Vybz Kartel, Beyonce, Skin Lightening, and Racism: A Renewed/Old Obsession?

I am not sure why, but there seems to be a resurgence of focus on skin color; or maybe (and more probably) the obsession was always there, but more people are expressing themselves on the topic, for better or worse. Or maybe the fascination only applies to public figures. First there was Michael Jackson; then there was Beyonce; recently, there was a viral buzz (including on our own Repeating Islands blog) about Vybz Kartel apparently lightened skin [see previous post Jamaican Dancehall Star Vybz Kartel Bleached Skin?]; now, we are back to Beyonce.

El Nuevo Día reports, “It appears that the singer Beyonce is following in the footsteps of her late colleague Michael Jackson and is undergoing treatment to clarify her skin and that “in recent years Beyonce’s skintone miraculously appears to be changing from dark to rosy.” It goes on to underline that the African-American singer “was recently caught [on camera] sporting a much lighter complexion than usual; the difference is remarkable.”

The article quotes English newspaper Daily Mail’s criticism that her decision to change her skin tone was intended to deny her origin, in addition to being a sample of racism. The Daily Mail article’s title is “My fair lady! Blonde bombshell Beyonce shows off her lighter side.” Meanwhile, Hiphop.popcrunch exclaims, “Hell, she’s practically Pamela Anderson now!”

Readers of the Daily Mail point to her Creole background, the quirks of light in photos, or the possibility of the photos being altered, raising older controversies about whether L’Oreal and Vanity Fair “whitewashed” photos of Beyonce.

For full articles, see (in Spanish) http://www.elnuevodia.com/masclaralapieldebeyonce-894710.html and (in English) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1357759/Beyonce-shows-lighter-side.html and http://hiphop.popcrunch.com/beyonce-skin-bleaching-suspicions-resurface-as-singer-emerges-with-lighter-tone-in-hollywood/ [and for the older scandal,  http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/alltherage/2008/08/black-women-and.html]

Also see http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1358119/Beyonce-Knowles-Why-I-believe-betraying-black-Asian-Women.html

10 thoughts on “Vybz Kartel, Beyonce, Skin Lightening, and Racism: A Renewed/Old Obsession?

  1. I recall Cab Calloway and Nat King Cole “conked” their heads, straightening the hair with (painful) chemicals. Skin bleaching would seem a normal progression. Given a choice, many Afro-Americans would do so.

    Why would someone choose not to be his/her own self? Like a twisted Socratic koan, many people choose not to know themselves.

    And there goes wisdom down the drain.

    1. I felt that way when Michelle Obama was doing that slick/straight hair look. To me only AfroAmerican women can wear the lovely curley, Natural styles that come with their DNA & features. Why try not embrace it? Well..I was called a Racist! So there ya go!

  2. Stating that Nat King Cole straightened his hair really does nothing for the argument. It could substantiate a claim that he was not in real time with himself, but it’s true that we all know that Nat King Cole knew he was indeed a black man. But is there a difference between perming your hair or lightening the skin?

    I’d think so. Changing your skin is a direct reflection of how you feel about yourself, and you must also know that Beyonce was chosen to take a picture of “African Beauty” In which she chose to keep her hair long, straight and insanely blonde and yet paint black paint all over her face. Yes, call it artistic if you must, but it looked like a white woman pretending to be black or a white man painting his face black as they used to do in order to pick fun of blacks, black faces and white and coming on stage as part of a comedy act. There is nothing funny about this story.

  3. Even here in Africa, South Aricans, Congolesse and Nijerians in particular are so much obsesed with smeering these corrosive skin bleaching agents to lighning thir skin, i think its a dirrect result of the lack of “negritude” and education about importance of education.

    I remember last year when i conducted a political class in Durban, South Africa that was themed “Revolution,Identity and Culture” whe we identified that our black youth is still suffering the dose of colonial injection that is lying telling you that “white/light skin” is supperior that us dark skinned, even at school little is taught about “black identity”

    We wish one day an International Political Class about the above theme be held

    “black man you are on your own” Steve Biko

    mobile:0732405243
    email: Chukwunegro@gmail.com

  4. For Christ’s sake, when will these idiots stop using Michael Jackson as an example? Autopsy revealed that he actually did suffer from vitiligo-universalis, in fact, which affects the entire body- and was taking medicine to treat it. Dumbasses.

  5. The really sad thing to me is that she’s much more beautiful in the pic where her skin and hair are darker. It’s sad that so many people have such an obsession with having a lighter skin color and believing it would make them more beautiful. This clearly proves that it does not. And I think the case with Michael Jackson also proves that lighter is not more attractive. When will this madness stop.

  6. Beyonce can be any shade of black or white that she chooses….her skin and a free country! She always looks beautiful!!! Leave her the heck alone!!!

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