With her Super Bowl XLVII performance, her newest single “Bow Down/I Been On” and her advertisements for L’Oreal, Pepsi and H&M, Beyoncé Knowles has made 2013 her year. Her recent publicity hasn’t been all black diamonds and Freakum dresses, though. I’d argue that there has been more hate thrown at her than at any other artist this year.
There have been attacks on her alleged over-the-top sexuality, her dedication to feminism and — most recently — her blackness. Yes, people have been on the Twitter-sphere, blogs and other forums accusing the singer of not being “too white”. If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone accuse Beyoncé of bleaching her skin, I wouldn’t be thousands of dollars in student loan debt.
After the promotion of her album 4, the singer’s blackness — or lack therefore — came into question, but this isn’t her first time being criticized for her ethnic appearance. Her 2008 L’Oreal commercial was called out by TMZ, which wrote, “Unless she just got vitiligo, L’Oreal has some serious 'splaining to do about its bleached out Beyoncé ad!”
Maybe it’s just me, but I think the entire debate on whether or not Beyoncé has bleached her skin is ridiculous. Why are we blaming her, instead of the photo-shopping, skin-lightening advertisement industry? It’s common knowledge that advertisement agency, magazine publications and other media alter images, so why the attack on Beyoncé? There’s no hard proof that she has bleached or lightened her skin, so why are we so quick to judge, when we know the industry is designed to make us see what they want to see, like what they want us to like?
There’s no denying that we live in a “white is right” culture, where light skin reins supreme over darker skin. White and fair-skinned women have an obvious advantage when it comes to being featured in ads, TV shows and magazine covers. Researching Vogue, I counted a total of fourteen covers featuring black women, not including the most recent issue, which features Michelle Obama (for the second time, as if the black community only has fourteen influential women). In a world where white women are seen as the standard of beauty, can we really blame singer, actors and actresses for embracing that? Their livelihoods are made from their fans, record sales and world premieres; if wearing a blond wig makes Beyoncé more desirable, why is that wrong?
Even if the rumors are true, not only would she be the first person to be accused of not being black/Latino/etc. enough (I’m looking at you, Rihanna, Michael Jackson and Diana Ross) she wouldn’t be the only woman who changes her appearance. How many of you tan? Wear weave? Dye your hair? Do you see my point? Even if Beyoncé wanted her skin to be lighter, why is she wrong, when my own mother —a proud white woman — regularly tans during the summer? Why is it wrong for Beyoncé to rock a straight or wavy weave, when black women do the same thing? There’s one answer to all these questions: it’s not.
The larger problem here is that the black community has started to equate blackness to the color of one’s skin. There’s no doubt that — because of our history — encouraging unity and love for one’s culture is crucial to our success. The problem is, this call for ethnic pride has led to shunning and criticizing anyone who does not match this standard of blackness, and people like Beyonce — who could just be victim of a bad lighting job and makeup — get targeted.