ARTICLES AND BOOKS BY WRITER BEN AROGUNDADE
Genetics, Race And Eye Color: Can Black People Have Naturally Blue Or Green Eyes?
CAN BLACK PEOPLE HAVE NATURALY BLUE OR GREEN EYES?. Many think that black celebrities with blue or green eyes are wearing colored contact lenses. In fact, people with African ancestry, such as music star Rihanna and TV celebrity Tyra Banks (pictured) can have naturally blue, green or hazel eyes, due to a gene mutation or via parents with European ancestry on both sides who carry the gene for the particular color.
RIHANNA, TYRA BANKS, VANESSA WILLIAMS, Leona Lewis and Noémie Lenoir all possess African ancestry, and yet their eyes are either naturally green or blue. How does this happen? By Ben Arogundade.
FOR MANY YEARS, the reasons why blue eyes exist in humans had eluded geneticists. But in 2008 a report by a team of researchers from Copenhagen University traced all blue-eyed people back to one ancestor who lived approximately 8,000 years ago near the northwest coastal regions of the Black Sea. “It could be the northern part of Afghanistan,” said Professor Hans Eiberg, who led the team. Their report, published in the journal, Human Genetics, identified a single mutation in a gene called OCA2, which arose by chance. The gene does not create a blue iris, but rather, it turns off the mechanism that produces brown melanin pigment. “Originally, we all had brown eyes,” says Eiberg.
CAN BLACK PEOPLE HAVE BLUE EYES?
Many believe that the blue-eyed gene, or indeed those for green or hazel eyes, only occurs naturally in Europeans, and that people of African heritage with these eye colors are wearing colored contact lenses. Indeed, according to Google’s global search statistics, 1,600 people type the question, “Can black people have blue eyes?” into their browsers each month, in search of clarification.
In fact, blue and green eye colors do occur naturally in people of both African and Asian ancestry. As mentioned, gene mutation is one cause; the other occurs when a person of African ancestry has Caucasian relatives on both sides of their family who are carriers of the gene for that particular eye color. For example, a couple with brown eyes could conceive a blue or green-eyed child, so long as the gene for this eye color exists somewhere within the ancestral line of both parents.
AFRICAN AMERICAN BLUE AND GREEN
African American film and TV celebrities Vanessa Williams, Gary Dourdan, Terrence Howard and Tyra Banks, as well as Indian Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai, are well-known examples of celebrities of colour who do not have the stereotypically brown eyes more associated with their ethnicity. Williams’s are blue, while the others are green. But many confused people around the world, unaware of the genetic facts, still presume that they are wearing colored contact lenses to hide their natural eye colour.
*BLACK AND ASIAN PEOPLE AND EYE COLOR ACCORDING TO GOOGLE SEARCH
The number of people worldwide who Google the question, “Can Asians have blue eyes?” each month.
The number of people worldwide who Google the question, “Can black people have blue eyes?” each month.
*All figures for “Black And Asian People And Eye Color According to Google Search”, supplied by Google. Stats include global totals for laptop and desktop computers and mobile devices.
GREEN AND BLUE IN BLACK: African American and South Indian celebrities with green and blue eyes - 1. Vanessa Williams (blue). 2. Gary Dourdan (green). 3. Aishwarya Rai (green). 4. Terrence Howard (green).
NEXT: MORE ABOUT CELEBRITY EYES