Whitewashing Beyonce

August 8, 2008 at 10:53 am | Posted in Idiot Hall of Fame | 1 Comment
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The image on the left shows the singer Beyonce Knowles as she normally appears in public. The image on the right is from a L’Oréal ad campaign. Spot the difference.

Now, the company insists they didn’t digitally alter Ms Knowles complexion in order to make her look more white, and while this stretches the limits of credibility I suppose it’s possible that they achieved it through the use of make-up and clever lighting. Either way, the image on the right is vastly different to what Ms Knowles actually looks like; she appears far more light-skinned and the only way they could’ve done this is through some sort of manipulation. Since the ‘natural’ Beyonce is no slouch in the looks department, it’s natural to suspect sinister intent.

Of course, no one who appears in beauty advertisements looks natural; they’re all caked in make-up and lavished with the kind of Hollywood Superstar Sheen that apparently makes women of the world buy their products. But the problem with altering Beyonce in such a way is that hit hits a raw nerve in racial politics that effects a lot of people very personally.

It’s widely accepted that African Americans with lighter skin have had an easier ride over the past century than those with darker skin. They’ve generally suffered less discrimination and found it easier to advance in American society. To put it crudely, light-skinned blacks scare white people less.

This fact has some pretty ugly consequences. In 2006 the Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford Jr was running for the Senate seat and doing extraordinarily well considering he’s a Democrat in a heavily Republican state. Since he had to be stopped, his enemies tried to play on the fear of miscegenation and digitally manipulate his skin colour so he appeared more black. By looking ‘blacker’ than he actually is, they tried to make him look less trustworthy, more threatening to the half-witted racists who still think that kind of thing.

The implications of this ad are slightly different, but no less offensive. By depicting Ms Knowles in skin that isn’t hers, L’Oréal have managed to imply that darker skinned women are less attractive and therefore less profitable. For a firm supposedly in the image industry, this is an astoundingly stupid thing to do, and any negative effects on their brand would be richly deserved.


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  1. […] the way of my intended meaning, and I don’t think this was ever shown more plainly than when this article was cross-posted over at LC and was about as well-received as Britain’s silver in the […]

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