WATCH: Is Beyonce Skin Lightening? A Passionate Video Blogger Has Her Say
ARTICLES AND BOOKS BY WRITER BEN AROGUNDADE
Music Star Beyonce Knowles And Skin-Lightening: Is She The New Michael Jackson — Secretly Bleaching?
FROM DARK TO LIGHT? In the past, skin bleaching and lightening was practised by celebrities such as dancer Josephine Baker. Today, music star Beyoncé Knowles (above) has come under scrutiny for appearing as a pale-skinned blonde. Does she really bleach and lighten her skin, or is it simply the effect of bright flash photography? Both Beyoncé haters and the media are gunning for her, just as they did the late Michael Jackson.
SINCE 2008 BEYONCE KNOWLES has been trailed by accusations of skin-lightening, and of being in denial of her ethnicity. Does this remind you another black singing celebrity? By Ben Arogundade.
IN AUGUST 2008 singer and actress Beyoncé Knowles featured in a magazine ad for cosmetics giant L’Oréal Paris and their Feria hair color range. The ad drew controversy when the company were accused of deliberately lightening her skin in the photograph. (A charge they vehemently denied). This led to rumours that Beyoncé herself was skin bleaching. There had also been a prior unsubstantiated claim that during her time in the R’n’B group Destiny’s Child, her father Mathew Knowles persuaded her to use skin lighteners in order that she stand out as the lightest member of the band.
BEYONCE AND SKIN BLEACHING ALLEGATIONS Since then the accusations levelled at Beyoncé that she has been bleaching her skin have failed to dissipate, and indeed were further fuelled by a subsequent paparazzi image of the music celebrity shopping in Los Angeles in February 2011, displaying very pale skin on her face and legs.
There was more controversy on January 17, 2012 when the Grammy award-winning singer’s record company released a startling new promotional picture for her album, ‘4’, which originally came out in 2011. The image — featuring Beyoncé reclining on a leopard print sofa as a light-skinned blonde with straight hair and dark red lipstick — is unrecognisable from previous images of her. The photo sparked fresh outcry in the press. “White out of order!” screamed a headline in The Daily Mail.
BLACK OR WHITE? Right from the beginning of her career, Beyoncé's racial ambiguity has been seen as a key selling point, allowing her to crossover to a wider audience of music fans. “Beyoncé has become a crossover sex symbol a la Halle Berry, a black girl who's not so overwhelmingly Nubian that white people don't appreciate her beauty,” said Touré in Rolling Stone. In fact, the effectiveness of Beyoncé’s crossover beauty is such that a number of her fans are actually not sure whether she is black or white. According to Google’s search statistics, approximately 2,000 global Internet users type the phrase “Is Beyoncé black?” into their browsers every month.
Critics have accused the celebrity of setting a bad example to young people of colour around the world, who may be negatively influenced into believing that lighter skin is more attractive. These are the kinds of concerns that are believed to be driving the market for dangerous skin bleaching creams that are currently used within ethnic communities globally.
SKIN BLEACHED LIGHTER IN THE 1890s But it is difficult to see how Beyoncé and her fellow black female R’n’B contemporaries can be held to account for a generation of aesthetically insecure young women of colour from around the world. Indeed, the use of skin lightening creams within the African American community actually pre-dates the era of black celebrity by some distance. The first products appeared on the market in the 1890s, when there were no nationally famous black role models for women to be influenced by. This suggests that the real reasons are somewhat more complex and deep-rooted that some would admit.
BEYONCE AND BLEACHING - NO PROOF Nevertheless, despite all this, there is no proof that Beyoncé’s light skin is not simply the result of bright studio lighting, make-up or the glare of a paparazzo’s flashbulb, as opposed to skin bleaching or manipulation via Photoshop. Beyoncé is naturally light-skinned, (her mother is a Louisiana Créole — a mix of African, Native American and French), and so it doesn’t take much lighting to make her appear pale. Nevertheless, her critics still argue that it is politically incorrect of her not to promote a darker image.
JACKSON'S WHITE FACE The debate is beginning to veer very close to accusations once directed towards another R’n’B celebrity, Michael Jackson. For 20 years he was vilified by the media and members of the public for bleaching his skin, under accusations of wanting to be white. But upon his death in 2009, the autopsy confirmed what he’d stated all along — that he suffered from the skin disease vitiligo, which stripped away his brown pigment, turning him pale. With Jackson gone, it now seems as if Beyoncé has been positioned in the crosshairs as pop music new bogeyman for pale-skinned blackness. Is she destined to be perpetually vilified over the issue, just as Jackson was? Time will tell.
LIGHT AND SHADE: Inconclusive and misleading photographic comparisons such as the images above have been used to suggest that music celebrity Beyoncé Knowles is bleaching her skin to look whiter. Is it true, or simply the result of strong lighting?
*BEYONCE AND SKIN BLEACHING ACCORDING TO GOOGLE SEARCH
The number of people worldwide who Google the phrase, “Beyonce white skin” each month.
The number of people worldwide who Google the phrase, “Beyonce skin-lightening?” each month.
The number of people worldwide who Google the phrase, “Beyonce skin bleaching” each month.
*All figures for “Beyonce And Skin Bleaching According to Google Search”, supplied by Google. Stats include global totals for laptop and desktop computers and mobile devices.