August 26, 2008

Beyoncé Knowles & the Skin-Whitening Controversy
by max blunt at 04:35PM (CEST) on August 11, 2008 | Permanent Link | Cosmos

Cosmetics company L’Oreal has been accused of

“whitening” singer Beyoncé Knowles’ skin colour in

a series of press ads in women’s magazines in the US

The ads for L’Oreal Paris’ Feria hair color product,

are in the Elle, Allure and Essence magazines

Cosmetics company L’Oreal has been accused of “whitening” singer Beyoncé Knowles’ skin colour in a series of press ads in women’s magazines in the US.

The ads, for L’Oreal Paris’ Feria hair colour product, feature in the September editions of Elle, Allure and Essence magazines in the US.

In the ads the 26-year-old star, who is married to rapper Jay Z, appears to be much whiter than typical pictures of the singer-cum-actress.

There has been a backlash in the US over the images. The New York post said that the “digital lightening” made her “virtually unrecognisable”.

Gossip website TMZ described the Beyoncé images as “bleached out” and “Photoshopped”, launching an online poll to ask if the whitening was “a slap to blacks?”.

However, L’Oreal maintained there has been no lightening of the singer’s complexion in the ads.

“We highly value our relationship with Ms Knowles. It is categorically untrue that L’Oreal Paris altered Ms Knowles’ features or skin tone in the campaign for Feria hair color,” the company said in a statement.

Knowles has worked with the cosmetics company since 2001.
Millions of Black Women ‘Bleach’ Their Skin [Source]
It’s great that L’Oreal has publicly denied that it had deliberately tried to make Beyoncé appear whiter in its latest campaign.

However, “bleaching” is still a huge issue for young women around the world.

The 27-year-old singer, who has an African American father and Creole mother, is naturally light-skinned, with dark brown hair, but appears with very pale skin and strawberry blonde hair as the face of L’Oreal.

She appears, if not exactly “white” then definitely racially ambiguous. It is a tactic Beyoncé appears to have used herself previously – perhaps to make her image more commercial.

Her trademark has been very long blonde hair extensions and yes, looking as light as possible. Whether or not this was her actual intention, her commercial success is undeniable.

Beyond her endorsements, as a solo artist she has sold many millions of albums and singles worldwide, dwarfing the solo earnings of other members of the Grammy-winning girl group Destiny’s Child, who incidentally are much darker.

This is not the first time advertisers have been accused of white-washing. There was uproar when the black “Halifax man”, appeared to have become progressively lighter and his voice was dubbed.

Halifax denied the accusation. Then there was the infamous Ford company photo where black faces were simply changed to white. Ford apologised.

But the problem goes beyond the airbrushing and whitewashing of global corporations.

“Bleaching” is a huge industry in developing countries. This legacy of slavery or colonization, where lighter-skinned or white people were given visible privileges over hundreds of years has resulted in societies where the lighter you are, the higher your status socially and economically.

In India, women strive to achieve the “wheat” colour much-requested on Asian dating websites. In the Caribbean, light skin is also highly desired while in African countries even seemingly minor variations in skin tone can contribute to ethnic conflict.

Containing the active ingredients hydroquinone and/or mercury, bleaching creams have been linked with the disfiguring condition ochronosis, marked by the darkening and thickening of the skin.

Also, there is the appearance of tiny dome-shaped bumps and greyish-brown spots, according to the US FDA which proposed a ban on skin-lightening creams without a prescription back in 2006.

In the UK, the amount of hydroquinone allowed in retail skin-lightening creams has been limited to just 2% but demand means there is a ready unofficial market for stronger potions.

Ironically, skin-lightening creams are often a misnomer, since after discontinuing use, normal sun exposure can make you darker than before.

Women can then become psychologically addicted to creams and over years destroy not just their complexions, but also their health and self-esteem.

Marketers are well aware of how a “white” or “black” face on packaging can affect sales.

The purpose of the recent Italian Vogue issue featuring completely black models was mainly to combat the widely held perception that black faces “don’t sell”.

However, advertisers may not be aware of how younger girls are influenced by images of women being airbrushed ever lighter, skinnier, blonder.

L’Oreal have denied that their actions were deliberate, but nevertheless yet another message, that the whiter you are the more successful you will be, has been sent.

%d bloggers like this: