Too Pretty To Be Aboriginal

Sasha Sarago examines Australia’s perception of Aboriginal beauty through the statement: "You're too pretty to be Aboriginal." To try and understand the origins of this phenomena, Sasha interviews four Aboriginal women to find the answers she is seeking. What surfaces are personal stories enmeshed in racial complexities – navigating through two worlds - a place where Aboriginality is questioned and Australia’s past still lingers. Dr Liz Conor helps Sasha uncover evidence of the statements’ history found deep within colonial white Australia. Left with uncomfortable truths, Sasha faces her own issues with identity and femininity to determine where she stands with ‘pretty’.

  • Sasha Sarago
  • Sasha Sarago
  • Lisa Albert
  • Kirsten Bonds
    Key Cast
  • Indiah Money
    Key Cast
  • Marlene Young Scerri
    Key Cast
  • Rachel Carter
    Key Cast
  • Dr Liz Conor
    Key Cast
  • Sasha Sarago
    Key Cast
  • Vincent Lamberti
    Key Cast
    "Director of Photography"
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    13 hours 30 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    June 29, 2018
  • Production Budget:
    10,000 AUD
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    HD Video
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Distribution Information
  • NITV
    Country: Australia
    Rights: All Rights
Director Biography - Sasha Sarago

Sasha Sarago is a proud Wadjanbarra Yidinji, Jirrbal and African-American woman. A former model, Sasha grew frustrated by the invisibility of multicultural women in fashion and media. In 2011, Sasha founded Ascension — Australia’s first digital lifestyle platform for women of colour. A tireless advocate, Sasha raises awareness around colourism, identity and equity and diversity in the media and lifestyle sectors. Sasha has appeared on NITV Awaken, SBS World News, ABC News Breakfast, in Frankie Magazine and has written for The Guardian and SBS Voices. Sasha was featured in Endangered (Melbourne International Film Festival) and wrote and directed documentaries Too Pretty To Be Aboriginal and InsideOut.

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Director Statement

Sasha Sarago was born to a Jirrbal and Wadjanbarra Yidinji mother and an African-American father, and so the question of identity has always loomed large. She was just 11 years old when she was first told, “But you’re too pretty to be Aboriginal”. That was the moment Sasha learnt to feel shame around her Aboriginality and to question her relationship with her beauty and femininity. Now as a woman and founder of Ascension – a digital lifestyle platform specifically for women of colour, she is determined to confront her demons and so Sasha delves into her family history and finding the truth behind the tragic death of her grandmother who it seems may have also been “too pretty”.

Sasha seeks out other Aboriginal women and their experience of the phrase “Too pretty to be Aboriginal”. There is Indiah Money who recalls the first time she was told she was too pretty to be Aboriginal it was by her dark-skinned Aboriginal boyfriend. A fashion model, Indiah explains why her European features is a blessing and a curse – how her beauty is sexualised and the white privilege her light skin affords her in comparison to other Aboriginal women. And Rachael Carter is a Gunaikurnai woman who was also told she was too pretty to be Aboriginal as a child. Now a mother of two daughters herself, she is determined to give them access to images and stories that affirm their blackness.

Marlene Young Scerri a Gunnai and Gunditjmara elder paints the scene of what it was like growing up in Fitzroy, Victoria in the 1950-60s, being labelled half-caste and mistaken for other nationalities. She is also determined to pass on her pride and strength in her Aboriginality to her grandchildren despite the racism within her family. And Kirsten Bonds is a Yamatji and African-American woman navigating between two black cultures and the dichotomy of Australia’s acceptance of Black American culture yet its contempt towards its First Nations peoples.

To try and understand the origins of this phenomena, Sasha speaks to academics like Dr Liz Connor, the author of the book Skin Deep: Settler’s Impressions of Aboriginal women, who reveals the genesis of tropes such as gin, black velvet, lubra and native belle from deep within colonial white Australia.

Left confronting uncomfortable truths, Sasha fears such candour might incite further contempt for Aboriginal women. But Sasha comes to understand, through her journey of making this film, that it’s the unspoken truths that hide behind the phrase “Too pretty to be Aboriginal” that are the real issue. In order to heal, not only her own, but many other Aboriginal women’s trauma, those truths must be told.