Colourism Series : Episode 3
🎵 En Miso- gy- noir 🎵
Welcome to the 3rd part of my Colourism series. In this episode we will discuss:
- The hot topic of Misogynoir and its meaning
- The apparent double standard of Colourism
- The aftermath of the success of the skin lightening industry
- A review of The Bluest Eyes by Toni Morrisson
- A review of Canal + Elles Ivorian Talk Show Le Choeur Des Femmes about Colourism and skin bleaching
- Enny and Jorja Smith‘s Peng Black Girls mini scandal
- Light skin supremacy in music
- Representation on the screens
Some Randomness for the soul – @R29Unbothered Instagram post on 7th January 2021, is like music to my ears. If this blog post had a song, this would be its chorus.
“You were brainwashed into thinking European features are the epitome of Beauty.” It is so relevant to this blog post. Spot on!
MYSOGYNOIR + COLOURISM – Misogynoir definition -Moya Bailey
A sensitive subject to discuss, this term coined by the queer black feminist Moya Bailey in 2010, explains the violence targeted at black women, particularly dark-skinned women from others and more particularly from their male counterparts. It can be defined as “the specific hatred, dislike, distrust, and prejudice directed toward Black women.”
The dehumanisation, masculinisation, animalisation and fetishism of dark-skinned women constitute misogynoir. As Malian-French singer Aya Nakamura was often mocked for her make-up free look that “brought up her masculine features” and her “muscular body” were constantly ridiculed. We are responsible for upholding white supremacy and colourists ideologies, and this needs to stop. This anti-blackness behaviour is what encourages others to mock and abuse us. Instead of perpetuating this by joining in or staying silent, we need to put a stop to it, by saying that it’s not ok. Just like we expect our white friends to do it when racism strikes. We need to practise what we preach, it starts from home, and it’s a consorted effort. Every little helps…
Misogynoir was also the act of disbelieving black women when R.Kelly abused girls for decades. Indeed, no one ever condemned him because they were black girls. If they had been white, it would have been a totally different story.
Colourism in Healthcare
It goes even beyond the media… Statements from doctors suggested that statistically black women’s pain threshold is more significant than their white counterparts. Does this explain the high number of prenatal deaths in the US and the perception doctors or medical staff have of black women around the world? Two people I knew had terrible experiences with maternity, one gave birth at home on her own because the hospital personnel did not believe she was ready to give birth. My other friend was in so much pain they still sent her home, and she nearly passed out she was in such agony. This was pre-Covid and they were dark-skinned women living in the UK!
According to The Guardian, black women are 4 times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth . Could it be linked to negligence in listening to patients and taking their complaints seriously? That makes me wonder…
Recently, The BBC created a scandal when they axed Momfluencer and Presenter Candice Brathwaithe from a documentary shedding a light on black women’s death at childbirth or during pregnancy, in the wake of alarming statistics.Indeed, she had been replaced by ex-Saturdays band member Rochelle Humes, who unlike Candice has never researched nor fought for this cause. Here we go again, witness to misogynoir yet again! With a case in point, as black women are disregarded and ignored , even when they are at the heart of the problem at hand.
Why prefer Rochelle Humes, to present this ground breaking documentary, when it does not concern her in any way? Why her and not Candice who actually became an expert in this field?This is a reality check once again, that misogynoir is a reality and it manifests itself on and off screen. #StopErasingBlackWomen ‼️ Well done BBC, once again you proved me how you misunderstand black women even when you tackle our issues ✊🏾
Colourism seem to still manages to show its ugly heads, at the expense of dark-skinned women 🙆🏾
But Twitter users were not having it!
Twitter went ballistic after learning the BBC’s decision! Check it out for yourselves !
Rochelle should really support Candice , in persuading the network to let her present the documentary. After all, this issue does not concern her for one, and secondly after all these shenanigans, will black women still want to watch the documentary? I’m afraid I WON’T!
To stop misogynoir listening to black females without racial gaslighting and tone policing is vital and avoiding defensive mechanisms is critical, as suggested by Janice Gassam Assare Senior Contributor for Forbes. Indeed, similarly to racism, when people refuse to hear or talk, they often get into defensive mode. Never assume anything, it’s not because you haven’t seen or felt it that it’s not real. Listening is the most critical part of communicating.
Does Colorism fuel Misogynoir?
Certainly. Colourism fuels misogynoir. It is at its root, but online it shouldn’t be just about the cancelling culture, rather about educating and encouraging dialogue. Because Colourism is so profound, it is within people’s subconscious and to unroot it will take support and meetings halfway.
I encountered some black men saying that they would prefer being with light-skinned/ mixed raced women, so they could caress their hair and that at least, these women would not need to “cover” their hair at night to avoid the infamous “don’t touch my hair” line. Now, we know why Solange had to go there!
The perpetual harassment of black women online, offline and in different spheres by everyone, especially by certain black men somewhat reflects an element of self-hate. I realised when black women date white men, they do not degrade black men. Still, when black men date white women, you hear them degrading black women to their white women, to the world, online and offline. So much that it gives ammunition to anybody to come and take black women down. Eventually, offering a lot of strength to misogynoir.
Misogynoir in France
Growing up i used to hear black women being referred to as “Fatous”, solely because we are black females. From white and black boys, it was a reality. It somewhat died down now, but the name Fatou (of African and Muslim origins) started to have a negative connotation, due to its use to qualify a black girl, from the ghetto, with low education, perceived as unattractive and un-datable.
Misogynoir meaning for the entertainment industry
Misogynoir is also rampant as much on social media than in the entertainment industry. For instance, Kanye West once declared that he wanted ‘multiracial women only’ to be cast at his Yeezy season, mitigating the fact that he didn’t want black women in his show. Blaming it on the awkwardness linked to his intention to express that he wished to promote all shades of black apparently. (seriously?)
While Kodak Black was taken to the cleaners after unreleased song lyrics resurfaced, in which he said: “I don’t want no Black bitch, I’m already Black”. Mate, we don’t want you neither! BOY BYE!
A demonstrator at Yeezy casting painted on her body: “they want Black features but not Black girls.” As a matter of fact, Kanye married Kim Kardashian, who appropriated black features to attract black men. An ideal for some men. They even made a joke about it in Dear White People (Netflix show), qualifying sleeping with a Kardashian as being ‘too black’. I have heard some men say that white women these days, had evolved in having black females features with a bonus : their skin colour, culture and character which means they will be “easy-going”, “less-confrontational”; which constitutes “the best of both worlds.”
Well-known and vocal colourist black men: Chris Brown, Asap Rocky, Pop Smoke (May he rest in peace), 50 cent & Lil Wayne… Yup, it sure is a thing!
On TV sitcoms portraying black families, I have noticed the mum is usually lighter and the dad darker. (My wife and kids, Martins, Black-ish, Sister-Sister…) Could the media condition and create colourists?
The Colourism illusion
Personally, I don’t deny Colourism’s existence; for me, it is very much present in our communities and society. Nonetheless, I guess Colourism has never immensely affected me, because of my strong life values my mum brought me up with, resulting in creating my very own idea of beauty. The only time I would actually look at a complexion, would be in terms of the skin’s evenness or whether it is healthy as a whole. From a literal point of view, I look at skin, merely as what it is, skin. From my perspective, one can be beautiful regardless of their complexion, no matter how light or dark they are.
Colourism double standards: Can women also perpetuate it?
We rarely talk about Colourism and men, but it can also be looked at. Back in the day, I remember it being trendy to date a light-skin/ mixed-raced boy, linked to the obsolete construct that it was the passport to beauty. The stereotype of the mixed-raced guy with light eyes, resonates in my memory like no other. Some men actually do use skin-lightening products to that effect, due to this idea of beauty. However, can we go as far, as to talk about trends? If the concept of beauty is often attributed to light complexions, so is the idea of darkness actually. Indeed, one can argue that dark-skinned men can be connoted to masculinity in its Essence as 2pac rapped: “Some say the darker the berry, the sweeter the juice.” Right? (Keep your head up, 1993)
Here the idea of beauty seems to be linked to darker skin tones synonyms of Manhood. Dark-skinned men’s sexualisation led to their fetishisation for some.
One can only wonder whether this is no double-standard to some extent, as some women would prefer dark-skinned men over their lighter counterparts.
Can we really talk about Colourism when the matter of taste and colour is at play? Could it only be considered preferences when women claim dark-skinned men? I leave this here…
To be or not to be conditioned?
Aren’t Beyoncé, Rihanna and Halle Berry undeniably gorgeous? I guess the real issue, is not questioning whether they are beautiful, rather could three dark-skinned women also come to mind that easily, when considering the most beautiful in the collective mind?
As it appears, light-skinned or Caucasian women first come to mind when discussing beauty. It is quite recurrent on TV, in the movies and in the music industry, in the western world and predominantly non-white nations.
I never experienced Colourism per se, my mum is light-skinned like most black families, my family is like a rainbow of shades. I was never sensitive to the the fact that my mum was lighter than me. I always knew people thought she was beautiful and enjoyed comparing me to her. Be it as it may, this never made me want to bleach my skin.
Much the same, as Beverly Naya pointed out in her documentary SKIN (Netflix), I firmly believe having a robust support system and being grounded is key to growing up without these unhealthy thoughts. (At least this helps!) One has to bleach their skin to be beautiful. Growing up, I had many role models all different shades from the lightest to the darkest, and I guess you would identify to the one that resembles you the most! My mum, my aunties Yvette and Pélagie were just so gorgeous and of course Moesha more than Buffy, representation matters but that’s for another talk!
The idea that beauty is related to the lightness or darkness of one’s skin baffles me. But not for some, some ppl actually maintain its relevance. I firmly believe that complexion is not an element of beauty, and we need to deconstruct our mind from such ideas.
In my opinion, it is linked to Eurocentric phenotypes. Should people name darker-skinned women as most beautiful to make a point? Are principles the new preference? Is the way out of this, the admission of having being conditioned to reshape our mantra? Is there a reset button to get rid of preconceived ideas about beauty and aesthetics? Or are we bound to be products of our environment?
Additionally, when Black women are attracted to dark-skinned men because they are “masculine” and “well-built” are they necessarily colourists?
When I first heard about Colourism, it took a while to grasp the fact that it actually had been given a name. This hierarchy of shades, that would arguably give more importance to one person more than another.
I quickly understood that it significantly is about people’s perception of what a person’s complexion connotates. It has a lot to do with history, namely slavery and colonialism. And furthermore, it is linked to social class. In South-East Asian communities, such as Indians Colourism is intricate to the well-established Caste system, dividing society according to rank and privileges. In his article for The Independent Saman Javed, quotes his own mother:” In our culture, light skin is recognised as a sign of beauty and power, and dark skin is associated with people of lower class.”
As actress Beverly Naya once openly said: “Colourism is the daughter of racism”, which in Essence concurs the fact that both go hand in hand, and were enormously exacerbated since the death of George Floyd, which consequently shed a light on different dimensions of anti-black racism namely: Institutional, Structural, Interpersonal and Internalised. @dyversifi
Indeed, George Floyd’s death and the particularity of this pandemic, obliging us all to be on lockdowns all over the world, enabled the world to pay attention to racism and its profound impact on society from black people’s perspective. Suddenly all of my favourite mainstream magazines, featured not only more black models, but black stories about hair journeys, make-up tips, mental health, fulfilment, sexuality and race. Did George Floyd have to die for the world to pay attention to us? Is it seasonal, or will we implement long term changes in light of it all?
Colourism and skin bleaching
If you still think this is a myth, you should take a look at the numbers of the skin-lightening industry estimated to be worth £354-421 million in 2019. (The Independent) According to dermatologists, these products are not only life-threatening; they also actually are detrimental to the skin. They could potentially lead to skin cancer conditions due to the presence of chemicals such as mercury and hydroquinone. Many skin-bleaching products are banned in the UK due to their dangerous components and health implications. In 2019, the government urged people to stop using these products due to “large scale seizures.“
This was pointed out and boosted by the buzz created by Beauty world leader L’Oréal, in June on popular French Radio/TV talk show Les Grandes Gueules (29/06) by Entrepreneur Joelle Dago-Serry and Communication Consultant and Journalist Silvère Henry Cissé following the removal of L’Oréal’s skin-lightening range words: ‘white’, ‘whitening’ and ‘light’ from their vocabulary. Indeed, both Joelle Dago-Serry and Silvère Henry Cissé argued that L’Oréal’s move is the best to eradicate such practices in the future. Cissé stated:
“This is very good because it will equip us with the necessary tool to fight this social scourge. First and foremost, I think we need to look at things from a rational point of view, we need to address these things. Essentially, skin-lightening concerns dark-skinned women, I can’t stress this enough, it’s a global phenomenon […] found in Asia, South America, Africa and even here in France.”Silvère Henry Cissé, Les Grandes Gueules (June, 2020)
This habit stems from the idea that to be perceived as successful and beautiful, one has to bleach their skin to look closest to white complexion as possible. This is ingrained in mentalities due to the idea of white supremacy dominating the collective subconscious since slavery and colonial times.
Cissé goes even further in adamantly stating that these products are not unhealthy per se when used casually, it’s when used compulsively and addictively that they do create devastating health issues. He firmly believes that L’Oréal has had a great idea to remove these words from their packaging, as an effort to educate people into stopping to use these products in the long run. Comparing it to the gradual smoking ban in public spaces we have witnessed in the past 30 years, illustrated by TV show Mad Men! I love me some Don Draper!
Correspondingly, after carrying in-depth marketing research and in the light of the Black Lives Matter movement stances, Nivea also decided to drop “whitening”, and “fair” from its products range vocabulary. To fight systemic Colourism the Beauty industry perpetuated for a long time, by changing the general perception of black skin.
To stand by their decision, Nivea sponsored Beverly Naya’s documentary SKIN, to whom she is already a brand ambassador. This is the positive change that can definitely make a difference in the long run, we shall see how it goes, but that is a move in the right decision to end Colourism.
Fair & Lovely vs Glow & Lovely
Likewise, Unilever Hindustan brand “Fair & Lovely” decided to rebrand their range “Glow & Lovely” to respond to the public’s view that they promote Colourism. It is a trend or even a movement now.
Another issue is the illegal parallel activities growing from this demand, contributing to even more powerful products and dangerous sold in popular areas of the French Capital, in India and Nigeria as illustrated in SKIN. Indeed, in South-East Asia people don’t need to go to stores to purchase such creams. They can create them themselves as they have from centuries, with conventional methods of applying natural products such as Turmeric, Lemon and Milk to their face and body. So how do you stop this?
We can all remember AfroBeat singer Burna Boy coming after Pop sensation Blac Chyna to promote her skin-lightening products collaboration with Whitenicious by Dencia in Nigeria. Burna Boy was quite forward in his view when he stated on Twitter: “@blacchyna, please don’t come to my home and sell your poison. Because the thunder that will fire you is wearing those big Balenciaga trainers.” She thought she could!
Colourism and the music industry – part 1
Artists are more and more outspoken about their stances against skin-lightening products, like Dancehall artist Spice. Championing the 50 shades of black, rather than a particular one, just like Beyoncé promoted them in her Black skin girl single from her Black Is King visual album, released last year.
This is a critique of the pressure and boundaries set to succeed in these industries, especially as a dark-skinned black woman. It does not take rocket science to notice that light-skinned women find more avenues to make it. We see some sort of change though, with Congolese-Belgian rising Pop-R’N’B’ star Lous and the Yakuza, UK rappers MsBank and Ray Black, French singer-songwriter Yseult, and the prominence of French-Malian singer Aya Nakamura and Nigerian singer Tiwa Savage. In fact, Aya Nakamura revealed that she refused to use any of these products she was pushed to , by industry professionals. Fair to say, homegirl proved to them that dark-skinned women can top the charts and stay up there!
So it appears after being physically colonised, we remain scarred with the mental colonisation that is Colourism. How do we get out of this vicious circle? How can we possibly accuse people of racism when we apply Colourism, within our communities and amongst society on a larger scale. This merely goes back to self-love, because if one loves themselves, they will be enough for themselves. They will be secure and won’t compete with anyone but themselves. There is nothing wrong with having preferences, loving Beyoncé or Rihanna , but what I firmly believe is wrong , is to only perceive beauty to be amongst light-skinned women. Indeed, beauty is in the eye of the beholder; however, beauty is a construct we need to deconstruct from collective imagery and history, to free our minds to love anything! It is a utopia in itself, but I am confident that we can free our minds to find beauty in any shape or form.
I have encountered men who solely liked light-skinned women, back in Paris where I was born and in Africa where I am from originally. Where i noticed that women would aim to be perceived as beautiful merely and solely for the male gaze. I remember being at university in the UK, and all these African men fancied that one girl. When I asked them why, they replied it was due to her light-skin. Hence, for them, beauty resides in one’s skin tone. It is a privilege in their eyes and in society too.
Colourism in Hollywood, Bollywood and Nollywood
American novelist Alice Walker is believed to have invented the term “Colourism” when she stressed the importance of complexion, during slavery times, in the parallel between dark-skinned slaves working in the cotton fields and light-skinned slaves allowed in the master’s house.
Hence, in collective imaginary, we have been brainwashed, so to speak, to believe that the only way up is light, and the only way to be beautiful is fair. A fact heavily illustrated in Nollywood, as fair-skinned women tend to get more roles than their darker-skinned counterparts.When both are granted roles, leading positions will be given to the light skin girl leaving the dark-skin girl to play a passive, stereotypical or sidekick role at best.
This preferential treatment seems to overlook actors’ talent, championing their skin tone instead, and contributing to ending actors’ careers before they even started.Popular hashtags such as #MelaninPopping, #BlackGirlMagic, #Melanated saw the light of day as a way to unapologetically champion dark skin beauty on socials.
Nevertheless, we need to look beyond the hashtags, we need to actively look for a way to eradicate Colourism, by educating people and embracing the fact that at the end of the day Black no matter what shade is KING and we are grand!
Colourism is influenced by Hollywood, Bollywood and Nollywood and the media landscape exacerbates Colourism. For instance, in Nigeria, light-skinned women have more privileges, are paid more attention to, and have more opportunities.
Nollywood actress Mercy Johnson mentioned to Punch the difficulty of finding work at the beginning of her career. In the same light, Keira Hewatch who stars in the Nigerian Reality TV show, ‘Lekki Housewives’ shared with Pulse Nigeria how having dark skin complexion made her miss out on a few roles.
US movie Crazy-Rich Asians were not really representative of realities as the cast were mostly light-skinned.
Colourism and Racism
In South-Africa light-skinned women are referred to as “yellow bones”, (I see you Dani Leigh!) and they perceive their experiences as bittersweet. In one hand, they are perceived as attractive, and on the other, they are prone to stereotypes and negative comments. Is this really necessary? I am completely lost here, why the love and hate? People really need to start looking at themselves in the mirror, before they cry for racism and sexism, after mistreating people due to their skin tone.
In 2019 Kaithlyn Greenidge wrote a piece for The Guardian entitled: “Why black people discriminate among ourselves: the toxic legacy of colourism” The most striking part of her article was when she stated:
“What makes this all so hard to talk about is the internalised white supremacy. If white people disappeared from the planet tomorrow, Colourism would still exist in our communities, which may be the most painful part. Why people would rather say, it isn’t real.”
As I paused reading, I realised she was probably right. If white people were no longer, we would perpetuate Colourism amongst ourselves. I can’t help but wonder, could it be natural for humans beings to re-intact trauma to the next person. From a sociology or a psychological viewpoint, is it possible to unlearn such intrinsically learnt behaviour? We have got to revoke such legacy and embrace who and what we are.
The mere notions of attractiveness and desirability are constructed on the white supremacy/white privilege spectrum. The lighter, the more beautiful and more desired, the darker, hence further from whiteness, the ugliest and the furthest from desirability.
Colourism and the politics of Beauty
🎵 En Miso-gy-noir🎵
The Bluest Eyes by Toni Morrisson 🦋
The Bluest Eyes by Toni Morrisson
Nobel-Prize winning author Toni Morrisson’s 1970 novel The Bluest Eyes resonates as much today as it did in the past. Although it has been banned due to explicit sexual language, the book is viewed as a thought-provoking piece due to its graphic descriptions and mention of sex, rape, and incest and more importantly about Colourism in post-depression 1940’s Black America. Colourism is a plague so inherent in our community, racial self-loathing and corrupt beauty standards were religiously believed at the youngest age. Pecola was perceived as “ugly”, she was despised and mocked because she was black by black and white people. She would pray for God to give her “the bluest eyes”, as a need to comfort herself to the euro-centric beauty standards, pushed upon her, by her school classmates as she was longing for the white gaze, to be accepted and loved at last.
The only way for her to be loved would be if she would get such features. A sad critique of society relevant today, as an unspoken truth so loud it could be written on the walls.
The author wanted to tackle the essence of such needs in a child as it stems from a conversation she had with her friend who wished to own blue eyes herself, which desolated her. This “private exposure of a private confidence” is so relatable, it is mind-blowing. How can something like this still be up to date today? Didn’t we make any progress? This self-loathing due to a racial hierarchy, where does it end? I know Colourism is real in Africa too, and it is black-dominated, so where does it start and how can we stop it? Are we so undoubtedly mentally colonised, we don’t even see how detrimental that is to our people and ourselves? What exactly does it say about us?
The concept of beauty is cleverly illustrated here, as we come to understand that Pecola Breedlove can only be beautiful if perceived as such by others, namely blacks as much as the whites. This feeling of self-hatred is the reasoning behind her wishing to have blue eyes, thanks to which she would finally be loved and love herself.
She firmly believes she is unpretty and as such unworthy of love, something her blue eyes would sort out. In this child’s world, beauty is momentum, it gets you noticed by men and you live happily ever after. She dreams of a romantic love story, like the ones seen in the movies, fantasises that if she comforts to the codes of beauty followed by her fellows and white people, she will be happy.
Nonetheless, I have been told that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, and that “Love comes”, for a kid that young to be despised daily, it’s the worst thing you can do to their mental health and psychological development.
Maybe instead of making her feel in such a way, her parents could have reassured her to build her self-confidence, which could have killed her self-loathing, instrumental to her sorrow.
What’s rather interesting though, is not only the male gaze or the women’s gaze but any gaze at all, white/blacks, young/ old etc.… The ideas of racial beauty, self-hatred, and inferiority complex are so poignant in this book that it’s unnerving. To be considered attractive, one would have to possess Caucasian traits.
Colourism and the music industry- part 2
Dancehall singer Spice who released her song in 2018 entitled “Black Hypocrisy“ from her Captured Mixtape album, created a buzz like no other when she appeared to have been using skin-lightening products excessively for the album promotional campaign. It got people talking, and it was the result she was aiming for. Indeed, dark-skinned people would not be as widely accepted and integrated as light-skinned people. They would be mocked and sometimes abused because of their complexion, but when, suddenly people decide to alter their skin appearance, everyone in the community will talk and throw the first rock.
This is what Spice calls “Black hypocrisy”. Now isn’t she right, though? Our community is the first to critique dark-skinned people and expose them when using products to look more accepted by the very same community. Even though this has never crossed my mind and would not do this to myself, I do realise, how incredibly disturbed the whole thing is. And I can sympathise with people feeling the need to change their skin tones, due to peer pressure, lack of opportunities, being more noticeable and the list goes on…
UK singer Ray Black confessed to Stylist that she had been advised in the past to focus on songwriting rather than perform.
UK R&B-Pop artist Beverly Knight shared on ITV News that a record label purposely lightened her skin on her album cover, to look more attractive to a mainstream audience.
Nothing speaks louder than a mini-scandal in the music industry to shine a light on Colourism.
The success of the Colors X Studios exceptional performance of rising South-East London based rapper Enny featuring the one and only UK songstress Jorja Smith speaks volume. As it offers a beautifully orchestrated ode to all black women, any shade included called “Peng Black Girls Remix”. Indeed, the video hit over 5M views on Youtube, however main singer Amia Brave was outed from the remix, an aspiring dark-skinned R&B singer from the UK. The decision did not come from Enny nor Jorja Smith, but rather from executives from their common label FAMM.
It is painfully ironic that the label decided to drop Amia from the song, in light of all the background talks about the issues at play, namely: Misogynoir and Colourism. The irony is striking because instead of allowing Amia to sing the chorus and maybe get Jorja to sing her verse, which will attract a mainstream public, thanks to her immense following and notoriety, removing the dark-skinned girl out the song, when the music itself is about the beauty and solidarity between all black women, is so ridiculous and laughable.
It completely misses the whole point of the song, at the hand of ridiculous marketing agendas, when the song’s depth will honestly sell it to the world, making women identify to it quickly.
Having all three women singing it would concur the song’s theme and speak for itself. Again, it seems these executive decisions, are made to the detriment of dark-skinned girls, even when Colourism and unity is the subject of the product they aim to promote.
The irony of it!
I think the singers could have used their power and privilege to “help a sister out” and manage to keep her on the track. After all, with Jorja’s popularity, could her label really disagree? She could have used her star-privilege by being outspoken about such injustice. I’m just saying! Perhaps, if everyone used their privileges to ring the alarm, we could sort out this pandemic in our community.
🎵En Myso-gy-noir 🎵
Le Choeur Des Femmes (Canal + Elles) Ivorian Talk show addresses Colourism and skin bleaching 📣
Le Choeur Des Femmes (Canal + Elles)
In April last year, in Côte d’Ivoire, a famous woman talk show, called Le Choeur des Femmes (#LCDF, #SujetDuJour) on Canal+ Elles TV channel, candidly approached the touchy subject of Colourism, illustrated by the testimony of a victim of skin-lightening products. In fact, the guest explained that she had been using such products for the past 17 years. Damn girl! As rapper Ludacris would say, #NowThatsLudicrous!
On top of that, Rachelle started this journey because of peer pressure, lack of self-confidence and the perception of others. She felt the need to be beautiful through everyone else’s gaze but her own. Just like Pecola in “The bluest Eyes“.Why can’t one be lovely and dark?
The mere forced association of these two words “fine” and “beautiful” disturbs me. The guest went on explaining that she even damaged her skin and was in excruciating pain at night. She didn’t necessarily find herself attractive, it mattered to her that people found her beautiful.
She was literally ready for anything to find the product to give her the lightest skin possible, even to the detriment of her own health. This inferiority complex is due to lack of education, self-loathing and illogical claims and habit, that portray white as superior. Well done to Le Choeur des Femmes for giving a voice to women and addressing important issues in our communities.
But there is hope, in Abidjan Sandrine Assouan Kouao Chemical Engineer and Dark Skin Specialist opened a clinic Noir & Clair to help women overcome the aftermath of the use of skin-lightening products. Unheard of, especially in Africa where Colourism is rife and derivatives to lighten the skin, still constitutes a taboo. The act of overlooking such trauma and habit makes this clinic a one of a kind , in terms of fighting misconceptions of beauty and curing women, who have been in pain mentally and physically.
Due to the risk of hyper-pigmentation resulting from halting abruptly, this Institute accompanies women into the process using a step-by-step method, which will gradually help the skin restore to its natural shade and unify the complexion.
Apparently, hyper-pigmentation is most feared amongst women using such products, hence why it takes them longer to stop altogether, putting a risk to their health.
The skin-lightening industry success is a matter of Public Health as much as alcoholism, drug abuse, or gambling. It needs to be taken seriously. There is the seen (physical damage to the skin) and the unseen (mental health issues), it is hazardous and can kill.
Although the entertainment industry favoured light-skin individuals for a long time, there seems to be a shift towards empowering dark-skinned women today.
Colourism and Music
UK Afro-Rap band NSG’s song ‘Lupita’ is a love declaration to dark-skinned women. Beyoncé’s ‘Brown Skin Girl’ an anthem for all black women in any of the 50 shades clearly demonstrate this new age. UK rapper Lionness’s DBT remix featuring fellow rappers Lady Leshurr and Little Simz condemns colourism girl-power style. UK rappers Ghetts & Kojey Radical Black Rose starting with Ghetts own daughter asking him why on earth isn’t there any dolls looking like her in the shop, it tackles the issue of representation too.
Representation does matter, and it comes from the horse’s mouth, all of these artworks clearly demonstrate this shift.
Let’s hope they’re not just surfing on a trend, like some companies proved in the wake of the BLM movement. (their exposure has been orchestrated by the Pull Up For A Change campaign from UOMA cosmetic brand CEO Sharon Chuter, addressing companies’ role in encouraging white supremacy. Well done sis!)
#TBT Dark-skinned women in music videos
I remember back in the ’90s and 00’s videos in which women were overly sexualised, with lighter skin tones, nonetheless. I would also notice videos such as Puff Daddy (Yes he used to be called like this, I am that old, and actually that is the correct way of referring to him at that time!) featuring R.Kelly (Just focus on black women i beg you! ) – Satisfy you in 1999, directed by prominent music-video producer Hype Williams, starring an absolutely stunning dark-skinned model (Can someone please find out what her name is, i struggled and failed 🙃); or Pharell Williams featuring Jay Z – Frontin’, Pharell’s love interest was a recurrent actress in his videos for his album, she was also a beautiful dark-skinned girl. What happened to that? Was it just a trend?
Where my dark-skinned girls at? Light skin vs Dark skin 🆘
Remembering all these girl bands from that period: Honeyz, Mis-Teeq, TLC, 3LW, 702 that appear to have dark-skinned girls as leads. And in order to compensate would double the number of light-skinned band members. 2 for the price of one? Just saying! Very strange…
Artists light skin privilege
The entertainment industry’s obsession and bias towards light-skinned women feel like border-line fetishism. The mind’s conditioning stemming from slavery and white supremacy as the bigger picture, explains the direction labels were more comfortable to go towards with artists. We saw that with bands such as the Destiny’s Child, SWV, TLC, Sade acts like Mya, Deborah Cox, Toni Braxton, Amerie, Nivea, Monica, Christina Milan, Alicia Keys, Shola Ama, Gabrielle, Ms Dynamite, Jorja Smith, Mahalia, Ella Mai, Shy’m, Lynnsha, Keyshia Cole, Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion, Nickie Minaj, Erykah Badu, Celeste, Ella Eyre, Emeli Sandé, Lianne La Havas, Raye, FKA Twigs, Jill Scott, Summer Walker, Teyana Taylor.
Undeniably talented, workaholics, but in reality would they have had this chance if they had been dark-skinned?
Celeste, a rising British-Jamaican soul star, who has recently collaborated on a live session with UK Household name Paul Weller (One of my all time favourites!). She was an artist to watch on the BBC Sound of 2020 and just signed up to be on H&M payroll for Studio’s autumn/winter 2020 campaign.
Don’t get me wrong, she is incredibly gifted and it is undeniable. All I am saying is that if she had been darker, she would have found it even more difficult to have had access to the music industry, like her darker counterparts.
I appreciate being a black woman in the music industry is problematic in itself, but it’s even more challenging with a darker complexion.
On the other hand, we often touch on light-skin privilege , but never on attacks they often face from black and white people.
Are Light-skinned women the eternal misunderstood? Reverse Colourism
Light-skin people will often be questioned whether their skin complexion is genuine or the result of skin bleaching products. From the famous band Spice Girls, Mel B created a buzz in early 2018, when she appeared on an Instagram post to be lighter. People seemed dubious about this “new” complexion, although they loved how toned her body looked.
In 2020, actress Zoë Kravitz set the record straight on IG about her complexion once and for all, after being accused of altering her appearance with chemicals. When she posted a picture of herself during lockdown.
She kindly answered: “Jesus. No girl. This is what happens to some of us mixed kids when we can’t go outside lol.”
To be honest, during the winter my light-skinned friends would look lighter due to the cold and the lack of sun. At the end of the day, we are melanated and desperately need the sun to be our healthiest selves. So does everyone actually, vitamin D is life-goals!
The other aspect of light-skin people being prejudiced is that they are often kept out of the conversation or segregated due to their complexion.
In the media, in Netflix’s hit show Dear White People, main character Sam, who wants to be involved in black societies, wouldn’t be asked to participate in activities. They would just assume she “is not down”, due to her mixed heritage.
There is also the dichotomy between the perception of race in America as opposed to other countries. For example, in the USA mixed-raced does not exist; you are “black” or perceived to be “white”.
When Joelle confronts Sam about her seeing Gabe (who happens to be white), she refers to her as mixed but perceived as “black” like Tracee Ellis Ross, unlike Rashida Jones who would be a “white” mixed-raced girl.
On the other hand, in France, we have the term métisse, legally considered mixed, just like the mixed-raced UK term, even used as an official registration of ethnicity for administrative purposes.
Additionally, acts such as French Mel’Groove and Saya although talented, never had a Leslie or an Ophélie Winter. Exceptions would be Teri Moïse, Native, Lauryn hill, Skunk Anansie’s lead singer, Estelle, Laura Mvula, Jamelia, Alexandra Burke, and Lady Leshurr. Angie Stone, Jazmine Sullivan, Jennifer Hudson, Brandy, Missy Elliott, Foxy Brown…
The resurgence of the dark-skinned woman
That’s why it’s essential to have dark-skinned women winning, for our mental health, to end the vicious circle, and to make the elephant disappear from the room. Daphne, Tiwa Savage, Alicia Harley, Ms Banks, Aya Nakamura, Yseult, Lous And The Yakuza, SZA, Wendy Shay, Efya, Angelique Kidjo, Oumou Sangare, Angelique Kidjo, Mula, Nao, Nomcebo Zikode, Terms, and Mary J Blige proof that dark-skinned women are talented and can be successful and generate revenue for labels worldwide.
Aya Nakamura shared with The Guardian that:
“Colourism exists in some way everywhere,” she says. “It’s challenging when people are trying to pressure you into bleaching your skin because that’s what they want. You ask yourself: where are we? Why should I do that? This is how I am.”Aya Nakamura, The Guardian
She also candidly discussed being the victim of Mysogynoir, especially ever since she has become a celebrity in the 10th January episode of Clique rendez-vous on Canal + France.
Have a look at my Facebook post on the subject! Let’s just say i did not go gently!
Another testimony from Singer Normani ex-member of Fifth Harmony caught my attention. She said she suffered from the music industry colourism practices, which made her feel lonely and sad. There are not enough “chocolate girls” in the music industry, only SZA and herself according to her. She was the least followed from the band, and the one made to sing the background vocals for their song No way. She proved these industry professionals wrong when she released her first solo single in 2019. Motivation topped the charts and was later certified as platinum in the US. Gathering a lot of support from black entertainers such as singer Kelly Rowland and rapper Nicky Minaj praising her for her ground-breaking video.
The constant erasure of dark-skinned women in the media must stop, we do exist, and it’s so far from the truth.
The complexity surrounding light-skin perceived privilege is real and surreal at the same time. It is bittersweet: from one side you are accepted and perceived as beautiful, and from the other side, you’re despised because of these privileges you surely did not ask for.
Just like Sam, you’ve got the über pro- black light-skinned/ mixed-raced girl, who needs to prove to her black counterparts and (to herself it seems), that she is black enough and deserves to be accepted as such.
Even though, in reality, she shouldn’t have to, regardless of her privilege, her blackness even at 50% validates her presence in black societies at university. As much as her getting involved in the Black Lives Matter movement or in conversations about blackness as a whole, anything pertaining black culture honestly.
We have been so conditioned from such a young age, we don’t even know where these unattainable beauty standards started.
My mother is light-skinned, and all my life people have been telling me how beautiful she was, that I had nothing on her. It’s afterwards that I realised, they weren’t just mesmerised by her looks, (I mean she is my mama after all, and she is gorgeous!) it was chiefly about her skin tone.
Indeed, the rise of darker-skins singers, actresses, and the Black Lives Matter movement’s impact can only be the positive change we were longing for.
On that note:
Colourism in music (cont’d)
Ciara’s “Melanin” ft. Lupita Nyong’o, City Girls, La La Anthony, and Ester Dean (2019) celebrates Melanin in all forms.
Wale’s “BGM” as a love song to black women all-shades combined, from a black male’s perspective. He celebrated black kings and queens in video starring actress Ashley Blaine (Dear White People) in his Black Bonnie’s music video far from a random choice when we know that the actress’ role in the series is about an outspoken Black activist at her typical American elitist university. Also, she is dark-skinned AND beautiful.
They are each other’s “ride or die” throughout the decades they go through. If that isn’t the definition of black love, I don’t know what that is?
Singer-songwriter Lulu Fall based in New York and Cameroonian and Senegalese descent released a song called Pretty For A Dark Girl about the stigmatisation of dark-skinned girls taboo that is Colourism. Her aim is to empower black women and shine a light on Colourism from an Afro-American/ African perspective.
Representation matters and it sells !
We cannot talk about talented and beautiful dark-skinned women and representation, without mentioning our black Bonnie & Clide movie of the year 2020, Queen & Slim. The definition of black love right there, dark-skinned cast, extraordinary, ordinary yet traumatic ending makes it my favourite movie of the year.
Apart from all this awesomeness, I mean the soundtrack, the video shots, the dialogue and intrigue, the beauty of the movie, and the fact that they are both dark-skinned, constitute things we can all identify to. A beautiful love stories that even went beyond the colour lines, grossing nearly $50 M worldwide.
Who would have thought our modern-day Bonnie and Clyde would be dark AND beautiful, speaking to such a large and diverse audience? After all, it sells to be dark, it speaks to a mainstream public after all it seems…!
Again, this proves how all these concerns about the scare of not appealing to large audiences make no sense at all, all these theories have been revoked!
Now i shall love and leave you for the time being. Next week, we’ll dig into something i found quite upsetting that is: Colourism and whitewashing in Argentina. Indeed, this is not common knowledge and has only resurfaced online fairly recently. So, if you want to know more about black people and Latin America, hop on! You’re going to have a hell of a ride 🚕! See you next week for the VERY LAST EPISODE of my COLOURISM SERIES!
Other topics include:
- The skin lightening industry in context : Les Grandes Gueules French Talk Show review
- AND the INTERVIEW ‼️- I have interviewed quite a few people to give my articles more depth and a reality check in the context of different backgrounds, countries and professions.
See you next week and please continue to SHARE, LIKE and COMMENT on here but also on socials. Let me know what you think in the comment section!
In the meantime, now it’s question time! ⬇️
Is Colourism a myth or a reality? Join the conversation on Initials S.P. It’s episode 2 TIME, from my Colourism series. FOLLOW, SHARE & COMMENT!! 👇🏾#colourisminbollywood #colourisminthearabworld #colourisminasia #colourisminafrica #colourisminthemedia #colourisminthemusicindustry #fairandlovely #colourismisreal #yellowbones #colourisminsigned #danileigh #rickrossTweet
3rd blog entry: Colourism series, episode 3
A tough one ,was is not? What do you guys think about Colourism? How did you like this episode?
Let me know in the comment section!
Thank you for reading AND See you next week for THE LAST EPISODE – episode 4 💋
Phew, you made it! Well done! If you like this post, check out my previous post! Down here 👇🏾 AND see you next week for episode 2 of the Colourism series 👋🏾 LIKE, SHARE AND DISCUSS💟
Thank you so much, Jonathan. I’m glad you enjoyed it and that it resonated with you that much. I think…
Thank you ever so much 🥰
[…] indeed absurd to not realise that in 2021 this constitutes misogynoir. Extensively written about in episode 3 of my…
Your blog is amazing 🙂
Fascinating read AL! As someone who grew up in a predominately Caucasian country, I’ve received quite the education in reading…