The way in which we dissect and overanalyse the appearance of female celebrities is nothing new. It’s part of an age-old misogynistic tradition that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, even when superstars like Beyoncé are involved. For Black women, the issues of misogyny almost always overlaps with a lot of nasty racism. For this reason, Tina Knowles, Beyoncé’s mum, took to Instagram yesterday, Tuesday 28 November 2023, to set the record straight on something: Beyoncé is not and never has been bleaching her skin.
The rumours that Queen Bey is using skin whiteners have been circulating for a while now. As of 2020, skin whitening was an $8 billion industry and a lot of Black and Brown celebrities have been accused of contributing to these sales. This list includes stars such as Nicki Minaj, Ciara, Lori Harvey and many, many more.
These accusations, which are usually treated with mockery and ridicule online, have much wider cultural implications. Skin bleaching conveys a rejection of Black identity to many, as well as a reinforcement of Eurocentric beauty ideals. For celebrities like Beyoncé, who has built her career on being a strong Black woman out to defy and challenge patriarchal and white supremacist systems, comments like these are therefore not only personally offensive but potentially career-destroying.
Furthermore, these often surface-level accusations reflect a very shallow understanding of aesthetics and skin pigmentation.
The bleaching rumours were refreshed when pictures of the Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé movie premiere were released. The images featured the singer wearing long platinum blonde hair and a silver gown against a silver background and carpet. The multiple flashing lights on her made her appear visibly pale. So, naturally, the skin-lightening rumours appeared again. However, this time, mama Knowles decided to step in.
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“She does a film, called Renaissance, where the whole theme is silver with silver hair, a silver carpet, and suggested silver attire and you bozos decide that she’s trying to be a white woman and is bleaching her skin?” Knowles rhetorically asked in a statement under her Instagram post.
“What’s really sad is that a white woman had the audacity to reach out to Neal, Beyoncé’s hairstylist, [say] she was from TMZ [and say] that the fans are saying that she wants to be white and she wanted to get a statement about it from Neal. Well that made my blood boil, that this white woman felt so entitled to discuss her blackness,” the singer’s mother continued in her statement.
Knowles concluded: “What’s really most disappointing is that the same Black people yes you bozos that’s on social media. Lying and faking and acting like you’re so ignorant that you don’t understand that black women have worn platinum hair since the Etta James days. I just went and looked at all the beautiful talented black celebrities who have worn platinum hair and it has been just about every one of them at one time or another. Are they all trying to be white?”
The statement found widespread resonance with other netizens, who expressed frustration at these enduring rumours. Especially about someone who has repeatedly celebrated her Black identity and heritage.
“It’s colour theory. The lighter hair makes Bey appear to have a lighter complexion,” one TikTok user noted. “Beyoncé did not bleach her skin,” another netizen firmly asserted. “Filters, are y’all slow?” a different person jokingly asked. Another TikTok user stated: “It’s literally just the light they were using for these pictures.”
It should also be noted that Black people, just like everyone else, are able to gain and lose a tan. Thus, a lot of Black and white online commentators added that their skin lightens up in the winter months too, without the help of any bleaches.
People have always been uncomfortable with Beyoncé’s racial ambiguity and adaptation of traditionally white features, such as her tendency to have straight blonde hair. Nevertheless, it should be noted that these aren’t exclusively white features, as Black women like Nicole and Sofia Richie have shown in the past.
Consequently, Beyoncé’s display of these features disrupts Western beauty ideals way more than it reaffirms them. It encourages audiences to reject the binary thinking of what they view as traditionally Black or white and embrace a wider spectrum of skin colours and the associated aesthetics.
So, one last time for everyone: Beyoncé is not bleaching her skin. Got it?