see are wearing an [Designer 1] or [Designer 2] skin, and there are a couple of freebies out there that I see many guys wearing.

    It’s hard enough to break into the women’s market where there is a large consumer base willing to spend their lindens, breaking into the men’s market – where so many men are perfectly happy to wear the freebie skin and outfit they got on their second day in Second Life – is very difficult.

    I have a male friend who only ever changes his look when a woman pushes him to do so. Which means his look has changed once in the 2 years that I have known him. He spends more time in SL than I do, but his appearence, as long as it’s fairly decent, is a very low priority. He may be atypical, but I am leaning towards him being fairly typical.

    Anyway, that’s just my $2L on the topic :)

    Comment edited by removing designer names from the topic. I want to keep these comments are neutral as possible, discussing more of the topic ad hand rather than which skins do better or who does a better skin than the other — Nexeus

    • @Sidd While that’s a comment I understand – I really don’t buy the “it doesn’t sell as well” comment, although that’s my biased remarks. I know plenty of men who would be buying more if there were more items. I see people wearing certain skins more often, but that’s because they are what is best available. It’s not that we guys don’t want to shop, but we think ‘why do it, if there isn’t a lot out there.’ Men shopping habits is another completely different argument however. (Sorry I had to edit your post, I want to be fair about not mentioning specific designer names as an attempt to keep this post on a level playing field)

  22. I’m Asian, and my first skins were white, then i found skins that are slightly tanned, then now i have something that resembles my ethnicity in RL. Designer 1has a fairly diverse range of skins, but it is still in the perfect/model category. But yes, when push comes to shove, you can’t really find much yet.

    Comment edited by removing a designer’s name being consistent with rules the for the post. Thanks for commenting! – Nexeus

  23. I know you weren’t pointing out who does what well and who needs to improve, but I think it would help for those going for a different/ethnic(dislikes that word too) look to know where to begin their search. I would love to see more hip-hop/urban wear in SL. I love diversity.

    I have seen imo a good hispanic male skin that was recently released but then again I’m not an expert on these things. But I do join the plea/entreaty to please make more diverse clothing :D I think as Nexeus said, more men would buy, and tbh I want my man to have options in his styles! ;)

  24. Perhaps the reason these designers aren’t creating products that are true enough to the ethnic styles to satisfy you is that they are, in real life, less familiar with those styles than you are.

    Since you know the true styles well enough to know what’s missing from SL, you are the logical person to create them. If a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing it yourself.

    I know that I never build products based on what I think will sell. I build things that *I* want to use and play with. You should do the same.

    Expecting someone else to do it for you is unrealistic.

  25. Its the way it is.Comic books are a major indicator of HOW it IS. MOST comic characters are white people or green skinned “white people”. SL is no different and its silly to expect it to be. 13% of the USA is “black” and thats not enough of a market for black characters to sell very well. Same thing with “hispanics”. It makes more sense to offer a product towards the majority of the target audience you can attract. Get mad and bothered all you want about reality, but white folk use technology more- you might think it would be the chinese but as you can see from ANY SL chat room that has 1000 members or more that if you start speaking anything other than english in the group people get bothered with you. Who cares why, its HOW IT IS. If you wanna change things, start with yourself. Complaints never make way for progress. People make progress themselves. How about making the skins you want to see. No excuses.

  26. @Anon Your comment comes off very racist and ignorant. Your comment ignores two important things. 1) Second Life is an international world wide service, the United States is only a fragment of the entire world. 2) If you compare world populations, the united states if 3rd on the list behind Asian countries (

    To say that “This is how it is” and “More white people use technology” is not only the sort of thought that keeps racism and inequality alive in a day and age where so much has been overcome.

  27. who cares how it sounds. Reality is reality- and youre just not being real. Who cares how “global” it is. Fact is fact- look around. You dont have to ENJOY reality- but at least accept it.

  28. @Anon I wasn’t aware that Second Life was an exclusively American environment. Your argument doesn’t take into consideration (A) global diversity or (B) the % of people whose avatars have a racial identity outside of their real life selves.

    For any change to occur, people have to critically talk about it openly.

  29. I care, and I’m quite sure plenty of other people do. Reality isn’t as clean cut as you present it, if that was the case a Blacks and Hispanics would not have high positions in government. Reality is, your blind.

  30. Nexeus….Reality is black and hispanic in government came about because of affirmative action- AKA they have NO CHOICE but to put people of color into office. But I digress. Oh and nice how you chose to interpret what I posted Catero maybe you should slow down and read or ask for some help with comprehension. SL is based in America despite its global access. FOUNDED BY a WHITE man, CEO is a WHITE man. Deal with it. Side track the issue further by focussing on me and your chosen interpretations of what I have posted. Fact is, there are not as much CHARACTER driven art such as comic books and avatar creations that are GEARED towards non-whites. Like it or not, fact is fact.

  31. Finally, someone’s said it.

    First and foremost, thank you for this post.

    Since starting in SL, I’ve strived to remain as I am in real life- a black American female of Caribbean descent. And the first thing I noted in SL was the lack of skins that even remotely came close to my tone.

    I’m not extremely dark or olive, and throughout the 2 years I’ve been active, I’ve gone from being a light caramel tone to being far too dark to being a near gray. Lately, thought there have been improvements. Creators are not just making a brown tone of their lighter skins, but actually putting time into making something that truly represented the ethnicity it’s aimed at. It’s been primarily female skins though…..

    As for those quick to say, “Just make it yourself!”…’s not as easy as typing the words down. I make nearly everything I own in SL other than clothing, items for my body, pets and plants. I’m skilled in fine arts, so yes,I’ve tried with open source skins and came close to something I liked. However, like it is stated, not everyone has that patience or that skill. It’s why people buy things here in the first place. If they all could make something exactly how they wanted, there would be no need for a post like these one. And the idea you may have in your head won’t always translate in-world.

    I believe there’s a tremendous demand for what Nexeus is asking of designers, but currently choice-wise, more effort and detail has gone into a lighter toned skin than one meant to be what he calls “ethnic.” If the skin appears to lack in any form, yes, it won’t sell. As much as someone may want an olive or dark toned skin, if it will make you look like a gray person who never applied lotion or an overcooked white chick, why settle for it?
    There is nothing wrong with desiring something that closer represents you. It doesn’t have to fit exactly, but something a bit more than a simple tinting.

    @Anon, your “fact” is a simple opinion, just like everyone else who posts a comment here. Even if SL was founded by a white American, it doesn’t mean that’s the only market in SL. It may “seem” dominant to you, but it’s only true to those who haven’t ventured to sims based around Japanese, European, and other global residents. SL is so much than an “American” thing. Open your pretty white eyes, and look around sometime :)

  32. Your assumption that I have pretty white eyes is racist- you have no clue about me. None at all. Im probably darker than you are. Your assumptions that I dont visit other sims is nothing more than that. For I do. And I make my comments based on facts. Even asian people make their characters look white. Look at most manga or even avatar the last air bender. ROUND EYES and white skin. go ahead and tell me Im wrong. you think japanese people beleive they have round eyes and white skin? No. But the people who are buying their products do.

    • I’m all for the open discussion of issues, conversations and the difference of opinion. I do allow people’s opinions that differ from mine or even those that I may object to as comments on my website. However, I do object to inflammatory back and forth. @Anon I’m putting you on a ban list, not because I want to repress your voice or that I disagree with your point of view or even for the fact that your arguments completely miss the fact of my post. Your continued participation in this discussion only leads to more inflammatory comments that will cross lines that it should not. I am going to stop it before it gets worse.

  33. Dunno if Anon or Anon2 will ever read this, but I must say I meant no racist remarks by referring to white eyes. It’s a common saying for me when talking about someone with a very clouded point of view, ie cloudy gray or “white” eyes.

    If you are so upset by Nexeus’ “whining,” why are you so insistant on reading and posting comments to something you clearly disagree with? He never said that no one liked him or people like him, and from the looks of it, the one easily angered here is you.

    Your view is your own, yes, but your “facts” remain entirely one-sided. You do realize there is more than one default skin in SL, and not all are human. I love how you are certain you are “darker” than me :D And referencing anime and manga characters is hardly an indication of Asian preferences.

  34. Pingback: Metaversally Speaking.. » “Make It Yourself”

  35. Pingback: “Make It Yourself” « Second Life’s largest community blog

  36. In just remarking about your hair and skin comments, I think the reason they are not more accurate is really from a lack of personal or intimate knowledge/experience of the creators. I personally do not make skins, but I would think that part of the process of making a skin and being able to add certain subtle characteristics comes from, in part, seeing your own skin and being familiar with it. The ethnic qualities you seek might not be there simply because skin designers just aren’t familiar with them or how to duplicate them.

    I can imagine, though, that is is frustrating. I recently saw a black male skin on some random display and was struck with how bad it was. It looked like the creator attempted to make a more accurate skin, but it just did not work at all and looked as though the avatar had an illness of some sort.

    As for clothing, as a I designer I can only state that I make things that I personally like. I will, however, take suggestions. I would be a fool to ignore a customer asking for a particular item! I cannot guarantee how quickly I can make it or if it will totally fit the bill, but I sure as hell will give it a go.

  37. I think what you see here is simply an unscratched itch.. I build in SL, I even sell a little, but everything I’ve built has been something that *I* wanted and wasnt available, the OP indicates that he was an artist and that he had a work he was “almost” happy with.. is that item for sale to people who would be happy to see an alternative on the market? no..

    You cannot force vendors to make things, you especially cannot force people to make things when there are so few voices urging them to do so..

    When someone with the talent and the drive decides that they want to wear a GOOD asian / american indian / Australian aborigine / African / South American, they’ll scratch that itch and make one.. they may even then sell it..

    How many furry avatars are there? why? because people wanted to wear them, they couldnt find them, so they made them (well ok They is primarily Flea Bussey seeing as it seems he makes one an hour)

    Learn the tools, scratch that itch.

  38. Greetings,

    First I’d like to say I totally feel your pain. I was a frustrated “black” SL resident like you, with a background in design in RL. I finally decided to design in SL to help fill the very gap you speak of. Unfortunately my product line is limited to female designs for now.

    I certainly do plan to expand and create the much needed designs for men as well and would love the opinions and feedback of men like yourself to know more about what is desired. In the mean time if anyone as looking for anything specific that they have not found I do custom work specializing in skins with 7 tones from congo to fair, and hair styles that can be described as napturally delicious ^^.

    Good luck to all the ethnic avatars, the few of us designers who are specializing in these areas are working hard to get more designs our there, just takes time.

    Akila Rondelstein (see my profile)
    Street Dermatologist

  39. Pingback: Exploring Ethnic Representation in Virtual Worlds | Nexeus Fatale

  40. I know how you feel. I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum; Irish decendent with a rocker/metal head style. Yet I can’t find anything that accurately represents me. I have long hair, but I can not find any normal looking long hair. I can only find fancy girl hair or highly stylized/stereotypical “metal” hair. Skins usually fall in the “light” to “literal white” tones, nothing that represents my fair/pale Irish skin. I have a full beard, and every male avatar I find with beards painted on are just goatees, chin straps, or five o’clock shadow.

    I figure, the only why I will be able to get it the way I want is to do it myself. That’s my best suggestion for you. Maybe you could also contact some of the designers that you like, and discuss the situation with them. Give them the idea that this is something worth while to do, that it could be profitable. Maybe see if they can do a custom for you. You mention that you have friends that are designers that feel the same way. How come they don’t do anything with it?

    But I have to disagree with you on one part. I don’t think it has anything to do with ignorance. I think there are a couple of things at play.

    1. There are relatively few high quality designers in SL compared to the total population.
    2. It’s not that they “won’t” sell, but other items that they can be making might sell more. Why would a designer make a west indian skin that only a few hundred might buy, when they can spend their limited time making a vampire skin that 10s of thousands might buy?
    3. You have a specific style in your mind that you want. People aren’t going to have that same specific idea, so you might never find that someone else made it. OR, maybe someone DID make it, but SL is such a large place, it’s like finding a golden needle in a haystack. I refuse to believe NO ONE in SL has thought of making a skin with a full beard, I probably just haven’t found it yet. And even if I did, I bet the skin would still not represent the specific style that I want.
    4. The majority of the people in SL are probably pretty happy with the selection or they just don’t care. I don’t think most people are trying to have their SL identity represent their RL identity. They are fine with having a generic “white” skin or “black” skin, or they just wear crazy non-real avys. I’ve met very few people who are actively recreating themselves in SL. I think we are in the minority in that respect.

    Well, just some food for thought. I know it was pretty long winded. Good luck on finding what you are looking for. Or, better yet, make an original of your own, and maybe make a few extra L$ in the process.

  41. I agree with a few coments I’ve read.
    You need to try to do it yourself, I’m a builder and I do my own objects, I also texture my stuff.
    Its dificult at the starting but you end very happy with your work.
    I used to use a old man avatar (because everybody mostly uses young ones). The skin was amazing, but it got copybotted and now its a freebie (damn copybotters) so… I ended making my own skin.
    There take a look.

    I recomand you to do your own skin, with the time it will end been perfect and you will be proud of it.

    Get: -Gimp 2.4
    -SL templates

    And watch videotutorials over youtube, its a good start.


  42. While I don’t disagree with the comments of the original poster (it’s hard to find real *street* clothing as it really is worn in e.g. places like buena park in LA) I have a couple of comments:

    1. There are designers outside the English speaking world. If your search language is English you might not find what your looking for. Going to Brazilian sims or Japanese sims you find real significant differences in what is on sale from what you might find in a US or West European sim.

    2. Yes even so, there are limits on what you can find, but I do suspect it’s more due to supply and demand (in the English speaking world/European world anyway).

    For example: my main av is a girl and the default look is pale caucasian, but I also wear an ethiopian skin too which doesn’t look too bad. My male av is default black and I use a skin called “tokunbo” which looks realistic to me.

    Right now, the hardest one for me to find is an authentic looking East Asian female skin.

  43. What an interesting stream here. Thanks for posting this. I am an academic librarian with 16 years of experience at colleges and universities….my niche was distance education which lends itself nicely to virtual worlds. I started 3D world interventions before Second Life came about so it is so interesting to see the advancement in only 10 years. As an “ethnic” librarian who is also into educational gaming, avatar look is very important especially when I’m now involved in developing an online community targeting urban adolescents. I did find one designer who has done a wonderful job which I will contact later when I get my OpenSim up and running. People saying “go make it yourself” may have good intentions, but are missing the point. Like the analogy….on cars. I my have a certain taste and need, but do not have the resources readily available to produce what I like. People who are designers should LISTEN to what others are asking for…they could be your (if not today) future market base. Whatever you believe is truly representative of places like SL or not, I guarantee you one thing – it will change. You know why? People like me who are interested in seeing the digital divides (wherever they exist) become eliminated step-by-step. Again, with people like me who teach others to become computer literate and computer experts will make whatever market existing today grow —wider….and yes, deliciously darker and diverse. So all those saying, “make it yourself” will soon say, “dang, I should have not said that cuz now… I am tripping over these darker, different shaped avatar peeps everywhere. Those that are listening to the complaints, but are not truly “hearing” will find that their attitudes have no place now, and definitely not, in the future. We need to talk to eachother and HEAR the calls from the discontent. After all, you would want the same treatment if the shoe was on the other skin. Peace out. Da Black Librarian (with a dash of Latina). :-D

  44. …and let me tell everyone something else… People, especially those designers, blowing off the people who are asking for better ethnic representation ARE possibly being arrogant. I say that because it is inherent in their assertions that there is little or no real profit in making better looking “ethnically/racially” diverse avatars. Now, I’m almost positive if these same individuals saying that (make it yourself, darn it) thought there was true profit in making ethnically/racially diverse (and on point) avatars, they would not say crapola. They would be trying to outdo and outsell everyone else cuz the real color is GREEN as in cha-ching. So…all I ask is for those saying “do it yourself” carelessly better never think to try and jump in when things could be different in the near future bkz you’ve proven yourselves to be disingenuous BIG TIME. I am not saying this out of meanness. Not at all. I’m voicing this as a “FACT” — Yep, do what you want, make what you want and sell what you want. Just remember when a certain growing sector of customers ask for another or better product and you turn them away—they can do the same and leave you flat for good or find (even become as you suggest marketers themselves and) squeeze you out first. So, your choice…don’t have to jump in on this band wagon – Nope you don’t have to at all nor feel guilty. Yet, mark my words, me and mine will make sure you (the careless worded-ones) will no longer have any room on our wagon. Our few wagons, will soon fly with the eagles and leave all you chickens behind. Spreading my wings….come guys…let’s GO!!!!

  45. I see that you expressed this frustration in 2009. Here it is almost 2012 and the problem still exists. My avatar is East Indian. I can’t find short hair for him that is black.

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