After these pictures of Beyonce emerged to promote her latest album ‘4’, I couldn’t help but wonder what images like theses really say about our society. There is absolutely no denying that Beyonce is one of the most iconic and influential artists of the 21st century; she is a living legend, with her status affirmed by ranking 2nd in Forbes 100 Most Powerful and Influential Celebrities in the World. Throughout the globe her name is synonymous with confidence, sensuality and of course, incredible talent. Worth an estimated $300 million, it would be hard to find someone who had never succumbed to one of her infectious songs or viral routines. But have we been so de-sensitized by her continuous barrage of promotion that we failed to notice how much paler she gets with every release? If this really is the case, what is the motivation behind selling this increasingly Caucasian version of herself and what does it say about us, the people that swallow it down unquestioningly.
It was on The Daily Mail that I came across an online article outlining the negative effects these kinds of images can have on young ethnic women, however the public backlash and furious comments suggest that this is still a swamp of controversy that no one wants to wade through. “Who cares? White women tan all the time!” seemed to be the most popular response, but with this narrow, blinkered viewpoint came the age-old notion of ignoring a subject until it goes away. While it is easy to dismiss this super exposed image as a stylistic choice, the deeper implications of such adverts run deep within the black community. As Beyonce’s skin gets lighter with every release, it seems to align pale skin with success; the higher your career climbs, the more of your ethnicity is stringently disguised to accommodate a western ideal of what is most beautiful and attractive.
While I don’t believe Beyonce physically lightens her skin (her complexion can be attributed to her black father and mixed race mother) her album covers over the years show an alarming tendency to continuously promote a paler version of the artist. Don’t take my word for it, judge for yourself:
The sad truth is, somewhere down the line Beyonces creative team gradually fed us this white washed parody and we were all too crazy in love to notice. What Beyonce is actively endorsing is essentially wrong; ethnicity is not something you can wear like a cloak, throwing it off to make yourself more appealing when it suits you. Beyonces skin lightening can be seen as clever tactic to achieve an easily digestible mainstream persona; for whatever reasons it is a technique that is prominent throughout her promotional photography.
While these images are only a few weeks old, the history behind them runs much deeper. In 1712 the prominent slave owner William Lynch gave a haunting speech that has outlined the way black people relate to each other. He advised other slaves owners saying, “You must use the dark skinned slaves verses the light skinned slaves…my plan is guaranteed, and the good thing about this plan is that if used intensely for one year the slave will remain perpetually distrustful”. The speech concludes with this disturbing statement; “The black slave, after receiving this indoctrination, shall carry on and will become self-refuelling and self-generating for hundreds of years, maybe thousands”.
Exactly 300 years after this devastatingly accurate plan of action, we have made very little progress as a society. While black people have won their freedom, they are still bound by the impenetrable shackles of a complexion-based hierarchy. Therefore this super exposed photography strengthens and encourages the immense wall of ignorance that continues to cast a depressing shadow over the black community.
With every single one of these super exposed white washed images, Beyonce and the industry behind her re-enforce the theory that white is sexier, sleeker, prettier then darker skin. What kind of message does it send out to darker girls when even Beyonce isn’t ‘light enough’? As taboo as it is to acknowledge, the skin lightening business is a multi-million dollar empire that ultimately thrives on the repulsive racial misconception that being dark is an affliction, an unfortunate condition. The next time you visit an Asian hair shop, count how many products are available to ‘cure’ dark skin. It seems that the Asian community has the same warped, barbaric attitude towards complexion.
While Beyonce has been in a number of serious whirlwinds concerning her skin, she has never explicitly voiced her opinion. In a bold statement she continues to proudly represent L’Oreal, despite the fury surrounding the whiter version they promoted of her in 2008. With incredibly influential figures continuing this negative trend, the future does not show any signs of changing. Unfortunately, it seems Beyonces’ image is just a tactical extension of her brand.
Who cares about integrity when you can make millions from pretence?