I thought to myself, am I going crazy? Am I seeing things? Why am I consistently seeing what appear to be African American celebrities getting lighter as the years go by. You know why, because there is a Skin Bleaching Phenomenon amongst our beautiful black people. At first I thought it was my imagination, then I thought it was the effects of make-up or maybe studio lighting, finally I thought it was technology and the use of digital enhancers. To my dismay, it wasn’t either of these, it is the effects of these celebrities bleaching their skin. Beautiful black women bleaching their skin, is it because these celebrities feel they are treated better in Hollywood with their lighter complexions.
I conducted my own informal research on the matter, reviewing old pictures, ads in magazines, music CD covers, television shows and movies (with the same entertainer throughout the years) so that I would be able to make effective comparisons. So many African American entertainers have undergone the process of skin bleaching so that they can appeal to the masses, with some being the most successful within their industry. Entertainers such as Beyonce, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, and Lil Kim appear to have bleached their skin; Actresses such as Halle Berry (Oscar winner) Kerry Washington (Oscar nominee) and Thandie Newton (who is already very light skinned) all appear to have bleached their skin. This phenomenon has also extended to males just look at baseball great Sammy Sosa.
I stumbled upon a film on YouTube called “Killing Us Softly (4)” which touches on this subject. In the film, Jean Kilbourne (who started collecting fashion and beauty ads in the 1960s) notes that through her research, it has been concluded that women of color are generally considered beautiful only if they fit the white ideal of light skin, straight hair, straight nose, etc… From young, these women were told they had to be thin, white, and perfectly polished. It does not help matters when these celebrities appear to receive preferential treatment when they actually start adhering to this standard with the skin bleaching, wigs, and plastic surgeries (which is another discussion). These women, in my opinion, started out their careers absolutely beautiful but succumbed to pressures of Hollywood and societal standards. These celebrities are sending a message to our youth that in order to reach a high-level of success and acceptance they better be light-skinned and transform their looks to resemble their white counterpart.
This trend in Hollywood saddens me and perplexes me at the same time. I have trouble understanding why these women can’t look in the mirror and see beauty, or is it greed that motivates their decisions. I want to know why is Caucasian considered the standard of beauty, I actually think that these celebrities were more beautiful and intriguing pre-bleaching. Now, in my opinion, they look typical with nothing really standing out to make them unique. But maybe that is exactly the purpose, to unify a culture and to sell more products so that unsuspecting little girls can fall into this constant cycle of trying to attain this “standard of beauty”.
It is important to note that the only way to fix what I find to be a growing problem is to address the issue and talk to our upcoming generation about what is considered beautiful. We have to teach our sons and daughters that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, and ethnicities. We have to teach them that you do not have to be white, skinny, and blonde to be considered beautiful. We have to teach our youth to love themselves and embrace their god given beauty and create a new standard of what is considered beautiful. Lastly, we need to teach people media literacy, so that they will be able to see advertisements and entertainment for what it is and understand that a lot of make-up, lights, PhotoShop, and bleaching crème go into making a celebrities look the way they do.
Candice A. Lawrence
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