While Beyonce sings, "Brown skin girl. Your skin just like pearls.The best thing in the world. Never trade you for anybody else," colorism is still a widely-discussed issue in the beauty industry. The term colorism is a term coined by Pulitzer Prize winner and beloved black author Maya Angelou. She defines it as the "prejudicial or preferential treatment of same-race people based solely on their color." In a world where megastar Beyonce, former First Lady Michelle Obama, and tennis champion Serena Williams exist, Oscar-winning actress and model Lupita Nyongo still feels that lack of representation of black people in the beauty and entertainment industries.
In a study undertaken by The Pudding in 2019, Mexican-Kenyan Nyongo has appeared on the cover of Vogue Magazine three times, a rare feat for someone with her skin color. While Michelle Obama and Serena Williams have been featured on the cover as well, the algorithm that Pudding used showed that Lupita had the darkest skin color of the three and is the only black person on that color spectrum to represent that exact skin tone. Vanity Fair even lightened her skin when they featured her on their magazine and contributed the effect to studio lighting.
This sort of whitewashing of black models and celebrities happens often. Atlanta Black Star details that it has happened to Kerry Washington on Instyle Magazine, Halle Berry on Harper's Baazar, Beyonce when she was a L'oreal Spokeswoman, and Rihanna on British Vogue. Many people look up to these women, and yet they are still misrepresented because of their skin color. And so black people continue to be marginalized.
In the makeup industry, women still complain of the lack of options, particularly in the foundation and concealer shades. Advertising campaigns still mostly feature Caucasians, and skin lightening products are still in your face. Imagine the impact of these things in Africa. As reported on the United Nations Africa Renewal e-magazine, the World Health Organization (WHO) compiled these statistics: 40% of African women bleach their skin. The figures are disheartening: 77% in Nigeria, 59% in Togo, 35% in South Africa, 27% in Senegal, and 25% in Mali use skin-lightening products.
Though Beyonce, affectionately known as Queen Bey, is not claiming to change how black people value their natural beauty single-handedly, her powerful lyrics and imagery in photos and music videos certainly count. Her influence in music, fashion, and beauty is strongly felt all over the world. Her strong message of embracing your skin color, natural hair texture, and body structure has resonated with women everywhere.
She will appear on the cover of British Vogue for their December issue, to be released on the first week of November. The magazine will release multiple cover designs of Beyonce and honors 21-year-old black photographer Kennedi Carter as the youngest photographer to shoot a British Vogue cover. Beyonce herself specifically requested a woman of color to do the photoshoot, and she got her to wish.
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